South Bend will grow from a new groundwork

By Pete Buttigieg

Published in The South Bend Tribune on December 26, 2011

As our community prepares to ring in a new year, my leadership team and I are hard at work preparing to launch a new mayoral administration for our city. 

In November, I was elected to bring a fresh start to South Bend and my opportunity to deliver begins when I am sworn in as mayor on New Year's Day.

The challenges facing our city, like any city in these times, are serious. But I believe we are in a unique window of opportunity, with new leadership, new partnerships and new prospects emerging across our community. Rising to the challenge will not be easy, nor will it happen overnight, but we are entering a season of positive change.

From the moment I take office, we will move to launch key strategic initiatives for the long term, even as we work to maintain and improve the level of city service that residents expect and deserve. While assuming responsibility for the fast-paced daily flow of city government, from snow removal to economic development, my administration must also waste no time in laying the groundwork for major strides forward in our city.

Here are a few things the new year will bring when it comes to your city government:

  • Rejuvenated economic partnerships: In the first half of the new year, my office will convene an Economic Summit to help coordinate the activities and organizations responsible for creating jobs in our area. It is time for us to pull together around a shared economic vision and agree on the right division of labor among our different organizations to get it done. I will share what the city government is doing to help the private sector create jobs and suggest ways that business leaders, workers, and educators can step up the plate to help develop our city's new economic direction.

  • A new ethical standard: To ensure citizens' confidence in the integrity of local government, I will soon issue an executive order detailing expectations for city employees -- and myself -- when it comes to ethics and transparency. While city employees are already living up to a high standard, it is time we laid out a citywide policy to ensure that decisions are made without even the appearance of undue influence or conflicts of interest.

  • A customer-service mentality: My administration will actively support city employees who remember why we are here and put citizens first. We will design measures to ensure departments have the tools and processes they need in order to track and resolve citizens' issues efficiently, culminating in the delivery, by the end of 2012, of a 311 line for non-emergency city issues.

  • Support for education: I plan to appear at the first South Bend Community School Corp. board of trustees meeting to address the leaders of our school system. I will personally express my interest, and the city's stake, in partnering with the school system to get the best results. I have been elected to deliver safety, jobs, and services, and none of this is possible without a strong educational system. I will commit to being an active supporter of the schools and offer some suggestions on how we can work together in the future.

  • An accessible government: Transparency starts at the top, so throughout 2012 I will conduct a series of "Mayor's Night Out" and "Mayor's Night In" events so citizens can meet me and my department heads directly to speak about concerns and ideas. The regular open houses we held at my campaign headquarters were highly valuable and these mayoral events are my way of making sure that my accessibility does not end with the campaign.

  • Empowering volunteers: The 2011 election brought about an inspiring level of involvement by South Bend citizens in campaigns on behalf of me, my competitors and city council candidates. We must ensure that this energy does not fade away with the end of campaign season. 

    My office will work to create new volunteer opportunities for citizens who want to campaign not just for a candidate but for the city itself.

    To deliver on these priorities, I have assembled a strong leadership team of department heads, which I look forward to introducing throughout the community. 

    With a mixture of new faces and experienced public servants, this team will work with departments and citizens to deliver the accountable, transparent, cost-effective, efficient government I envision going forward.

    It's going to be a great new year for our city, and I cannot wait to roll up my sleeves and get started.