Why is “cutting ribbons” smarter that investing money efficiently?

After reading yesterday the post “Una historia de abandono, apropiación y despilfarro” (a story of Degradation, appropriation and waste), it stuck in my mind this stubbornness of throwing money to a new project being more attractive than refurbishing, maintaining or keeping neat an existing one.

Why is “cutting ribbons” smarter that investing money efficiently?

This is not a phenomenon exclusive of developing countries.

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People enjoying a concert and having picnics

After the close of Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, Berliners claimed the space with their bikes, concerts and BBQs. Now the city has announced its intention to build a library there.

In other circumstances, this could be a great public investment. However, this project that would take its toll on taxpayers, seems unjustified considering that the de-centralized libraries in the districts are being closed down for allegedly not having enough visitors.

The Senate argument is that the new library will embrace the highly praised “public space for all” loved by Berliners. Nevertheless, this project is not precisely taking over a building from private entities. This space is already public and provides innumerable opportunities for citizens’ enjoyment. It is home of concerts, BBQs, birthday parties, football matches, people training and people learning how to bike, among other activities.

Berlin is not precisely drowning in money (perhaps due to the lack of it). They city has already been embarrassed for not being able to finished the announced BER airport in the south of the city, due to poor planning and now they are willing to start some new major construction. This and some other reasons have gather groups protesting against the new library.

Christoph Breit, treasurer of 100% Tempelhof Feld -an initiative aiming to the protect the airport park- stated recently: “People are really taking care of Tempelhof Feld because people have freedom to do what they want, because there are no restrictions from well-minded planners.”

Keeping a place up is an expression of ownership that begets higher values. The Berliners have understood this and they stand for their park. This former airport preserves history and a cluster of meanings. Any intended intervention should be preceded by deep analysis and planning.

If the city would really like to invest that money in something they could either refurbish the existing libraries and increase the visitors or provide some greeneries to the Tempelhof Park that could be appreciated for some shade during the summer.

But if there is no need to break the glass, don’t break it! Leave it to the citizens that enjoy it, they know it best.

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People playing on the runway

Announcing an investment to “create” a public space where there is already one seems a bit odd. Moreover, if we considered that the intended construction is a new library when there are not enough visitors to the existing ones seems even less comprehensively. It is not that Berliners have something against books and libraries (there are great universities, research centers and libraries there), but it seems an unnecessary waste of resources in a public space that is already embraced by the people.

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