Flint

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager says it’s time to begin the transition back to local, elected control.

Flint’s been under a state-appointed manager since December 2011.

Mike Brown is starting his second stint as Flint’s emergency manager. He says the tough decisions have been made, and Flint is on a path to solvency. Brown says now it's time to involve the mayor and city council more in budget decisions.

“I have been sitting down with council and the mayor since I came back on to really talk about that process,” says Brown.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is drawing closer to having a new plan for its future.

For decades, Flint’s population has been shrinking.  More than 50 percent of the homes in many Flint neighborhoods are vacant.  That's led to crime and other problems.

This week, about 200 city residents and consultants pored over maps of the city. They were making recommendations for which parts of Flint should be turned into parks, business centers and residential neighborhoods.

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Federal judge will hear challenge to gay marriage ban

A federal judge is allowing a legal challenge to Michigan adoption laws and its ban on same-sex marriage to move forward. Judge Bernard Friedman says the decision to strike down DOMA last week left unanswered questions that could be addressed by this case. April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse are raising three children together; they say Michigan law violates the equal protection rights of their children. The judge called a July 10th hearing to chart the next steps in the case.

Legislation to improve legal defense for indigent Michiganders

Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation yesterday that will make changes to the state’s public defense system. The bill will create a commission to set statewide standards to ensure effective legal representation for poor defendants. The commission will also monitor counties to make sure each one is meeting those standards.

Flint EM warns possibility of bankruptcy

Flint's Emergency Manager, Ed Kurtz, warns the city could run out of money if it's forced to pay retirees full health benefits. A federal judge recently ruled Flint has to give retired workers the benefits they were promised. Kurtz says the decision hurts retirees more than it helps and that bankruptcy would mean much bigger cuts for retirees and current workers.

Ryan Garza / Detroit Free Press

Last month, a Michigan woman became the first American killed in the Syrian civil war.

Over the weekend, Niraj Warikoo at the Detroit Free Press profiled Nicole Mansfield, a 33-year-old Grand Blanc native who was killed on May 29 in the Syrian city of Idilib.

According to Mansfield’s family, Nicole’s conversion to Islam “five to six years ago” raised red flags and strained familial relationships. From Warikoo’s article:

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Michigan’s teen unemployment rate is more than double the state’s overall jobless rate.

State and local officials say limits on federal grants intended to promote youth employment are partly to blame.

State labor officials say a quarter of Michigan teens who want a job can’t find one this summer.   And they say part of the problem is the number of requirements on youth employment programs that are funded with federal grants.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Flint's police chief may not get invited to summer barbecues with his officers.

The police union says Chief Alvern Lock got a no-confidence vote from 85 percent of officers who cast a ballot. Seventy percent of 85 members participated.

The Flint Journal says the ballot mentioned a "lack of planning to increase staffing" to protect the public. Lock says he didn't know anything about the vote and had no reaction.

Mayor Dayne Walling disagrees with the union's position and calls Lock one of the Flint's hardest-working employees.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A quarter billion dollar water pipeline project broke ground today near the Lake Huron shoreline.

The source of the water was on the minds of the people at the groundbreaking, including Pastor Floyd Fuller who gave the invocation.

““Drink from your own cistern.   Running water from your own well,” Fuller said, quoting from the Book of Proverbs. 

The well in this case is not a well but a lake.  Lake Huron to be specific. 

The city of Flint is currently working on a master plan to help shape the city’s future in the next 20 years. Part of that plan involves the role of arts.

Recently the National Endowment for the Arts gave a grant to hire nine artists who live in each of the city’s wards to explore the role arts can have in the community and get residents involved in the master plan.

One of those artists, Andrew Morton, is the artistic director of the Shop Floor Theatre Company in Flint, and he joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

We wrapped up our week-long look at energy in Michigan with a focus on wind. Is it really a viable energy source for our state?

And, we headed to Flint to find out how some residents are helping to shape their community through all different types of art.

Also, if you love the sound of pipe organs, head over to the Great Lakes Swell Organs festival happening in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek this weekend. We spoke with program director Brooks Grantier.

First on the show, economic development leaders in Michigan like to talk about the number of manufacturing jobs created in the state in the last couple of years. But Michigan is not keeping up with the job growth of some other states as the nation recovers from the Great Recession.

It's Thursday, which means we talk to Daniel Howes, a business columnist with the Detroit News.

Howes joined us today to discuss Michigan’s anemic job growth.

Department of Treasury

The city of Hamtramck will once again be under state control.

The Department of Treasury announced Governor Rick Snyder's appointment of an emergency manager for the city of Hamtramck.

