Flint

A demolition in Flint.
Genesee County Land Bank

FLINT – Michigan is giving $2.6 million to Genesee County's land bank to demolish and improve 225 blighted properties in Flint's Civic Park neighborhood.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is making the grant with money from the federal Hardest Hit Fund.

The land bank now owns about half of the properties in the Civic Park area, and 71 more properties are recent tax foreclosures. The land bank says most are in need of demolition and greening because of deterioration and theft by metal and other scrappers.

State housing authority acting executive director Wayne Workman says the award will allow strategic demolitions and help preserve the neighborhood.

The Genesee County Land Bank also received $20 million last October to demolish, green, and maintain more than 1,600 properties.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s search for a city manager begins in earnest Sept. 1.

Emergency manager Darnell Earley wants to hire a city manager to serve as a bridge from state oversight of the city. He hopes to choose someone by December.

“I’ve already had some preliminary conversations with some executive recruitment firms,” says Earley. “Although we’re going to do this in-house, I’m going to beg and plead as much as I can for assistance to get that word out so that we can cast the widest net we possibly can.”

A Flint city manager would be joining the city at a time of major change.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Waving signs saying “Free Amir”, a small group in Bay City marked the third anniversary of the arrest of a Flint native in Iran on spying charges.

Amir Hekmati’s older sister Sarah says her family is still struggling to deal with her brother’s predicament.

“Every day we wake up, it’s very surreal and we feel like it’s a bad dream.  But it’s not going away,” says Sarah Hekmati, “We can’t believe that has become three years.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A non-profit group in Flint hopes salvaging parts of some of the city’s blighted homes will help salvage the lives of some of Flint’s most in-need residents.

Lynette Delgado is with the B-Light Restoration Center. She says they are working with private property owners to salvage bits and pieces of homes to be demolished. She says they’re training local homeless and other at-risk individuals to remove architectural features of blighted homes.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint is making progress toward possibly beginning the process of emerging from state oversight next spring. But there’s still a lot to do.

Flint’s been under an emergency manager since 2011.   

State officials met with Flint’s emergency manager, mayor, and city council members this week to discuss a possible plan to transition the city back to local control.     

Emergency manager Darnell Earley says the city still has to show it’s ready to be run in a financially responsible way. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A judge has sentenced Flint City Councilman Eric Mays to 72 days in jail for his conviction of driving while impaired.    

Mays was handcuffed and taken to jail after being sentenced by Flint District Judge Nathaniel Perry, who said the councilman put his own constituents in danger.

Eric Mays is appealing the conviction.

Mays asked the judge to put his jail sentence on hold as he was led from the courtroom. The judge denied the request.   

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There may be six questions on Flint’s November ballot that would revamp the city’s 40-year-old city charter. 

The paperwork was filed with the clerk’s office today. 

Five of the proposals would eliminate some city offices. The sixth would create a charter commission to consider totally revamping Flint’s city charter. 

Robert Wesley headed up a blue-ribbon committee that looked at how Flint’s city government works. He hopes Flint residents will support the ballot questions.     

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Starting tomorrow, the city of Flint will be welcoming more than a half million car enthusiasts to the city’s annual downtown showcase of classic cars.  But the city won’t be as welcoming to unaccompanied teenagers.

The city today announced a 6pm teen curfew downtown during “Back to the Bricks”.

Captain Collin Birnie is with the Flint Police Department.   He says the curfew is in response to problems with unruly teens from past years.

Fight Blight and Spur Revival in Flint campaign / indiegogo.com

Tackling the issue of blight in urban communities is incredibly challenging.

Recently, the city of Flint, with the help of the Genesee County Land Bank, has torn down 600 properties in its effort to demolish more than 1,500 blighted homes in the city.

It’s part of the Michigan Blight Elimination plan, with support from the Hardest Hit federal grant fund.

Doug Weiland, executive director of Genesee County Land Bank, joined us on Stateside to talk about the plan’s priority and progress.

Meanwhile, some people are taking a very personal approach to dealing with blight in Flint.

There’s a crowdfunding campaign going on right now that hopes to raise $10,000 to tear down a single crumbling home on Parkbelt Drive. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school board last night approved a plan to eliminate its $20.4 million deficit.  

But the plan relies on the district being able to do something it has struggled to do:  retain students.

The Flint school district delivers its revised deficit elimination plan to the state Department of Education tomorrow.  The plan calls for zeroing out a $20.4 million deficit by the end of 2021.    

Crime is down in Flint, but the city has still seen more than 800 violent crimes since the beginning of the year. State of Opportunity has the story of two young people trying to deal with the effects of all that violence, and the mentors trying to help them.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint city government may undergo some major changes, if the recommendations from a blue ribbon committee become reality.

Before the governor appointed an emergency manager to run the city of Flint in 2011, the city’s mayor ran much of the city’s day-to-day business.   The city council, ombudsman and civil service office also held significant control.

When Flint eventually emerges from state oversight, someone else could be calling the shots.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan State Police troopers faced a barrage of criticism during a community meeting in Flint today. Much of the complaints centered on recent fatal auto accidents involving state troopers.

It was a sometimes emotional three hour meeting between Flint residents and state police commanders.

Many people, including family members of two women killed in auto accidents linked to car chases involving state troopers, blasted the state police.

“You don’t even have a 'Plan B' when you’re chasing somebody,” a woman in the audience, “That just doesn’t make any sense, to come here as a professional and kill people who were not even involved in what you were dealing with.”

Dozens of Michigan State Police troopers are patrolling Flint city streets and assisting with investigations in the city.  The troopers are augmenting Flint's depleted police department, which has been decimated in recent years by budget cuts.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The 17th annual International Youth Poetry Slam festival is in Philadelphia this week.

Flint is sending a team made up entirely of high school girls.

They’ve been practicing for months, writing poetry from their own lives about things like family, abuse, mental illness, and love.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Frustration of about the presence of Michigan State Police troopers patrolling Flint hit the street today.

Flint city councilman Wantwaz Davis organized a rally that brought out more than 100 people to Flint city hall.  Davis says state troopers are driving on city streets “like renegades and cowboys.”

Julie Falk / Flickr

This Week in Review, while Emily Fox sits in for Rina Miller, she and Jack Lessenberry discuss how selling works from the Detroit Institute of Arts wouldn't make financial sense in helping with the city's bankruptcy, the threat of an oil spill under the Straits of Mackinac, and money problems with Flint Community Schools.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Community Schools says it's got a $20 million deficit ($10 million of which was only recently discovered, according to the district.)

But if you ask Lisa Hagel, Flint Community Schools owes another $8.6 million on top of that.

Hagel is the superintendent of the Genesee Intermediate School District, which is now suing Flint schools over allegedly misspending $8.6 million of countywide tax money.  

The money was supposed to go to the Genesee Area Skill Center for vocational training. Instead, it was blended into the general fund of the Flint Community Schools.

User apoxapox / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - The Detroit and Flint areas are getting nearly $9 million to help train new primary care providers.

Most of the money announced Monday goes to the Detroit Wayne County Health Authority for training in family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology. Flint's Hamilton Community Health Network is getting $900,000 for family medicine training.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the money is part of $83.4 million in Affordable Care Act funding to support primary care residency programs nationwide. Overall, it will help train more than 550 doctors during the 2014-2015 academic year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

There are more than 12,000 vacant lots in Flint, and Genesee county is trying to change that.

Edible Flint is a non-profit organization that helps residents turn these vacant lots into urban gardens.

The group offers classes, resources and helping hands to get new gardeners started.

This year the group will host its sixth annual Food Garden Tour.

The tour will provide transportation to 15 gardens around the city that showcase different techniques of local growers.

Deb Hamilton is with Edible Flint.

Wikimedia Commons

30 years ago, "Autoworld" opened its doors on July 4, 1984 in Flint, Michigan.

It was an indoor theme park and museum dedicated to preserving and spreading automotive achievements.  

Bill Shea, editor and reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, said that the attraction wasn’t that popular and visitors were confused about what Autoworld was.

Was it supposed to be a museum or a theme park?

This led people to ask why a group of people invested $80 million into the endeavor.

Organizers hoped Autoworld would revitalize the inner city of Flint, develop Michigan’s tourism industry, and preserve the automotive history in the city.

