Dear Mayor Pugh,
I kind of felt for you when the news broke this week that you’d been slapped with a $500 fine for replacing your slate roof with asphalt shingles without permission — a no-no in your historic neighborhood. That just seemed like piling on given all else you’re dealing with right now: a lengthy “sick leave” (cough, cough) for pneumonia recovery, multiple calls for your ouster and, as of today, FBI and IRS raids at your homes, City Hall, your lawyer’s office and elsewhere in connection with your unethical sales of the embarrassing Healthy Holly book series and other suspect dealings.
I, too, own an older home in Baltimore City with a slate roof on its last legs, and heaven knows that if you can’t afford to replace yours with more slate, I certainly can’t on a journalist’s salary. I mean, you make $185,000 a year — more than twice what I make — even when you’re not actually working! Plus, I have a child in city public schools, which means my husband and I have had to commit to making a monthly contribution to close this year’s budget gap so the kids don’t pay for the adults’ mistakes. So you understand why I’m a little strapped, and I understand why you are: Lawyers are pricey.
But because I do own that home in the city (my second, as a matter of fact) and am raising a family here, my sympathy for you stretches only so far.
You need to get the frick out.
Baltimore can’t take any more corrupt cops, commissioners or mayors. The city’s crime, violence and systemic racism are more than enough to handle without leadership also making us the focus of national news, late night jokes, snarky comments from the counties and heartbreaking questions from our kids. Our reputation — and the murders, of course — are killing us.
I understand that hanging on to your position — at a cost of 506.85 tax dollars a day — might be your only bargaining chip with prosecutors, should it come to that. But given the scope of the recent raids, you appear to be on another level from the last corrupt mayor and unlikely to be offered such a sweet deal. Sure, Sheila Dixon was able to commit perjury and embezzlement and still cop a plea allowing her to resign and keep her $83,000 pension and even erase her criminal record. But if the feds and others investigating you get the goods, you’re probably not looking at a probation-before-judgment kind of sentence. Ms. Dixon misappropriated $500 in gift cards; you sold at least $800,000 worth of crappy kids’ books to people over whom you wielded political power.
I also realize you may not think you did anything wrong. You rarely do, judging by your reaction to criticism. But even if you believe your book sales were on the up and up, failing to disclose them was not. And residents know it, along with all the official types calling for your resignation, including: Gov. Larry Hogan, the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Baltimore City Council, various Maryland lawmakers and The Sun’s editorial board.
Each day you stay does more damage to a city you claim to love. Meanwhile, your neighbors and mine are out there doing the hard work of bettering Baltimore every day: coaching and tutoring kids and cleaning up the streets. Heck, my 6 year old and her buddies spent a recent Saturday afternoon picking up trash in the city as part of a “Clean-up Club” they founded.
And now, it’s time to clean house. While you may not have been convicted of a crime, continuing to collect a salary under these circumstances is criminal.
You’ve got to go.
Tricia Bishop is The Sun's deputy editorial page editor. Her column runs every other Friday. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @triciabishop.