The South Bend Tribune
October 16, 2011
Pete Buttigieg could not possibly fulfill all the hopes that have been laid on him these past few months. But half the hopes, say, would be a big step forward.
Buttigieg, a Democrat, seems to have the ability, so rare in a politician, not only to grasp and rattle off the things South Bend residents are worried about, but to leave listeners with a sense that he will be able to change those things for the better.
Jobs? Development? Crime? Neighborhoods? On each key issue, he seems to understand the challenge, and have a plan to meet it.
He grasps the persuasive power of the mayoral office and says he would use it to nurture hope and encourage solutions in areas this administration has kept its distance from, such as the problems of public schools and the fear engendered in some neighborhoods by relentless criminal activity.
He acknowledges the shortfalls of current leadership not by hurling blame but by looking ahead, which keeps him from looking petty and opportunistic but also suggests he knows a bit about the fine and essential art of building consensus.
His ease at handling tough questions and complex issues neutralizes concern about his young age and lack of experience. Just 29, Buttigieg has never held public office.
But then, neither have his two challengers.
Republican Wayne Curry has run a competent and honorable campaign and displays a lot of refreshing common sense about the problems facing the city.
A contractor by trade, he has devoted concern and thought to the problems of the city's neighborhoods. And he is, rightly, indignant about the city's scattershot distribution of public money for projects this year.
Libertarian Pat Farrell has those concerns, too, and makes his points effectively. We don't share his enthusiasm for a pure-democracy approach to making decisions. (Citizens would be required to vote by phone or computer on pract-ically every move the city would make, and the Common Council would apparently just fade away.)
Each in his own way, all three candidates seem to have a sense that this race is about something more than an isolated issue here and a platform there.
All of them want to get things moving in a different direction, to push the reset button on the city's own image.
All of the challenges, from schools to economic development to dealing with blighted houses, require a strong, articulate leader who, most of all, knows where he's trying to go.
But Buttigieg is the only one of the three with all the necessary skills.
"I ran because South Bend needs a fresh start," Buttigieg told us during a recent conversation.
He's right, and no one is better-qualified to lead that effort than Pete Buttigieg. We endorse him for mayor of South Bend.