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Politicsby Fern Shen2:50 pmFeb 27, 20180

Mayor Pugh to add six communication positions to her offices

She also plans to hire a Director of African-American Male Engagement

Above: Amid record homicides, Mayor Catherine Pugh has tried to re-shape “the narrative” about Baltimore. These pre-printed signs were distributed to participants in a December vigil for the families of homicide victims. (Fern Shen)

When Gregory Tucker was brought into City Hall to become Mayor Catherine Pugh’s $240-an-hour media consultant, he said he was asked to help overhaul communications for Baltimore’s top elected official.

This week’s Board of Estimates agenda shows what that will mean in terms of personnel – Pugh is creating six new media-related positions in her mayoral offices at a cost of more than $500,000.

There are requests for three positions, each with a salary and benefits of up to $95,375: deputy director of communications, press secretary and social media strategist.

Also requested are three additional communications staffers: a social media officer, a research assistant and a press officer, totaling as much as $225,216.

Other requests by the mayor are for a new “Chief of Marketing” and a “Director of African American Male Engagement,” each to be paid up to $155,448.

The latter two salaries are commensurate with the salaries of city department heads who are responsible for managing hundreds of employees. (Recreation and Park’s Reginald Moore makes $158,000. Planning Director Tom Stosur earned $145,000 last year.)

The African-American Male Engagement position is something new for city government. And it is not clear from the spending board’s description how the chief of marketing’s duties would differ from other promotional agencies, such as Live Baltimore and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts (BOPA).

We asked for more details on these positions from the mayor’s current acting director of communications, Amanda Rodrigues-Smith.

UPDATE: Responding after this article was posted, Rodriques-Smith said three of the new positions will be in the mayor’s office and the rest will be in offices that the mayor directly supervises. The titles listed in the agenda may “evolve to different functional titles,” she said, noting that the position listed in the Board document as “Director of Marketing” will likely become “a pubic affairs position” involving Charm TV, social media, events and other areas.

Pugh’s New Narrative

After a difficult 14 months since becoming mayor – a period marked by a record-breaking homicide rate, police officers prosecuted for corruption, children shivering in unheated schools – Pugh has announced in public and in op-eds a month ago that Baltimore needs a new “narrative.”

The hiring of Tucker, via a no-bid contract, signaled that she was making the communications reboot a priority.

The videos that her office subsequently released, including a controversial one showing her chiding a child with a squeegee, were another part of the effort.

And when her efforts to improve communications received critical coverage, she was not pleased, leading to more headlines.

Disclosure of her office’s RFP seeking a contractor to revamp rooms at City Hall to television broadcast capability appeared to be a particular irritant.

Pugh sounded off, critiquing what she considered overly negative press coverage at a media-sponsored event honoring “Baltimore visionaries.”

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