I enjoy art, I admit. As a commuter cyclist and former thirsty urban runner, I value public water fountains. As a consumer of city life around the world — especially in places that encourage people to be out on their streets — I appreciate how public fountains provide gathering points, from Rome to Las Vegas to Minneapolis.
And as a former marketeer, I don't oppose spending that generates PR for a good product, in this case, Minneapolis water as an alternative to overpriced, litter-producing bottled water.
Put it all together — artful places, fresh water without plastic trash, walkable streets and promoting the city — and it sounds like a good deal to me. Especially when the $50,000 cost per art fountain is amortized over 25 years.
Luke Hellier (a little fresh air, exercise and free water wouldn't hurt you, man) doesn't like beautiful fountains in cities run by DFL-leaning mayors.
In that blank-minded-bullying practiced by Hellier and his Twittering dragoons, the GOP has been ragging on Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak for contributing to the beauty and functionality of his city. They persist in positioning this expenditure as profligacy.
(Let's hope Hellier someday googles the difference between a capital cost and a recurring cost.)
These artful fountains would be paid for out of capital funds dedicated to art and the water fund, which must be used for water projects. The money can't be spent for cops or road repair or whatever other public expenditure the GOP might pretend to support. Any "savings" here are political eyewash.
[From top: Fully amortized Portuguese public fountain, getting its picture taken centuries later; Lisa Elias Minneapolis fountain design; Andrew MacGuffie design.]
The fountains would be adopted and maintained by private volunteers instead of city crews. Try getting 25 years of free labor with your regular fountains. And building them would employ local artists and craftspeople.
Politics, though, has cut the initial 10 fountains to six and now to four, for a total cost of $200,000.
My hometown, a place so conservative I don't know why Hellier doesn't move there right now, has a vibrant public art program. It places sculpture along the city's main street and gives artists lots of exposure.
Wherever you go in the world, there will be sex offenders, prisons or not. But beauty and civic life are not that easy to find. And the reason is on display right now.