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Mayor Jack Young needs to get back to Baltimore — now

At 3:30 p.m. today, a private attorney stepped in front of a bank of microphones in his downtown Baltimore office and told the city that the mayor had resigned. Catherine Pugh wasn’t there. She hasn’t been seen or heard from in public in weeks. Bernard C. “Jack” Young, the former City Council president who is now mayor, wasn’t either. He’s in Detroit at a conference. Andre Davis, the city solicitor who reportedly drafted the resignation letter that Ms. Pugh signed, wasn’t either.

We are as happy as anyone that Ms. Pugh decided to resign in the wake of the Healthy Holly scandal and last week’s FBI raids on her homes, office and other locations. It was clearly necessary; she could not possibly have governed effectively given the public’s loss of faith in her integrity and leadership. But we are unnerved by the way it happened. The only sign in this afternoon’s events of anyone actually elected by the people of Baltimore was Ms. Pugh’s signature on a piece of paper handed out by her attorney, Steven Silverman, the same man who a few days ago said his client was not “lucid” enough to make a decision about whether to stay in office. Now, without the chance to see and hear — much less question — Ms. Pugh, we must simply take it for granted that she is making this choice freely?

We understand that this situation must be intensely painful to Ms. Pugh, a woman who threw herself fully into the role of mayor as the culmination of decades in elective office. No doubt it would have been immeasurably difficult for her to face the city whose confidence she had lost. But she is the one who asked us to entrust her to exercise power on our behalf, and she is the one who betrayed that compact. She owes us the opportunity to look her in the eye. Instead what we got was the municipal equivalent of a break-up by text message.

Meanwhile, we have been impressed with Mr. Young’s composure, humility and dedication since he stepped in as acting mayor a month ago, but he needs to get back to town, now. He told The Sun’s Ian Duncan that he doesn't want to waste city money by changing his flight, which is scheduled for Sunday. That is absurd. In case he hasn’t gotten the memo, this is a big deal. His presence has been reassuring since the crisis at City Hall began, and Baltimore needs it now.

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