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New Mayor Catherine Pugh: A Bright Spot of New Leadership for the City

By Staff Writer Caroline Lupetini ‘19

· Caroline Lupetini

(image from Wikimedia)

Catherine E. Pugh was sworn in on December 6th as Baltimore’s 50th mayor. A businesswoman with a lengthy Maryland political career, Pugh won the Democratic primary, beating out former mayor Sheila Dixon 37 to 34%, going on to then win 57.1% of the popular vote on November 8th. Pugh ran on a campaign that promoted economic inclusion, including for citizens returning from prison. Further, she pledged to work towards eliminating boarded-up homes and reducing food deserts, and also expansion of transportation and healthcare options for residents of Baltimore.

Pugh’s public service record over the last fifteen years has been exemplary: in 1999, Pugh began representing the 4th district in the City Council, and in 2005 she was appointed to the Maryland House of Delegates, a seat she held until 2006 when she was elected into the Maryland State Senate. At the time of her election as Baltimore mayor, she was the Senate Majority Leader. Pugh was an extreme success in the Maryland Senate, passing over 150 pieces of legislation and being named Legislator of the Year in 2010 by the City Paper.

Pugh has also been praised by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, for her bipartisan approach to politics. “I could not be more confident that — under her leadership and under a renewed partnership between the governor's office in Annapolis and the leadership in the city of Baltimore — by working together we truly can change Baltimore and Maryland for the better,” Hogan said. According to the Baltimore Sun, the relationship between Gov. Hogan and former mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake grew increasingly strained, and there is hope as to a more fresh and successful relationship between Annapolis and Baltimore with Pugh as mayor. Even more, Pugh and Hogan are planning on a joint trip to Washington, D.C. to discuss with President-elect Donald J. Trump the prospects for federal investment in Baltimore’s infrastructure.

Many others look forward to Pugh’s leadership, including Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, who gave his endorsement to Pugh during the election and also spoke at her inauguration ceremony. Rep. Cummings spoke of Pugh’s leadership during the Uprising in April and May 2015, following the death of Freddie Gray. Gov. Hogan, too, called Pugh a “fierce advocate for the people of this community.”

Looking ahead to her tenure as mayor, this author would name improving community relations with law enforcement a primary goal that Pugh should adopt, and it is one that Pugh has already prioritized by her experience as state senator and a community leader. Pugh will have to address widespread police misconduct, as brought up by the Department of Justice’s report released in August, as well as negotiate with the Baltimore police union for a new contract.

Further, creating job growth in the city of Baltimore will start with creating new initiatives to bring capital into the city and reinvigorate the city’s population. Certainly Pugh’s experience gives one hope as to what more she can bring to Baltimore city. Pugh began the Baltimore Running Festival sixteen years ago, and she says that it has brought over $30 million to Baltimore. She also helped found the Baltimore Design School, a public middle and high school in East Baltimore that specializes its curriculum on fashion design, graphic design, and architecture, while also providing a full range of more traditional courses, like history, calculus, physics, and English. This achievement speaks to Pugh’s dedication to bring more 21st-century-focused vocational curricula to Baltimore.

More directly relevant to our community here at Johns Hopkins, Pugh has made it a commitment to encourage recent graduates of Baltimore colleges to stay in the city. When successful young people choose to stay and put down roots in Baltimore, jobs will be created and more capital will be attracted into the city. Pugh wrote of these hopes in an article published shortly after the Uprising. She hopes to encourage this development with a low cost housing program in which residents will pledge to live in a formerly vacant home that has been refurbished using the skills and labor from citizens returning from prison.

This author certainly hopes for the best in Pugh’s tenure as Baltimore mayor. She has proved she has the experience and capacity to bring great things to this city, and by the time I graduate from this university, I am looking forward to a revived Baltimore.

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