BEST USE OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS Minneapolis 2006 -
The idea that taxes are inherently bad—and that most people don't want to pay them—is accepted as gospel truth in many quarters. Thankfully, it's not true. When politicians make their aims clear, the public can be remarkably game. Case in point: In 2000, the voters of Minneapolis approved, by a margin of two to one, a $140 million referendum to boost and improve the city's library system. Most of that amount—$110 million—was earmarked for the construction of a spanking-new central library downtown. The old building, a lackluster relic from the '60s, was falling apart and much too small. Now, opening in May, we've got a structure that may not win major architectural awards, and probably wouldn't deserve them if it did. In practical terms, though, it is everything a library should be. An honest-to-God public space, it will provide fingertip access to millions of books and other materials. It will have conference rooms, a café, hundreds of new computers, and even fireplaces (albeit fueled by gas) for feet-up reading.