October 19, 2019 at 3:44 a.m.

Small town? The numbers disagree

Editorial

How about a political editorial that really isn’t all that political?

The fourth debate among Democrats running for president was held Tuesday. A piece recapping the debate offered what anyone might expect, an overview of the issues covered and position taken. Healthcare was atop the list.

There was also a section about Indiana’s own Pete Buttigieg. It was generally positive about the candidate’s performance in Westerville, Ohio.

It also referred to him as “small-town mayor.”

Well, one-third of that statement is true.

Buttigieg is a mayor.

But South Bend is not a town. Nor is it small.

OK, so maybe making the distinction about South Bend being a town or a city — it’s a city — is nit-picking. But clarifying that it is not “small” is a point worth making.

South Bend, with a population of about 102,000, is the fourth-largest city in Indiana, trailing only Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Evansville. (Ever-growing Carmel may pass it up soon, but that hasn’t happened just yet.)

The United States has 335 cities with more than 100,000 residents. South Bend is among them.

There are about 4,450 cities of 10,000 or more. South Bend is in the top 7.5 percent in terms of population amongst that group.

And that doesn’t even take into consideration smaller cities like Portland, Dunkirk, Winchester, Hartford City, Berne and Decatur. (Bluffton is just over the 10,000 mark.)

So, yes, South Bend is not New York. It’s not Los Angeles, Chicago or Houston. It’s not even one of the smaller “major markets” like Cleveland, Minneapolis or New Orleans.

But it’s far from a “small town.” And calling Buttigieg a “small-town mayor” comes off a dismissive, whether it means to be or not. It frames him as being the guy who doesn’t belong on a stage next to senators, governors, representatives and a former vice president.

We’re not calling out the particular writer in this case, because within an hour we heard the same phrase used on a politics podcast. It was probably used by other writers, radio personalities and television commentators.

And this is not meant as an endorsement of Buttigieg. Voters have plenty of time to evaluate candidates and make their own decisions.

Rather, it is a plea for accuracy.

Call Buttigieg the mayor of the fourth-largest city in Indiana. Call him the mayor of a city of 102,000. Call him, simply, the mayor of South Bend.

He’s all of those things.

But a “small-town mayor,” he’s not. — R.C.
PORTLAND WEATHER

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