FACT CHECK: Pete Buttigieg Has Been An Advocate For Black And Brown Communities

At The CNN Democratic Debates in Detroit tonight, Mayor Pete Buttigieg showed he is a leader ready to tackle tough challenges, admit when he is wrong, and solve problems by addressing them head on. He has been an advocate and leader for the Black community as Mayor — and he’ll continue to fight for them as President through his “Douglass Plan for Black America,” an 18-page comprehensive proposal that focus on the five pillars of homeownership, entrepreneurship, education, health and justice and cover several touchpoints of the Black American experience, including disparities in medical treatment and environmental justice, as well as voter suppression.

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Last year, South Bend was recognized for being a city that “intentionally addresses racial disparities in policy and practice and constantly works to close gaps.” Looking at the trajectory the city has been on during Pete’s term, South Bend has earned the distinction as a high-performing ‘race-informed’ city. Here are just a few examples of the deliberate steps South Bend has taken to create a more inclusive experience for Black and Brown communities under Buttigieg:

Mandated an Office of Diversity and Inclusion via executive order and empowered program officer Christina Brooks to publicize self-audit findings about Pete’s administration.

Allocated $1M more than requested so South Bend’s Black community could restore a long-standing community center on the westside.

Offered local high-schoolers a safe space to discuss biases, race, and other issues in order to bridge divides and encourage their engagement with local government.

Partnered with local Latino advocacy group to ensure the undocumented could access basic city services without the fear of being put on log that could be made accessible to hostile entities.

Even in more trying periods of his tenure, key Black leaders like the Director of the South Bend NAACP continued to recognize him as a “valuable partner” with a long history of advocating in their interests.


Governing Magazine’s 2018 Equipt To Innovate National Survey Of American Cities Listed South Bend As One Of Six High-Performing “Race-Informed” Cities. “The Equipt framework stresses the importance of reaching all populations in a community, especially those that are often underrepresented, which is why being race-informed is an essential element of a high-performing city. A race-informed city intentionally addresses racial disparities in policy and practice and constantly works to close gaps. Employees and other stakeholders are educated and informed about the impact of racial challenges on city outcomes, as well as how city policies have historically added to disparities. And data is used to understand the evolving landscape and effect change.” [Governing, accessed 6/27/19]

Director Of Engagement And Economic Empowerment Alkeyna Aldridge: “As The City Is Able To Respond To Resident Needs In A Targeted Way, It Can Ensure That All Residents Enjoy The Economic Benefits Of The City’s Growth.” “Race is always the elephant in the room with regard to politics and neighborhood development,” said Director of Engagement and Economic Empowerment Alkeyna Aldridge. “Explicitly naming race affirms the often-overshadowed experience of minority communities. This is one step in a shifting paradigm that pushes the City to learn from the lived experienced of marginalized communities and use this information to frame better policy interventions. As the city is able to respond to resident needs in a targeted way, it can ensure that all residents enjoy the economic benefits of the city’s growth.” [City of South Bend, 6/27/19]

Diversity And Inclusion Officer Christina Brooks: “This Journey Is One Of The Strongest Examples Of The City’s Commitment To Racial Equality.” “‘This journey is one of the strongest examples of the City’s commitment to racial equality,’ said Diversity and Inclusion Officer Christina Brooks. ‘From commissioning our Racial Wealth Divide Profile through Prosperity NOW, to engaging residents as we work to close economic opportunity gaps, to building inclusive procurement policies, we are consistently striving to deliver services for all residents.’” [City of South Bend, 6/27/19]


January 2016: Pete Used His First Executive Order Of 2016 To Develop A Plan To Promote More Diversity And Inclusion Within City Government, Codify The Role Of The Diversity & Inclusion Officer. “South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg issued an executive order establishing a new diversity and inclusion initiative for the city on Friday, Jan. 15 — the 87th birthday of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The order calls for city leaders to evaluate the city’s current policies and develop a plan to promote more diversity and inclusion within city government. Many of the initiatives will be lead by the Diversity and Inclusion officer position created in the 2016 budget.” [News Talk 95.3, 1/18/16]

