BEST BOONDOGGLE Minneapolis 2003 - pooh-bahs
Let us review the chronology. In 1997, the library pooh-bahs commence their official mutterings about the need for a replacement for the downtown library. In November 2000, Minneapolis voters respond to these overtures with extraordinary goodwill, authorizing a $140 million expenditure by a two-to-one margin. The pooh-bahs then hire acclaimed architect Cesar Pelli, who proceeds to come up with a flashy, five-story, 375,000-square-foot, glass-heavy design. Much backslapping ensues. After a brief but spirited scrum over the best location for this new "jewel" of downtown, the pooh-bahs finally settle on 300 Nicollet Mall, site of the old central library. Obviously, this means that that building needs to be razed to make room for the new one. So the doors are shuttered and the collections are carted away. Some are placed in storage (until, at the least, 2006) and others shipped to the new "temporary" library on Marquette Avenue (which costs some $3 million). Then, just as the wrecking balls lay low the old library, the pooh-bahs come to an unfortunate realization: It seems something went wrong with the budgetary math and, well, we can't afford the new library, cover our operating expenses, and maintain the existing neighborhood libraries. So what to do next? No one seems to have any good idea. Our suggestion: no more glue-sniffing by elected officials.