South Bend mayor candidates debate

October 28, 2011

By Kevin Allen, The South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - The three men running to be the city’s next mayor laid out their ideas and debated Thursday during a forum at Indiana University South Bend.

Democrat Pete Buttigieg, Republican Wayne Curry and Libertarian Patrick Farrell have less than two weeks to state their respective cases to voters before Election Day, which is Nov. 8.

Buttigieg said his top two policy priorities would be economic growth and dealing with vacant, abandoned houses.

He said too many of the people he grew up with in South Bend have had to move away for job opportunities. “Until we’re able to create those kinds of opportunities,” he said, “none of our goals as a city are going to come to fruition.”

Buttigieg, a former business consultant, said there are 40 groups in the area that work on economic development. As mayor, he would gather them for a summit to coordinate a shared plan they all can work toward together. He added that the city can draw businesses by working to improve basic services, education and public safety.

He said addressing the problem of vacant, abandoned houses is important because they can be “contagious” by breeding crime and pulling down neighboring property values. He said the city needs to approach the issue with a strategy and address houses in clusters instead of one by one.

Curry, a carpenter and construction contractor, said he would focus on public safety and neighborhoods. If city officials concentrate on those areas to make South Bend more attractive, he said, businesses and new residents also will be more likely to move into and stay in the city.

He said city officials should take the money being spent on land acquisition for private developments, such as the new St. Joseph’s High School and riverfront townhomes, and use it to clean up neighborhoods and hire more police officers.

“Our money could be spent more efficiently and wisely,” he said, “and I think this money is better spent on our neighborhoods and making our community safe.”

Curry wants to implement a Tampa, Fla., policing strategy called Focus on Four. The program would involve dividing the city into sections, each with its own chief, and targeting low-level crimes.

Farrell, who is semi-retired after more than 30 years managing car dealerships, also said his top priorities as mayor would be public safety and neighborhoods.

He explained that he would increase residents’ participation by creating a TV station where city officials would explain spending plans and other initiatives. Then registered voters could use their cell phones to vote on the issues.

“In today’s world of technology, everyone is probably walking around with a cell phone in their pocket,” Farrell said. “That’s your key to the city, that’s how you would vote - with that cell phone.”

He added that the city needs to lower property taxes, which hurt businesses and prevent homeowners from having enough money to improve their houses.

Learn more about the candidates at www.peteforsouthbend.com, www.waynecurry4mayor.com and www.farrellforsb.com.

The American Democracy Project and Political Science Club of IUSB, and the League of Women Voters of the South Bend Area sponsored the forum Thursday.