Second Ward, Minneapolis

This is the public policy forum of Minneapolis Second Ward (Green) City Council Member Cam Gordon and his staff. We use this space to talk about some of what Cam’s working on, explain his positions, and share a little of what life in City Hall is like. Please feel free to comment on posts, within certain ground rules. See our disclaimer, including ground rules, here:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Water Fountain Installed

You may recall that last year, there was some controversy about artistic water fountains being built by the City in various locations around town.

The first of these fountains has been installed at Ancient Traders Market on East Franklin Ave and 11th Street. As you can see, it's a beautiful piece of functional public art.

I have always supported this initiative, which Mayor Rybak took a significant political risk to push forward - and for which he continues to be attacked. It's become a standard right-wing talking point that Minneapolis "wastes money" on crazy, unnecessary things like artistic water fountains.

I couldn't disagree more with this perspective. Public art makes our City livable for our residents, attractive to people thinking about moving here, and enjoyable for our visitors. Functional public art - like this lovely sculpture that also happens to distribute, free of charge, one of every human being's daily necessities - is even better.

More importantly, these fountains are making a statement: that water is a commons, not a commodity. That everyone in our communities (and everyone in the world, for that matter) has a right to clean drinking water. That drinking water should be freely available to the public, rather than being a private good, bottled in plastic by a corporation and sold for profit. I believe that's actually why conservative commentators have been so critical of this initiative; by making the case for water as a commons, the City of Minneapolis is directly rebutting the conservative notion that nothing is a commons, that everything should be privatized.

These fountains are also an advertisement, of sorts. Minneapolis is coming right out and saying that we're proud of our water. We've got some of the cleanest, purest drinking water anywhere, and people should feel good about drinking it - rather than buying into the corporate myth that bottled water is somehow better than municipal water. In fact, while Minneapolis water is rigorously tested and the results of those tests are made public, privatized water is seldom if ever tested and the results are typically treated as proprietary information.

One last thing. One of the nonsensical criticisms of these fountains is that we should be spending money on More Important Things, like police officers, firefighters, etc. That might make sense, if these fountains had been paid for out of the City's general fund. They weren't. They are paid for out of the water fund, which comes from the water fees our residents pay and funds other water-related expenses such as the filtration plant, clean water lines, etc. The fountains were never in competition with other functions of the City.

I'm proud that the City has funded this great piece of public art. I'm proud that we're taking a stand for water as a public good this boldly, unabashedly, and beautifully.


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