By MANDI STEFFEY
Hundreds of people were gathered in the LaSalle Intermediate Academy’s auditorium for South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s second “State of the City” address on March 20. The mayor spoke about several plans he and other city employees have for the city, but all of them require one thing: change.
Before Buttigieg got down to the issues, he started off the address with a moment of silence for the victims of the deadly jet crash on South Bend’s west side that occurred on March 17.
The mayor wasted no time starting his address.
“We have been through a lot in 2012,” said Buttigieg.
He brought up several topics and plans for the city. With mostly good things to say about the state of the city, he cited several examples of how South Bend is turning around.
A new police chief, dedicated city workers and further developing police and fire departments were among the things Buttigieg cited that allow the residents of South Bend to live in a “safe, well-connected community where everyone can thrive.” According to Buttigieg, the thriving is already happening: he reported lower unemployment rates and plans for more jobs.
One of the many things the mayor stressed was the need for openness. Buttigieg spoke on how he wanted the city of South Bend to be open to new ideas and open to each other. Buttigieg stressed the need for a “unity of purpose” to push South Bend to be the city it can be.
Buttigieg also shared some recent press involving South Bend. He said that a publication associated with Cysco Systems IT firm published a report on ten “Smart Cities” around the world that are changing the fate of their cities through the use of information technology.
The cities mentioned included Boston, San Francisco, Singapore and Stockholm—and South Bend, Indiana. We are transforming our future, and the consequence is that there is a great buzz about South Bend right now,” said Buttigieg.
The mayor shared many recent and future developments happening in South Bend. He announced for the first time that the city would be developing the Luther J. Taylor Sr. Fire Safety Training Center, which garnered hearty applause. Buttigieg also spoke on the city’s new “311” phone system, which will allow residents access to a one-stop call center for issues like reporting potholes or asking a question about a water bill. He said the call center takes calls in both English and Spanish.
Buttigieg plans to clean up the city in terms of abandoned houses and untended lawns. He spoke on how he particularly would like to clean up the stretch of Lincolnway West that leads from the airport to the downtown area so visitors didn’t have to look at so many abandoned houses. He also mentioned a plan to renovate an 800,000 square foot abandoned warehouse building into data centers and high-tech office space. He said the city plans to call this area the “Renaissance District” upon completion. Buttigieg said this has investors that are committing $17.5 million into the project.
The mayor said the city has a “long way to go,” but he said he has hope.
“We have given ourselves permission to believe in our city again. No city made up of the kind of people we are, that’s been through what we’ve been through…No such city can fail unless we let it,” said Buttigieg. “The state of our city rests on old strength and new hope, and we have everything it takes to open the next chapter in South Bend’s story.”