Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Senator Jason Carter Submits State Bill 498

(click headline for full story)

Senator Jason Carter, former President Jimmy Carter's oldest grandson, has joined Rep. Karla Drenner in standing up for the rights of parents and homeowners across DeKalb County who are upset about the lack of notification and disregard of local zoning laws by both the DeKalb County Board of Education and its leasee, T-mobile. 

Sen. Jason Carter was sworn in to Georgia state Senate
in May 2010.  He recently joined the battle against cellphone
towers on public school properties in Georgia by entering
legislation Feb. 28, 2012, to require proper notification
of the public and the adherence to local zoning laws when
a governmental entity such as the school board
leasing property for non-governmental purposes (such
as the construction and maintenance of a telecommunications
tower.)  Thank you Sen. Carter!
On February 28, Carter submitted his statewide bill (text below) which seeks to close a loophole in zoning regulations that the school board claims give it carte blanche to lease public school property to whomever it wants for whatever purpose they so desire. 

At GTCO-ATL, we have been actively protesting this assumption and reaching out to whomever we can to voice objections.  Thanks to the help of the Briarcliff Heights Community Action Group, we finally have a ally in the Senate.  And, Sen. Carter of the 42nd district is not alone.  His bill has been signed on by Sen. Fran Millar of the 40th, Sen. Gloria Butler of the 55th, Sen. Emanuel Jones of the 10th and Sen. Curt Thompson of the 5th. 

Essentially the bill states that whenever a local government entity such as the school board, plans to lease its property for a non-governmental purpose (such as to a commercial entity like T-mobile) then they must comply with the standard zoning and notification laws that any other group would be required by law to follow.  So, public notification would run in the press and signage would be posted at the site.  And,  a public input hearing would be required.  Read the press release from Sen. Carter's office here.

We will follow the progress of this important legislation and keep you posted as we learn more.  In the meantime,  it is important to email or call your state representatives and senators to let them know you approve and support both the Drenner bill that bans cell towers from public school properties AND the Carter bill that requires government entities to follow zoning laws when leasing space for non-governent purposes.

You may email your message of support to Sen. Carter at:

You may email your message of support to Rep. Drenner at:

To find your elected officials, visit this website and enter your zip code.


Monday, February 27, 2012

UPDATE: Today's Cell Tower Meeting

Meeting today at NOON in the Paul Coverdale Legislative Building is in ROOM 605 (room number is an update from our previous post.)

"... The delegation meeting is not to hear HB 1121 that has been assigned to the Education Committee and a hearing date has not been set as yet. Tomorrow's delegation meeting will be where I introduce a local piece of legislation for a moratorium on on cell phone tower construction for the school systems in Dekalb County. "

Karla L. Drenner, PhD State Representative, District 86
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"
---Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Call or Email Your State Representative to Support House Bill 1128 "Prudent Avoidance of Cell Towers Legislation"

Action Needed This Week!
(click headline for full text of this article)

The House Bill 1128, written by Rep. Karla Drenner and co-sponsored by fellow represenatives, will drop at Noon on Monday for possible entry onto the full delegation agenda this week!
It amends the current law regarding leasing of school property to prohit the leasing for the purpose of installing or maintaining telecommunicatinons towers.


It is urgent that this bill is approved for the agenda this week.  If it does not make it to the agenda, it will not be voted upon for a full year.  Our schools and neighborhoods need your help!
CALL TO ACTION:  If you live in DeKalb County, GA, and/or pay residential property taxes in DeKalb County, you will be personally affected by the outcome of this legislation!  
GTCO-ATL recommends that you call or email your state representative to let him/her know that you support House Bill 1128 (Prudent Avoidance) and would like for it to be a priority on the agenda THIS WEEK. Find your represenative by entering your zip code below:   

If you are not sure if you support this bill, consider the followinig:
* Your property taxes (currently among the highest in the United States) are intended to pay for county services provided to all residents.
* Currently, more than 60% of this money is directed solely for public education purposes.
* This revenue is provided to the DeKalb County Board of Education IN ADDITION to the SPLOST IV sales tax which provides $475 million over the next 5 years.
* The Board of Education voted in July 2011 to lease ACTIVE school property at 9 schools to T-Mobile for the construction of massive cellphone tower sites, larger than any we have currently seen in our county (60' x 60' base and 150'+ tall).
* These towers pose dangers to school children and violate the local zoning codes of our county that are intended to protect the property rights of taxpayers and preserve home values for future generations.   In addition, the zoning laws ensure the safety of all our residents.
* The Board of Education, acting with only an Interim Superintendent and without the attendance of the Board Chairman, voted to approve the 30-year contracts without thoroughly reading them and without proper public notification or input from the communities directly affected by the decision.
* T-Mobile is currently in the process of applying for permits that will be "rubber-stamped" as our county officials claim they do not have jurisdiction over the Board of Education as it is a function of the state.
* If the House Bill 1128 (text above) does not make it to the agenda and then pass the delegation vote, the 9 schools will have little recourse to stop the cell towers from being placed on school grounds. 
* Cell towers have no benefit to the children at the schools and the money is NOT contracted to be used at the schools receiving the towers. It is NOT earmarked for the PTAs, despire press leaks that have indicated otherwise.
* T-mobile will benefit in many ways, including using our public schools as a handy tax shelter.  That's money that they would normally contribute to our economy and should have to pay! 
* They will also benefit from sub-leasing their tower space and further increasing the radiation levels you are exposed to.
* They will be able to expand their 4G network by building sub-standard towers that do not meet current industry-standards.  They will be allowed into areas that would not normally be deemed appropriate or safe for humans to reside near or children to be exposed to, both for the RF radiation they emit and for the "fall zone" including homes and schools instead of the standard buffer zones required.
* There are other ways to get the technology to the people - it just costs the telecommunications industry or T-mobile more money. They are opting for the cheapest, easiest way to accomplish their corporate expanstion goals without regard to the risk posed to human life or the safety of school children.
* Once a single tower goes up at any public school, all our schools are at risk of being used by the Board of Education for this "easy profit" scheme. The FCC Telecommunications Act of 1996, which is outdated, would obligate our local officials to permit other providers to equal access as they would not be allowed to discriminate between providers.
* Cell towers at schools will further harm our housing market and potential homebuyers with families will likely wish to move to areas of Atlanta that do NOT have cell towers on school grounds.
* Passing this bill will make DeKalb County a desirable location for families relocating to Atlanta.
* Passing this bill will prevent families from abandoning the school system in search of other places to live or choosing the private schools as alternatives to public education.
* Passing this bill will ensure that property values are not sent into further decline and industrial structures and for-profit commercial businesses are not allowed a loop-hole into our neighborhoods.
* Passing this bill will ensure that the health and safety of our children comes first and we do not allow dangerous structures to take up valuable space that was intended to be used solely for educational purposes.
CALL TO ACTION: If you live in DeKalb County, GA, and/or pay residential property taxes, you will be personally affected by the outcome of this legislation!
GTCO-ATL recommends that you call or email your state representative to let him/her know that you support House Bill 1128 and would like for it to be a priority on the agenda THIS WEEK.
To find your elected official, visit this website and enter your zip code.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Briarcliff Heights (Margaret Harris School) Residents Speak to DeKalb County Commissioners

