Here are the questions that we posed to South Bend’s mayoral candidates

Today is Election Day in South Bend. Voters head to the polls to cast their ballots for mayor, city council, and city clerk.

As we did in 2015, the South Bend Voice offered a platform for candidates to reach out to voters. Thirteen candidates from both parties graciously took us up on that opportunity. We thank them for their commitment to this city and to the democratic process.

If you are wondering why we published statements from South Bend city council and city clerk candidates but not for mayoral candidates, it is not because we neglected the mayor’s race. The mayoral campaigns did not submit statements or respond to our questionnaire, which posed tough but fair questions on relevant issues.

This year’s questionnaire – which was a combination of questions from our editor and from readers – was sent in mid-April. We admit that a little over three weeks is not ideal notice, but it still provided plenty of time to respond. After all, thirteen city council and city clerk candidates responded. After receiving no submissions over the weekend, the deadline was extended until the day before the election to no avail.

It’s a shame that the candidates for the highest office in South Bend – for whatever reason – decided against engaging our readers. Both Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Henry Davis Jr. responded to our questionnaire in 2015.

While we definitely want to stress the importance of voting today, we also urge our readers to pose the questions that we asked to whoever wins today’s primary. You deserve answers to these questions, and they should have been on the record for voters to properly assess their choices.

General

If elected, what will be your top priority as mayor?

Why are you the most qualified candidate to lead the city?

Overall, how would you rate Pete Buttigieg’s performance as mayor? What policies would you continue? What would you do differently?

Taxes, Finance, and Housing

What is your position on TIF districts?

TIF spending and tax abatements have been used on a number of projects in South Bend. Despite a gradually improving economy over the past decade, tax incentives continue to be used liberally, including on “luxury” housing projects. Is this an appropriate use of limited tax dollars?

As mayor, how would you support the creation of affordable housing downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods? Would you leave it completely up to the private market to fill the demand or encourage affordable housing development through city investments (i.e. grants, TIF spending, etc.)?

South Bend has a large homeless population. Rather than relying on homeless shelters, many cities have moved toward a “Housing First” approach, which prioritizes providing permanent housing to the homeless. Studies have shown that these programs can save taxpayers money on emergency room care and policing. Do you support either establishing or studying a Housing First approach in South Bend?

Transportation and Infrastructure

Potholes are always a hot topic of conversation in South Bend. Is the city doing enough to fix its roads? What can be done to streamline the process of repairing the city’s infrastructure?

What is your position on relocating the South Shore to downtown South Bend? Would you commit tax dollars to relocating the station from its current terminus at the South Bend International Airport?

Cities need reliable transportation – including reliable public transportation – to function properly. Workers need to be able to get to work in a reasonable amount of time. This is a challenge for many low-income residents in South Bend who do not have access to a car. What can the city do to improve public transportation? Would you make properly funding public transportation a priority?

“Smart Streets” has seemingly divided the city into two camps: those who love it and those who hate it. Was Mayor Buttigieg’s “Smart Streets” investment a worthwhile endeavor? What would you do differently as mayor?

Do you support the concept of “complete streets” that are designed for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists without favoring one mode of transportation over the other?

There are stretches of South Bend without sidewalks. Would it be a priority of yours to fill in the gaps that exist and improve safety for pedestrians?

Under a decree with the EPA, the city is required to reduce wastewater overflows into the St. Joseph River. However, the current plan will cost upwards of $700 million dollars. The city’s taxpayers are already seeing higher fees as a result. What can be done to reduce the cost for taxpayers? Given the rising rates, do you have a plan to mitigate the impact on low-income residents who may not be able to afford the rising rates?

Criminal Justice

In states where marijuana possession is illegal, mayors have taken the initiative to redirect police resources toward more serious crimes. Given South Bend’s continued and troubling gun violence, would you be willing to direct the South Bend Police Department to stop the enforcement of low-level marijuana offenses and instead focus SBPD’s resources on preventing and solving violent crimes?

What will be your strategy for dealing with gun violence?

Does the South Bend Police Department need reform? If so, what reforms do you support?

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