Hindsight 2000: Successes, failures came from panelPart of the motivation behind Mitchell’s current Focus 2020 planning initiative was the success of its predecessor, Vision 2000. In the early 1990s, Vision 2000 committee members dreamed of many projects that ultimately came to fruition. Among those ideas was a Missouri River drinking-water pipeline, a loan fund to improve downtown facades, a new senior center, new elementary schools, replacement of an outdoor swimming pool and the consolidation of two hospitals.
By: Seth Tupper, The Daily Republic
Part of the motivation behind Mitchell’s current Focus 2020 planning initiative was the success of its predecessor, Vision 2000.
In the early 1990s, Vision 2000 committee members dreamed of many projects that ultimately came to fruition. Among those ideas was a Missouri River drinking-water pipeline, a loan fund to improve downtown facades, a new senior center, new elementary schools, replacement of an outdoor swimming pool and the consolidation of two hospitals.
Jim Beddow, who led the Vision 2000 process, was impressed this week when he considered its lasting impact.
“I’d say it exceeded my expectations,” said Beddow, who was then president of Dakota Wesleyan University. He now resides in Sioux Falls and works as a senior consultant to the Rural Learning Center in Howard.
As members of Focus 2020 work to craft their own final recommendations for Mitchell’s future — draft recommendations were released in May — it may also be worth noting that some Vision 2000 ideas never caught on.
One of the more obscure examples is the Vision 2000 dream of putting corn murals on the second stories of downtown buildings. That idea has long since faded from the public consciousness, but a 1991 report from Vision 2000 said the corn-mural idea would “tie the Mitchell downtown into the Corn Palace and keep visitors moving up and down Main Street.”
Another Vision 2000 idea that has been obscured by the passage of time is the plan for a sport-fishing hall of fame on the shores of Lake Mitchell. In 1991, Vision 2000 members reasoned that fishing was “the largest participatory sport in the U.S. enjoyed by male, female, young or old alike.” As such, a sport-fishing hall of fame would “have wide appeal with family orientation,” Vision 2000 members thought.
Some other unachieved Vision 2000 goals remain topics of discussion all these years later, such as the group’s idea to move city offices out of the City Hall building attached to the north side of the Corn Palace. Vision 2000 members thought the City Hall building should be converted to a Corn Palace museum, and some people continue to press that idea today.
Still other Vision 2000 goals were altered and achieved in modified form. One of the primary examples is the Vision 2000 idea to build a new, combined public safety center housing county and city law-enforcement offices and a jail. At the time Vision 2000 began, the police department was at City Hall and the sheriff’s office was in the courthouse.
Instead of building a new, combined center, the county renovated part of the old Methodist Hospital to house the sheriff’s office, jail and some other offices while the city renovated and added onto its fire hall to house the police, fire, ambulance and communication divisions.
Former Davison County Sheriff Lyle Swenson regrets the failure of the combined concept. He thinks the county and city are paying dearly for their decisions to renovate old buildings — both in maintenance costs and lost staffing efficiencies.
“We didn’t quite get the job done,” said Swenson, who participated in Vision 2000. “And I just think we as taxpayers got shortchanged.”
For Beddow, one of the most regrettable unachieved goals was not convincing the state Department of Game, Fish and Parks to locate a state park near Mitchell. Vision 2000 members thought that locating a state park near the James River or Lake Mitchell would make Mitchell “a weekend destination point.”
“I think it was a very meritorious idea,” Beddow recalled this week. “That was a tough one, though, because you’ve got to work your way through the whole byzantine structure of state government.”
When asked why some other Vision 2000 ideas faded away, Beddow cited a variety of reasons. Some projects may have lacked passionate champions to continue the work, he said, and some others may have been neglected because there were too many other successful projects that needed attention.
“To some extent,” Beddow said, “you have a finite amount of energy and resources and engagement.”
Mark Buche, chairman of Focus 2020, spoke earlier this summer about what he saw as the weak point of the otherwise successful Vision 2000 process. He thinks the group lacked a mechanism to keep its work going years after the initial enthusiasm faded.
In an attempt to avoid a similar waning of progress on Focus 2020’s goals, the group has created what it calls a Coordination Assistance Team. Instead of having representation by specific individuals, the team has representation by position — it will always be composed of whomever is mayor, along with the holders of the top positions in county government, the Chamber, the school system, the college, the hospital and the Development Corporation.
When those positions turn over, the new person will automatically become a member of the team. Buche is the team’s sole at-large member.
“What happened with Vision 2000 is that once they went through all this work, they didn’t have anybody to make sure it continued on,” Buche said earlier this summer. “So that’s why we created that extra layer in there.”
The Coordination Assistance Team’s current duty is meeting with each of Focus 2020’s eight subcommittees and reviewing their draft reports. The team has met with six subcommittees so far and, after meeting with the final two, will begin prioritizing the draft recommendations in preparation for a final report to the community.
Some of the noteworthy ideas from the subcommittees have included the hiring of a city manager and so-called “county mayor”; the hiring of a community education director to create and coordinate a clearinghouse for education opportunities; the acquisition of property in the Corn Palace sightlines and the establishment of a Corn Palace campus; the creation of a walkway with life-size, bronze sculptures of famous entertainers and politicians who have appeared at the Corn Palace; the establishment of a community events authority; the construction of a “gateway to the lake” area at the southeast edge of Lake Mitchell; the formation of an urgent-care clinic; and the hiring of a consultant to developing a branding and marketing plan for the region.
Buche hopes that, years from now, Focus 2020 will have a list of successful projects comparable to Vision 2000’s.
“I’ll be disappointed if we don’t,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we looked at everything and not sweep things under the rug. We wanted to make sure that we put everything on the table, talk about it, and let it go where it goes. And I think we’ve done that.”