Reinette Senum: High-speed broadband will come to Nevada County; how is up to us |

Reinette Senum: High-speed broadband will come to Nevada County; how is up to us

High speed broadband technology will come to Nevada County and we should embrace it in the most respectful, democratic and technology-neutral way.

Differences of opinion in a democracy are to be expected and tolerated, but there are some issues in which we have achieved broad consensus; ideas such as those in Article 1 of the California Constitution: “All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy.”

Technology enabling telecommunications services (calls and texts) and information services (internet, gaming and streaming music/video) is just one aspect of our multifaceted lives — lives in which most of us profess to care about the well-being of people, plants, trees, animals, insects, birds and bees.

The Nevada City Council recently took its latest step toward passing a wireless ordinance that proposes to regulate (or not) the construction of wireless telecommunications facilities throughout our town. What do we know? Those facilities pump out pulsed, data-modulated, Radio-frequency Electromagnetic Microwave Radiation (RF-EMR) using radio-frequencies packed with data (via modulation) that support a variety wireless technology generations (or Gs) whether the generations starts with a 3, 4 or 5. We should be happy with the current wireless ordinance if the ordinance preserves the unique values of Nevada City and its residents. So … does it?

We can have faster internet and communications while preserving the core values of Nevada City by restricting any new wire telecommunications facilities …

The good news is that democracy is not a spectator sport. We can either actively participate in it or lose it. So now, we have an opportunity to consider the best information available to make sound decisions that preserve the unique values of Nevada City and its residents.

The very first questions for us to answer are these: “What do we like most about Nevada City? How is Nevada City different from Sacramento, San Francisco or San Jose? How much do we value consumer choice and diversity? Do we want our air, food and water free from man-made contaminants and pollutants? Do we want to reduce our collective carbon footprint? Do we value convenience over safety? Do we value local control over being told what to do by our state and federal governments? Would we give up local control, if we had the choice?”

These are the questions that Nevada City residents have the chance to answer right now. Please write down your answers — on paper (or typed into your phone) — and bring them to the next City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25. at 6:30 p.m. at 317 Broad St. and tell us during public comment. The City Council lists some of its core values on its web page: embracing and promoting diversity, ethical and transparent behavior, preserving and enhancing our community, a commitment to our community as a whole are just a few of those.

Once we understand what we value about our lives in Nevada City, we can apply this understanding to change the current wireless ordinance in ways that better reflect the unique values of Nevada City and preserves our small-town charm and the residential character of our neighborhoods — while still providing fast wired internet service (for gaming and streaming music/video) and just enough wireless service to enable telecommunications (calls and texts).

Our decision rests, at least in part, in being open to what the most recent peer-reviewed science (independent of wireless industry funding) says about the negative health consequences from RF-EMR exposures that are at levels 0.5% to 5% (or lower) of the Federal RF-EMR exposure maximum public exposure guidelines. The negative health consequences from such RF-EMR exposures are DNA damage, lowered male and female fertility, sleep disturbances, diabetes, cardiomyopathy, neurological problems, dementia and even cancer (both brain and heart) to mention a few.

Our decision also rests on recognizing that in April of this year, the California Supreme Court reminded cities that they have the local police power to regulate the public rights-of-way to preserve the quiet enjoyment of streets (and common areas, such as parks). Specifically the court said “travel is not the sole use of public roads; other uses may be incommoded beyond the obstruction of travel,” including if telecommunications equipment (such as a wireless telecommunications facility) might “cause negative health consequences” or “creates safety concerns.”

In whose hands do you wish to place your well-being: the FCC, the most corrupt, captured-by-industry federal agency (the FDA is not far behind), or independent scientists and well-informed medical professionals?

There is no need to throw down any gauntlets. We can instead learn from forward-looking cities in California who have already done their homework and change our wireless ordinance to be close to theirs: we can learn from Mill Valley, Monterey, Fairfax and Petaluma.

We can have faster internet and communications while preserving the core values of Nevada City by restricting any new wire telecommunications facilities to industrial, commercial and mixed-use zones, and regulating both the minimum antenna heights (the higher the better) and the maximum power output (the lower the better) from those facilities to preserve the quiet enjoyment of our streets: which are all valid aesthetic considerations.

There is no need to fear change or ban any particular technology, if we thoughtfully exercise our city’s local police powers to balance the desires of “Team Big Wireless/Federal/State Government” with the core values of our team, Nevada City and its residents.

Please come to the City Council meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 25, and participate in our democracy so we don’t lose it.

Reinette Senum is a Nevada City Council member and current mayor.

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