Flint

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Today is the last chance for Detroit water department officials to make their case to keep Flint as a customer.

The state Treasury Department gave the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department until this evening to present its final best offer to the city of Flint.

Flint has been a DWSD customer for many years. But Flint city officials say they want to get their tap water from a new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline being built from Lake Huron to Genesee County.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is reducing the water bills for its poorest residents.

Beginning July 1st, city homeowners who already qualify for Flint’s poverty exemption for property taxes will get a $53 break on their monthly water bills.  According to the city of Flint:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Update 5:26 p.m.

Flint needed the state's permission to join the water pipeline project because the city is run by an emergency manager. Supporters say the new pipeline will save Flint money.

Bill Johnson, spokesman for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, said the state previously told Detroit water officials they would have more time to reach a new agreement with Flint. He says the Detroit water system stands to lose big if Flint starts getting its water from Lake Huron.

"Detroit will lose 6 to 7 percent of its total revenue base, amounting to something like $22 million. That cost would have to be absorbed by the remaining 3 million Detroit Water and Sewerage Department customers."

Detroit has until Monday afternoon to make one final offer to the city of Flint to keep its water business. Flint’s emergency manager has said he wants to see Detroit’s offer.

12:39 p.m.

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The state of Michigan has approved Flint's plans to get its water by participating in a pipeline project that would tap Lake Huron.

The Flint Journal reports the approval is subject to review of a final offer from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department by Monday. State Treasurer Andy Dillon told Flint's state-appointed emergency manager Ed Kurtz of the decision.

Under the proposal, Flint would get 16 million gallons of water per day from Lake Huron, pipe it to Flint for treatment and then sell it to city customers. Another 2 million gallons per day would come from the Flint River and would be treated in Flint.

The Karegnondi Water Authority project could serve Flint and Lapeer as well as residents elsewhere in Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac counties.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - An insurance company says more than a dozen people operated an arson-for-profit ring in Flint that collected more than $2 million over two decades.

The Flint Journal reports State Farm Insurance says in a lawsuit in Detroit federal court that fires purposely were started at homes owned or rented by members of the group. The insurer says insurance claims were filed to receive thousands of dollars in insurance payouts.

No criminal charges have been filed against any of those named the case.

The case has sparked counter lawsuits by some of the defendants. Six of those named in the State Farm lawsuit have settled, including Flint-based public adjustment company Allied and Associates and Gary Lappin, its president. He calls the case "witch hunt."

State Farm isn't discussing the case.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint has its first full-time fire chief in eight years.

David Cox says he’s ready for the challenge.

“ I want to go in and take a look at what we have and if we have to make any changes…we’ll tweak it,” says Cox, “But they are doing a pretty good job over there I think.”

Cox takes over a fire department that has been dealing with deep budget cuts and an explosion of arson fires in recent years.  

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A battle is brewing over where the city of Flint will get its tap water.

Last month, the Flint city council voted to join a project to get fresh water from Lake Huron.   Supporters say the project will save the city millions of dollars by replacing its current water source: the city of Detroit.

But the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is asking the state Treasury Department to veto the plan.

Bill Johnson is with the DWSD. He says state officials need to step in to prevent a “water war.”

Steve Carmody/MIchigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A newspaper's analysis says that many vacant Flint buildings that caught fire since 2008 ended up burning multiple times.

The Flint Journal reports Monday that of the 1,631 suspicious fires at vacant buildings in the city from 2008 to 2012, more than a quarter involved structures that burned multiple times. In all, 416 structures caught fire multiple times during the period.

The report comes as Flint deals with a high rate of fires that's stretched thin the fire department.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Ninety new Michigan State troopers will soon be on the road.

The troopers were officially sworn in today in Lansing.

Governor Rick Snyder told the new troopers they are part of reinventing Michigan, in part by helping those communities hit hard by violent crime.

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U.S. Supreme Court looks at affirmative action case in Michigan

"The U.S. Supreme Court will review Michigan’s ban on race- and gender-based affirmative action in university admissions. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is defending the amendment to the state constitution. It was adopted by voters in 2006," Rick Pluta reports.

Flint City Council takes steps to remove EM

"The Flint City Council is asking Governor Rick Snyder to remove the city’s emergency manager and phase out state control of its finances. The council unanimously approved a measure last night to request a state-appointed transition board to oversee the city’s finances," Jake Neher reports.

Lansing Mayor wants residents to pay more for utilities to help with city budget

"Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero wants to close the city’s looming budget deficit by asking city utility customers to pay another $46 a year. Bernero delivered his $112 million proposed budget to the city council last night," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint City Council has taken a first step toward taking back control of the city’s finances.

The council last night unanimously passed a resolution asking Governor Rick Snyder to remove the city’s emergency manager.
 

Flint city officials want the governor to replace the emergency manager with a transition team to phase out state control of the city’s finances over two years.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint city council has voted to get its future water supply directly from Lake Huron.

The city council last night committed Flint to a contract to get 16 million gallons of water a day from a new pipeline. 

Flint has been getting its tap water from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.   But that has become more and more expensive in recent years. 

Supporters, like Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, say the new Lake Huron pipeline would be cheaper. 

“We think that having a mid-Michigan system makes more economic sense long term,” says Walling. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint city council is expected to vote tonight on a plan that may set the stage for the city to emerge from state oversight. 

The council will consider asking the governor to appoint a “receivership transition advisory board.”    

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says the board would guide the city after the departure of the emergency manager.

“This is an area of the law that we want to take advantage of,” says Walling, “We want assistance with our revenue estimates…with budget amendments.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There are seven new police officers patrolling the streets of Flint. They were hired as part of a public safety millage approved by Flint voters last November.

The millage is expected to generate $5.3 million this year, but what's going to happen in future years as the population keeps shrinking and property values drop?

With the recent hiring of seven officers, the Flint Police Department now has 124 officers. That is down from an estimated 350 officers when times were better.

Will these new officers help make a dent in Flint's crime rate? Flint is in the unenviable spot near the top of many of the "most violent city" lists.

Kevin Smith is the president of the Flint Police Officer's Association.

He mentioned that the seven new officers won't make a big difference any time soon.  We asked what it would take, in terms of staffing, to make Flint noticeably safer.

To hear the full interview, click the link above.

Today on the show, the city of Flint recently hired seven new police officers, but some say that might not be enough to make a noticeable difference on the streets.

We explore public safety in the one of the nation's most violent cities.

And, new data show women in the U.S. prefer foreign-made cars to domestics. We find out why and talk about what it will take for the Detroit Three to win over those women.

And there are almost fourteen thousand children in Michigan who have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids rely upon the state to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive.

Six years ago, the state was sued over treatment of kids in its care. The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Michigan Radio's Sarah Alvarez brought us a report.

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Governor Snyder signs Blue Cross Blue Shield overhaul

"Gov. Rick Snyder has signed legislation overhauling Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The bills let the state's largest health insurer transform into a customer-owned nonprofit and ends its tax-exempt status. The Republican governor signed the legislation Monday at a meeting of the company's board of directors in Detroit," the Associated Press reports.

Detroit EM accused of unpaid taxes

"Governor Rick Snyder is standing by his pick for Detroit’s emergency manager - despite some criticism over unpaid taxes. The Detroit News reported over the weekend that Kevyn Orr had two tax liens against his Maryland home. Orr says he has since paid the taxes," Jake Neher reports.

Flint postpones decision to get water from Lake Huron

"The Flint city council has delayed a decision on whether to take part in a quarter billion dollar project to pipe water from Lake Huron for the city’s drinking water. Council members are concerned the city will end up paying too much.   There is also concern that whatever decision they make could be overruled by Flint’s emergency financial manager," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Flint city council has delayed a decision on whether to take part in a quarter billion dollar project to tap water from Lake Huron for the city’s drinking water. The panel delayed taking action on the proposal last week as well.

The project has been in development for years. But supporters say they will soon have to start work on the project. They want Flint leaders to decide now if the city is going to be part of the project. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A decision could come tonight that may determine if the city of Flint will look elsewhere to get its tap water.

The Flint city council will consider whether to sign on with a project to build a pipeline to carry water from Lake Huron to Genesee, Lapeer and Sanilac Counties.

