Catherine Pugh is sworn in as the 50th Mayor of Baltimore City at a ceremony held at the War Memorial. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
She did not ask for it, but here's my list of 10 things Catherine Pugh can do to be a successful mayor:
1. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan spoke at your inauguration about a "renewed" relationship with Baltimore's mayor. Take full advantage of that opening, and ask for money for projects that a Republican businessman with a real estate background will love. Such as …
2. A state-assisted "dollar house" program like the one we had here in the 1970s: Prospective homeowners buy a vacant house from the city for a dollar and commit to renovating it (with a low-interest loan from the state) and living in it for 10 years.
3. Use a speechwriter. If you don't have one, hire one. Your inaugural speech was disappointing, a missed opportunity to say what you want to accomplish. Speaking off the cuff and from the heart can be a good thing, in certain circumstances. But on the day of your inauguration, Baltimoreans deserved more than a refried campaign speech.
4. Speaking of speeches: Give a series of talks at the colleges in and around Baltimore and ask students to consider putting down roots here and getting involved in making Baltimore a great city. Tell them your administration will work hard at helping startups and established businesses so that there's more opportunity for them. Promote the amenities that young people desire, and make sure they know about incentives for first-time homebuyers. Make this direct appeal, and you'll be building on a trend of the last decade. By 2012, a survey by the Baltimore Collegetown Network found the percentage of students who planned to remain in Baltimore had climbed from 19 percent to 38 percent. Two years ago, a study by the City Observatory think tank showed impressive growth in the number of college-educated people, ages 25 to 34, living within three miles of downtown; the increase was fourth-highest among all metropolitan areas. Young people seek not only careers but lives of meaning, being part of something big. Tell them you want them to be part of the next Baltimore.
5. Find a way to keep the conversation going between Baltimore's police and its citizens. That relationship is essential to public safety. The police commissioner, Kevin Davis, appears to lead with a steady hand, but it's clear that the city has a long way to go to reduce the shootings and the killings and, ultimately, change the perception that crime is out of control. This is the hard work of being a leader in Baltimore — staying focused on a mind-numbing problem that sucks the life out of the best of mayors and commissioners. Talk to citizens. Talk to cops. Keep them talking to each other.
6. Almost every conversation about a problem in Baltimore — crime, unemployment and underemployment, multigenerational poverty — ends up at education as a solution. The schools are so important. It would be great to hear a mayor champion them. Former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake deserves big props: She worked with the General Assembly to leverage $1 billion for new construction and renovation of schools. Those improvements present an opportunity for a full renaissance of public education in Baltimore. Mayor Pugh, who has cheerleader chops from her days at Morgan State University, should be a champion of city schools. One day per week, visit three of them: Praise teachers, encourage students, implore parents to be involved in their kids' education. Get the local television stations to produce and air clever, 30-second public service videos about the importance of an education. Be the education mayor.
7. And speaking of clever, 30-second public service videos: Ask the local stations to produce and air a series about trash. Here's another opportunity to use your cheerleader chops. The so-called "rain tax" helped the city finance an expansion of street sweepers that now reach neighborhoods that never used to see one, and Mr. Trash Wheel, now joined by Professor Trash Wheel, are gobbling garbage flowing to the Inner Harbor. Some stretches that were once constant eyesores — a section of Harford Road near Clifton Park, for instance — look downright superb these days. Still, too many Baltimoreans dump trash in city streets and on vacant lots. We have not had a good anti-litter campaign in decades. It's time for one again.
8. Jump on the arabbers' wagon. For too long, the city has made a problem out of an opportunity by attempting to eliminate the horse-drawn produce wagons instead of celebrating this Baltimore tradition. You are good at organizing things, Mayor Pugh. Organize a group to preserve the arabbers and help them thrive.
9. If you need to make a decision that gives you pause for an ethical consideration — a conflict of interest, for instance — stop and think. If the situation feels hinky, it probably is. Get legal counsel. Get an opinion from the ethics board. As much as I like when Sun reporters get scoops, I don't want to be reading about ethical lapses in the newspaper.