What Mayor Pete has done in South Bend

From Wiki-PETE-ia



Pete Buttigieg was elected as the chief executive of South Bend, Indiana in 2011 and was sworn in on January 1, 2012. His second and final term ends on January 1, 2020. As the second youngest mayor in city history, he oversees more than 1,000 employees and maintains an annual budget of over $380 million, which is used to fund everything from public safety to the parks department.[1]

A year before Pete Buttigieg took office, Newsweek had named South Bend as one of America’s 10 dying cities.[2] Over his two terms, South Bend has experienced a revitalized economy, ended its decades-long population decline in favor of population growth, and countless “quality of life” enhancements to its neighborhoods, streets, parks, and city services. In his final State of the City address in 2019, Buttigieg said, “the truth is that the single thing I am proudest of in this city over the last seven years and change isn’t something I can put into numbers. It’s the simple fact that this city believes in itself again.”[3]

Investing in Neighborhoods and Housing

1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days Project

One of the signature campaign promises of Buttigieg's mayoral campaign in 2011 was the committment to address the many vacant and abandoned properties in South Bend. After having a population drop from around 130,000 in the 1950s and 1960s to less than 100,000 in 2011, many properties, both business and residential, had been left to deteriorate. The abandoned houses were a neighborhood blight. They brought down the value of next door homeowner's properties, were a haven for rodents, and were sometimes used as flophouses and drug dens, increasing neighborhood gun violence. Fixing the situation was the #1 ask Buttigieg heard on the campaign trail. Previous administrations had promised to address the problem, but rarely got much accomplished.

That's why Buttigieg's signature "1000 houses in 1000 days" was such a bold promise. His new administration accomplished this goal, cleaning up much blight in South Bend neighborhoods.

This was not "gentrification" because the houses were abandoned properties, and those who benefited the most from the program were the existing neighborhood residents. City records show that criminal activity has decreased within a half mile of vacant and abandoned homes addressed by the city during the program.[4]

Read more about this project on our wikipetia page here.

Mend the Bend Project

Mayor Buttigieg announces $1 million in housing repair funding available to local residents. Photo courtesy of @PeteButtigieg on Twitter.

In 2019, Buttigieg announced over $1 million in funding to be made available for home repairs and neighborhood upgrades, designed to overcome economic barriers and keep people in their homes. “These resources will reinforce the work of our new Office of Engagement and Economic Empowerment, which exists to promote community action and dialogue on inclusion and economic mobility, taking on efforts ranging from reducing eviction rates to improving access to capital.” South Bend Gov Program Page. [5][6][3]

Neighborhood Cleanups

In 2019 alone, the City of South Bend partnered with resident volunteers on 18 neighborhood cleanups, which was triple the number in previous years.[3] City departments partner with neighborhood and community groups to clean litter and debris. City government provides supplies such as gloves and trash bags.[7]

Rental Safety Verficiation Program (RSVP)

In 2019, Buttigieg signed into law a new Rental Safety Verficiation Program (RSVP). It requires landlords to prove that their properties are kept in safe and sanitary condition in order to ensure the health and well being of tenants. It also ensures that tenants have a means of reporting violations to the city without risking retribution. In a city where 40% of housing is rent-based, this is crucial to protecting residents, particularly those that are often the most economically vulnerable. South Bend Gov Program Page.[8][9]

Buttigieg: “This program will allow the City to proactively address violations in rental housing that can cause health issues and safety concerns for residents—not by adding new rules, but by empowering the City to ensure compliance with existing standards.”[3]


While on the campaign trail, Mayor Buttigieg toured a housing community that supports veterans in Kansas City. South Bend has achieved near functional zero for homeless veterans during Buttigieg's time as mayor. Photo courtesy of @Pete.Buttigieg on Instagram.

Weather Amnesty Shelter

During Buttigieg’s administration, the city invested $299,000 to ensure that a Weather Amnesty shelter would open in time for harsh winter weather conditions.[10] The stability of this shelter is in keeping with Buttigieg’s emphasis on ensuring the health and safety of his community’s most vulnerable people. In a local newspaper article he said, “You want to live in a community whose core, whose heart is healthy and part of that is making sure that the most vulnerable people, whether they’re geographically close to your house or not, are looked after.”[11]

South Bend Working Group on Chronic Homelessness

In February 2017, Buttigieg convened community leaders to form the first-of-its-kind Working Group on Chronic Homelessness to more systematically address the challenges in addressing homelessness in South Bend. These 28 people, chaired by Buttigieg’s Deputy Chief of Staff, met twice monthly for six months, and published a final report, a comprehensive strategy to address homelessness long-term in the city, in July 2017.[12] By 2018, this effort was largely considered to be the largest concentration of resources devoted to homelessness in 30 years.[3] In his 2019 State of the City address, Buttigieg said, “The city has now helped to fund 32 permanent supportive housing units at Oliver Apartments, operated by South Bend Heritage, and partnered with the Center for the Homeless to add another 28 units in scattered site housing, bringing us more than halfway to the goal of 82 units recommended by the working group. We’ve worked with providers to fund a managed Coordinated Entry process, which guides those experiencing homelessness to permanent supportive housing.”

