Kennedy Park Hosts Mayoral Forum

Kennedy Park Neighborhood Association hosts mayoral forum

WNDU News 

September 21, 2011

The Kennedy Park Neighborhood Association hosted South Bend’s three mayoral candidates at its Tuesday night meeting. Democrat Pat Buttigieg, Republican Wayne Curry and Third-party candidate Patrick Farrell answered residents’ questions during the forum.

While they all had different opinions on how to curb crime, increase safety and generate revenue, there was one thing everyone in the room could agree on – they don’t like the South Bend they’ve been seeing.

“We have an urgent problem of crime, poverty, housing,” said neighborhood association member Harry Gatlin.

In the Kennedy Park neighborhood, all of those problems seem to be intertwined. Residents say most of the issues start with vacant homes.

“Once they’re torn down you have these big empty lots,” said neighborhood association member Marilyn Gachaw. “Once they’re torn down you ask yourself ‘Was it better to leave that vacant home there, or is it better to have the grass grow nine feet tall?’”

Whether it’s a vacant home or a vacant lot, the unattractive pieces of property become a magnet for trash – trash neighbors have spent hours trying to eliminate.

“People seem to have an attitude that it’s OK to throw my cup there and throw my McDonald’s bag there,” said Gachaw.

That’s an attitude most Kennedy Park folks don’t like because many of them have lived in the neighborhood for decades.

The trash that accumulates in alleys and on side streets deters businesses from coming to the area, which means no new jobs on the Westside of South Bend. That means more vacant homes and crime, two factors that feed the negative stigma about the Westside.

But members of the Kennedy Park Neighborhood Association take pride in their homes and the blocks they live on. They just want the next Mayor of South bend to have a little pride in them.

“I would like to see the city make more investment in the Westside and let the private developers take care of the Eastside,” Gachaw said.

Residents say one possible solution to the issues plaguing their neighborhood is to start a land bank, similar to what’s being done in Flint, Michigan.

They’d also like to see more money spent on code enforcement to help address other neighborhood beautification issues like overgrown yards and rodents.

The Neighborhood Association is teaming up with South Bend’s code enforcement to cleanup sections of the neighborhood on Oct. 22.