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City elections involve student issues

Kaitlynn Riely | Friday, October 12, 2007

Most of the approximately 80 percent of Notre Dame students that live on campus will not be able to vote in the local South Bend primary election Nov. 6, but Student Senate community relations chair Colin Feehan thinks the recent debate over the Common Council’s party ordinance may have piqued student interest in the upcoming Common Council and mayoral elections, regardless of students’ eligibility.

When Feehan worked at a student government event geared toward getting students living off campus registered to vote a few weeks ago, the turnout was disappointing, he said. He said he thinks student turnout on Nov. 6 will be “modest.”

“I think student interest in these elections has definitely increased, especially with all the issues with the ordinance this summer,” he said. “That being said, I think it’s probably not at a level where it should be. Hopefully, in the coming year, or years, we can increase student civic engagement in local issues.”

The shooting of two students outside local pub Club 23 in August and frequent break-ins of students’ houses and cars off campus may also be drawing student interest to the election, Feehan said, with many candidates promising to drive down crime rates.

“I think, as of late, first and foremost, students are concerned about crime and safety,” he said.

Crime rates and safety for city residents is something candidates for mayor and for the Common Council positions are worried about as well.

Current Democratic Mayor Stephen Luecke is running against Republican Juan Manigault and Green party write-in candidate Tom Brown.

Luecke has been mayor of South Bend since 1997 and is running for his fourth term.

“We’ve built, I think, a great relationship with the University and have had excellent communications, in particular, with the last two student body presidents working on relations that affect Notre Dame and South Bend,” he said.

Luecke pointed to the start of construction on Eddy Street Commons and the freshman tours of South Bend that began two years ago.

Luecke said his work to alter the recent ordinance passed by the Common Council is another indicator of his good relationship with Notre Dame. The ordinance, as it was originally written, would have required residents of boarding houses – defined as a residence where more than two unrelated people live – to file for a permit 10 days in advance of hosting 25 or more people who would have access to alcohol. After much debate, the ordinance was passed with the registration process not enacted.

Luecke said he has a “special connection” to Notre Dame – his daughter graduated from the University last May. He said he intends to keep that connection strong.

“I would look forward to continuing to work with students and the administration of the University and appreciate what you do in our community and look forward to continuing our partnership,” he said.

One of Luecke’s opponents, Manigault, is a 1974 Notre Dame graduate. He spoke by phone Thursday after a meeting with University President Father John Jenkins and other officers of the University.

The purpose of the meeting, he said, was to introduce himself to Jenkins and Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves and share with them his plan for South Bend.

“I’m running for mayor because I want to restore South Bend as a great city,” he said. “I believe by increasing private investment and good jobs, reducing crime, and making, our self and with school cooperation, a world class education system, we can restore our city to greatness.”

As a student who lived both on and off campus in South Bend while at Notre Dame, Manigault said he wants to forge a relationship between students and the community “to ensure their safety.”

“There shouldn’t be specific laws concocted to address student problems,” he said.

Manigault said he wants to see students more involved in the community, and said if elected mayor, he would organize an executive internship program that would get Notre Dame students involved in city government as interns.

Both Luecke and Maginault have made crime major portions of their platforms.

Luecke said, since he became mayor, crime has gone down 24 percent in South Bend. He said he has achieved that decline by providing support to the South Bend Police Department and through community outreach. Crime remains a key issue, he said.

Manigault said he would put more police officers on the street and redraw the police beats, so the right number of officers are in the trouble spots in the city.

“As mayor, I am going to be very outspoken against crime,” he said.

In terms of development, Manigault said he wants to see a “strong emphasis on private investment.”

“The benefit to students means there will be great jobs here for students who wish to stay in South Bend” after graduation, he said

The third candidate for mayor, Tom Brown, is a write-in candidate running for the Green Party. Students should be interested in his campaign, Brown said, because he provides sustainable solutions to South Bend’s problems.

“Everybody’s going to have to deal with global climate change,” he said. “None of the other candidates are even talking about that.”

Brown encouraged eligible voters to come out to the polls on Election Day.

“We’ll do anything to get more people involved in politics,” he said.

At-large Council candidates

Seventeen candidates are running for the nine seats on the South Bend Common Council. The Observer attempted to reach the seven candidates running for the three at-large seats and the two candidates running for the 4th District seat, which is a district in which many off-campus students live.

