Are We Really Broke?
The county board voted 6 – 1 yesterday (with me being the “no” vote) to spend $60,000 on a public art project in the new Plymouth Library. Another $60,000 project for this facility is soon to come, followed by $220,000 worth of art projects for the recently completed new library in Maple Grove.
The newest Golden Fire Hydrant goes to the Hennepin County Board’s policy requiring that 1% of total project cost be added to the top of every large library project for public art.
I had the honor of helping cut ribbons for the grand openings of two beautiful new Hennepin County libraries in western Hennepin County recently. The costs for these new libraries in Plymouth and Maple Grove were approximately $12 million and $22 million, respectively.
I learned a few weeks ago, however, that despite being open for months to rave reviews from everyone, these new libraries are not complete, as we have not yet spent the required $342,000 on public art.
The Plymouth Library is my home library – the one my family uses regularly. The Maple Grove Library is also in my district. Both new buildings are truly magnificent; one might argue that they are works of art. They both have very creative art incorporated into their design and architecture and, at least in the case of Plymouth, have public art from the previous library on display.
Honestly, I have heard nothing but over-the-top positive comments from constituents about these new facilities.
Nobody . . . NOBODY in Plymouth or Maple Grove is questioning when we will finally finish these two libraries by adding a few hundred thousand dollars worth of more public art.
So why are we planning to spend this money? Because we have a policy in place from 2001 requiring that library projects of $1 million or more include public art representing an additional 1% of total project costs.
That policy is a bad one, or, at the very least, no longer fits these supposedly austere times.
Right now, when we are lamenting daily that we don’t have enough money in government to provide basic services, it’s just a bit crazy to be spending hundreds of thousands on things that, while really nice, are far from necessary and no one is even requesting.