Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh gave her state of the city address Monday to a gathering of city leaders with a theme of “Baltimore: A City on the Rise.” WYPR’s City Hall Reporter Dominique Maria Bonessi spoke with Morning Edition Host Nathan Sterner.
NATHAN: How did the mayor qualify “Baltimore: A city on the rise” in her speech?
DOMINIQUE: Pugh started with the negative about the systemic corruption the Gun Trace Taskforce trials brought out of a federal investigation of the police department.Here she is...
PUGH: “And the GTTF unit, its renegade culture, and the sort of testimony that shocked us every day, and will long remind us of one of the most egregious moments in our city’s history.”
DOMINIQUE: She also addressed the consent decree brought down by the Federal Department of Justice, and the record level of violence with 343 homicides in 2017. Pugh turned to her list of accomplishments this year. Those included her violence reduction plan to fight crime, hiring Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, increasing summer jobs for youth, and making Baltimore City Community College tuition free. She then proceeded to give a caveat…
PUGH: “Though I ask you to take note of our progress, I do not ask you to be satisfied because I am not.”
NATHAN: Pugh also called on the Fraternal Order of Police to take action, what would she like to see from them?
DOMINIQUE: Pugh made a strong ask from the FOP to allow civilians to sit on Baltimore City Police officer disciplinary hearing boards. She has pushed this at the state level with no success, but asked the FOP last night to pass this policy without legislative action required.
NATHAN: Let’s turn to schools, Pugh spent a lot of time talking about the city school’s budget, and even made some news last night on funding let’s listen to this...
PUGH: “Our entire delegation is committed to fight for not just fair funding of our school system, but just funding.”
NATHAN: Can you explain that a little more?
DOMINIQUE: There, Pugh was referring to the Baltimore City delegation that has been helping build 23 new schools while dealing with heating and maintenance issues this winter in old school buildings. As you can recall at least 80 schools when off line with not heat and students were out of school for almost a week. The mayor announced that the city will be providing an additional $2 million to city schools in this upcoming fiscal year. She also wanted to make clear that as new schools are being built and students are moved into them, she wants to make sure that the old school buildings are torn down, but now without destroying the neighborhood around them. You can listen more here…
PUGH: “Communities deserve to know if a school building is closing
permanently, what plans do we have for that structure. So that we do not leave an empty building on purpose in their neighborhoods.”
NATHAN: Pugh also talked a lot about creating jobs and her effort to increase the employment rate. How does she plan on creating more jobs?
DOMINIQUE: The mayor said that the unemployment rate is around 5.6 percent and noted that
the majority of those unemployed are African American males. She said she created the Office of African American Male engagement to help with job searches and applications. In mid-April, through the support of an anonymous donor, Pugh said that the city will be opening a mobile jobs unit. She also talked about her youth works summer jobs program that has already had 16000 applicants.
NATHAN: What sort of reaction did you get from city leaders?
DOMINIQUE: City Council President Jack Young said that Pugh was talking about what she promised during her campaign and what she has already delivered on.
YOUNG: “It was a long speech, but it was a speech that laid out exactly some of the things she committed to doing when she was running for office. So you know I cannot complain about that.”
DOMINIQUE: He is right the full speech went a little longer than an hour, but she did lay out what she promised to do and what she has already delivered on. You can also view this speech as her future motto for her 2020 run for reelection. That motto is “Moving Baltimore Forward”, and she said that at multiple times in various different ways throughout the speech.
DOMINIQUE: Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is up for reelection this year, said that unlike the federal administration that is touting regression, we need to focus on local and state governance to progress forward. And she said that Baltimore could be a model for other cities in the US.
MOSBY: “I’m optimistic and I’m grateful we’re taking this holistic approach because for far too long we haven’t. So yeah I’m excited”