Watch the video here:

Drenner Legislation May Stop Cell Towers at Schools in DeKalb County

Drenner (D) -
DeKalb County
State Representative
(click headline for full story)

A hearing was held yesterday, 2/21/12, by Representative Karla Drenner (D) - Avondales Estates - to gauge the public support or opposition to proposed legislation that would limit or ban cellphone towers from being constructed near schools and daycares in DeKalb County and statewide.  Drenner stated she planned to introduce both a local and state bill next week, but she will need her fellow legislators to approve the placement of the issue onto the agenda for this term.  Of the 60 or more people in attendance, all were in favor of the idea of legislation on the issue.  There were only two people who were in attendance to represent the viewpoint of the telecommunications industry and their statements were not really geared toward the specific issues being faced in DeKalb County.

A good play-by-play of this hearing was logged live by Jonathan Cribbs from the Briarcliff-Druid Hills Patch.  You can read it here:  You can practice the art of patience while you wait for a brief video commercial before the article is displayed.
A packed house at the Coverdale Legislative Building where
DeKalb residents showed up in strong unity to support
Rep. Drenner's proposed legislation that will directly
impact the placement of cell towers, keeping them away
from schools and daycare centers.

The issues discussed at the hearing are nothing new for those who have been involved in this controversy, thanks to the decision made 10 months ago by the DeKalb School Board while in the midst of interviewing canidates for the Superintendent position.  In fact, the issues being discussed are not really new anywhere.  See this article from a county in Baltimore that was going through the exact same thing.  Only difference?  This article is from FOUR YEARS AGO! 

But there was something new for DeKalb County that came out of this meeting - unity.  Perhaps more important than what was said was the convening of all these groups of concerned residents into one room. 

Be Proud, One DeKalb!
If you took the time to look around and see who was represented, you would be proud to be a resident of DeKalb County.  There were quality citizens present from every community and every neighborhood affected by this issue.  Every school, every age group, every socio- or economic group came out to attend this hearing.  And it was clear that every child who might be affected by the unwelcomed and unannounced intrusion by T-mobile at his/her school was represented in some way by at least one adult in that room.  And every single person sounded sincere and ready to take action in order to stand up for his or her rights, the rights of the children and the rights of each other.  In a county that may be often divided in its politics and is known as being the most diverse county in the state of Gerogia, there was a common and united bond that could be heard through the words that were spoken, and witnessed by the silent nods of approval for one another, the polite and supportive "golfers" claps for the speakers and the actions of those in the room.  If one were able to contain the feelings of outrage and betrayal and make them somehow civilized and well-mannered, that is what you would use to describe the feeling in the room at the Coverdale Legislative Building.

Perhaps the silver lining to this issue will be the combining of forces within our county to achieve a common goal.  As each person got up to speak, every other person in the room listened and understood.  We all recognized that we are on the same path.  We all recognized that we share the same concerns.  And we validated these concerns for one another.  Many of those who spoke did so with compassion and intelligence and everyone sensed the fact that the interests of all involved were being considered by Rep. Drenner.

It was almost like a support group meeting, or perhaps just a group of citizens who realized for a moment that we are all more alike than we are different.  And we can all spin our wheels letting the system work us over and spit us out.  Or, we can join forces and take back the rights that belong to the people in the first place.  If we can work together, we can stop these cell towers.  If we can work together, we can stop other cell towers from going up in other neighborhoods, or perhaps even set a precedent in our state.  We can work together to put the welfare of children first and show our leaders that we do not want them to place their quest for funding above all other needs.  As the members of the group CHASE were there to represent, we all have rights to live and raise our children in an environment that is both safe and healthy. 

