Black Lives Matter South Bend held a press conference Wednesday morning to raise their concerns over the city’s ongoing budget process.
BLM’s Jorden Giger said members have attended every budget meeting so far and have raised concerns over equity and inclusion of Black communities on South Bend’s West Side.
He also said the group wants public meetings with individual city departments so they can ask questions and get more details on budget specifics.
Council member Lori Hamann agreed to help set up those meetings, but Giger said her requests have repeatedly gone unanswered by the administration.
“We’re giving the city council one week from today to get this right, to right this ship, to correct its current course,” Giger said. “And if our concerns are not adequately addressed, we will ensure there will be consequences.”
Council member Troy Warner is the chair of the Personnel and Finance Committee, which has been holding the budget hearings.
In contrast to Giger, he said this year’s budget process has included an unprecedented level of public input — which is especially important because the city is deciding how to spend the millions in federal dollars it’s getting from the American Rescue Plan.
“By the time it’s done, we’ll have had over 15 public meetings, the vast majority of them all allowing for public input, totaling probably well over 40 to 50 hours of time,” Warner said. “This process has been kind of the most extensive process that’s happened in the budget — there’s been more meetings and more input sought than in prior years.”
As part of that process, Warner said the city held two community action meetings on the West Side.
“When I have asked how we can change this process, the only response I’ve got is to have a special meeting with BLM,” Warner said. “And I’m not prepared to take the step to have a special meeting for one group and open that door.”
Mayor James Mueller’s spokesperson Caleb Bauer shared similar sentiments in an emailed statement and said the 2022 budget process has had “multiple in-person feedback meetings, official Common Council budget committee meetings, an online budget survey, and feedback through 311.”
“The City has already received more feedback from residents and organizations than in any prior budget cycle, and all feedback is considered in the formation of the 2022 budget,” Bauer wrote.
Bauer also said that due to the millions of federal dollars South Bend is receiving from the American Rescue Plan, the proposed 2022 budget includes “transformative investments in historically underserved neighborhoods, affordable housing, neighborhood infrastructure, violence intervention, and community centers” and that the mayor “looks forward to continuing conversations with the Common Council and community as the 2022 budget moves forward.”
If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here.