Baltimore City Council President
The subtext of Mr. Young's effort is the notion that Mayor
It would work in the city, too, but it would pose two distinct political disadvantages for the council. First, it would force the members to make some difficult choices about what the city will spend less money on — something they have traditionally been reluctant to do, as evidenced by the frequency with which they cut little or nothing from the mayor's annual budget proposals. And second, it robs them of the cachet of being the ones to do the appropriating.
The proposal Messrs. Young and Kraft are backing would put a charter amendment on the November ballot to set up a special fund controlled by the council that could be spent only on school construction or renovation, construction or improvement of school athletic facilities, or school materials. It would be funded one of three ways: by appropriations from the mayor, by grants and donations, and by any fees, fines or other revenues that the council decides to dedicate to it. The council president is not actually proposing any new revenue sources to go along with his bill, though existing fees or fines could theoretically be diverted into it from the general fund.
Doing so, however, would just require cuts elsewhere in the budget. Furthermore, dedicating new or existing revenues to one purpose is generally a bad practice, regardless of how noble the cause. Walling off portions of the budget robs the city of the flexibility it needs to meet new problems as they arise. This fund may never be large enough to cause a problem, but it would set a bad precedent.
Moreover, if the fund isn't large enough to have a major impact on the city budget, one wonders what the point is in the first place. Eliminating a $2.8 billion facilities backlog is going to require real sacrifices, and until city leaders start spelling out what they are, they are not truly addressing the problem.