Flint

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school district employees are facing a deep cut in pay and benefits.

Interim school superintendent Larry Watkins announced today that the district and its unions have reached a deal that calls for a 19% cut in compensation.

Specific details about cuts to wages and benefits are still being negotiated between the district and its unions. The cuts will take effect in July. 

Watkins says the cuts are a key component of the district’s deficit reduction plan that’s being submitted to the state next week.

Yumi Kimura / Wikimedia Commons

Flint has seen a drop of more than 20 percent in the number of murders this year compared to last year's all-time high of 67.

Unless there is a new murder on New Year's Eve, Flint will close 2013 with 52 homicides. That is the lowest number since 2009.

James Tolbert is Flint's chief of police. He attributed the decrease to increased patrolling, use of data to target hot spots of criminal activity, and increased arrests of those with outstanding warrants.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

What was once the tallest building in Flint is now just a pile of rubble. This morning, 1,000 lbs. of explosives brought the building down. Demolition crews spent weeks preparing the building to be imploded.  

The 19-story Genesee Towers building has stood in the heart of Flint’s downtown for the past 45 years. But a series of explosions brought the building down in a matter of seconds.  

When the dust settled, all that was left was a pile of rubble.

The long-empty Genesee Towers has been emblematic of Flint’s economic woes.

“Essentially it’s both a physical barrier and a psychological barrier,”  says Dave Lurvey, the demolition project manager. “I think that building being down on the ground is going to help people focus on progress rather than blight.”

The tall pile of rubble will remain on the site through the holidays.

The cleanup probably won’t be complete until the spring.

Developers plan to turn the site of the former office building into a downtown park.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s tallest building is going to be demolished this weekend.

Experts have spent weeks preparing the 45 year old building for Sunday morning’s implosion.

The 19 story Genesee Towers has been an empty eyesore in downtown Flint for years. The city acquired the building in 2010 and sold it to the Uptown Reinvestment Corp., the city’s downtown development agency, in 2012.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is hiring a major accounting firm to put a value on two of the city’s biggest assets.

Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley says Ernst & Young will assess the value of Flint’s water system and the Hurley Medical Center. 

“This does not automatically signal anything other than we want to know what the value of those assets is,” says Earley.

Earley says he wants to have the information for any future discussion of Flint’s overall financial health.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors plans to make a “significant manufacturing” announcement in Flint today.

General Motors officials have declined to say what they plan to announce at the Flint Assembly plant.

But they have confirmed that Governor Rick Snyder and GM North America President Mark Reuss will be there.

The announcement in Flint coincides with an appearance by outgoing GM CEO Dan Akerson at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., where he’s scheduled to speak on the automaker’s plans for future investment in the U.S.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An embattled Flint city councilman plans on taking part in a special training session tomorrow, despite calls for him to resign.

Councilman Eric Mays was recently charged with drunk driving and marijuana possession.   Mays has refused Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley's call for him to resign.

Mays’ attorney says Mays will take part in the governance training session.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan air travelers could see some changes with the merger of American Airlines and US Airways.

The merger creating the world's largest airline became official today.  But the new American Airlines has relatively few flights flying into and out of six Michigan airports.   

Michael Conway is a spokesman for Detroit Metro Airport.  He says the newly merged airline carries only about 6.6% of passengers flying out of Detroit.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

General Motors is heading back to its roots.

The automaker announced today that it will sponsor Flint’s “Back to the Bricks” car show for the next five years. The show features hundreds of ‘classic’ cars and trucks.

“This is an event that is more than just a car cruise and a car show,” says GM spokesman Tom Wickham, “It brings people into a community…provides an economic boost to a community and we need an economic boost.”

About a half million people attended Back to the Bricks in Flint this year.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is calling for the resignation of a city councilman who was arrested last weekend for driving under the influence.  The councilman says he won’t resign.

Councilman Eric Mays was arrested and charged with DUI and marijuana possession early last Saturday along I-475 in Flint.     

