What Mayor Pete has done in South Bend

From Wiki-PETE-ia

See Racial Equity page for initiatives around racial equity and policing


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 1950's 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.

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. [1][2][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.[4]

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. South Bend Gov Program Page.[5][6]

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.[7] 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.”[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11]


Additional bike lanes and a more bike-friendly city is a last legacy of Buttigieg's tenure as mayor. Photo courtesy of @pete.buttigieg 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.[12] 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.[13] 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.”[14] 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.[15] 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 the year, 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.”[16]

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.[17] 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.”[18]

Job Growth

During Buttigieg’s two terms as mayor, unemployment in South Bend fell from 11.8 or 4.1 percent, which is more than a 7% change. This is the lowest South Bend’s unemployment rate has been in decades.[19] 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%.[20] 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.”[21]

Job Training and Preparation

In his 2019 State of the City address, Buttigieg described his successful Pathways to Workforce Development program, as it has “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.”[22] 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.[23] At full scale, the program would serve the nearly 10,000 South Bend residents that find reliable transportation a barrier to employment.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]. 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.[27]

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 two years, 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.[28] 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.[29]

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] [30]

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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[33] 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.”[34]

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.”[35]

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.[36]

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.[37] 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]

  1. South Bend Tribune: South Bend officials highlight home repair programs
  2. ABC57: South Bend announces 1 million to be spent on home repairs in the city
  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 South Bend 2019 "State of the City" address by Mayor Buttigieg
  4. WBST22: Code enforcement hosting neighborhood cleanups in South Bend
  5. WNDU: All South Bend rental properties now required to go through inspection
  6. South Bend Tribune: South Bend council OKs rental property inspection program
  7. South Bend Tribune: A welcome plan to shelter South Bend homeless this winter
  8. South Bend Tribune: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg defends homeless efforts
  9. South Bend Working Group on Chronic Homelessness Final Report
  10. South Bend Tribune: South Bend joins effort to end veteran homelessness
  11. South Bend Tribune: Is South Bend doing enough to address homelessness?
  12. NPR: These Smart Sewers Are Part Of A Growing Trend Connecting Infrastructure To The Internet
  13. AIM Indiana: South Bend adopts smart streets initiative
  14. South Bend Tribune: How much has Smart Streets driven downtown South Bend’s turnaround?
  15. South Bend Tribune: South Bend's 311 center fast-tracks answers to callers
  16. Indianapolis Star: Pete Buttigieg says he’s mayor of a turnaround city. Here’s how that claim stands up
  17. Newsweek: America's Dying Cities
  18. Roanoke Times: Buttigieg has the best plans for the rural economy
  19. Indiana Business Review: South Bend and Elkhart Forecast 2019
  20. Best Places: South Bend, Indiana
  21. Indiana Business Review: South Bend and Elkhart Forecast 2019
  22. South Bend Region Economic Development: Purdue Manufacturing Extension Partnership teams with South Bend to train companies to implement LEAN principles
  23. South Bend Tribune: South Bend wins $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies
  24. Bloomberg Philanthropies: Mayor’s Challenge 2018 Champion City
  25. Project Propel: Key Facts
  26. SBN: South Bend International Airport Serves the Most Passengers Since 2001
  27. SBN: History
  28. South Bend Office of the Mayor: City Joins Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy
  29. WSBT: South Bend officials vote to support climate change action plan
  30. South Bend Office of the Mayor: City to Host Kickoff of Green and Healthy Homes Initiative to Reduce Home Health Hazards
  31. South Bend Office of the Mayor: Mayor’s Office Executive Staff
  32. South Bend Office of the Mayor: Diversity and Inclusion
  33. South Bend Tribune: South Bend hires firm to study minority contracting
  34. South Bend Office of the Mayor: South Bend receives $50,000 Inclusive Procurement Grant
  35. South Bend Tribune: South Bend project hopes to grow small businesses and target racial wealth divide
  36. Accelerator for America: Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Coming Back Strong
  37. Pokagon Band of Potawatomi: South Bend Pokégnek Édawat officially opens