Saturday, May 23, 2020

On Re-Opening HoCo and the Proposed Budget Cuts

Played by the irreplaceable John Spencer, The West Wing’s Leo McGarry (quoting Khalil Gibran) once said “Never argue with a drunk or a fool.”

I have been violating that tenet with great regularity recently.

While I cannot speak to their state of inebriation, the fools have been coming in many forms:

Bipartisanship-fetishists, Republican death-cultists, Democrats who appear to have either taken leave of their senses or who should know better, people who argue in bad faith and/or just badly.

So many of the arguments can be distilled to choices. 

The Reopen Howard County folks, exercising a newfound embrace of the concept of “choice,” (albeit a twisted version of it), believe in flinging the doors wide open when we are still not out of the COVID-19 woods.  “Well-considered public health guidance be damned!” appears to be their mantra.  They even have a rally planned, regardless of whether or not Ellicott City business owners or residents want such protestors tramping about their streets and sidewalks.  Will people get sick as a result of such a gathering?  Unfortunately, it is quite likely.  Further, they try to cloak their behaviors as being expressions of “patriotism.” This is codswallop of the highest order.  Even General Washington’s army took preventative measures to protect against the spread of smallpox during the Revolutionary War.  So, employing their logic, George Washington was being un-American?   

Turning to Howard County’s FY21 Budget, this is more of a nuanced choice compared to the first example, but nonetheless, there are clear right and wrong approaches…especially if you call yourself a progressive.

Now, perhaps Councilpersons Deb Jung and Liz Walsh have embraced monetarist economic theory over the past few days, I don’t know.  But assuming they have not, making budget cuts in the midst of a recession or depression is incredibly ill-advised. 

Should developers pay more? Absolutely.  And the proposed recordation fee increase is progressive and will largely be paid by developers.  As Councilperson Rigby noted, “76% of the revenue comes from a 2% tax on real estate transactions over $1,000,000.”   This is simple math, not rocket science. Democrats should love a user-fee that largely impacts those with deep pockets. Especially considering the alternative…

Instead, channeling some version of budget hawkishness (how did that work out for Paul Tsongas in ’92 by the way?), Councilpersons Jung, and Walsh…along with their partner in this endeavor, conservative operative and Republican Councilperson David Yungmann, want to cut vital services.  The cuts would have a negative impact public health, public safety, infrastructure, and transportation (among other areas).  They would defund the New Cultural Center (along with the affordable housing that comes with it).  And, also distressingly, it looks like it will cost jobs.  Again, this is being proposed in the midst of a pandemic.

I strongly encourage Councilpersons Jung and Walsh to reflect on this issue.  Think carefully about its impact.  Do the correct thing.

In solidarity.

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