Is That a Cell Tower Near Your Playground or Are You Happy to See Me?

celltower.jpg
What are you doing here?
UPDATED WITH COMMENT FROM THE CITY...

Weekly editor Ted Kissell encountered more than the usual wet heads, skinned knees and freckled faces scooting into his neighborhood Harbour View Elementary School in Huntington Beach this morning. He also ran into parents pissed off not about grades, ineffective teachers or stale bake sale items (this time), but a cell-phone tower.

Indeed, folks are so hung up over T-Mobile USA's faux-tree tower--which is not the one shown here but is being built on city parkland adjacent to the school's playground--that they have forced a city meeting at 7 tonight at the school at 4343 Pickwick Circle. The mayor, a T-Mobile rep and an Ocean View School District official are expected to attend.

Construction apparently began earlier this week without neighbors or the school being informed. The lack of information being distributed has helped fuel rumors of a radiation-spewing death pole quietly being foisted on defenseless schoolchildren. Actually, radiowaves from such towers are not as toxic as some of the conversations being transmitted. But that's no reason to spring this on a freaked-out populace.

"I'm angry and frustrated at the lack of the city's ability to inform the district and our community about what's happening, so people could at least have their say," said Harbour View Principal Cindy Osterhout, in a Huntington Beach Independent report. "The kids have also now heard about it and are concerned, and this could all been handled in a much better way. To have to be reactive is just not right, and I think we deserve better than this."
But Laurie Payne, Huntington Beach's community relations officer, tells the Weekly the tower is being installed legally and, according to the city's planning code, no notification was required under the type of permit T-Mobile pulled. As for health ramifications, the tower meets all Federal Communications Commission safety guidelines, Payne said.

However, due to the angry calls and media inquiries, the city is "facilitating" tonight's meeting, Payne said.

Hilariously, in the Independent story, Mayor Keith Bohr is quoted as saying, "Clearly, maybe we should have had a public hearing, or thought about that." Jeez, "clearly" "maybe" "thought about" it, Mr. Mayor? Who said bold leadership has died in Surf City? But don't be too hard on Mr. Bohr. The city council he leads approved the tower at its Jan. 20 meeting, and the city has probably been so busy counting the $2,000-$2,500 a month it's reaping from the 10-year cell-tower lease there has been scant time to actually tell anyone about it.

Here's an idea: spend some of that dough on crisis P.R.

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