Guest Commentary

Forget The Water


June 9, 2022

Editor’s note: Jack Peasley contacted Doug Griffiths, MBA with Kelly Clemmer, the author of “13 Ways to Kill Your Community” published by Friesen Press, who graciously gave permission to reprint in the East Washingtonian, the first chapter of his book. What follows is part four of five of Chapter 1, Forget the Water.


When the fourth group did listen at public meetings and in the coffee shops, the third faction held the most sway. In fact, the third faction, the naysayer team, nearly always has the most sway in any debate. I recall watching an argument between two colleagues of mine. The first person was passionate about an idea, and the second believed just as passionately the other fellow was wrong. Their voices got louder and louder until they were both yelling. Another colleague interrupted the argument and calmly said with a sarcastic grin on his face, “Brad (the naysayer) wins because he is the loudest and he is the angriest.” I learned that day we often mistake someone being loud and angry for being right. We also often give more credence to the critics than they deserve. It is easy to sound smart when all you have to do is critique other people’s actions. And so, in the community debating the solution to the water supply issue, as the first two factions each presented their case through public meetings, the third faction ran each argument down and made the other groups look foolish. By default, the naysayers got What they wanted. They wanted nothing to happen, and by running down every idea for action, all that was left was inaction. The critics fight, and the generally disinterested public at large doesn’t want to get into a fight with them or be the next targets of those critics, so they give them the win. When you don’t exactly know what is going on, you also tend to side with those who are angriest since our primitive instincts whisper in our ear there must be a legitimate reason for them to be angry. A wrong must exist and they are trying to stop it, we think. We should side with them. Besides, I don’t want them to get mad at me next. I don’t have time for their rage.

The third faction in this case argued that either of the investment options required too much capital outlay, even when the investments were shown to be very affordable over the life of the infrastructure, while doing nothing would cost the community its future. The third faction argued most families and seniors in the community couldn’t afford to pay the cost of a monthly water bill based on use, even though most folks paid far more on a monthly cable or satellite TV bill. Sadly, many of this faction were seniors who argued they didn’t see the necessity since the water had been good enough for them for decades, or they didn’t want the investment made because they wouldn’t be around to see the full benefits. No one had the guts to point out to them the community only existed because their forebears had realized they were building a community that would endure beyond their lifetime. They weren’t building something for themselves––they were building for their kids and grandkids and generations to come. It is tough to tell that to some seniors today who will remind you they built this country, as though the job is done and there is no responsibility on the next generation to continue the building. Regardless, for a decade the third faction had their way and nothing happened.

Neighboring communities tied into the new regional water line. Those communities had a new source of abundant quality water. Those communities attracted new families, new business and new industries. New developers created new subdivisions for the new families and new Main Street projects accommodated large volumes of new shoppers in those new businesses. Some of the communities got new schools to accommodate the influx of new students and one community got a new hospital. All of those communities succeeded in attracting new doctors, new professionals who opened new businesses and new government grants to support the infrastructure projects needed to accommodate the new growth. Each community that tied into the new water line underwent a renewal. The one that didn’t tie in, however, didn’t grow. It shrank. It suffered horribly for an entire decade, but still the community fought the tie in, and the third faction, whom I affectionately called “Team Angry,” continued to Win.

Petitions can have a powerful effect on a lot of elected people, but they never worked on me. As a rule of thumb, for every 100 signatories on a petition there will be one real person with true awareness and concern for the issue. In an email writing campaign, 30 identical form-letter emails are equivalent to one informed person who really cares about the issue. When I was an elected official, one phone call to my office from a real person (not associated with a lobby) was representative of 20 real people concerned about the issue. One personal letter written to me from a constituent (not associated with a lobby group) was a measure of 30 real people with deep concern for the issue. The reason for giving personal calls or letters such serious attention was that they usually meant many other people were feeling the same way but had not chosen to call or write to me about their viewpoints. Petitions, on the other hand, are often signed by people who don’t really know the details of the issue or sometimes don’t even know what it is they are signing.

Griffiths is the Founder and CEO of 13 Ways Inc, a consulting firm based in Alberta, Canada.


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