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Bravo for cell phone towers

by YES! Staff

Kudos to the Winston-Salem City Council for its enlightened unanimous vote on Monday to relax regulation of cell-phone towers in residential areas.

You can be certain that something momentous has transpired when no elected official deigns to remark on it.

Council members extemporized eloquently as they bequeathed honors on a number of parties, all worthy, including the endearing Tiny Indians cadet football team, the dignified ladies of the Kappa Alpha Kappa Sorority, the late intrepid arts supporter Copey Hanes, and dedicated city employees who retired in 2013. But that’s looking backwards. Few actions they take this year will likely measure up to the foresight and good sense of loosening the reins on new telecom development.

The decision lays the groundwork for a new generation of entrepreneurship dependent on high-speed internet, supports the expansion of telecom jobs, and improves access for poor people otherwise at risk of being shut out of the new economy.

WHAT THE CITY COUNCIL DID ON MONDAY IS THE 21 ST -CENTURY EQUIVALENT OF ALLOWING A RAILROAD TO BUILD A STATION ON MAIN STREET.

What the city council did on Monday is the 21 st century equivalent of allowing a railroad to build a station on Main Street. Maybe the council members’ grandstanding was uncharacteristi- cally quieted because their most vocal constituents in an otherwise emaciated political culture are the handful of citizens who empower themselves through neighborhood associations.

Eric Bushnell, the president of the Winston-Salem Neighborhood Alliance, said that although members hold some reservations about the new ordinance they are pleased with compromises in the original proposal made by the telecom industry. Thus humbled about who keeps them in office, council members sold the ordinance amendment as limiting intrusion in residential neighborhoods rather than promoting a greater social good.

But consider the arguments for telecom development. “It supports our community, the underserved community who are using cell phones as their primary telephones,” Evelyn Acree, chair of the board of directors for the Winston-Salem Urban League, told YES! Weekly after the vote. “People use this to look for jobs. Parents rely on it for schools to contact them.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in 2011 that 84.9 percent of adults living in poverty or near poverty live in wireless-only households, while only 27.7 percent of higherincome households reside in domiciles without a landline. Two years later, the Pew Research Center found that 75 percent of African-Americans who own cell phones use their devices to access the internet.

And don’t forget about the jobs that will be created as the industry ramps up to meet consumer demand. “With increased technology, it’s going to result in adding towers and more jobs,” Bill Hunt, president of Communications Workers of America Local 3616 told YES! Weekly. “It adds higher paying jobs because of the introduction of internet services. It puts us on a firmer footing with bigger cities such as Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro.” !

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