Gov. Snyder selected Pontiac City Administrator Cathy Square. She will assume the position on July 1, 2013. 

According to a press release from the Treasury, Hamtramck City Council waived its right to appeal the finding of a financial emergency and unanimously supported the appointment of an EM by the Governor. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The man leading the effort to clean up and dispose of General Motors’ vacant properties says more potential buyers are showing interest.

Elliot Laws is the Administrative Trustee of the RACER Trust.   RACER stands for “Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response.”  The trust was created during GM’s bankruptcy.

Laws says interest in the old GM plant sites is rising along with the economy.

“There’s a lot of cash out there for people to invest,” says Laws, “They’ve been holding onto trying to see what’s going to happen.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint school board members last night approved a budget for next year.

The district’s superintendent says Flint schools may be close to reaching bottom with its new budget.

Flint schools have been struggling with a declining student enrollment and budget problems for years.

The budget approved last night includes closing four schools and laying off around 150 employees.

Interim Superintendent Larry Watkins says more cuts may be needed, if enrollment slides even further.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An effort to roll back Flint’s recent spike in water and sewer rates has failed.

On Friday, a Genesee County Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Flint.

Flint's city council president sued, after the mayor, then later the state appointed emergency manger, increased city water and sewer rates. The increases effectively doubled the rate for city water customers

City leaders claim the rate increase was needed to pay for rising water system expenses.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The man hired by the Flint School Board to find buyers for closed school buildings is not optimistic he’ll be able to find buyers.

Last night, the Flint school district hired Cooper Commercial, a Genesee County commercial real estate company, to try to find buyers for more than two dozen old schools and other buildings.

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For decades, the Weather Ball has been an icon in Flint. It perches atop the Citizens Bank headquarters at 328 S. Saginaw Street.

FirstMerit  bought the former Citizens Bank in September 2012. 

Today, FirstMerit unveiled its plans to renovate the Weather Ball. 

Jeremy Allen of MLive-Flint Journal covered the event:

Google Maps

With all the problems in Flint and Detroit, it's no surprise we see these cities end up on "most dangerous cities" lists.

The lists are generated using violent crime statistics from the FBI's annual "Uniform Crime Reports."

But all cities have neighborhoods prone to crime and many other neighborhoods that are not. They are safe, for the most part.

Location, Inc. says they took data from the FBI and other "exclusive data" developed by the company to rank the safety of specific neighborhoods around the country. 

Earlier this month, they released their list, Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in America, on their website NeighborhoodScout. There are six Michigan neighborhoods on the list. The top three are in Detroit.

(Click on the street names below to see a map of the neighborhoods.)

  1. Detroit (West Chicago / Livernois Avenue)
  2. Detroit (Mack Avenue / Helen Street)
  3. Detroit (Gratiot Avenue / Rosemary)
  4. Detroit (Wyoming Street / Orangelawn Street)
  5. Saginaw (East Holland Avenue / East Genesee Avenue)
  6. Flint (Chambers Street / Stonegate Drive)
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Update 11:03 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is following this story for us. The Associated Press has this update on Nicole Lynn Mansfield. They report the family didn't know she was in the Middle East and that Mansfield wanted to be a "peacemaker."

Relatives of a 33-year-old Michigan woman killed in fighting in Syria say they didn't even know she was in the Middle East but that she always wanted to be a peacemaker.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s Emergency Manager submitted his letter of resignation today.     

Ed Kurtz has long said he planned to step down at the close of the fiscal year at the end of June.  His letter of resignation simply makes that official.

Kurtz was appointed as Flint’s emergency financial manager last summer, after the city’s previous emergency manager had to step down because of changes in the law.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last night, Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported on the city of Flint's budget.

While the emergency manager delivered a balanced budget for next year, the city council was concerned the budget cuts would negatively impact basic city services. 

This morning, MLive and the Flint Journal reported that the emergency manager, Ed Kurtz, wants to raise income taxes in order to stabilize the city's finances.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager is delivering a balanced budget for next year, but the future may not be as bright.

The city of Flint is closing out its current fiscal year with a balanced budget. Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz says next year’s budget should be balanced as well. City officials gave state Treasury Department officials a briefing on the budget, before showing Flint’s city council the plan.

Flint city council members expressed concern that the proposed FY2014 budget is a little too tight.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s emergency manager will unveil the city’s budget plan for next year later today.

Elected officials in most Michigan cities have spent the past month or so holding public meetings to discuss and get public feedback on their spending plans for next year.

But in Flint, the emergency manager has sidelined the mayor and city council

So the budget has been drafted behind closed doors.

The plan will be made public late this afternoon, after state officials have had a look and possibly made some changes.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Small Flint entrepreneurs are getting a boost from a new micro-lending program.

