Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh delivered her second, “State of the City,” address March 12, in the chambers of the Baltimore City Council. When Pugh delivered her first State of the City in March 2017, Baltimore was learning about the sordid details connected to the now disgraced Gun Trace Task Force and the city was in the midst of a record breaking year for murder. Those dark days of 2017 have cast a long shadow upon all of us.

Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)

This week, Mayor Pugh argued in cautiously optimistic yet, confident tones that Baltimore is emerging from one of the city’s darkest chapters and is, “A city on the rise.”

“I begin my address by reminding all of us of the truly great city we claim as home. Despite too much national attention for all the wrong reasons, we know that our city, known for its irresistible charm is so much more,” Pugh said, alluding to our world class institutions of medicine and education, our sports teams, and a thriving cultural scene, which attracts, “tens of thousands of tourists and residents from neighboring counties…” Then, the mayor delivered her sober summary of last year’s record homicide rate, and the murder and mayhem that has gripped our city for far too long.

“Yes, ours is also a city with too much tragedy. Too much crime, too much devastation, sadness and loss,” Pugh said. “Each and every one of those 343 lost due to gun violence in 2017, left behind too many loved ones and the collateral damage done is generational. Too many wounds that will not heal any time soon. I mourn, as all of us do…It must not continue!”

And during the speech, Pugh gave significant attention to the corruption within the Baltimore Police Department, some argue is pervasive, embodied most boldly by the nefarious deeds of the now disbanded Gun Trace Task Force, which garnered national headlines.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh prepares to deliver her “State of the City” address in the chambers of the Baltimore City Council. (Photo by Sean Yoes)

“And then, there is that truly awful trial which exposed the very worst of those who betrayed the public trust. The evidence made clear that certain members of our police department were themselves criminals,” Pugh said. “The victimization of our community by those former officers – and the others also implicated – disgraced this police department and disgraced our city. They will now suffer the justice they deserve…The Gun Trace Task Force unit, its renegade culture and the sordid testimony that shocked us every day … will long remind us of one of the most egregious moments in our City’s history…it is a history I vow under my watch never to repeat…We will root out bad police, and we will reform this department…”

Pugh went on to talk at length and in some detail about law enforcement reform and her multi-faceted approach (partnering with leaders across the state, including Gov. Larry Hogan), to provide improved public safety for Baltimore. As expected, she heaped praise upon her new Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa. And she also name checked several of the grassroots groups and individuals that keep the city from being torn asunder, including: UMAR Boxing, No Hooks Before Books, Ray Kelly and the No Boundaries Coalition, Ericka Bridgeford and Baltimore Ceasefire, KEYES Development, Hugs Don’t Shoot, Community Mediation, among others.

Ultimately, I thought Mayor Pugh delivered a clear-eyed, thorough assessment of our city’s many manifest ills, and cogently illuminated a plausible path forward (and identified many of the remedies already implemented). One community leader in attendance during the speech (who did not want to be identified in this column), said, “She seems to be finding her stride.”

I agree.

I’ve been very critical in this column (and on the airwaves) of the Baltimore Police Department and the previous administration and rightfully so. At times I’ve been skeptical of the current administration (publicly and privately), as well.

However, I believe the mayor deserves space to manifest her vision for the city we love, not with impunity, but with some patience (minus the snark that sometimes accompanies reporting and analysis).

I personally pray, she…we are successful.

Sean Yoes is the Baltimore editor of the AFRO American and the host and executive producer of the AFRO First Edition video podcast, which airs Monday and Friday at 5 p.m. on the AFRO’s Facebook page.


Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor