Archive for the ‘South Bend’ Category

Today we launched RECESS 2012!!!  Thanks to the generosity of the Living Stones Church we are looking forward to the next eight weeks with a bunch of students from Monroe School / Miami Hills apartments (we are expecting about 100 total).

Today went great!  Meredith Waltman (our RECESS Director) and her top-notch counselors and volunteers did an excellent job.  The kids had a blast and it was a successful first day!!

Another great thing this year is that we were approved for a grant from the government to make our own breakfasts and lunches.  Last year we were approved by the South Bend School Corporation to be a free lunch site.  It was a huge blessing to have daily meals supplied by the corporation.  BUT – the quality of the meals were a little…you know.  So, this year we have been approved for a grant that will pay us $5.31 per child per day.  Multiple that by the number of kids in RECESS for eight weeks and we are looking at a potential funding of $20,000 so that we can make our own meals!!!   This is a huge blessing!!!!

Finally, this past Sunday Living Stoners brought us over our funding goal by contributing $15,759.38 for RECESS 2012!!!  THANK YOU!!!

Let me give you another blog you should be checking out.  It is called Revitalize South Bend (*insertpumpfist*).

It’s creator:  The most excellent Beth Harsch.

Listen to its purpose and intent:

As a resident of South Bend, I refuse to believe we’re a ”Dying City,” as a recent article in Newsweek claims. Nor do I care to give credence to Princeton who lists South Bend among the ”College Towns not so Great.”

I believe what many residents of South Bend believe… that this is a generous, caring, innovative community.

My desire is to highlight those people (and groups) in our community who will not let some Newsweek article define them. This is for, and about, those generous, caring and innovative people doing transformational work that improves life in South Bend.

Won’t you join me as we share ideas and resources that can benefit others in our community?

Add it to your blog roll, check out its contents frequently, and COMMENT and engage in the conversation!!

And while you are there should especially check out today’s blog post!!

…now we step into the highly explosive terrain of politics, religion, and sexual identity…

Yesterday, after two previous failed attempts, the South Bend Common Council voted 6-3 in favor of a Bill that would add sexual identity to a Human Rights ordinance that prohibits discrimination.

I have watched this issue with great interest and I’m trying to read everything I can, both for and against, that will help me see the different sides to this issues and what makes this bill “problematic.”  And I have to be honest, I’m not coming up with much in regards to the opposition to this bill.

(If I’m correct, and really…if I’m wrong…someone please correct me) This bill simply affords those who have been discriminated against based on their sexual identity the ability to file a complaint with the board of Human Rights.  What that means is, a good employee cannot be terminated based on the fact that they are GLBT.  It means that a good renter cannot be thrown out of their apartment simply because they are GLBT.  It means that an owner of a restaurant can’t throw out an otherwise good patron simply on the grounds that they are gay.  Right?  Am I missing something here?

Dear Christians who are freaking out that this bill has passed and are opposing this bill – are we for the above mentioned scenarios?  Really?  We’re for discrimination?!  When did we become for that?  And where in the Bible are we going to support that conviction?

Again, I could be wrong – but I’m pretty sure on this – but the bill is NOT trying to redefine marriage; it isn’t trying to legalize same-sex marriage; and it isn’t a vote on whether or not homosexuality and following Jesus is compatible.  And if that is what the bill is about, then let the debate take place!

This bill simply says we are not for discrimination against our fellow human beings.  Are we Christians not for that?!

Historically, I guess that shouldn’t be shocking if it is the case given that we have pretty much initially been on the wrong side of every major social movement:  slavery, women’s suffrage, civil rights, etc.  But that doesn’t mean we have to stay that way.  Decades from now we don’t want to be known as the group of people who wanted to perpetuate discrimination.  Trust me on this.  There will be no “win” in that position.

So, I’ve listened to the opposition.  And this is, the best I can tell, what I hear:

1.  A few arguments based on legalities and enforcement.  

Granted…there may be issues of how this bill is upheld legally in the court of law and its enforcement isn’t exactly clear…but we can let the courts figure that out and the executive branch figure out the details of enforcement.  Right?  That shouldn’t change the principle behind the bill which is that we don’t want people to be discriminated against.

