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Politicsby Mark Reutter7:08 pmMay 16, 20160

City Council votes to sustain the status quo

The Council backs down from a confrontation with the mayor, gets a tongue-lashing from President Jack Young

Above: Council President Jack Young presides at the podium during the City Council’s override votes. (Alex Kaplan)

If Baltimore’s City Council gets mocked as a powerless do-nothing body, it has only itself to blame, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young said tonight, chiding members for their failure to override a mayoral veto of a bill granting the Council limited spending powers.

“This body oftentimes complains to different advocacy groups [that it doesn’t have the power to change the mayor’s budget]. But when we get a chance to shifting this body, we sit back and just be passive about it,” Young said following the about-face of several members who had approved the bill four weeks ago (details).

“When it comes to budget time and you go to your constituents and say, ‘All we can do is cut, we can’t add,’ then look in the mirror and blame yourself,” Young added.

The Power of Lame Ducks

Four members of the Council, all of whom will be leaving in December, changed their votes tonight, leading to the bill’s 9-5 defeat (the bill needed 12 votes to override the mayoral veto).

The members who switched from “yes” to “no” votes in the space of one month were Robert Curran, Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, Nick Mosby and William “Pete” Welch (who tried unsuccessfully to change his vote to “yes” after the roll call).

Lame-duck Councilman James B. Kraft was out of town and absent.

A second bill vetoed by the mayor, which would remove the voting rights of the city solicitor and director of public works at the Board of Estimates, leaving the board with only the Mayor, City Council President and City Comptroller – failed 8-5, with one abstention (Brandon Scott) and one absence (Kraft).

On this bill, Councilman Eric Costello switched his “yea” vote to a “nay,” joined by Curran, Spector, Warren Branch and Nick Mosby (who also voted against the bill at the April 18 meeting).

Council members did not explain their votes during the meeting except for Mary Pat Clarke, who asked for a clarification before she voted “yes” on the Council spending bill.

At the Council’s luncheon today, where bills are informally discussed before the meeting, Young made an impassioned speech calling on the Council to override the mayor’s vetoes.

Pugh Against the Bills

Members Helen Holton, Edward Reisinger and Clarke voiced their support of the override. Several members who wound up voting against the overrides were not present at the meeting.

In vetoing the measures, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said they would undercut a future mayor’s priorities, destabilize financial discipline and result in divided decision-making that would hobble economic growth.

State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, who declared victory in the mayoral Democratic primary last month, recently met with Young and also voiced her objections to the bills.

Young said today that her opposition did not change his mind. “I want to give the new administration an opportunity, but I asked the Council, just pass the bills and let the citizens decide.”

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