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Young Approves Expanded Budget Power For City Council, Vetoes City Administrator Bill

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Patrick Semansky/AP
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  The Baltimore City Council may soon have more power in the city’s budgeting process, after Mayor Jack Young signed a charter amendment to grant the legislative body the ability to move funds on Monday night.

The Democrat’s approval means the amendment will appear on Baltimore voters’ ballots in November. Voters tend to approve such referendums; in 2016, every proposed city charter amendment passed. 

Councilman Bill Henry of North Baltimore introduced the amendment last year in the wake of former mayor Catherine Pugh’s Healthy Holly scandal. In 2016, Pugh vetoed a similar measure of Henry’s, which the councilman has argued will allow for a more democratic budgeting process.

“In 2018, a group of organizers and volunteers attempted to collect 10,000 signatures to get this issue on the ballot - and they nearly succeeded,” the Democrat said in a statement. “This time, after hours of hearings and public input, the issue will finally find its way to the ballot. I, for one, am excited to vote to balance the power of City government a little bit more equitably.”

Henry said he is hopeful that giving the council the power to move money around will give future administrations the incentive to include the City Council, and by extension the public, in the creation of better budgets.

Henry won the Democratic primary for city comptroller last month.  

In other action Monday, the mayor vetoed a charter amendment that would have added a city administrator to City Hall, a proposal introduced by City Council President Brandon Scott. 

In a statement, Scott said he was disappointed. 

“Establishing this position is about putting best practices of city government into policy and bringing technical expertise to their administrations in order to better serve the people of Baltimore,” he said. “I am committed to building a transparent and accountable government that works better for all Baltimoreans. I will not back down on this commitment.”

Scott, the Democratic nominee for mayor, is heavily favored to win the general election in November and could renew his push for the amendment after he takes office.

Young’s office did not return a request for comment.

 

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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