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Baltimore City Council Overrides Mayor’s Veto On Administrator Charter Amendment

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The Baltimore City Council unanimously overrode Mayor Jack Young’s veto of a charter amendment that would create a city administrator position to oversee day-to-day operations during a special session Thursday night.

That means the amendment and six others will be on city voters’ ballots in November.

 

“The mayor will always be responsible, always carry the weight, will always be held accountable by the voters of Baltimore City,” City Council President Brandon Scott said after the vote. “What this [amendment] does do, however, is make our government more professionalized.”

The charter amendment was introduced by Scott, who won the Democratic mayoral primary in June. In deep-blue Baltimore, that’s tantamount to winning the general election. 

Scott argued that the amendment’s passage would bring Baltimore City into the 21st century, as the majority of Maryland counties and Washington, D.C. all have city administrator roles.

Under the bill, a city administrator would be appointed and supervised by the mayor. The duties of a city administrator are similar to the responsibilities of chief business executives; they oversee logistics, focus on improving performance, and increase government responsiveness to resident’s needs. 

In a letter explaining his veto late last month, Young argued that adding the role to the city’s charter is unnecessary: A mayor could simply appoint someone to carry out the duties of a city administrator, he wrote.

“Anyone can walk down the street and find an example of our government not working as effectively as it could be,” Scott said. “I am proud of this council for overriding the mayor’s veto and sending this measure to the voters.” 

Councilman Leon Pinkett, a Democrat representing West Baltimore, previously voted against the bill. Originally, he said before voting in favor of the override, he thought the ability of mayors to hire their executives meant the amendment was not necessary.  

“This is not an attempt at self promotion or a grab for power,” Pinkett said in reference to the likely incoming mayor.  “It’s appropriate for the citizens of Baltimore to have their say about this amendment.”

The bill was one in a package of so-called “good government” charter amendments focused on transparency and structure introduced  by progressive Democratic councilmembers in the wake of former mayor Catherine Pugh’s Healthy Holly scandal last year. 

 

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