Six months into her administration, Mayor Catherine Pugh today named a new director for the Department of Transportation and split the Housing Commissioner’s position into two jobs, offering one to a veteran of city government and the other to a public housing official who most recently worked in New York City.
Pugh attributed the delay in filling these positions to the need to finalize the federal police consent decree and to secure more resources for cash-strapped city schools.
“These things have taken time,” she said, noting that Baltimore’s negotiations with Department of Justice over unconstitutional policing were concluded more rapidly than those of New Orleans or Ferguson, Mo.
Speaking at a City Hall news conference, the mayor went on to introduce the new appointments:
Michael Braverman will serve as director of the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). With 30 years in city government – as a prosecutor, director of Code Enforcement’s legal team and recently as the Deputy Commissioner for Housing – Braverman has been serving as acting Housing Commissioner since January.
The other appointments are Michelle Pourciau to head the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), and Janet Abrahams who was named executive director of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC).
6/23 UPDATE: The mayor’s office today released the salaries of the new hires:
HABC’s Abrahams: $200,000 a year.
HCD’s Braverman: $192,000 a year.
DOT’s Pourciau: $173,000 a year.
After Controversy, New Leadership
Amid years of criticism of the previous mayor’s handling of housing and transportation matters, finding new leadership for the two departments was, for Pugh, essentially fulfilling a campaign pledge.
In so doing, she chose to split what was known as Baltimore Housing into two separate agencies, HCD and HABC, which is federally funded.
Pugh said the move was meant to increase avenues for federal financial aid.
“If you go to Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., all the major cities, those agencies are separate because you can apply for separate federal funding and having the two together creates confusion,” she said.
The housing authority oversees about 10,000 units of public housing and distributes federal housing vouchers to subsidize housing for qualifying residents.
The two new agency heads replace a single housing commissioner who had been a flashpoint for criticism, Paul T. Graziano.
Graziano resigned in January at the start of the Pugh administration following allegations that maintenance workers at public housing were demanding sex in return for repairs.
That scandal also shined a light on the poor condition of public housing, with critics demanding to know why unsafe and unhealthy conditions had not been corrected. Graziano had been in the job since 2000.
Abrahams most recently was vice president for “Next Generation Operations” with the New York City Housing Authority. She also spent nearly 10 years as Chief Operating Officer at the Newark Housing Authority and was an assistant director of operations at the Chicago Housing Authority.
Pourciau steps into the DOT job at a time when that agency has been in the spotlight as well, with the city about to implement a controversial speed camera program, and the Pugh administration drawing criticism for reportedly halting the bike lane program and trying to remove a protected lane in Canton.
Pourciau has spent most of her time in D.C. government at the Department of Public Works and as the director of the D.C. Department of Transportation. After leaving D.C. government, she was vice president for transportation at McKissack & McKissack.
Kim Morton Appointment
Pugh also told reporters today that acting chief of staff Kimberly Morton has been appointed permanent chief of staff. Earlier this month, the mayor’s spokesman confirmed Brew reporting that Morton had been working in that position since May 29.
Pugh introduced Morton by saying, “There were rumors of her being chief of staff. And she was a deputy chief of staff and has been involved in city government for a number of years. I’m really proud to name her the chief of staff for the mayor’s office. We’ve been working together now for almost a month and we seem to jell. She’s had her hands full. And she’s working hard as she always has. We’re proud of you.”
Morton will be paid $165,000 a year, the mayor’s office said.