If Mayor Pugh resigns, who becomes City Council President

As the fourteen members of the Baltimore City Council decided to call on the resignation of Mayor Catherine Pugh, they sent a clear and concise message that they were willing to move on with a new leader – Bernard ‘Jack’ Young.

Young, the third-term City Council President who is currently acting as the city’s Ex Officio Mayor during the indefinite absence of Mayor Pugh, would continue to serve out the remainder of the mayor’s term if she decides to take her colleagues advice. And even though Young has stressed the fact that he will run for another term as council president, and not mayor, regardless of what Pugh decides; he would still serve as Mayor at least until December of 2020.

What isn’t as clear is who exactly will serve out the remaining term for Young as City Council President, which is currently being held by 6th district councilwoman Sharon Green-Middleton.

Immediately following a possible Pugh resignation, Young would officially be sworn-in as the interim mayor for the remaining year and half of Pugh’s term. This will leave a vacancy in the office of the Council President, which will have to be filled by a majority of the fourteen members on the Baltimore City Council. And though Middleton was appointed ex-officio President during Pugh’s absence, it’s unlikely she can garner the eight votes necessary to stay in that position if the Mayor decides to call it quits.

Her likely opponent in trying to count to eight votes in order to ascend to that citywide post – 2nd District Councilman Brandon Scott. The 35-year old East Baltimore Councilman is said to have already secured the necessary votes if Mayor Pugh resigns in the coming days or weeks; leaving Middleton to have to go back to representing the citizens of the 6th council district. If Scott does prevail, that will then vacate his council seat, leading to another council vote on who they deem suitable to serve out the remainder of Scott’s third term.

That person is also said to have the votes necessary to ensure their success, as she is no stranger to local politics. Danielle ‘Danny’ McCray, the sister of first-term State Senator Cory McCray, is rumored to be the likely replacement for Scott, if he garners the necessary votes to become the city’s interim Council President. McCray has already been rumored to be gearing up to run for council in the 2nd district, as Scott was rumored to be preparing for a citywide run for either Mayor, or Council President.

But here’s the tricky part!

Jack Young, will be serving as interim Mayor while running for re-election as Council President during next April’s democratic primary elections. And interim Council President, Brandon Scott (if he secures the votes), would likely be running in a crowded field to be the next Mayor of the City of Baltimore. This will likely be the most confusing, and complex, election season that the voters of Baltimore have witnessed in quite some time. In fact, it’s so strange that there have already been rumors that if this scenario were to take place in the coming weeks, that Young would voluntarily resign as Mayor, allow Scott to ascend to the Mayor’s seat during the interim, and then have the members of the City Council vote him back in as their choice for interim Council President – ahead of the 2020 Primary Elections.

Now the voters would still have their say as to who they want representing them in each position next year, but this would at least allow both Young and Scott to serve in the positions they plan to run for, lessening the confusion to voters when heading to the ballot box. However, a plan to this magnitude would probably cause more confusion that its worth, making Baltimore City a bigger laughingstock than we already are; and there are no guarantees for Young that the eight votes he needs from the members of the City Council will be secure if he does follow through with this elaborate scheme.

Nonetheless, the members of the City Council will have a lot of decisions to make over the coming weeks and months; which should include bold leadership on seeking to reform City Hall and the power vested in the Mayor’s Office. Two such reforms should include putting in place a way for members of the council or the voters themselves, to remove a Mayor under such scrutiny either through a recall process or a special election; as well as eliminating the two mayoral appointees on the Board of Estimates – the powerful spending body that currently allows for the mayor to get anything they deem fit passed by having three of the five votes from the start.

By eliminating these members, who are department heads answerable to the mayor who appoints them to their position, you will have three citywide elected officials – the Mayor, Council President and Comptroller – who are answerable to only one entity, the voters who duly elected them to their office and who can decide to vote their butts out due to their votes on this powerful panel. Both measures would be charter amendments that would go before the voters during next years General Election. And both are more substantive than a worthless memo calling on the Mayor to resign, knowing that they have no constitutional authority to ensure that their demands are heard.

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