I agree with you that there are specific functions of government that are absolutely necessary, though there are many more aspects of government that - while not absolutely necessary - are determined by the community to be important to protect and enrich the public health, safety, and welfare. These elements are captured through public participation in the creation (and updating) of the community's comprehensive plan.
The problem with language such as "enrich the public health, safety and welfare" is that it can be and HAS BEEN interpreted pretty much any way that one wishes to to justify darned near ANYTHING.
So a bunch of Food Fascists get in power and decide that in order to "enrich the public health" they get to impose their
dietary preferences on the rest of society. So a bunch of bigots gather up a majority and say that same-sex couples are moral degenerates whose private lifestyles need to be outlawed in the name of "enriching the public health, safety and welfare."
And it is a matter of historical record that almost identical language was also used by mass murderers such as Hitler and Stalin in order to justify their atrocities.
Where does it end and where do you draw a line?
The premise of what you say above is based on collectivism
- the notion that an individual's life is not his own but, rather, is subordinated to and subservient to some sort of "higher good" be it the will of the majority or the whim of a dictator or Ayatollah. It is on such a premise that every
tyranny known to man has been based.
A free society is one that is based on the rights of the individual
- and the ONLY valid function of government in a free society is to secure, protect and defend those rights. To the degree that a government goes beyond those functions, it is moving in the direction of tyranny on the collectivist premise that there are goals that are "higher" and supersede the rights of the individual and, therefore, the ends justify the means.
In order for a free society to exist, there are certain functions which ONLY government can provide - police, courts and the military. On a local level there are certain functions which ONLY government can provide. For example, in order for property rights to exit in land, there needs to exist public rights of way by which people can access their own property without trespassing on someone else's. Those public rights of way usually exist in the form of roads. For roads to exist they need to be maintained. And roads need things such as sidewalks, stop lights, street signs, bridges, street lights, etc. Many would argue that there are certain absolutely necessary services such as drainage systems, sanitary sewers, that ONLY government can provide - and, in an urban setting, I really don't take issue with that. Others include services such as fire protection and water supplies in that category too.
Public art does not even begin to approach
such a category.
a capital improvement project such as public art is considered as salient as any sidewalk, stoplight, or park bench.
I don't have a problem with artistic features that are incidental
to necessary projects such as sidewalks and road construction. If you notice the new construction on I-30 through Arlington, there are, in the embankments, some murals in the concrete which appear to pay tribute to the city's history - for example, one features an auto worker presumably at Arlington's GM plant. That doesn't bother me at all. In fact, I think it is kind of neat so long as the cost is not absolutely outrageous. If you are going to build a bridge or an embankment, why not make it look attractive? Obviously it is necessary for street lighting to be put in place along Lancaster. Again, I have no problem if a little bit more money is spent in order for the street lights to be attractive ones and not ugly ones and let the politicians in charge face the consequences at the next election if it is too much. And they HAVE put attractive streetlights along Lancaster - and I am perfectly cool with that despite the fact that I am sure cheaper ones could have been used instead. But the colored lights on Lancaster do not provide any function necessary for public safety or the flow of traffic down that thoroughfare. I do not have any problem at all with the city making the space in the median available
for such art if civic minded people step forward and voluntarily donate
it. And I do know that the cost of the sculptures is but a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. But that still doesn't matter. People should not be forced by their government to pay for anything
beyond what is absolutely necessary for the government to execute its strictly limited legitimate functions as a matter of principle