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Panel with former Maryland governor, South Bend mayor addresses University–city relations

| Friday, September 30, 2016

Fresh off the campaign trail, former Maryland governor and presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley joined South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Notre Dame’s vice president for research Robert Bernhard and senior Alicia Czarnecki on a panel discussing University-city partnerships.

Governor Martin O'Malley, Mayor Pete Butigieg, junior Alicia Czarnecki and vice president for research Robert Bernhard sit at Thursday night's panel in McKenna Hall. Chris Collins | The Observer
Governor Martin O’Malley, Mayor Pete Butigieg, junior Alicia Czarnecki and vice president for research Robert Bernhard sit at Thursday night’s panel in McKenna Hall.

“I ran for President and I came home with a lot of lessons learned, some of them weren’t happy lessons,” O’Malley said. “But one lesson I did learn was that people care a lot about how their cities are governed and how their cities are led.”

O’Malley said he emphasizes the importance of a positive relationship between the city and university.

“There is huge value in a city and university partnership, which is something your mayor very clearly gets,” he said.

When O’Malley assumed the office of Mayor of Baltimore in 1999, he said he did not inherit the city at its best.

“We had allowed ourselves to become the most violent, addicted city in America,” he said. “But people wanted to change that.”

O’Malley said that, while the city faced a number of challenges, he thinks building trust between citizens and their local government is of the utmost importance.

“I think the biggest challenge we can address is to restore the trust that seems so frayed in our national political conversation,” he said. “I would submit to you that the only way to do that is to make our cities more just and more fair places.”

Improvements to that level of trust are being made, O’Malley said, and he is hopeful for the future.

“I think there are many reasons why people in our cities today who feel a lot better about how their cities are run and led,” he said. “The great hope that I see is that we’re actually restoring trust.”

Buttigieg agreed that trust plays a major role, particularly with the relationship between universities and the cities they are in.

“I think we benefit from the fact that this is one of the communities that never really had a hostile relationship with the University,” Buttigieg said. “As Notre Dame is becoming a great global university, these collaborations are happening right here in our backyard.”

Czarnecki said she appreciated the value of the opportunity to collaborate with the South Bend community.

“From the student perspective, I think it’s an important thing to be involved in the community early on in your academic career because it provides something uniquely challenging and it’s something completely different than what you’re learning in your textbooks,” she said.

Similarly, Buttigieg said it benefits the student to work with the city because it provides a diversifying factor.

“How are you going to distinguish yourself?” he said. “You’re going to be able to say you worked with a very diverse group of people and you had to learn how to listen to them to solve a problem.”

O’Malley said that when he was first elected mayor, he was approached by the president of Johns Hopkins University.

“He said, you know, we have one thing in common, and that is that we have inherited two organizations that have existed long before we got here and will exist long after,” he said.

As such, O’Malley said they focused on creating collaborations that would make benefit both of the institutions.

“It’s most helpful for mayors to be very clear with their university partners on the problems they would like to collaborate to solve,” he said.

There is a test that Buttigieg said he uses to determine whether or not a city-university partnership is successful.

“Is the city better because the University is there and then, simultaneously, is the University better off because it is in this city instead of another city,” he said.

Buttigieg said that he likes to focus on maintaining that positive and collaborative relationship between Notre Dame and South Bend.

“If we do solve something here, it’s really going to matter to a whole bunch of other cities,” Buttigieg said.

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall. She most recently served as Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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