We noted the following groups represented at the hearing: 
  • Get the Cell Out - Atlanta (countywide opposition group started by parents from Brockett),
  • Briarcliff Heights Community Action Group (started by residents of the community near Margaret Harris Center),
  • Briarlake Elementary School (ties to Lakeside High),
  • Jolly Elementary School, Medlock Elementary School, 
  • Concerned Citizens of South DeKalb (Narvie J. Harris, MLK High School, Flat Rock Elemenary),
  • NAACP (including ties to Princeton and Smoke Rise),
  • Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter (ties to Jolly and Smoke Rise),
  • Martin Luther King High School,
  • Citizens for a Safe and Healthy Environment (CHASE) (ties to Morehouse College,
  • The Georgia Green Party (on behalf of all schools and neighborhoods),
  • Private Citizens Also in the Medical Community, Education / Instruction Community and the Legal Community,
  • The Champion press,
  • The Braircliff-Druid Hills Patch, The Tucker Patch, The Stone Mountain Patch, The East Metro Patch,
  • WSB-TV and Radio,
  • The AJC,
  • DeKalb School Watch,
  • The Georgia Telecommunications Group and
  • T-Mobile. 
Notably absent from the hearings were any official representatives from the school PTAs or except for Brairlake Elementary School, any representatives from the DCSS or the DeKalb County Commissioners.

Reasonable People.  Reasonable Requests.
No one was anti-technology or even anti-cellular communication.  Everyone was in favor of setting reasonable limits to protect our investment in our homes and the health of our residents and children. 

The idea that an urban location, such as Atlanta and any of its suburbs, can claim that towers are needed is a distortion of the truth.  In all urban communities today, there are ample towers to provide access to cellular services.  There is no part of the law that states that every carrier must have 100% coverage in all areas or that they must be allowed to expand based on the load or demand that is placed upon their particular network at various times of the day. 

They are not obligated to sell to every person who wants to buy from them.  Just like a restaurant is not obligated to serve a meal to every person who shows up at their door when they are already seated at maximum capacity.  The towers that are in place right now in our county provide adequate coverage for voice communications and data transmissions, like texting and basic Internet access.  Of the five major providers, all have the ability to use the existing towers and provide continous availability of the basic service to their customers without interruption.

In fact, all school locations being considered already have at least 20 towers in the near vicinity.  Some have far more towers, such as the Margaret Harris School which has nearly 155 in a four mile radius already!

The problem is not about "need" for towers.  The issue is about the desire and greed of the telecommunications industry to provide customers with the ability to do more with their wireless devices so they can charge higher rates for their services, regardless of whether the features they are adding are anything the customers have asked for or even considered.  It is the large data demand they are consciously placing on their own networks that is leading to the consumption of space the towers can accomodate, such as streaming of live video or ability to watch a movie wirelessly on a mobile device in high definition. 

In short, the new towers T-mobile wants are 4G wireless technology towers that we are not even using currently.  There is no "need" or demand on the consumer side of the equation.  These towers are not about making phone calls.  And, if they were subjected to the standard process for permitting of cell towers, they would likely not be allowed as they are non-compliant on many issues that the zoning committee would typically oversee, such as setback requirements of 200 ft. from any home or building.

The claim that the towers are needed for 911 service is completely inaccurate as all cell towers are required by law to be 911 cell towers.  The 911 service is set up to operate on a totally different frequency that regular cellular transmissions, something that resulted from the tragedy of Sept. 11 when police and fire crews had difficulty using their communication devices due to the demand placed on the cellular networks due to family and friends trying to place calls into and out of New York City. 

The claim that the schools need the towers to operate their wireless devices is also untrue.  The way many people have wireless service in their homes can also be set up in schools.  The data connection is secured through a standard phone line or cable connection and then a wireless router deploys the signal inside the building.  Cell towers are not only not needed for this type of wireless setup, but they are also less secure and therefore not the top choice when looking at an IT solution to allow the use of wireless devices inside an office building or school.  Of course, the only "safe" way to transfer data in a school is through a wired solution, something we have urged the board to consider.

Chance for a Temporary Moritorim (Halt) on All Cell Tower Construction?
If Drenner is successful at getting her proposed legislation on the agenda for consideration, Attorney Lauren Staley, who lives near the Margaret Harris School in Atlanta, stated that she believed there would be grounds to call for a moritorium on all cell tower construction while the issue is being decided by the legislature. 

That could be enough relief for the current schools to halt the plans of the DeKalb County School Board to have construction begin as early as next month.  Staley and her husband Joe Staley are leading their neighborhood opposition and speaking up for the children who attend their local school which is specifically for the county's most severely disabled children, both mentally and physically.  Many of these children have coclear implants, hearing devices that can be damaged permanently from the radiofrequency waves emitted by cell towers.

While in the hearing, a member of the audience read information from an email, presumably from the county permit department, that indicated April would be more likely of an expected timeframe for the permits to be approved.  That means we could see the start of construction sometime in April, or more likely in May, after school is out for the Summer.  It will be a full year since the first cell tower public meetings.  As of today, no permit applications have been made public and the county commissioners are unilaterally denying that this issue falls into their jurisdiction to approve.

So, if the the county is not reviewing the cell tower plans, then who is?  These structures are very complicated and dangerous, especially when placed so close to homes and schools.  GTCO-ATL has uncovered evidence that the plans submitted by T-mobile to not meet current industry standards for the base plate and pole mount evaluations, making them more suspectible to falling over in high winds.  Who will monitor the towers after they are built?  Who will ensure they do not exceed the FCC recommendations for safe emissions to protect human life as well as animal and plant life in the areas near them? 

And, the vote that took place in July by the school board was preceeded by discussion of the fact that other communities might be unaware of the issue.  It was discussed that those folks would have an opportunity to voice concerns at the public zoning meetings, but those meetings never took  place.  Instead, the county is stating that the school board is exempt from county zoning laws and they have no oversight or control.  It is the opinion of GTCO-ATL that the exemption does not apply when the school is leasing its property for commercial activity.
The FCC standards for cell towers are sorely out of date.  The FCC Telecommunications Act of 1996 is the standard by which today's technology is being judged, but there are vital issues we face today that were not taken into account 15 years ago.  Cumulative effects of radiation are not accounted for in this Act when judging the necessity or safety of a proposed tower.  Just because the tower itself gains approval for emissions under the regulated standards (which are still far higher than in other countries, esp. those that subsidize their own healthcare systems), does not mean that a person or child at ground level is not being exposed to levels above FCC standards. 

Pres. Bill Clinton signed the FCC Act of 1996
on Feb. 8. as VP Al Gore watches.
If there are multiple towers with overlapping zones of coverage (which is necessary for the towers to work correctly without dropping calls) or if there are multiple towers competing for the same coverage area, then there are likely to be many different sources of radiation that are falling upon the ground simultaneoulsy.  Add to that the emissions of our devices themselves, like GPS, tablets, wireless routers or modems, laptops, etc. and it is very easy to encounter "hot spots" that create danger zones for human exposure, especially the most vulernable populations.  Rep. Drenner stated that we would not consider standing right next to a microwave oven all day, every day.  So, why would it be okay to stand next to a cell tower?

Seeking Republican Support
In an interesting bill also being considered in Georgia, state Representative John Albers (R) - Roswell, wants to allow Georgia to have authority to exempt itself from some federal laws.  Perhaps if Albers is looking for constituent support with his action, there might be a way that Drenner can work with him to ensure passing of both the exemption bill and the cell tower bill.  Then Georgia could potentially claim to be exempt from the fereral law on cell tower placements.

Most suspectible to effects of RF radiation are children as their bodies are still growng.  In children, their DNA is still developing and changing as they grow.  Rep. Drenner stated her extensive background in the area of radiation science and explained her concerns were largely due to her own knowledge about how radiation can interfere with healthy growth of cells and lead to gene mutations.  Eventually, such mutations are what can become cancerous growths or childhood leukemia, a cancer of the blood.  This form of cancer has been seen in many of the schools and neighborhoods that are currently involved in lawsuits against the telecommunications industry right now. 

Due to the large bankroll of the cellphone companies, these cases are likely to be dragged out for several years before the outcome is made public.  Or, if the families bringing the lawsuits forward do not have an endless financial fund by which to continue their fight, a settlement will likely occur that prohibits the familes from going public with their claims. 

It may be many more years before the truth of the dangers is actually common knowledge.  If you have a child at one of these 9 schools in DeKalb County, then you likely agree that, given a choice, no parents would knowingly, intentionally take a chance with their own child's life by exposing them to a known or possible human carcinigen. 

A school system that is paid for by taxpayers for the express purpose of educating the young and ensuring the future of a community, has no business accepting financial support from a business that clearly has only one purpose in its bid to use our land - to increase profit for its shareholders.  The cellphone industry is not trying to be our "partner in education" as some corporatations have done successfully.  They simply want to build the cheapest equipment possible to expand their infrastructure.  They want to pay as little in tax and make as much in profit from our citizens.  The fact that what they do and how they do it could possibly harm children or the envirnoment is not a deterrant for them.  And a school system that will waste time considering an offer for an insignifacnt amount of money without regard to the impact on the school, the children and the community, is a school system that is very far off track from focusing on its primary goal of education.

The risks are many.  The benefits are few.  The results will be long-lasting as 30-year agreements are at stake here.  What is decided will not only affect us and our children, but many of our unborn children and even unborn grandchildren.  Who is going to be the voice for these children?  Who can insist that their lives be put at risk simply because we choose to ignore the results of research that has prompted other countries, like Canada, the U.K. and Germany, to take action?

Please contact YOUR state legislators and let them know this issue is important to you.  Tell them you want to see it on the earliest agenda possible and you hope they will help turn it into a law that will help protect our children.  Please spread the word however you can to as many people as you can.  Cell towers do not belong in residentially zoned neighborhoods.  They do not have a place on o
our school grounds. 

Practice "prudent avoidance"  We should all heed the advice of Representative Drenner and practice "prudent avoidance" of the areas we know will expose us and our children to RF radiation until safe, practical methods for cell service are developed and deployed in the U.S., as has been taking place in other countries. 

A DAS, distributed antenna system, is a good alternative that has been suggested in areas where cellular service is needed but cell towers are not desired.  We suggest that T-mobile representatives start coming up with alternatives to our schools is they wish to improve the service they provide. 

The T-mobile representative at the hearing suggested that Drenner include something in her legislatin that would include suggesting of alternate locations if the school is determined to be a poor fit.  GTCO-ATL is hopeful that Drenner does not include any such language.  Just like it is not the business of the school system to solve the problems of the cellular industry, it also is not the job of the county's government officials or citizens to solve these issues for them.  We are not aware of the specifications by which they determine the exact need for more towers, nor do we wish to learn how to do their jobs for them. 

 In the meantime, we suggest that customers of T-mobile consider other carriers (such as Verizon which works fine at Lakeside) rather than forcing industrial structures into parts of the county that are not zoned for such dangerous structures.

Any proposal that is intentionally held back from the public instead of explained with a rational pro/con approach is suspect.  The "public information sessions" are actually in violation of the Georgia Open Meetings Laws that require advance and proper notice for meetings where public input is sought.  T-mobile had an opportunity to tell the public the benefits, but they chose the coward's way out. 

They decided to host low attndance meetings and urge our school board to sneak their vote past us over the Summer.  They thought the people of DeKalb County would either not be smart enough to realize what happened or would not care enough to do anything about it. Clearly, they were wrong! 

Legal action is currently being considered by individual communities as well as by some groups working for multiple locations involved in this matter.  If you are interested in helping this effort or joining up with one of these groups, we can get you in touch with the right people.  Just send an email to us at :

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Map of Hearing Location: Today at 11:30 a.m.


