You gotta speak out in favour as much as against

OUT ON A LIMB: The human psyche makes the positively-inclined complacent and not concerned enough to take action

It kind of leaves you shaking your head.

I got an e-mail from someone asking for information on what to do to get the city to agree that a cell phone tower needs to go up in the Willow Point area.

Now, you’ll remember this story, of course. Telus wanted to erect a cell phone tower in Willow Point Park last summer but city council rejected it after a period of “public consultation.” The issue became a lightning rod (pun intended) for the anti-radio wave emissions crowd.

In fact, it was a petition from the anti-tower activists that convinced city council that the community didn’t want the tower. Coun. Andy Adams, for example, said he wasn’t swayed by the “scientific” argument that radio waves are or are not a health hazard, saying instead that he couldn’t move forward with the tower because it is something the public was resisting. And therein lies the nub of the issue. Was it something “the public” was resisting?

Telus’ consultation period didn’t generate much comment from the public but those who did comment were in favour of the tower because it would improve their cell phone performance. Anti-tower activist Nan Latchford circulated a petition that got 125 signatures on it and submitted that to Telus as part of their comment. So when Telus turned over the public consultation data, it looked like the community was against the tower and council rejected it based, at least to some extent, on a petition that outnumbered the people who bothered to respond positively about the tower. So, that all happened last summer.

So, while Willow Point residents “struggle” with poor cell phone reception, I get an e-mail from Tessa saying she doesn’t agree that the 125 or so who signed the petition speak for thousands who want the improved service. And now an e-mailer wants to do something about it. Well, where were you when Telus was looking for input?

This is a classic situation that happens all the time. Those who are against something get motivated to fight it but those who are in favour, rarely make the effort to show support. Consequently, legislators get the mistaken impression that “most” people are opposed. This happens all the time.

There’s something about the human psyche that makes the positively-inclined to be complacent and not concerned enough to take action. But those who are against something get up in arms at the drop of a hat. And lawmakers listen to who speaks the loudest.

So, when there’s some issue at hand in which you have even a passing interest, if you don’t want the naysayers to hold the day, get out and say something in support. Never assume city councillors are going to keep the positive side in mind while looking at hundreds of negative signatures or statements.

Democracy requires you to be loud and assertive when  you’re in support of something just as much as when you’re against things. Probably more so because the negative side tends to be louder.