South Bend Nears “Functional Zero” for Homeless Veterans

In 2016, Buttigieg announced that South Bend would join the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a national effort to address this chronic problem. “If you served, you served, and we owe you something,” Buttigieg (himself a veteran) said in a local news article about the initiative.[13] Nationwide, veterans make up 11% of the overall homeless population. In South Bend, under Buttigieg’s leadership, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to soon certify that the city has reached “functional zero” for homeless military veterans.[14]


Additional bike lanes and a more bike-friendly city is a lasting legacy of Buttigieg's tenure as mayor. Photo courtesy of @pete.buttigieg on Instagram.

Smart Sewers

At a time when local, state, and federal governments are failing to provide adequate drinking water and basic wastewater treatment services to vulnerable communities like Flint, Michigan, it is notable to see the revolutionary investment in technology and environmental improvements in this area that South Bend has implemented during Buttigieg’s tenure as mayor. In 2004, years before Buttigieg took office, the EPA ordered the city to find a way to keep sewage out of the St. Joseph River. It was expected to cost $860 million to fix, nearly $10,000 per South Bend resident. Utilizing technology that was being developed at neighboring University of Notre Dame, South Bend has fitted over 150 manhole covers with sensors that help the city monitor water levels and divert rising levels away from public waterways. Not only has it minimized environmental damage, but the data collected allowed the city to redesign its wastewater treatment plans, which is expected to save the city nearly $500 million.[15] In the 2019 State of the City address, Buttigieg said, “Based on this technology, we believe South Bend can meet its Clean Water Act obligations for half a billion dollars less than originally proposed—saving $5,000 for every man, woman, and child in this city.” In addition to these cost savings, he went on to say that, “The City is now in the initial planning phase of creating lifeline sewer and water rates for low-income families for basic water use, to help struggling families meet their needs affordably.” [3] More information about the City of South Bend’s long-term wastewater control plan is available here.

Smart Streets

When Buttigieg took office, one of his first tasks as mayor was to revitalize South Bend’s downtown area. It quickly became apparent that the one-way network of streets was essentially a highway that facilitated evacuation of residents from downtown, not into downtown. Two-way traffic was restored to more than 8 miles of city streets, and the Smart Streets program also included improvements in sidewalks, roundabouts, safer crossings, bike lanes, landscaping, and public art. While it was initially politically unpopular due to traffic disruptions and construction headaches, it quickly became apparent that this project would prove to be one of the key elements of a more vibrant downtown South Bend. The city experienced a quadruple return on its initial $25 million investment, including more retail, hotel, and residential capacity. In 2017, the project was recognized by Accelerate Indiana Municipalities as an award-winning municipal innovation.[16] Local developer Ed Bradley said, ““There’s been more that’s happened in the last 36 to 48 months in downtown South Bend than has happened probably in the two decades prior to.”[17] In his 2019 State of the City address, Buttigieg said, “It took some persuasion at the time that we sought the $25 million in funding that made this conversion possible—but in the two short years since we delivered our reimagined downtown streets, we’ve seen over $100 million in net private investment, a terrific return on our public dollar—and more importantly, a healthier and more vibrant downtown.” [3]

Launched a 311 Center

Improving access, affordability and transparency across all basic city services has been a hallmark of Buttigieg’s tenure as South Bend’s mayor. It began with the fulfillment of a key campaign promise: the development of a 311 center, which provided citizens with an easy-to-use central number to call for service requests or complaints. It was also designed to defer non-emergency calls away from the overused 911 center. It launched in 2013, averages 700 calls per day, and has handled more than 850,000 calls on everything from filling potholes to picking up Christmas trees since its inception.[18] In his 2019 State of the City, Buttigieg reported that the 311 center is now partnering with Vets’ Community Connections to better connect veterans with available resources. The 311 call-in center is also expanding to include a redesigned website, allowing residents to get their questions answered at any time. The website now includes SB Stat presentations, which means the community has access to the same statistics that Buttigieg and his administration see to gauge the effectiveness and efficiency of city services.

Additional Infrastructure Improvements

According the Buttigieg’s 2019 State of the City address, since the start of Buttigieg’s tenure as mayor, city government in South Bend has:

  • paved over 140 lane miles of streets
  • replaced nearly half a million feet of curbs and sidewalks
  • filled more than 365,000 potholes

Future Infrastructure Improvements

Despite leaving office at the end of 2019, Buttigieg is still working on long-term infrastructure improvements in South Bend, including a push to extend the South Shore rail line. It currently connects South Bend’s westside with Chicago, but needs to be lengthened by several miles to reach South Bend’s downtown area. Buttigieg said, “If this proves feasible, and if we can validate previous estimates that this can be done for $100 million or less, then we expect South Bend will see at least a 4-to-1 return on this investment. I would hope that we can achieve this goal by 2025.”[19]

Economic Development

Mayor Buttigieg cuts a ribbon with local business owners and residents to welcome a new restaurant to downtown South Bend. Photo courtesy of @pete.buttigieg on Instagram.

Pete Buttigieg has placed improving South Bend’s economy and developing new jobs at the top of his priority list as Mayor. His success in this endeavor is one of the biggest reasons South Bend has left its reputation as one of America’s dying cities behind.[20] His hands-on approach to revitalizing South Bend’s economy is also what makes him an attractive candidate for president. In a recent Roanoke Times editorial, it was said that, “this is one of the upsides of having a small-city mayor run for president: He’s much closer to how economic development works than other candidates are.”[21]

Job Growth

During Buttigieg’s two terms as mayor, unemployment in South Bend fell from 11.8 to 4.1 percent, which is more than a 7% change. This is the lowest South Bend’s unemployment rate has been in decades.[22] Despite its disadvantage as an industrial midwestern city that has historically depended heavily on vanishing manufacturing jobs, South Bend’s unemployment rate now hovers close to the national average and sometimes dips below it. Over 15,000 jobs have been added in the metropolitan area since Buttigieg took office. City government has directly partnered on projects that represent more than $850 million in city-related investment deals, which in total have supported more than 4,000 new jobs.[3] Future job growth projections over the next ten years is predicted to be 36.0%, which is higher than the national average of 33.5%.[23] Indiana Business Review also expects South Bend’s economy to continue to improve, stating, “The economy of South Bend-Mishawaka will continue to grow at a fairly modest rate. Industries in this area are more diversified... In this regard, the local economy is more immune to the ongoing trade war with China and will be less impacted when hit by external shocks.”[24]

Job Training and Preparation

In his 2019 State of the City address, Buttigieg described his successful Pathways to Workforce Development program, which “has supported hundreds of South Bend residents with career training and certifications, empowering them to thrive in a changing economy.” In the last two years, this program has included grant money distributed to training providers who can offer “on-demand” services for local employers. One local business owner, Mike Bauman of Elkhart Plastics, said, “This program is exactly what our community needs. It will make our business stronger, more profitable and, hopefully, in the long run, will actually bring more businesses to our community.”[25] One local participant in the training program said, “Thanks to Mayor Pete for his vision to assist South Bend residents. I’m looking forward to many years in my new career.” You can watch more testimonial videos from the Pathways program here.

Creative Solutions to Local Transportation Challenges

Buttigieg recognizes, “the trap of being a low-income worker who lacks reliable transportation to work,” is a significant hurdle for both job retention and job recruitment, especially for traditionally marginalized populations.[3]. In 2018, South Bend competed with hundreds of other cities around the world in the prestigious Bloomberg Mayor’s Challenge competition to address its public transportation challenges. In October of 2018, it was announced that after successfully completing a $100,000 pilot program, South Bend had been named a Champion City and selected to receive the full $1 million in prize money. The program provides short-term financial assistance for the use of ride-share services for those those who need temporary transportation assistance. The City partnered with local employers such as the University of Notre Dame and Beacon Health System to help offset the costs.[26] At full scale, the program would serve the nearly 10,000 South Bend residents that find reliable transportation a barrier to employment.[27]

Revitalized South Bend International Airport

An increase in traffic at South Bend’s airport has been a key driver of economic growth in the city under Buttigieg’s leadership. The City of South Bend partnered with the airport and dozens of other community organizations and business to launch Project Propel. In 2018, 735,000 passengers flew through SBN, an increase of more than 124,000 passengers.[28] Early figures from 2019 show that SBN served more passengers in the first quarter than it had since 2001. Every airline operating at SBN has reported an increase in passengers year-over-year.[29]. During Buttigieg’s time as mayor, SBN and its airlines have added 5 new direct routes in and out of South Bend and in 2014, the airport received international status.[30]

Climate Change and Disaster Readiness

Mayor Buttigieg updates the public at a news conference during a major flooding event in South Bend. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

Within a two-year time span, Buttigieg had to activate South Bend’s emergency response plan due to record levels of flooding, including what was considered a one in 1,000-year flood and a one in 500-year flood. The St. Joseph River crested at the highest recorded levels in history during these events. As Mayor, Buttigieg has first-hand experience with disaster planning and response, and recognizes the importance of successful coordination between multiple government agencies, nonprofits, and citizens themselves. Not only that, but he knows the reality of how climate change is impacting every community in America, from rural farm fields in Iowa to urban cities on the coasts. This recent editorial in the South Bend Tribune from a South Bend resident gives a great perspective on the various initiatives that Mayor Buttigieg has implemented locally.

Joined the Global Covenant of Mayors

While America was pulling out of the Paris Agreement at the federal level, Buttigieg was instead signing on to make South Bend a part of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, demonstrating “a commitment among thousands of cities representing hundreds of millions of people around the globe, all pledging to take action to address climate change.” [3] This covenant includes efforts to measure local greenhouse gas emissions, setting achievable yet ambitious goals to reduce carbon pollution, the creation of a city-wide climate action plan to measure progress, and the assessment of risks the city faces due to climate change.[31] By April of 2019, the South Bend Common Council had already passed a resolution to support the creation of a climate action plan, expected to be completed by fall 2019, with the ultimate goal of making South Bend a leading climate change fighter among Midwestern cities.[32]

A More Sustainable South Bend

During Buttigieg’s tenure as Mayor of South Bend, the city has undertaken countless green initiatives aimed at reducing South Bend’s carbon footprint and making the city a more sustainable community. These efforts include:

  • Certifying two new fire stations and a large park with green, high-performing buildings
  • Converting 95% of South Bend’s Solid Waste fleet to run on compressed natural gas (most of which comes from converting human waste to biogas)
  • Adding more bike lanes
  • Installing free electric vehicle chargers
  • Offering solar-powered lamp posts
  • Supporting in-home energy efficiency assessments
  • Updating codes and procedures to make it easier for homeowners to invest in solar

