Conversations with Mayor Luecke: Part Three

Being a mayor can be a thankless job. There are a lot of positives, but just as many complaints.

South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke's latest hurdle is dealing with filling in the gaps left by property tax relief reform.

And there are the issues of businesses leaving town and people losing jobs.

The mayor realizes those problems, but thinks things are on the upswing in South Bend.

Mayor Luecke looks out at the city from his office on the fourteenth floor of the County-City building and sees a bright future.

A future that includes deciding how to best handle a property tax reform that excluded St. Joseph and Lake counties from a cap on taxes.

“We're having some analysis done to find out where we lose money because there are different funds and the money isn't always interchangeable,” he says.

He knows unpopular decisions will have to be made, including a probable hike in income taxes in St. Joseph County. Meaning fewer police and firefighters, fewer parks, a hike in some fees.

“If we don't raise additional revenue, local income taxes, there will be significant cut in a variety of positions.”

He acknowledges job losses and companies leaving town, but he believes South Bend is on the verge of change.

“I really see over the next five to ten years a change in our economy. There was a book titled “South Bend—World Famed” and I think we're on the verge of that being the case again.”

How? The mayor says working to keep the companies we have and attracting new high-tech jobs.

A key to this, he says, is the installation of the Metronet—a forty mile stretch of fiber optic cable that connects our community to the transcontinental cable. To put it in perspective, if you were hooked up to the Metronet you could download a two hour movie in 20 to 30 seconds.

“It's very important for companies that need to push a lot of data, it also helps us attract data centers and other companies that push a lot of data.

The mayor says the recent announcement from Notre Dame becoming one of four centers nationwide to direct a 60 million dollar research consortium will help recruit high tech companies to South Bend.

“With the infrastructure that we've put in place, with the Metronet in conjunction with the university on some research initiative, I believe we will see a transformation of this economy with significant new investment with great jobs for our community and the opportunity that all of that brings.”

Mayor Luecke walks about downtown and is pleased with the variety of restaurants and the entertainment provided at the Morris performing arts center. He believes the new Eddy Street Commons project is yet another linking Notre Dame and South Bend.

“It really has been a great partnership that will continue to get better. It will be on a scale we haven't seen before,” Mayor Luecke says. “I think it will really be a golden era for South Bend.”

An era that may pump new life into our neighborhoods and schools, and make South Bend a better place to live.

This was the last of three reports Maureen did with Mayor Luecke. She'll soon be sitting down with conversations with the mayors of Mishawaka and Elkhart in the coming weeks.

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