Smart meter foes file to put issue to voters
by Mick Swasko November 16, 2011
The Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group turned in a petition with thousands of signatures Tuesday in an effort to get a referendum regarding the utility upgrade on the ballot.The group — which opposes the city’s planned smart meter roll out for health, security and privacy reasons — had 4,209 signatures by their count Tuesday afternoon, when they presented them to the city clerk’s office. The referendum would be non-binding — meaning the city has no obligation to act on the results — and would be placed on the primary ballot in March. The yes-or-no question specifically asks whether or not the city should halt the program altogether.
“Shall the City of Naperville immediately and permanently stop the implementation of the $22 million smart meter project and dismantle all related equipment,” the question on the petition asks.
Kim Bendis, a member of the group, said she wants the city to halt any installation of the wireless smart meter and related equipment until the question is put to voters next year.
“Why would the city want to proceed when they have 4,000 residents that want to vote on it,” she said, adding that in the process of collecting signatures, she felt many residents were uninformed or opposed the project.
Tom Glass, who is also a member of the group, said he hopes a referendum proves the opposition to the program is widespread.
“The city keeps saying it is a vocal few coming out against this,” he said. “They are doing everything their (public relations) consultant told them to quell dissent. That’s been their tactic all along.”
Assistant Executive Director of the DuPage County Election Commission Doreen Nelson said if all the signatures the group submitted are valid and approved, they will have enough to get the measure on the ballot. The signatures still need to be verified by the city, however, before the question is officially placed on the ballot.
Councilman Bob Fieseler, who supports the project and is part of its steering committee, said he welcomes a poll of residents on the ballot.
“I am convinced the voters are going to embrace the smart grid program including the smart meters,” he said. “Part of the process is listening to the opposition’s concerns and trying to overcome those issues.”
Fieseler, however, said he would not support halting the project until the referendum, and that the council may have difficult decisions to make if the majority of voters reject smart meters. He said council members will have to weigh whether to represent the will of the people or to take a “leadership” role and maintain the program.
“The responsible thing to do would be to say, ‘what are our options,’” he said.
Councilman Grant Wehrli said he would also not support halting the project, and said the group has spread “fear, hyperbole, half-truths and misinformation.”
“How much are they asking us to undo,” he said of the referendum language, calling the wording “ambiguous.”
Councilman Doug Krause, who initially voted in support of the project, said he has changed his mind, in many ways because of the questions the Smart Meter Awareness Group has raised.
“The way this whole thing has been hatched has been a disservice to the community,” he said, adding that he is concerned about the security of the data that will be kept by the city, as well as health hazards that the wireless technology could present.
Krause also said he personally would vote in favor of the referendum.
“I would vote a yes on that,” he said, adding that he wanted to “send a message” to other council members.
Naperville Smart Grid opponents seek referendum by Justin Kmitch – Daily Herald – November 16, 2011:
Naperville Smart Grid opponents seek referendum
by Justin Kmitch November 16, 2011
Members of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group say they’ve been ignored long enough.In an effort to show their support ranges beyond the half-dozen or so regular members who attend city council meetings, volunteers presented officials with a 4,199-signature petition Tuesday asking to place an advisory referendum on the March 20, 2012, primary ballot to “immediately and permanently stop the implementation of the city’s $22 million Smart Grid project and dismantle all related equipment.”
The city’s plan to install 57,000 smart meters in residences and businesses has drawn consistent opposition from the group, which has questioned the health risks of a system emitting radio frequencies, the security of the system against hackers and the cost to those who want to “opt out” of having the Smart Meter.
“I represent 4,200 people who signed petitions so their voices could be heard on Smart Meters,” resident Jo Malik said. “I oppose spending $22 million to fix something that isn’t broken. I believe it’s fiscally irresponsible to commit to an expenditure of this size.”
Resident Tom Glass said he believes people are appalled by the city’s decision to move forward with the initiative it adopted in April 2010.
“I’ve personally talked to hundreds of people that are outraged,” Glass said slamming the thick packet of signatures on the overhead projector. “I’ve also heard the city council members sit here and say there’s a lot of misinformation being spread by residents of Naperville. The only misinformation that I’m aware of is being perpetuated right here.”
City officials have maintained the installation of Smart Meters is safe and will be an effective tool to help both the city and its residents better monitor their electricity use and encourage them to change bad habits.
The city also is providing a nonwireless option for a one-time fee of $68 and monthly fee of $25 for residents who have concerns about privacy and the potential for cancer-causing radiation they believe can be emitted by the wireless models scheduled to be installed throughout the city beginning this month.
City Manager Doug Krieger said the group’s petition was “still too fresh,” to know how the city would proceed.
“If it were to be an advisory petition, the clerk would typically review the paperwork,” he said. “I also know that our city attorney has not yet had time to review the documents but that would be required also.”
Smart Grid Referendum Launched in Illinois – Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group Gains Support, Members – Goes Straight to Voters – Stop Smart Meters! – November 16, 2011:
Smart Grid Referendum Launched in Illinois
Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group Gains Support, Members – Goes Straight to Voters
November 16, 2011
From Naperville IL (30 miles west of Chicago)November 14, 2011
NAPERVILLE, IL – Over 35 Naperville Smart Meter Awareness volunteers collected 4,199 signatures in a mere 25 days, petitioning the City to give residents a choice in whether they want the “smart” meter installation to continue or “immediately and permanently stop the implementation of the $22 million smart meter project and dismantle all related equipment.” The petition requires the question to be placed on the City’s March 20, 2012, primary ballot.The Naperville City Council has repeatedly stated that those opposed to the smart meters are a small minority of residents, but Naperville Smart Meter Awareness is proving otherwise. “Over 4000 residents we have talked with are now getting very familiar with the issue. They are surprised and upset at the council’s lack of transparency. They are mad that residents were not given a choice to vote on this highly controversial issue.” states Jennifer Stahl, one of the founding members of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group. “Residents want to know why they have not been informed and why they are not being given a choice to participate in this program”.The Naperville City Council has stated that no one has the option to opt out of the program. According to the Illinois Public Utilities Act, the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act, and the Energy Act of 2005, utilities are only able to offer smart meters to ratepayers but are not able to mandate that each customer receive a wireless radiation emitting smart meter. Additionally, there is nothing that states that smart meters must be wireless. Residents that would like to choose a non-wireless smart meter will be assessed a fee of $24.75 per month with an upfront cost of $68. Members of the NSMA group questioned the punitive nature of these fees and point out that the fees are intentionally high in order to discourage residents from choosing this option.Across the country groups opposed to the installation of smart meters are forming, with 30% of states in the US now having active groups. In California, utility executives are removing smart meters and allowing customer to return to their analog meters due to public outcry. In Maine, privacy and safety advocates have appealed the PUC’s dismissal of their earlier complaint which raised concerns about safety, privacy, security and constitutional violations related to the meters. In Nevada, investigations have been launched into the health risks associted with wireless smart meters.“There is a rapidly rising international tide of smart meter opposition. We have seen what is happening across the country, with utilities removing previously installed meters, opt out provisions being made, and investigations being launched into health complaints. Why the City’s utility managers and council feel that Naperville is immune to these challenges makes no sense. By the number of signatures we collected, residents are demanding to have a voice and a choice. We are hopeful that the council will come to its senses and listen to its constituents before any more money is wasted.“, states Tom Glass, lifelong Naperville resident and member of NSMA.Naperville Smart Meter Awareness is a group of concerned citizens educating the public about the risks of wireless smart meters. They are comprised of lawyers, technology professionals, health advocates, accountants, business owners and parents in the community of Naperville, Illinois. Local coverage here.