[3] [33]

Diversity and Inclusion

As a mayor whose executive staff is 85% women, Pete Buttigied has placed an enormous emphasis on diversity and inclusion throughout his two terms leading South Bend.[34] For the mayor's direct report staff, 37.5 percent are women or people of color, keeping it in line with the Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation national benchmark of 36.7, and higher than the Indiana regional benchmark of 22.1 percent.[35]

First and foremost, this has included hiring a Diversity & Inclusion Officer for the city and developing policy related to more inclusive procurement, more inclusive hiring and talent development, more inclusive workplaces, more inclusive communities, and a more inclusive economy.[36] This key hire was in conjunction with an executive order signed by Buttigieg in 2016 establishing a city-wide diversity and inclusion initiative. Last year, the city invested $250,000 on a comprehensive disparity study of all city contracts to better gauge the inclusiveness of bidding on city contracts.[37] In June 2019, Citi Foundation and Living Cities announced that South Bend would join a cohort of 10 other cities that would spend a year identifying “innovative, effective, locally-tailored strategies to leverage public purchasing power to develop firms owned by people of color.” South Bend’s selection came with a $50,000 grant that would be used to implement a project stemming from the earlier disparity study that “focuses on leveraging over $1.8 billion combined contracting and procurement spending of the top 10 employers in South Bend.”[38]

In 2016, Buttigieg brought then President Obama's initiative, My Brother's Keeper, to South Bend in an effort to tackle opportunity gaps for boys and men of color in the city. The program is still operating today and is widely considered successful.[39]

In 2018, Governing magazine named the City of South Bend a high performer in the “Race-Informed” category of the 2018 Equipt to Innovate national survey of American cities.[40]

See Racial Equity page for initiatives around racial equity and policing

A well-researched post about Buttigieg's efforts toward racial justice and equity in South Bend is found here.

Plan for an Inclusive Economy

In 2017, South Bend launched a plan to address the racial wealth divide that exists in the city. The plan includes mapping neighborhood assets to better connect residents to resources and city services that support entrepreneurship and address income and wealth disparities. The ultimate goal of the plan is to reduce economic inequality in South Bend. Buttigieg’s Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Christina Brooks, said about the plan, “What usually happens is we begin to see this where in certain communities they come in and tell you everything that’s wrong with your community. This model kind of flips all of that on its head, and we start by identifying what we have as a community and how can we leverage our community assets to address our needs.”[41]

Support Minority and Women Owned Businesses

In 2019, after it unanimously passed the South Bend Common Council, the City of South Bend announced that it will set an annual goal of buying at least 15% of its goods and services from minority and women owned businesses in the local area. This target was set based on the analysis from the disparity study mentioned above. Council president Tim Scott referred to the proposal as a “watershed moment for the city of South Bend.”[42] Even more broadly, the city is a finalist for a national City Accelerator grant to further expand this emphasis on purchasing from minority and women-owned business to South Bend's top 10 employers, taking the impact of what the Mayor's administration is doing within city government to a community-wide scale.[43]

Opportunity Zones

Under Buttigieg’s leadership, South Bend has become one of the first cities in the United States to generate a Community Prospectus for Opportunity Zones, in partnership with Accelerator for America. The designation of these zones steers new investment into lower-income areas of the city.[3] By 2018, ten entities within these opportunity zones had attracted significant venture capital funding, local businesses had invested $50 million in the area, and an additional $50 million was planned for future development. By all accounts, these zones are primed for future economic growth.[44]

Partnership with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians

Mayor Buttigieg attends the grand opening of the Pokégenk Édawat Tribal Village in South Bend. Photo courtesy of Pokagon Band of Potawatomi.

During Buttigieg’s time as mayor, Pokagon sovereign land was recognized within South Bend city limits, the first in Indiana. The 167 acres will eventually include 44 units of housing, a Tribal Police Substation, and Four Winds Casino South Bend.[45] Through the partnership between the Pokagon Band and the City of South Bend, “we have begun collecting the first installments of millions of dollars in benefits negotiated with the Four Winds Casino to support everything from parks and recreation to childhood development, and we expect our partnership with this area’s original residents to continue and bear fruit for generations to come.”[3]

ID Cards for Undocumented Residents

Beginning in 2016, a South Bend nonprofit, La Casa de Amistad, created an identification card designed to help undocumented immigrants. These SB ID cards allow residents to go about daily activities like pick children up from school, provide identification to local law enforcement, obtain government or college documents like library cards or transcripts, and even pick up medical prescriptions.[46] Mayor Buttigieg supported the card’s implementation by signing an executive order requiring city departments to recognize the identification card. He even had a card made for himself.[47]

Youth, Education, and Families

In Indiana, mayors have little to no control over the public education system in their communities, which are instead led by locally elected school board members. However, Mayor Buttigieg still found ways to creatively improve the quality of life and educational opportunities for children and adults living and working in South Bend.

Launched South Bend Youth Task Force

South Bend Youth Task Force meets with Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Photo courtesy of the City of South Bend.

In 2014, Mayor Buttigieg started the city’s first youth task force, a group of 9th-12th grade students from various high schools that hold town halls to discuss problems and solutions affecting teenagers, particularly violence in the community. Participating students meet directly with Mayor’s Office staff.[48] “The thought was instead of sitting around at a table saying what's best for high schoolers, let's bring the high schoolers to the table and see what they think," Buttigieg said about the program.[49]

Established Bendable: A Center for Lifelong Learning

In 2018, the mayor announced a partnership with the Drucker Institute to establish a Center for Lifelong Learning, the first of its kind in the country. Called “Bendable,” it is financed by the philanthropic arms of Google and Walmart and creates a platform for South Bend residents to develop their personal, professional and technical skills to adapt to the changing requirements of a modern workforce, with a focus on “the most underserved and economically vulnerable.” With an upfront investment of $500,000, an early learning platform is being designed, with the hopes that it could be a national model. “The hub of the system will be an online portal that will allow all of South Bend’s 100,000 residents to understand what skills are in demand based on timely employer input. It will then link them to opportunities to acquire those skills, hard or soft, either locally or through courses available on the platform. It will also let them sign up for mentoring sessions and job-shadowing experiences. And, crucially, it will keep a record of what has been learned through a badging and credentialing regime.”[50]

The end goal is that every South Bend resident will be within a 15 minute walk of a learning center. More than 2,000 residents have been interviewed as the program has been crafted. It is scheduled to launch more fully in early 2020. Why South Bend? “Under the leadership of Mayor Pete Buttigieg, South Bend is eager to be a test bed for bold ideas. Indeed, the mayor likes to call it the “Beta City. If successful, the model will be replicated across the country … to form a network of ‘Cities of Lifelong Learning.’”[51]

City Funding for Pre-K Grants

In 2019, Mayor Buttigieg announced the city’s creation of an early childhood education capacity fund, including a contribution of $100,000 to improve South Bend’s Pre-K programming. A partnership between the city, United Way, and other early childhood education nonprofits, the grants are distributed to childcare providers for materials, space improvements, curriculum, and other supports for high-quality Pre-K programs.[52]

In 2018, the City of South Bend began offering city employees (mothers and fathers) up to 6 weeks of paid time off at their full salaries following the birth or adoption of a child.[53] They could take the paid time off all at once or in one-week increments within the first six months. Mayor Buttigieg openly called for other employers in the city to do the same. His budget proposal earmarked the estimated $156,000 it could cost the city to offer the benefit. It was covered by appropriating money intended for worker’s compensation claims that was not spent.[54]

Parks and Recreation

One of Pete and Chasten Buttigieg's dogs, Truman, enjoys a South Bend dog park. Photo courtesy of @chasten.buttigieg on Instagram.

During the Buttigieg administration, South Bend began the largest investment in its parks in the city’s history, investing $50 million dollars. This includes face-lifts for small neighborhood parks, building a new community center, the development of an ice skating path and rink, and major improvements to its downtown riverfront park.[55] The new community center serves a largely African American neighborhood. When local leaders requested $3.5 million for the park, Buttigieg's administration found $4.5 million in the budget.[56]

Of particular note, there was no dedicated department for parks, the arts, or public venues when Buttigieg took office. Buttigieg said in his 2019 State of the City, “The newly designed department has been recognized as a statewide leader in parks and facilities management.”[3] Buttigieg was the 2018 Indiana Parks and Recreation Association’s Elected Official of the Year.[57]

Buttigieg also led the effort for South Bend to join the 10-Minute Walk Initiative, which challenges cities to ensure that all residents are within a 10-minute walk of quality green space or parks. South Bend is on track to reach 80% completion of this goal by 2020.[3] South Bend is also one of two Indiana cities that has been designated a silver level bicycle friendly community, making it one of the most bike-friendly communities in the Midwest.[58]

Public Safety (Police, Fire, Animal Control)

According to a recent article in the South Bend Tribune, “During Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s time in office, the overall numbers of reported crimes have actually dropped. In the three years before Buttigieg took office, South Bend police reported an average of 6,845 crimes in the most serious categories tracked by the FBI, according to annual statistics dating back to 2009. Since 2012, Buttigieg’s first year in office, the city has averaged 5,890 reported crimes in those categories.”[59] That said, an officer involved shooting and killing of a black resident in 2019, as well as the firing of a black chief of police in 2012, have often put the South Bend Police Department under a microscope during the presidential campaign. Below are some programs and action steps taken under the Buttigieg administration to improve public safety that are often overlooked by the media.

See Racial Equity page for initiatives around racial equity and policing

Violence Prevention

Pete Buttigieg greets Moms Demand Action volunteers while on the campaign trail. Photo courtesy of Pete For America flickr account.

