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by Mark Reutter10:02 amJun 29, 20230

Mayor Scott has missed nearly half of this year’s Board of Estimates meetings

With no more regular post-meeting press availabilities and no more releases of his daily public schedule, Baltimore’s mayor keeps the media at arm’s length

Above: Mayor Scott holds a ribbon-cutting event in Sharp Leadenhall on June 21, days after residents held a rally to protest a developer-friendly zoning change backed by his office. (@MayorBMScott)

It happened again yesterday: Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott skipped a meeting of the Board of Estimates.

It was his third absence since mid-May and his sixth for the year. The absence brings his attendance record so far in 2023 to a little above the 50% mark.

When Scott became mayor, the powerful spending board met once a week to approve multi-million-dollar contracts, certify personnel changes, and ratify deals with developers and others.

Now the board meets twice a month.

Even under this reduced schedule, Scott has missed six of the last 14 sessions.

Where the mayor might have been yesterday, while his seat in the Hyman Pressman Board Room was occupied by City Administrator Faith Leach, remains a mystery.

His communications staff stopped sending out his daily public schedule in early March, leaving the media without regular advance notice of his whereabouts.

Scott has churned through three spokespersons (Monica Lewis, James E. Bentley and Cirilo Manego) since the start of the year. Spokesman No. 4, Bryan Doherty, is proving as elusive as his boss.

The last response we got from him was on June 14, when he said the mayor had changed his mind and was not going to Sheffield, England, to attend a screening of a documentary about his comprehensive violence reduction plan.

Doherty didn’t answer a call, email and text asking what took the mayor away from the BOE meeting yesterday.

Scott, who controls three of the seats on the five-member board, generally has little to say at the meetings, which conclude with most, if not all, items approved.

Faith Leach subs for Mayor Brandons Scott at the June 14, 2023 Board of Estimates meeting. (CharmTV)

City Administrator Faith Leach (center) subs for Scott at the June 14, 2023 Board of Estimates meeting. (CharmTV)

Fewer “availabilities”

Another City Hall tradition that’s been scrapped during the Scott era is the weekly press availability.

For decades, Baltimore’s mayors met with the media Wednesday mornings after the BOE meeting. The former got a chance to showcase their plans and programs, while the latter were able to query them on just about any topic.

No more.

Covid was the initial rationale for the suspension of the availability. While the spending board continued to meet virtually and later in person during the crisis, the public, including the media, were barred from entering City Hall on health grounds.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and reporter Mark Reutter in August 2014. (Fern Shen)

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake answers questions at an August 2014 press availability. (Fern Shen)

Conducting a Q and A with reporters via zoom or by other means following a BOE meeting was never attempted by Scott’s office.

What has since evolved, as the 2024 election season approaches, is this:

The mayor’s office summons the press by email to attend a special event or announcement or “celebration” crafted to fit a positive message.

Be it a rec center “rollout” or the unveiling of the Baltimore Peace Mobile, the media playbook is pretty much the same.

Be it a rec center “rollout,” a “big splash” pool opening or the unveiling of the Baltimore Peace Mobile (a brightly painted RV outfitted with video games, snacks and a punching bag to help a community recover after a traumatic event) – the playbook follows a standard script:

TV cameras are welcome. The mayor reads a statement. The backdrop features somber city officials, smiling community leaders or laughing children depending on the message delivered.

Scott will sometimes take questions afterwards beyond the topic at hand.

These queries are generally limited in range and number, except when a reporter breaks the mold and chases after the mayor with a question he doesn’t want to answer.


At a June 1 press event in northeast Baltimore, Mayor Scott celebrates the Peace Mobile, the “first-ever” city-owned RV that offers video games, snacks, laptops, board games and a punching bag “to help heal communities experiencing trauma.” (cbsnews.com)

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