The group, KIVA.org, uses its website to link small business owners with individuals willing to loan them a small amount of money to get their business started.

Elizabeth Garlow is with Michigan Corps.   She says the future success of the KIVA Flint program depends on local people getting involved.

“It really will depend on how quickly the community rallies around this initiative…and takes action to go and nominate an entrepreneur and lend to them,” says Garlow.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Leaders of the Detroit branch of the NAACP say they'll file a lawsuit next week challenging Michigan's emergency manager law.

The law has allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to put managers in Detroit and other struggling cities and school districts. Critics plan to talk Monday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Other legal challenges have not been successful. An Ingham County judge in April threw out a lawsuit that claimed lawmakers violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved the bill in December.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

About 20 Michigan State Troopers are spending the next few days meeting with Flint schoolchildren.

Michigan State Police Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue told a student assembly today at Bryant Elementary in Flint that she would like to see them waving at Michigan State Police patrol cars as they drive through their neighborhood.

“Because it really kind of hurts our feelings when our car goes by and no one waves at us,” Etue told the students.

One student blurted out “We be scared”, which drew laughter from the students.

But Etue says their fear is a problem.

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Flint’s Emergency Manager, Ed Kurtz, says he will resign come June 30th, which may put Flint a step closer to returning to local control. Flint Mayor Dayne Walling talks with Jennifer White about the financial future of Flint.

Flint’s city council recently passed a resolution asking Governor Rick Snyder to remove the city’s emergency manager and appoint a transition advisory team.

“There are a number of requirements in the law that would have to be met by the appointed manager before a transition board could be put in place, such as the adoption of a two-year budget. So, city council leadership and I have been calling on for those steps to get done as soon as possible. The city of Flint does face financial challenges, let’s get addressed as soon as possible so we can move on,” says Mayor Walling.

When asked how financially healthy Flint is right now, Walling says:

“It’s marginally stable. But our position is that it’s going to take some long-term planning, some serious community partnerships to get the city to where it’s more sustainable going forward. And that work cannot be done effectively by an appointed manager.”

Listen to the full interview above.

Air quality is improving in some Michigan cities, according to a new report. The American Lung Association’s annual ‘State of the Air’ report is out today.  

Jim Harrington is a field organizer for the American Lung Association. He says particulate pollution, like smog, is down in the region - including the cities of Flint and Detroit.

“In prior years they’d been ranked the worst in the country. They were one of the most polluted regions in the country,” says Harrington, “And over the last five years, they’ve gradually moved down the list. So they’ve been improving at a faster rate than other areas.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The art and artistry of dozens of Flint school children are on display this weekend in Washington D.C.

The Flint Institute of Arts and other Flint area arts groups are taking part in the trip as part of a U.S. Department of Education effort.

John Henry is the FIA’s director.  He says the experience will help the students grow as artists.

“Most students are not exhibiting or performing until later in their career,” says Henry, “This is an opportunity for these kids to see how an audience reacts to their work.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Democratic U.S. Representative Dan Kildee is one of the newest members of congress. Kildee’s first piece of legislation is a proposal  to free up more than $1 billion in federal aid to help cities such as Detroit and Flint tear down thousands of abandoned homes. He hopes this plan will serve to stabilize neighborhoods. Congressman Kildee represents Michigan’s 5th congressional district. 

Listen to the full interview above.

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House committee works on road repair plan

A state House committee is working on a $1.6 billion plan to pay for repair and maintenance on Michigan's roads.

"The plan would result in higher fuel taxes and driver fees. But it would also eliminate the six percent Michigan sales tax on fuel purchases," Rick Pluta reports.

Flint dumps contract with DWSD

"The city of Flint is dumping its contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz signed a contract yesterday to get the city’s water from a new pipeline that’s being built from Lake Huron to Genesee County...A spokesman says the Detroit water department will have to look at its options  to try and recoup investments made to Flint’s water system," reports Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody.

Michigan addicts become eligible for insurance

Nearly 88,000 drug and alcohol addicts in Michigan will become eligible for insurance starting in 2014.

"Michigan health officials say the state's substance abuse care system will be able to handle the surge of people who will become eligible for alcohol and drug addiction treatment under the federal Affordable Health Care Act," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is dumping its contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Flint emergency manager Ed Kurtz signed a contract today to get the city’s water from a new pipeline that’s being built from Lake Huron to Genesee County.

Officials with Detroit's system made a final offer to try and keep Flint’s business. But Kurtz says the numbers were “unreliable.”

“After the first year…for 29 years they could raise those rates…do any kind of capital expenditures…anything they wanted to do…and just add them to our bill,” says Kurtz.

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