The City of South Bend has undertaken a number of initiatives intended to reduce violence using best practices and effective strategies from around the country. In 2014, after a particularly violent spring, the city, in partnership with other organizations and individuals, formed the South Bend Group Violence Intervention. The group, calling itself SAVE (Stand Against Violence Everyday) consists of more than 30 partners with the common goal of reducing gun violence. It is based on a model created by the National Network for Safe Communities. In addition to the police department being actively involved in these outreach strategies, the city has provided funding to “support innovations within the strategy, such as providing funding to Goodwill Industries of Michiana to help support the launch of a street outreach team.”[60]

In 2017, the City invested in ShotSpotter technology, which immediately notifies police as to the exact time and location that a gunshot is detected.[61] This technology has allowed the police to respond more quickly to gun violence, and it provides more reliable evidence and inspires the community to report incidents of violence. A news article quoted South Bend Police Captain Dan Skibins, “We often times find additional evidence from a ShotSpotter activation… Technology is getting the community more involved. In the last four years, call-ins to police have jumped 25-percent.”[62]

Increased Transparency Between Public Safety and Community

Following a fatal officer involved shooting in the summer of 2019, the City of South Bend’s Board of Public Safety announced a series of community advisory group meetings to discuss important public safety topics and garner community input. Topics included body camera policy, use of force policy, vehicle pursuit policy, training, recruiting, and next steps. During these meetings, participants, including community leaders, police officers, and concerned citizens, experienced a variety of role playing scenarios and a great deal of feedback and input was collected for future policy changes.[63]

In 2018, 170 body cameras were purchased by the city and provided to South Bend police officers.[64] Recent studies suggest only half of all police departments in America have a body camera program, and many are still in a pilot phase, so South Bend was definitely ahead of the curve on this issue, especially at a time when many departments are eliminating this technology due to high costs.[65]

In 2019, in response to the camera not being turned on during the officer-involved shooting, body cameras are now automatically activated when a squad car door is open. Additional investments in technology will also mean cameras are automatically activated when an officer’s gun is drawn.[66]

Additionally, the South Bend Police Department became one of the first in the country to establish an online transparency hub. This portal contains everything from recruiting procedures to use of force incidents and statistics. "We really think that we'll do better if we know that residents are empowered to ask questions, even difficult questions, based on the facts that they get about what's going on in the community that we share,” said Buttigieg when it launched in 2017.[67]

In addition to this investment in technology and data, Buttigieg has emphasized more personal connections between the police and the community. Increased foot patrols, neighborhood meetings and "Coffee with a Cop" outreach events have resulted in the number of use of force incidents to go down by one third in the past four years, and the number of investigations and complaints against police officers to also fall dramatically.[3]

Buttigieg also empowered the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to develop self-awareness and training programs for South Bend police officers, which has included Diversity Awareness Profile and the Harvard Implicit Bias Test, implicit bias training, civil rights training, workshops on diversity, equity, and inclusion, micro-aggression and micro-affirmation.[68]

Fire Safety Programs

During Buttigieg’s administration, the South Bend Fire Department:

  • Responded to more than 20,000 emergency calls in the past year
  • Most diverse staff in city history
  • Expanded the fire training center
  • Opened a new station on the west side with innovative features to reduce cancer risk and improve health of firefighters
  • Plans for a new station to open on the east side soon, which will include a water-facing boat truck garage for water rescues
  • Installed thousands of smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms since 2012
  • Attained one of the highest ratings in the state from the ISO, which not only reflects a commitment to public safety but also lowers insurance costs for residents[3]

Animal Care and Control Improvements

While Buttigieg’s two rescue dogs have captured the hearts of America, the mayor has showed a similar dedication to the vulnerable animals in South Bend. In his 2019 State of the City speech, he noted that the animal care and control division in the city has tripled adoption rates in recent years.[3]

Lead Safety Program

The most common sources of lead poisoning are deteriorating lead-based paint, contaminated soil, and lead dust in older homes and buildings. Children with elevated blood lead levels have been found in several areas of the city with such older homes. A Notre Dame Lead Innovation Team (ND-LIT) was founded by members of the Eck Institute of Global Health, the Departments of Chemistry and Physics and the Center for Digital Scholarship in the Hesburgh Libraries to study this situation in South Bend in late 2016, following a Reuters article which listed South Bend. Their report has been issued and action taken based on their findings. [69] [70]

The Mayor's office established an overarching program to coordinate all lead issues called Lead Safe South Bend.[71] Free lead testing for children, home testing kits, and home risk assessments are available through the St Joseph County Health Department. The City of South Bend and the State of Indiana provide grants or forgivable loans to income-qualified homeowners or landlords for lead abatement to make homes safer.

South Bend drinking water meets all state and U.S. EPA water quality standards, including lead. Drinking water is not the source of lead contamination in children in South Bend. Individuals are encouraged to test their water for lead if they suspect plumbing components in their homes may be at risk. [72]


As mayor, Buttigieg was responsible for crafting and ensuring the passage of a budget of more than $360 million each year. In his last State of the City address, he said, “Early in this administration, this meant ensuring that politically unpopular salary adjustments helped bring our pay at every level more in line with competing employers. Each year since, we have done more to make sure compensation is fair and competitive. Realizing that a $7.25 minimum wage is not enough to get by, we have acted to bring the minimum wage of a city employee to $10.10 an hour, and continue to urge other area employers to do the same.” This was in addition to offering paid parental leave (mentioned above), one of the first cities in the state of Indiana to do so.[3]

The 2019 budget was $368 million balanced the city’s general fund and preserved South Bend’s AA bond rating, which is an independent confirmation that it is one of the most fiscally sound cities in Indiana. This bond rating saves taxpayers through low interest rates on bonds, leases, and other financing options for capital needs. The budget process involves months of public input sessions, analysis of administration and council priorities, and internal deliberations.[73]

Arts and Culture

Pete Buttigieg and Ben Folds pause for a photo before performing together in South Bend in 2015. Photo courtesy of @PeteButtigieg on Twitter.

