Thursday, June 30, 2011

Coincidence or Not? 911 calls rerouted to Savannah

Reprint from the Atlanta Business Journal, June 15, 2012

Shortly after the DeKalb School Board had originally decided to vote on the cell towers for its school campuses back in June 2011, this story appeared on the local news in both Atlanta and Savannah.

A glitch that routed approximately 100 Atlanta 911 calls to Savannah, Ga., rather than to Atlanta emergency officials has been corrected, AT&T officials told the Savannah Morning News. The calls were sent to the wrong place when an AT&T cell tower near Interstate 20 in Atlanta was coded with a Savannah address, the newspaper reports.

The problem started in January and more than 70 calls were misdirected before police pinpointed the problem in April, according to the article.

Savannah police alerted AT&T (NYSE: T) and thought the problem was corrected, but on June 5 an Atlanta woman calling Atlanta police to report a window was smashed at a duplex she owns was routed to Savannah twice. After what the Savannah newspaper said was a “confusing exchange,” the operator had to give the woman a direct number for Atlanta police so she could dial the number herself rather than relying on 911.

The problem continued for a few more days, police said. AT&T officials say they corrected the problem last week, the newspaper reports.

Now that really makes you want to run out and ditch your landline, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

TUCKER PATCH ARTICLE: Civic Duty: Appealing Your Property Tax Assessment

Originally Posted on June 28, 2011 at 8:41am
Author:  Cheryl Miller

**  As recommended by Representative Scott Holcomb  ***

Appealing Your Property Taxes: The Cell Tower Factor

Like most people, our property tax assessment recently arrived in the mail. As usual, it includes the most recent computer-generated estimated value of our home in Tucker, Ga. Tucker is divided between Gwinnett County and the portion where my husband and I live, which is in unincorporated DeKalb County.

We usually look it over and then file it away without any emotional response. This year, however, we were both in shock. Somehow, after 11 years of remaining either stable or increasing in value, the past 12 months resulted in a huge decline.

We soon learned we were not alone. Everyone we spoke to in our neighborhood received similar news. Many of our homes are now valued at less than half the amount they were a year ago.

“How is this possible?" one neighbor asked me while out walking her dog. The answer... it cannot be possible. Someone made a huge mistake because these numbers are just plain wrong! Sure, there have been a few foreclosures here, but not enough to make an impact this big.

My assessment - WRONG! My neighbor’s assessment - WRONG! Yours? Probably WRONG? Everyone else’s in the entire county? Probably WRONG!
So, what is the RIGHT thing to do?

I don’t really need to say this, but I will in case you are still in shock. You did not just hit the lottery. You do not have the right to keep this small “windfall” of money by way of lowered taxes. The government will not find the mistake and correct it. The only RIGHT thing to do is file an appeal.
It is easy to do. It can be done for FREE. You will feel much better about yourself when you have finished because you did not sit back and accept phony numbers, even if you thought they might help you.

Have we learned anything from the CRCT scandal where otherwise good people felt compelled to cheat? Didn’t we admonish the actions of former Superintendent Crawford Lewis and Pat Pope for cheating the school system for their own personal gain? Isn’t this sort of the same thing? Is this what we have become? Really? All of us?

I think we are better than that. I hope you will help in proving me right. We cannot be part of the problem. We should not proliferate another scandal. We are not numb to these actions where bad data is substituted for good data. In fact, we are hypersensitive to it now.

That’s why we all knew in our guts when we looked at our tax statements - something is wrong here. And when dishonesty is brought to our attention, I hope and pray we all do the right thing. We must appeal our taxes.

