I made it out to South Bend, IN last weekend to cover Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s official presidential campaign announcement. The mayor was gracious enough to give Our Daily Planet a few minutes to answer some questions about climate change, clean water, and how he would tackle these tough issues as president.
Miro: When you were elected Mayor of South Bend you implemented policies to bring tech and cloud technology to help the city’s water infrastructure and create community programs like the Lead Affinity Group. There are thousands of towns and cities across America that don’t have clean water yet they don’t make headlines so we don’t hear about them. If you’re elected into office, what would be your solution to bring the ideas you’ve implemented here at home to towns that really need it all throughout America?
Pete: Well, there are at least two things we need to do. One is investment, you can’t get something for nothing. Water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure isn’t sexy but is vitally important as we learned in the case of Flint, MI. So much depends on being able to not even have to think about the safety of your drinking water and it’s just as important to make sure our wastewater is treated properly. We here in South Bend need federal support and I think we need a federal government that recognizes that and matches investments that local communities are making as they try to sort this out. The second thing is to help spread useful technologies and kind of a problem-solving attitude about how to get things done. We’re still waiting for the federal government to give us permission to use technologies that we know will save hundreds-of-millions of dollars for largely lower-income ratepayers and lead to better outcomes in our water treatment but the system needs to be updated so that it celebrates those technologies and helps communities share them with each other too.
Miro: Climate change is going to take really bold action that in all likelihood, is going to have to be bipartisan. However, as we saw from the Oversight hearing two weeks ago, so many members on the other side of the aisle, they are still not willing to acknowledge that climate change is caused by people – they don’t even want to show up to the conversation. If you were elected President, what would be your approach to getting the Republican Party to work with Democrats to achieve something on the level that we need because we are running out of time?
Pete: First we need to demonstrate that this is not theoretical, this is not just happening in the Arctic, this is happening in our neighborhoods. South Bend has been hit by intensified extreme weather events associated with climate change, and places from California to Puerto Rico and Nebraska most recently have all been impacted as well. We need to have the conversation be about what’s happening on the ground instead of these kinds of theories that people poke holes in because the time has come and gone to debate whether this is real. The other thing I think we need to do is shift and frame the narrative to have it be less about whether this is happening or not and have it be over who’s got a better plan. Because if they have a problem with our plan, they should propose a better one. Somebody who has no plan at all, who doesn’t think we need one is going increasingly to be left behind and it’s another example of how just the terms of the debate need to change.
Miro: Where is your favorite place to spend time outdoors?
Pete: Well, we’re very proud of Indiana Dunes National Park, I’ve visited it but not since it became a national park and it’s right in the neighborhood and a short drive from South Bend, a really special place and a reminder that some of the most beautiful scenery in the country is actually right here in the Midwest. So, I’m excited to get reacquainted with that space. And I always love to being outside in places right around here in South Bend where you can go on the river or run/walk in our parks.
Miro: And is there a national park that you have yet to visit in America that you hope to maybe see as your touring the country?
Pete: Gosh so many, Glacier National Park obviously, I don’t know if it’s exactly on the way to any place campaign-wise, but it’s something I really want to see.
Thanks so much, Pete, for taking the time out of your busy schedule during the week of your campaign’s launch to talk with Our Daily Planet! Good luck on “the trail” and we hope you can enjoy some time outdoors today before your CNN Town Hall tonight at 11 pm. #EarthDay
April 22, 2019 » 2020, Buttigieg, Mayor Pete