South Bend Mayoral candidates face off in first debate

NOW: South Bend Mayoral candidates face off in first debate

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The first debate between the two men running for South Bend Mayor began with a conversation on policing in the city. 

The fallout from a fatal officer-involved shooting in June raised concerns of racism on the police force. 

On Tuesday, Democrat James Mueller told voters that he recognizes parts of the community do not trust the police because of systemic racism. 

“Some of it is larger systemic issues that have been along for some time,” said Mueller. 

While Republican Sean Haas said systemic racism is not a problem for the city’s police force or even the United States. 

“I think the United States by far is the least racist country in the world,” said Haas. 

Debate organizers said there were many questions sent in regarding policing, diversity on the force and neighborhood investment. Charles Boros, a west side neighbor, and Haas supporter, said he once supported current Mayor Pete Buttigieg but said it’s clear there’s a lack of investment on his side of town. 

“They don’t keep their promises they just do spots just here and there,” said Boros. 

Jacob Titus, a near northwest side neighbor, and Mueller supporter, said it’s important other parts of town see the growth his neighborhood has seen. 

“I would like to see the resources that have come to my neighborhood over the past twenty years happen in other neighborhoods,” said Titus. 

During the hour-long debate on Tuesday, Haas took many shots at Mueller, who has been endorsed by Mayor Buttigieg. Haas, at one point, asked the former Director of Community Investment for the City of South Bend to layout his point-plan to increase affordable housing in the community. 

“I understand you continuing the policy of the Mayor if that’s the coattails you’re going to ride on the whole time,” Haas said. “Let’s hope you’re not going to continue to failed support for the police department as well.”

Mueller responded to the Republican-hopeful once Haas claimed the current administration called the entire police department “racist” after the death of Eric Logan. The current history teacher proposed more dollars for public safety in the upcoming budget and hiring from outside agencies to increase diversity on the police force. 

“I don’t know what you’re proposing to stem the violence,” said Mueller. “And I hope it’s not the old school style of stop and frisk.”

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