Let's show our leaders that we are paying attention. We will refuse to let them drag us into another scandal. We will do what is in our power to make sure our hands are clean.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor
You may have heard that Avondale Estates Mayor Ed Rieker has stated that DeKalb County's tax data for the city is flawed. I would like to thank him for speaking out and having the good sense to realize that something is definitely wrong here.
“There's no way these props can be down," Rieker said during a meeting called especially for this issue Tuesday, June 7. "This doesn’t make sense to me or anyone else."
He presented his findings in a meeting a couple weeks ago and the county’s only reported explanation was to blame it on the new state law. Really guys? A new law might cause you to calculate your numbers differently, but it can’t corrupt the results all by itself. You need human input for that.
At least they were quick to admit their mistakes… to Avondale’s Mayor. But what about the rest of us? Can we borrow your Mayor for a day so he can come over to Tucker and help us out, too?
"[DeKalb] is absolutely on board. These numbers are in error," Rieker said. "They committed that Avondale would have new numbers by [June 15], close of business."
Garbage In, Garbage Out
Just in case you are curious, here is a short list of errors I found with my assessment. I hope this inspires you to take a closer look at yours, too:
  • Incorrect number of bedrooms
  • Incorrect number of floors
  • Incorrect number of parking spaces (my single-family dwelling was reported to have 400 parking spaces making it appear as if I live in a condominium or apartment)
  • Incorrect square footage
  • And, when we pulled the sales data for our area, my husband noticed something very odd: several of the forclosure sales were listed multiple times contributing to a lower overall result. And, even some of the non-foreclosure, mid-range sales were listed two or three times. Eureka! We've found some faulty data here. Not sure why there wasn't someone in charge of reviewing these figures before they were mailed to the public. Maybe quality control isn't a top priority these days.
The form listed below will ask for the reason you would like to appeal. I think "incorrect data listed for my home" would work if you see some of the same issues that I did.
Or, you could simply say, “because the county has admitted faulty data as leading to incorrect values in other areas of the county. Therefore, I believe the data used in my assessment may be faulty as well.”

Appeal Today! It’s Easy! It’s Fun! It’s FREE!
Here are a few helpful links and tips:
A summary of the process:

A form to simply fill out and mail back:

They will also accept a basic letter as long as it includes a few key items. That is also explained on the first link above.

Note: You will be asked for your own estimate. Since we are not qualified tax experts, I doubt they will actually use our numbers, so don’t waste too much time on this one. This is not a good reason to delay your appeal. Here are some ideas for coming up with an answer for the “taxpayer’s estimate” question:
1. Use Last Year’s Property Value: After all, this was the last professional appraisal that is available.

2. Recalculate the Average: Look at the data that they provide on their website at: Highlight the errors such as any duplicate or triplicate entries or properties that should not be considered “similar” to yours (like condos being included in single-family home averages). Recalculate the average and submit that as your best estimate.

3. Contact your Realtor: Get a “market snapshot” or ask for an estimated selling price for your home.

4. Use a Reputable Real Estate Calculator: A well-known one can be found at Just note that Zillow does not include foreclosures in their home estimates, but they do show them to you. You can easily create a new estimate that combines both if you want to try to follow the logic the state law is using. Since you will not be using duplicated values, your estimate will likely be more accurate than the one provided to you by the county.
What’s in it for me?
Okay, I know what you might be thinking. If you are not planning to sell your home any time soon and you don’t really care if county services must be cut back or discontinued, why should you appeal?

First, we must all work together to ensure that our government remains fair and is not permitted to use faulty data as a measure for calculating taxes. Just because it appears the mistake is in your favor this time, does not mean it will be the next time. We cannot sit back and allow mistakes of this magnitude to happen by giving our silent consent.

Second, the trickle down effect of these mistakes is monumental. The county has already announced that there will have to be major cutbacks this year due to the lower amount of taxes that will be collected. That means job cuts and reduced quality in vital services. And, public education will again be faced with funding issues. That gives the green light for the school board's millage rate increase and let's them suggest "alternative" funding ideas. My largest concern is the one they will likely be voting on July 11 - placing dangerous cell towers on school grounds. They want our kids to play at recess right next to hazardous materials while unknown workers drive on and off the grounds all day, just like what has happened at a school in Maryland. Check this out:

Third, we can end all this talk about a TAX HIKE as a means for recouping some of this artificially (or accidentally) created loss of revenue. Here is an excerpt from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
The DeKalb County Commission on Tuesday announced a 4.5-mil tax hike , and then pledged to find ways to cut the increase before a final vote in July.

