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Mayor Withdraws City Charter Amendments for Council Review

Dominique Maria Bonessi

Last week Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh introduced multiple charter amendments to the city council for review. Yesterday Pugh withdrew all but one charter amendment. Morning Edition Host Nathan Sterner talks with City Hall Reporter Dominique Maria Bonessi.

NATHAN: Why did Pugh withdraw these amendments to the charter?

DOMINIQUE: There are a few reasons for that:

Last week Pugh’s commission to review the charter released their final recommendations which was in the form of a 98-page report. A review of the charter—I was told last night by a member of Pugh’s office—has not been done in 24 years in Baltimore, and that kind of review needs time.

Karren Stokes, director of government relations for Pugh, said the document is really dense and thick of government jargon and lingo that it would take the city council more than two weeks to fully understand the changes and possibly revise the recommendations. And right now the city council doesn’t have that kind of time.

There are two meetings left within this session until summer break. One is this coming Monday, June 25th and a final meeting Monday, July 9th to wrap up legislation.

Finally, in order for these charter amendments to make it on the November general election ballot the deadline for filing with the Board of Elections is Monday, August 2nd. There is no time for the city council to meet before that in order to thoroughly review the amendments.

NATHAN: What was the one amendment to the charter that the city council did pass?

DOMINIQUE: The one amendment that the city council passed was establishing an independent office of the inspector general.

The bill says that it would be the mayor, city solicitor, comptroller, city council president, and Baltimore City State’s Attorney that would be responsible for appointing the inspector general; currently we have Isabel Mercedes Cummings who will be serving a six-year term. There is also a nine-member advisory board to oversee the inspector general. Finally, the OIG’s role would be to investigate any and all city agencies.

NATHAN: Why did this one pass, while the others fell flat?

DOMINIQUE: A few months back, we saw District Three City Councilman Ryan Dorsey introduced his own charter amendment to create the OIG. Then last week we saw the mayor’s version of the amendment. Dorsey and the mayor’s office negotiated on the amendment, and this new version is a combination of both bills. Also, there was a lot support months before the city council had to give a final vote on the amendment. And you have to consider that these other charter amendments came on the heel of budget hearings for the 2019 Fiscal Year.

NATHAN: So what happens to all these possible charter amendments that were withdrawn?

DOMINIQUE: Karren Stokes with the mayor’s office said ideally these amendments would be in city council committee until they could be fully reviewed. But, as far as when the voters will see them, it may not be until the 2020 election.

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