Here is a comprehensive list of South Bend’s efforts towards racial justice and equity under Pete Buttigieg

13 min readJun 26, 2019

“Intention went into getting things the way they are, and so it’s going to have to go into fixing it” — Pete Buttigieg on The Breakfast Club

Throughout his campaign, Pete Buttigieg has stressed the importance of reversing systemic racial inequality— built over centuries through intentional racist policies—with intentional and targeted anti-racist policies. Asked following his recent South Bend town hall whether he’s done enough, or anything at all, to put this into practice as mayor, he stated: “I don’t want to seem defensive, but we have taken a lot of steps. They clearly haven’t been enough. But I can’t accept the suggestion that we haven’t done anything.”

To fact-check this statement, I decided to pull together a comprehensive (but not necessarily complete) list of Buttigieg’s work to promote racial justice and equity as the mayor of South Bend. Please note that many of these items were achieved by or in conjunction with the team members, community leaders and residents he has empowered to help build a more equitable society.

While these efforts have been extensive, they aim to tackle complex problems and often require efforts far beyond the reach of city government. South Bend has made some huge strides, yet, like every city, it clearly still has a long way to go. But the main thing I would argue this list shows is how deeply its Mayor, government, and community care about finding solutions.

Government and Community

  • Appointed South Bend’s first Diversity & Inclusion Officer. This position was established to oversee the administration’s goal of advancing diversity and equal opportunity in the city’s work force and contracts. [1]
  • Passed an Executive Order calling on leaders to evaluate the city’s current policies and develop a plan to promote more diversity and inclusion within city government. It also codified the role of the Diversity & Inclusion Officer to oversee these city-wide diversity and inclusion initiatives. [2]
  • When local leaders asked for $3.5 million to renovate the Charles Black Community Center, which serves the historically black LaSalle Park neighborhood, Buttigieg managed to push through $4.5 million. [3] [4] Buttigieg was praised in a statement by the center’s director, Cynthia Taylor: “You’re gonna have to invite him in, you’re gonna have to sit him down, you’re gonna have to show him the issue,” she says. “Because he definitely will listen.” [4]
  • As part of the Center’s expansion, its computer lab will host the new Center for Learning, Information, Connectivity, and Knowledge (CLICK). This CLICK Center is part of an effort by the City of South Bend aimed at growing digital inclusion and helping community members gain the technology and digital literacy skills necessary to thrive in 2018 and beyond. [5]
  • Started South Bend Youth Task Force to foster youth involvement in government and community, help start conversations about racial divides, school biases, and other issues affecting the youth of south bend. [6]
  • South Bend was named one of seven High-Performing “Race-Informed” Cities in the 2018 Equipt to Innovate national survey of American cities. The designation covers cities that foster supportive environments for collective community-wide racial healing and systemic structural equity. [7]
  • The survey, a joint initiative by Living Cities and Governing magazine, offered high praise of South Bend’s efforts to target structural racism: “Rooted in an understanding that government at all levels has played a role in creating and maintaining racial inequity, resulting in a lack of access and opportunity for people of color in everything from education and employment to housing and healthcare, these cities seek to redress structural racism through an analysis of their own operations and make necessary changes in policy and practice.” [7]
  • Brought Obama’s 2016 My Brother’s Keeper alliance to South Bend, bridging city and local organizations to address opportunity gaps for boys and young men of color. [8]
  • Renamed one of the most prominent streets in downtown South Bend after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, overcoming 40 years of resistance by white business owners and death threats to minority members of the naming committee. [9]
  • Worked with La Casa de Amistad, South Bend’s main Latino outreach center, to create an innovative, first-of-its-kind governmentally endorsed/privately run municipal identification card, in order to ensure the small city’s approximately 4,500 undocumented immigrants had access to services. With a private organization managing the card rather than the government, the city avoided a major deterrent stopping immigrants from signing up for similar municipal ID programs. [10]
  • Buttigieg signed an executive order requiring local services and institutions — like law enforcement, schools, the water utility and libraries — to accept the card as a valid form of identification. The city also enlisted local businesses, such as financial institutions and drugstores, so cardholders could open bank accounts and pick up prescriptions. [11]
  • Of the 16 city employees reporting to the mayor, all six of the staff of color and women were his appointments within his tenure as mayor. Together they comprise 37.5 percent of the mayor’s direct report staff. While this number is in line with the Equal Employment Opportunity Tabulation (a national data set used by all federal contractors to measure staff diversity) national benchmark of 36.7, and higher than the Indiana regional benchmark of 22.1 percent, the administration has stated that increasing government-wide representation of underrepresented populations continues to be an ongoing goal. [1]
  • During his 2015 election, he instructed his campaign team to use his re-election TV spots to help local Black leader Kareemah Fowler win her bid for City Clerk and become the first minority in St. Joseph County to seat a full-time executive office. [12] [13]
  • Participates in and allocates resources for events that matter to minority communities in South Bend, both fun celebrations year-round and important protests like those for Eric Logan, the hoodie march for Trayvon Martin [14], and the 2017 Women’s March [15].