Open Records Request Produces 7 of 9 Cell Tower Contracts

(click headline for full story)

Walter Woods, communications spokesperson for the DeKalb County School System, turned over electronic versions of 7 of the 9 cell tower contracts per an Open Records Request submitted by Get the Cell Out - Atlanta. 

Interested members of these 7 communities can being reviewing the contract and specs for their school to determine what they are actually gonig to be receiving and where it will go. 

To review these contracts, which were signed in early December by Superintendent Atkinson, you can follow this link:

The biggest concerns upon first glance:

*  There are two leases missing... Lakeside High School and Narvie J. Harris.  How did this happen?  ANSWER:  The Lakeside and Narvie Harris agreements are worked out, but not formally signed off on.

*  There is no mention of any money being paid to the PTAs or Booster Clubs at ANY school.  So, where did that rumor begin and is it another example of a press leak that the board says it is going to stop? 

More questions ...

If Lakeside High School is the one school that started this request in the first place and they are not getting a tower, should the whole deal be considered null and void?  ANSWER:  The Lakeside and Narvie Harris agreements are worked out, but not formally signed off on.

If the contracts were not signed until December 2011, why were T-mobile crews allowed onto school grounds to begin marking trees and performing other tests earlier than they should have been allowed? 

If the PTAs will actually be receiving a payout of money from the school system, then how can they still be considered a "neutral" party in the matter?  Doesn't that create a major conflict of interest if the board is asking them to inform the parents and community about the plans if, at the same time, they are promising them money if the deal goes through?

If the contracts were signed, then the seven schools with agreements should have earned the initial $2K a piece as indicated in the agreement.  Has T-mobile paid this sum and, if so, where did it go?  What will it be spent on? 

More importantly, what will ANY of this cell tower moeny be spent on?  How will this money improve education for our students? 

If DCSS is the one renting its property and T-mobile is the one interested in leasing the space from us, then WHY are we signing THEIR lease?  Shouldn't it be the other way around?

If Lakeside High School wants a cell tower and Briarlake Elementary School does not, why is it that Lakeside High School does not have a signed agreement, but Briarlake Elementary School does?  And since these schools are located so close to one another, is it possible this was the way it was planned to work out all along?  A:  The Lakeside and Narvee Harris agreements are worked out, but not formally signed off on.

Are these the original signed contracts?  If so, doesn't the DCSS Legal Team also have to sign?

Will there be more cell tower contracts to come?  There is no intention by the School District to change or expand cell tower agreements to other schools beyond the nine approved in July.

Will DCSS do a better job of informing the parents and community members the next time or can we expect more of the same?

*  All answers in red above are per an email to GTCO-ATL from Walter Woods, the official communications spokesperson for the DeKalb County School System.  For what it is worth, we are thankful that Walter is on-board as he has made great strides in providing consistent answers on behalf of the school system and has been fairly quick in responding.  Let's hope this open communication is a trend that will continue!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Support the Legislative Action in GA Against Cell Towers at Schools

(click headline for the full story)

If you have not heard, Tuesday is a very big day for the parents and community members engaged in the battle against placing cellphone towers at our schools in DeKalb County, GA. 

Help us stop dangerous cellphone towers from going
up next to schools, homes or houses of worship.  This
fire in Lilburn occurred over the Summer and required
evacuation of several homes and a daycare.  There was even
fear that the tower might fall onto a gas station located nearby.
Your attendance at a hearing on Tuesday would be a big help to show support for legislation being introduced that would keep cell towers off school grounds. 

But, in case you cannot attend, you can still help!  Between today and end of day Monday, please email your state legislators and let him/her know that you are in favor of a ban on cell towers at schools.  In addition, it would help if you mention that you support the setback requirements that have been passing in other states recently: 

Wireless equipment may not be installed within 1,500 feet from any school, daycare, home or

house of worship unless there is compelling evidence that no other site will work and there is

an absolute need.

To locate your state legislators, you can enter your zip code here:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Second Open Records Request for Information Presented to the PTAs

To:          Tom Bowen, DeKalb Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Atkinson

CC:        Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, DeKalb Board of Commissioners, CEO Burrell Ellis, Get The Cell Out Atlanta, DeKalb Delegation, Crossroads Newspaper, On Common Ground Newspaper, Champion Newspaper, and all appropriate parties

From:     Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter

Date:      2/15/2012

Second Open Records Request for Information Presented to the PTAs of schools scheduled for construction permits on Cell Phone Towers

Pursuant to the Georgia Open Records Law (O.C.G.A 50-18-70 et seq.) (the Law) and/or Freedom of Information Act, you are hereby requested to make available for review and copying all files, records, tapes, and other documents in your possessions that refer or relate to the information presented to the PTAs of the schools scheduled for construction permits on cell phone towers to include the following:
  • Original date, time, and place the PTAs were instructed to inform the parents and community about the construction of cell towers on the school grounds.

  • Name and position of the PTA members that held the meetings to inform the parents and community about the construction of cell towers on school grounds.

  • The method the PTAs used to inform the parents and community about the construction of cell towers on school grounds.

To ensure transparency, open government, and public involvement, we need to verify the original dates, names, methods, etc. the PTAs used to inform the parents and community about the construction of cell phone towers on school grounds.  The property owners are complaining that they have received the “run around” in trying to get information on the cell phone tower issue.
The homeowners living within the residential areas of these proposed new locations of cell towers want to know what law permits T-Mobile to ignore our local zoning ordinances.  Get The Cell Out Atlanta and Unhappy Taxpayer & Voter has made it a mission to answer these questions and concerns.  This is our second request due to the fact that our first request was not answered nor did we receive a reply.  We have no choice but to forward this email to the Office of the Attorney General. 

