Lest there be any confusion about whether corporate America functions like a democracy, the telecommunications company Qwest announced that it will tear down the peace sign in Missoula’s North Hills, despite the results of a community survey that revealed support for leaving the controversial landmark where it is.
Qwest spokesperson Linda Reed said last week that the company plans to remove the obsolete microwave reflector sometime in early- to mid-spring once weather conditions improve. Initial efforts by a community group to negotiate a land swap—whereby the city would exchange the 0.23-acre parcel on Waterworks Hill for another parcel where Qwest could erect a wireless communications antenna—proved fruitless.
“I do think that we have listened very carefully to the community, both sides, and I’m not sure that the community really could come to an opinion on this, and we really had to come to a decision,” says Reed. Qwest announced last fall that it was removing the reflector to eliminate its liability on the now-defunct hardware.
Qwest still intends to sell the land to the city for $99 pending City Council approval, says Reed, and will donate the reflector “skin,” upon which the peace symbol is painted, to the community.
But some community members are disappointed that Qwest apparently made its decision without considering the results of that community survey. In December, about a half-dozen “journal” sites were set up around Missoula to gauge community sentiment on the peace sign. According to activist Jim Parker, more than 700 responses were received, with 65 percent saying they’d like to see the peace sign stay put.
“They [Qwest] never asked to see the results of our surveys. We gave them our proposal back on December 8 and we never heard back from them until they made their decision,” says Parker. “As far as I can tell, they were not that interested in how the community did respond.”
Parker is optimistic, however, that a “peace park,” will be created either on the North Hills site or elsewhere in the community. He says the Art Museum of Missoula is also considering a call for artists to conceive of a peace sign memoriam.
“We asked Qwest to let us know as a community when they plan on taking it down, so that people can have a final walk up to the peace sign, their final pilgrimage, as it were,” says Parker.
That request didn’t sit well with Reed.
“We would be faced with a considerable liability if we had a mass of people up on that hill while we had demolition going on,” says Reed. “And that concerns us very much.”