The quarter billion dollar Karegnondi Water Authority project has been in the discussion stages for years, but actual work on the pipeline may begin soon.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Hundreds of Michigan cities are not saving enough to cover their future retiree health care costs.

A new report says more than 300 Michigan municipalities have in excess of $13 billion in unfunded liabilities for health care costs of retired public employees.

Michigan State University researchers found only half of the municipalities are prefunding retiree health care. The rest are setting aside no money despite longer lifespans and rapidly rising health costs.

While the collective bill of funding those benefits is $12.7 billion, the bulk of it, almost $11 billion, is attributable to local governments in a 10-county region of Southeast Michigan including Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties. The city of Detroit alone will owe $5 billion in retiree health care costs.

But MSU professor Eric Scorsone says cities like Grand Rapids, Flint, Lansing and Saginaw also face difficult choices.

“That’s already happening today….these cities…are paying millions of dollars in retiree premiums so it’s already having an effect and it will have an even bigger effect in the future,” says Scorsone.

Scorsone says the new national health care law may help some.   But tax increases, budget cuts or broken promises to retirees are inevitable, unless the state takes action.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - The Flint School District board has decided to relocate Flint Northern High students and close four other schools as part of a cost-cutting effort.

The Flint Journal reports that following Wednesday's decision Flint Northern, known as the "Home of the Champions," will close as a seventh through 12th grade building. Students there will go to Northwestern High and Southwestern Academy.

Flint Northern will become the Northern Alternative Education Center and offer a new program for students in seventh through ninth grades.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

State Representative Jim Ananich easily won Tuesday’s Democratic primary to fill a vacant state senate seat in the 27th district, which includes Flint.

Ananich collected 51% of the vote to defeat four other candidates in the Democratic primary. The 27th is a heavily Democratic district which likely means Tuesday’s primary win will mean Ananich will win the May special election. Still Ananich insists he won’t take his Republican opponent lightly.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Tomorrow, primary voters in Genesee County will narrow down the field of candidates to fill an open state senate seat.

There are seven candidates on the 27th state senate district primary ballot, though one has dropped out of the race.

On the Democratic side, State representatives Woodrow Stanley and Jim Ananich are facing off against Genesee County Commissioner Ted Henry and GM auto worker Chris Del Morone.

At a recent public forum, Stanley echoed the comments of his fellow Democratic candidates in hoping for a change at the state capitol.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

Artists are often idealists, but in Flint this weekend, a new theater company is trying something really optimistic.

They’ve written a play about…emergency managers.

Sure, it may not be the sexiest topic, but it’s got people talking.

"There's this overwhelming sense of apathy."

Like us, for example. I sat in with an auditorium full of ninth graders from Beecher High School as they got a sneak peak. 

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U.S. Senator Carl Levin announced his retirement

Saying he wants to focus on his last two years in the Senate without the distraction of a campaign, Sen. Carl Levin announced he would not seek re-election in 2014.

The Washington Post wrote "don't let his rumpled suits or avuncular glasses fool you..."

Levin is ready for a fight.

The former civil-rights lawyer is famous for his deep policy knowledge - he spends more than 20 hours getting ready for hearings so he'll "know when the B.S. is flying," and he nailed George W. Bush administration officials with his precise questioning.
As Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Levin has spearheaded some key proposals on national security. He fought tirelessly to end the Iraq war, which he opposed from the start.

Flint tries to collect unpaid taxes

Flint is trying to cut into a $19 million budget deficit. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports the city hopes to collect on past taxes:

To chip away at part of that, city officials plan to pressure people who haven’t paid their city income taxes for a while. The city estimates that it’s owed between $300,000 and $400,000 in unpaid income taxes for just 2010.

Consumers Energy halts drilling practice after explosion

The Associated Press reports Consumers Energy says it has halted projects throughout Michigan that involve the same drilling method used before a deadly Detroit-area house explosion. Consumers Energy says employees and contractors are conducting a review of projects involving boring. Fifty-eight-year-old Daniel Malczynski died in the Royal Oak blast last month.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is hoping to collect some unpaid city income taxes. The money could help reduce Flint’s crushing budget deficit.