May 2016: Christina Brooks Appointed As South Bend’s First Diversity And Inclusion Officer. “First day of work for Christina Brooks, who will lead implementation of the Diversity and Inclusion Plan laid out in my executive order from earlier this year. All of us are responsible for ensuring our city is a model of diversity in our team and inclusion in our practices.” [Mayor Pete Buttigieg Facebook, 5/02/16]

July 2016: South Bend Releases Its First Diversity And Inclusion Plan. “In July of this year, the city of South Bend released its first Diversity and Inclusion Plan — a comprehensive blueprint to further the city administration’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in three areas: the administration workplace, our city workforce and the community we serve. The 55-page document, which is available to the public, provided action steps and necessary context that included industry research, and federal, state and local benchmarks. The plan was needed because our administration, like local governments around the country, has a long way to go before it fully reflects the community it serves.” [South Bend Tribune, 11/27/16]

Christina Brooks: “Only A Handful [Of Cities] Have Built A Plan As Thorough As Ours. […] In Approving This Plan, The Mayor Has Acknowledged That Progress Will Not Come Overnight.” “Out of roughly 20,000 cities across the U.S., only a handful have built a city Diversity and Inclusion Plan as thorough as ours when it comes strategic goals and accountability measures. In approving this plan, the mayor has acknowledged that progress will not come overnight, nor will it be simple.” [South Bend Tribune, 11/27/16]

November 2016: Christina Conducts A Diversity Audit Of Staff That Directly Report To Buttigieg, Determines “The Administration Is In Line With National Averages And Outperforms Our Area.” “While we have much work to do, it is also the case that we are building on a strong foundation. […] The city staff reporting directly to the mayor consists of 31.3 percent who self-identify as staff of color, and 25 percent are women. 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. […] Based on this data, the administration is in line with national averages and outperforms our area when it comes to this measure of diversity in leadership.” [South Bend Tribune, 11/27/16]

South Bend Tribune Headline: “Viewpoint: City Taking Steps To Build Diversity.” [South Bend Tribune, 11/27/16]


Buttigieg Allocated “Nearly $5M” To Renovate A Historic Community Center In A Predominately Black Area Of South Bend. “The Charles Black Center reopened on Thursday after receiving a nearly $5 million renovation. ‘There was a void in the area a little bit,’ said Cynthia Taylor, director of the Charles Black Center. The center was closed for a year while renovations took place. Center staff had to put on programs and events at various locations within the city, according to Taylor. […] Coleman, who was at the center when it opened in 1968, said Charles Black Sr.’s legacy will forever live on at the center no matter what changes are made. He called the center an extension of Black’s life. ‘To help young boys, young girls, develop themselves,’ he said. ‘Help keep the peace, kept people out of trouble and safe.’ Coleman described Black as a mentor, coach, and friend, during a time not different from 2018. ‘One of the reasons why this building is here because of uprising that happened in this town in the mid-60s,’ he said.” [ABC 57, 11/01/18]

Local Leaders Had Originally Asked For $3.5M To Renovate The Center, Buttigieg Met The Request With An Additional Million Dollars. “When local leaders asked for $3.5 million to renovate the Charles Black community center, Buttigieg came up with $4.5 million, according to Cynthia Taylor, the center’s director. ‘” [TIME, 5/02/19]

Charles Black Community Center Director Cynthia Taylor On Buttigieg: “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, Because He Definitely Will Listen.’” [TIME, 5/02/19]

Buttigieg: “This Is A Neighborhood That Really Needed To Frankly See The City Prove That We Believe Every Neighborhood Deserves Great Facilities And Great Programs.” “Mayor Pete Buttigieg also spoke at the grand re-opening on November 1. He said it took a lot of work and investment, but the result is beautiful. ‘This is a neighborhood that really needed to frankly see the city prove that we believe every neighborhood deserves great facilities and great programs,’ said Buttigieg. The South Bend Venues, Parks, and Arts department, specifically the Parks and Trails team, spent $4.5 million on the center’s renovations. Taylor said she’s grateful to the city for the money which will impact the hundreds of children, adults, and seniors, she’s worked with for the past 15 years.” [ABC 57, 11/01/18]