If this request is denied in whole or in part, we ask that you cite in writing the specific statutory exemption upon which you have relied, as required by law.  We also ask that you release all separate portions of otherwise exempt material.  Please waive any costs associated with this request, or first inform us about costs as required by Georgia law.

As you know, the Law requires a response by you within three business days of your receipt of this letter and provides sanctions for non-compliance.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: Lawmakers to Hold Hearing on Cell Towers

(click headline for the full story)



We need as many people as possible to plan on attending this hearing! Please tell everyone possible who can attend that their support for this legislation is very important!

State Rep. Karla Drenner, D-Avondale Estates, will introduce legislation banning construction of the towers near schools because of concerns about radiation safety.

WHAT: Hearing on Proposal to Ban Cellphone Towers on School Properties
WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21
WHERE: Room 415 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, across the street from the Georgia State Capitol, 18 Capitol Square SW, Atlanta, GA, 30334

GTCO-ATL will be sending notices to all petition signers, our Facebook follwers as well as the district, state and national PTAs.   Please inform as many supporters for this action as possible so that we can prevent any cell towers from going up at any school in our county.  The children of DeKalb are counting on us to do the right thing!

Find the AJC article on this topic at:

Who will speak up for you?

(click headline for the full story)

Wondering who is speaking up for you and your child when it comes to important issues such as where money will be spent when it comes to education? Then you might want to read over the unofficial meeting minutes from this week's Budget and Finance Committee meeting.

The Summary can be found on the DeKalb County School Watch Two Blog today.

There appears to be some confusion on this committee about how the cell tower money should be allocated and whether the T-mobile contracts were executed according to the plan that was voted upon and approved by the Board of Education. Superintendent Atkinson mentioned that, if needed, the board will have to re-open the subject in front of the full assembly and possibly take a vote regarding how the dollars will be allocated once they are received. We have been asking about this part of the cell tower deal from the very beginning. More importanly than how the money gets passed around is WHAT exactly do they intend to spend it on? This was a pretty big contract they locked us into for the next 30 years. So, exactly WHAT are they planning to buy that was worth all this hassle?

Before voters approved SPLOST IV, they were given a list of items the money would be earmarked to purchase, right? So, why were the parents and communities who were, supposedly, asked to give their input about the cell tower deal not given the same type of information? And, who would say, "Okay" to a deal like this, with all the risk factors and safety concerns, if they didn't really have anything in particular in mind that they were hoping to buy with the money? And, where are all these pro-cell tower people now? They were reportedly calling their board members pledging support back in June and July, but now they have just disappeared and no one bothered to take down their names or ask for their contact information? Does that sound like the school system you know?

Who will get the cell tower money?

It was widely reported in the media that the PTAs at each of the cell tower schools would be receiving $25,000, right? Well, chalk that one up to another press leak because apparantly now the board is admitting that statement is not exactly true.

During the Budget Committee meeting held Feb. 15, several issues were addressed as the members questioned Steve Donahue, Director of Facilities, and each other. The first issue: Why did the final contracts not reflect the 60/40% split with the schools as T-mobile had originally proposed? (We will have to take their word for it as the proposals have never been made public.)

The second issue: If Dekalb County School System will receive the initial deposited funds, what are the legal parameters by which they can pay money out to the school PTAs? If the money does not end up going to the PTAs, then where will it go? Will it be sent directly to the schools to oversee and spend as they wish? Who will oversee the funds? What are the stipulations for non-taxpayer revenue as far as how it can be spent?

The third main issue: If there is litigation, could it result in the possibility that the DCSS might have to "take back" any money paid out. If that were to happen and the schools had already spent the money, how would they repay it?

It sounded like more than one group may currently be preparing legal action in order to stop these cell towers. The general public is better informed than ever before and the discontent with the school board has been growing. Perhaps the board might take the opportunity to reconsider their entire process while they are re-opening the issue about the funding.

What will you do if they come for you?

If the cell towers go up and no one steps up to try to stop them, a very dangerous precedent will be set in our county. We will be setting up ALL of our schools for the potential of receiving as many cell towers and antennas as the cellular companies think they might need, without regard to our zoning laws or guidelines for safe cell tower siting as recognized by the EPA.

Once one tower is up, the flood gates will be opened and ANY cell provider can demand equal access to our school campuses under the federal law, specifically the Federal Communications Act of 1996. This Act that was passed before anyone even suspected that non-ionizing RF radiation could be dangerous or even deadly. It seeks to protect the cell phone companies by stating a local government may not discriminate between providers when making their policies for cell tower locations. Essentially, if we let one go up, we will have to let all go up. If we okay it for T-mobile, it must be okayed for any other provider who wants to do the same thing.

If we do not speak up now, we may not have a chance to do so again for 30 years. That means what we are all choosing to do or not do about this issue right now will not only affect us and our children, but for many of us, it will affect our grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

So, as we have tried to point out, this is not just about one school or just about one neigborhood. IT is about ALL of our schools. It is about ALL of our neighborhoods.

Can we look back and learn from the lessons of Big Tabacco, Asbestos and DDT insecticides? Do we want to continue down a path that places innocent children across our county on the board room table as a factor to consider when discussing benefits vs. risks and liabilities? Doesn't every child have the right to a safe and healthy learning environment?

Cell towers present known risks to the children. The children are countinig on all of us to protect them. They have only one future. They cannot speak up for themselves. We must find a way to work together so that we can unite our county on this issue. We must speak up for the children. If you are considering legal action or would like more information on this subject, please send an email to

Monday, February 13, 2012

How's the Technology Treating You? You Have One Hour This Wednesday to Let Your School Board Know!

(click headline for the full story)
Reprint from Crossroads article, "Input Sought on School Tech."

DeKalb students, teachers, parents and residents can give input on Feb. 15 on the school system’s updated plan to implement technology in the schools.