The commission must adopt its final tax rate by July 12 in order to get tax bills out by mid-August. The first payment would be due by Sept. 30 and the second and final installment by Nov. 15.

"We can't just hold our breath and hope to weather this for a year," Commissioner Jeff Rader said. "We have to structurally change our government for years to come. This is just the starting point."

No residents spoke out about the tax rate during Tuesday's public comment session. However, the county must hold at least three public hearings on the issue before its July vote. The first meeting is set for 10 a.m. July 5 at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur.
So, if taxes go up and later your property value returns to normal, you will soon be paying a higher tax rate than ever before on the correct value of your home. The value that you knew all along was right. Keeping quiet will only hurt you in the end. It will hurt all of us.

I am not claiming to be an expert in this area. I am just a homeowner and taxpayer, same as you. Please join me in doing the right thing and filing your appeal today. And, I hope you will attend the tax hike public meeting noted in the excerpt above to explain why a tax hike is not needed this year. We all know deep down, wrongs do not make rights. Only people can make a difference.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

TUCKER PATCH ARTICLE: Appealing Your Property Appraisal: The Cell Tower Factor

If you're debating whether you should appeal your property taxes and you live near one of the 12 schools set to receive a DeKalb County Board of Education pine scented cell tower this holiday season, you might want to consider how one might affect the other:

What happens if I appeal?
  • The amount of your tax will return to the level you are accustomed to paying.
  • The services you enjoy will not have to suffer the consequences of under-funding.
  • The tax hike that is being considered will not be justified and most likely will not pass.
The cell tower factor: In addition, if you have been following school board news, you may have heard something mentioned about the plans to install cell towers at 12 schools in our county. If your home value is stable now, but declines after a tower goes up near your home, you will have evidence that supports the fact that the tower has contributed to your loss of equity or inability to sell for a reasonable price.

You can object to the cell tower proposal by writing to the school board or speaking at the July 11 meeting when it is likely to appear on the agenda. But, if you do not do that and the towers go up, at least you will still have the ability to monitor the value of your home and determine if the experts are correct in their predictions that your value will decline. Without accurate data, you will not really know the true impact of the cell tower decision.

What happens if I remain silent?
  • Your home will be grossly UNDER-VALUED.
  • YOU LOSE equity or even end up upside-down in your loan.
  • You will have trouble selling at the price you deserve.
  • You may have the false hope that you will have to pay less in taxes.
  • The tax rate increase will pass and you will be paying close to what you always have.
  • Your home value will slowly improve as the bad data falls off the calculation list, but the higher tax will remain.
The cell tower factor: If the school board successfully installs a cell tower at your local public school, like the 12 that they may vote on at the July 11 meeting, you may have extinguished your own chances to have the tower removed if at any time over the next 15 years you decide that it is hurting your property value or creating health problems for you. Why? Because the only permissible reasons to protest a cell tower are related to property value and aesthetics.

If your value is falsely reported at its all-time low right now, you will not have proof down the road that a cell tower contributed to your property’s decline in value. Some people might even try to tell you that the 150’ monstrosity might have caused your property values to go up, when it will really be due to the fact that the faulty numbers will work themselves out of the system over time.

In Tucker, to sign the Brockett Elementary petition to stop the cell tower, go to:

For more information about the potential cell tower vote July 11, visit “Get the Cell Out of Here - Atlanta Chapter” on Facebook, or send an email to sign up for E-blast alerts and updates.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

TUCKER PATCH ARTICLE: Why Does T-Mobile Want Cell Towers at Our Schools?

