BALTIMORE (AP) — After ex-Mayor Catherine Pugh's rapid collapse amid multiple public corruption investigations, Baltimore city employees are pulling down her official portraits as the city quickly shifts into a new era with Mayor Bernard "Jack" Young at the helm.
Young, a fellow Democrat and a longtime leader of the City Council, automatically replaced Pugh after her resignation Thursday afternoon.
In a phone interview, Young told The Associated Press he's ready to make changes, and is focused on reducing eye-popping rates of violent crime and tidying up the city's streets. He aims to bring more investments and jobs, particularly to its most deeply disenfranchised neighborhoods.
Young had been Baltimore's acting leader for a month already, ever since Pugh departed on indefinite leave , saying she was physically ill and emotionally overwhelmed amid the scandal involving her self-published children's books.
"I'm determined to make a dent. I'm not a placeholder — I'm the mayor now. And I'm going to run the city like the mayor," Young said from Detroit, where's he's attending a conference about economic development before his return to Baltimore over the weekend.
There's little expectation that Young's new administration can overcome Baltimore's chronic problems of poverty, violence and inequity as he fills out the remainder of Pugh's term. But he does have numerous political allies in Baltimore and the state's capital and there's hope he can make some advances.
Pugh's career-ending debacle is one of the weirder political scandals in recent memory. It's focused on "Healthy Holly" — a lucrative and obscure children's book series she self-published focusing on a fictitious African-American child with a laser-like focus on exercise and good nutrition. The slim illustrated books, sharing tips on nutrition and exercise, were meant to be distributed to schools and daycares. But copies are hard to find.
After Pugh's resignation, city employees began taking down Pugh's official portraits, updating websites and removing her name from government letterhead.
It's a stunning fall from grace for the 69-year-old Pugh, who rose through the Democratic ranks over many years to become the city's most powerful figure. But with federal, state and city investigators trying to unravel years' worth of tangled arrangements selling at least $800,000 worth of her self-published children's books, Pugh finally decided that she didn't want to keep the job badly enough to remain in office amid questions focused on her murky financial dealings.
"Baltimore deserves a mayor who can move our great city forward," Pugh said in a written statement read by her lawyer, Steven Silverman. After a month of sequestering herself at home, it wasn't immediately clear whether some kind of deal was struck with federal investigators to pave the way for her resignation.
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