2.  A lot of arguments based on “the slippery slope.”  Meaning if you allow this “militant homosexual agenda” (as they say) succeed the next will be gay marriage!

I find all arguments from slippery slopes to be stupid arguments based more on emotive replies than reason.  I don’t know where this bill might or might not lead…what I know is that the issue at hand is this…discrimination.

3.  Arguments that these are not “civil” or “human” rights but “special” rights.

I’m not sure what that means since I don’t quite understand what “special” right has now been extended.  But the main issue seems to be one of identity – chosen or intrinsic (more on this in just a moment).

4.  Arguments that businesses should not be forced in regards to who they hire and keep on as employees.  

This argument is the most compelling to me but that is because I tend to have libertarian leanings.  However, we, as a society, now see appropriate that sometimes the government needs to enforce a law that keeps people who are of different races from being discriminated against.  And for me, theologically, it is because sin exists.  And with sin, comes hate.  And with hate comes exclusion and discrimination.

Yea, but what about churches and religious organizations?  This bill HAS exclusions for religious entities like private schools and churches meaning they don’t have to hire on staff individuals that they believe are living outside of their moral requirements.

5.  Arguments that people who are GLTB are so by choice.

To this I would say, you’ve never honestly spoken to anyone who is GLTB.  Every person I’ve talked to who was gay did not decide on some date to become gay.  It isn’t like on “such-and-such” a date to switch from Nutra-Sweet to Splenda.  In fact, every gay person I’ve talked to (and remember what I do for a living) has shared that if they could, they would choose to be straight to save them the pain and heartache of strained relationships and problems with families, churches, friends, etc.

I’ve read quite a bit on the causation of “being gay.”  And the most unbiased scientists I know concede the intricacies and complexities of sexual identity are so large and so great that no one causation can flippantly be thrown out (e.g., “there is a gay gene” or it is purely “environmental”).  Truth is, we aren’t exactly sure what causes someone to be gay.  And it may be different for each person.

So it is argued that we should not extend discriminatory protection because being gay is a behavior identity and not an intrinsic one (like the color of your skin).  Again, issue of causation are hugely contested here.  But, even if we just conceded that it is behavior identity, isn’t Christianity the same thing?  And we would want recourse if we lost our job simply because of our religion.

So, fire away on the comment section (keep it respectful or I will delete it).  But in my mind, I don’t understand why this is so controversial, or why Christians would be leading the charge against it!!!  The way of Jesus and the promotion of discrimination towards others should not be considered synonymous.  I think if we are serious about wanting to change the world for Jesus, appearing to support discrimination based on an individual’s sexual identity isn’t going to be the route that accomplishes it.

[This is a series of blogs dealing with issues pertaining to condition of neighborhoods on the South Side of South Bend.  You can read the first couple of posts here , here , here, & here.]

A few years ago Jennae Gee and I attended a conference on Bridges Out of Poverty at the Century Center here in South Bend.  The conference was based on the work of Ruby Payne.  It was incredibly insightful.  One of the things that was mentioned in the conference was the “type” of businesses that reflect an area of poverty.  I’m sure you know this experientially as you note the difference between the businesses found in an impoverished area, and those found in a more affluent area (e.g., Granger, Grape Rd. & Main St. in Mishawaka).    In the conference they provided a list of the kinds of businesses that begin to take over a neighborhood when it is sliding towards, or is in, poverty.  They listed the following:

