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The idea that Baltimore would cut from next year's budget the $4.2 million in funding for youth services Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake provided after last year's riots was unconscionable. The idea from City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Councilwoman Helen Holton to shut down the city government if the mayor failed to restore it was absurd. We're glad to see that cooler heads (if not cooler rhetoric) are prevailing. This is and always was an eminently solvable problem. Baltimore's proposed operating budget for the next fiscal year totals more than $2.6 billion, so the money at issue is less than 0.2 percent of the overall plan. There will be and should be debate about precisely what should be cut to demonstrate a continuation of the commitment Baltimore made last year, but the important thing is that all sides have now agreed to the same goal.

The mayor hasn't provided much detail yet about the cuts she found, other than to say they were "difficult," "painful" and deleterious to "the public good and the effective functioning of city government." She said in a statement that they will affect functions including graffiti removal, code enforcement, public health, tree maintenance, libraries, merit raises for employees and support for art museums. Mr. Young and the council have made some counter-proposals, and we certainly urge them to keep up their efforts to find another $900,000 or so in cuts to support Experience Corps and before- and after-school care programs. Now that the mayor has publicly stated a willingness to make cuts to restore funding for youth programs — as opposed to letting any cuts the council makes fund a minuscule reduction in the property tax — the two sides have a basis for negotiation. Indeed, talks are already underway.

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That's how this debate should have gone all along. The notion that funding for these youth programs should be connected in some way with the mayor's long languishing proposal to sell some city parking garages to pay for new rec centers, on which Mr. Young has refused to hold a hearing, never made sense. We support the mayor's idea and urge Mr. Young to let the bill be debated by the full council, but that's not the issue at hand. The youth programs are operating expenses and should not be paid for with one-time revenues, like the parking garage sales would generate. The only way to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to them is to support them with ongoing revenues.

And that's the point here. Residents in the neighborhoods where these funds were focused have too often felt abandoned by City Hall, and it would be a perilous message to send that keeping up an effort made in response to the riots was anything less than a top priority. The $4.2 million is by no means an answer to the systemic social issues that came to a head during last year's unrest, but it is an important step both symbolically and substantively. It helps pay for of enrichment projects including tutoring, athletics and the arts. It funded for the first time in recent years more than two dozen community-led, grassroots groups operating outside of school buildings, and it allowed six schools to become "community schools," which provide social services and expanded learning opportunities outside the school day.

To be sure, the process hasn't been pretty, but that's hardly unprecedented. Mr. Young and Ms. Rawlings-Blake have had some choice words for each other during the last few months, but when she was council president, Ms. Rawlings-Blake had a similar fight with her predecessor, Sheila Dixon, over cuts to youth funding, including the same sorts of complaints that the mayor was showing the council disrespect. (A key Rawlings-Blake supporter at the time: then-Budget Committee Chairman Bernard C. "Jack" Young.) Some ugliness in negotiations over spending isn't a flaw so much as a design feature of a system in which the council has limited power to advance its priorities other than through an exercise of public pressure on the mayor. The two sides can complain all they want about who has the right priorities or work ethic, but Mr. Young played his role, Ms. Rawlings-Blake played hers, and it looks like they will wind up in the right place for the city.

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