Author:  Cheryl Miller
Originally Posted on June 8, 2011 at 3:17pm

I would love to see a request for the full details of the cell tower proposal by T-Mobile that is being considered by the DeKalb County School Board. This proposal is about a lot more than we may think.  The objections of health and property values are valid, yet may only concern the limited few around the schools affected. What we have not grasped is that this is going on right now all over the country, with T-Mobile just hearing "no" here and there and moving on quickly, then getting a "yes" and signing deals. Has anyone started putting the pieces together to question the significance of what they are doing and how it relates to the soon-to-be finalized merger with ATT?

There must be some limits imposed on technology when there is concern about its safety. We certainly cannot expect corporations such as T-Mobile to be transparent about their true intentions. It is not up to them to protect children. Their job is to sell what they have been told to sell, especially in light of the fact that they know they will soon be part of a highly publicized, major merger that could potentially leave many of the T-Mobile folks without jobs.
They are selling at all costs now. ATT is looking to own the airwaves in terms of roaming and thus prevent any smaller companies from becoming true competitors. It is not the right time to be doing business with T-Mobile. They do not care about their name or reputation because it will be mute within six months. And, ATT does not need additional coverage in our area. Their motivation is clearly to “hog up the airwaves” so that they can lease space to other smaller competitors in an effort to monopolize the industry. That will mean higher charges, less bargaining on corporate accounts, fewer deals, less mercy when it comes to every customer they have, including the residents in our community as well as the school system and county government.

Read more about “ATT, T-Mobile Merger Bad News for Consumers” here

Reactions to the surprise ATT-T-mobile merger are pouring in, and, not surprisingly, most conclude this isn't a good thing for consumers:  The Bell telephone system - aka ATT - was broken up in 1984 to increase competition, and the US telecommunications market was deregulated in 1996, again to increase competition. But this merger "effectively restores Ma Bell to her former girth yet allows the company to operate in a looser regulatory environment," writes David Lazarus in the Los Angeles Times. "Consumers might wonder if they've been played... Ma Bell is back," and the only thing left for federal regulators to do is instill "new rules that address the shortcomings of our failed experiment in deregulation."

Regardless of the impact on consumers, it's obvious why ATT made this move, writes Ben Parr on Mashable. Its network is strained "to unacceptable levels," and even though the company is upgrading, "it takes years to get the approval to build new towers... so if you can’t build towers fast enough, what’s the next best way to get them? That’s right: You acquire them. Today’s acquisition is all about bolstering ATT’s network and beginning the process of repairing its reputation."

We need full disclosure of the details of the proposal being considered by DeKalb County. There was supposed to have been a vote on this measure at the June 6 meeting, but it didn't happen. Stay tuned.
This is big and we deserve to know why our school system would be in talks with a company that will no longer exist in a few months. If they are talking with ATT via T-mobile, that's a violation of the law (collusion, in my opinion). Our accreditation is already in jeopardy. We don't need more scandal especially if we ever hope to get a decent superintendent in here!

We should wait till school in back in session so parents can attend a true discussion of the pros and cons involved in the offer. We should wait until the ATT / T-Mobile merger is in place so we can negotiate with the true contract owner. And, we really should wait until our own leadership is in place by way of a new, experienced superintendent. A decision this big should not be made when there is no clear leadership to stand behind it.

I understand that our interim superintendent does not want to be considered for the job. Why, then, would she allow a vote this controversial to take place now? The first study involving children and cell phones is due for release in 2013. I can wait that long.

T-Mobile, or ATT, we know and we understand. And, we don't like it. Can you hear me now?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

TUCKER PATCH ARTICLE: Credible Research Supports Cell Tower Health Risks

Credible Research Supports Cell Tower Health Risks
Just last week, the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) made a historic announcement today that cell phones may cause cancer. It rated personal exposure of non-ionizing radiation emitted from cell phones as a possible human carcinogen (Group 2B), the same rating as lead, engine exhaust, and chloroform. The rating was based on an increased risk of a glioma, which is a deadly brain tumor.

