Many of the neighborhoods that shifted against Buttigieg overlap with the footprint of his signature first term initiative, a program to demolish or repair abandoned housing leftover from the city's long term decline. While many residents cheered on the eradication of urban "blight," some complained that the city's failure to quickly redevelop properties left streets dotted with empty overgrown lots akin to a "snake-smooth" grin with missing teeth. attracting college-educated professionals to South Bend at the expense of local input from black residents who lived in the corridor between the airport and downtown. And his decision to demote the city's first black police chief – the act of which Buttigieg calls his "first serious mistake as mayor" – further inflamed tensions between the city's police force and its black communities.
City council members and local residents cited Buttigieg's sexual orientation – which he publicly revealed towards the end of his first term – as a potential barrier to his support among some of South Bend's black communities.
"He's not regular, you know what I'm saying?" said Tydus Cunegin, a retired factory worker for AM General who has been resident of South Bend for more than five decades. "He's not regular was like the average person." Buttigieg's identity as a married man could hurt his pitch to nationwide black voters in 2020. Among the voters in the 2016 presidential primaries, 41 percent of black Democrats said they oppose the legalization of gay marriage – the most of any racial subgroup – compared to just 14 percent of white democrats, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study at Harvard. The survey shows nearly identical numbers among Indiana Democrats.
Buttigieg's struggles to nail down the support of South Bend's black voters provide a crucial context for his early difficulties winning black backers for his presidential race, and Achilles he is to address with high- profile events like his sit-down at a Harlem restaurant with Rev. Al Sharpton. About lunch, he tried to make the case that as a gay man, he understood the pain of those who confront discrimination. But public polling suggests he still has a long way to go.
A nationwide CNN poll soon after the first Democratic presidential debate in late June found Buttigieg with 0 percent support among black Democrats.
"Because he's running for president , nobody here wants to criticize Pete. They want him to be a hero, "said Councilwoman Regina Williams-Preston, who represents a district in western South Bend," but every hero has a flaw they need to overcome. "
In his recent memoir,
Shortest Way Home Buttigieg recounts his 2011 mayoral primary and spends several pages describing how he chipped away at the support of the "two credible candidates" in the Democratic primary: Ryan Dvorak, who had earned the support of organized labor during his tenure as a state representative, and Mike Hamann, a well-liked county council member who was the local party chairman's favored candidate. Buttigieg's only black opponent, forms Clinton administration staffer Barrett Berry, is just once as someone "running a distant fourth."
While Buttigieg's political instincts proved correct – he ultimately won the primary with 55 percent of the vote, with Hamann and Dvorak trailing in second and third place respectively – a more complicated picture lurked beneath the topline results. Despite Buttigieg's popularity throughout the rest of the city, Berry outperformed him in several of Western South's predominantly black precincts.
In this Nov. South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks during a presentation at the newly redeveloped area along Jefferson Street, near Howard Park, in South Bend, Ind. | Robert Franklin / AP Photo / South Bend Tribune
Still, these neighborhoods were reliably democratic in the general election that fall. Buttigieg was particularly adept at courting the West Side by forging connections with widely respected black pastors, who discussed the city's issues with him at one of his favorite coffee hangouts. When the results came in on election night, Buttigieg was swiftly named the victor with 74 percent of the vote, buoyed by particularly strong support in western South Bend.
Buttigieg's political honeymoon with his new constituents was soon taken over by events. Buttigieg's first major encounter with South Bend's racial divides as mayor began just three months after he took office in 2012, when he chose to demote the first black leader of the city's police force.
South Bend's police chief, Darryl Boykins, was allegedly to have improperly recorded phone calls by subordinates he was licensed for his job – a scandal that attracted the attention of federal investigators. After demoting Boykins and settling three lawsuits by the officers involved, Buttigieg declined to release the tapes, citing legal restrictions under the Federal Wiretap Act. The decision continues to frustrate many of the city's black residents, who speculate on the recordings of captured officers making racist remarks.
"The Chief Boykins debacle was one of the first things that was a clear indicator that he wasn't connected to this community, he wasn't interested in hearing what the community was saying," said Davis. "He was interested in what he thought, and he kept saying what he thought was the best for our community."
Fowler, the city clerk elected with Buttigieg's support, suggested that black voters didn't appreciate the
legal constraints on the mayor
"People didn't understand what was going on," she said. “They didn't understand why this whole thing had to go to court, legal or not legal. They're like, 'You may be able to do this.' "
] TOP: A boarding up home in South Bend, Ind., In an area of the city heavily targeted by Mayor Pete Buttigieg's vacant and abandoned properties initiative. [BOTTOM: A home being rehabilitated in the same neighborhood.] Tucker Doherty / POLITICO
While the police scandal dominated local headlines during his first year in office, Buttigieg was also laying the groundwork for his ambitious plans to revitalize South Bend The mayor began convening task forces and commissioning reports on the city's chronic problems with vacant and abandoned housing, a byproduct of 40 years of declining population
City records show that the problem was particularly concentrated in predominantly black neighborhoods on the West Side, and many residents welcomed the effort to address decaying plug that is catching fire and attracting urban wildlife. But the mayor's aggressive implementation sourced some of his approach.
To create a sense of urgency, Buttigieg set an ambitious goal for his initiative: the city would tear down or repair 1,000 houses over the course of 1,000 days. But to achieve that goal, Buttigieg needed to quickly ask homeowners into action or otherwise get neglected properties into the city's hands.
To that end, according to interviews with city officials, the city government started ramping up code enforcement, sending inspectors into neighborhoods to give homeowners notice and start assessment fines. A new municipal website encouraged owners to donate their property to the city. In addition, the homeowners were caught in the crossfire.
