Fight to Save Parks Going on Across USA & Canada

Because of our increased visibility thanks to local media coverage about Medina's fight to Save Medina's Parks, we are hearing from neighborhoods and communities across the USA and Canada, who are, like us, fighting to save parks, natural areas and wilderness areas.  

Today, we reached out to our neighbors in Kent, who are fighting their city's sale of their neighborhood park for a subdivision, and offered to share best practices and lessons learned, just as our neighbors in Oregon and California have shared best practices and lessons learned with us. (We're hoping RESPECTKent will launch soon, and we'll do our best to help support their keep-public-lands-in-public-hands pro-parks efforts.)

These conversations confirm that, no matter where in the world we live, there's a shared belief that every kid, in every community, should have a natural park to play in, free of industrial uses and equipment.  The idea that public parks and natural areas are unused, underutilized, surplus (non-revenue-generating) land, waiting for a corporation to put it to a "higher and better use," is crazy - it's not supported by good public policy and it is not supported by common sense.

So, wherever you are, dig-in and take action for healthy living and a clean environment.  Write an email, make a phone call, organize or attend a meeting, tweet about it, write a letter to the editor -- help reverse the course.  Be loud.  Shout it out that you value  long-term environmental and community preservation over short-term revenue, and that you support increasing parks and open spaces, not commercially-exploiting and selling them.  And please stay in touch.  Together, we can make an important difference.

In solidarity, 

Yes, T-Mobile, the law applies to you, too

We're back in court, correcting the mischaracterizations made by T-Mobile recently to the judge and clarifying T-Mobile's attempts to obfuscate the real issue.  The real issue is that T-Mobile has not – ever – done what T-Mobile is required to do at law, which is to prove, to a trained and neutral arbiter, through an industry-standard comprehensive application and process that includes a least-intrusive means analysis, that T-Mobile needs a new wireless facility and that T-Mobile's preferred technology, equipment, design and location are the least-intrusive on our community. 

The fact that Independent Towers signed a lease with the City is irrelevant – no one gave the City staff or the City Council a blank check to push aside the zoning codes and the permitting processes and gift to Independent Towers and its partner, T-Mobile, an 80-foot multi-carrier industrial cell-tower facility with a 1,525-square foot cement bunker in the middle of the Fairweather Park playfield. 

Now that we have successfully set aside the City’s contrived “settlement agreement”, we can rely again on the rule of law and Judge Lasnik (although we’ll need to continue to be vigilant for additional attempted end-runs around the legal requirements and processes).  As Judge Lasnik said, T-Mobile claims it needs a new wireless site; now all it has to do is prove it.

T-Mobile's One Truth and a Lie: T-Mobile tells consumers T-Mobile’s coverage in Medina is “Excellent”, but tells judge its coverage is horrible

T-Mobile claims to customers via T-Mobile's website that its coverage in north Medina on a 45-foot pole is "Excellent", but then, in order to win its lawsuit against Medina, T-Mobile concurrently swears to a judge that on a 45-foot pole its coverage in north Medina is almost non-existent.  How can both be true?

Since we first started checking in June 2014, T-Mobile has consistently given its coverage in north Medina, using a 45-foot tower, its highest rating of "Excellent", showing no gaps in coverage, and showing indoor connectivity throughout the North Point neighborhood, Medina and the SR-520 corridor.  To customers and consumers, T-Mobile pushes its promise that its service is excellent.

But, T-Mobile and its cell-tower partner, Independent Towers (now owned by billion-dollar company, Vertical Bridge) can only prevail in their current lawsuit against Medina if they prove to the court that T-Mobile's service is horrible.

How can wireless coverage be simultaneously Excellent and Horrible, T-Mobile?  To consumers, T-Mobile swears that it has “excellent service coverage” in north Medina; but then to the court, it swears it has horrible, barely-there service coverage.  (In its court filings, T-Mobile asserts that, using a 45-foot temporary tower, it effectively has no service, and that the minimum height necessary to cure its "significant gap in coverage" (sic) is an 80-foot tower).

One of T-Mobile's claims must be a lie.  T-Mobile, are you lying to consumers, or to the judge?