Buttigieg Established A Youth Task Force For High Schoolers To Foster “Very Open Dialogues About Biases Against Other Schools, Race, Cliques, Gangs And Other Tough Topics.” “In a time where our differences have risen to the top of conversation, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg says he wants the city’s youth to be united. That’s why he started the Youth Task Force, a group that’s been very busy this week working with area schools. The South Bend Youth Task Force says their goal is to bridge divides and get young people involved in local government. All this week, Buttigieg and the group have been touring high schools in the city, getting different kids at the table to talk about the issues they see on a day to day basis. These had included very open dialogues about biases against other schools, race, cliques, gangs and other tough topics. […] Students on the task force range from 9-12th grade. They have held 6 town halls at different schools to gauge what issues need to be addressed.” [ABC 57, 5/31/17]

Buttigieg: “The Thought Was Instead Of Sitting Around At A Table Saying What’s Best For High Schoolers, Let’s Bring The High Schoolers To The Table And See What They Think.” “Buttigieg believes it’s bringing kids into the process of moving the city forward. ‘The thought was instead of sitting around at a table saying what’s best for high schoolers, let’s bring the high schoolers to the table and see what they think,’ said Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend. […] The mayor says he’s learning new things through the process. ‘The students talk in very real terms,’ said Buttigieg. ‘You get a sense of how to better engage and how to better unify people.’ Now that the Task Force has met with area students, they will go over their findings at their next meeting, and then devise a plan to present to the school board.” [ABC 57 5-13-17]


In 2016, Aided In The Creation Of “An Innovative, First-Of-Its-Kind” Program To Provide A Municipal Identification Card For The 4,500 Undocumented Immigrants Residing In South Bend. “It was 2016 and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg had a problem. Wanting to coax the small city’s approximately 4,500 undocumented immigrants out of the shadows to help them access services, Buttigieg toyed with the idea of some type of municipal identification card for those who couldn’t obtain driver’s licenses or other government ID’s. The result was an innovative, first-of-its-kind governmentally endorsed, privately run program — one Buttigieg could tout on the presidential primary campaign trail where Latinos are a key voting group.” [NBC News, 6/08/19]

Buttigieg Worked With South Bend’s Primary Latino Outreach Center To Implement Community Resident Cards In Such A Way That Immigrants Could Live “Without Fear That Their Names Or Immigration Status Might End Up In The Hands Of Authorities Or Anti-Immigrant Groups.” “Working closely with La Casa de Amistad, South Bend’s main Latino outreach center, Buttigieg and the nonprofit’s executive director, Sam Centellas, imagined a “Community Resident Card” program in which the IDs would be paid for, created and distributed by the group — a private organization — not the city. […] As a result, undocumented immigrants in South Bend are now able to partake in many routine aspects of daily life. And they can do so without fear that their names or immigration status might end up in the hands of authorities or anti-immigrant groups. That’s because La Casa, as a private organization, isn’t bound by requests for public records the way the city might be if it were running the program.” [NBC News, 6/08/19]

La Casa De Amistad Executive Director Sam Centellas: The Organization Doesn’t Even Keep A List Of Who Has Obtained A Community Residence Card. “Centellas said his group doesn’t even keep a list of people with cards, which each cost $25 for those who can afford to pay. ‘It’s a great way to provide benefits to people without the strings and risks attached to a traditional municipal ID card,’ Centellas said. More than two years later, 2,153 cards have been distributed (about half of the estimated undocumented population) in South Bend (pop. 100,000), with another 1,035 in use in nearby Goshen, which put in place an identical program, also run by La Casa.” [NBC News, 6/08/19]

To Support The Initiative, Buttigieg Signed An Executive Order Mandating That Local Services And Institutions Recognize The IDs As Valid, Urged Local Businesses To Do The Same. “Buttigieg’s part to make it all work was to sign 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.” [NBC News, 6/08/19]


