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  December 8, 2016

New Baltimore Mayor Plans Regional Approach to Problems Like Poverty and Drug Addiction


Pugh says her connection to state leaders are key to addressing the city's intractable poverty, police reform, and a living wage
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AUDIENCE: Go, Cathy, go!

TAYA GRAHAM: The mood was festive inside the Baltimore War Memorial Plaza as the city welcomed its 50th Mayor, State Senator Catherine Pugh, a veteran politician who rose through the ranks of the city council, then to a majority leader of the State Senate to a narrow victory in the primary earlier this year. And it is her path to power which may define her tenure -- a quite different route from her predecessors, like Former Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who rose solely through city-wide politics. Pugh extolled her experience at the Maryland State Capitol as one of her strengths. And as proof on hand to celebrate her inaugural were some of the most powerful politicians in the state: Senate Majority Leader Mike Miller, House Majority Leader Michael Bush, and Governor Larry Hogan.

LARRY HOGAN(?): And I could not be more confident that under her leadership, and with a renewed partnership between the Governor's Office in Annapolis and the leadership in the City of Baltimore, that by working together we truly can change Baltimore and Maryland for the better.

TAYA GRAHAM: Further burnishing her state-wide connections was a recent announcement of the appointment of former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, to a strategic partnership and Cabinet post. In an interview earlier this year with The Real News, Pugh says her state-wide approach is the only way to solve the city's intractable problems.

CATHERINE PUGH: We know that we have a high unemployment rate in this city, we know we have a drug addiction problem in this city, but we also know that many of the problems that this city faces just don't lie at the doorsteps of Baltimore City itself.

TAYA GRAHAM: An approach she says means holding accountable surrounding jurisdictions for the variety of problems she says are almost always blamed on Baltimore: concentrated poverty, high crime and the litany of social ills with accompany both.

CATHERINE PUGH: When you think about, for example, Baltimore now, as I call it, "the drug treatment centre for the State of Maryland," we have more drug treatment centers here than any other jurisdiction in the State. Anne Arundel County got its first drug treatment center, but if you stop people on the streets -- and I do this -- I do this when I'm having conversations with homeless people on our streets. I don't give out money. I might give out a bottle of water. I'll say, "Well, where are you from?" You know, they're from counties surrounding our city. I mean, not to say that we don't have homelessness in our own city, because we do. But they're from all over -- and as far as Virginia. I asked a young man, "So, why are you here?" He said, "I think I'm going to make this home."

TAYA GRAHAM: It would be a stark departure from her predecessor, Rawlings-Blake, who publicly feuded with Governor Hogan. But a different approach Pugh says is necessary if the city is not going to just survive, but thrive.

CATHERINE PUGH: We can't walk by and think that their problems are not our problems, because they are. We can change the problems that we're facing. We're up for the challenge. We're up for the challenge because the road is packed and has been paved for success.

TAYA GRAHAM: This is Stephen Janis and Taya Graham reporting for The Real News Network.

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