Also, we recently uncovered more of T-Mobile’s apparent sleights of hand in its court filings. T-Mobile’s secret-until-now apple-to-apple data comparisons (which we recently discovered) do not support T-Mobile’s in-court claims of horrible coverage at 45 feet.  T-Mobile didn't submit to the court its secret-until-now apple-to-apple data comparisons; instead, it chose to cherry-pick and submitted to the court, and to Medina residents, data comparisons that appear on their face to be apples-to-apples comparisons, but are, in fact, apples-to-oysters comparisons; and their oysters, to no one’s surprise, allegedly “prove” that T-Mobile's coverage is awful at 45 feet.  (In depicting the T-Mobile data from its December 2014 testing, the apples-to-apples maps supplied to the City in early 2015 (but withheld from the residents, until July 2015) show essentially no gap in T-Mobile's coverage (i.e., it has excellent coverage) in the Fairweather Park neighborhood at 45 feet (see Exhibit I in our recent motion), but the apples-to-oysters coverage maps submitted to the court by T-Mobile in May 2015 (and submitted to the residents at the same time) are used by T-Mobile to "show" a "significant gap in coverage" at 45 feet (see their map at page 27 of their court filing).)  

The maps that T-Mobile filed with the court are misleading in another important way, as well:  they don't show the coverage provided to Medina by the other nearby sites that comprise their network, in Medina, Hunts Point, Clyde Hill, Yarrow Point and Seattle.  

We demand that T-Mobile play by the rules.  T-Mobile's concurrent and yet opposite claims of excellent coverage and horrible coverage cannot both be true. We want answers, and we are determined to get them.

We need you by our side to protect Medina’s parks for good. If you want to help Save Medina’s Parks, please take action and donate now.  Your donation will help fund our litigation expenses, and any extra funds will be used to maintain and preserve Medina’s parks.  Thank you for doing your part to help Save Medina’s Parks.  #ItTakesAVillageToSaveAVillage

T-Mobile's lawsuit must be dismissed because their claim is not "ripe"

UPDATE AUGUST 5, 2015:  Last night the Medina residents intervenors filed a motion for summary judgment with the court.  We are entitled to summary judgement because it is premature for wireless giant T-Mobile to be in federal court; their claim is not "ripe", and, furthermore, the law does not support the wireless carriers, or their cell-tower partners, holding a proverbial gun to the City's head

Time is short, but it's not too late to stand with us and demand pro-parks, pro-technology, pro-community solutions.  We've got an army of wireless litigators, and the City and powerful corporations and individuals working against us -- and right now we're getting no support from the City Council -- so we need you by our sidePlease donate now to help us win.  Your donation will help fund our litigation expenses, and any extra funds will be used to maintain and preserve Medina's parks. 

You can obtain additional financial disclosure information from the Secretary of State's Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483 or www.sos.wa.gov/charities.

Secret records show T-Mobile, T-Mobile partner and City of Medina agreed in December 2014 to "settle" and cut themselves a special deal

UPDATE July 24, 2015:  Last night we filed another motion with the federal court, asking Judge Lasnik for permission to admit important records that were kept secret from us and the court until now, including information regarding whether there is a "significant gap" in T-Mobile's coverage, and, even if there is, the minimum tower height that would be required to cure the alleged gap.  (In the newly-discovered records, the City's own expert seems to suggest that even a 45-foot tower could be sufficient.)  Also, Mayor Boyd's emails to residents state that settlement negotiations commenced in February 2015, but newly discovered records show that T-Mobile, T-Mobile's cell-tower business partner, Independent Towers/Vertical Bridge, and the City of Medina, secretly agreed to "settle" the lawsuit with a 70-foot tower and a 1525-square foot cement equipment bunker on December 2, 2014.  (Later, the City -- again, secretly -- agreed to "settle" the lawsuit with an 80-foot tower and 1525-square foot cement bunker, in return for new sod and some drainage improvements at the park.) 

