The Florida Botanical Garden puts on a spectacular display of Christmas lights every year. I’d been to the garden several times but this was my first time at night. It made me curious about how this botanical garden came about, how long it has been in existence, and where the money to build it came from. Admission to the garden is free at all times, though a donation is requested for the Christmas lights display. The display is entirely the work of the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation.
The garden had its genesis in the early 1990s and opened in 2000. The county government owns and operates the garden, which was funded from general revenues and by some of the proceeds from a 1% county sales tax, plus donations to the associated garden foundation. This additional sales tax is put up for approval once every decade, most recently approved by 83% of voters. The county already owned most of the land.
I’d estimate that about 25 acres of the garden are decorated with lights. There were carolers in the central plaza and volunteers to help visitors find their way around. As beautiful as the gardens are during the daytime, I was unprepared for the magnificent sight that greeted me at night.
It seems to me this is the way things should work: citizens agree to pay for something to benefit the community and the government delivers on the promise. Sure, they might have blown some of the tax money on worthless other purposes but at least it wasn’t used to encourage unlimited immigration and enable crime, as it is in other jurisdictions. Bad enough to have a government that steals from you; ever so much worse to have one that is out to get you.
This is tangentially related to the recent thread Trust. While the local government was a key player in the creation of the garden, it was a bottom-up phenomenon. The private foundation was formed in 1993 “… for the purposes of encouraging interest in and support for a botanical garden in Pinellas County.” About a year ago, I posted a piece about social trust. It’s all bottom-up.