By: HOPE FOWLER
Last Tuesday, October 1, Sean Haas (R) and James Mueller (D), two fierce candidates for mayor, faced off at IU South Bend Wiekamp Hall for a constructive debate led by the community.
Dr. Elizabeth Bennion, leader of the IU South Bend American Democracy Project, monitored the debate. Questions for the candidates were sent in by community voting members.
The event began with opening statements from both candidates. Haas expressed his intense passion for service and public safety, “I want the community to know I am in it for them, and them alone.”
Mueller proposed his goal for public safety and continued city growth, “I look forward to keep South Bend moving forward together.”
The main question asked by the community involved the police department and public safety. Haas began, “I want to make sure we rebuild the trust between law enforcement and the community. I want to increase the number of members on the Board of Public Safety, most elected by the community.” Haas often referenced his disbelief in systemic racism. “I believe body cameras are the most important issue, we need to be sure that good policing is caught on camera and that bad actors are held accountable. One bad actor should not include all police officers.”
Mueller opposed Haas’s view, and in reference to systematic racism, stated “We have to admit there’s a problem before we’re able to fix it.” He agreed that rebuilding trust is crucially essential.
The next major question asked was in regard to the revitalization of housing and neighborhoods. Haas opened, “We need to allocate the budget better and invest in the people we serve. We need to use TIF (tax increment financing) money more responsibly to create more value and generate repairs.”
Mueller mostly agreed with Haas, “I have a vision to repair, rebuild, and reimagine our neighborhoods.” He continued to describe recent achievements and future goals.
Prior to the candidates closing statements, they were asked to share their top few priorities while in office with the city’s budget and what they can offer the city.
Haas began, “We need to allocate more money and attention to public safety and infrastructure.” He wants the community to know that if elected, he will be as accessible and cooperative as possible. He lastly wanted to stress his powerful view of public safety.
Mueller responded regarding his budget goals, “We need to make further progress within our neighborhoods.” His best traits that he’d like to bring to the mayor position included being hands on and a problem solver. He looks forward to accelerating the city’s growth.
“This was an excellent event; I hope the area has more clarity with the candidates and their views.” said active community member, Amy Westfall.
Haas served in the army right out of high school, when he returned, he became a local schoolteacher. Mueller has had a role in the city administration for several years now, serving under Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Since then, he recently gained the role of Executive Director of Community Investment.
The South Bend mayoral election will take place on November 5th, 2019. For more information on the candidates, visit their corresponding sites at seanhaasformayor.com and muellerformayor.com