The city of Flint is struggling to reduce its $19 million budget deficit.

To chip away at part of that, city officials plan to pressure people who haven’t paid their city income taxes for a while.

The city estimates that it’s owed between $300,000 and $400,000 in unpaid income taxes for just 2010.

Flint, Mich.
Flint Michigan / Facebook.com

Alarm companies in Flint are refusing to pay nearly $134,000 in bills from the city of Flint related to police response to false alarm calls.

David Harris of the Flint Journal reports:

The Burglar and Fire Alarm Association of Michigan is fighting a policy in Flint that bills the alarm company directly as opposed to the customer, said Karen Majeske, the association's board director.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is once again hiking water rates.

The move is likely to stir controversy.

Beginning March 1st, the city of Flint is raising the deposit required for water service to rental properties, from 100 dollars to 350 dollars.

A city spokeswoman says the 350 dollar deposit will begin to reduce the current $2.8 million owed the system.

Water rate increases have been highly controversial in Flint.

Since 2011, the city has hiked water rates by more than 100 percent.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A Michigan hospital has settled a lawsuit that accused it of agreeing to a man's request that no black nurses care for his newborn.

Hurley Medical Center and four nurses who sued said Friday the lawsuit was "amicably resolved."

The Flint hospital says the conduct wasn't consistent with hospital policies and that it "fundamentally opposes" racial discrimination.

The suit was filed by nurse Tonya Battle, who alleged a note was posted on an assignment clipboard reading, "No African American nurse to take care of baby.

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Every American city has its miserable parts.

Forbes Magazine says there are just more miserable parts to Detroit and Flint than other U.S. cities.

Complete with photos of burned out buildings and cop cars, Forbes Magazine put Detroit and Flint at the no. 1 & 2 spots on its "American's Most Miserable Cities 2013" list.

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The Mayor of Flint says it's time to say goodbye to its emergency manager and make Flint the first city in Michigan to have a transition team appointed under the new emergency manager law, a team that would guide Flint back to being run by its mayor and city council

That was one of the key messages as Flint Mayor Dayne Walling delivered his State of the City message last night - his fourth State of the City address.

Mayor Dayne Walling joined us from Flint. You can listen to our interview with him above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Update 4:43 p.m.

The CEO of the Hurley Medical Center in Flint denied accusations that it kept black nurses from caring for an infant after a father made a request to do so.

From the Flint Journal:

Hurley CEO Melany Gavulic said the father was informed that his request could not be granted...

Gavulic said the request was not granted and that all nurses remained available to care for his baby.

“We (Hurley) value the support of the patients who entrust us with their care and the dedication of our physicians and staff,” she said. “This includes nurse Battle and her quarter century of professionalism and dedication.”

Gavulic declined to comment or answer questions regarding the lawsuit.

11:24 a.m.

The Flint Journal's Ron Fonger reports that Al Sharpton's National Action Network (NAN) will hold a rally today outside the emergency room of the Hurley Medical Center in Flint.

The  Rev. Charles E. Williams II, president of the Michigan chapter of NAN, said the Hurley story is being watched across the nation.

"There is growing concern around the country about how this could be in 2013," Williams said today. "There will be growing pressure as Hurley continues to be quiet."

The group is protesting the treatment of an African-American nurse who claims she was barred from treating an infant after the father made a request that no black nurses be allowed to treat his child.

The Flint Journal reports the incident occurred last fall. The suit claims the father went to the nurse's supervisor with the request.

The father, who is not named in the suit, told the supervisor that he did not want an African American nurse taking care of his baby, the suit alleges. The father allegedly rolled up his sleeve and showed a tattoo that was believed to be a swastika while talking with the supervisor, the suit says.

According to the lawsuit, the supervisor then reassigned the infant to a different nurse.

On Nov. 1, 2012, a decision was made to grant the father's request that no African American nurses care for his child, the suit alleges.

In a statement, Hurley Medical Center says it "does not comment on past or current litigation."

Robin Erb of the Detroit Free Press spoke with legal scholars about the case.

Requesting care based on religious principles or sex appears to be requests hospitals try to accommodate, but others draw the line on requests based on race.

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