The candidates for the three at-large positions are Democrats Al “Buddy” Kirsits, Timothy Rouse and Karen L. White; Republicans Christopher P. Adamo, Wayne Curry and James D. “Jim” Frick; and write-in candidate Karl Hardy for the Green Party. Kirsits, Rouse and White are the incumbents.

Rouse said he is one of the best candidates for the at-large seat “because of my commitment to the people of South Bend to see that they have the best possible working councilmen in the Common Council.”

Rouse said his solution to crime was to encourage people to be more neighborly.

“I think the best answer to crime is to know the community, know the neighborhood,” he said. “We are only kidding ourselves if we think we are going to do it through law enforcement.”

Rouse was one of the sponsors of the party ordinance proposed in July. He said he is pleased with the way it has turned out, especially with the formation of the Community/Campus Advisory Coalition (CCAC).

“If the CCAC is successful, as I think it will be, the issue with the permits will be greatly diminished,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll need the permits.”

Neither Kirsits nor White, the other incumbents, returned multiple phone calls. Both are seeking a third term on the Common Council.

Wayne Curry, the vice president of South Bend’s Northeast Neighborhood Council, is running on the Republican ticket. He said he thinks it is time for new leadership in the city.

“There’s a lot of problems in South Bend that I see,” he said, citing high taxes, the crime rate and vacant and abandoned buildings.

A solution to reducing crime, he said, is to put more patrols on the street and to encourage people to communicate with their neighbors. He said he sees students as an asset to the South Bend community.

“I see the students as neighbors,” he said. “… Some of the most intelligent students in the world go to Notre Dame, and I think it would be a great thing if, after graduation, they stayed in the area.”

Bringing more jobs into the community, Curry said, would be an incentive for students to stay.

Curry and at-large candidate James D. “Jim” Frick are supporting each other’s campaigns. Frick echoed many of Curry’s sentiments.

“I’m frustrated with the way this city runs,” he said.

The last straw for him was when his wife was robbed last summer. He decided then to run for a Common Council position.

Frick said he wants to see more police patrols and a more aggressive city attorney to prosecute criminals.

“I know students are worried about crime,” he said. “There’s crime all over the city.”

Frick said he considered students regular citizens of South Bend and criticized the Common Council for supporting ordinances “that I don’t think are important.”

“I went to college,” he said. “People drink at college. As long as it doesn’t get out of hand, I don’t see a problem with that.”

Regarding development in the city, Frick recommended that South Bend bring in a professional from another city that has already led new projects.

Green candidate Karl Hardy is a graduate student in a program through Arizona’s Prescott College. His partner graduated in spring of 2008 from Notre Dame, where she earned a Master’s in fine arts and creative writing.

He said he is running to spread the world about Green Party values.

“I believe that the Green Party is the only truly progressive party that is out there,” he said. “I’m … particularly interested in thinking towards the future and making sure the decisions made in government are not so short-term.”

Hardy said he wants to “ensure that students are brought into the conversation.”

The Observer was unable to reach Republican candidate Christopher P. Adamo.

The 4th District

The 4th District South Bend Common Council seat has two candidates, Democrat Ann Puzzello and Republican Gary King.

Puzzello, a four-term council member, did not return messages.

King said he thought the 4th District seat needed a change in leadership. The neighborhoods should be “accommodating” to students, he said, since some of the houses may sit vacant if students did not rent them. King said he was opposed to the party ordinance proposed by the Council.

“From the minute I read it first, until its final version, I think its just plain wrong,” he said. “No matter how many ways they try to fix it. It’s the wrong way to go about doing things. It’s an invasion of privacy.”

King said laws already in place can control loud student partying. To deter criminals, King said, he supports putting more police officers on patrol.

King encouraged students to vote.

“Find out where your polling place and make sure you exercise your right,” he said. “If South Bend keeps going the way it is … we are going to get not only four more years of the same, but it’s going to get way worse.”

The other candidates running for Common Council positions are Derek Dieter and Kathleen Petitjean for the 1st District seat, Tom La Fountain and William A. Soderberg for 3rd District seat and Debbie Ray and David Varner for the 5th District seat. Henry Davis Jr. and Oliver James Davis are running unopposed for the 2nd and 6th District seats, respectively.