Despite repeated calls for an open and fully-informed public discussion, the City continues to withhold information and block any meaningful citizen participation or collaboration. The fact is that cell towers are now and have been banned in the City's parks since 1997, and we believe that the City and the wireless industry should not be allowed - whether intentionally or unwittingly - via a secretly-negotiated "settlement agreement," to erase our community's important ban on cell towers in our neighborhood parks. The City was motivated by money in 2010, but public parks aren't piggy banks, and it's not too late to get it right.  It's common sense that a major public policy change like that deserves full notice to and participation by Medina residents.

Time is short, but it's not too late to stand with us and demand pro-parks, pro-technology, pro-community solutions.  We've got an army of wireless litigators, and the City and powerful corporations and individuals working against us -- and right now we're getting no support from the City Council -- so we need you by our sidePlease donate now to help us win.  Your donation will help fund our litigation expenses, and any extra funds will be used to maintain and preserve Medina's parks. 

You can obtain additional financial disclosure information from the Secretary of State's Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483 or www.sos.wa.gov/charities.

The City has doubled-down on its efforts to cut a special deal for wireless giant T-Mobile, and T-Mobile’s cell-tower business partner

UPDATE JULY 22, 2015:  The City has doubled-down on its efforts to cut a special deal for wireless giant T-Mobile, and T-Mobile’s cell-tower business partner, Independent Towers. The three of them are rushing full-speed ahead with their plan to ignore the City’s land use codes and permitting processes, and lease out one-third of the park and construct a permanent 80-foot cell tower and huge cement equipment bunker in the middle of Fairweather Park’s grassy playfield, which by law could then open the park to multiple towers, forever ruining the park.  If the City, motivated by money, won’t defend its codes and permitting processes and protect Fairweather Park, then the other City codes, permitting processes and City parks and natural areas should be considered at risk, as well.

It’s not too late to get it right and keep industrial cell towers out of Medina’s Parks.  The City’s hearing examiner has rejected, twice (once on the facts and once on appeal), the City and T-Mobile’s cell-tower plan, and hundreds of Medina residents have opposed the plan, as well.  We are now in federal court with the City but Medina residents are the only ones fighting to protect Medina’s parks.  When wireless giant T-Mobile sued the City, claiming that the City’s hearing examiner’s decisions violated federal law, the City denied the allegations, but since then the City has failed to conduct any discovery or otherwise take any substantive steps to defend itself.  In fact, records show that immediately after Medina residents filed to intervene in the lawsuit (because of our concerns, acknowledged by the judge, that, because of the City's financial conflicts of interest, the City may not vigorously defend against the lawsuit and protect Medina’s parks), the City quietly agreed, behind the backs of Medina residents, on a Machiavellian plan to “settle” the lawsuit by asking the judge to rubber-stamp the City's original cell-tower plan that was rejected, twice, by the City’s Hearing Examiner.

Our attorneys are back in court to challenge the City’s “settlement agreement” that would ruin Fairweather Park – donate now to help us win!  Under the “settlement agreement” among the City, T-Mobile and the cell-tower landlord, the City, motivated by money, has asked the judge to order the City to do what the City has, based on our review of available records, quietly wanted to do since 2010 but couldn’t do without a judicial order:  ignore the City’s land use codes and permitting processes, and, in an otherwise illegal grant of special privilege, issue the permits for the original cell-tower plan that was twice rejected by the City’s hearing examiner and strongly opposed by hundreds of Medina residents.  Medina residents and RespectMedina are fighting back.  We’ve filed a motion to oppose their “settlement agreement”, and we should hear from the judge in the next few days. We’ve hired one of the nation’s best environmental litigators, David Bricklin, to defend our community and our parks, and we are confident in his ability to go toe-to-toe against the wireless litigators, and the City, and win.  

A Call for Wise Governance from City of Medina Residents Lyn and Jerry Grinstein

May 18, 2015

Dear Councilmembers:

We very much appreciate your decision to schedule this meeting tonight to hear from those of us in the community who strongly believe the T-Mobile Fairweather Park settlement should be rescinded.

