Residents of South Bend, Indiana's poor neighborhoods claim Mayor Pete Buttigieg left them behind and did little to improve their situation.
"This s— looks the same, every time I walk through here," C.J. Neely said of his neighborhood, according to a report by CNBC. "He’s improved s—," Neely added, even as he acknowledged Buttigieg was "trying."
Neely, who is 16 years old, has lived in South Bend all his life.
The report highlights the contrast between South Bend's revived downtown area and its poorer neighborhoods:
South Bend’s northwest, pocked by vacant lots, broken curbs and blighted by streets that residents say have gone unpaved for years, is a world away from the sleek, revitalized downtown at the center of Buttigieg’s audacious argument for placing himself in the highest office in the land. Yet while everything seems to be new and bustling with energy downtown, in many other neighborhoods, the city’s economic life is in a holding pattern.
It’s a problem that weighs heavily in South Bend, where more than half of the city’s residents last year said that their neighborhoods hadn’t improved over the previous five, according to survey data reported in the South Bend Tribune.
One of Buttigieg's initiatives for aiding low-income communities was a pledge to knock down or repair almost all of South Bend's vacant homes. The project led, however, to unintended consequences, residents observed, and there was little planning for what would replace the abandoned homes.
The report outlines some of the consequences:
One of the first problems to emerge was the clouds of dust, feared to contain lead and asbestos, that spread uncontained from the demolition sites. Soon, wild animals, like raccoons and groundhogs, appeared in people’s homes. Vacant lots, where crumbling houses once stood, became dumping sites as tall grass grew.
"I think that there just wasn’t a clear understanding of the domino effect — the true impact of what the actions were going to be throughout the neighborhood," said Regina Williams-Preston, who represents the city’s northwest in its Common Council, a governing body. "We basically traded one problem for another."
Years later, much of the grass is cut, but problems remain. The empty lots sit undeveloped, economic opportunity remains minimal and crime rates are up from 2012. Shootings, on the mind of many, have not decreased.
"There has been some constant complaints, especially from the African-American community, about families that were hurt or felt impacted by the vacant and abandoned task force," Kathy Schuth, executive director of Near Northwest Neighborhood Inc., a community development corporation in the area, said. "I do think that the city is aware of the problem. I don’t think that anyone has an answer."
"Ain’t s— changed," Shawn White, a black 24-year-old from South Bend’s west side, said. "How is he gonna run the whole country if you can’t even get your city right first?"
White also said he never sees Buttigieg around his neighborhood.
"I ain’t ever seen the dude," White said. "Tell him to chill with us for three or four days."