Public officials bow to public pressure.
Almost everyone, it seems, uses a cell phone these days, but the towers that allow cell phones to operate obviously are not as popular.
Bowing to public opinion, the Urbana school board voted to end discussions this week with U.S. Cellular over the proposed installation of a new 150-foot cell tower between the school district's indoor aquatic center and Urbana Middle School.
The board acted after hearing a variety of complaints about the proposed tower — that it was inappropriate for the district even to discuss the matter, that the tower would be unsightly, that the tower raised health and safety issues.
But what it all boiled down to was NIMBY — not in my backyard.
The school board's decision pulled the plug on what likely would have been a long political battle over the cell tower. If the school board had gone along with the plan, the issue would have moved to the Urbana Plan Commission for approval of a special use permit for the tower's construction. Elected officials almost certainly would have gotten involved. Citizens would have had plenty of opportunities to kill the deal.
The school board's vote, however, short-circuited the process, costing the district $1 million in payments over 20 years.
Board members, of course, are entitled to do what they want, and it's no surprise they responded to the critics in the way they did.
But cell phones, which are growing more sophisticated and require more supportive infrastructure, have to have towers if they are to work properly. What's the solution to that challenge? Oh, yeah, put those new towers in someone else's backyard.