Emergency Manager Darnell Earley cited the arrest and other reasons why Mays should resign from the seat he was elected to just last month.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A Flint city councilman is being held in the city lockup on suspicion of drunken driving and drug possession.

Police Chief James Tolbert tells The Flint Journal that Eric Bradford Mays was arrested for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and possession of marijuana.

Mays was arrested about 2:50 a.m. Saturday on Interstate 475 by police investigating a traffic accident. Police say Mays was trying to change a flat when officers arrived.

The Associated Press left a voicemail Saturday at a number listed under Mays' name.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint city council members will receive special training next month that may help pave the way for the city to emerge from state oversight.

An emergency manager, appointed by the governor, has run the city of Flint since 2011.

City leaders hope to retake control of the city, possibly as early as late next year.

Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley says before that can happen it’s important the city’s elected leaders learn how to properly govern.

That’s why he’s organizing the Dec. 14th training session.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s tallest building will come crashing down close to Christmas.

Officials announced today, the 19-story Genesee Towers building will be imploded on December 22nd at 10am. 

Built in 1968, the building suffered decades of neglect. The office tower has sat mostly empty for more than a decade.    The city eventually condemned the building.   A judge ordered the city of Flint to purchase the 45-year-old building in 2007.

The city sold the Genesee Towers for a dollar earlier this year, clearing the way for the building’s demolition next month.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint School Board will hear the findings of the district’s most recent audit this evening.

The audit is expected to show continued problems with misspent funds, lax oversight and other issues.

“Our students deserve the very best and we’re definitely going to do that. In order for us to do that, we’re going to have to turn this district around,” says Larry Watkins, Flint’s interim school superintendent.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Construction crews have started to put up plywood to protect nearby buildings in anticipation of the mid-December demolition of Flint's tallest building.

Uptown Reinvestment bought downtown Flint's 19-story Genesee Towers from the city for $1.

MLive.com  says plywood protection is going up at the nearby C.S. Mott Building, and Flint officials say two nearby streets have been closed and fenced off in the past week and will stay closed into the spring.

WEYI-TV reports that the new owners plan to transform the site into Exploration Park.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A newspaper reports that Flint is spending less time and money investigating arsons and making fewer arrests for the crime even though the city leads the nation in arsons per capita.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s police chief says violent crime is down in his city, despite the city reaching a grim milestone this past week.

Last Sunday, 16 year old Wesley Gillmore became the 50th person murdered in Flint this year.   Flint has notched at least fifty homicides in each of the last four years. The city set a record with 67 murders in 2012.

Still police Chief James Tolbert says Flint’s violent crime rate is improving, down 29% in the last 11 months.

To keep that downward direction, Tolbert says the public’s help is needed.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The announcement this week that an Alabama company plans to build a pipe factory in Flint could help spur further investment in a former General Motors site there.

The 235 acre Buick City site is being marketed by the Racer Trust. The trust was set up to sell off abandoned General Motors properties. American Cast Iron Pipe is the first company to invest in Buick City.

Elliot Laws is with the Racer Trust. He says they’ll be blasting news of American’s plans to build in Flint to other potential investors…

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An old auto plant site is getting new life in Flint.

"We are proud to announce,” Flint Mayor Dayne Walling told a news conference today, “American Pipe will be made in Flint”

Alabama-based American Cast Iron Pipe Company confirmed today that it plans to build a new multi-million dollar manufacturing plant on part of the old Buick City site.

The factory will produce pipes for a project to bring water from Lake Huron to Genesee County. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The new Flint city council was sworn in to office today, including a new councilman who served time for murder.

Wantwaz Davis served 19 years for murdering the man he claims assaulted his mother.   He was paroled in 2010.

Davis says he embraces the biblical story of Paul, who changed from being a persecutor of Christians to being a Christian leader.   He says it’s a path people in Flint should follow.

It's Election Day, and federal election monitors are keeping an eye on voting in Detroit, Hamtramck and Flint. The Department of Justice wants to ensure those cities comply with the Voting Rights Act. 

