While I am strongly encouraged by the accomplishments of Mayor Pete’s administration in transforming what was referred to as a dying city to a city that has a promising economic future, we could have set more just priorities. We could have been more aggressive taking on the challenges that confront our fellow citizens who are not necessarily going to be living in one of the new high-rises downtown.
We have a serious problem with poverty in our community. Not many people are aware that the per capita income in South Bend is just under $20,000 which is $33,000 below the national average. At the same time, the average household income in the city is $42,000, which is nearly $20,000 below the national average. To top it off, 26% of our fellow city residents are living below the poverty line. According to CNN, unemployment among African-Americans in South Bend is 11% while 40% of this minority are living below the poverty line.
Many of those children who are living in families below the poverty line lack access to basic resources. These children are our future. We need to find creative and effective ways to address this glaring need.
We have neighborhoods which are in dire need of repair and restoration. Spend any time talking to our residents who live in some of our outer neighborhoods and you hear a consistent drumbeat of frustration and despair. Many of our fellow residents believe that the “downtown crowd” does not care about them. They feel alienated and abandoned.
We need to address these issues head on. First, we need to address wages. The most obvious, basic way to begin to raise the wage level is to continue to attract good, high-paying jobs. But we can also partner with other cities to challenge the state’s wage preemption law. We can do this by passing a minimum wage law in defiance of the state, thereby drawing attention to the issue, putting state legislators who are up for re-election on the spot to defend this discriminatory position.
To address the needs of our children who are marginalized socially and economically, I am proposing adoption of the nationally-recognized “Help Me Grow” program which, among other things, provides medical, dental and mental health care at no-cost to uninsured or underinsured families administered through a public/private partnership focusing on health, resilience and success training.
Finally, to address the growing sense of disconnection and frustration of our fellow residents living in struggling and neglected neighborhoods, I am proposing to tap into our city’s substantial reserves in order to adequately fund fair and equitable code enforcement and to provide home repair grants for qualifying, low-income homeowners.
Additionally, I want to implement a system to stop the cycle of justice by prioritizing crime prevention programs, rehabilitation and trauma recovery. We need to practice restorative justice in our community.
Please join me in my crusade to bring social justice to ALL of our citizens!
Meet the Candidates is a series introducing candidates in their own words. South Bend Voice has offered to publish statements from all South Bend office seekers who are on the May 7th primary ballot. Statements are posted verbatim. Find out more about the candidates on the ballot at Vote411.org.