Local activists weigh in on the ongoing drama in South Bend government

NOW: Local activists weigh in on the ongoing drama in South Bend government

SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- There is a growing debate over the issue of possible reparations for the Black community in South Bend. The discussion was supposed to happen during two different common council meetings, but questions about legally notifying the public and council members put them both on hold recently.

The tension seemingly culminated in last week's council meeting being canceled. Monday, activists in a press conference at the county-city building downtown filed a complaint to the state public access counselor to come in and set things straight.

If you get out of the weeds and look past the drama, the central issue being battled is whether or not last week's common council meeting should have been canceled. Both parties, the clerk's office and the common council, claim the other acted illegally. That's why activists and elected officials alike are calling for an outside opinion.

"I am ashamed, I am embarrassed, and I pray that we can do better after this is over with," said Henry Davis Jr., 2nd district councilmember.

Council President Sharon McBride said City Clerk Dawn Jones acted illegally, improperly filing meeting notices. But Jones said the council acted illegally by canceling the meeting since she said she did post a meeting notice properly.  

Monday, a week after the canceled meeting, activists in a press conference called for a third-party investigation.

"There's no relationship between her office and the council office," Davis said. "Too bad, right?

The LaSalle Park Neighborhood Association, the Michiana Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, and Black Lives Matter (BLM) South Bend collectively called for Indiana's Public Access Counselor to investigate what happened and offer an advisory opinion.

The formal complaint was filed Monday evening.

"We feel that the issue is two-pronged," said Jorden Giger, co-founder of BLM South Bend. "One, they have-- council leadership in particular-- has an issue with Clerk Jones, and that they do not want Councilman Henry Davis Jr. to pass this reparatory justice resolution."

The activists, along with Jones and Davis, said they worry it was an attempt to delay voting on a bill calling for reparations in South Bend, funded by American Rescue Plan dollars.

"We fundamentally believe they canceled the meeting because they do not want to have a conversation about the reparatory justice resolution," Giger said. "So, given that, given that we feel this was politically motivated, we're calling for this investigation from the public access counselor."

McBride says those accusations are "ludicrous."

Several council members released a statement last week to support McBride's decision to cancel.

Others, like Lori Hamman and Karen White, are asking for more information and supporting the move to call for an independent investigation.

"What I'm really excited about is everybody's involvement, whether it appears to be negative or positive, the community is involved, people are involved in the process, they're learning the process," Clerk Jones said.

McBride said the public access counselor has agreed to visit South Bend in February. That will be for training purposes.

Tuesday night, there will be a meeting hosted by the LaSalle Park Neighborhood Association at the Charles Black Center.

It starts at 6:15 p.m. and Davis is set to speak and discuss the reparatory justice resolution he recently introduced, which still hasn't been taken up by the full council.

The public is invited to attend.

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