In the spring of 2019, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned amid the fallout from the “Healthy Holly” scandal, where she struck more than $800,000 in deals to sell copies of her self-published children books. Although she’d lost the support of the City Council, they had no power to remove her unless she was convicted of a crime.
That incident led many to question the way the Baltimore City government is structured. Mayors of Baltimore have a lot of power relative to mayors in many other cities because of our so-called strong mayor system. And some on the City Council are trying to change that through charter amendments that would make major changes to how the city government is run.
Last month, the Baltimore City Council created a new committee called the Equity and Structure Committee, which is holding hearings on seven such charter amendments, including ones to reduce the number of votes needed to overturn a mayoral veto, one creating a city administrator position, and another allowing the council to remove the mayor with the approval of three-fourths of its members. If the Council can pass the measures by August they will move on to the Mayor and then to the ballot in November.
On this episode of Future City, we explore the history of the Baltimore City government and why it is set up the way it is. We’ll explore how governments in other cities are run differently, and talk about the pros and cons of city administrator and strong mayor systems. Finally, we’ll discuss how city governments are using data to drive policy and service delivery.
Matthew Crenson, Professor Emeritus and Academy Professor at the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences Department of Political Science
Chris Warshaw, Assistant Professor of Political Science at George Washington University
Beth Blauer, Executive Director at Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact (GovEx)