Written by Kirstin Beatty
We must count the 2023 radiation limits petition because that was the condition of an injunction necessary to get approval for gathering signatures.
Our proposal for a petition initiative was substantially approved in 2022, but we had a few errors and so in speaking with the Office of the Attorney General under then AG Maura Healey, we agreed not to proceed and the petition was not certified on the basis of including not only radiation limits but the gathering of health statistics, including statistics that didn’t relate to radiation. The law requires petitions are single subject, but this didn’t seem like a good reason for decertification though there wasn’t a reason to go forward with the errors.
When we resubmitted, we submitted a similar petition with and without the health statistics section as modified in a way we thought could work, based on an existing proposed law submitted by MA Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.
Other changes included that we added a section to limit wireless exposures from utility equipment, based on a proposed law submitted by MA Senator Michael Moore. Finally, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute was also charged with providing support for hard-wired infrastructure.
The office under the new attorney general Andrea Campbell refused to certify the petition with or without the health statistics. To get the petitions printed and a PDF anyway, a request for an injunction was filed and an agreement was made with the attorney general’s office.
PROBLEMS WITH THE AGREEMENT & OUR ABILITY TO RESPOND
We didn’t realize that the agreement meant that town clerks wouldn’t be able to verify at all, even if they wanted to. So, we haven’t been carefully tracking as we should have, or given out the right directions.
The agreement says that the petition signatures will only be counted if enough signatures are submitted, about 75 thousand, and an affidavit submitted on 22 November. This is terrible because town clerks can keep petitions till 4 December for verification, and if they start counting that many petitions on 22 November the petitions will likely not be done till then. Then, as a ballot committee we have to get all those petitions delivered by 6 December to the Secretary of State in Boston.
So, town clerks are taking the petitions, time-stamping it, and holding onto the petitions. We need to make sure we get them, but we may not be able to deliver them even if we have enough.
I was originally thinking of paying for ads to get signatures and for outreach, but I kind of had a kick in the stomach about the above delay and don’t think I can make the time crunch now or put together an effective ad in this time frame.
We also don’t have the funds – we’ve never had them – for ads or to deliver all of these petitions. If we count on doing this again next year, then there is the benefit of having been much learning from experience what we need to be successful. Of course we still need to reach out to others. I will be collecting signatures through 22 November to make connections.
The reasons for denial of certification remain an issue. When there is a disagreement, it can be worth asking in court, but in order to get to court normally one has to get 75K signatures for the court to hear a case. Even if unable to get in court, there is nearly a year to parse out and discuss what might work. I would love to hear opinions from everyone.
ABOUT THE DENIAL OF CERTIFICATION
It is not clear why Andrea Campbell’s office denied for it seems nearly everything while Maura Healey’s office did not. We accidentally left out a previous section on hard-wiring buildings and providing education on reducing exposures, a section that AG Maura Healey’s office said we could include, but we included something similar to hard-wire and provide education. However, these were changes so these should be considered.
A primary criticism of Campbell’s office is that we covered too many policy areas, and seems to suggest that everything must be excluded except one single item of change. This is very different from the criticism in 2022 from Healey’s office.
From the criticism it is not clear what the office believes would be acceptable, and it suggests that education, not only statistics, is outside the realm of reducing radiation, as well as including public commissions to study the impacts of modern exposures and how to mitigate as needed. This seems to go along with industry, which was upset about this, too, and believed too many policy areas were included, mentioning also the health statistics and education of medical experts, patients, and students.
In the more notable changes, instead of simply setting the stage to hard-wire public buildings as previously, we included that the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), which is a group that is supposed to give out public funds to build out the ‘last mile’ of IT infrastructure, would be required to invest in public wired infrastructure for both IT and telecommunications. This seemed appropriate for reducing exposures.
Public wired telecommunications infrastructure is used by all telecommunications and IT companies, but it is crumbling due to lack of investment (except fiberoptic) and instead private antennas are going up which are not shared and which are duplicitous and thus add to exposures. Similarly, public IT infrastructure helps reduce wireless antennas. Another aspect that was required of the MBI was to start helping to hard-wire public buildings.
However, this requirement to invest in public infrastructure is likely a huge point of contention because, even though the infrastructure is crumbling, the industry has benefited from public grants to set up shop in towns, such as Comcast cable or use of library wireless hubspots. Comcast cable is and a monopoly because the cable is privately owned, and if it is in town then other companies can’t use those cables and must set up wireless antennas or invest in public infrastructure to be a competitor with Comcast.
One other specific criticism was that the proposed law removed the chair of the governing board of the John Adams Innovation Institute or his designee from the board of the MBI. This criticism seems fair on the face, but it can be understood as simply concern that the chair may have conflicts of interest with hard-wiring due to the mandate for and the relationships built through this position – one would want a leader who actively promotes safer connectivity instead of someone who slows down action due to competing interests.
Basically, the John Adams Innovation Institute has as a mission to promote ‘technology-intensive’ and ‘innovation-driven’ organizations related to business. The institute works with businesses as stakeholders – 350, it says on their site – and many wealthy corporations have interest in 5G applications.
The John Adams Institute has a governing board that in a 2005 publication (it is hard to find the governing board listed online as it has gone, suspiciously dark) included Advanced Technology Ventures (a technology investment group), National Grid (uses wireless instead of wires); Monitor Group LP (a consulting group with a secret client list, now bankrupt); and a strategy group with representatives such as Genzyme Corporation (now owned by Sanofi, which has embraced wireless ‘health’ partnerships) and Lau Technologies (listed online as specialized in defense technology, facial recognition, and tech investments). A 2012 publication also includes tech venture capital and investment firms. Shortly after, the composition of the board stopped being listed.
The institute also includes the MA Technology Collaborative which used used to list industry partners including: Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council (MassTLC), Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX), New England Venture Capital Association, The New England Council, Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), Massachusetts Business Roundtable, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership. MassTLC sponsors and/or members have included AT&T, IBM, Google, Cisco, and Microsoft.
Over the years it has been apparent that MBI has preferentially chosen big industry to provide IT contracts for towns instead of municipally-owned broadband. Because this has been criticized as suspect by public officials or advocates, this provides some additional reason for being concerned that industry interests may be favored.
Despite all these connections, if the mandate is to hard wire then the chair may have to do so regardless, and the chair may actually be helpful in getting these other industries on board – so this specific item isn’t the most urgent component of the proposed law.