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Democratic Mayor Buttigieg faces growing fallout over police shooting in his city

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Democratic Mayor Buttigieg faces growing fallout over police shooting in his city

SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg on Sunday faced growing fallout over a fatal police shooting in South Bend, an incident that has exposed simmering racial tensions in the Indiana city where he is mayor and which is complicating his presidential ambitions.

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks at the SC Democratic Convention in Columbia, South Carolina, U.S., June 22, 2019. REUTERS/Randall Hill

Buttigieg answered questions at a frequently raucous and angry meeting with South Bend residents in which he was heckled, booed and screamed at by a minority of audience members. He admitted efforts to make the city’s police force more diverse had failed, “and I take responsibility for that.”

Buttigieg appeared a week after the fatal shooting of a black man, Eric Logan, by a white police officer exposed longstanding accusations among many African Americans in South Bend that elements within the city’s predominately white police force are racist.

The mayor, who is white, has been struggling to attract support for his presidential bid among black voters, a vital constituency in a Democratic nominating contest. The police shooting has laid bare anger among many in South Bend’s black community, not just about police conduct, but a belief that many African American neighborhoods have been left behind while Buttigieg has revitalized more affluent, whiter areas.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, a clearly emotional Buttigieg said anger and frustration over race relations in the city had been “hurled” at him. He said he did not know if it was smart politically to open himself up to such audiences, but “it’s my city, and I love my city. It’s my job to face it.”

He also took to the stage just hours after another fatal shooting in the city, which left one person dead and nine injured in a bar early on Sunday morning.

Buttigieg, 37, remained calm throughout the town hall meeting even as he struggled to make himself heard, shouted down by mainly black protesters, some of whom shouted “liar!” as he sought to explain how he will deal with the shooting investigation, and as he promised transparency.

He said he wanted an independent, outside investigation of the police shooting, and will also ask the U.S. Justice of Department to investigate.

The growing and racially-charged crisis in the city where he has been chief executive since 2012 threatens to stall the progress Buttigieg had been making in national presidential polls among the two dozen Democrats seeking to become the party’s candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in next year’s election.

National scrutiny is growing on how he deals with events in South Bend, where levels of trust between many blacks and the police force is extremely low. Buttigieg pledged to take steps to build that trust, and invited community input. “This is the beginning of the conversation, not the end,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg has been forced to leave the presidential campaign trail for most of the past week to deal with the shooting’s fallout, exacerbated by the white officer’s failure to film the fatal encounter with his body camera.

The mayor has had a rocky relationship with some of the city’s black residents, stemming in part from his decision to fire the African American police chief early in his mayoral tenure, and replace him with two consecutive white police chiefs.

One black audience member, shouting at Buttigieg as he sat next to the city’s white police chief, whom he had just given his backing to, yelled: “How do you expect us to trust you?”

The fact that Buttigieg is being noisily confronted with the issue of race at home comes in a week when Congress held hearings about reparations for the descendants of slaves, and just days before the first Democratic debates. Events in South Bend are threatening to significantly undermine what had been a relatively trouble-free campaign.

Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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Deep budget cuts put University of Alaska in crisis mode; ‘grappling with survival’

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Civil rights groups sue Tennessee over law imposing new penalties on voter registration

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) – The University of Alaska board of regents, facing deep budget cuts exacted by the governor that will eliminate about 40% of the university’s state funding, voted at an emergency meeting on Monday to declare the academic equivalent of bankruptcy reorganization.

The regents’ 10-1 vote puts the university into “financial exigency,” a status allowing administrators to summarily fire tenured faculty and other staff, close whole academic programs and even shut down entire campuses. Up to 2,000 employees could lose their jobs, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen has said.

The drastic move is necessary, regents said, because of line-item spending vetoes by Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy that slashed $440 million from the budget passed by the state legislature, including $130 million from the university system.

Dunleavy, who took office in December and is an outspoken supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, has called for major cuts in higher education, health care and other social programs as he pushes to sharply raise the annual oil revenue dividend that Alaska pays to nearly every state resident.

