Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who has temporarily taken over the reins of city government power, is a battle-tested veteran of fending off “racially motivated” political attacks from Republicans.
Young, an African-American, has stepped into the role of acting mayor after Mayor Catherine Pugh announced Monday that she’s taking a leave of absence during her battle with pneumonia. At the same time, the Black woman mayor has a political battle on her hands.
Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday urged the state prosecutor to investigate Pugh’s sales of children’s books that promote healthy living for Black people. While Baltimore struggles with a host of challenges, including reducing crime and improving education for its disadvantage Black residents, Pugh is on the political ropes for the sales of her books to the University of Maryland Medical Center while she was a board member. Critics have called the financial deal a possible conflict of interest, but Pugh said it was a “regrettable mistake.”
Young, who could end up being Pugh’s successor, can likely understand what the mayor was facing. He fought off a political attack more than a decade ago led by a Republican federal prosecutor that Young called “racially motivated,” according to the Baltimore Sun.
In 2003, the U.S. attorney’s office subpoenaed the City Council to investigate elected officials who allegedly hired relatives as paid assistants. The case fell apart after the Sun revealed that the prosecutor was likely motivated by political bias.
That wasn’t the only time that Young was targeted. Questions were raised in a separate instance about whether he actually lived in Baltimore because he owned several homes. The Sun said he put an end to that by taking reporters to his house in Charm City and showed them his underwear drawer to prove his residency. He was ultimately cleared by the Baltimore city solicitor’s office.
Young has served for 21 years on the city council. Fellow council members elected the 64-year-old councilman as president of the body in 2010 after former Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was elected mayor.
He has downplayed his temporary role, noting that he will continue to receive his councilman’s salary ($119,000) and not the higher pay ($185,000) the mayor receives.
While serving as mayor, Young said he plans to get down to business beginning with meeting with department heads and chats with city workers.
“I am going to talk to the police officers because I need them to stay focused because we have a serious crime issue in this city,” Young said. “I want to assure them that the city is going to be in good hands until the mayor recovers.”