The title of today’s blog post sounds vaguely like a Sherlock Holmes story, although that isn’t my intent. Instead, it’s my way of thinking about something I heard on Minnesota Public Radio within the past few years. The segment being covered was about alcoholism. A nurse was the guest and she indicated that we as a society keep trying to get alcoholics to completely give up alcohol. That the only cure is total abstinence. But the nurse had another more practical solution. Why not get alcoholics to reduce their consumption? She had observed that even a modest reduction in alcohol consumption led to a number of positive health effects. Sure, the ideal for an alcoholic is to give up alcohol altogether, but this can be difficult to achieve, so why not do the next best thing?
In attempting to improve living standards and the economy in Little Falls (or any other community), our goal may be to fix everything to some philosophical ideal, but how likely is it that we’ll reach that ideal? Particularly if each citizen is running around with a different ideal in his or her head? Plus, if we ever were to reach this Utopia, how long would it actually last? Nanoseconds, probably.
Why not aim for a measurable goal, a 10-percent solution?
How would life in Little Falls change if there were 10 percent more businesses? According to U.S. Census QuickFacts, there were 764 businesses in Little Falls in 2007. What if there were 76 more operating in town? How might that change the economy and employment opportunities?
The census reports that the percentage living in poverty in Little Falls between 2009 and 2013 was 19.8 percent. Can we decrease that by 10 percent, drop it to 17.8 percent?
How could we increase the median household income by 10 percent, from $34,990 to $38,489?
Is there a way we could encourage 10 percent more of the city’s youth to return to Little Falls after graduating from college? Or perhaps encourage an increase of 10 percent of young people from elsewhere to join the community?
How would increasing the number of volunteers and donations to local nonprofits by 10 percent assist them in meeting their missions? What else might they be able to accomplish with this boost in time and funding?
How might we increase social connections by 10 percent? Or creative output?
Bringing it back around to alcoholism, how could we reduce binge drinking in the community by 10 percent?
Setting a measurable goal for each aspect of the community and making that goal something achievable is an element that has been missing from local planning sessions.
For example, saying we want a bike-friendly community is too vague. What does that mean? Saying we want to provide dedicated bike lanes along 10 percent of the city’s roads is an achievable goal.
What aspect of life in Little Falls would you like to see improved? How would you make that improvement measurable?