Public Safety and Policing

  • Empowered the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to shape a comprehensive slate of self-awareness and training programs for officers: Offered or administered the Diversity Awareness Profile and the Harvard Implicit Bias Test to officers. [16] Instituted Implicit Bias Training for South Bend’s police force. [17] Instituted Civil Rights Training for South Bend’s police force. [18] Instituted workshops on: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Understanding the Human Brain and Implicit Bias; and Micro-aggression and Micro-affirmation. [16] Tied the principals of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into the Workplace Handbook. [16]
  • Worked with Police Department to ensure extensive focus on community policing, including through various measures overseen by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion: Created “Cultural Competency” calendars; Hosted monthly “Diversity Dialogue Lunches”; Held Law Enforcement and Local Men of Color small group summits; Held neighborhood Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion workshops; Hosted Unity Summits focused on “sharing your stories”; And implemented a Job Shadowing rotation program. [16]
  • Noted in his 2018 state of the city address that officers conducted “7,000 foot patrols, attended 168 neighborhood meetings, and conducted ‘Coffee with a Cop’ outreach opportunities around our community.” As a result of this and other initiatives, he said, “the number of incidents leading to a use of force has gone down by a third in the last four years, and the number of investigations and complaints against police officers has fallen dramatically.” [19]
  • Oversaw a slate of changes to ensure accountability for officers: The Office of Diversity and Inclusion helped design, customize, and successfully implement a new Staff Performance Evaluation system, and instituted annual departmental diversity and inclusion goals. [16]
  • Invested $1.5 million to equip South Bend police officers with body cameras and upgrade vehicle dash cameras, in order to ensure safety and accountability for both residents and officers. [20]
  • Pushed for total transparency on officer use of force, allowing residents to see what was happening and hold the department accountable. Instituted South Bend Police’s “Open Data Hub”, an online transparency database, so any resident can easily get data on crime statistics, case reports (including the number of times police had to use force when answering a call), and shows both officer complaints and compliments. The transparency hub was noted for being very advanced for a city of South Bend’s size. [21]
  • While all police firings and disciplinary action must be made by the civilian Board of Public Safety under Indiana law [22], Buttigieg has appointed an African-American majority (3 out of 4 positions; 1 currently vacant) in order to ensure public trust and accountability. [17]
  • Placed an emphasis on diversity recruitment initiatives in the police force. Designed, customized, and successfully implemented a new Career Path Development system. [16]
  • Launched the “Home Grown Project”, a nomination process for local residents and particularly students of color (Phase 1 is currently underway). [16]
  • Made applications available online, to ease the process of applying. [23]
  • Publicly released all data on their diversity recruiting efforts on the front page of the SBPD website. [23] When the data suggested that minority applicants often dropped out before the physical test, the SBPD began to offer a practice physical test prior to the official test. [24]
  • Devoted resources and implemented programs to prevent crime from happening in the first place: Launched the South Bend Group Violence Intervention (SBGVI) which “unites community leaders around a common goal: to stop gun violence and keep South Bend’s highest risk citizens alive and out of prison.” [25] The program aims to reduce violence by providing member of street groups avenues to succeed. Buttigieg fought to ensure continued funding and expansion of the program in the city’s 2019 budget. [26]
  • Adopted and implemented the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative (JDAI), a pilot program which works to improve lock-up conditions while vetting the types of kids needing to be detained. The model is now operating in nearly 300 counties nationwide, often dramatically reducing detention facility populations. [27]
  • Instituted ShotSpotter technology, a series of acoustic sensors throughout the city that allows police to pinpoint and react to gunshots almost immediately. [28]
  • South Bend Common Council unanimously passed the Gun Violence Prevention Resolution, which calls on federal and state lawmakers to require background checks for all gun sales and close loopholes that give certain domestic abusers easy access to guns. The vote was praised by Moms Demand Action and Everytown Survivor Network. [29]


