"cry poverty while lavishing money on the beautiful people"

It's not every day that I learn about local Ann Arbor politics from InstaPundit, but Glenn Reynolds linked this Michigan Capitol Confidential story about something all too typical.

The debate in Ann Arbor, where firefighters are being laid off due to a multimillion dollar budget deficit, is over an $850,000 piece of art.

That's how much the city has agreed to pay German artist Herbert Dreiseitl for a three-piece water sculpture that would go in front of the new police and courts building right by the City Hall.

To call it government waste would be understatement, because it is not mere waste of the sort we associate with affluence. They are spending money they don't have on the frivolous -- at the expense of the necessary.
Michael LaFaive, the director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative said nonessential services are being funded throughout the state.

"Administrators cry poverty while lavishing money on the beautiful people," LaFaive said. "The threat to dismiss firefighters often comes while officials protect golf courses, wave pools and art. No city can cry poverty while it defends recreation and aesthetics such as art."

LaFaive said administrators get creative with budgets to fund pet projects.

Naturally. It takes creativity to see to it that the beautiful people are rewarded at the taxpayers' expense, while basic services are cut. (Little wonder the police and firefighters are supporting Patricia Lesko for Mayor, who is being subjected to vicious and dishonest personal attacks.)

I ran this past a fellow Ann Arbor resident who voiced another objection: Why are they spending Ann Arbor's money on a German artist, when this city has plenty of deserving artists?

Because they can.

posted by Eric on 07.23.10 at 03:28 PM


Sadly, this type of story is common across the U.S. whether in small towns or big cities. The small southern town I grew up in, a town with so few jobs that most residents are forced to commute about an hour away for work, has been on a spending jag for well over a decade. The town bought most of the downtown property and tried to jump start some type of cultural rebirth - you can imagine how that's worked out.

The town I live in now spent a couple of million for an arts/local history museum some years ago with the stated purpose of rejuvenating the downtown area. A couple of hardy souls did open a sporting/camping store and a coffee shop across the street, but they lasted about six months. The museum only remains open through support from the city budget.

My wife and I have lived all over the U.S. and I've seen this pattern repeated in every municipality we've lived in or visited. The only thing that's going to stop it is a total collapse.

RickC   ·  July 23, 2010 6:00 PM

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