Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Ideas

I was at a recent meeting where someone suggested that I should complain because a competing organization had used one of my ideas.

Complaining is far from my mind, because the one thing we don’t have is a shortage of ideas—and if we do have a good idea then I’m happy to see someone use it. My life will be far too short to ever try them all. New ideas, bad ideas, wild ideas are all generated every day. The suggestion made me start thinking about some of the more creative concepts we’ve come up with, though, especially the ideas that were really cool but entirely impractical.

How about building houses on bridges over the Trinity River? It’s been done other places, and with all our new Calatrava bridges; maybe we can find another use for the old bridges.

How about a Central Dallas Cemetery? I came up with this idea when the hat was passed for the second time during one week to pay the burial costs for one of our clients who died indigent. I thought that if we were going to pay for cemetery plots, then we might as well own the cemetary. The idea was crushed when someone said, “I don’t want to be around some of you that long.” I may try to bring the cemetery idea back. Some day I’m going to need a place.

Another idea was borne out of frustration, when one of our clients came back to the LAW Center for her second divorce I suggested a lifetime plan for marriages and divorces: Pay once and we’ll give you a lifetime guaranty for as many marriages and divorces as you need—after all, we had both preachers and lawyers. (This wasn’t one of my better ideas. I can’t repeat most of the responses I got to it.)

Not any longer lived was my plan for a Central Dallas Wedding Chapel in an auditorium at CityWalk@Akard. No one was willing to deal with the brides.

Ideas that we actually carried out include the East Dallas Fair, which we ran for two years until time got the best of me. The East Dallas Fair was actually fun, and I think there is certainly a place for small neighborhood festivals in the city.

I also was involved in starting and running Central Dallas Federal Credit Union for three years, another idea I believe in. Once again time, and the fact that we were really bad at collecting on missed payments, led us to give up on the idea. But no one lost a cent in CDFCU!

We’ve looked at projects all around North Texas. Low income housing in Athens; converting a school building to senior housing in Hillsboro (how would you like to live your last years in the same building where you went to elementary school?); and various other schemes in other places.

We looked at converting an abandoned mall into a housing development. Check out this article “Malls, the Future of Housing” ( We could have been well ahead of the curve if we’d just followed up on our idea.

We spent many hours—maybe thousands of hours—trying to understand whether we could usefully develop our own wind farm or form an electric cooperative. We’ve looked at solar power and geothermal power. We’ve studied land trusts. We looked at the economic impact of a minor league baseball team. I looked at buying a canoe manufacturer.

Not all our ideas are good, but we always figure that if we look hard enough we’ll find a needle among all these haystacks once in awhile.

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