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Pugh, Young to travel to Vegas for business convention

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young are going to Vegas.

Mayor Catherine Pugh and City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young plan to travel to Las Vegas in May to attend the Global Retail Real Estate Convention.

Baltimore's Board of Estimates, on which both politicians sit, approved more than $11,000 Wednesday for Young and two aides to attend the conference from May 21 to May 25.

Pugh spokesman Anthony McCarthy said the mayor also will attend. Her expenses have not yet come before the city's spending panel.

"I will go focused to lure supermarkets to food deserts, sit-down restaurants, movie theaters and entertainment and attract venues to neighborhoods like Liberty Heights, where we located a ShopRite Supermarket but did not develop the retail corridor around it," Pugh said.

McCarthy said Pugh is considering sending a smaller contingent to the convention than previous mayors.

"The city in the past has sent a lot of representatives there," McCarthy said. "The mayor is very clear: She is the cheerleader for the city. She is the chief salesperson for the city. She doesn't need the level of staffing that previous administrations may have had."

McCarthy said he knows prominent Baltimore businesses, including Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank's Sagamore Development Corp., also will be in attendance. Sagamore is building a $5.5 billion development in Port Covington with the help of $660 million in city-approved tax increment financing bonds.

"I know she's very aware of not only Sagamore but other private entities that will be going to Las Vegas, hoping to drum up private-sector support as well as to help us to promote the amenities of the city of Baltimore," said McCarthy, calling Sagamore a "huge corporate partner."

During the convention in Las Vegas last year, Sagamore was one of the sponsors of a "Maryland Party" — an event attended by Pugh, Gov. Larry Hogan, former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and City Councilman Carl Stokes, chairman of the committee that approved the tax deal.

As guests left the party, they were given black ballcaps promoting Sagamore's new rye whiskey. On the caps, in bold letters, was a web address: BuildPortCovington.com.

The city has credited past attendance at the conference with helping to bring a Ross clothing store and several grocery stores including a PriceRite, Harris Teeter and a Target to Baltimore, among other retail developments.

Pugh flew there and back last year on the private jet of a Maryland businessman and campaign donor, sparking criticism. Pugh said she asked Walter A. Tilley Jr., CEO of Home Paramount Pest Control, for a ride and paid $650 for the trip.

In 2013, Rawlings-Blake officiated a wedding while in Las Vegas for the conference. Two of the top lobbyists in Baltimore, Lisa Harris Jones and Sean Malone, were married. Pugh was among those in attendance at the wedding.

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