  • Instituted the ‘1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days’ program to repair or demolish vacant and abandoned houses, after residents in low-income communities routinely identified vacant and abandoned houses (caused by South Bend’s population decline from 130k to 100k) as a leading health, safety, and economic problem in their neighborhoods. [30]
  • The program recently entered a new phase in which the city is providing free legal and financial assistance to the low-income community members who live next to the torn down homes so that they can purchase the lots and build up their own communities. [31]
  • Statistics have shown that criminal activity has decreased within a half mile of vacant and abandoned homes addressed by the city. [32]
  • It was sometimes hard to discern owners of the abandoned houses, and early on some well-meaning residents found vacant houses they were hoping to renovate slated for demolition. However, Buttigieg was praised for quickly addressing the issue. When property owned by local resident and activist Stacey Odom ended up on the demolition list, she confronted the mayor during a chance encounter on the street. He later held a series of meetings with her and others to talk about the plan, and she credits the mayor with getting her home — and 40% of other residents’ homes — removed from the list. [33]
  • Funded a Home Repair Pilot Program, a grant program to help low-income residents repair & keep homes. [34] Activist Stacey Odom originally asked the mayor for $300,000 for the grant program, and he countered, she said, with $650,000. Odom later said: “that’s the kind of person you want in office, someone who is looking at your best interests. And if they’re not, if you go to them and tell them what your interests are, then they will take your concerns and make them their concerns.” [35]
  • Empowered and funded National Service programs, including the South Bend Green Corps (an AmeriCorps program) which works with lower-income families to increase their homes’ energy efficiency, safety and comfort, and Love Your Block (a municipal partnership with Cities of Service), which provides small grants and resources to community organizations that help families with small home repairs. These programs, together with the Home Repair Pilot Program, make up a $1+ million South Bend Home Repair initiative to improve quality of life for residents with a strong emphasis on working with neighborhoods. [36]

Economic Prosperity

  • Started Office of Engagement & Economic Empowerment to help address South Bend’s wealth gap [37]
  • Commissioned the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative, a comprehensive report on South Bend’s wealth inequality, through national advocacy group Prosperity NOW. [38] [39] Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, the researcher who compiled the Prosperity Now report, praised Buttigieg’s efforts and said he was the first mayor of any city to ask him to do this. “He didn’t solve racial economic inequality,” said Asante-Muhammad, “but what city has?” [4]
  • Based on the results of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative, held seminars across the community that gave neighborhood leaders the tools to identify the existing talents and skills of residents and connect them into business opportunities. [40]
  • Funded the West Side Small Business Resource Center, the first in a series of community centers aimed at lifting minority entrepreneurs and generating new wealth in underserved areas. [41] According to James Summers, chairman of the project: “This initiative is a truly grassroots and community-focused approach to generating new wealth through small business. The center provides unprecedented access to resources and networking, and as local businesses grow and employ neighbors, the entire community is strengthened.”
  • Available services at the Small Business Resource Centers will include mentoring, access to Small Business Development Center services, Small Business Administration, Small Business Innovation Research, and Small Business Technology Transfer program training and support. In addition, the center will provide professional services and encourage local business networking to identify opportunities to connect, collaborate, and create exponential growth. The center will also offer functional space for business meetings and workshops. [42]
  • Empowered Office of Diversity and Inclusion to ensure government contracts and purchasing targets minority- and women-owned businesses vendors within the city’s marketplace, and commissioned a study of current practices to ensure progress and accountability. [43]
  • Awarded a $50k CommunityWINS grant in 2018 (one of six cities) based on the partnership between Near Northwest Neighborhood and the City of South Bend to fund a minority and women contractor training program. The grant funds were used to create and operate a year-long program of training and certification for minority and women contractors in areas including business planning, contract law, insurance and bonding, lead certification, project cash flow, and other topics designed to equip small business contractors. [44]
  • Awarded a $50k Inclusive Procurement Grant in 2019 (one of ten cities) based on South Bend’s pursuit of innovative, effective, locally-tailored strategies to leverage public purchasing power in order to develop firms owned by people of color. Local initiatives range from implementing aggressive outreach strategies, developing procurement portals and creating an ecosystem of support services for firms owned by people of color to increase their opportunities to gain city contracts. [45]
  • Enlisted local financial institutions to accept the privately run municipal identification card so that cardholders could open bank accounts, removing a major barrier to financial independence faced by the city’s undocumented population. [11]
  • In concert with efforts to increase minority representation in city government [2], he fought to raise the minimum wage for city employees. His plan called for a raise from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2018, but he was able to accelerate the schedule to accomplish it by 2016. [46]