Last Thursday three of your members gave us the courtesy of listening to why the full Council reconsideration should take place.  There were many reasons and thoughts advanced, including options that would position the cell tower in a non-intrusive location – an option which both fully satisfies the publicly stated objectives of T-Mobile and preserves the integrity of Fairweather Park as well as our non-commercial environment.  That’s the very environment which led many of us to settle in Medina in the first place.  This option is far superior to the one represented in the “settlement”.  In any event, all of these thoughts, views, concerns, and recommendations should have been heard and seriously considered before final action was taken.

The most obvious reason for this re-examination is, of course, to be certain the Council has had the opportunity to truly evaluate all the consequences resulting from a significant public policy decision.  Once this tower is constructed it is permanent and Fairweather Park forever impaired.

Additionally, its placement sets legal precedent that then invites the construction of more facilities in our parks, further compromising the qualities Medina treasures, and the undermining of our carefully considered codes which place a high premium on preserving our precious environment. 

Further, and perhaps the most far reaching reason for tonight’s hearing is that ours is a small community that should thrive on collegiality, collaboration, transparency, and good personal relationships.  One way for that to be fostered is to be open to those with different, perhaps conflicting views.  In the case of the T-Mobile Fairweather Park situation, we are left to conclude that these different views were not given an opportunity to present the case for alternative courses of action.  Wise governance would provide an open and careful ear to the presentations tonight. 

Last, it is worth noting that there is a wealth of talent, knowledge, and experience residing in Medina.  This is a huge bonus and a great resource for the Councilmembers.  We would urge that the members avail themselves of this willing body of constituents, most of whom would be only too happy to lend their expertise to the Council deliberations on a wide variety of technical and public policy issues.

One personal comment:  The topic of controversy is discussed and billed as the “Settlement Agreement”.  That very label suggests that it is the result of a compromise where all of the parties participated with a final result responding to the differing views presented.  That was not the case.  Rather, as previously noted, a substantial number of Medina residents were not given the opportunity to present to the Council prior to the “Settlement” decision. 

Again, we applaud and appreciate the Councils’ decision to reconsider this very consequential issue.  Even if the members believe they know all that will be said, their constituents and neighbors should have at a minimum the right to propose what may well be a wiser course of action for public policy as well as one that satisfies a larger number of your constituents.  It won’t take a lot of imagination to know that we also hope the Settlement Agreement is rescinded, and that we will have in its place a far better solution for Medina than the current degradation of Fairweather Park particularly at a time when we have so few parks available and another solution for siting the cell tower can be obtained.

Sincerely,

Lyn and Jerry Grinstein

[Post-script from RESPECTMedina: The Council did not take a vote to reconsider. However, because you and your neighbors have been both vigilant and vocal, the Medina residents have reclaimed their seat at the table, and the three parties to the lawsuit, T-Mobile/Independent Towers, the City of Medina, and RESPECTMedina/Medina residents (the "Intervenors"), are meeting on Tuesday, May 26, 2015. You can count on us to continue to advocate for solutions that are both pro-technology and pro-parks -- and pro-business. T-Mobile says they want the right results, the right way, and they were voted a World's Most Ethical Company (Ethisphere). Reach out to T-Mobile and tell them this is an opportunity for them to confirm their commitment to strong corporate citizenship and responsibility. Email, call or tweet to T-Mobile and tell them we want them in our community, outside our parks.]

Medina's Hasty Vote to Sell Medina's Park Must Be Reconsidered Now!

Late Monday night, May 11th, the Medina City Council voted 6-0 (Councilmember Pryde absent) to approve a settlement with T-Mobile, enabling the installation of a massive 80ft-tall cell phone tower and accompanying cement bunker in Fairweather Park & Nature Preserve. This important vote, that will forever change our way of life in Medina, was taken without public notice, input or discussion. Rather than listening to the hundreds of Medina residents who have been encouraging the City Council to execute a pro-parks, pro-children, pro-technology and pro-property rights solution with T-Mobile, they went in a completely opposite direction.

Time is running out for our parks, our children and our way of life in Medina.

We understand that City Council members may have felt uninformed, ill-prepared and pressured to make a very important decision in a very short amount of time, and we support their efforts to remedy this situation. Earlier today, you saw one council member voice his concern and strong desire for a reconsideration of this important, once-in-a-lifetime decision.

