Catherine Pugh inherits issues left unresolved by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake

Baltimore Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh (right) talks with current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who did not seek re-election, during a reconciliation event at Druid Hill Park. The event was held near where unrest began following the death of Freddie Gray.
Baltimore Mayor-elect Catherine E. Pugh (right) talks with current mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who did not seek re-election, during a reconciliation event at Druid Hill Park. The event was held near where unrest began following the death of Freddie Gray. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

After Catherine E. Pugh is inaugurated as Baltimore's mayor Tuesday, she will promptly face decisions on several contentious issues left unresolved by departing Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

Pugh, Baltimore's 50th mayor, will need to conclude a potentially costly legal agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to curb police misconduct and then negotiate a new contract with the city police union.


She also must decide whether to tear down Baltimore's Confederate-era monuments, whether to sell downtown parking garages to raise money for recreation centers and whether to bring back speed cameras turned off by Rawlings-Blake's administration.

Pugh's spokesman, Anthony McCarthy, says the new mayor plans to waste little time before addressing the issues.


She has announced five members of the leadership team that will advise her on these decisions. Pugh named former interim city schools CEO Tisha Edwards as her chief of staff, Del. Peter Hammen as her chief of operations, former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith as chief of strategic alliances, former Pennsylvania government official Karen Stokes as director of government relations and McCarthy as her director of communications.

In a statement, Pugh called the team "dynamic."

"This team has an exceptional track record of public service and they will help me to transform Baltimore into a thriving and vibrant city for businesses and residents," she said.

Supporters and critics of Baltimore's Police Department will watch closely as Pugh's administration completes the consent decree to regulate the agency.


In August, a 163-page Justice Department report stated that Baltimore police routinely violated the constitutional rights of residents by conducting unlawful stops and using excessive force, and that the practices overwhelmingly affect the city's black residents in low-income neighborhoods.

City and federal officials have been negotiating a court-ordered agreement that is expected to mandate major changes in the Police Department and the way it serves the city.

President-elect Donald J. Trump has selected Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama to become U.S. attorney general. Democrats in Baltimore worry that the Republican Trump administration will not be as tough on police misconduct as the Democratic Obama administration.

Baltimore NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston said she believes the Rawlings-Blake administration worked as quickly as possible to reach an agreement. She trusts Pugh to finish a strong deal that reforms the department.

"They were trying to move fast on it," Hill-Aston said. "I think everybody's frustrated because they wanted it done. We need it quick and we need it to get done. The sooner, the better."

Pugh has said she's worried about the cost of potentially expensive police reforms. Shortly after winning the general election, Pugh noted Rawlings-Blake had sought $30 million in state funding to comply with the decree. Pugh has argued that the federal government should also chip in.

"That money can't just be on the backs of Baltimore and its citizens," Pugh said. "If you're going to tell us we need to do that, then you need to provide some dollars."

Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University, said it's likely Sessions, if confirmed by the Senate, won't be as tough on police as his predecessor, Loretta Lynch.

"It seems very unlikely that this will be pushed very hard," Crenson said.

Pugh will also decide whether to keep or remove four Confederate-era monuments in Baltimore: the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue, the Confederate Women's Monument on West University Parkway, the Roger B. Taney Monument on Mount Vernon Place, and the Robert E. Lee and Thomas. J. "Stonewall" Jackson Monument in the Wyman Park Dell.

A mayoral commission appointed by Rawlings-Blake recommended removing the Taney statue and the Lee and Jackson memorial, but Rawlings-Blake elected to place new signs at the sites instead and left a final decision up to Pugh.

The signs approved by the mayor say in part: "This monument was part of a propaganda campaign of national pro-Confederate organizations to perpetuate the beliefs of white supremacy, falsify history, and support segregation and racial intimidation."

McCarthy said Pugh's staff was studying the issue.

The parking garage decision might not come as quickly because it will be "very controversial," Crenson said. Rawlings-Blake wants the city to sell the garages and use the expected $60 million windfall to increase recreation funding. City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young opposes that plan.