Special Events

Beginning in 2015, as part of South Bend’s 150th anniversary celebration, the city has sponsored a week-long celebration of local art, culture, and entertainment called Best Week Ever. It has since become an annual event every summer. “Every neighborhood comes alive as part of this shared, award-winning experience,” Buttigieg said in his 2019 State of the City speech.[74]

First Fridays launched in 2009, but has grown exponentially through Buttigieg’s focus on a revitalized downtown corridor in South Bend. First Fridays are “an immersive community experience showcasing the best of what downtown South Bend has to offer.” It takes place the first Friday of each month year-round, featuring live music, dining & retail specials, art receptions, and kid-friendly activities.[75]

Public Art

In 2015, the City of South Bend invested $150,000 toward the full cost of $750,000 to develop River Lights, an artistic and dramatic light display in the St. Joseph River.[76] Buttigieg spearheaded the effort to raise the rest of the funding and secure in-kind contributions. As he predicted, development subsequently followed, including a $38 million condo project overlooking that part of the river. "This is part of an idea that public art can be an investment for a downtown community," he said. "It also reflects this policy change we've had since Day One, where we have to treat our river as a centerpiece and source of value."[77] Since its launch, many downtown businesses reported seeing an immediate economic benefit, and a great deal of private and public investment was spurred by the project’s implementation in giving this area of the city a sense of place.[78]

Personal Support of the Arts

In addition to public investments in the arts in South Bend, Buttigieg supported the art community with his personal time and attention. In 2013, he spent weeks preparing for a solo performance of Rhapsody in Blue with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in order to drum up attention for the organization and increase ticket sales. A local arts critic for the South Bend Tribune said, “Mayor Pete Buttigieg made his concert debut as the piano soloist for “Rhapsody in Blue” and acquitted himself well as he executed the piece’s difficult fast passages with technical precision, although technique sometimes took precedence over expressiveness.”[79]

In 2015, Buttigieg again performed on the piano for the community in support of the local arts scene, playing with visiting artist Ben Folds. “He and I went over the music quickly and he was obviously a very good pianist—no worries there," Folds said. "It was a very difficult song he pulled off. I’m serious. He’s a fine player.”[80]

Awards, Honors, and Recognition

  • Govfresh.com Mayor of the Year in 2013 (tied with third term NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg)[81]
  • In 2014, The Washington Post called Buttigieg "the most interesting mayor you've never heard of" based on his youth, education, and military background.[82]
  • Also in 2014, Buttigieg was named an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow.[83]
  • In 2015, he was a recipient of the John F. Kennedy New Frontier Award, which honors young Americans who are changing their communities - and the country - with their commitment to public service.[84]
  • In 2016, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni published a column praising Buttigieg, with a headline that asked if he might be the first gay president[85]
  • In 2017, the City of South Bend received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting (PAFR) from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) and was the only city in Indiana to be recognized by the organization.[86]
  • In 2018, the City of South Bend was named “Best Benefits” and “Happiest Place to Work” from the South Bend Tribune.[3]
  • Also in 2018, Buttigieg launched and chaired a task force titled “Automation and the Impacts on America's Cities” for the United States Conference of Mayors[87]
  • In 2019, Queerty named Buttigieg one of Pride50’s trailblazing individuals “who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance, and dignity for all queer people.”[88]
  • Also in 2019, he received the Golden Heart Award for Outstanding Leadership and Public Service, presented by God’s Love We Deliver in New York City.[89]


