Friday, April 22, 2011

On the South Bend Common Council

Much has been made of the challenges facing South Bend.  Often it has been portrayed as in decline - others would argue that it is rebounding.  Which view is true probably depends on the time frame one is looking at.

One thing is certain.  The community needs to be attractive to the best and the brightest, from all backgrounds, in order to move forward.  So what does it say when the city's Common Council, with a super-majority of Democrats, votes on two separate occasions to sustain "special discrimination" against GLBT citizens?  That it is city policy to look the other way when its citizens are denied jobs, or housing, or other fair treatment, solely on the basis on that citizen's sexual orientation - or even another person's perception of that citizen's sexual orientation?  "It's all good", says the city of South Bend.

Now imagine you have job offers.  It's really easy to find out lots about the livability of cities these days.  Or imagine you are in charge of adding locations for the company you work for.  Well over 90% of Fortune 500 companies protect their employees from this type of discrimination.  But that protection would end as soon as their employees left the workplace.

So, essentially, the current Common Council doesn't seem very serious about moving forward - or at least is doing so with one hand tied behind its back.  That's important to think about as we approach the Democratic Primary election.

The at-large race with three seats available features three incumbents - though one (Derek Dieter) served from a District until now.  Dieter and Karen White both voted to sustain special discrimination.  The other incumbent, Buddy Kirsits voted to overturn it - and co-sponsored the most recent attempt. 

There are many other reasons to excuse Dieter from further duty.  Kirsits should be returned.  Karen White is a more complicated choice.  she does many things well.  People have told me for more than two years that she's about to do the right thing.  But twice she didn't.  Furthermore, the video of the pre-meeting meeting (now banished from the internet) showed her as being completely dismissive to the issue.  She should go.

In District two last time around, Charlotte Pfeifer lost narrowly to Henry Davis, Jr.  HDJ has made few friends on the Council and city employees because he constantly complains about how bad the city is at this and that.  He votes against measures simply because he doesn't understand them (his words).  He also voted to sustain special discrimination.  He must go.

Charlotte Pfeifer has a long record of accomplishment including the establishment of the DuComb Center and an ordinance to crack down on absentee landlords who neglect their properties.  She voted to end special discrimination.  She should be nominated and elected.

In District 6, Oliver Davis has been a tireless public servant - constantly seeking input from and meeting with his constituents.  He sponsored the most recent attempt to end special discrimination.  He should be nominated and elected.

District 4 shapes up to be messy.  Rev. Timothy Rouse has served as an at-large member, but shifted into a district race when Ann Puzzello announced her retirement.  Ann was a tireless worker and a fierce advocate of ending special discrimination.  Rouse not only voted to sustain it; he made it clear that South Bend city government should shy away from leadership on difficult issues.  "I'm no trailblazer", was Rouse's declaration.  He must go.

He has at least two worthy opponents.  I'm thinking of Dr. Fred Ferlic and Marcus Ellison.  My concern is that they may split the vote from the constituency that favors ending special discrimination.  That could make things easier for Rouse.

Should Rouse be victorious, voters may want to consider the Independent candidacy of Kyle Chamberlin in the general election. 

We'll see how things unfold.

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