Regina Williams-Preston said she decided to run for her council office in 2015 after her and her husband
SOUTH BEND, IN – APRIL 13, 2019: Mayoral candidate, Regina Williams-Preston. | Whitten Sabbatini / The Washington Post / Getty Images
According to Williams-Preston, the couple had bought half-boxes in their neighborhood through tax sales, and planned to eventually rehabilitate and sell the homes. But after her husband, the family's primary breadwinner, became ill and fell into a coma, the couple's plans fell apart at the same time that code enforcement was becoming more active.
"It happened on a large scale and people didn't know what hit them, "said Williams-Preston.
Fowler, whose office oversees code enforcement, said the decision to enforce regulations that had been largely ignored for years caught residents off guard.
" ticket for things that are illegal, and then someone comes in and gives you one ticket or two tickets, that feels like 15 tickets, "Fowler said.
Buttigieg's next initiative – a plan to create a walkable downtown by reengineering traffic flow, adding bike lanes and turning intersections into roundabouts – was also with a mixed reception among the city's black communities.
"They called it Smart Streets, we kind of called it dumb streets," said Gladys Muhammad, ac ommunity organizer in South Bend more than 30 years.
"It was a big change, and people have been used to the change," she added.
West Side residents complained that Buttigieg was overly
TOP: Mayor Pete Buttigieg celebrates with clerk candidate Kareemah Fowler after the pair won their democratic dominations inside the Westside Democratic Club in South Bend. | Robert Franklin / South Bend Tribune
BOTTOM: A sculpture in downtown Bend unveiled by Mayor Pete Buttigieg in 2017 depicting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and forms Notre Dame President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh | Tucker Doherty / POLITICO
Davis raised these issues during the 2015 Democratic Mayoral Primary, but spent much of the campaign fending off headline-generating scandals, including a DUI judgment. He ultimately won 22 percent of the vote against the incumbent Buttigieg in the May 2015 Democratic primary, running close to or ahead of Buttigieg in predominantly black neighborhoods.
One month later,
Buttigieg publicly came out as gay by authoring an article in the South Bend Tribune titled, "Why Coming Out Matters." The mayor expressed his hope that the gay community in South Bend would increase.
"For a conservative resident from a different generation, whose unease with social change is partly rooted in the impression that he doesn't know anyone gay, "Buttigieg wrote," a familiar face can be a reminder that we're all together as a community. "
While some residents said that rumors about Buttigieg's sexuality had swirled in South Bend for years, the public announcement put strain on his relationship with some traditional black religious congregations that had previously supported him but felt blindsided by the announcement. According to Davis, some local pastors declined to support Buttigieg in the next general election.
That fall, Buttigieg trounced his Republican opponent with 80 percent of the vote. In his memoir, he writes that the overwhelming margin convinced him that "our socially conservative community had either moved forward in its acceptance of minority sexual orientations, or decided it did not care."
But that recollection overlooked a shift in votes at the neighborhood level. In 2011 Buttigieg's support was strongest in predominantly black precincts on the West Side, his support in those neighborhoods fell in the 2015 general election.
In precincts where more than half of residents are black, the Mayor's vote share fell by 8 points on average. One of the sharpest declines occurred in a neighborhood known colloquially as "The Lake," where older black residents have resided for decades. According to the Indiana University's South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center, the only neighborhood where black residents were allowed to buy land in the early 20
Muhammad said Buttigieg's decision to come out as gay said: "You have to have some courage to come out and say that, because he could have a real big backlash from that," said Muhammad. "but he decided to own it and he did."
* * *
Views differ as to whether the mayor has been fully integrated with South Bend's black communities in the years since. His administration to ongoing efforts at minority outreach, including the creation of the city's first Diversity and Inclusion Officer in 2016 and hiring the first African American attorney.
But some remain skeptical.
"It's felt like he's had a foot He was never fully invested with both feet in, "said Davis. "He's never been covered in it. How can you depend on someone who's leaving the city?"
Williams-Preston expressed forward-looking optimism about Buttigieg's relationship with South Bend's black communities. She recalled how Buttigieg arrived at community functions with a stiff demeanor and large entourage during his first term, which gave way to more relaxed and intimate interactions in his second term.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announces that he will be seeking the Democratic nomination for president during a rally in the old Studebaker car factory on April 14, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. | Scott Olson / Getty Images
Muhammad customs POLITICO that she believes mayor is still broadly popular and has made efforts to experience the first term.
"He makes adjustments when it's necessary," said Muhammad, who supports the mayor's presidential aspirations, "and if made a mistake or something, he can own up to it." [Short] Before the first debate, Buttigieg returned to South Bend to address the shooting of a 54-year-old black man, Eric Logan,
by a white police officer who threatened the victim with a knife but who had not been on his body camera. At a swearing-in ceremony for six new officers, Buttigieg said public remorse About the officer's failure to turn on his body camera was justified. The mayor promised a policy that would require body camera use during all police interactions.
But members of the press honed in on another detail – all six officers being sworn in that day were white, according to the South Bend Tribune. At the first democratic presidential debate on June 27, moderator Rachel Maddow asked Buttigieg why, after his two terms as mayor, the police force was only 6 percent black in a city where 26 percent of residents were black.
"Because I couldn 't get it done,' responded Buttigieg, admitting that bias training and other reforms had not been enough to prevent the shooting.
the st. Joseph County Clerk's Office. In precincts whose boundaries changed between the 2011 and 2015 general elections, we adjusted votes counts and U.S. Census population estimates based on the area shared between the different maps. The locations of targeted vacant homes were derived from a report by the Vacant & Abandoned Properties Task Force.
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