  • Pawn shops
  • Liquor stores
  • Corner stores (like…the shady looking ones that you’re just a little suspect of in regards to what they are really selling)
  • Rent to own stores
  • Laundromats
  • Fast food restaurants (if there are any restaurants at all)
  • Check cashing
  • Temp services
  • Used-car lots (you should count how many are on Michigan Street!)
  • Dollar stores
As soon as they read the list, I immediately started thinking about the kind of businesses that existed on the South side of South Bend.  YES…we do have the Ireland Rd. business district (corridor) that runs from Ironwood to West of Michigan that contains businesses that reflect a non-impovershed area (e.g., Target, Kohl’s, Supermarkets, etc.).  But as soon as you move north of Ireland Rd. things change quickly and dramatically!
Below is a slide show of businesses that are on two major corridors coming into the city of South Bend from the South side.  One is Michigan Street (the “Southgate” of the city) [pictures are from Chippewa to Indiana Ave.] and the other is Miami St. (also known as the “Miami Village Association”) [pictures are from Ewing St. to about Indiana Ave.].  Take a few minutes to look at these photos and see if you don’t recognize in them that the these main arteries into the city are “impoverished areas.”  Side note:  the pictures are almost exhaustive of businesses on these two street.  I did leave out Bob Miller’s Appliance Store (a great exception here on the South Side), the Landing Catering & Banquet hall, 1st Source bank, and a host of muffler or body shops.
Thank you to Ann Lynn who took these photos!
The question is – how do we stop the movement towards greater poverty in regards to the “types” of businesses that are located on the South side of South Bend?  How do we encourage investment by businesses that reflect opportunities for growth, jobs, and economic development?  What incentives can be offered or provided to turn the tide towards businesses that help a neighborhood rise above its declining state?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

See Part 1 here and Part 2 here

“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives.”  James Madison 1788

I want to go back to the mayor’s address to the school board and suggest one more thing the mayor should do:  PUSH FOR A PARTIALLY-APPOINTED SCHOOL BOARD!!!  I know this is controversial, but I’ve lost my hope and trust in the voting electorate to select school board members who are qualified (or even smart).

Recent turmoil on the school board bears that out.  For further proof…note Roseland’s town council.  I believe in Democracy, but in local elections for school board candidates, the voting public has no clue what the candidate stands for or if they are even qualified to lead the city’s school system.  Whenever forums are offered to meet the candidate about a dozen people or less show up.  The candidates don’t have the finances for commercial spots, mass mailings, or other means to get their message out.

David Snyder

So…a voter enters the booth and chooses a name that rings most familiar (and hopefully the name isn’t familiar because of the charges that were filed against them) or one that sounds nice.  “Spivey…that sounds nice.”  “Stephanie Spivey…oooo…two ‘s’ words.  I like it.  I’ll vote for her!

And then…we get what we get.  Except, it usually means inept leadership.

If the city’s well-being is intertwined with the school system’s well-being (which I believe that it is) then the Mayor has a huge stake in what happens within our school system.  All of his attempts at city growth will be undermined by a defunct school system.  There should be at least 2-3 school board members who are directly appointed by, and are accountable to, the mayor.  I know this places a lot of trust and control in the hands of the mayor.  But he has a vested interest and his voice (via his appointees) are critical.  Further, it expedites communication between the mayor’s office and the school board.  And I don’t mean just communication that occurs at their Monday night board meetings, but probably more important, the communication that goes on outside of it.

See Part 1 here.

One way the city government can help our neighborhood schools is to do something about the condition of the neighborhoods that surrounds the schools.  Specifically, something about the blight and abandoned

properties that many schools on the South Side are right in the middle of.

Has anyone seen the neighborhood that surrounds Riley High School (especially facing opposite the main entrance)?  Has anyone seen the street that is directly in front of of the Riley Early College Program now meeting at the old Studebaker Primary Center (on Dubail Street)?  And now the school corporation is considering the Studebaker school building for the New High Tech School!!!  The entire block across from the school is abandoned with several scarred from arson on two of the properties (it used to be three but the city did demolish).

And where are these schools located?  In some of the most run-down and neglected neighborhoods on the South Side.

I don’t know what Code Enforcement or the city can do, but what does it communicate to our students, and to their families – to have schools in whose surroundings are so miserable?

To see Part 3 go here.

[This is a series of blogs dealing with issues pertaining to condition of neighborhoods on the South Side of South Bend.  You can read the first couple of posts here , here , & here.]

