Hump Day – The Cell Tower

red_balloon
Wednesday, it signals the middle of the week, just two days away from TGIF. It’s especially meaningful to those of you working for a living. It’s the 9 to 5, the grind, the job, the shift, the boss, you know, it’s what we do, or in my case, have done, in order to reap the benefits of that almighty paycheck. That paycheck pays for a lot of things, some we control, others we don’t.

When you invest in a home, you are investing in a community. That gives one the right to speak out in favor of, or in opposition to, decisions and policies that may impact you.
The dozen or so residents who attended the Planning Commission Public Hearing on Monday the 25th, to hear the discussion on the proposed cell tower in Pinole Valley Park, are representative of those community “investors”.

The seven member Planning Commission consists of, Chair, Norma Rubin, commissioners, Paul Sekins, Tom Brooks, John Bender, Patty McGoldrick, Maureen Toms and Dave Kurrent.
The staff member is Winston Rhodes, City Planner.

Those in attendance raised several concerns:
* The noise from the back-up generator.
* The addition of more cell providers to the proposed tower.
* The safety of the generator which will house 132 gallon diesel tank.
* The visual impact of the 78 foot Monopole that will rise above the tree line.

Much discussion took place regarding all of the above concerns, but, by far, the greatest concern centered around the aesthetics of a 78 foot green cell tower in this part of beautiful Pinole Valley.

I use Verizon as my cell phone carrier. I have limited reception from my home on Simas Avenue. So when the idea of improving reception came up, I was all for it. I believe in technology, and now that more and more residents are eliminating landlines and opting for cell phones, it is important that cell users in the valley have reception in case of emergencies.
That said, last week I took a walk to Pinole Valley Park and sat in the upper baseball stands facing the baseball field.
It’s a favorite spot of mine, I enjoy the view, soak in the rays, watch the kids play and appreciate this quiet and pretty part of my neighborhood.

That day, I sat back, and then, I noticed a big bright balloon in the distance above the tree line.
I thought for moment that some kid had lost a balloon up in the trees, it was way up there. But, then I realized that what I was observing was the balloon the city had placed at the location where the proposed cell tower would be.
Oh, Oh.
An ugly antenna/cell tower in that beautiful location?
Suddenly I wasn’t so keen on the idea.

The Planning Commission’s task was to approve (per staff recommendation) or reject, the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for the 78 foot monopole.
The monopole as presented will be painted green in an effort to camouflage it. The commission debated the topic and Verizon presented their case.

Verizon, or for that matter, T-Mobile, AT&T or other service providers, have everything to gain from the relatively small annual payment to the city, a reported $24,00-$25,000 a year for the site, yet they offer few if any options for making these cell towers more palatable and community friendly. These companies have deep pockets, they need our location more than we need their towers.
The city should be able to demand better from them, better design, better options a better partnership.

It seems a foregone conclusion that once they build the tower then  other carriers will jump on board. The plan is to enable the tower to accommodate up to a total of three carriers, therefore, three different antenna groupings.

A question was asked of me yesterday, I don’t know the answer.
“If there are three carriers sharing the pole, will the city of Pinole receive annual payments from these carriers as well? Or, does Verizon pocket the other carriers’ fees?” Good question.
Update: Sources now tell me that Verizon as the “lessee” will sub-lease to other carriers. Therefore, the fees derived from other cell carriers would not go to the City.

I want to know how the city will use the revenue from this cell tower. It seems to me that a new source of revenue, for a facility that resides smack dab in the middle of Pinole Valley Park, should NOT go into the General Fund, but should be earmarked for recreational programs. This is, after all public property, not private property.

There is a precedent for this, AT&T’s current franchise fee (UUT) has a set aside for $6,000 for the Youth Foundation. Let’s set aside the fees from this tower for important recreational programs in our city.

The Pinole Swim Center was given an ultimatum in 2011 by the city. We will shut it down unless we can bridge the funding gap of $22,000 needed to operate and maintain it.
A small but dedicated grass-roots committee said, no, we will not let that happen without a fight. The priorities of this community demand that certain services be retained. Measure M was meant to keep these services, we approved it so that we could continue to  enjoy the things that are important enough to pay for. As the Measure M campaign slogan aptly put it, “Let’s Keep Pinole, Pinole”. What’s more “Pinole” than its parks, recreation and sense of community?

Why not direct this annual revenue to maintain and operate the swim center? That money hasn’t been included in the budget, yet. We should, as a community, decide how it is spent and allocated.

After several hours of debate, with the commissioners swinging back and forth, the vote was 4-3 in favor of the staff recommendation.
The no votes were: Commissioners Kurrent, Rubin, and McGoldrick. The yes votes were: Bender, Brooks, Sekins and Toms.
Chair Rubin, after stating she favored staff’s recommendation and the monopole ultimately voted no.

