Election Day had a dubious beginning for 40th District Sen. Catherine Pugh. Reports surfaced early that people allegedly promised Election Day jobs by the Pugh campaign, began to damage property near her West Baltimore campaign headquarters, when they were turned away. But, of course for Pugh and her supporters the day ended splendidly.
It’s been a long time coming for the veteran public servant.
She was first elected to Baltimore City Council in 1999, the same year Sheila Dixon was elected City Council President. Pugh challenged Dixon for the Council President’s chair in 2003 and lost. But, I remember those Pugh campaign signs stayed up on that building (it used to be a bank) at the corner of North Ave. and Charles Street, hovering over that prominent intersection for years after her failed campaign. Perhaps, it was Pugh’s way of saying to the people of Baltimore, “I’ll be back.”
Now, that Pugh has engineered her successful rematch against Dixon for the most powerful political chair in Baltimore City, where does she begin? This week marks one year since the uprising dramatically altered the city’s trajectory and set ablaze Baltimore’s myriad structural challenges for the rest of the world to see.
During my radio show on August 25, I asked Pugh what her number one priority would be.
“I think there’s not one issue you should focus on…I think you have to get your arm around all of these issues,” Pugh said before going further. “The first part of my administration…will be listening, the other part of it will be creating transparency for city government…I’ve always been a multi-tasker so I’ll be having meetings all across the city talking with business leaders, philanthropic leaders and bringing people together,” she added.
Pugh certainly has a reputation for being a hard worker, coming up with inclusive, innovative proposals like the Baltimore Marathon (I remember several years ago when she floated the idea of bringing back the Baltimore City Fair, maybe the time is right now) and bringing people together. After all, she brought together a phalanx of some of Baltimore’s most influential leaders from the political establishment like, Kweisi Mfume, Billy Murphy, Sen. Joan Carter Conway and Rep. Elijah Cummings, among others, who endorsed her in the final days of the campaign.
But, if Pugh does indeed go on to defeat her Republican opponent, Alan Walden in the General Election in November, you know what would be great? If at some point during her first year in office, one or several of the policies she puts in place pisses off some or all of the political establishment that rallied around her to put her in the big chair at City Hall. Some demonstrative shot across the bow to let the people know she understands, that business as usual in Baltimore has not and will not work.
Maybe Pugh could pull back the curtain on all the financial machinations connected to the massive Port Covington development deal. Or she could threaten to torpedo the whole damn deal, unless Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank, and owner of Sagamore Development, kicks out $50 million (basically a tithe on the TIFF) to directly revitalize adjacent Cherry Hill communities…for example.
Maybe the Democratic nominee for mayor could offer an influential position to 41st District Delegate Jill Carter, the woman known by many as, “the people’s champion.” Carter, a consummate outsider, delivered what many thought was an implausible endorsement of Pugh, who many believe is the embodiment of establishment politics in Baltimore. A prominent role for Carter would seem to send a clear message.
Maybe in her first 30 days Pugh could order a full, financial and performance audit from the basement to the top floor of Baltimore City Public Schools headquarters at North Avenue.
Bottom line is, now that Pugh has the big chair, what’s she going to do with it?
Everybody is watching and waiting.
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.