Pete Buttigieg put forward a plan to revitalize South Bend. Everyone did not feel its benefits.



Buttigieg, then 29, was elected thanks to a plan for urban revitalization and data-driven governance. Newsweek had recently labeled South Bend as one of America's endangered cities.

So he came up with a plan: to eliminate the urban plague, revitalize the city center and attract the kind of economy that South Bend had escaped since carmaker Studebaker left the city decades ago, leaving a gaping hole – at the both physically and mentally – the city of just over 100,000 Hoosiers.

But for Odom, who is black and more than ten years older than Buttigieg, the Mayor's main idea of ​​getting rid of urban degradation – accelerate the application of the code in order to demolish 1,000 homes deteriorating in 1,000 days – felt the gentrification and racial tensions revived in the city.

"I thought it was a mistake," said Odom in front of a house that she is trying to redevelop in the Monroe neighborhood. "I do not think he has examined every aspect of all the consequences of destroying 1,000 homes in 1,000 days."

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Buttigieg plans to formally bid for the presidency at South Bend on Sunday, his mayoral record has been examined, and questions have been raised as to whether the revitalization of the city has been beneficial for all residents of Sound Bend.

And now that Buttigieg is leaving his post to focus on his campaign, the race for his dismissal has turned into a tacit acknowledgment that renewal, while popular, has not been felt by all residents. The mayoral candidates have all promised to focus on revitalizing the city's neighborhoods like the city center; Jason Critchlow, former political agent, airs ads in which it is written "that it is time to enjoy the success that we have here … throughout the city".

Buttigieg should make his eight years at the mayor's mayor of his presidential candidacy, especially the revival he has delivered to the small town. However, while some residents of South Bend have touted the newly revitalized downtown core, others, mostly from historically Afro-American areas to the west of the downtown core, have expressed reservations about the way in which renewal is taking place. had not been felt in their neighborhoods.

Buttigieg, in an interview with CNN, said that "overall," he thought the program was "definitely a hit" and "mostly benefited owners of low-income and minority housing who discovered that their safety and the value of their property had been damaged by the burn. " But the mayor admitted that the plan was not perfect and that it needed to be fine-tuned based on comments from neighborhoods where the burn is most noticeable.

"The problem with any policy, especially controversial, is knowing when to keep your guns when you really believe in something and do it, but you also have to recognize from the start that you could to deceive, "said Buttigieg, adding that the lessons he had learned from this type of controversial projects have illuminated the type of candidacy he is preparing for the president's post.

Winning people

The 1,000-unit project – associated with all the time, the energy and money invested by Buttigieg to revitalize the downtown core – has created a mistrust of some South African-American residents of South Bend, who represent nearly 30% of the city's population.

Much of this question remains to be solved. The current African-American unemployment rate in South Bend is over 11%, and a city-led study in 2017 found that more than 40% of African-Americans living below the poverty line, almost double national rate. for black households.

But eight years after Buttigieg took office, what surprised many people in South Bend – including those who initially met Buttigieg's plans with dislike – is that the mayor has defeated many of his critics. including Odom and the Republicans he could actually run their city.

Odom's opinion on Buttigieg changed after a chance – and a frank attack – to end up downtown. Her house was on the demolition list and she wanted to leave but she was facing roadblocks with the city.

"I saw Mayor Pete walking down the street, and I'm one of those people who, if I see you somewhere, I do not care who you are, and I need something, I'm just going to rush you and ask you for what I want, "laughed Odom, remembering how she had confronted the mayor.

Odom was surprised that Buttigieg listened for 10 minutes while he was going to a meeting. His staff was eager to get Buttigieg up, but the mayor handed him his card and both started a conversation going on. Buttigieg subsequently held a series of meetings with Odom and others to discuss this plan. She credits the mayor with removing his house from the list of demolitions – and under pressure from the community, 40% of other residents' homes were also demolished.

"When I saw that he was ready to help, that's what has changed me," Odom said. "That's what I said, it's a man who has the potential to be president."

Buttigieg said that it was experiences like the one he had with Odom that shed light on one facet of his approach until 2020.

"On the one hand, I believe in politics of conviction, I think you have to strongly defend your values ​​and explain why you believe in what you believe in," he said. "But one of the reasons you will not hear me too doctrinaire about some of these policy groups is the awareness that, anyway, the government will adjust the details of the policy."

"Everyone wants a nice community, but …"

Regina Williams-Preston had a distinctly different experience.

She and her husband had bought three dilapidated houses in her neighborhood with the intention of renovating and selling them at a profit or creating a business, such as a daycare for local children. But when Williams-Preston's husband fell ill and was unable to renovate the houses, the properties landed on the city's demolition list and the family lost the properties they hoped would be investments.

"What was different, is that (South Bend) has condensed the project and the process of eliminating homes over a very short period of time," Williams-Preston said. "Often, when you try to do something really fast, you miss things … There was just that real concerted effort to make sure that we achieved that goal, like everything that prevented policy change, we did it so that we could reach that target, but as a result of that, people lost their homes. "

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The experiment set fire to Williams-Preston, who then created a group of local organizers who became a lobbying force against the Buttigieg administration. She then successfully crowned for the South Bend City Council, City Council, in 2015 and is now a mayoral candidate, seeking to replace the man who motivated her to embark on politics.

Around South Bend, the effects of the demolition program are inevitable. The semi-urban islets that once inhabited homes, especially on the west side of the city, now appear to be less populated, with several lots between the remaining dwellings. The need for fewer homes was a by-product of the city's economic contraction – an experience experienced by many similar municipalities – but left a visible void in some neighborhoods.

People close to Buttigieg said the Urban Burn Control project was a learning experience for him. In his pre-campaign brief, "Shortest Way Home", Buttigieg called the project a winner for "data-driven management". But even he recently admitted that it was not flawless.

And government leaders who worked closely with Buttigieg admit that the program had a more direct impact on communities of color, even though it was not intended.

"This has had a disproportionate impact" on minority communities, said Gary Gilot, chairman of Buttigieg 's board of directors, during an interview. "But the decision was color-blind … it was the right thing to do to fight the plague.You must remove it.If you have cancer, you have to deal with it."

Program complaints from neighborhoods outside of South Bend's downtown core were compounded by the fact that Buttigieg spent a lot of time and energy stimulating the downtown core, creating a sense of urgency. that the mayor was concentrating on the city center at the expense of neighboring communities.

"More resources could flock to neighborhoods now that downtown becomes more vital," said Steve Fredman, a retired English teacher close to the Buttigieg family long before the mayor's birth. "And it's a campaign problem for people who show up (currently at the town hall)."

In total, Buttigieg is planning $ 850 million in investments since taking office in 2012. However, people, like Williams-Preston, who remain uncomfortable with the mayor, say that a great deal some of this money has been channeled to all but the most impoverished communities.

"Everyone wants a beautiful community," she said in LaSalle Park, the neighborhood that was modified by the program. "But how can we do this so as not to drive out the poor and the people of color?"

Buttigieg said he saw in complaints like that of Williams-Preston "an expression of concern about inequalities".

"It's a city that's still a low-income city with a lot of inequality, so if you're on the west side and I'm proud of everything we've done for the west side, but you're not. are still in a low-income neighborhood, "said Buttigieg. "So whatever you see happening in town could be perceived as something you would like to come to you."

He added: "My job is to balance things out, knowing that we will have economic growth for the entire city if we have a strong urban core in the city center, but at the same time, we do not fall into a fictional situation. " that if we get this right, everyone will automatically be better off. "

Stay a bit

The heart of Buttigieg's downtown plan was to restructure what was a dilapidated downtown: modernize sidewalks, improve medians and grant government subsidies for renovating old buildings. But the most unique change was to remove the one-way streets and five-lane boulevards that encouraged people to quickly get to the downtown area without worrying about local businesses.

Not everyone was in favor of the plan, which also promised to create more traffic in downtown South Bend.

"You tell your husband to stop screwing up the downtown streets," said one day the husband of Buttigieg, Chasten, in the grocery store, at the grocery store, using of an oath, wrote the mayor in his memoir. People close to the mayor told CNN that residents regularly used listening sessions known as "Mayor's Night."

He's going to "fight the bagpiper at these things with Mayor Night Out and people have a few minutes to purge their spleen," said Gilot, adding that comments can sometimes become profane and harsh.

Since then, however, according to nearly all South Bend residents, the plan has been aimed at revitalizing the downtown core, but has also worsened traffic. Downtown South Bend, while small, is bustling and today houses a number of locally owned businesses and restaurants.

Nobody saw this change more than Mark McDonnell, owner of LaSalle Grill, a downtown restaurant that opened 28 years ago.

"We had the problem of people driving south and north on five-lane, one-way roads with no intention of stopping at South Bend, and it was still a constant problem," McDonnell said. who – despite his Republican – met Buttigieg during his first mayoral race and told him that the downtown looked like a "dull city … of the Soviet era in the 1950s".

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In response, Buttigieg launched "Smart Streets" in 2013 and obtained the $ 25 million bond that it needed in 2015.

"It's the heart of the city," McDonnell said. "The neighborhoods are perhaps the soul of the city, but it's the heart, you have to have the heart throbbing to have something else."

McDonnell's unique story is that the eccentric business owner was initially skeptical of Buttigieg and, despite his affinity for the mayor, he voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

As 2020 approaches and the prospect of Buttigieg being the Democratic nominee, McDonnell's skepticism towards the mayor has given way to possible support.

"He would be at this stage the only Democrat for whom I would consider voting, so I will say it," said McDonnell. "I do not totally agree with him on all the issues that he has … (But) if we want to have a Democratic president, and the odds are good, I would prefer someone else. one from South Bend. "

"I know I will receive a series of emails from friends once they see this:" What are you thinking about! "Well, I have to think about what's best for South Bend, Indiana, in the country, and Pete could be the best choice."


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