Tag Archives: South Bend

Pete Buttigieg is “not afraid to ruffle feathers and get a job done”

The ‘Mayor Pete’ era is over in South Bend, Ind. What legacy does Pete Buttigieg leave?

by Matt Pearce – Jan 9, 2020 (SanDiegoUnionTribune.com, abridged)

On Jan. 1, Pete Buttigieg’s second term ended, and the “Mayor Pete” era in South Bend was over. In the Democratic presidential candidate’s telling, he presided over a Rust Belt comeback story in Indiana’s fourth-largest city, a metaphor for what is possible elsewhere in America.

Before Buttigieg took office in 2012, downtown had been moribund for decades. Aging, abandoned homes dragged down spirits in poorer neighborhoods. Unemployment was high, wages low, evictions common. White residents were fleeing by the thousands. A Newsweek article declared South Bend, population 101,860, one of America’s “dying cities.”For the record: 11:05 AM, Jan. 09, 2020 An earlier version of this story said Pete Buttigieg had called his demotion of South Bend’s black police chief his “first serious mistake as mayor.” Buttigieg wrote in his memoir that the mistake was his initial support of the chief.

Today, unemployment in the Greater South Bend area is less than 4%, down from nearly 10%; development has accelerated in the city’s downtown; and the population has stopped shrinking. Local business boosters recently raised street banners that said, “Thanks Mayor Pete.”

“South Bend’s trajectory has been transformed,” Buttigieg said in his farewell address to the city’s Common Council on Dec. 9.

That’s the resume that Buttigieg is promoting to make the jump from mayor to president. It’s a part of his appeal to Democrats who are anxious to win back Rust Belt voters who defected from the party in 2016.

Black leaders have rallied to Buttigieg’s side, including the area’s NAACP president, Michael Patton, who has said he’s “grateful to Mayor Pete” for his work.

Seymour Barker, 74, of Granger, Ind., who helps run a community development corporation, 466 Works, that receives grants from South Bend to help build new housing on the southeast side, said “the city has supported us every step of the way, and it’s all happened under the administration of Mayor Pete.”

“I can’t tell you the experience of other African Americans under him,” Barker said, “but that’s been our experience with him.”

After taking office, Buttigieg went to work on the city’s blight, launching an initiative to repair or demolish 1,000 abandoned or derelict homes in 1,000 days, a goal he reached ahead of schedule.

Common Council member Regina Williams-Preston, an occasional critic from the city’s black community, accused Buttigieg of moving too quickly against property owners who didn’t have the money to make repairs right away. Buttigieg acknowledged the program needed some adjustments.

But other residents happily welcomed Buttigieg’s demolition work. On a recent Thursday afternoon in December, two South Bend Bureau of Streets trucks rumbled by as James Underwood strung up Christmas lights outside a home on the 1100 block of Johnson Street, the block that saw the most houses targeted for repair or removal, according to city data.

As a result of that program, Underwood, a 60-year-old factory worker, bought a condemned home to fix up, between shifts, to give to one of his four children. He’s still trying to track down the absentee owner to finalize the sale, but he couldn’t be happier that two abandoned “eyesores” across the street had been razed.

“I would put a vote toward him because of what he did in this neighborhood and others,” Underwood said of Buttigieg. As he spoke, city workers in green vests piled out of their trucks to clear leaves from the sidewalks outside a home charred by a fire.

As Buttigieg progressed through his administration, he benefited from some fortunate timing. He arrived in office after the worst shocks of the Great Recession and then served through an uninterrupted run of national growth.

During Buttigieg’s first year, South Bend processed construction permits for commercial and residential projects valued at $69.8 million, city data showed. Within four years, in 2016, that figure had blossomed to $190 million.

Buttigieg harnessed that growth to lure new private investment. In the city’s downtown, Buttigieg invested public dollars to make the streets more walkable and to help finance some private development. Two new hotels opened, and young professionals started moving in, which boosted neighborhood merchants.

When South Bend native Peg Dalton opened her restaurant in 2001, since renamed Peggs, “there was literally not a car on the street,” she said. As she spoke to a reporter, the spaces outside her restaurant that day were all taken.

Buttigieg cultivated local business leaders to draw support for his political initiatives, according to Dalton, telling them on issues such as raising pay for city workers or changing the flow of city streets downtown: “I need your support on the ground.”

He’s not afraid to ruffle feathers and get a job done that he thinks needs to be done,” said Dalton, 55.

One of the biggest changes to South Bend under Buttigieg’s administration was the growth of the city’s Latino population, now estimated to make up more than 15% of the city’s residents. Buttigieg pushed foran identification-card program designed so residents without ID, including immigrants, could get access to social services.

Paul Beltran, 33, a healthcare case manager who emigrated from Ecuador and a volunteer at his church, Vida Nueva Church of God, credited Buttigieg for being “accessible and present” and for the times he addressed residents in Spanish.

“It’s not 100% fluent,” Beltran said of Buttigieg’s Spanish, but “he could carry a conversation, to a point.”

Nanci Flores, a prominent local activist, said there was still work to be done to assist the city’s immigrant community. But “even when we don’t always get it right, I still see a city working to follow a compassionate and inclusive example,” Flores said.

“One guy can’t fix all the problems,” Underwood said. “You can’t blame one guy.”

