Our lives are defined by how we react to challenges; and in a few of our challenges, our actions can change the world around us. I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken advantage of two such opportunities in my life so far, first as a member of the military and then as a teacher. There is no greater honor than to wear the uniform in service to our country, and the pride I carry with me from that time in my life cannot be touched by any force. I have also had the opportunity to serve youth as a public education teacher. My experiences as both a teacher and veteran are why I decided to run for Mayor of South Bend. As any veteran will tell you, one's service to America doesn't end because the uniform is no longer worn. Rather, an oath is taken that is never relieved from fulfilling. I hear my community calling, and I’m willing to answer once again.
Addressing the safety of our streets is a priority and one of the key reasons I am running for Mayor of South Bend. The statistics are clear. South Bend is a dangerous city by many different measures. According to a recent *study, in 2016 South Bend experienced 1,012 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents, more than double the state and national violent crime rates! The opium epidemic, coupled with the trafficking of other dangerous drugs, and local gang activity require extraordinary steps. I want to be a conduit for cooperation across all law enforcement agencies operating in our region. Building the trust required for various agencies to share information and coordinate action to keep us safe is my goal. Regardless of the agency or any individual, we must look at this entire region as interconnected and sharing a common purpose: ridding our community of violent crime and drugs. Additionally, I want to address this problem at a clinical level. Building a partnership with local universities and businesses to create a full detox and mental health treatment facility can also increase the likelihood of decreasing crime overall and creating a safer city.
The local economy is tied to infrastructure, and its maintenance is critical to bringing jobs and property values up. It doesn't matter where you live in South Bend, the roads are horrible. The simple truth is no business worth a small fortune wants to relocate or expand to a city where the roads are marred by potholes that annually cause thousands of dollars in damage to vehicles. Job creators will not move into a city where the roads are so bad that they decrease the property values of area homes. The importance of our roads cannot be understated, and their condition has a trickle-down effect on other aspects of the economy. All our residents will benefit from a focus on quality infrastructure improvements. Fixing sewers, roads and sidewalks will improve residents’ property values over the long term and create revenue to maintain them. As Mayor of South Bend, this will be my top priority.
Probably the most critical aspect that binds all of these needs of the city together is education. In service to this community as a teacher in South Bend’s alternative school for nearly three years, I was witness to the issues facing our most vulnerable students. Our young people are the future of this city. We need to help them be successful, not only to graduate but also to see the importance of education so they can pass that priority on to their children. A cultural shift is necessary for all citizens to recognize that continued education leads to increased economic prosperity, less crime, and a safer city. This focus must not, however, get mistakenly linked with the idea that every student should go to college. I did not attend college right after high school because I was not ready, one of the few self-aware moments of my youth. Many opportunities are open to students with a high school diploma. A focus on high-skilled job preparation is one area in which South Bend could improve the options of students who don’t see college as their initial path after high school. Community partnerships between the South Bend School Board, the secondary schools, city agencies, private businesses, and local trade unions can all contribute to the transformation of our city through a shared community goal of empowering our students.
Lifelong residents of this community still gather around and listen to our grandparents tell us the stories of what it was like when the city of South Bend was bursting with economic growth. Families flocked downtown to visit the department stores and check out the latest movie from Hollywood at the State Theater. I still remember my grandparents’ excitement when telling us how Studebaker used to flood the sky with grand spotlights when revealing their latest models. I shared their sense of pride in South Bend. The south side of South Bend once bustled with Miami Street businesses and entertainment, claiming small city status simply through their prosperity. School Field and local school gyms once commanded the attention of our community because of the pride people had in just being from South Bend. It was the shared belief in continued growth and development of the city that drove progress. Some citizens today act as if South Bend cannot return to its place as an economic hub of activity, but I believe that this city has the potential to be the leader of Indiana's economy. The same way we fueled the settling of our frontier nearly 200 years ago, we can chart a path today for South Bend to be at the forefront of economic growth and prosperity for our state.
So how do we do this? We start by fixing the issues that cause companies to look and pass on South Bend. There are three key issues we have to address before we can attract more businesses to the City of South Bend: Infrastructure, violent crime, and our education system. Tackling problems in these three areas will have the desired effect of making our city more attractive to growing businesses who bring good paying jobs. Raising our median income from $19,000/year to $34,000/year is attainable, but we need to move closer to $39,000/year to address the wage gap across all fronts and be truly competitive for prospective businesses and residents.
As Mayor of South Bend, I will seek to leave South Bend with this legacy: a service-first government focused on cooperation in what is best for all the people, regardless of political affiliation. With your support, we will begin the long overdue work of bringing South Bend back to the forefront of the national discussion on how a city should be managed to ensure prosperity for all its citizens.
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