But, in 1987, the attraction closed its doors permanently. Here's a video of them imploding the building from ABC News:

*You can hear our interview with Bill Shea today at 3 p.m. We'll add the interview to this post at 4:30 p.m.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint school district is sinking deeper into red ink.

Less than 12 months ago, an audit placed the district’s budget deficit at $10.4 million.  It's now pegged at $20.4 million.  

The Flint school district has been struggling to reduce its multi-million dollar deficit for years. But last night, school district officials described recent budget plans as being “far from reality,” even describing the district’s current budget as only ”close to reality.”

Isaiah Oliver is the president of the Flint Board of Education.  He calls the new deficit number “devastating”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Soccer fans packed World Cup watch parties across Michigan Monday evening.

In Flint, dozens of people packed a downtown sports bar to cheer Team USA to its 2-1 victory over Ghana.    The watch party doubled as a fundraiser to collect money to help rehab Flint’s 85-year-old Atwood Stadium. 

“It’s encouraging,” says Tom Saxton, Michigan State University’s women’s soccer coach, “The game gets better and better every year in the United States, and we're excited to be a part of it.”

Next up for Team USA is a very strong Portugal team. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

One of Flint’s leading urban farmers is being told she has to get rid of her chickens.

Roxanne Adair operates a commercial urban farm in Flint. She sells the produce from her two-acre farm at the local farmers market and to individual clients. She also keeps eight chickens in her home's backyard.   She’s been raising chickens in her backyard for the past few years.     

Adair says she eats many of the eggs herself and gives others away. She admits she will also sell another dozen or so a week.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s water department is getting plenty of complaints about the smell and taste of the city’s tap water.

This Spring, the city started using water from the Flint River after decades of getting its water from Detroit.

Daugherty Johnson is Flint’s utilities administrator. He says complaints about Flint’s water are nothing new.

“We’ve certainly had more complaints since the switch over…and we recognize those hardness issues that we’re working through right now,” says Johnson.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint school district is sending out some 250 pink slips this week.

They're laying off non-classroom staff, from janitors to secretaries to school safety workers. 

 Administrators say they have no choice: they're coming up against a state deadline to eliminate the district's $10 million general fund deficit. 

Now the district will look to outsource those positions through a private company.

Karon Grubb is a secretary in the administration office.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s newest church has an unusual mission.

Its goal is to save the neighborhood that surrounds it.

Community Impact Church held its first Sunday service yesterday in a formally abandoned church. The church is surrounded by abandoned homes, blight, and vacant lots filled with weeds.

Pastor Corey James says his Allen Park-based ministry decided to set up in one of Flint’s more distressed northside neighborhoods for a reason: To help people rebuild their neighborhood.

Hekmati family

DETROIT (AP) - A news agency reports that a retired U.S. Marine from Michigan has requested a new trial in Iran, where he has been imprisoned since 2011 after being accused of spying.

Thirty-one-year-old Amir Hekmati is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen born in Arizona and was raised in the Flint, Michigan, area.

He was arrested in August 2011, then tried, convicted and sentenced to death for spying. Iran's Supreme Court annulled the death sentence, and the country's Revolutionary Court resentenced him to 10 years in prison for "cooperating with hostile governments"

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING – Michigan is helping provide lower interest rates to first-time homebuyers in eight cities.

About 300 individual or families in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, and Jackson can take advantage of a program announced Friday.

First-time homebuyers who meet eligibility requirements can get a 3.125% mortgage interest rate without down payment assistance. If they need help with their down payment, the interest rate is 3.625%.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he wants to increase home sales in five cities hit hard by blight and three other cities needing a boost.

Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Scott Woosley says most of Michigan's real estate market has bounced back, but some areas are still experiencing significant sales declines.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's state-appointed emergency manager is proposing a $55 million budget that would cut 36 police officer positions and 19 firefighter jobs. 

Darnell Earley's two-year budget plan also includes higher fees for property owners for street lighting, garbage pickup and water and sewer service. 

Dayne Walling, the mayor of Flint, joined us today. 

*Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A place where General Motors built cars for nearly century may later this year begin transforming into a city park in Flint.

The last building was torn down at Chevy in the Hole a decade ago. Efforts have been underway since then to transform the 60 acre brownfield into a public green space.Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan RadioEdit | Remove

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