As Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has surged in the polls, much of the interest has been in who he is, considering he was a new face to most voters. But now that more people have read profiles about Buttigieg — who is gay, a military veteran and a millennial — questions about his policy proposals are picking up.

Concerns about how he could improve the lives of black Americans — the group that has consistently disapproved of the Trump presidency at the highest rates — appear to be growing.

South Bend council member Regina Williams-Preston, who is running for mayor, told The Washington Post’s Amy B Wang that a project Buttigieg points to as proof of his commitment to improving living conditions for his city’s black residents may have been more harmful than helpful.

“I think oftentimes in city government, we are looking through a middle-class lens and don’t really see the value or the purpose of things in the same way,” she said.

The Post reported:

Near the end of Buttigieg’s first term, the mayor stood in front of a house that had been renovated as part of the initiative and declared the city had in fact “addressed” 1,122 houses in 1,000 days, exceeding his original goal. Of those, about 40 percent were repaired, and 60 percent were ultimately demolished.
Buttigieg touts the initiative as one of the “biggest lifts” of his first term, one that “disproportionately benefited minority and low-income residents . . . facing the real harm that comes from these high vacancy rates and the blight around them.
But some residents of those neighborhoods, largely populated by black and Latino residents, say the initiative hurt some of the families it meant to help.

In a race where conversations about inequality will be frequent, much attention will be paid to what candidates want to do — and have done — to narrow the gaps between white Americans and people of color.

There have also been concerns about Buttigieg’s handling of localized concerns about racism in police departments. Buttigieg demoted South Bend Police Chief Darryl Boykins, who is black, after discovering the FBI was investigating him over allegations he had recorded officers without their permission. Buttigieg’s decision was followed by protests and multiple legal battles from those who wanted the tapes released, believing they contained racist comments. But he has refused to publicize the recordings — or even listen to them — claiming that doing so would be illegal under the federal wiretap law.

This move and his past use of the phrase “All Lives Matter” — viewed by many liberals as a rejection of the Black Lives Matter movement — have prompted suspicion about his views on policing. Buttigieg’s stances on other issues affecting black Americans have led some black voters to express dissatisfaction with the candidate whom some view as an early media favorite.

Buttigieg has recently shown support for issues of interest to many black voters, including endorsing a proposal to form a commission to consider reparations. He was met with applause this month while speaking at a convention of the Rev. Al Sharpton-founded National Action Network when he clearly said “black lives matter.”

Things are still early when it comes to 2020, and Buttigieg’s team has demonstrated an awareness he needs to do more to connect with black voters — one of the most influential voting blocs in the Democratic Party. But with other candidates such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) already releasing detailed policy proposals seeking to address systemic racism while Buttigieg pushes back on the idea that he needs to unveil more policy details, the relative political novice risks slowing down the momentum he has gained — especially with black voters — as the Democratic primary picks up speed.