Criticism of Absentee Mayor Pete Buttigieg Mounts

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks to supporters at the Iowa Democratic Party's Hall of Fame Dinner on June 9, 2019 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Nearly all of the 23 Democratic candidates running for president were campaigning in Iowa this weekend. President Donald Trump has …
Scott Olson/Getty Images

South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s bid for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination hit rough waters again on Tuesday when The Washington Free Beacon reported that the city’s crime rate has spiked since 2012, the year Buttigieg became mayor.

That bad news has provided further evidence to support claims by local critics that the city has suffered while he has been absent from day-to-day operations to devote his time and energy to what was once characterized as a quixotic run for the top job in the country’s executive branch.

Buttigieg is the only candidate in the most recent Real Clear Politics Average of Polls of the top ten candidates for the Democrat nomination currently burdened by the duties of executive governmental responsibility.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the frontrunner, has no specific responsibilities except to give speeches and run for president.

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kamala Harris (D-CA) all serve in the U.S. Senate, part of the legislative branch of the federal government, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. As such, they have no real executive responsibilities.

Julian Castro and former Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke have neither executive nor legislative duties, and Andrew Yang is an entrepreneur.

The Free Beacon reported on Tuesday that “South Bend, Indiana, has seen a dramatic increase in violent crime since Mayor Pete Buttigieg took office 2012, raising doubts about his ability to govern the city of 100,000”:

Despite multiple promises and data-driven solutions from Buttigieg, a comprehensive look at South Bend’s official crime data reveals a systemic problem throughout his tenure. Data submitted by the South Bend police department to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system are available through 2017; figures on 2018 and the first four months of 2019 were released in the public minutes of the South Bend Board of Public Safety meeting.*

Violent crime has risen year-on-year since Buttigieg took office in 2012. Last year marked the highest rate of violent crime in at least 20 years.

Now 37 years old, Buttigieg was just 29 when he was elected to his first four-year term as mayor in November 2011. He spent seven months of that first four years out of the country, serving as a Naval intelligence officer in Afghanistan. Re-elected in November 2015, Buttigieg, who announced his presidential committee six months ago in January, has been officially running for president now for three months. He has six months left in his second term as mayor.

U.S. senators and members of the House of Representatives can run for president in locations other than their home states or districts or the Capitol while holding down their day jobs by simply missing votes and key committee hearings. Whether or not they show up for work, the business of the U.S. Congress continues.

Mayors, however, have executive responsibilities that require on-site decision-making that impacts day-to-day operations. The cost of their absence to the cities they run–in terms of failure of leadership–can be quite high.

“With just six months left in his final term, Buttigieg has brushed off suggestions that he should resign while he campaigns, saying that many of the 2020 Democratic candidates hold important jobs — including seven senators, four U.S. House members and two governors,” the South Bend Tribune reported in June:

But his top-tier candidacy as the chief executive of a small city is unprecedented in American politics, creating a unique tension between his dual roles that was magnified by Sunday’s shooting.

A recent Tribune analysis found Buttigieg was out of town about half the time from February through May, and his campaign schedule in June has been intense. Buttigieg, still receiving his $112,000 annual salary, has shown no signs that he plans to step down as mayor.

Earlier in June, Buttigieg’s management of the city was drawn into question when a white police officer shot and killed a black man, as The Federalist reported:

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has been under fire since a white police officer shot and killed an African-American man a week ago. But Buttigieg’s estrangement from the local black community dates back to 2012 when the newly elected mayor fired the city’s first African-American police chief. . .

Sunday’s [town hall] outrage focused on the shooting death of Eric Logan by South Bend Police Sgt. Ryan O’Neill. In a press conference held after the shooting, state Prosecutor Ken Cotter stated that O’Neill confronted Logan in response to a 9-1-1 report about car break-ins. O’Neill told his superiors that he shot Logan after the suspect approached him with a knife drawn and ignored multiple orders to drop the weapon. Logan died after officers rushed him to a nearby hospital in their squad car.

Since then, racial tensions in South Bend have escalated. Buttigieg’s attempt to calm the community during Sunday’s townhall-styled listening session backfired, with the young mayor only further enraging the crowd. The black community’s disdain for Buttigieg pre-dates Logan’s shooting death, however, to Buttigieg’s firing of the city’s first black police chief, Darryl Boykins.

“Six shootings occurred the weekend of his town hall. In one instance, a witness reported that the shooter was aiming specifically at police. A number of South Bend officials who served under Buttigieg as well as local civil rights activists are now calling for the mayor’s resignation,” the Free Beacon reported this month, days after Buttigieg’s raucous town hall in South Bend:

“To start with trying to heal, the mayor just needs to resign,” activist and pastor Mario Sims told the Washington Free Beacon, adding that Buttigieg should demote Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski to cleanse the department of bad blood.

Sims also added that he believes Buttigieg is racially “tone-deaf” and should consider retiring from politics until he has “spent some time evaluating this.”

“I understand political ambition, I understand that,” Sims said. “But you’re playing games with the lives of the people here, and innocent police officers.”

Sims has clashed with Buttigieg in the past, speaking out against the mayor’s decision to demote [former police chief] Boykins. That decision, coupled with Buttigieg’s lack of transparency following it, Sims said, has opened a rift between South Bend’s police and its black communities that disqualifies Buttigieg from political legitimacy.

Buttigieg, however, shows little interest in resigning before his term ends in six months.

Meanwhile, his sudden rise to top tier status as a contender for the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination has stalled in the polls, despite the $24 million his campaign received in donations in the most recent quarter. According to the most recent Real Clear Politics Average of Polls, Buttigieg is now in a distant fifth place with 5.3 percent support among likely Democrat primary voters, trailing front runner Joe Biden with 27.3 percent, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) with 15 percent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) with 14.9 percent, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with 13.9 percent.

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