1) Viewpoint: City taking steps to build diversity

2) Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s executive order on diversity and inclusion in South Bend city gov’t

3) Charles Black Community Center unveiled Thursday, community reflects on legacy and future

4) Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s Unlikely, Untested, Unprecedented Presidential Campaign

5) Charles Black Recreation Center Re-opens After $4.4 Million Renovation

6) South Bend mayor starts Youth Task Force

7) South Bend named high-performing “race-informed” city

8) South Bend sees success in young boys, men of color through ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ alliance

9) What Would Black America Be Like Under President Pete? Ask South Bend

10) South Bend ID cards aim to ease life for undocumented immigrants

11) Buttigieg’s big accomplishment that he never mentions on the campaign trail

12) Tweet from Kareemah Fowler

13) City Clerk: Spread the message of diversity during Black History Month

14) Pete Buttigieg speaks at the March 2012 Million Hoodie March in honor of Trayvon Martin

15) Photo of Pete Buttigieg at the National Women’s March in 2017

16) Christina Brooks, director of Diversity and Inclusion, shares a list of active initiatives and programs her department is overseeing at the police department

17) What Mayor Pete Couldn’t Fix About the South Bend Cops

18) Q&A with Mayor Pete Buttigieg about his plans for communities of color

19) Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 2018 State of the City address

20) Officers in South Bend are getting new body cameras and car cameras

21) South Bend launches new data hub with crime stats

22) Indiana Code 36–8–3–4. Police officers and firefighters; discipline, demotion, and dismissal; hearings; appeals; administrative leave

23) City leaders: Lack of diversity plaguing South Bend Police Department

24) Our Opinion: Recruiting minority police officers must remain a priority for South Bend

25) South Bend Group Violence Intervention

26) Proposed city budget leaving room from group violence intervention

27) St. Joseph County youth detention alternative gets grant

28) ShotSpotter: South Bend Police say technology helping ‘solve crime’

29) Gun Violence Survivor, Indiana Moms Demand Action Applaud South Bend Common Council for Unanimously Passing Gun Violence Prevention Resolution

30) South Bend’s Vacant and Abandoned Housing Challenge: 1,000 Houses in 1,000 Days

31) Vacant Property Initiative Resident Legal Assistance Program

32) Crime decreases with 1,000 homes in 1,000 days project

33) Pete Buttigieg pushed an aggressive plan to revitalize South Bend. Not everyone felt its benefits.

34) Home Repair Pilot Program to fund about 65 home improvements

35) Pete Buttigieg says he’s mayor of a turnaround city. Here’s how that claim stands up.

36) South Bend officials highlight home repair programs

37) South Bend to keep fighting for the best future for the next generation

38) South Bend community group to host meeting about racial wealth divide

39) ProsperityNOW Report: Racial Wealth Divide in South Bend

40) South Bend project hopes to grow small businesses and target racial wealth divide

41) New business center in South Bend aims to lift minority entrepreneurs

42) City of South Bend opens West Side Small Business Resource Center

43) Breaking down South Bend’s Diversity Purchasing Report

44) Buttigieg, Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc. to celebrate CommunityWINS Grant

45) South Bend Receives $50k Inclusive Procurement Grant

46) Buttigieg proposes accelerated minimum wage increase for city employees

“That’s the kind of person you want in office, someone who is looking at your best interests. And if they’re not, if you go to them and tell them what your interests are, then they will take your concerns and make them their concerns.”

Note: Inspiration and a starting point for this research came from this twitter thread from Nicole Lockney and this twitter thread from RomancePete.