In a socially distanced room inside City Hall, former City Council President Brandon Scott was sworn in as Baltimore’s 52nd mayor Tuesday afternoon.
After a few minutes of formalities, Scott walked to an outdoor podium for brief remarks to a small group of press.
“These dual emergencies of violence and this pandemic exacerbate the underlying and obvious inequities facing residents of Baltimore. I am humbled by the task before us and I have hope, but I am not naïve to the challenges we face,” Scott said outside of City Hall.
Those challenges include the COVID-19 pandemic, the fiscal impact it will have on the city’s budget, rising murder rates, overdose deaths and the eviction crisis.
But through it all, Scott promised to lead through a lens of equity.
“Equity will be my guiding principle, from the way we invest in our Black and Brown neighborhoods and business to the way we govern and ensuring all residents get what they need,” Scott said.
Scott, a 36-year-old Democrat, is the youngest mayor Baltimore has had in the last hundred years, and often depicts himself as the change of the old guard that Baltimore needs. He promised to dismantle old strategies that weren’t working and to help build new ones.
“The status quo cannot continue and under my leadership, it will not,” Scott said.
“This term is about changing business as usual and building strategy that serves us all. This term is about making sure we are tearing down what doesn’t work and laying a foundation brick by brick that allows the next generation to thrive,” he continued.
Scott was first elected to the Baltimore City Council in 2011 at age 27 to represent the 2nd District in Northeast Baltimore and then became president of the city council in 2019, after a scandal that forced ex-mayor Catherine Pugh into resignation and Bernard C. “Jack” Young into the mayor’s office.
In his inaugural remarks, Scott emphasized two “public health emergencies” that beset the city: the COVID-19 pandemic and the “continued epidemic of gun violence.”
Throughout his campaign, Scott proposed to use violence reduction strategies and to target small groups of gun traffickers as ways to reduce gun violence.
“Reducing murders in our city will not be easy, but it’s a challenge we must attack because we have to. It is clear our crime fighting strategies clearly have not yielded the results we need as we continue to lose too many people to violence and those who are committing these acts remain comfortable on our streets,” Scott said.
He also called for a re-imagination of public safety.
“Gone are the days where we attempt to solely police our way out of our problems. That strategy does not work.” Rather, supporting the consent decree to ensure that Baltimore’s police officers are held accountable and having the community lead that process is the best way to go, he continued.
Scott grew up in Park Heights and has said that witnessing gun shootings and violence at a young age motivated him to run for public office.
“The trauma and violence in our city is personal for you just like it is for me,” he said.
He also promised to resume recycling and trash collection in the city, which was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to move towards a “zero-waste future.”
“We will get back to the basics of safe neighborhoods, reliable trash and recycling collection, plowed roads, dependable public transit, clean and affordable water and most importantly, a good education, all with a focus on equity,” Scott said.
Scott championed city government reforms as council president, including some that weakened mayoral powers and gave the inspector general more power to root out corruption. He concluded his inaugural comments by reminding the public that he alone cannot fix all of Baltimore’s problems.
“I am not a savior for our city. No one is coming to save us. We have the ability to save ourselves, but we can only do that together. We all have a role to play in building a safer, functioning and equitable city and the only way forward is together.”
Bill Henry was also sworn in as the city’s new comptroller by Mayor Scott shortly after.