South Bend mayor shares vision for city
Kyle Witzigman | Monday, September 23, 2013
Before South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leaves for his deployment to Afghanistan in Feb. 2014, he took the time to meet with the Notre Dame’s College Democrats to share his vision for South Bend. Buttigieg spoke specifically about its progress as a community, and the importance of the connection between Notre Dame and the greater South Bend area.
“Notre Dame’s always been pretty special and pretty important,” Buttigieg said. “Some people are raised by wolves, I was raised by Notre Dame faculty. I grew up here and when I was a kid I ran around Lafun.”
Buttigieg spoke about his upbringing and his journey to the position as Mayor. Before becoming the youngest mayor of a city of over 100,000 people, Buttigieg studied at Harvard and then Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.
He said he “wasn’t sure [he] was going to come back” to the South Bend community. However, he said, “Gradually, I realized I could make myself useful here at home.”
Buttigieg recounted the moment when he won the open seat election for Mayor.
“On New Year’s Day [in 2012], I took office.,” Buttigieg said. “It’s like the dog chasing the car, finally catches it.”
Buttigieg, joking with the group, said he wondered what he was supposed to do when he got to the office.
“I mean, I knew what I wanted to do for South Bend, but what do I literally do right now?” he said. “Do I check my email or make a phone call first?”
Buttigieg said because South Bend was built by the auto industry, the rotting structures left behind after the industry’s heyday set a tone for the city he grew up in. He said he advocates for the development of downtown and “wants South Bend to believe in its home.” With the 150th anniversary of the City in 2015, Buttigieg said the time is right for change.
“It’s a great moment for that psychological feel,” Buttigieg said. “So we have great timing for [change], but it’s fragile.”
Buttigieg laid out his three-point plan for city development during the meeting. The first, he said, is making “the basics of life easy for people who live here.”
Next, he said, is what he likes to call “the good government goal.” Buttgieg said he wants to improve different things like efficiency and transparency.
He said his third goal centers around economic development.
“If we’re not an auto making town anymore, then what are we?,” Buttigieg said. “Obviously, a huge part of the answer is here at Notre Dame.”
Buttigieg said his vision for South Bend involves a deep commitment to the connection between Notre Dame and the South Bend community.
“When I say engage with South Bend, I don’t mean only volunteer,” he said.
“I want you to benefit from [the relationship between South Bend and Notre Dame],” he said. “Come eat downtown. It can even be something as simple as going to a ballgame downtown.”
Buttigieg said he sees the future of South Bend as one that utilizes the talent that is present on campus in a way that works for the students. He said he “would love for this city to be more of a resource for you and what you want to do.”
“You should be able to find something compelling from the business world to a service organization,” he said.
Co-President of College Democrats, Junior Sean Long said his engagement with South Bend began because he volunteered on Buttigieg’s campaign.
“Mayor Buttigieg really exemplifies the reason we should get involved in South Bend.” Long said.
“Whether or not it’s interning in [Mayor Buttigieg’s] office or starting your own business, in South Bend, Pete shows that South Bend is not just a place where we go to school,” Long said. “It’s a place we can live after we graduate.”
Buttigieg ended his discussion with the College Democrats by saying, “Hunt down ways that South Bend can help you. That is how we make [the relationship between Notre Dame and the South Bend community] work.”