South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has delivered his proposed 2014 budget to the city council. His plan includes reducing the number of city employees, continuing an emphasis on IT infrastructure and closing pending economic development deals that could amount to $40 million in future investment. The mayor is also calling for the city to rework roads to stimulate economic growth, including turning some one-way streets two-way.
August 14, 2013
Transcript of Mayor Pete Buttigeig's remarks as prepared
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Good afternoon and thank you for this opportunity to present an overview of our proposed budget for 2014. I would like to begin with context for this budget, starting with the “why” before we discuss the “how” – and the “how much.”
South Bend’s comeback is now well underway. People both inside and outside of our community have taken note of a new civic energy, with improvements in the physical environment and the psychological feel of our community. Soon it will be two years since this administration and this Council were elected with a clear mandate to provide a fresh start for South Bend.
Two things are certain. First, we have seen a change in South Bend’s trajectory, with clear differences in our priorities, our way of doing business, and our ability to deliver. Secondly, we are by no means there yet. We have to make sure that each year, our city’s comeback accelerates. Each passing year we need to be better equipped, better organized, better prioritized. And as a government, our framework to do that each year is the budget.
A budget is not just a fiscal document. It’s a statement of our priorities. This coming year, our third year together, brings a chance to consolidate our gains, and accelerate down the right track.
Two years ago, South Bend was busy debating whether or not we were a dying city. Newsweek—wrongly of course—suggested our community belonged on the list of towns that were not going to make it.
What a difference two years can make. Just last week, we were cited in Fast Company magazine for our work on wastewater management, our data center economy, and our Code for America engagement. And just yesterday, we had favorable coverage in the A section of the Wall Street Journal, citing our use of data. That’s just in the last week. The Cisco-systems backed “Smart Cities expose” put us alongside Singapore and San Francisco as one of the world’s ten smart cities to watch. Last year NPR told the entire country about our story and our framework for setting a new economic direction. Our reputation is turning around.
Even more importantly, people here at home are gaining confidence because they can see progress with their own eyes. The emerging renaissance of residential, cultural, and dining activity has been unmistakable in our downtown area, making the whole city better off.
The economic recovery is fragile but real and visible. The Business section of the South Bend Tribune brings story after story of new restaurants and job expansion—on the same pages where we used to see only headlines about closures and departures. Our area added 1,600 jobs last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the West Side, the once-empty Bosch facility is coming back to life as the home of Curtis products, retaining hundreds of jobs for our area. The near South side of downtown boasts a ballpark rated as the best stadium improvement in America last year. Ignition Park’s first tenant is a successful tech startup. After years of finger-pointing over why no IEDC-backed, state-sponsored economic development opportunities had happened in St. Joseph County, I stood side by side with a governor from the other party at the opening of a new expansion of Hubbell-Raco that has generated good paying, union jobs on our West Side. Over $23 million in private investment has been secured in City-supported projects this year alone.
Our website is winning awards; our 311 center takes thousands of calls a week; jobs are up, crime is down, population appears to be holding steady.
None of this happens on its own, and none of it can be taken for granted. To keep up the progress and get to where we all want to go, we have to push harder. If you feel impatient, so do I. We have to continue doing what works, and even more importantly, we are nowhere near finished when it comes to changing the way South Bend does business.
We have to organize and fund an administration capable of delivering on the expectations of the people who voted us into office. Most people in South Bend believe we are on the right track, but they also are impatient for us to do more. At no time in the entire year do we get a better chance to make sure that happens than now, in this conversation and this series of decisions, as we prepare our budget for the coming year.
We have to fund myriad competing, valid, and vital priorities. We have to organize and adequately compensate over a thousand talented and hard-working City employees. We have to maintain our credit status as the most highly-rated Class Two city in the state of Indiana, with AA and AA+ ratings. And we have to do all of it within the constraints of a hard ceiling on property tax revenue. And all while balancing the general fund and maintaining adequate cash reserves.
Today I am introducing our plan to do that for 2014.
Every time there is a chance, I remind everyone of the three mission elements of the City government.
First, we make the basics of life easy for residents. Since holding down a job, raising a family, getting through school, is tough enough on its own, we have to see to it that residents can do all that without worrying about whether their drinking water is clean, their streets functional, their neighborhoods safe.
Second, we offer good government—cost-effective services delivered quickly and professionally by a transparent government that puts residents first.
And third, the most urgent thing in front of us, closely related to the other two—we create an environment where everyone can thrive, promoting job creation and economic development by every means available.
In this year’s budget, you will see a number of cross-cutting initiatives that make our city better at doing these three things. Our way forward is to continue to change the way we do business in order to accelerate South Bend’s comeback.
Beyond funding our basic priorities, balancing our general fund, keeping police officers and fire fighters on the street and water running through our pipes, and doing all the things a city must to do be worthy of the name… over and above that, we must adapt and make changes that cut across our departments, our funds, our districts.
I’d like to highlight some of these cross-cutting initiatives, including their fiscal implications, and our proposals for how to keep score, to see how well they are working. Some of these initiatives entail investments; others represent savings opportunities. All of them are included in this budget in order to make us a strong and open community where everyone can thrive.
Creating jobs with investment-ready places
Five years after the housing bubble burst, all eyes continue to be on the economy first and foremost. Last year our economic development team contributed to 1,391 jobs retained and another 536 announced for the future. We still have a long way to go. We must work to continue to drive investment and grow jobs, and this budget makes that our top priority using old tools and new ones.
The strategy comes down to this: we must create the kinds of places where people want to live and businesses want to invest. Not just because of advertising or positioning, but because it’s the right answer for them. Hundreds of jobs and over $40 million in investment are on the line, just in deals the department is working on right now. We had better be ready.