WASHINGTON-National League of Cities President Mark Schwartz vowed last week to defy federal regulatory and wireless industry efforts to pre-empt local regulation of wireless antenna siting and to litigate the issue if necessary.

“Zoning and land use is a local government issue,” Schwartz told RCR in an interview following his keynote speech at the NLC congressional conference here last week. “It is not the state or federal government’s job or role to tell me what land use should be in my community. That’s a community decision.”

Schwartz, a Ward 2 council member in Oklahoma City, said wireless carriers and local officials have worked well together on antenna siting in that locale.

But he added, “The issue of pre-emption I will not yield on.”

In his speech, Schwartz was even more demonstrative.

“Our third action agenda priority is to defy, and to halt efforts at the federal level to get into the business of telling us what we may or may not do at the local level,” said Schwartz. “Call it federal mandates, call it pre-emption of historic and fundamental rights and responsibilities which each of us holds in our cities, call it whatever you will: it must be stopped. And it must be stopped by everybody in this room.”

Regarding taxation of wireless carriers, Schwartz said it is the prerogative of local officials to levy fees on telecommunications firms as long as fees are assessed fairly and equitably across the board.

“I think we need to be reasonable,” Schwartz said. “It (wireless) is part of society. It is part of a new world of technology and it needs to exist because it benefits our citizens.”

“The efforts by the industry to go beyond the law in challenging state and municipal revenue authority could set a key precedent, adversely affecting that $26 billion in local revenues and countless more in state revenues,” said Schwartz. “Such a decision would mark an extraordinary assumption of power and authority by an unelected federal bureaucracy over fundamental and traditional state and local rights and responsibilities.”

Aldo Vagnozzi, of Farmington Hills, Mich., and one of 33 recipients of a letter from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed Hundt seeking more information on siting moratoria, said he “was ticked” upon receiving the FCC correspondence. “The FCC is doing their [industry] bidding.” Vagnozzi asked whether the FCC shouldn’t be representing the public instead of industry.

“While the (telecommunications) industry is divided on many issues, it is united in pressing to pre-empt state and local authority on virtually every front,” Schwartz told the large audience of local government officials. “This cannot be allowed.

“So far,” Schwartz added, “the regulators at the FCC and the Congress have not been far behind the industry.”


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