Thursday, May 31, 2012

Womack defends pay raise for Lewis

Paul Womack, District #4 (Tucker, Northlake, Briarlake, Lakeside, Smoke Rise, Jolly, Clarkston, etc.) - the person who brought us the cell towers is seen in this older interview defending the rasie the board voted on for Crawford Lewis, former Superintendent of DeKalb County Schools. Lewis is now facing corruption charges and Womack is running for re-election.

We haven't received statements from two Tucker canidates running against him, but will bring you more when we do. Jim Hensen and Tom Gilbert have both stepped up to hopefully take the reigns from the one-sided power trip that Womack has been on for far too many years now.

Like the man says, "You've got to do what's in the best interest of this county and for the children." (paraphrased, but please watch this clip for yourself!)

From the AJC: Lower Income Kids Waste Most Time on Gadgets

Monkey see, Monkey do! 

Guess what?  Kids can waste time using electronic devices, too! 

This is a video of an adorable baby who thinks that a magazine is actually an I-pad that doesn't work: 

While this video is cute, it also gives us a glimpse of the future.  Children who have never known a world without computers, electronic gadgets and games, but how healthy is all of this "virtual reality" and why are we so set on thinking of technology as a measure of education and achievement? 

Do we think that knowing how to use a calculator makes someone a math wizard? 

Do we think knowing how to use spell check makes us better communicators?

We can't even say for sure that the metorologists on television are any better at predicting the weather based on what type of radar system their station tell us they own, can we?

Did our kids get smarter when the "white-board" replaced the blackboard in our classrooms?  Then why would an expensive "smartboard" be any different?

Warning:  an Economic Divide

A post in the Atlanta Journal today even warns us that technology may even create a bigger problem for school districts, like ours here in DeKalb County, where there is a gap in the economic levels of students. 

If the cell towers that we might soon see going up at 8 of our lower income schools are truly educational in purpose, then is that a sign that our school board is leading us down a path of e-books, mobile homework submission and virtual classrooms? 

Will they be using our tax dollars to fund an "I-Pad in every child's hands?"  And, if so, how will our already poor performing, lower income "Title I" students do when they have the added distraction of a new computer to play with? 

How will the rest of their household react to having an I-Pad to "play" with when it is really intended for the child to use for school work? 

Has our board investigated other similar districts who have tried this solution to their educational problems?  Or, are we, once again, expecting our children to be the guinea pigs?  The RF radiation from a cell tower overhead can be expected to cause insomnia, memory problems, confusion and other issues for as much as 35 - 50% of the kids at a cell tower school. 

What about Lakeside?

Meanwhile, Lakeside High School, the school that was reported by board members to have been the original requestor for the cell towers to help them with their coverage problems, is yet to receive a signed contract OR an FCC license for a tower. 

We've suspected all along that they needed Brairlake Elementary School to receive a tower because they knew they would really not be getting one of their own.  And, since cell towers decrease property values, we aren't surprised that the other schools around Lakeside will be getting towers as a means to continue to help this overpriced community justify their sky-high mortgage rates. 

Here's an excerpt from the article from the AJC's Maureen Downey.  As you read it, think about whether or not this is the right direction for DeKalb County.  And, please remember the children when you plan to vote July 31.  Help us keep cell towers off school grounds by voting no on the ballot question and voting against the incumbants who brought cell towers to our schools in the first place, like Paul Womack, District #6.

Get Schooled - Gadgets Waste Time for Some Kids More than Others

3:01 am May 31, 2012, by Maureen Downey

Full text here:
(Click link above for full article as well as a link to the NY Times piece.)

Excerpt below:

When technology first began to infiltrate American childhoods, there were fears of a digital divide; children from lower-income families would not have access to the emerging new technologies because of the cost and thus fall behind their more affluent peers whose families could afford cell phones, computers and video game systems.

However, now that access to cell phones and other electronics is widespread, there are fears of a new divide: Poorer kids are wasting more time on their assorted electronic and computer gadgets than more affluent peers.

“Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment,” said Vicky Rideout, author of a decade-long Kaiser study on online patterns, in a New York Times story on the issue. “Instead of closing the achievement gap, they’re widening the time-wasting gap.”

Closing the digital divide is not improving the educational outcomes of low-income kids, in part because their families have the least ability to monitor their usage of electronics or limit their time.
These issues are important to understand as we are increasingly urged to expand online education options for students, even elementary-age children.

But all children, regardless of income, have come to largely see computer and electronics as entertainment. The challenge is recasting technology as an educational tool.

Nancy, What's Up With That?

Board Member Nancy Jester has started a new blog site called, "Nancy, what's up with that?"  You can find some of the common questions she receives and her responses here:
May 31, 2012
Hi Nancy,

Keep up the great work you are doing on behalf of the entire county.

I was reading some of the SPLOST IV information you provided to the DeKalb School Watch Two Blog and noticed a link in one of the Power Point presentations.

However, when I clicked on it today, May 31, it led to a page that says, “The online application process for the DCSD SPLOST Oversight Committee is coming shortly. Please check back to this website.” But, the Power Point also stated that the cutoff date to apply is June 10, 2012. So, we have 10 days and no way to apply.

Do you know if this online application will be working soon? Or will there be another way to apply? Perhaps the website that was provided could also give the alternative information?

I would like to apply, but that doesn’t appear to be possible. What’s up with that?

Cheryl Miller
(Get the Cell Out - ATL)

District #6

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Denise McGill for District #6 - first DeKalb School Board Canidate to Take Hard Stance Against Cell Towers on School Grounds!

When reading and commenting on the DeKalb School Watch Blog Two, we learned that one of the canidates, Denise McGill, running for District #6 (Tom Bowen's District) was employed by Verizon and our warning bells went off! 

Here's the lowdown...

