SOUTH BEND -- In his second address on the topic since taking office in January 2012, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday described the state of the city as "rest(ing) on old strength and new hope."
At the same time, he announced a substantial investment in public safety, a new partnership, a new appointment that guarantees the city a new voice in the Statehouse and new initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence and increasing the number of mentors in the city.
Speaking to a crowd of several hundred at LaSalle Intermediate Academy, the mayor spoke of the need to remain "open" as a city -- "open for business, open to newcomers, open to the impact of technology in an open-source, open-data, open-fiber world, open to change and, most importantly, open to each other."
He also stressed the need for unity of purpose.
"Our future has no place for small-ball politics, for pettiness, for any of us to be quick to take offense and slow to release a grudge," he said. "To be that way is to close oneself -- and a city, like a person, becomes smaller when closed off."
Wednesday's address began with a moment of silence for the victims of the deadly plane crash in the city on Sunday -- "Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the tragedy," the mayor said -- and then segued into a summary of the past year and a peek at what lies ahead in the next 12 months and beyond.
"This first year of this administration has been a period of growth, change, renewal and challenge for our city," the mayor said. "We have been through a lot together in 2012, and that process of change is still under way. But if 2012 was a year of building, of groundwork, of transition and emergence, 2013 has already shown itself to be a year of action."
The mayor mentioned the city's new 311 phone line, which launched in early February, and the long-awaited release of the Vacant and Abandoned Properties Task Force Report, which occurred a few weeks later. He also mentioned the city's plan to address 1,000 vacant and abandoned houses in 1,000 days.
Looking ahead, he said, the goal remains the same, to ensure South Bend is a "safe, well-connected community where everyone can thrive."
"The path to getting there is guided by three major priorities for the administration," he said. "First: making sure the basics are easy. Second: providing good government. And third: getting everyone back to work."
In terms of "the basics," he focused mostly on public safety.
Noting the need to maintain readiness among the city's firefighters, as demonstrated by Sunday's plane crash, he announced a "major investment: the Luther J. Taylor Sr. Fire Safety Training Center."
He said the center, named in honor of the city's former longtime fire chief, would provide training and education to firefighters and members of the public.
In response to the large amount of gun violence in the city last summer, the mayor also announced the formation of an Anti-Violence Commission aimed at reducing such violence by "apply(ing) proven techniques in violence reduction to our neighborhoods."
The commission will be co-chaired by police Chief Ron Teachman and the Rev. Eddie Miller, a member of the Board of Public Safety, the mayor said, and include representatives from local, county and federal law enforcement, social services and the faith community.
"This commission is not there to write a report," he said. "They are there to stop the shooting, and at their first meeting in April I will call on them to apply evidence-based approaches that have worked in other communities."
The mayor later confirmed that the techniques employed by the commission would be based on the Operation Ceasefire model developed in Boston, which is different from the model developed in Chicago and the one employed here about ten years ago.
The mayor also announced that the city would be joining the National Network of Safe Communities, a nationwide support group that helps communities apply proven solutions to serious crime problems.
And he mentioned his membership in the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a nationwide coalition of mayors who support "common-sense (gun-control) measures like universal background checks and federal penalties for illegal gun trafficking."