The 7p.m. to 8 p.m. community meeting takes place at the school district’s Administrative and Instructional Complex (AIC) auditorium in Stone Mountain.

The AIC Auditorium is at 1701 Mountain Industrial Boulevard. For more information, visit

This event will be added to our EVENTS page, which you can acess by clicking the link at the top of our home page.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Service Request Submitted to DeKalb Planning and Sustainability Office

(click headline to read full text of this article)

If we can't get help from a real person, then maybe this will work...

Experts say that when a cell tower falls, it will "fall like a tree."  This is a big concern when you think about what might be in the fall zone of the cell towers planned for 9 DeKalb County schools... schools, daycares, homes, traffic... people - it could be any one of us.  So, what are the odds of one of these planned towers falling?  Unfortunately, a LOT higher than you probably would expect. 

Experts say that when a cell tower falls,
it will "fall like a tree."
Read on...

The thought of a cell tower falling over and landing on a school is one of the reasons GTCO-ATL formed in the first place.  It isn't enough to point out a bad idea to a few people and stop something like this from happening down the street.  If YOU knew there was a REAL possiblity of children's lives being placed in danger, what would YOU do?  The responsibility should NOT be placed on the parents at these seemingly randomly selected schools to alert other citizens about a possible danger to their home, their school or their lives, but that's exactly what has happened. 

While others may be okay with keeping quiet about what they know, the thought that these dangerous towers could be built without proper permits or proper review literally keeps some of us awake at night.  So, to that end, we continue to do what we can to spread the word and hope that you will do your part in telling others about this website so that they can spread the word in their neighborhoods, too. 

This is more than a school debate or a political decision.  This is about a moral obligation to do the right thing.  So, here is one more thing we are doing to try to get some answers, which is all we have ever wanted in the first place. 

Code Compliance and Complaints

DeKalb County has a method where you can complain about any code compliance issue online.  Your complaint is given a tracking number and you can ask that they follow-up with you directly in regard to their progress on your issue. 

To begin the process, go to the Planning Department's Main Page, then click the submenu for "Permitting," and then "Code Compliance and Complaints." 

We decided to give it a try (as you can see from the screen shot of the submission page) because GTCO-ATL is still very concerned about the documents that were posted on the DeKalb School Board's website at the time that they were considering the lease of property to T-mobile. 

GTCO-ATL has uncovered the fact that the structural documents provided to the School Board's Tower Committee were not only years out of date, they also provided specs that are not up to current codes necessary to ensure public safety.  In facts, these documents themselves even gave a poor rating to the proposed tower's ability to remain standing under certain high wind conditions. 

Upon reviewing the Emergency Planning Documents for DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb counties, we learned that the wind conditions that might cause this type of tower to FALL OVER are not at all uncommon in our area!  The industry standard was changed to what is known as a "Rev-G" construction which is still not adequate when there is the potential for a falling tower to come in contact with structures expected to be inhabited by human beings (ie. schools and homes).  The "Rev-H" standard is necessary to ensure a higher degree of safety. 

But, T-mobile told our school board that they planned to build to the outdated "Rev-F" standard for the base plate and mounts.  And, since school board members and staff are not trained in the engineering field and do not have the necessary information to determine if tower designs are safe to put next to schools or homes, they approved the entire deal without a second thought about the importance of the technical jargon.  They essentially trusted T-mobile who has a very good reason to want to build to the outdated tower codes - it's cheaper, faster and easier for them.

We have more information about this topic if anyone is interested in reviewing it. Just send an email to and ask for the "Rev-F" code documents.

Here is the full text submitted by GTCO-ATL to the Planning and Sustainabilty Department regarding this issue.  We will provide an update if anyone gets back with us regarding our questions.

I am concerned about the T-mobile request for permits to construct cell towers at 9 or more DeKalb County Schools (orig. list of 12) because I have been told that the permits will be issued by Special Administrative Permit and not by Special Land Use Permit.  I would like to know why /how the Administrative option would apply in this case as these are not temporary structures and should be subjected to the already defined cell tower standards determined by our county via the Special Land Use Permit process, in my opinion. 

In addition, I am very concerend that the documents the school board posted on their website for the public that were stated to be the construction documents submitted by T-mobile indicated that they were wanting to construct a tower with Rev-F standards for the base plate and mount mechanisms.  Rev-F has not been industry standard for many years now and the industry has stated it expects all towers to be built to Rev-G or the new Rev-H standards as these standards lower the chances for the tower to fall over in high wind condititions.

With towers being located so close to schools and homes, it is a major concern if our county is merely planning to "rubber stamp" these towers as I have been told and will not be responsible for the safety of our citizens.  I would like to know what law exempts the schools from zoning codes and why a Special Admin. Permit would be issued that would eliminate public input.

Friday, February 10, 2012

DeKalb, Delegation and Disaster

(click headline for the full story)

Watch your legislative officials at work and count how many times ANYONE mentions the words children or education. 

Read articles on this topic, like this one, on the DeKalb School Watch Blog:

or on the AJC "Get Schooled" Blog:

Check out the Proposed School Zoning Map in question.   The X's represent where the board members live who will continue their terms, clockwise from the top:  Jester, Edler, Walker, Cunningham, Copelin-Wood.  We've updated this version of the map to indicate where the cell towers (as proposed) will be located as well as the location of the schools where the towers were orignally planned, but were removed from the list.

Click picture to enlarge.

Here is the map that was proposed during the substitute motion.  It has seven districts, but does not indicate how the members would be split up among those districts.
It was not clear which of the board members would continue or whether a new election would be held for all districts.

The final map will be determined sometime before Wednesday, Feb. 17 without any further public input. 
This is a very good showdown worth watching... it's up there with your favorite episode of Housewives of Atlanta...  check it out...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lakeside or Briarlake: Where do They Draw the Line?