  1. City of South Bend: Mayor's Office
  2. Newsweek: America's Dying Cities
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 3.19 South Bend 2019 "State of the City" address by Mayor Buttigieg
  4. WSBT: Crime decreases with 1,000 homes in 1,000 days project
  5. South Bend Tribune: South Bend officials highlight home repair programs
  6. ABC57: South Bend announces 1 million to be spent on home repairs in the city
  7. WBST22: Code enforcement hosting neighborhood cleanups in South Bend
  8. WNDU: All South Bend rental properties now required to go through inspection
  9. South Bend Tribune: South Bend council OKs rental property inspection program
  10. South Bend Tribune: A welcome plan to shelter South Bend homeless this winter
  11. South Bend Tribune: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg defends homeless efforts
  12. South Bend Working Group on Chronic Homelessness Final Report
  13. South Bend Tribune: South Bend joins effort to end veteran homelessness
  14. South Bend Tribune: Is South Bend doing enough to address homelessness?
  15. NPR: These Smart Sewers Are Part Of A Growing Trend Connecting Infrastructure To The Internet
  16. AIM Indiana: South Bend adopts smart streets initiative
  17. South Bend Tribune: How much has Smart Streets driven downtown South Bend’s turnaround?
  18. South Bend Tribune: South Bend's 311 center fast-tracks answers to callers
  19. Indianapolis Star: Pete Buttigieg says he’s mayor of a turnaround city. Here’s how that claim stands up
  20. Newsweek: America's Dying Cities
  21. Roanoke Times: Buttigieg has the best plans for the rural economy
  22. Indiana Business Review: South Bend and Elkhart Forecast 2019
  23. Best Places: South Bend, Indiana
  24. Indiana Business Review: South Bend and Elkhart Forecast 2019
  25. South Bend Region Economic Development: Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership teams with South Bend to train companies to implement LEAN principles
  26. South Bend Tribune: South Bend wins $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies
  27. Bloomberg Philanthropies: Mayor’s Challenge 2018 Champion City
  28. Project Propel: Key Facts
  29. SBN: South Bend International Airport Serves the Most Passengers Since 2001
  30. SBN: History
  31. South Bend Office of the Mayor: City Joins Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy
  32. WSBT: South Bend officials vote to support climate change action plan
  33. South Bend Office of the Mayor: City to Host Kickoff of Green and Healthy Homes Initiative to Reduce Home Health Hazards
  34. South Bend Office of the Mayor: Mayor’s Office Executive Staff
  35. South Bend Tribune: Viewpoint: City taking steps to build diversity
  36. South Bend Office of the Mayor: Diversity and Inclusion
  37. South Bend Tribune: South Bend hires firm to study minority contracting
  38. South Bend Office of the Mayor: South Bend receives $50,000 Inclusive Procurement Grant
  39. WSBT: South Bend sees success in young boys, men of color through 'My Brother's Keeper' alliance
  40. City of South Bend: South Bend named high-performing "race-informed" city
  41. South Bend Tribune: South Bend project hopes to grow small businesses and target racial wealth divide
  42. South Bend Tribune: South Bend sets goal for contracts with minority- and women-owned firms
  43. Governing: South Bend: Big MWBE Contracting Opportunities Beyond City Hall
  44. Accelerator for America: Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Coming Back Strong
  45. Pokagon Band of Potawatomi: South Bend Pokégnek Édawat officially opens
  46. South Bend Tribune: South Bend residents apply for ID card that’s in the news
  47. South Bend Tribune: South Bend ID cards aim to ease life for undocumented immigrants
  48. City of South Bend: Youth Task Force
  49. ABC57: South Bend mayor starts Youth Task Force
  50. Politico: Can This Indiana City Re-Invent Job Training?
  51. Drucker Institute: City of Lifelong Learning
  52. Inside Indiana Business: South Bend Partnering on Pre-K Program
  53. WSBT: City of South Bend Offers New Paid Parental Leave Policy Starting This Year
  54. South Bend Tribune: Buttigieg seeks new paid parental leave benefit for city of South Bend employees
  55. Indianapolis Star: Pete Buttigieg says he’s the mayor of a turnaround city
  56. ABC57: Charles Black Community Center unveiled Thursday, community relfects on legacy and future
  57. Indiana Parks and Recreation Association: 2018 Awards of Excellence
  58. WNDU: South Bend named one of most bike friendly communities in Midwest
  59. South Bend Tribune: Fewer crimes reported in South Bend but shootings linger as fears remain for some
  60. EfficientGov: How South Bend is seeking answers to violence
  61. ABC57: Inside ShotSpotter: The system detecting gunfire in South Bend
  62. WSBT: ShotSpotter: South Bend Police say technology helping 'solve crime’
  63. South Bend Tribune: Meetings show South Bend officials, including police, are working to address trust issues with community
  64. South Bend Tribune: All new South Bend police body cameras are now on the streets
  65. Washington Post: Some U.S. police departments dump body-camera programs amid high costs
  66. South Bend Tribune: South Bend police getting body camera upgrades to activate when gun is drawn
  67. WSBT: South Bend launches new data hub with crime stats
  68. Medium: Here is a comprehensive list of South Bend’s efforts towards racial justice and equity under Pete Buttigieg
  69. Reuters: The Thousands of U.S. Locales Where Lead Poisoning is Worse than in Flint
  70. Hesburgh Libraries and The Notre Dame Lead Innovation Team:Reducing Lead Poisoning in South Bend Children
  71. Lead Safe South Bend
  72. City of South Bend 2018 Annual Drinking Water Quality Report
  73. City of South Bend: City Celebrates Passage of 2019 Budget
  74. City of South Bend: City Celebrates Passage of 2019 Budget
  75. Downtown South Bend: First Fridays
  76. South Bend Tribune: All About South Bend’s River Lights
  77. Indianapolis Star: Pete Buttigieg says he’s mayor of a turnaround city
  78. Downtown South Bend: River Lights
  79. South Bend Tribune: South Bend Symphony Orchestra concert feat. Mayor Pete Buttigieg at the Morris Performing Arts Center
  80. Esquire: Mayor Pete Buttigieg Impressed the Hell Out of Ben Folds During a Duet in 2015
  81. GovFresh.com: 2013 GovFresh Awards winners
  82. Washington Post: The most interesting mayor you’ve never heard of
  83. Aspen Institute: Rodel Fellowship Class of 2014
  84. Harvard: 2015 New Frontier Award Release
  85. New York Times: The First Gay President?
  86. City of South Bend: City of South Bend receives award for outstanding achievement in popular annual financial reporting
  87. City of South Bend: Mayor Buttigieg to launch USCM Automation Task Force
  88. Queerty: Pete Buttigieg is reshaping politics and driving the religious right crazy in the process
  89. God’s Love We Deliver: 13th Annual Golden Heart Awards