Way outside the box

Many political, business and civic leaders will praise the idea of “thinking outside the box” – usually early in their careers when they seek to differentiate themselves from longer-term establishment predecessors. After all, out of the box thinking means embracing change, pursuing innovation and walking away from old ways of doing things. People, particularly voters, tend to gravitate toward those kinds ideas.

In the end, though, establishment thinking most often seems to rule the day. It’s the path of least resistance and usually supports those people who protect precedent.

Some feel Minot has too few voices for innovation, for out of the box thinking. However, it might be more a matter of whether or not creative problem solvers feel they are even heard. There is plenty of “thinking outside the box” taking place out there, as demonstrated with the recent perspective of a Minot Daily News reader, an informed individual who ran down a short list of potential new ideas.

Today probably there is renewed ire about the city’s two under-utilized and unfinished parking ramp projects, now at the center of a legal battle with the former developer. That’s likely because, as MDN reported Thursday, Minot taxpayers will be asked to foot a $1.66 million bill to operate and put roofs on the parking ramps next year, according to the city’s preliminary 2019 city budget. The parking ramps are estimated to generate $72,000 a year in parking receipts. However, estimated expenses total $160,557, which includes $27,386 in personnel costs, along with snow removal, maintenance of building and grounds, office-related expenses and utilities.

Taxpayers have had enough with runaway expenses related to the ramps. That said, the issue is not the role the ramps should have in a redeveloping downtown. MDN supports the vision of a renewed downtown, a mixed use community with affordable housing mixed with eclectic retail and diverse entertainment options. It is the model to redevelop downtowns and MDN eagerly anticipates the day that ‘Live, work, play’ defines our downtown.

Still, developing two ramps at once was a poor decision, the deal agreed to was an abomination which, to date, no one has taken responsibility for and the ramps currently stand as monuments to government inefficiency. With taxes escalating that isn’t the kind of monument government should really covet.

So, some outside the box thinking?

The City of Minot wants a new city hall. Truthfully, it needs one. Minot police need additional space as well. The final factor is that Trinity is making good progress in the south end of the city and that means there is about to be considerably more available property downtown.

So, why not rehab one of the ramps into new city offices, plus parking; and let police add old city hall to their facilities? It would seem cheaper than starting over from scratch; it would transform a burden into a fiscal asset; it would bring people downtown; it would anchor downtown; it would mitigate for a portion of the potential loss from Trinity’s plans; and it would still leave one parking ramp for the intended purpose of supporting a renewed downtown.

Apparently way too many obstacles? Sure. Including the requirements for the entire project. Even if desired and remotely possible, the effort would be Herculean.

But that’s the thing about thinking outside the box. It doesn’t require evaluation of how easy something is. Bringing an unusual idea to life takes plenty of people thinking outside the box, each contributing a piece of the puzzle. That’s how problems are creatively addressed; how the seeming impossible comes to fruition.

What other outside the box ideas are floating around Minot, in terms of budgets, the challenges that face us or the needs we know we have?

Feel free to share. Ideas unshared don’t really have much value.