On Tuesday, Ex Officio Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young raised some eyebrows after saying to WYPR-FM’s Tom Hall that he would “hate to see” Pugh attempt a return to the mayor’s office following her “Healthy Holly” scandal.
But at a wide-ranging press conference this morning at City Hall, Young said his words from the radio were taken out of context, and that he doesn’t see how he could have been misinterpreted.
“What I was saying was I would hate to see what would the response be,” he tried to clarify. “That’s what I meant. I don’t know why it was interpreted any different way.”
His words, he elaborated, were specific to the scenario of Pugh entertaining a political comeback after the entire Baltimore City Council, city House delegation and the Greater Baltimore Committee’s board called for her to resign. It was in light of those demands from others that “I would hate to see what the response would be,” Young said. “That’s simple.”
The council president of nine years has stepped into Pugh’s place for more than three weeks now, as the city charter demands. Today he said in addition to filling in for official capacities, he’s also been personally pursuing a citywide cleanup by calling in messy alleys and trash he spots laying around. “You should see it, clean it up—that’s what I’ve been saying all over,” Young said of his reports (presumably to the Department of Public Works), channeling the ethos of late Mayor and Gov. William Donald “Do It Now” Schaefer.
Young reiterated a key thrust from his chat with Hall yesterday, saying there’s little officials can do presently to force the mayor’s hand. He also declined to join his council colleagues’ resignation demands, saying, “That’s her decision.”
Standing next to Young, City Solicitor Andre Davis addressed questions about language in the city charter about a mayoral removal or leave of absence. “Zero—that’s what the charter says,” Davis said. “The charter is utterly silent on how long a leave can last, exactly what the reasons are for a leave—there’s just nothing in the charter to address that.”
City lawmakers are working on it. Council members Kristerfer Burnett (8th District), Bill Henry (4th District) and others are holding a press conference before next Monday’s full council meeting to unveil new bills for “mayoral removal by council vote,” overriding mayoral vetos and giving council members power to recommend spending decisions in the budget, per a press advisory.
Young said his focus now is it to “steer the ship,” though he did offer some fresh emotional caution about any potential comeback effort by Pugh, who remains out sick with pneumonia.
“Because of all of the groundswell of asking her to resign, it would be devastating for her” to try to return, Young said. “I wouldn’t want her to see her feelings hurt. That’s tough. I’ll leave it at that.”
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