The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 28, 2014

Dan Ross, guest columnist: Local governments' oversight under assault

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Local governments are closest to the people. So it makes sense that local governments should have day-to-day authority and exercise an everyday commitment to protecting our neighbors, our neighborhoods and property values across Missouri. This means making smart, responsible and accountable decisions on land uses through planning and zoning.

This sensible local oversight role is under assault in Jefferson City by big telecommunications companies. They are pushing legislation to weaken municipal authority over their highly visible structural footprints in our communities. Municipalities are accountable for citizen-owned assets, including electric utility poles and other utility facilities in the public right of way. Local officials must bear the responsibility to ensure the safety and reliability of utility service to the citizens they serve.

Urban, suburban and rural — we all support expanding broadband to take full advantage of technology. But from erecting soaring towers to attaching multiple antennas on existing structures, telecommunications giants want state lawmakers to give them an almost free hand by gutting local government review.

It must be up to local governments to make sure telecommunications towers are in harmony with other structures, businesses, homes, parks, trails and public spaces. Local officials can best judge community planning and zoning practices and applying the related safety codes. State lawmakers and big telecommunications companies should stop these attempts to undermine the local governments closest to Missourians.

Last year there were similar legislative efforts by telecommunications giants to weaken local oversight of land uses. The 2013 efforts started with a single bill, which, like a snowball rolling down a mountainside, grew and grew through the legislative process until it was heavy with all sorts of unrelated things. This conglomeration made it into law last year, but the courts recognized that the mish-mash covered so many subjects in a single bill as to violate the Missouri Constitution.

The flawed 2013 law was put on hold under court order. But that legal defeat didn’t stop the telecommunications giants. They are back in 2014 with more legislative shenanigans. This time, the subjects that had been rolled up in one bill are now in separate bills. One bill deals with right of way in political subdivisions. Another refers to wireless infrastructure deployment. A third proposal affects access to railroad right of way, and a fourth bill’s provisions relate to access to municipal utility poles.

Standing alone, one bill’s effect may seem minor. But the words matter, and taken all together, they would put local governments and our citizens on the sidelines as the big telecommunications firms have their way.

Such challenges to sensible local oversight are not new battles for the Missouri Municipal League, which is now in its 80th year and represents 673 member communities that are home to 2.9 million Missourians. It has a strong voice, with positions agreed upon and advocated through its diverse membership, from the largest cities to the smallest villages.

What the Missouri Municipal League and its members are up against is big money, corporate influence and an army of lobbyists working the hallways to weaken authority of local governments without any valid reason.

In fact, local oversight is working well, and we have many examples of constructive solutions cities have reached with telecommunications companies while protecting neighborhood interests. Just look to the Kansas City area, where the ongoing expansion of Google infrastructure is a product of cooperation in playing by local rules.  

Our city leaders are contacting their legislators, urging them not to vote to weaken the protection of publicly owned assets and local review in favor of big telecommunication companies. I ask that citizens in our communities join this call to lawmakers to keep sensible community oversight where it belongs — with officials who are closest to the people most affected.

Dan Ross, of Jefferson City, is executive director of the Missouri Municipal League.

Text Only
  • Other Views Other Views: Eroding court’s authority

    While Kansans were focused on the twists and turns of school finance this past week, lawmakers made an unnecessary and historic change in how the state’s district courts operate, coercively tying the reforms to badly needed funding.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: Travesty

    What a travesty that a terrific young man from Spain is on the verge of deportation even though he has proven his worth in America (Globe, April 13).

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: Astonishing transformation

    The transformation of the Republican Party in the last decade is astonishing.

    April 18, 2014

  • Your View: The changing view

    It is heartbreaking to hear the decades old trees (which border on South Pennsylvania in Webb City) cracking and being bulldozed down.

    April 18, 2014

  • Our View.jpg Our View: Safe and sound

    Of the 7,500 Joplin and Duenweg homes hit by the 2011 EF-5 tornado, fewer than 20 percent of them had basements.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Other Views Other Views: Funding for state’s roads

    Missouri is finding there is no good alternative to growing the economy, adding new well-paying jobs and expanding the tax base.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Geoff Caldwell, columnist: Government without apology or explanation

    Americans feel closest to their Uncle Sam at this time of year as he extends his hand for his “fair share” to fund his numerous endeavors.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Step aside

    The people of Joplin made it clear they wanted change at City Hall with their decisive votes to replace two council members.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Serious drawbacks

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) lays out clearly and persuasively the serious drawbacks with so-called right-to-work legislation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Your View: Free choice

    Joan Banks’ guest column (Globe, April 13) regarding right-to-work seems to assume that if workers are given the choice of joining a union, they won’t join.

    April 16, 2014

Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter

Missouri Republicans are considering a new approach to prevent federal agents from enforcing laws the state considers to be infringements on gun rights: barring them from future careers in state law enforcement agencies. Do you think this proposal has merit?

     View Results
NDN Video
Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest