Du Burns' principled opposition to the controversial container tax is, no doubt, genuine. But as a candidate for mayor in the Democratic primary, there is certainly also a political dimension to the Schmoke-bashing ads in which Burns has been appearing recently -- ads, incidentally, which the beverage industry, not Burns or his campaign committee, is paying for.
Burns' charges in the ads that the container tax is unfair. That certainly is within the bounds of responsible debate. But the fact that the ads are paid for by the beverage industry is suspect.
The fact is the city needs the money if it hopes to keep services at an acceptable level or reduce the city property tax rate even modestly. But no one in an election year wants to take the rap as a tax-and-spender -- least of all City Council members and certainly not Du Burns.
As a result the debate has degenerated into an argument about who is more committed to the city's welfare -- those who support the tax for the added revenue it brings, or those who want to wipe it out -- at the expense of tackling the tough fiscal questions.
As a challenger to Schmoke, it is Burns' responsibility to take issue with those policies with which he disagrees. But so far Burns has been criticizing the beverage tax without offering any viable alternatives. If he opposes the tax, he ought to tell city residents what other kind of tax he would impose to make up for the loss -- or what services he would cut to save residents 2 cents on a bottle of Coke. This is the kind of vital, constructive debate the city needs as the primary approaches.