By: JORDAN RAE LUCAS
As the semester draws to a close, South Bend residents head to the polls to vote in the May 2015 mayoral primary. Mayor Pete Buttigieg is up for reelection, and also vying for the Democratic spot on the 2016 ballot is Councilman Henry Davis, Jr. Local small business owner-operator Kelly S. Jones is uncontested for the Republican ticket.
With only one Republican candidate in the running, the real race to watch is between Buttigieg and Davis. The two city officials were at radically different points in their careers this time last year: Buttigieg was serving a seven month tour of duty in Afghanistan and Davis could not catch a break from bad publicity.
As different as the candidates may seem, they have a common desire. Both men are seeking office because they see a better future for the city of South Bend. Where they differ in their vision is how distant it may be.
The sitting mayor is running on a “four more years” platform, not unlike the one used by President Obama in his campaign for reelection. Buttigieg is proud of the things the city has been able to accomplish during his time in office, but acknowledges there is still work to do.
“Almost all of the signature achievements of this administration – those are all works in progress,” he said. “We are by no means finished, so I felt it necessary to stay serving in this job and see those things through.”
Councilman Davis doesn’t see this so-called progress. Instead, he sees South Bend as a city at a standstill with the work to improve barely started.
“The first reason why I decided to run was to see production, results. South Bend has been frozen for a long time,” Davis said.
Another point of contention in the debates leading up to the Primary has been the safety of the city. The 2014 crime statistics for South Bend show a decrease in overall crime but a drastic increase in homicides. Both candidates feel that it is a necessity for city law enforcement officers to get to know the community they serve and act as members of the community, not just police it.
A point they agree on, to a certain extent, is the implementation of police body cameras. Davis sees an urgent need for the cameras in the community while Buttigieg appreciates their usefulness but cautions against the “magic wand” approach.
An existing piece of police technology was brought up in the final debate before primary day, held in Indiana University South Bend’s own Education and Arts Building lecture hall. The Armadillo is a modified armored truck that the department says it has been using to help reduce crime in high-risk areas.
Mayor Buttigieg said, “So far, the feedback has been good.”
Councilman Davis feels that the parking of an armored vehicle on city streets is a bad move.
“I think the militarization of any police force in America is against what we call our Constitution and our civil rights,” Davis said. “I think that the Armadillo was just bad, up front. I think it tells folks that the police may be against them.”
Early voting is going on now through Friday, May 1. South Bend residents will also be able to cast their votes from 8 a.m. to noon on Monday, May 4. Polls will be open for the last time on primary day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 5.