Here’s The Pete Buttigieg I’ve Known For Years

by Sharon McBride – Jan 6, 2020 (Blavity.com, excerpt)

Pete may be new to the national scene, but those of us in South Bend have known him for years. The man we know listens — intently — whether that’s to a Councilmember who wants to make sure that the new development lifting her city also lifts longtime residents, or community members scared their children may be touched by gun violence, or a young resident with an idea to improve her community. And the man we know leads.

In 2011, we were considered a dying city. Now, if you come to South Bend, we are vibrant and thriving. More and more people in South Bend have jobs and are buying homes. When I think about the kind of leader it will take on that day after Donald Trump, I think about the person who in eight years worked with all kinds of people to turn around a city left for dead.

Under Pete’s leadership, we have made all kinds of smart and intentional investments in our city. We worked to revitalize downtown, so that all residents of South Bend had access to a vibrant — and growing — urban area. We installed technology and WiFi in low-income neighborhoods, so that residents who might not be able to get around easily can still have access to the Internet and education.

In the middle of a heated presidential campaign, what we have been hearing in the national media is not what I’ve seen as the story of South Bend. Every community has its challenges, but I don’t recognize my city in those stories — and neither does most of the South Bend community. I am proud of the work we’ve done together to strengthen South Bend. I know what my mayor will be able to accomplish nationwide. And as more people across America hear him, I am confident Pete Buttigieg will earn their trust and their vote.

In Pete’s Words: Serving as South Bend mayor has been ‘the privilege of a lifetime’

by Pete Buttigieg – Dec 28, 2019 (SouthBendTribune.com)

As my eighth and final year as mayor of South Bend comes to an end, it is extraordinary to reflect on how much has changed. At the beginning of this decade, hit hard by the Great Recession, our city was fighting off national media calling us a “dying city.” A quarter of our peak population was gone, and our economy’s struggles loomed over us in the form of empty factories and collapsing, vacant houses.

Today, after eight years of collaboration between residents, city government, and local partners, South Bend’s trajectory has been transformed. Our population is growing, while our unemployment rate has fallen drastically. We are no longer called a dying city, but a “beta city,” a national model for innovation.

South Bend’s transformation was fueled by our residents. Neighborhood development was a priority throughout, from community-inspired efforts to address vacant houses to the expansion of funds for home repairs, lead abatement, and curbs and sidewalks.

Unemployment fell from 11.8 percent to 3.9 percent as our population ticked northward. City business partnerships led to $900 million in private investment and over 7,500 new jobs. Our downtown, once dominated by one-way highways that fast-tracked drivers out of our core, now boasts complete streets that welcome residents and visitors to enjoy a bustling urban center.

With the biggest investment in homelessness resources since the 1980s, we have driven veteran homelessness to near zero, delivered additional winter weather shelters through local service providers, and expanded permanent supportive housing.

Recognizing that racial and income inequality would not improve without intentional action, we established the first Office of Diversity & Inclusion, and commissioned two landmark studies, the Racial Wealth Divide profile and the Disparity Study, to identify opportunity gaps and anchor our strategies for a more inclusive economic future.

We opened three new fire stations and the Luther J. Taylor Fire Training Center, which trains departments from across our region. Our police department standardized its promotion process and updated department policies and procedures in a new duty manual. Patrol officers are now equipped with body-worn cameras, and the department adopted better training at every level of service. At the close of this year, community members and national experts are engaging with the department to strengthen their practices further.

The Department of Public Works pioneered innovative technologies that facilitate user-friendly, cost-effective, and environmentally sound improvements in everything from sewer management to leaf and trash pickup. Understanding that reactive measures will not be enough to counter the danger presented by climate change, we released the South Bend Climate Action Plan, a bold strategy that upholds the Paris Agreement goal of 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

We reinvented Venues Parks & Arts, whose conviction that every resident deserves access to high-quality public spaces has led to its recognition as a national leader in parks and facilities management. The results of the My SB Parks & Trails plan, the largest investment in public spaces in South Bend’s history, will be felt for generations. Meanwhile, the city set new standards for fiscal management, civic technology, and transparency.

Like every mayor, I am proud of what we have accomplished but also leave office mindful of the work that remains to be done in our community. We must continue to strengthen the relationship between the police department and the neighborhoods it serves. We must continue to add permanent supportive housing units across South Bend, providing a long-term solution for residents experiencing homelessness. And only through fully inclusive economic development can South Bend reach its full potential.

South Bend’s resurgence was only possible through partnerships with our schools and colleges, business leaders, faith leaders, social services, activists, neighborhood stakeholders and others. Our city employees executed a bold vision for a better South Bend, guided along the way by the members of the Common Council.

Time and time again, South Bend gave me a greater sense of belonging than I thought possible. This city welcomed me when I found my way back as a young man, trusted me when I asked for a chance to serve as mayor, sustained me when I left this community I love to serve our country half a world away, and supported me when I took the risk of sharing my most personal truths.

Our story is forever unfinished. But at this moment of transition for our hometown, disruption for our country, and transformation in my personal story, the one thing I know for certain is the truth of the words I had the great privilege to say to thousands of fellow residents the day we marked our 150th year as a city: “South Bend is back.”

I am grateful to the people of South Bend for giving me the opportunity to serve our hometown. It has been the privilege of a lifetime, and as I prepare for a new chapter in life, this will always be home and I will always believe in South Bend.

South Bend officials: ‘Proud to endorse Pete Buttigieg for president’

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.