Dec 14, 2019 (SouthBendTribune.com)
This Viewpoint was signed by 11 former and current elected officials. They are:
- Kareemah Fowler, former city clerk
- City Clerk Dawn Jones
- Council member Gavin Ferlic, at-large
- Council member John Voorde, at-large
- Council President Tim Scott, 1st District
- Council member Sharon McBride, 3rd District
- Council member Jo Broden, 4th District
- Council member-elect Rachel Tomas Morgan, at-large
- Council member-elect Lori Hamann, at-large
- Council member-elect Troy Warner, 4th District
- Council member-elect Sheila Niezgodski, 6th District.
The story of South Bend that many of us saw growing up or raising our own children is one of a city on the ropes, where we were told often it was a former shell of itself.
That started to change in 2012. Pete Buttigieg had campaigned on a promise that with the right ideas and the right leadership, our city could come to believe in itself again. Then, after sparking a can-do mentality and working alongside many of us, he actually delivered on that promise.
As mayor, Pete has demonstrated every day the leadership our nation needs. Whenever a resident — or a Common Council member — comes to him with an idea or concern, he listens carefully and is always open to adjusting course to take into account new input. When a particularly difficult problem presents itself, he brings together stakeholders to find a solution that works — even when it requires tough decisions. When gun violence strikes our communities, or natural disasters devastated our neighborhoods, Pete has been there, helping to hold our community together.
The results of Pete’s leadership are clear. Household income has risen by nearly a third. Poverty has fallen by a third. Unemployment has been cut in half — the lowest rate in two decades — as more than 12,000 new jobs have been added to the South Bend metro area.
But the numbers don’t tell the whole story. We can see South Bend’s transformation in our neighborhoods, walking past new affordable housing, restored public parks, or neighbors playing basketball at a bustling community center. Inside a restored abandoned factory, there are students learning to code, and businesses engaged in international trade. Many of us have watched loved ones return home, after initially wanting to move away for more opportunities, and we’re also welcoming more and more newcomers to our Midwest home. For the first time in decades, our population is actually growing year-over-year.
Pete has empowered diverse leaders in city government, including working to elect one of us, Kareemah Fowler, the first minority elected executive in South Bend history. He appointed black leaders to key department positions, and created new positions focused on community outreach and diversity and inclusion. He appointed the city’s first black woman to be city attorney, established the position of Diversity and Inclusion Officer that reported directly to the mayor, to which he appointed a black woman, and appointed diverse leaders to important boards, including the Board of Public Safety.
And with the support of those leaders, Pete has invested in expanding opportunity, establishing the West Side Small Business Resource Center to jump-start South Bend entrepreneurs, renovating the Charles Black Community Center, and working to revitalize the Lincolnway West and Western Avenue corridors. He put free WiFi in public spaces and public housing, and partnered with churches and nonprofit organizations like the United Way to bring high-quality early childhood education to neighborhoods that needed it most.
He has also worked hard to make South Bend a community where residents can feel safe and included. Pete’s administration partnered with a wide-range of community leaders to keep young people out of the criminal justice system. He reformed police policies to encourage accountability, including instituting new training and technology, like body cameras, to help bridge the divide between police and communities of color. Under Pete’s leadership, use of force incidents have dropped significantly — even as the tragic death of Eric Logan in June reminded us how far we have to go.
And when our mayor saw Latino residents living in fear of immigration raids, he partnered with a local nonprofit to create a first-of-its-kind municipal identification card that helped undocumented residents participate in the life of our community and showed Latino families that the city stood by their side.
This is the South Bend we know. Like our country, we are a vibrant, caring, striving community — one that has made tremendous progress, but still has our best days ahead. We are proud of the progress our city has made, proud of the leadership our mayor has demonstrated, and proud to endorse Pete Buttigieg for president of the United States.