The next step is for the City Council to “bless: their decision. It may  be a consent calendar item and simply require a perfunctory vote by the Council.

But, If we are to have this pole in Pinole, then the public should and must have a voice in how this new-found source of income should be used.

Just saying.

TGIF

March 22, 2013
Spring is in the air…ah… Warm breezes blowing, birds chirping, flowers blooming. I was born and raised in the South Bronx section of New York City where we had no flowers, birds or trees. I am still, after 4o plus years, moved by the beauty of the Bay Area.

What’s happening in our little corner of the world on this fine day?
I suppose if you still subscribe to the Times you have, once again, read all about the Phil Green FPPC Form 460 issue; which seems to be the Times favorite Pinole political hot potato. I wonder why the person who filed the complaint in the first place has never been named? Is it not fair to name that person, surely they were performing a public service by analyzing everyone’s Form 460, right? So why not identify that person in the articles published? Fair, balanced and comprehensive reporting should dictate that. My sources tell me the person who filed the complaint is Jeff Rubin of the CCOP. Perhaps he did it anonymously.

The professional journalists code of ethics states in part, “The duty of the journalist is to further those ends by seeking truth and providing a fair and comprehensive account of events and issues.” 
Source:http://ethicsadvicelineforjournalists.org/code.asp

Must be a slow news day in Pinole, and it must be a good day to wage war on Phil Green and anyone you don’t have on your side.
Just saying.

Have news? Send me an email, ivettericco@gmail.com

Must Be a Slow News Day

March 5, 2013
I guess it must be a slow news day/week in Pinole.
Today’s breaking news per Tom Lochner:

“PINOLE — A candidate who fell short in a run for City Council in November says she never received contributions totaling a little more than $2,000 that a prominent backer reported to have made to her campaign.”

Say What? So for those of you who may be interested in my responses without BANG editing, keep reading.

Upon my return to my home after weeks of travelling, I had a message from Pinole City Attorney Ben Reyes to call him.
Which I did. Mr. Reyes informed me that a complaint had been filed regarding discrepancies on Phil Green’s Form 460 listing a contribution to my committee, but no corresponding contribution was on my 460.
Simple answer, I never received it and knew nothing about it, therefore I had no record of any such contribution.
Ben informed me that I would be receiving a letter from the City asking for an explanation. Perfect, not a problem.
  
I appreciated Ben’s call and the fact that he contacted me directly.
As expected, I received a letter from the Pinole City Clerk which we replied to on February 27, 2013 (response below). One would think that would be the end of that. Silly me.
On Sunday I received an email from Tom Lochner:

“Good afternoon Ivette, 
Phil Green’s most recent California Form 460, page 5 of 6 (Schedule D Summary of Expenditures), reports spending $1,194.08 on 10/30/12, on a “post card” for Ivette Ricco. On the following page, Schedule E (Payments Made), Green reports the same $1,194.08 (as campaign literature) plus $900.69 for postage, for a total of $2,094.77 spent on your campaign.”
 
“However, I don’t see any reference to these contributions on your campaign’s Form 460.” 
“Could you explain the apparent discrepancy?” 
“Thanks in advance”

He followed that email up with this one:

Good morning Ivette,
“Further to my most recent email: There is another issue in play here besides the aforementioned reporting issue under FPPC rules, and that is a 2008 Pinole ordinance that bars campaign contributions totaling more than $500 in cash from an individual, or more than $1,000 in cash from a committee, or more than $2,000 in combined cash and services from a committee.”
 
“Please comment on this situation. Also, regarding the aforementioned ordinance, which amends Chapter 1.16 of the Pinole Municipal Code, did you receive from the City Clerk, sometime prior to the election, a copy of the chapter, which is supposed to inform qualified candidates of its provisions?” 
Thanks in advance.
Tom Lochner

Here is my full reponse:
Hello Tom:
My committee has no record of any such contribution from Phil Green.  Furthermore, any cost for materials listed on his report must have been an independent expenditure and as such are not a direct contribution to my campaign committee and would not be listed on my report.
In so far as the Pinole ordinance is concerned, relative to the limits on campaign contribution; it is my understanding that every candidate receives this information from the City Clerk when preparing and filing their papers at City Hall.
Attached is our response to the City regarding form 460.

Ivette Ricco
Here is the text of the letter sent to the City.
Pinole Municipal Code Section 1.16.060(B) Notice Letter dated 02/22/2013

Dear Ms. Athenour;

I am in receipt of your letter referenced above. Please note for your records the Form 460 for the period 10/21/2012 through 12/31/2012 was originally filed correctly.

Your letter states Form 460 does not record any contributions from Phil Green or the Friends of Phil green Committee. Our banking records do not have any record of this contribution you are describing. Please check with this payee directly for further information regarding this claim. If you need further copies of documentation or information, please feel free to contact me directly and I will get it to you right away.

Warm regards,
Monica Shaw