This past Monday evening the  South Bend School Board had their weekly meeting. During the meeting the newly elected Mayor, Pete Buttigieg, addressed the board.  In his address he expressed his desire to work with the school board noting how important a strong school system is to the health of a city.  He promised several things such as: 1) an open door for communication; 2) an advocate by virtue of his office; 3) pursuit of private financial investments; and 4) a call for community volunteers and mentors.

I’m glad the mayor addressed the school board.  And I couldn’t agree more in regards to the health of a city being largely dependent on the condition of its schools.  But as we talk about the south side of South Bend and schools (as has been popular on the blog this week) I believe the condition of our schools may be a contributing factor to the decline of our neighborhoods (and yes…I know the exact opposite can be said as well…the decline of our neighborhoods is a contributing factor to the condition of our schools…welcome to the chicken and the egg debate).

The one thing I hear consistently in regards to people’s decision to move to Michiana but choose a home in Mishawaka or Granger, is the condition of South Bend public schools  (even more than crime) .  I recently read a forum online of someone asking for advice because they were moving to the area.  Page after page was filled with people encouraging them NOT to move to South Bend but rather choose Lakeville, Mishawaka or Granger and the most often cited reason was the school system.

Several years ago I counted 18 kids that lived on my street (I live on a cul-de-sac on the South Side of South Bend).  18 kids…mostly girls! Out of those 18 kids (who are smart, well-behaved, come from stable homes, etc.), only 2 (my children) actually attended a South Bend public school (and even now I only have one in the South Bend public school).  The other 16 were attending private schools (mostly Catholic).  I couldn’t help but wonder if that was the norm on other streets as well.  It seems that anyone who can…sends their kids to another school system or a private school.

The flight out of South Bend public schools guts the neighborhood schools.  And specifically, it guts the schools of kids who are coming from stable homes with parents who are involved and who encourage their children academically.  When you take all of those kids out – how does it not devastate a school?  And now the State is offering vouchers to help in this flight (which…in a spirit of full-disclosure…we use for one of our kids).

AND another thing…I think the whole “magnet” / “traditional” school concept has not helped neighborhood schools.  I think it had the best intentions in the world.  But the end result is you have taken some of your most academically skilled kids who live on the South Side of South Bend and now bus them to Kennedy, LaSalle, etc.  The result:  the further gutting of our neighborhood schools.  I was talking to an ex-teacher at McKinley elementary the other day.  She said that is exactly what happened at McKinley.  After the magnet school came into existence McKinley now qualifies as a 100% free-lunch school and their ISTEP test scores plummeted.

I don’t know how you go back now.  But the end result and consequence has been weaker South Bend neighborhood schools – and especially around the South Side of South Bend.  Our South Side High School – who I love and graduated from (just a couple of years ago) – just barely avoided state takeover.  And when a parent has to decide where to send their kid to High School – a school that isn’t under threat of State takeover (whether it be private or in another school system) is a whole lot more attractive than one that is.

To see Part 2 go here.

I feel sorry for the Kindergarten aides in the South Bend School Corporation.  I think they have a very difficult job and are underpaid.  I also think they are absolutely critical and necessary to the classroom.  But the South Bend School Corporation needs to cut $10 million.  So, what do they do…they release all the Kindergarten aides (in what meeting and who decides?), then have a public school board meeting, and change their mind.  This happens every other month.  Last night was round three of the exact same pattern.  Who can live in that stress and worry?!!  Good grief!!!

But…the school system has to cut $10 MILLION!!!

Now let me get this straight…the school system needs to cut 10,000,000 (count all the zeros) and you are going to do it off of the salaries of the Kindergarten aides!?!!  How much are they making...$250,000 a year?!  Really?  10 million and the most urgent and dispensable category is in the Kindergarten classroom!?!  You are trying to tell me that Kindergarten aides are bankrupting our school corporation (even in part)!!!!?  Come on !!!

I’ll tell you where to cut…

Cut out of the $15.2 million transportation budget!!!  Yes…that’s right.  $15.2 million (it looks like this $15,200,000) spent on busing kids from every point in our city to a different school in another part of the city!!  It is BEYOND absurd.