DeKalb School Board District #6 Canidate Denise McGill,
We've been told by advisors from other states battling cell towers that we need to be on the lookout for the telecomm industry to try and infiltrate our PTAs, Parent Councils and even our school board.  They find out where their own employees live and then encourage them to run for the various offices in the school system.  Once they are in, the companies will pressure the employees to try to further the corporate objectives even if they are contrary to their own personal opinions or contrary to what is actually good for the school or the community.  These objectives can include the use of public funds, gaining of tax breaks and leasing or acquiring our public schools, parks and other land. 

And, we heard from board member Jesse Cunningham during his meeting at Martin Luther King, Jr. High School, found here, that Verizon may be coming to our schools next, right on the heels of all our protesting against the T-Mobile cell towers.

So, we replied to the DeKalb School Watch Blog article, titled "Time is Running Out," with some pretty tough questions for Denise McGill.  Our line of questions is posted below.  And, much to our surprise (and relief), Ms. McGill responded with some very strong words of her own that we absolutely applaud her for.  She sounds to us like a very qualified, committed and responsible parent who really understands why we, and so many others just like us, have the concerns and objections that we do to placing cell towers on school grounds. 

Here is the line of questioning from us:
getthecelloutatl says:
Since you have done such great work for Verizon Wireless, can you please tell us why there is no cell service at Lakeside High School with 130+ cell towers in a four mile radius of the school? This is the claim of our current board and has resulted in 8 schools being on the list to receive cell towers (Lakeside not being one of them) in an attempt to improve their “coverage.”

What are your thoughts about cell towers on school grounds knowing what you likely do about the link between RF radiation and multiple health issues ranging from insomnia to cancer, with children being the most vulnerable group?

Will you be in support of Verizon if they follow the lead of T-mobile (ATT) and want to lease our school property without proper public notifcation or without going through the proper zoning regulations of our county?

Are you still employed by Verizon? Will you continue to hold this position if you are elected to the board? If so, will you admit to the conflict of interest and remove yourself from any vote that involves spending our tax dollars on technology as you may be unfairly pressured to vote according to the way that would best help your company and not our children?
And he is the response from Ms. McGill:


I worked for MCI who became Verizon Business. Verizon Business (not Verizon Wireless) developed networks and IT solutions for major corporations as well as provided networking, security business and IT, advanced communications. I have no understanding of Verizon Wireless, nor did I work in a capacity that facilitated anything to do with their wireless services. I have not worked for Verizon Business since April 2009. The last three years of my life have been focused on Youth Advocacy, and Volunteerism. After 26 years, surviving multiple mergers, watching countless friends walk out the door- and the stress of not knowing when your turn was coming- I was relieved, and when given the opportunity, I re-evaluated my life. I wanted a change from Corporate, and worked diligently towards focusing my efforts on what makes me happy- which is community service. I am grateful to have a husband who has allowed me to pursue my passion which is serving my community and its children.

Before I answer your question let me preface it by saying this to you…

I am a parent of a child who was born with an extremely rare life altering medical condition. My child was not to live for 24 hours let alone be six months away from being 20 years old… She lives with this condition everyday and we live in fear EVERYDAY. One thing that we are guaranteed- is that we know without a doubt that we are going to be in someone’s hospital for a minimum total two weeks within a 12 month time span. It’s a given-
I know what it is like to live in hospitals, and to fear for your child.


So to answer your question- NO, I am not a supporter of cell towers ANYWHERE in a general population of people. They need to be as far away from people as possible
Cell phone towers have no place near any school grounds- nor do they have any place in heavily populated area’s. We are all wise enough to know that the effects of allowing this have unlimited consequences. We have seen what radiation does over periods of time. Who knows what else might come with the erection of these towers? The damage might be years out- but we know that with it, damage will come.

Who wants to have on their conscious that your decision allowed life altering long term unknown effects on generations of individuals? I don’t know about you, but that is not on my agenda of things that I want to do while on earth.

I personally do not want that on my conscious, nor do I want ANY parent to go through the agony of watching a child suffer. Why would I want to purposely put someone else through that torment when I know what its like to watch this on a personal basis?

With that said getthecellout-
I don’t have a conflict of interest here- but if I did, yes, I would remove myself from any vote that I could not be impartial. I do have a conscious, and I could NOT in good conscious approve something that I know might put someone’s child in a scenario which would be life altering in any way shape or form. Anyone who could do it for money simply does not have a clear understanding of the long term effects- if they can live with it so be it- that however would not be me.

If you look on my website:, read about me, and feel free to look at my resume.

Good Job, Denise McGill, and you have earned the Get the Cell Out - ATL "seal of approval" for a canidate we recommend to the voters in School District #6!

To our GTCO-ATL followers:  If you are like us, and you are concerned about the possibility of the school board placing more cell towers on our school grounds and, consequently, in our backyards, playgrounds and residential neigbhorhoods, please research the canidates up for re-election on July 31!

your school board member
is up for re-election!

Get your friends and neighbors to show up and vote this year!  The low voter turnout in November is what resulted in the SPLOST IV continuation.  If you cannot afford to continue throwing your money out the window so that those in governement can spend it on attorneys, jobs for their friends and family and not do anything to improve our education system and home values, then please do something about it this year - VOTE!

Make sure you vote for a canidate, like Denise McGill, who is willing to take a stand now as being someone who will absolutely never approve a cell tower as an alternative funding source.

And, please remember to vote NO to the telecommunications tower question on the ballot that asks if you think the schools should consider them for our schools.


 "Should the local or independent school system of DeKalb County or a charter school in DeKalb County place or operate a telecommunications tower on any elementary, middle, or high school property?"


DeKalb School Board Racers Take Their Marks! July 31 VOTE!

For more information, see

Cell Tower Histories for these districts are as follows:

District #2:  
This district includes two schools originally on the cell tower list:

Medlock Elementary School:  This neighborhood school and neighborhood association was given advanced notice by T-mobile about the possibility of having a cell tower located on their grounds, according to a report made by a Brairlake parent at a Sept. 2011 public meeting with District #4's school board representative Paul Womack.  Womack was chairman of the Budget, Auidt and Finance Committee in Aug. 2010 when GTCO-ATL has determined was the first public meeting where cell towers were introduced as something Facilities Director Steve Donahue should check into by writing an RFP.  We have yet to determine who actually made the initial request.  Womack eluded to the possibility that it was a request from the county commissoners or the CEO's office, but that is not confirmed.  To date, CEO Burrell Ellis has not responded to GTCO-ATL's letters directly.  His office has responded that they are not responsible for the zoning of these cell towers.  Yet the commissioners and the state as well as the FCC are not claiming to be responsible, either.

Apparantly, Medlock's commity met several times with T-mobile who promised them a variety of options for their tower, including making it look like a light pole or painting the school's mascot on it.  When they refused, it was soon announced that their school would be closing.  Medlock fought back with a very vocal opposition to the closure and a highly attended T-mobile meeting in May 2011 which turned into a meeting more about the closure than aobut the cell towers.  Not everyone who attended were there because of Medlock, however.  Parents who had caught wind about the suject matter of the first few T-mobile meetings held at other schools were encouraged to attend meetings on the last day.  Medlock was one of those meeting.  In June and July, Medlock made appearances at school board meetings. 

Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter group reports that Melock's association may have been given some of their research data that had been delivered to the BOE members to ask that cell towers at all schools be denied as it was the same information that these residents presented during the public comment portion of the July board meeting. 

On July 11, 2011, Don McChestney, the Incumbant rep for District #2, Medlock's district, offered an ammendment to the cell tower proposal that removed three outspoken schools from the list.  Medlock was one of them.  They did not receive a cell tower, but did end up having their neighborhood school closed.  It has since been announced that the International Community School will take up residency in the former Medlock building.  The International Community School had been searching for a home for five years.  It serves a portion of the immigrant population of DeKalb County.  It had previously been using United Methodist facilities in Avondale and Avondale Estates as well as a satallite campus in Stone Mountain.

(VIDEO) Here's an interview with Medlock's community leader Pat Camp along with Get the Cell Out - ATL leaders immediately after the vote by the board in July 2011.  Shortly after the decision, plans were announced to move the children from Fernbank into the Medlock school while Fernbank was under construction.  GTCO-ATL finds it interesting that these moving arrangements were being planned even before the SPLOST IV funding had been approved by voters.  That's confidence, isn't it?

Don McChestney is running for re-election in this district.  He was responsible for taking Medlock off the list (as well as Brockett in District #4 and Meadowview in District #3 (which is not voting) as his ammendment was approved by the board.  He has been voting and acting in a more responsible manner within the past year since GTCO-ATL has been tracking the cell tower issue.  He often works with Dunwoody's Nancy Jester, who has an excellent track record of voting responsibly for the benefit of all of DeKalb's children, not just her own district. 

His opponent, Marshall Orson was is outspoken parent and leader in the Emory-LaVista Parent Council.  Orson misled the media and many community groups into thinking that a yes vote on SPLOST was a necessary component to reducing the size of the school board and that a mandatory vote for all new members would be a direct result.  He was also the vulture ready to pounce on the Medlock building as soon as it was worked out that they were closing. 

(VIDEO) Here's an interview with Orson and GTCO-ATL leadership during SPLOST IV.

Margaret Harris Comprehensive School - this is a K-12 school for the severely disabled children of DeKalb County.  Community members did not learn about the cell towers until GTCO-ATL leadership drove throught their community and stopped to talk to people out walking in the neighborhood.  They have been vocally opposed ever since and have started their own website to keep their community informed of their efforts to stop T-mobile for putting a cell tower literally right outside many of their backyards.  This group is currently soliciting donations for a legal fund to fight the cell tower.

GET THE CELL OUT - ATL recommends:
(Incumbant) Don McChestney
for District #2 Voters
Concerned About Cell Towers
on School Grounds

District #4:
This district includes six schools originally on the cell tower list:

Lakeside High School:  This is the upscale high school currently undergoing its rennovations from SPLOST III funds.  This was also an area that had many SPLOST IV signs in yards as advocates on behalf of the school board, despite the problems that have been widely reported regarding the nepotism and possible criminal mishandling of taxpayer funds. 

Paul Womack, the incumbant for this community has several friends at Lakeside, including Principal Joe Reed who was hand-picked by Womack for his position.  Mr. Reed is also on the Vahalla Group, a booster club that helps support many projects and activities at the school.  Some say the booster club does more for the school than the PTA which is why they were able to get some sympathy from the community when it looked like SPLOST funds were running short and several of their "ammenities" were going to be cut from the construction list. 

We commend the Vahalla Group for supporting its students, but what is unclear is the connection between the principal's claims to the school board member, Paul Womack, that the school needed help solving the cellular connection problems at the school and the booster club's desire for money to "finish the dream." 

It was well known that Lakeside is the school that wanted the cell towers, but it is not clear why this would be a larger, countywide school problem. And, even more disturbing is the fact that Lakeside, to date, does not have a signed contract for a cell tower.  But, now there are 6 elementary schools, 1 comprehensive school and 1 high school all on the construction list thanks to the demands of Lakeside.  And there are 3 more schools that almost received cell towers.  For what?  Better coverage at Lakeside? 

Or, does this have more to do with property values near Lakeside?  The Lakeside area is known for bringing in a pretty large amount for its homes due to the perceived quality of the school system.  We say "perceived" because that has been called into question recently when a national standard was established for calculating graduation rates.  When looking at the number of Freshmen who enter the school compared to the number of graduating seniors, the school slipped to just below a 60% graduation rate, putting it more on par with the rest of the schools in the district.  Previously, Lakeside compared graduation numbers to the number of students who started their senior year at the school. 

Since the home market has trailed off and many people still have investment property in this area, it stands to reason that another motivation for placing cell towers all around, but not actually within the sight, of the school  might actually improve the communications as well as drive some folks away from buying in other areas and justify the steep prices seen here.

Briarlake Elementary School:  This is the school that launched an all-out war (of the PR variety) when it came to their school and the thought of cell towers on campus.  They were nice enough to work with in person, but as soon as you would look away, they would be stealing the limelight form other schools.  They often "forgot" to mention the other schools when they were interviewed on TV about the subject matter.  And, when participating in a countywide phone campaign to reach the decison makers, they got a state lawmaker on the line, requested a letter of concern to be mailed to the Superintendent but "forgot" to mention the names of the other schools.

They did a great job of helping bring greater awareness to the issue, but they also did not come clean with the public about their PTA's invovlement from the beginning.  To date, we are unsure the status of their tower application.  And, despite the warnings by GTCO-ATL that the school board decision was made and could not be overturned, they continued to encourage others to launch their protest with the board.  Instead, we urged the school communities to seek answers from the county commissioners, Director of Planning and the CEO Burrell Ellis regarding the zoning and building permits that are the necessary next step in the process.

The DeKalb County Comissioners have all pubically stated that the zoning codes of DeKalb do not allow cell towers in residential neighborhoods.  If the tower permits come to them for approval, they will be denied.  However, we've been told that the permits will go to the CEO Burrell Ellis for final okay behind closed doors without public input.

The PTA was in fact aware of the T-mobile meetings that took place in May and the vote approved the towers in July.  They did decide to oppose the tower until GTCO-ATL parents visited the area and started spreading the word that the board had put them on the list.  To avoid the backlast of the community, they helped set up a formal protest group, No Briarlake Tower.

Even though we initially worked together with this group, we had to scale back our involvement out of concerns that they were reporting too much information back to the board.  We expressed our concerns and they told us that they were only advocating on behalf of their own school.  That was disappointing, to say the least, because the whole concept behind what GTCO-ATL was based on was neighbor helping neighbor and stopping the towers from going up at any school in the county. 

As the protests continued, many Brairlake parents stayed in touch with GTCO-ATL and are still in contact regarding their legal options today.  We worked together with several groups, including many of the Brairlake parents, to hold a march against the towers and then to support legislation being introduced by Rep. Karla Drenner (D- Avondale Estates).  While the bill gained a lot of support, it did not make it out of committee and onto the floor of the House or Senate for a vote.

As a feeder school to Lakeside High School and in line for a brand new middle school with SPLOST IV funds, the parents and residents near Brairlake did not completely give up on striking some last minute, back room deal with their neighbor and board member Paul Womack.  If they also end up, like Lakeside, without a tower, the relationship between these players will be even more interesting to try to figure out.  It has been noted by many that these are the only two majority Caucasion schools in the cell tower list.  It would not be a good decision for Mr. Womack or the other board members to back away from cell towers at some of the schools at not others since they have heard from the communities at every school on the llist.

Brairlake Elementary also set up a Booster Club, similar to the Vahalla Group and has mysteriously rasied funds so far that match the money that was mentioned in the cell tower contract but not accounted for.  The most concerning part of the Booster Club is that it was established in late 2010, the same time the cell tower issue was brought up, and was set up by a paralegal for a very large, national law firm that normally represents big businesses like telecomms.

Brockett Elementary:  This is the Tucker elementary school that spawned the Get the Cell Out - Atlanta Chapter.  Since they did not receive a cell tower contract, we won't spend a lot of time disucssing the history.  However, the important things to note is that there was nothing unusual about Brockett that led to their being taken off the list before the July 11 vote other than a couple of concerned parents who made the decision to take their child out of the school as  a result of the cell tower announcement. 

They went on to follow the chain of command to try to stop the tower slated for their school.  They continued to be concerned for the neighbors who lived near the other schools and later reached out to them as well.  They set up this website and a Facebook page to keep the greater community informed about what they learn about cell towers so that the information can be shared with all those whom might be affected. 

They spoke out against SPLOST IV and continue to be involved in the process of getting DeKalb's schools back on track even though their own child attends a private school now.  They joined forces early in the protest with the Unhappy Taxpayer and Voter group and have, together, spread the word in the county about the school board's plans to put towers at local schools. 

Their work on the state bill to ban the towers did not become law, but it did result in a non-binding ballot question to be asked of voters July 31.  We urge everyone we know to show up and vote no, unless you want to fight a cell tower company when they set up shop at your school or in your community.

There are three canidates running for the school board against the incumbant Womack:  Jim McMahon, Jim Kinney and James T. (Tom) Gilbert, Jr.  Mr. Kinney was an early contributor to the comments left on GTCO-ATL Patch blogs and appeared to be on the side of the cell towers.  He has since taken a soft stance against the towers, but will not speak about any dangers associated with them  He appears to make light of the subject even though we have so many tower schools in this district, which is why we are not supportive of him as a good school board canidate.  However, Paul Womack is definitely the one we do not want to see re-elected.

We are undecided on Jim McMahon and Tom Gilbert and will give you more details about these canidates when we learn more about them.  We are leaning toward Gilbert as McMahon is a Lakeside parent and we know they are the ones who were in favor of the towers in the first place.

Jolly Elementary  - more to come.  please check back.
See New Blog Entry to be dated 7/8/12
Smoke Rise Elementary - more to come - please check back.
See New Blog Entry to be dated 7/8/12

#6 Histories and Endorsements to come...
Please check back soon!
See New Blog Entry to be dated 7/8/12

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Dark Side of Smart Meters, Cell Towers and Cell Phones

Click headline to view video.

How many people are Electro-sensitive?   According to a Sweedish Study referenced in the presentation below, roughly 3% are hypersensitive and between 35 - 50% are moderately sensitive to the radiation emitted from cell towers, cell phones and smart meters.  These folks will feel a range of symptoms including fatigue, memory loss, confusion and other psychological effects.

That means, in DeKalb County, with a school system of 95,000 students, if cell towers are placed at all of our schools:

2,850 children will be so severely impacted that they will have to move or attend school elsewhere.

33,250 - 47,500 would be affected moderately through sleep loss, trouble concentrating and other psychological symptoms likely to be named ADD or other things that are typically treated with prescription medications.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

11Alive: The Great Hang Up!

Have you joined the Great Hang Up? Check out the dedicated page on 11 Alive's website for more information on the current laws and the many reasons why everyone needs to stop texting and driving in the ATL!

Hi -- I'm 11Alive's Commuter Dude. We are continuously doing stories where people are getting in accidents and even losing their lives because of texting or talking on the phone while they are driving. My job is to help make our roads and your commute better and safer.

We're dedicated to informing the people of Metro Atlanta of the dangers of distracted driving and we are inviting you to join the movement to put down the phone while driving. It's the Great Hang Up!

Just click and print out 11Alive's Great Hang Up Pledge. You can sign it and keep it in your car as a reminder.

We encourage teenagers, schools, moms, dads, and businesses all throughout Metro Atlanta to join the movement and be part of the Great Hang Up!

Did you know that the summer months are when most teen accidents occur? 56% of teens say they are on phone calls while driving and car accidents are the #1 cause of death among teens. Help us encourage teens and everyone to "X the TXT"!

Click here to see one family's tragic story about texting and driving.

GTCO-ATL supports anti-texting while driving laws as fewer mobile calls and texts mean fewer consumers using cell phones which means fewer cell towers needed overall.  In fact, we could probably even have a lot of our existing cell towers taken down if we significantly reduced the amount of time we spend talking, texting or sending/receiving data when travelling.  Besides, we should be keeping our eyes on the road anyway! 

Human life is far too precious to be taken for granted - let's not waste it over something as simple as waiting to get to a land line to make a call. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Response to Open Records Request

Along with another computer virus, we received a response to our Open Records Request.  As a reminder, we requested the following:

1.)  Attendance records for the May 2011 T-mobile meetings. 
2.)  Attendance records and meeting minutes for the Aug. 2010 Budget, Audit, Finance Committee Meeting in which the cell tower issue was discussed.
3.)  "The plans" for a construction timeline as mentioned in the T-mobile contract.
4.)  The signed contracts for the two schools not included in the deliverables from our prior Open Records Request, Narvie J. Harris Elementary (Theme) School and Lakeside High School.
5.)  The memo initialed by Interim Superintendent on or about July 12, 2011, to approve the proposal presented by T-mobile.

We received most of what we requested, with some intereting exceptions.

1.)  Attendence records for the  T-mobile meeting were provided for all except Margaret Harris Comprehensive School and Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.  Mr. Walter Woods, spokesman for DeKalb County School System, stated that these two schools had zero in attendance and that is the reason they are not included.  However, we have listened to the recorded meeting held between board member Jay Cunningham and several members of the community near MLK High School and it is pretty clear that several people, including Mr. Cunningham, were aware of that meeting taking place and either attended it personally or know someone who did.  So, why is the school system denying that the meeting took place?  Or, why are the attendance records "missing" in action?  Perhaps these are just the only two meetings that Paul Womack himself did not handle the details, leaving the work up to McChestney and Cunningham respectively and they didn't follow through?  We may never know, but obviously someone is mistaken here or lying. 

2.)  The Aug. 2010 meeting is where we have been told that the subject of cell towers as "alternate revenue streams" was first brought up.  Mr. Donahue said he was asked to look into the possibility (by whom, he does not state) and that T-mobile had presented an 18 - 24 month plan and already scoped out some locations.  We have not followed-up to ask for copies of the proposals, but find it very curious that T-mobile is the only vendor mentioned by name.  Seeing that there are only a total of 5 cell providers in Atlanta and maybe a handful of tower companies, it would be interesting to see who could have possibly come in with a lower bid on this "RFP" for leasing our land right out from under the taxpayers in order to devalue our real property even further bringing even lower taxes into the district.  Was this a well thought out plan?  Really? 

Womack claims it was all for the ATT/T-mobile coverage at Lakeside High School.  Then whey are they the only school without a contract?  And how does a cell tower at MLK High help Lakeside?  Unless it is really the MONEY from the towers that Lakeside needed not the coverage after all.  Now THAT makes a little more sense, doesn't it? 

Interetsing to note that Interim Superintendent Tyson is not on the attendee list, but is supposedly going to come back to the board in Oct. with a decision about the cell tower proposals on the table.  That apparantly didn't happen either as it was, once again, Steve Donahue who addressed the board in October as well.  We'll have to make another Open Records Request to ever find out if he actually did that.  He's on the agenda, but that's all we can get from what's available online to date.

3.)  "The Plans" were not provided.  Of course not.  That would be too easy, wouldn't it?

4.)  The Narvie contract appeared, but it is now referred to as "Pantersville" and is a lot closer to the stadium than the school.  Nothing for Lakeside.  We didn't expect there to be anything for Lakeside, but it's still disappointing when the reality sinks in that one school's extra perks are worth trying to bring 30 years of harm to (almost) 11 other schools in our county.  Pretty sad that anyone would go along with this plan or even think of it in the first place, isn't it?  We've been told that Lakeside tried to get a cell tower in the late 90s and the community sued the school board to stop it, and won.  The school sits on donated property, we were told, that cannot be used for commercial / proprietary purposes.  So, no matter how badly they might claim they need or want a cell tower, the folks advocating for cell towers at Lakeside likely knew there was no chance they would actually receive one themselves.  Hence, the "need" for the nearby Briarlake site (for the issue with the dropped ATT calls) and the rest were likely so that the Valhalla Group could get the little perks that they were promised with SPLOST III but were not delivered.  Womack had to make it up to them somehow.

5.)  Memo received.  Contracts likely started on July 12, 2011 and will expire July 12, 2012.  If you are considering legal action, your attorney will likely just need to stall T-mobile until this cut-off date.  After that they will have to either pay out a lot of money on the off chance that they will still win the lawsuit, or they will have to drop their bid for your school as a potential site.  Otherwise, the contract obligates them to some hefty payments up front and the first 5 years of monthly rent installments.

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Cell Tower Delivery Here! Where Would You Like It?"

"Uh, Who Here Can Sign for This Thing, Anway?"

Cell Towers will likely be sprouting up around DeKalb County in the next few days and weeks, so keep your eyes peeled.  If you wish to provide "public comment" regarding any of the potential locations (or any of the suspicious-looking new locations that are popping up out of nowhere), you will need to contact the CEO Burrell Ellis, the Director of Public Works and the Director of Planning & Sustainability as quickly as possible. 

When the last school bell rings on this school year, consider that the foreman's whistle for the cell tower contractors.  Fred and Barry will be hard at work, likely at odd hours and in unmarked vehicles appearing to be putting up shopping centers or custom homes. But, make no mistake... you can't hide anything that is 60' wide x 60' long and extends 150' or higher, above the trees and casting a huge shadow over what WAS the greenest county in America.   Or, at least you can't hide it for long.

Wondering who in the school communities actually  "signed" for these cell towers?  We asked for the sign-in sheets for each of the 12 public meetings that were held last May.  DeKalb County School Board Spokesman Walter Woods supplied us with 10 of them.  Here they are:


Woods stated in his email that the missing two schools are Margaret J. Harris Comprehensive School and Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.  Ironically these two school communities became very vocal in their opposition to the cell towers once they learned about them.  So, if the community is against it and no one from the school showed up to voice an opinion one way or the other, then remind me again why they are still going to end up with a cell tower on public school property?

Is it for the money? No, that's not it. Can't be. Womack insisted is wasn't. He said it was for the coverage at Lakeside. And Lakeside is the only school on the list that didn't even get a signed contract and they really wanted one, too! Darn! (More on that to come in our next article.) If it was for the money, then someone should be fired for the worst contract negotiation of all times. Not only did they not get a premium for the prime real estate they are offering up with our elementary school playgrounds, but they got LESS than what a commercial site would have been paid for use of their much safer parking lot or empty lot on the side of the Interstate.

Okay, it's for the coverage? No, that's can't be it. There is just no way that 12 towers or 9 or 8 are necessary to improve coverage at Lakeside High School. It that was all they needed, they would be well covered by now since there is already more than 139 in a four mile radius of the school.

Is it for the money for the PTAs? Nope, that was just a big hoax to get them to keep quiet and play along. The PTA would never be allowed to keep a financial donation like this without having any projects earmarked for it. Since it cannot be spent on anything like teachers, books or other school-related things, that sort of takes away some of the fun, anyway, doesn't it? Womack suggested the PTAs just throw a party. Kinda like those hurrincane parties in New Orleans, right Mr. Womack? Just keep us all drunk and stupid so we don't realize that we just let you put a huge ugly HAZMAT danger right in the middle of our quaint, quiet residential communities. Worse yet, we got a whole bunch of security cameras to go with it so we can now be watched while trying to enjoy the privacy of our own homes. Yippiee! This is way better than racial segregation! You really did find something worse to do to us than fire all the teachers and replace them with computers, didn't you? We never should have underestimated you! And, here you tried to pretend like you didn't even read the contact or undersand the electromagnetic spectrum and we nearly feel for it.

What else do you have in store for us? Time is running out, you know. The school board election is held in July and you have a very worth opponent from Tucker, James (Tom) T. Gilbert Jr. And, LOOK, he has more names AND initials in his name than Mr. Womack does! I think that might just make him a shoe-in since no one appears to vote for anyone other than the best looking name on the page.

Even more strange is that School Board member Jay Cunningham actually discussed the meeting at MLK High School with those community members and he sounded pretty confident that he was not the only one there at the time.  A member of the community even makes a comment that the principal told her who was at the meeting and that the number being given out included Mr. Cunningham himself.  For more about that meeting, click here.

Remember to thank the Georgia Power employees you will be seeing around town.  They have been really putting in some long hours in order to supply all those massive power lines to the yet-to-be-acknowled cell towers that were ordered by your school board in order to get their hands on some more money for their lawyers.  And, you can admire the nifty spy gadgets that the police have installed at nearly every intersection, likely the lovely pay off offered by the telcomms in order to encourage the deception of us, the taypaying public. 

While Georgia Power was busy helping out ATT / T-mobile, they have likely replaced the meter on your home with a "Smart Meter" so not only will the children be under constant radiation from the cell towers at their schools, we all can enjoy pulsed frequencies every hour of every day right in the comfort of our own homes.

But, don't worry, they will not be getting all the fun.  We're sure there will be an App soon that will let you check our your own electric usage from your own smart meter.  Who knows, you may even be able to administer your own radiation treatments once you wind up with one the many forms of cancer that the reliable, credible medical community has warned us about. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Response (#2) from Gov. Nathan Deal

ATLANTA 30334-0900
Nathan Deal
May 7, 2012

Dear (GTCO-ATL):
Thank you for getting in touch with my office regarding House Bill 1299. I appreciate your attention on matters that affect all of us as Georgia citizens.
After careful consideration of the merits of this bill and weighing the comments of Georgians who have contacted my office, I signed this bill on April 11, 2012.
I hope you will not hesitate to make your views known to me in the future, and thank you again for writing.

Gov. Nathan Deal

Please spread the word that the following item will appear on the July 31 ballot in DeKalb County:

Everyone who values the sanctity of their home is encouraged to vote NO on this item.  Even though it is "non-binding," it is very likely that it will be used to identify areas that report that they do not have a problem with the idea of "telecommunicaitons towers" (aka cell towers) on school grounds. 

If a commercial entity is given free access to publically paid property for the express purpose of making a profit, the doors may be opened to a wide variety of commercial interests to go around our county commissioners and straight to our school board in order to gain access to the inner boundaries of our residentially zoned neigbhorhoods.  We have  zoning laws in place for a reason and no one, not even the school system, should be permitted to go around them, especially for a purpose that is neither educational or pubically-minded, but merely an attempt to avoid taxes and circumvent the standard process that includes community notification.

Stop T-mobile.  Stop the runaway school board. 
Vote No to the telecommunications item
on the ballot this July 31. 
Pass it on!

Response From: Congressman Hank Johnson

Congressman Hank Johnson
May 1, 2012


Thank you for contacting the office of Congressman Hank Johnson. We will respond to your e-mail as soon as possible. Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future. We are eager to hear your concerns!


Office of Congressman Hank Johnson

(See more about Congressman Johnson and the stand he is taking against the conservative group ALEC and their push for legislation to protect the interests of big business!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Debunking the Claim that We Need Cell Towers for Better Service From 911

A recent comment on our articled titled, "REPRINT of OCT. 2011 Response from CEO Burrell Ellis' Office," questioned our comprehension of the role cell towers play in the "911 infrastructure." 

We welcome all comments on both sides of any issues raised on this blog/website, especially from those who might be in favor of cell towers at our schools because that is one opinion we have yet to understand.  Even the person commenting on this particular article seems to not grasp the fact that our public school system has one major responsibility - educating children. 

So, the diversionary comments regarding 911 services are irrelevent in addition to being untrue.  Our schools are well equipped with land lines and students are not even permitted to bring cell phons to school.  It is also against the law for anyone under 18 to drive while talking or texting on a cell phone or other mobile device, so it's best that they just leave their electronics at home and come to school prepared to learn. 

These cell towers that will soon be built at 8 of our DeKalb County schools (unless a lawsuit is filed to stop them) have nothing to do with education - currently.  The money they will bring in is not slated for anything of merit that would help any of the schools being asked to take on this burden.  And they will be an eyesore and health hazzard for those who have no choice but to live near them.

How many lives does the annoymous commenter think will be saved by adding another cell tower to our county which is already saturated with them?  And, how many lives might one day be lost if RF radiation turns out to be the carcingen that the World Health Organization says is possible?

Here's the comment:

Two facts you are failing to mention.   
1) Cell towers are necessary to support the 911 infrastructure. Without adequate cell towers, the 911 system does not work well. Dekalb County needs assistance from cell companies like T-Mobile to effectively operate the county's 911 system. In addition, many of the first responders who work for the county's police, fire and rescue departments rely on their cell phones while working emergency incidents.  
2) Cell towers are an EXPENSE to cell companies like T-Mobile, not sources of revenue. Cell phone companies would be delighted if they could just collect revenue each month and never spend a penny on cell towers. But they can't. In order to meet their service commitments to their customers, they have to spend money to build cell towers - an expense, not a revenue. Are you that ignorant of basic business knowledge and facts? on REPRINT of OCT. 2011 Response from CEO Burrell Ellis' Office

While the need to insult others is clearly a sign of insecurity and an attempt to bully or intimadate us into silence, it's a bit too late for that to be effective, so we will overlook it. 

Now, let's debunk the premise behind the first "fact" offered up by our commenter.  This should be fun.  If you are new to cell tower research, you might learn something about how the 911 service is falsely touted as a "need."  If you have been involved with fighting a cell tower, you will enjoy seeing that these absurd statements are not only made in your community, but in mine, too. 

It says a lot about an industry when you realize that they expect employees to behave in such an underhanded way, doesn't it?  They are obviously given a set of questions and answers to post on blog sites, like this one, that likely have no reflection on how the person truly feels about the subject personally.  In order to keep their jobs, they must essentially deceive others.  Nice, huh?

Okay, comment number one can be broken down into several parts.  And, by the way, none of this subject matter is relevent to why we would want a cell tower to be placed on public school property.  It has nothing to do with education and the money is not slated to help any of the cell tower schools. 

1A.)  Cell towers are necessary to support the 911 infrastructureFALSE

Here's the 411:  The nation's 911 emergency response system, built in 1967, was based on the expectation that calls for help would come from land-line telephones.  Cell towers are not needed to support a communications system that is based upon land-line service. 

Cell towers support cellular communications which is a for-profit industry, not a public utility or a public infrastructure requiring the aid of pubic funds.  In fact, cell phones are actually problematic for 911 dispatchers and responders.

Cellphone users "almost assume that they are going to be located — and that's not a fair assumption," says Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), which focuses on 911 emergency communications.

Calls that originate from a land line can immediately tell dispatchers the address where the call is coming from and pinpoint the location on an overhead map without the person on the other end having to say a single word.  Here is a story about a woman in Greater Atlanta who might have lived if she had called 911 from a land line instead of using her cell phone.

Even the most advanced 911 systems do not allow a dispatcher to get a specific street address for a wireless call.  About 93% of the nation's 911 centers have technology that lets the dispatcher immediately see the caller's phone number and the location of the cell tower that picks up the call, but not the exact coordinates of where the person making the call is located. 

The dispatcher still has to request the GPS coordinates from the caller which can take several seconds or more and, even then, it does not locate the emergency with much accurasy in the case of a high-rise apartment complex or business center.

1B.)  Without adequate cell towers, the county's 911 service does not work wellFALSE

Here's the 411:   First of all, there is no area in greater Atlanta that would be considered to have anything less than "adequate" service or an "adequate" number of cell towers. 

There are cell phones and cell towers everywhere.  In fact, we wrote about a recent FCC report that actually shows the parts of the U.S. that still need 3G services, and DeKalb County is not on that list.

And, adding to the taxpayer expense as well as the hassle of our emergency personnel, it was recently reported that nearly 40% of all calls to 911 are accidental.  A large portion of these calls are from "pocket dialing" or "butt dialing."  Here's more about butt dialing.

Here's an article that points out the trouble locating a victim because 911 responders cannot pinpoint the location of the call if it is from a cell phone.  You are urged to give your location quickly if you are calling 911 from a cell phone.

Another problem caused by cell towers is that 911 calls are often mis-directed to the wrong dipatch center.  We encountered that problem not too long ago in Atlanta

Unlike land-line calls, which are sent to the 911 center for their jurisdiction, wireless calls can hit the wrong tower, further slowing the response.  Misrouting also happens in metropolitan areas where multiple jurisdictions are bunched together.

