One stark area of difference that emerged at both the mayoral debate in Del Ray and the council/mayoral debate in Old Town had to do with how to fund affordable housing. It is legitimate to question whether a meal tax is the appropriate funding vehicle, but the disagreement between the candidates was more general than that. Mayor Silberberg, and several of the council candidates, support a dedicated revenue stream; Vice Mayor Wilson and Councilor Smedberg are opposed, on principle.
What that principle could be is rather puzzling. Families usually save for retirement by depositing a specific amount of income in a dedicated fund, such as an IRA, that will not be touched for decades. If the money
went into their general account, the temptation to raid it to buy new furniture or fix up the bathroom would be irresistible, with potentially catastrophic long-term consequences.
We all know that Metro’s sorry state can in large measure be blamed on its lack of a dedicated source of funding. Having to compete annually for general funds in three separate jurisdictions has led to years of
deferred maintenance and finally a crisis situation, which other regional transportation systems avoid by having dedicated revenue that makes it easier to formulate long-term plans.
I assume that, as good Democrats, Wilson and Smedberg appreciate the wisdom of the payroll tax that workers pay to support Social Security, which would otherwise be subject to the whims of legislators who barely
think beyond the next election cycle. Social Security beneficiaries are in it for the long haul; they need the stability that dedicated funding provides.
If dedicated funding is useful, indeed necessary, at the family, regional and national levels, one should be suspicious of anyone who claims that it is simply wrong at the municipal level. The vice mayor and the councilor ought to revisit their principles.