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DL needs to appreciate downtown businesses

I believe many people (like me) have at least a mild interest in the “basements under Washington Avenue” situation. I really like to avoid controversy so I try to stay out of things like this. Having said that, the other day I asked a guy about this situation and he told me that about 100 years ago (plus or minus change) the city of Detroit Lakes needed to put the sidewalk on the east side of Washington Avenue over the top of basements of existing businesses. This guy thought city council people went to the menfolk and said, “excuse us but we wonder if it is okay for the city of Detroit Lakes to build a sidewalk over your basements? It of course will be at the expense of the city of Detroit Lakes so it will not cost your business anything.” (Back 100 years ago, the womenfolk were busy making lye soap and scrubbing with wash boards so they did not hang around their family businesses.) The city council people continued “we ran for office to serve the citizens of Detroit Lakes. This includes businesses along Washington Avenue with basements that we want to ‘encroach’ on. We know that without businesses Detroit Lakes would be like Westbury, a nice place with a handful of houses but you would be hard pressed to buy anything or find any services because no businesses exist there.” The city council people continued “and as Detroit Lakes city council people we are smart enough to know that without businesses there are no jobs and Detroit Lakes would look like Westbury.” (100 years ago Detroit Lakes city council people repeated themselves, or so this guy told me.)

Well this guy really had my attention now so I asked him if there was more to the story so he rambled on. He told me that the city council people 100 years ago (and you know, plus or minus change) along with city employes understood what their job was. He said they truly appreciated businesses for many reasons (not just that businesses provided jobs for residents of Detroit Lakes). This guy told me the city council and city employees that talked to businesses with basements Detroit Lakes wanted to put sidewalks above said to the business owners “we do not want to be a ‘nuisance’ and please be assured that Detroit Lakes will pay for work required to put the sidewalk over part of your basements. We also understand that not all residents of Detroit Lakes will be walking on the sidewalks above your basements every day but no one is going to suggest that they should be unhappy with Detroit Lakes paying for a sidewalk they do not walk on.”

Boy, this guy I talked to told a great logical story with a lot of common sense. But then the guy really amazed me with the rest of his story. According to  him, city employees and city council people 100 years ago saw into the future. They said to the business owners with Washington Avenue covered basements “we anticipate that in about 100 years Detroit Lakes will want to mix red food coloring with ‘cee ment’ and they will want to make sidewalks look like fake red bricks (to attract people from far and wide to motor to Detroit Lakes and to spend copious amounts of money). But you business owners (or your descendants) will not need to worry, as Detroit Lakes will pay for the red food coloring and all other expenses and will not be jerks to business owners with basements under the Washington Avenue sidewalk. And if business owners have questions and pose those questions at city council meetings (100 years or so from now) they will be treated with great respect and will be thanked for their comments and questions at the city council meetings covering the basement topic.” The guy I talked to went on; the city council people 100 years ago said “we are confident that 100 years from now the city council people will think just like we do; the tail will not try to wag the dog.” (Of course the businesses are the dog.) He continued “and you can be assured none of the council guys 100 years from now will act like the bottom side of that proverbial tail.”

With the above fresh in my mind I felt good about Detroit Lakes (and businesses and basements) — until I read more in the Detroit Lakes papers and I listened to Jake Judd on KDLM and I watched a city council meeting on TV3. I really was confused so I asked another guy what he thought of the city council and their handling of the “basements.” He said, “they are all  nuts.” I did not say anything because I try to avoid controversy. I did tell him this, however; I said “I have known Bruce Imholt for about 30 years and I don’t think he is nuts.” — George Frankberg, Detroit Lakes