I’m sure it was well-intentioned and considered a great idea…but these “magnet” and “traditional” schools (at every level) that now have kids from every part of the city being bused in is outrageous.  Kids are out on the street as early as 6:20 am catching a bus to take them to the other side of town.  I’m for school choice.  If you want your kid to go to Kennedy, I’m great with that.  Then the parent can be responsible to drive their kid to Kennedy.  But for the school corporation to bear the responsibly to bus that kid to Kennedy (not to mention after school activities and the activity buses necessary for that as well) is a cost that we can clearly no longer afford.

Bring back neighborhood schools!!!

You need to cut $10 million…leave the teacher’s aides alone and pick up a transportation budget and start your cutting there!

[This humble opinion offered to you by Sam I Am.  But…I’m also looking for some pushback so come on…bring it! 🙂 ]

[This is a series of blogs dealing with issues pertaining to condition of neighborhoods on the South Side of South Bend.  You can read the first couple of posts here & here.]

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – Apostle Paul

As you drive along the South Side of South Bend there is a divide that takes place at Ewing Ave.  South of Ewing, you are in the 5th city council district and in the zip code of 46614.  North of Ewing you are in the 6th city council district and are now in the zip code of 46613.  Not only is there a divide in council districts and zip codes, but there is also a divide in regards to the socio-economic demographic and with it a spirit of fear.

What you will notice as you move north of Ewing is that many homes have their front yard fenced in.  On the south side of Ewing, almost no residence has their front yard fenced in.  If they do, it is for decor.  But on the north side, the fences are not for aesthetic value – they are for security.  They are taller fences with locks.  And through it you can see a growing spirit of fear.

Whenever a spirit of fear grips a neighborhood, the future is not bright.  Panic sets in.  People begin to isolate themselves (thus becoming not very good neighbors) and look for opportunities to leave to a “safer” neighborhood.  That is why police investigators are so eager to want to resolve any crime or mystery to alleviate the contagion that comes with a spirit of fear.

My first real experience with a community spirit of fear came at the Miami Hills Apartments.  One day I went to the apartment complex to figure out a map of the buildings and the numeration of apartments within each building.  I parked my car in the apartment complex and received a phone call before getting out of the car.  While on the phone, a guy starts to circle my car.  Finally, after several passes, he came up to the window and asked if I knew what time it was.  He then went on his way.  Unbeknownst to me, as I was sitting in my car, small pockets of people had gathered together in different sections of the parking lot.  I got out of the car and approached a gathering of three women to ask a question about the signage on the building and the numbers on the apartments.  As I approached and asked my question, the only reply I received was a hushed…”are you FBI?”  Taken back I asked, “What?”  She repeated, “Are you FBI?”  I laughed (and honestly was a little flattered that she even thought I could get into the FBI) and then told her who I was and what I was doing.  And then we had a 15 minute conversation about their kids, Vacation Bible Schools, etc.

But what I saw was a spirit of fear.  And when a spirit of fear grips a neighborhood – it takes over.  You become afraid of everyone.  You are afraid of crime.  You are afraid of strangers.  You are afraid of police.  You are afraid of your neighbors (and especially your neighbor’s teenage kids).  You fence your front yard.  You put in security systems (or at least a sticker that makes it look like you have a security system).  You buy a dog.  You put up a “beware of dog” sign.  And you barricade your home.  And you dream of the day when you can move to Granger.

Your neighborhood is guaranteed to decline.

There are other signs:  notice how many people go to a garage sale north of Ewing versus in a subdivision south of Ewing.  Note the absence of little kids playing outside in the front yard in the middle of the summertime.

If a neighborhood is going to see revitalization, one thing that must be addressed is the spirit of fear that is gripping the neighborhood.

A sign in the front yard of a house on the South Side of South Bend! 🙂  Obviously they don’t think much of Republicans.  Of course I feel the sign isn’t as descriptive as it needs to be.  My question is – end of what?  End of the world?  Western Civilization?  America?  Obamacare?  Hip hop?