A South Bend Common Council member wants to end all the controversy surrounding his relationships within the council and focus on positive initiatives in the city instead.
Second district council member, Henry Davis Jr. spoke with NewsCenter 16 about newly created job opportunities for youth in the city.
The legislation passed in April, but investigations, inter-council conflict and formal complaints against Davis Jr. detracted from, what he said, was much needed investment in the city’s youth.
“I just want to be left alone I want to continue to do my job and make sure these kids are working this summer,” said Davis Jr.
Never at a loss for words, Davis Jr. said he’s ready to move past the drama.
“When infighting takes place within the council ranks it's going to cloud, bring negative attention, and it's going to be sensationalized. But we have to keep at it and doing what we're supposed to be doing as elected officials,” Davis Jr. added.
Interactions between Davis Jr. and at-large council member, Derek Dieter, have attracted public attention in recent months.
Dieter recently filed a formal complaint against Henry Davis Sr., the father of Henry Davis Jr.
While the councilman’s father never laid a finger on Dieter, it’s alleged that he used one of his fingers as part of a hand gesture directed Dieter’s way.
“The report alleges that Mr. Davis' father got up from his seat, made an obscene gesture towards councilman Dieter and also used profanity toward him, and physically approached him, at which point councilman Dieter reports feeling intimidated by that,” said South Bend Police Captain Phil Trent.
Even more recently, on Friday June 20, Dieter extended an invitation to Davis Jr. to a press event in Davis Jr.’s district. Davis Jr. replied by saying the invitation was a “trap” and he thought Dieter was holding the event for selfish reasons.
Saturday, Davis Jr. said he doesn’t have a problem with Dieter. He just wants to be left alone to do his job: a job that includes providing for his constituents.
“We have to keep investing in our youth, making sure we're on the front lines in supporting our youth and making sure we're supporting our youth in a positive way,” explained Davis Jr.
Davis Jr. and council members Valerie Schey and Oliver Davis sponsored a piece of legislation that focused on youth unemployment and entrepreneur programs.
“This is not simply about keeping our kids off the streets,” said Davis Jr., “This is about giving them opportunity, about giving them an idea about responsibility.
The councilman turned to national unemployment statistics on youth unemployment; citing double-digit unemployment rates in Millennials aged 18-34 in his resolution.
According to a January 2014 publication entitled “In This Together: The Hidden Cost of Young Adult Unemployment,” each unemployed 25-34 year old will cost the government $9,875 annually.
Davis believes expanding paid services will help reconnect young adults to the labor force.
Initially Davis requested open access to gymnasiums and swimming pools, as well as open access to computer labs and the development of vocational trade programs. He got much more.
The common council allotted $100,000 to create 25 jobs at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreational Center and the Charles Black Recreational Center. The summer sports programs will be able to accommodate roughly 200 kids per day thanks to the expansion.
With rising rates at the Kroc Center for memberships, Davis wrote in a memo to his fellow council members: “there will be an overflow of youth going to the recreational centers during the summer months and beyond.”
“We have to continue to invest to get something out of them. If we don't invest, obviously we know what the alternative is,” Davis said there’s been a spike in violence in South Bend’s youth. He hopes that by getting youth involved in their own community centers, they’d be less likely to be on the streets.
The youth positions are still being filled.