Before assuming a presidential candidacy for the 2020 elections, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, ended his term in office amid criticism for taking a counterproductive stance on various social issues, such as the use and carrying of illicit drugs.
Dissenting voices in South Bend are questioning various aspects of the young Democratic former mayor’s administration, highlighting his lack of commitment to the growth and functioning of the city, all in the face of this year’s presidential elections.
Michelle Burger, a 42-year-old woman living on the west side of South Bend said, “If he’s the next president, I fear for our country. He couldn’t run our city. How can he run the United States?”
“Look at all the crime — he didn’t do anything about it. Look at our quality of life. If he becomes president, the United States will become one big South Bend—a giant sinkhole. We’ll be in a new depression,” Burger added, according to The New York Post.
Cornish Miller, another resident of the city’s west side, gave the former mayor a score of 2 on a scale of 1 to 10. “Buttigieg talked about all the improvements he made, but he barely made a dent,” he said.
“The West Side is the most neglected part of town. The street I live on is the only street around here that has lights. That’s because we’re a gateway to Notre Dame,” the 62-year-old added.
The New York Post indicated, according to FBI data, violent crimes increased from 622 in 2012, their first year, to 1,088 in 2018.
According to the Rev. Sylvester Williams of the Interfaith Christian Union, “We had a record number of homicides during his time as mayor, and he didn’t seem to feel the psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people.
Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida, criticized the mayor’s stance by demonstrating his commitment to legalizing narcotics such as methamphetamine, cocaine, and ecstasy.
“He is guaranteeing more drug addicts, he’s guaranteeing more crime, and he’s guaranteeing less help because we don’t have enough services for those who are addicted to crimes now and he’s going to create more addiction,” Judd said.
Buttigieg similarly has been criticized for his radical stance on abortion, saying it should be legal and unrestricted until birth.
The former South Bend mayor who supports taxpayer funding of abortion has favored repealing the Hyde amendment, which blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortions approved in 1976.
As the New York Post pointed out, Buttigieg and his supporters claim that major projects, such as the construction of new hotels, restaurants, and apartments, have boosted employment as well as the tax base of Indiana’s fourth-largest city.
They said the former mayor also contributed to the city’s infrastructure by redesigning parks and revamping traffic with a 21-million-pedestrian-friendly “smart street” plan that reduced speed limits, as well as creating indirect intersections and planting trees.
However, the young former mayor’s measures also have their detractors. Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer went so far as to say that while Buttigieg had some victories in economic development, “he actually had “little, if anything, to do with that.”
“I found it ironic that when he announced his presidential run, he did it in front of Studebaker Building 84, which had sat vacant since 1963. (…) But it was $3.5 million from then-Gov. Mike Pence’s Regional Cities Initiative that made that project go,” Hupfer said.
The Indiana Republican Party president also mentioned an official 2018 community survey in South Bend where only 29% of respondents agreed that the city had a “strong and inclusive economy,” while 51% were neutral or dissatisfied with the “sense of security” in their neighborhoods.
“If you don’t feel safe and secure, it’s hard to get people to move there, it’s hard to get people to live there, and it’s hard to get jobs to grow there,” Hupfer added.
There is also the issue of the African American community in the city of South Bend, which lives under constant economic inequality, according to a Prosperity Now report.
Racial inequality has been an issue that has challenged Buttigieg, as he fired the city’s first black police chief since his inauguration as mayor.
In addition, as the New York Post notes, from 2012 to 2018 the number of black police officers was nearly halved, from 29 to 15, compared to more than 200 white uniforms.
Meanwhile, during a local radio show called “Real Talk,” a shooting was announced that took place in June 2019 in front of a bar called Kelly’s Pub where 10 people were injured and one killed, all of them of African-American.
The incident generated outrage from the community, which, after gathering about 100 angry citizens, ended up forcing the closure of a local hospital.
Also, Buttigieg’s callous response to the events triggered even more controversy. “Not one time did he try to bring some level of compassion or sympathy,” said Williams.
Homelessness also has been a persistent problem in the city, according to John Shafer, founder of the nonprofit homeless organization Michiana Five, there are an estimated 500 homeless people in South Bend.
According to Schafer, Buttigieg always spoke as if he were in favor of the homeless, when the reality was different, noting that he even went so far as to order sanitation personnel and police to destroy the camp under the Main Street Viaduct in 2017.
I just feel he didn’t care. I also feel he couldn’t relate to the homeless. And it just wasn’t one of his priorities.