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This week's really stupid ideas

No idea is too stupid, the old saying goes. That’s especially true when ideas are about things near and dear to your heart.

In that spirit, we this week offer two ideas, which undoubtedly will almost immediately be labeled stupid, but upon further review might actually be worth considering.

And, as with most stupid ideas, we’ll offer them with visual aids, so you can see what we’re talking about.

The first is our new five-member county commission. Much has been made about how to draw boundaries for the new districts, and many claims have been made that having five districts instead of three will lead to a more thoughtful, countywide focus for the commission.

As did a sizeable number of voters, we always doubted that, but majority rules, and we’re now going to be stuck with having two additional commissioners.

Why not make the best of it and try to do something that actually has a chance of bringing the county together?

Proposals we’ve seen to date create districts of radically different size. We’d like to propose instead a plan that would create districts that would be within 1 percent of being identically sized. But we’d like to propose only four such districts. The fifth district would be for a commissioner elected at large, by the county as a whole.

Yes, it might take a special dispensation, home-rule ordinance, or even legislation to allow it. However, we think having one commissioner elected by the whole county would be the impetus needed to redirect the county commission from being a group of fiefs, each of whom parochially represents one region, into a panel that could actually cooperate for the good of the county as a whole.

Who knows? We might even be able to name the fifth commissioner the permanent commission chairman or even county executive to further the goal of productive cooperation and effective government.

We also would like to propose a tweak to the idea of downtown vitalization in Marion. Most of the features being proposed seem almost cut-and-paste from other towns’ plans, and some of them — like seating along the Webster’s parking lot at 1st and Main Sts. — seem more than a bit of a reach.

What we’d propose instead is something that would further Marion’s already strong “brand” by replacing all downtown street lights with three-globe lights just like those in Central Park and along the Luta Creek bridge-that-isn’t-really-a-bridge-anymore.

The three-globe, almost fleur-de-lis design would be a unique feature of Marion’s downtown, emphasizing and extending the Central Park “brand” throughout the central business district. These lights close to the ground would provide ambience and beauty while more utilitarian lights rising significantly above them could provide a base level of actual illumination.

Yes, they would be costly. And, yes, they might have to be custom-made. But wouldn’t it be worth it to have a signature element that sets downtown Marion apart and provides a consistent image for the entire town?

Stupid ideas, maybe. But when considering the future of things we care about, all of us need to come up with whatever stupid ideas we can. Most of the best things in this world originated as stupid ideas at one time or another. And stupid ideas are what generally get people talking about — and, more important, doing things about — important public undertakings that they all too often just let happen without their input.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified Nov. 15, 2018

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