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Council President Brandon Scott Offers Vision Of More Transparent City Government

Baltimore City Hall

Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott is pitching a wide-ranging plan designed to change the shape of city government. The proposal lays out a roadmap full of policy changes the council and other government officials can take to “deliver for Baltimore’s residents and bring greater transparency to the way we operate,” Scott said Wednesday.

  The proposal has four main focus areas: youth education, equity, transparency and public safety.  

Accomplishing Scott’s goals will require new laws or even amendments to the Baltimore city charter. The earliest residents could vote on changing the city charter is November 2020. 

Among the changes Scott proposes are lowering the voting age to 16 in elections for city officials and requiring city agencies to collaborate on a crime fighting strategy.

He also suggests giving the city full authority over the police department. It currently shares control of the department with the state.

The council is already developing charter legislation on some of the changes, including one designed to curb mayoral power. 

That measure would reduce the mayor’s power over the Board of Estimates, which oversees city spending. The board is made up of three elected officials, including the mayor, who appoints another two members. Those appointed members traditionally vote in the mayor’s interest. Critics say this setup  invites corruption. Scott suggests reducing mayoral power by eliminating the two mayor-appointed members. 

Scott also wants to pass legislation creating a Charter Review Commission, which would evaluate and suggest changes to the city’s primary governing document every 10 years.

Some proposals are already making the rounds through City Hall as bills. Others will need new legislation that has not yet been introduced. Scott did not offer a specific timeline for those, other than saying the work will take place over the next year and a half. 

Scott has been in the job since May, when he was elected by his peers to fill the seat vacated when then-City Council President Jack Young became mayor. The appointment is permanent — at least until the next election cycle. 


Scott has expressed interest in a 2020 mayoral campaign, but has not officially declared his candidacy.

Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.
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