A big issue plauging the NoBriarlake Tower campaign is that they were orginally named by the school board as being in favor of the towers.  In fact, their own PTA President admits that she was given a flyer and information to distribute to the members of the PTA back in May 2011.  Stephanie Byre, the self-appointed leader and spokesperson of NoBriarlake Tower has encountered questions about her husband Mark's role in the protest as he has not stepped forward to support his wife's efforts,  speak to the media or answer questions about his reported attendence at the T-mobile meeting in May.

Making the waters as murky as Echo Lake, the actual lake that gives Lakeside High School its name, is that the families at Lakeside High School have been reportedly in favor of the cell towers and are the ones who initiated the request for cell towers in the first place, not just this time, but also a few years ago.

So, if these two schools don't see eye to eye,  with one of them in favor and one of them opposed, who do you believe?  And, wouldn't there be some families who actually have children at BOTH schools?  Which side are they on?  And, how can Paul Womack claim he accurately represented this community which, on the surface would appear to be in the middle of heated debate against one another as to what is right for the community?

And, has anyone wondered why T-mobile would need two towers this close together anyway?  And,  how will MORE towers help a small little area where DeKalb's upper 1% hides out with their complaints of dropped calls.  Experts have pointed to the fact that TOO MANY towers may be the real problem here.

So, what is it with this group? Are they for or against?  Do they need more or less?  Is it for the coverage or the money?  Do they believe in RF radiation dangers?  If so, why are they raising money for IPads instead of for attorneys to protect their children's rights?

And if they did not speak up between May - July, 2011, when they had a legitmate chance to make a plea to the Board of Education, why are they speaking up now?  And why do they continue to show up for events outside their own area when they have publically stated that any efforts they engage in are strictly for the purpose of helping their school and their school alone? 

Shame on  you, Briarlake.  Shame on you, Lakeside.  It's not just YOUR future on the line here.  Your ties to ATT are evident and there are a lot of people upset that you would claim otherwise.  At the very least, if you do not care about the other 99% of the county, the least you can do is keep your protest confined to your area. 

You have the money, the power, the connections ... exactly the reason why your school also wanted the towers in the beginning.  You want our other schools to take the hit while your schools rake in the funds.  We hope the NAACP, the media and the voters can see through this chaurade. 

Like a poorly constructed school that relies on SPLOST funds, your walls will come crumbling down.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Lakeside High School Prohibits Cell Phones at School

(click headline for the full story)

A GTCO-ATL follower at Lakeside High School sent us this exerpt from the 2011-12 Student Handbook.  Makes you wonder why this school was so concerned about cell towers and securing cell coverage on campus, doesn't it?


Prohibited Items:

Students are not to bring items such as basketballs, footballs, tape players, radios,

CD players, electronic games, beepers, laser pointers, or any other recreational items or equipment

to school.

Students who bring such items to school should expect to have them confiscated.

Confiscated items will be returned only to the parent or guardian by appointment. They will be

stored in the discipline office.

Cell phones, ipods, cameras, and other electronic devices should not be visible

from 8:05-3.20 p.m. Because these items are often stolen, we recommend that you leave them at

home. Staff members do not have time to investigate lost or stolen property.

Georgia Green Party Wants You to Know ...

(click headline for the full story)

Check Out the New Link at the TOP of our Page for Upcoming Events, Meetings and Dates relative to opposing cell towers on school grounds countywide, not just for those with the financial resources to demand change.  RF Radiation doesn't discriminate, so why should our elected officials and lawmakers?

Are environmental hazards putting the health of our families at risk? Is the health and well-being of our children for sale in DeKalb County? 
The Georgia Green Party Lists
Its Ten Key Values that include such
radical statements as "Every human being
deserves a say in the decisions that
affect their lives and not be
subject to the will of another."
Surely, they must be from
another planet, right?
Saturday, Feb. 11, 1 - 3 p.m.CHASE Meeting (Citizens for a Healthy and Safe Environment)
Georgia Piedmont Technical College
495 N. Indian Creek Drive
Clarkston, GA 30021

  • The Dangers of Cell Towers on School Buildings
  • Hazards of Biomass Incineration (Gasification)
  • Clean Energy Alternatives
  • Citizen Action to Demand a Safe Environment

  • INVITED TO ATTEND: All residents and residential property owners in DeKalb County who have an interest in learning more about these topics and what you can do to help.  

    Special invitation is made to the families near Smoke Rise and Jolly Elementary Schools as they are in close proximity to the meeting location and have not been able to vocalize their objections as loudly as the other communities with more affluent populations backing their efforts.

    Click on Map to enlarge to see the schools that the DCSS agreed to lease
    our public property to T-mobile for commercial gain.

    Parents of children within the DeKalb County School District are also invited to attend, however it is advised that you make daycare arrangements if possible as the subjet matter will be complex and children may become bored and restless. Also, please be advised that the subject of cell towers on school grounds may be upsetting to children if they hear discussion about the dangers and health hazards associated with this topic. 
    If you do bring children to this meeting, please plan to bring activities that will keep them quietly entertained as no on-site daycare will be avialable.

    For further information, please contact:
    Richard Searcy and Dr. Jewel Crawford, MD
    Co-Chairs, Green Party of DeKalb County

    GTCO-ATL Involvement: We are working on a list of questions that we would like for the organizers of this event to put forth to the panel of speakers. If the questions are asked and answered, we will post them here for everyone to read. At this time, we must follow the advice of legal council and will therefore be unable to participate on the panel of speakers.
    Dr. Darren Harper -
    Janice Harper -

    For more details about these topics and the Georgia Green Party's position, please visit their website at: