Luigi towers: take a second look

Problem No. 1: Our schools, which are woefully underfunded to
begin with, are facing extensive cuts due to the state’s looming
$21 billion budget shortfall.
Problem No. 1: Our schools, which are woefully underfunded to begin with, are facing extensive cuts due to the state’s looming $21 billion budget shortfall.

Problem No. 2: Cell phone coverage in South Valley is frequently substandard, particularly in the northwest quad of Gilroy.

In an all-too-rare convergence of seemingly disparate interests, a win-win proposal that helps both these problems arose: erecting two flagpoles at Luigi Aprea Fundamental School, situated in the heart of the northwest quad, topped with cell phone antennas for Cingular Wireless. The wireless phone service company agreed to pay $900 a month to rent the space atop the poles for its mobile phone base station antennas.

Cue problem No. 3: Overwrought protesters, led by Chris Cote, a man with a dubious record of costing the school district money in the past, demanded the towers be removed. Superintendent Edwin Diaz – for internal school district procedure violations – agreed.

We think advice kids often give each other applies here: Everyone take a chill pill.

Yes, the district should have been up front about the plan to top the flagpoles with cellular phone antennas. The district should have, and still can, hold a meeting with Luigi parents, neighbors and Cingular representatives. All the parties can discuss their concerns and look at any evidence – or lack thereof – of health hazards caused by cellular phone antennas.

But protesters have a duty to be armed with facts, not conjecture and emotion, when they’re setting out to deny a Gilroy school more than $10,000 each year.

Here are a few facts for cell phone antenna opponents to consider:

• The Federal Communications Commission, in a document entitled “Questions and Answers about Biological Effects and Potential Hazards of Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields,” states, “Measurements made near typical cellular and PCS installations, especially those with tower-mounted antennas, have shown that ground-level power densities are well below limits recommended by RF/microwave safety standards.”

• The Medical College of Wisconsin concurs. Here’s a quote from an article written by John E. Moulder, Ph.D., a professor of radiation oncology: “The consensus of the scientific community, both in the U.S. and internationally, is that the power from these mobile phone base station antennas is far too low to produce health hazards as long as people are kept away from direct access to the antennas.”

• According to the Web site (www.hps.org) for the Health Physics Society, a scientific organization that promotes radiation safety, “The consensus of scientific experts is that RF exposure from cellular phones and cellular base-station antennas, meeting the maximum permissible exposure levels set in the safety standards, is safe for all.”

Let’s cut through all the emotion clouding reasoned debate on this issue. Let’s look at the facts during a public meeting, and come to a decision based on those facts. Perhaps placing the cellular phone antennas atop 50-foot flagpoles at Luigi Aprea isn’t such a bad idea after all. Perhaps Cingular might be willing to up the ante to $1,500 per month.

Turning down that kind of money based on emotional response unsupported by facts is not only harming the education of our students, it’s teaching them a poor lesson about decision making. Let’s weigh the facts, set up a process and make an informed, healthy decision for our students and community.

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