Joining us to talk about the monitoring is Executive Assistant United States Attorney, Stephanie Dawkins Davis. 

"This is an effort to protect the integrity of the process. It isn’t that there has been any specific concern or that there has been any wrong doing in any of these jurisdictions. The U.S. government would like to protect the integrity of the process," Davis said.

Joy VanBuhler / Flickr

Election Day 2013 is close at hand.

And that's when Detroit voters will decide whether their next Mayor will be Mike Duggan or Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon.

The winner of the election will inherit the huge challenge of what to do about the crime rate in Detroit.

At least 386 people were murdered in the city last year, and recent FBI statistics put Detroit neck and neck with Flint for the top spot of most violent cities in America.

The high crime rate means those folks who can are getting out of these cities, which makes the economic downward spiral even worse.

What can be done? And do we really know what is driving the violence in cities like Detroit and Flint?

Michigan State University sociologist Dr. Carl Taylor joined us today from East Lansing. His new book "Third City" looks at the challenges in post-industrial Detroit and Michigan. 

Listen to the full interview above.

Flint, Mich.
Flint Michigan / Facebook.com

On Monday, the Flint City Council approved a new master plan — the first new plan in more than 50 years.

The plan calls for stabilizing neighborhoods hit hard by blight, and creating new opportunities for business investment.

City officials and residents have spent the last two years coming up with the plan. Flint, about 50 miles northwest of Detroit, has been under state oversight since 2011. The city currently is dealing with $3 million in structural debt.

Will this new plan help Flint grow?

Listen to full story above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint city council approved a new master plan for the city last night. 

Now the question is how to pay for it.

City officials and Flint residents have spent the last two years coming up with the plan. The last one was drafted more than a half century ago and it envisioned a very different city than what Flint became.

The new plan calls for stabilizing neighborhoods hard hit by blight and creating new opportunity for business investment.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - An implosion planned for December is taking down Flint's tallest building.

Uptown Reinvestment bought downtown Flint's 19-story Genesee Towers in March from the city for $1.

Multiple news outlets are reporting Jacksonville, Fla.-based Drilling & Blasting will handle implosion engineering and blasting efforts, with help from Michigan-based Burnash Wrecking Inc. and Certified Abatement Services Inc.

The demolition is part of a $32 million redevelopment plan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The rates Flint residents pay for water are going to be reviewed. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The first of 1,600 homes in Flint fell to a backhoe today.

The Genesee County Land Bank and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority are using a $20.1 million federal grant to pay for the largest blighted home demolition program in Flint’s history.

The program is expected to eliminate a quarter of Flint’s 5,600 abandoned homes. 

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says tearing down a derelict home has a positive effect on the surrounding neighborhood. 

“When dangerous houses come down, surrounding property values stabilize.  Safety increases,’ says Walling.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

New Flint Police Chief James Tolbert says he wants to “make Flint safe for the people who live here, (and) the people who visit here”

This is the first day on the job for Tolbert.  He previously served for more than 25 years in the Detroit Police Department, where he rose to Deputy Chief. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

By the end of this month, the city of Flint could have its first new master plan in more than 50 years.

A master plan is a guide for community leaders to chart a city’s future economic development and neighborhood growth. 

But Flint’s current master plan was written in 1960, when the city’s population was twice its current size.   The plan also envisioned an economy that has long since disappeared from Flint.

Megan Hunter is Flint’s chief planning officer.  She expects this new master plan will actively guide Flint for the next 20 years. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A newspaper reports that many Michigan dams are old and need upgrades, especially the Hamilton dam in downtown Flint.

State dam safety chief Byron Lane tells the Detroit Free Press that dams are like any aging public infrastructure. He says they can be a "ticking time bomb."

The newspaper reported Sunday that the Hamilton dam on the Flint River is considered to be in unsatisfactory shape, along with the Otsego and Trowbridge dams on the Kalamazoo River in Allegan County.

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