Medina residents should also be aware that after several months of discussions and hard work, T-Mobile was scheduled to meet Tuesday with Medina residents and the RESPECTMedina community group to discuss the win-win solution of saving Fairweather Park and simply installing antennas on SR-520. However, due to the vote taken late Monday night, under what appears to be incredible pressure placed on our City Council members, that meeting was cancelled. T-Mobile no longer had a reason to meet with the community or its Medina customers.

Is there a connection between the rush our City Council members may have felt from T-Mobile to vote late Monday night and the community meeting scheduled for Tuesday with T-Mobile ? You decide.

Many have been following this issue, and you have voiced support and encouragement to keep fighting against this cell tower. We are now at a point where It is absolutely crucial that you make your voice heard to encourage and give our City Council members the confidence to reconsider their vote. Council members welcome your support to bring this important matter for a full and reasoned discussion, with public input. Our council members deserve to vote on matters of major impact only after careful consideration of the complete facts and issues, not under duress and pressure.

To make your voice heard, send your emails to the Medina City Council and request a Reconsideration of Vote. The email address is: ccmail@medina-wa.gov.

You can also call Medina City Hall and ask to speak to a City Council member at (425) 233-6400 and request a Reconsideration of Vote. Time is of the essence, so please make your voice heard as soon as possible. There is no time to delay.

Our mayor says, “Medina starts with ME.” Actually, it starts with you. 

Federal judge grants RESPECTMedina's request to intervene and defend Fairweather Park against Big Wireless T-Mobile's lawsuit

On January 21, 2015, U.S. District Judge Lasnik granted RespectMedina and Medina residents' motion to intervene and help defend Fairweather Park against T-Mobile's lawsuit, the third important victory for our pro-park, pro-technology community coalition.

In the lawsuit, T-Mobile is suing to overturn the City's hearing examiner's denial in 2014 of an application by T-Mobile and its affiliate to construct and operate a permanent and illegitimate 80-foot cell tower complex in the grassy playfield at the City's Fairweather Park & Nature Preserve.

In granting us a seat at the table, the Court acknowledged that RespectMedina and Medina residents have a right to save and protect the City's parks and natural spaces. The Court also noted our significant interest in defending the City's hearing examiner's prior denial of T-Mobile's cell tower application, the result we vigorously advocated for and helped bring about last summer.

In the current situation, the City has competing roles. On the one hand, the City is the landlord to T-Mobile and its affiliate, and the cell tower permit applicant (T-Mobile's affiliate, Independent Towers, submitted the permit application as "agent" for the City, as landowner of the parkland). On the other hand, the City is a regulatory authority charged with ensuring compliance with the City's important land use and environmental laws. 

A coalition of Medina organizations and residents moved to intervene in this lawsuit because we recognized early on that the interests of City as landlord and permit applicant are aligned with the interests of T-Mobile and its affiliates, and are diametrically opposed to the interests of City as regulatory authority and the interests of Medina residents as pro-park, pro-technology advocates:

  • If T-Mobile wins its lawsuit, then the City, as landlord, will also win, because it will receive rental income of at least $30,000 a year for up to 20 years; and,
  • If the City, as regulatory authority, vigorously defends the lawsuit and T-Mobile loses its lawsuit, then the City, as landlord, will likewise also lose, because it will lose the rental income from T-Mobile.   

Thankfully, the Court granted Medina Residents' motion.

Because of the Court's recognition of our vital interest in upholding Medina's laws, RespectMedina and Medina residents now look forward to working with the City to help defend the CIty's law and the well-reasoned decision of the City's hearing examiner in denying the T-Mobile permit, and to assist the City in fulfilling its public trust obligation, which to hold in trust, for the public, the City's parks and natural areas, for now and future generations. 

Thanks to each of you for supporting of our goals of forever stewardship of our community.

--Potential donors can obtain additional financial disclosure information from the Secretary of State's Charities Program at 1-800-332-4483 or www.sos.wa.gov/charities.