South Bend NAACP Director Patton: “Buttigieg Has Long Been A Valuable Partner.” “Michael Patton, the director of South Bend’s local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said that in advocating for the needs of the city’s black community, Buttigieg has long been a valuable partner. Under Buttigieg’s leadership, the city established an Office of Community Engagement and Empowerment, which Patton says focuses on equipping historically marginalized areas with home repair funding. They funded the West Side Small Business Resource Center, to catalyze entrepreneurship in the minority community, and also established an Office of Diversity and Inclusion. ‘He’s a person who gets out in the highways and the byways; he comes out in the neighborhoods and the streets; he establishes ways for the community to speak to him about the state of the city,’ said Patton, a reverend who took office at the NAACP in January.” [City Lab, 4/05/19]

Patton: Tape Controversy A “Moot Point” That Won’t Move The City Forward Or Backward Whatever The Outcome. “The mayor is not planning on running for a third term, and by now the controversy over the tapes is a ‘moot point,’ says Patton. ‘It doesn’t move us forward, and it doesn’t take us backwards at this point whether we engage on that or not,’ he said. ‘It won’t make a hill of beans as to whether—which way that should go at this point.’” [City Lab, 4/05/19]

Patton Pointed To Several Instances In Which Buttigieg Used His Role To Affect Direct Improvement Of South Bend’s Black Community. “Patton, the local NAACP president, said he wants to look ahead, not back. He noted Buttigieg’s creation of a Diversity & Inclusion Department, which is working to increase contracting with minority-owned businesses; the city’s $4 million renovation of the Charles Black Center; and efforts to partner with nonprofits to create more affordable housing on the northwest and south sides of the city.” [South Bend Tribune, 4/21/19]

Patton: Focusing On Tapes Is “Not Helping The Constituents That I Serve, People Of Poverty, People Who Are Disenfranchised, People Who Don’t Have A Fair Playing Field.” “‘There’s too many challenges in our community to be stuck on some tapes,’ said Patton, senior pastor at Kingdom Life Christian Cathedral. ‘They’re not helping the constituents that I serve, people of poverty, people who are disenfranchised, people who don’t have a fair playing field.’” [South Bend Tribune, 4/21/19]

South Bend’s First Diversity And Inclusion Officer Christina Brooks: “What Separates Mayor Pete From The Pack Is The Fact That He’s Really Willing To Have Tough Conversations.” “For a city that was 27 percent African American and 13 percent Hispanic, the problems were deep and painful, said Christina Brooks, the city’s first diversity and inclusion officer, hired by Buttigieg at the beginning of his second term. But she gave the mayor credit for presenting the report at a public meeting, where he received plenty of angry but crucial feedback.’ I think what separates Mayor Pete from the pack is the fact that he’s really willing to have tough conversations where most politicians would kind of shy away from that,’ Brooks said. ‘He was willing to say, ‘Okay, the buck stops with me. Let’s see what we can do to fix it.’” [Washington Post, 4/22/19]

Buttigieg At National Action Network Convention: Boykins Controversy Made South Bend “More Unified.” “Buttigieg explained that he felt he was faced with a ‘tough choice’ between ‘holding up the law’ and ‘seeing our community torn apart’ when weighing how to handle the Chief Boykins controversy. Regardless, he said the issue made the community stronger, and told reporters that he believes he ‘would not have been re-elected in minority majority districts unless we had gone through this together and wound up more unified.’ Buttigieg also said that some of the things he learned about race and policing were ‘things we learned the hard way in our community, especially early in my term when I had taken office, serious issues happened around civil rights that led to more mistrust.’” [CBS News, 4/04/19]

Despite Controversy Looming Over His Entire Mayoral Tenure, Buttigieg Maintained A “Sky-High” Approval Rating Due To His Strides In Bridging Racial Gap. “The controversy has hung over Buttigieg’s two terms in office, but his approval rating in South Bend is sky-high. South Bend is about 55 percent Democratic. Buttigieg won reelection to a second term with more than 80 percent of the vote. Buttigieg’s backers say he’s made strides in repairing the racial divide. ‘This happened very early on in his administration and the mayor has since spent a lot of quantity time with communities of color to build trust,’ said the Buttigieg ally. ‘It was really hard, especially happening so early on in his time in office. But he’s been able to build deeper relationships because of it.’” [The Hill, 4/15/19]

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