A proposal from T-mobile was disclosed to parents shortly before summer vacation. If passed, it will allow for the construction of 150’ cell towers at nine elementary schools, two high schools and one special education school in DeKalb County: Briarlake Elementary School, Brockett Elementary School, Flat Rock Elementary School, Jolly Elementary School, Lakeside High School, Margaret Harris Center, Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, Medlock Elementary School, Meadowview Elementary School, Narvie J. Harris Elementary School, Princeton Elementary School and Smoke Rise Elementary School.
Here is the notification from the school board:

The specifics of this proposal, including the dollar amounts involved, have not been disclosed to the public. When asked directly at a school meeting about how much the schools would receive directly,
T-mobile representatives refused to comment. A fair cost / benefit analysis cannot be made if the public is not given access to the terms that the school board is considering.

There are cell towers everywhere!   What makes this proposal any different?

True, cell towers have been popping up in Atlanta and across the county at an alarming rate. In fact, in one neighborhood being cited by T-mobile as needing additional coverage, the number of towers is already at 86 existing and 2 pending in just a four mile radius from the school. However, the residential areas in our county have been protected from direct exposure to cell tower emissions within about a mile radius, until now.

Typically, cell towers have been confined to commercial areas such as parking lots or along Interstates where personal exposure to human beings is limited. What is currently being proposed in DeKalb county and around the country is the citing of large-scale cell towers within the center of quiet, residential communities.  One way of gaining access to this residential area is by offering long-term lease agreements to the schools and parks which are zoned as “multi-use“ properties. The public school system has been a target for T-mobile because, in their words, “it was the easiest place to start.”

Since cell towers at our local schools would place them in the heart of our residential areas, adjacent to our schools where children spend as much as eight or more hours per day, five days a week, there is reason for parents and others to be alarmed. For children who live near the school, their exposure would be round the clock. Studies have not been conducted regarding the outcome of this type of continuous exposure to non-thermal radiation.

If approved, our children will become part of what is becoming known as “the biggest human experiment of all time." -- Dr. George Carlo. (The telecommunications industry gave him 28.5 billion to research the dangers, if any, of cell phones. )  Read more from Dr. Carlo on the EMF Science website:

Defeated Cell Towers
Many locations across the U.S. have been presented with this same proposal and have united to turn it down, stating the risks are far greater than any benefit that could be perceived.
To see a list of defeated cell towers, click this link:

Sign Petitions

(These petitions are school-specific, but you can sign both of them and put the name of your school after your name to show that you are opposing not just the school named by the petition, but your neighborhood as well as all schools in DeKalb county.)

It is too late for a written letter to arrive via US Mail. However, you can still submit a feedback form via this link: Or, write to your particular zone representative. Here is a list of names and email addresses:

Your friends and neighbors are likely to be unaware that this issue is even being considered right now, especially if they do not have children.

Children are at the greatest risk
Children are in particular danger from these emissions as their head sizes are smaller, their skulls are thinner and their bodies are still growing. A study is underway that will further evaluate the effects of cell phones on children. It can be reviewed at: Results are expected in 2013.

Health concerns for the community
Those who live near cell phone towers are exposed to radiofrequency radiation 24 hours a day. During that time there are higher and lower exposure levels. General symptoms include headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, dizziness, insomnia, depression, appetite loss, skin rashes, and discomfort. Any financial gain the county hopes to receive in return for the cell tower lease would clearly not be worth risking the lives and health of our children.

For more information
Center for Safe Wireless; EM Watch; Cell Tower Report; Expel Cell Towers group:; Get the Cell Out  - Atlanta Chapter:

“If you do not have enough information to make a perfect decision, then err on the side of caution. The first rule of medicine is 'First, do no Harm.’ Wise words no matter what the profession.”-- Brian A. Kuzik MD, MSc, FRCP(C) Consulting Paediatrics, Royal Victoria Hospital of Barrie Assistant Professor of Paediatrics (Queen's University, University of Toronto)

Additional comments: There are many other reasons to oppose the cell tower proposal by T-mobile. The health risk to children is the primary concern to this author. However, additional questions will be raised for consideration in upcoming blogs on this site.