And here is an article about how cell phones can disrupt some police and fire radio signals.

1C.)  Many of the first responders who work for the county's police, fire and rescue departments rely on their cell phones while working emergency incidents. TRUE - but they have cell phones that are not affected by the commercial use of cell services.

Here's the 411:   Here's an article we wrote that shows how cell towers can actually disrupt some police and fire communications.

First responders have their own cell phones with a dedicated frequency so that they can talk without interference from commercial traffic.

And, remember - EVERY cell tower IS a 911 cell tower.  There isn't anything that makes one more special than another.  So if you already have plenty of cell towers around you, then you likely do not need to add one to your local public school in order to help anything related to 911.

Now, a response to the poster's comment #2

2A.)  Cell towers are an EXPENSE to cell companies like T-Mobile, not sources of revenue.  FALSE

This comment is so ridiculous it is almost not worth responding to.  It's like saying that a grocery store should claim its actual building as a liability and a burden that's necessary for them to sell groceries.  We all know that you wouldn't build a building and you wouldn't build a tower if there wasn't going to be profit waiting for you on the other side.  Investment in your own infrastructure, even if it includes leasing space, is just that - an investment with a  reasonable amount of risk associated with it, but with the sole intention that over time it will turn a profit for the business.

2B.)  Are you that ignorant of basic business knowledge and facts? FALSE

Guess who appears to be ignorant of the "facts" now?  Nice try, now go butt dial your boss at ATT and tell him DeKalb County is way ahead of your antics, yet again.

Monday, May 7, 2012

TUCKER PATCH: Federal Decision Gives Hope to DeKalb Cell Tower Opponents

Local Voices

Get the Cell Out - ATL

Federal Decision Gives Hope to DeKalb Cell Tower Opponents

One particularly kind attorney who was waging her own war on the cell towers in Maryland reviewed our situation and spoke with another advocate for safe tower siting. This friend happened to also be a former member of a zoning review board, so she knew what our zoning folks would likely be looking for when and if the applications for towers were ever presented to them.

Dr. Ricky Welikis was among three parents who filed suit against the Cobb County School Board and obtained a restraining order on the cell tower planned for Eastvalley Elemetnary last year.  He went on to run for a seat, and win, on the school board.
Dr. Ricky Welikis was among three
parents who filed suit against the
Cobb County School Board and
obtained a restraining order
on the cell tower planned
for Eastvalley Elementary
last year. He went on to
 run for a seat, and win,
on the school board.
She helped us locate an important case that went to the Supreme Court of Georgia, titled "MACON-BIBB COUNTY PLANNING and; ZONING COMMISSION et al. v. BIBB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT." It shows that the property of a state governmental unit is exempt from local zoning when a governmental function is being performed but not when a proprietary function is being performed.
This information was key because it helped the county commissioners come together in DeKalb and write a letter to the CEO Burrell Ellis asking him to deny any tower applications from T-mobile or the school board that would seek to go around the authority and regulations of the county. We have ordinances already on the books to protect us from industrial hazards by keeping these type of structures out of residentially zoned areas.
If T-mobile applies for the proper permits, many of the school locations would not be allowed and their zoning and building permit requests would be denied. But, the commissioners did mention one thing in their letter that concerned us and that was something about "unless it is proven otherwise in a court of law," then they must uphold the ordinances of the county.

A great documentary about the cell tower issues and what your government is NOT telling you about the dangers of RF radiation.
A great documentary about the cell tower
issues and what your government is
NOT telling you about the dangers
of RF radiation.
We didn't have to look far to find the backup documentation they would need to answer their question. In fact, it has been decided in a court of law, a federal court. In our neighboring Cobb County, the court sided in favor of the county to uphold its zoning ordinances and deny a cell tower to T-mobile. So, we have again written to CEO Burrell Ellis. Here is an excerpt from that letter...
"... The federal case we would like you to reference is titled, "T-MOBILE LLC vs. COBB COUNTY, GEORGIA."
In this case, the County’s Planning and Zoning Staff reviewed the Application for compliance with the County’s local zoning ordinance. The Ordinance provides several design, location, and safety requirements for the construction of towers over 35 feet. Official Code of Cobb County, Georgia § 134-273. Based on the Ordinance, the county denied the application for a tower permit and T-Mobile sued.

The court found in favor of the county and proved that the county has every right to uphold its own zoning ordinances and was justified in denying the application based on the fact that the tower proposed would be an intrusion into a residential area.

We hope you and your staff will review the documents and take these court proceedings into consideration when making the final determination. We have received an outpouring of support for this mission to keep our school yards safe and free from the intrusion of cell phone towers on their grounds.

We have united our county on this issue, and groups that might normally be divided on other matters when it comes to schools and education, were able to come together, work together and seek help from their elected officials from the north to the south.

Now, we turn this final decision over to you, Mr. Ellis, and pray that you will do the right thing for the children of our county." To read our full letter, please visit our blog/website at"
Remember to VOTE on July 31 for school board members in several districts. All incumbents must go. Nancy Jester and Donna Edler are the only ones who voted no to the cell towers in July 2011.

And URGENT: Look out for the Telecommunications Tower Referendum Question on the ballot. VOTE NO! If you do not want to put our schools and neighborhoods at risk AND you are tired of helping fund the corruption, please spread the word - VOTE NO!

"Telecommunications Towers" is the name they are giving to cell towers in an attempt to mislead you. Spread the word in your neighborhood about this question so your area does not accidentally approve a tower near you! This question does not belong on the ballot and was NOT supported by any of the groups who met with the state delegation in hopes of passing legislation this year.

In fact, it was actually suggested by the same person who blocked our bill t ban the towers from going forward. It is asking you to approve something that is currently against our county's ordinances that were drafted by our county commissioners to protect your health and property!  To view the full details about this ballot question, go here.