Lawmakers attempted on July 10 to reverse Dunleavy’s budget vetoes but failed to muster the required three-quarters vote to override the governor. The result, the regents said at their meeting, is tragic for the university.

  “Unfortunately, we are now grappling with survival,” said John Davies, the board of regents’ chairman.

Davies disputed Dunleavy’s assertion that sharp cuts to the university and other programs were necessary because Alaska faces a financial crisis.

“I believe it’s more of a political crisis. It’s some decisions that have been made by the governor and by a minority of the legislature,” he said.

The budget as passed by the legislature contained a surplus. Dunleavy imposed deep cuts, nevertheless, while pushing to nearly double the dividend paid to residents each year from oil revenues collected for the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Dunleavy’s proposal for a record $3,000 dividend this year, at a time of declining oil industry receipts, would cost the state an estimated $2 billion.

The University of Alaska operates its three main campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau, with 13 smaller satellite campuses in remote communities such as Nome, Bethel and Kodiak. The $130 million cut by the governor is more than the cost of running the entire Anchorage campus, Johnsen has said.

The university, especially the Fairbanks campus, is considered a world-class hub for Arctic and climate-change research, and some Dunleavy critics have accused the governor of targeting the university because of that.

“Some prominent conservatives deny the reality of human-caused climate change, and so curtailing UA research is great from their perspective,” Susan Henrichs, a former University of Alaska Fairbanks provost, said in a column published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Regents had considered declaring financial exigency a week ago but postponed their decision. Since then, Moody’s sharply downgraded the university’s bond rating, giving it a “negative” outlook.

Members of the legislature’s bipartisan majority coalition said they still hope to restore funding to the university and other programs.

Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler

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Trump announces ‘real compromise’ on budget deal with congressional leaders

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Trump announces 'real compromise' on budget deal with congressional leaders

The Trump administration and congressional leaders, including Democrats, have reached a critical debt and budget agreement, a deal that amounted to an against-the-odds victory for Washington pragmatists seeking to avoid politically dangerous tumult over fiscal deadlines, President Trump announced Monday.

The deal would increase spending caps by $320 billion relative to the limits prescribed in the 2011 Budget Control Act, whose provisions have repeatedly been waived year after year. It would also suspend the debt ceiling and permit more government borrowing until July 31, 2021 — after the next presidential election.

The arrangement all but eliminates the risk of another government shut down this fall, but already has been drawing the ire of fiscal conservatives saying it will lead to more irresponsible government spending.

Even some Democrats — including Vermont Sen. Patrick J. Leahy — were outraged, saying the bill would not block Trump from spending money on his proposed border wall.

“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – on a two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling, with no poison pills,” Trump wrote.

He added: “This was a real compromise in order to give another big victory to our Great Military and Vets!”

Democrats celebrated that, under the new deal, the domestic, non-military budget receives larger increases than the defense budget, when compared to last year. Democrats also lauded the deal’s allocation of $2.5 billion for the 2020 Census, to ensure that all residents are counted.

The deal, which must still pass Congress, also comes as budget deficits have been rising to $1 trillion levels — requiring the government to borrow a quarter for every dollar the government spends — despite the thriving economy and three rounds of annual Trump budget proposals promising to crack down on the domestic programs that Pelosi, D-Calif., has been defending.

It apparently ignored warnings from fiscal conservatives saying the nation’s spending has been unsustainable and eventually will drag down the economy.

“This agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the president,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington advocacy group. “It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation’s history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump says deal reached on spending, debt limit

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Trump says deal reached on spending, debt limit

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he formally kicking off his re-election bid with a campaign rally in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Monday a two-year deal had been reached with congressional leaders to raise the Treasury Department’s borrowing authority and to set budget spending caps.

“I am pleased to announce that a deal has been struck with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy – on a two-year Budget and Debt Ceiling, with no poison pills,” Trump said on Twitter.

Reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by David Alexander

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