Friday, February 1, 2013

The Way Things Are Done In California

As a RF engineer working for a national wireless phone carrier, it is my job to design, build, and optimize cell site towers and most particularly the associated radio equipment for each cell site.  I currently work in the politically and culturally conservative state of Utah, and although I am not a member of the predominate religious faith here, I find myself liking the area quite well.  Most of the people are courteous and the culture on the whole tends to celebrate traditional American values. 

A part of my job is to continuously improve our wireless network, and that will sometimes entail adding new cell sites to accommodate customer growth or fill in various coverage holes.  With zoning in some jurisdictions becoming rather onerous, we always try to co-locate our antennas on existing towers or taller commercial building rooftops first.  Unfortunately when we try to cover larger swaths of residential areas, existing towers and tall buildings are sometimes very hard to come by.  We thus have typically found a good solution to this problem for many residential areas.  We speak with local school principals and the associated PTA etc. as necessary and request to build a tower on school properties.  This usually works out quite well.  We are able to provide needed coverage to our subscribers in their homes, and the always cash-strapped schools are able to get a monthly lease amount of money.  Additionally, once a carrier goes to the trouble of leasing and zoning such a tower in a residential area, it usually isn’t too long before other carriers come along and ask to co-locate on that tower too thus providing even more rent to the school.  The school wins, the carriers win, and everyone is happy.  Or not.

About five years ago I proposed building a new cell tower to an elementary school principal who’s school lied directly in the middle of a dense residential area for which all carriers had trouble providing adequate coverage to their subscribers.  The principal was enthusiastic and on the verge of giddy over our proposal as he would only have to give up a 20 by 20 foot unused corner of his playground in exchange for a much-needed influx of cash to be used by the school as he deemed necessary.  He even negotiated for us to provide a new marquee sign at the front of the school as an added bonus for them.  We had completed a draft lease and agreed on all of the terms in theory.  The only hurdle was to get approval from a parent advisory board.  I showed up at the meeting and presented my case and answered all of their questions accordingly.  Everyone seemed well pleased with the proposal and were preparing to vote on the issue, when a middle-aged professional-looking lady arrived late to the meeting. 

I could tell right away that she was going to be a problem.  Her tone to me and others on the board was adversarial and condescending.  She proceeded to ask me many questions that had already been asked by the crowd.  I found it rather interesting and quite telling that neither the principal nor anyone else reigned her in and told her so.  Her biggest complaint was regarding the “safety” of my proposed tower.  She was certain that such cell towers, particularly ones placed at schools, would irradiate her precious little child and undoubtedly lead to cancer.  It was a question that had already been addressed.  Nevertheless I calmly and patiently presented her my independent studies AGAIN and explained that the site operated at frequencies and power levels that were orders of magnitude lower than what was required to even begin causing any health risk whatsoever.  In fact, the 1996 Telecommunications act even made it illegal to reject a new site based on RF safety concerns accordingly.  Of course, the lady began to pontificate on what a liar I was and that I was just a shill for the industry that wanted to make money and to hell with the consequences for the kids.  I could see that her ranting diatribe was irritating many of the other parents and making others rather uncomfortable.  When it appeared that most of the parents and staff weren’t buying her hysteria, she pulled out her trump card.  “As many of you already know, I am a lawyer who moved her from the San Francisco Bay Area last year, and I stopped many of these sites from being built out there.  The fact that you people would consider putting such a dangerous site in the middle of our school ground is ridiculous.  That is not the way we did things in California, and I am going make sure it doesn’t happen here.  If you proceed forward with this site, I will bring a lawsuit forward here too.”   Ironically, I noticed she answered her CELL PHONE and immediately dropped the call as she was leaving the meeting.

Anyway, the principal asked for a recess and said that we would postpone a vote until next month’s meeting.  I spoke to him two days later and he informed me that he was no longer interested in our proposal and that he was sincerely sorry.  It was a reminder of a lesson that I have seen repeated in various iterations time and again since then. 
California is dominated by large cities that are overwhelmingly progressive, and have basically ruined a once great state accordingly.  They have nearly bankrupted the state in their ridiculous and never-ending attempts to be the nanny to all constituents and involve themselves in every aspect of people’s lives.  Their state debt now dwarfs that of the nation of Greece’s accordingly.  Many businesses have fled the state to escape the confiscatory tax rates and regulatory burdens, including Fortune 500 companies such as Northrop.   According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California ranks 49th in unemployment at 9.8% as of December 2012.  The people there don’t seem to realize that there are ramifications for the burdens that the state places on those that provide jobs for the citizens.  People, families, and especially businesses are often times voting with their feet and leaving the Golden State accordingly. 

The problem is that many of these fine people move to new states, such as Utah.  They then get involved with city councils, PTA boards, and state governments.  All of that would be wonderful if they would use and proclaim the lessons they should have learned about living in an intrusive hyper-progressive state and how destructive it becomes to prosperity and freedom.  Unfortunately, they often seem to forget the conditions there that were the catalyst for them moving from California in the first place.  I have since heard time and again that old refrain I heard from the Bay-Area-lawyer Lady years before of “that’s not how we did things in California.”  Many of these folks want to seemingly re-create the mess that they fled in their previous home state. 

I’ve got a suggestion for all such progressive Californians.  If you don’t like the way we do things in our conservative state, stay in your own progressive swamp.  At the very least, do NOT come to our state and tell us how we are doing things wrongly. 

That is especially true for Utah.  We have been ranked #1 for three years in a row for “Best State for Business and Careers” by Forbes Magazine.   We have also been ranked first for “Economic Dynamism”, and the “Top State for Volunteerism” for seven years in a row.  Our state unemployment has remained considerably lower than the national average and far below California’s.  Our cost of living is well below the national average and our culture of family values tends to be far more traditional and conservative than the nation’s as a whole.  The state has been recognized as one of the best managed states governmentally and according to the recent census, Utah was ranked 3rd for “Overall Economic Health”.  In other words, I think Utah has a pretty good handle on things judging by any number of objective standards;  all of which are far better than California’s.  In other words, if you good California folks want to move to Utah and other conservative states and work to productively contribute to it, then I am sure you will be happily welcomed.  When you come here and tells us we are doing wrong and use your state of California as the model, we are going to laugh at you uproariously.   

I had a beloved uncle that died a few short years ago that lived in Oregon most all of his life.  He was not one for being politically correct, and always insisted that it was the government’s obligation to build a very secure border fence – a fence around the borders of California to keep them in there.  I laughed at the time, but in retrospect I am beginning to think that he was right.