In a break from tradition, Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young will deliver the annual “State of the City” address on a university campus rather than at City Hall.
The March 23 event is scheduled at Coppin State University, where a 975-seat auditorium can fit many more people than the City Council chambers. Mayors typically lay out new initiatives, celebrate successes and address challenges during their annual address before the council.
Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, said the idea is to improve accessibility and go “where the people are.”
But two months out from a contentious Democratic mayoral primary that includes the mayor and Council President Brandon Scott, a handful of council members perceived the change in location as a slight.
Scott sent a letter Thursday to the mayor, saying he and other council members learned of the address via Facebook. He said he was “disappointed” the mayor’s office didn’t work with him to find a “mutually agreeable date.”
“We look forward to your address and are willing to work around this date and location,” he wrote, but said the office needs to provide certain accommodations. The speech is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.; there’s a council lunch meeting scheduled for noon.
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Democratic Councilman Ed Reisinger said that throughout his quarter-century in office, he’s never seen a mayor deliver a State of the City address outside City Hall. He said he viewed the decision as a reflection of tension between the mayor and council president.
“Something like this is not appropriate," he said. "You have to respect the council as an institution and I don’t think that’s happening.”
In an email informing the council of the event Wednesday night, Davis said the mayor is “excited to bring the address directly to the community by hosting the event at Coppin State University.”
“It should never be viewed as a bad thing when public servants get out of City Hall and go be among the community,” he said Thursday.
It will be Young’s first State of the City speech. He took office last spring when Democrat Catherine Pugh resigned amid the “Healthy Holly” scandal over her sales of self-published children’s books.
Democratic Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said the audience at the State of the City address is typically almost entirely elected officials and agency heads. In the new venue, she said, more people can attend.
“It’s a tradition, and one we’re proud of, that the State of the City is given in City Hall," she said. “But it seems understandable that the mayor wants to deliver it, in effect, to the public as well as to the council and has chosen to do it this way.”