Pugh has said she will study the issue before making a decision.

The new mayor will also consider whether to bring back speed cameras, which were error-prone in Baltimore and were shut down by Rawlings-Blake. Pugh also must negotiate a new union contact with police. The current deal expired months ago.

Crenson said he believes Rawlings-Blake did not make a large number of important decisions in part because she spent much of the year dealing with fallout after Freddie Gray's death in April 2015 of injuries received in police custody and the resulting trials of police officers charged in connection with his arrest and death. None of the six officers was convicted.

"She had her hands full," Crenson said. "She had to deal with all these controversial matters at the same time."

As her team gets ready to tackle issues, Pugh plans a series of events Tuesday to celebrate her inauguration. The ceremony will be at 11 a.m. at the War Memorial Building, followed by a luncheon there open to the public.

Later, four free community receptions across the city and a $100-a-head party at a downtown hotel are planned.

The community receptions will be at the Middle Branch Rowing Club (1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.), Coppermine Du Burns Arena (2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.), Humanim (3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.) and Cylburn Arboretum (4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.)

The party — called "Our Whole City: A Celebration of Baltimore" — will be held at the Hilton Baltimore from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. McCarthy said ticket sales will pay for the event and any extra money will be donated to charity.

The Pugh Inaugural Committee Inc., is organizing the events.

The inauguration is expected to draw elected officials from several jurisdictions, including Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, considered a potential Democratic rival of Hogan's in 2018, also said he plans to attend.

"The future of Baltimore City is bright, and I look forward to working with Mayor Pugh to build that future," Kamenetz said in a statement.

After the inauguration, Hill-Aston said she expects the new mayor will get promptly to work.

"She has a big plate, a very big plate," she said. "There's a celebration and then the work begins. It's all hands on deck. We have a crucial time right now."



Inauguration Day street closures

The 11 a.m. mayoral inauguration today will close some downtown streets until 2 p.m.

Starting at 6:30 a.m.:

•Lexington Street from Guilford Avenue to Frederick Street

•Holliday Street from Saratoga to Lexington streets

•Dickey Place at Holliday Street

Starting at 9:30 a.m.:

•Fayette Street exit ramp from Interstate 83 southbound

•Fayette Street from President Street to Guilford Avenue

•Gay Street from Baltimore to Saratoga streets

•Holliday Street from Baltimore to Fayette streets

•Frederick Street from Lexington to Fayette streets

Pugh leadership team

•Chief of staff: Tisha Edwards. Edwards will be responsible for the day-to-day management of the mayor's office and will lead transition efforts, including restructuring city government. Edwards will coordinate the mayor's public safety strategy. She is executive vice president of corporate affairs for the JS Plank & DM DiCarlo Family Foundation and a former Interim CEO and chief of staff for Baltimore City's public schools.

•Chief of operations: Peter A. Hammen. Hammen will oversee 12 city agencies, including the public works, general services, health, finance and human resources departments and the Housing Authority of Baltimore City. Hammen has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1995 and chaired the Health and Government Operations Committee.

•Chief of strategic alliances: Jim Smith. Smith will oversee economic development efforts and the transportation, fire and emergency management departments. Smith is a former state transportation secretary, Baltimore County executive and a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge.

•Director of government relations: Karen Stokes. Stokes will serve as the mayor's primary lobbyist to the City Council, Maryland General Assembly and Congress. Stokes served as the director of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter's Office of Transition Planning and served in several critical roles for Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett.

•Director of communications: Anthony McCarthy. McCarthy will serve as the mayor's primary spokesman and coordinate public affairs for the mayor's office and all city agencies. McCarthy is a former editor-in-chief of the Afro-American newspapers and associate publisher of The Baltimore Times. He hosted talk shows on public radio stations WEAA 88.9 FM and WYPR 88.1 FM. He has served in various roles in the last four mayoral administrations and served as communications director for Rep. Elijah E. Cummings.