Flint

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.

Aaron Headly / Flickr

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.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Report on Detroit's finances due today

"Governor Snyder is expected to receive a long-awaited report on Detroit’s financial situation today. It’s widely expected that the report will depict a city on the brink of insolvency—and suggest further state intervention," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Flint State of the City addresses violent crime

"Flint mayor Dayne Walling says his city must now make a transition to an era of "reconstruction" after a "generation of decline." Walling told the audience at his State of the City address yesterday that in order to begin that transition Flint must deal with its crime problem. Flint had the worst violent crime rate in the nation last year," Steve Carmody reports.

Sleeping Bear Dunes get $100,000

"The state Transportation Department has received $100,000 in federal funds to extend Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Heritage Trail by nearly five miles. The funding is part of $12.5 million for 29 projects in 20 states to improve access to national parks, forests and wildlife refuges," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint mayor Dayne Walling says his city must now make a transition to an era of 'reconstruction' after a 'generation of decline.'

Walling told the audience at his ‘State of the City’ address Monday that in order to begin that transition Flint must deal with its crime problem.

Flint had the worst violent crime rate in the nation last year. 

“We have lost too many lives. Too many of our promising youth who were confined to environments that were always dangerous and all too often became deadly,” Walling told his audience.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Undocumented immigrants to get state IDs

"Illegal immigrants brought to the country as children can start applying for Michigan driver's licenses and state IDs this week. Secretary of State Ruth Johnson's office will begin accepting applications Tuesday," the Associated Press reports.

Lawmakers lobby to maintain Michigan's film tax incentive

"Michigan film producers and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville say they will lobby to maintain the state's $50 million film credits cap. Governor Rick Snyder is calling for a $25 million dollar cap in film incentives in the budget he has proposed. The amount is the same he proposed last year, but lawmakers raised the cap to $50 million during budget negotiations," the Associated Press reports.

Flint mayor to address his State of the City today

"Flint’s mayor plans to use his State of the City address today to talk about how his city can start planning for a future without an emergency financial manager. A state appointed manager has been running the city since December 2011," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s mayor delivers his State of the City address tomorrow.

He says he’ll map out a path for Flint to no longer need an emergency financial manager running his city.

Mayor Dayne Walling says now’s the time to begin preparing for life after an emergency manager.

The city has been under the direction of a state appointed manager since December of 2011.

The new emergency manager law that takes effect next month includes a provision that details how cities can get back to self-control.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A judge will consider a request to dismiss a lawsuit challenging Flint’s skyrocketing water and sewer rates this week.

Since 2011, Flint’s water and sewer rates have more than doubled. City officials say the rate increases are needed to cover rising costs in the system.

But Attorney Val Washington says that’s not how the city is using the money.

“Instead of being used what it’s for….water and sewer….related expenses,” says Washington,  “It's being used to pay the general obligations of the city.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A private company will start picking up Flint’s residential trash next month.

Emergency Financial Manager Ed Kurtz says Republic Services can handle Flint’s waste collection for a million dollars a year less than the city can itself.    The two sides signed a contract this week. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Flint is spending money to collect more money.

The city wants to know if some residents haven't filed city tax returns. It will spend $11,000 to get state tax data to determine if there are people who haven't paid the local income tax.

Wikipedia

Sandra Bernhard is appearing at The Ark in Ann Arbor this Friday and Saturday. We spoke with Bernhard about growing up in Michigan and her overall career.

She talks about Flint, a city she grew up in and how she plans to visit the city this weekend with a friend she met through Twitter.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The state Treasury Department is changing the rules for people hired by emergency financial managers.

Barnett Jones was hired last year as Flint’s Public Safety Administrator by the city’s emergency manager.  He resigned earlier this month after it was discovered he had a second full time job as the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department security director.

To avoid having that happen again, the state Treasury Department is inserting language in future contracts that says emergency financial manager appointees can not engage in other employment, unless approved by the EFM.

Flint contemplates its future, through planning

Jan 22, 2013
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The City of Flint is hosting a public forum this evening to discuss its plan for the future.

"This is a chance for a lot of the political leaders and some community people to lay out the process and to get additional information from the audience," said Michael Kelly of the Flint Area Public Affairs Forum. He says the forum will allow city leaders to talk  about assets and challenges that face the city.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint plans to use a $25 thousand grant to get the public involved in efforts to reduce blight in the city.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling says blight is a multi-faceted challenge that includes demolishing abandoned homes and reclaiming neighborhoods.    He says volunteers are critically important to solving Flint's problem with blight.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some Michigan cities that collect an income tax might soon see a revenue boost.

A state lawmaker wants to increase the tax rate cities can charge.

State representative Andy Schor is looking at lifting the current state cap on city income tax rates.   Four cities (Detroit, Grand Rapids, Saginaw and Highland Park) are already allowed to collect more than the 1% limit on city residents and  .5% on non-city residents.

GM / Facebook

In another blow to the Flint area, GM announced it will close its Weld Tool Center in Grand Blanc.

The plant is located just southeast of the city of Flint.

Workers at the plant make robotic welding tools used to build cars like the Chevy Cruze, the Volt, and the Sonic.

GM spokesman Tom Wickham said the plant's 323 hourly workers and 28 salaried workers will be offered jobs at other GM plants in the region, according to MLive:

The employees were notified this morning the plant would be shut down, Wickham said...

There are no immediate plans as to what the facility will be used for in the future, Wickham said.

Shaun Byron of MLive talked with some of the workers at the plant who were shocked by the news:

Brad Keskinen of Davison worked with GM since 1977 and at the Grand Blanc Township plant since 2007.

“I’m really disappointed. I thought we had a smart, productive workforce. But it’s evident that the work model was set up for failure,” Keskinen said. “And the announcement comes to a shock to us.”

GM recorded the 'economic impact' of the plant as follows:

  • Wages: $46.5 million (2011)
  • Payroll Taxes: $9.7 million (2011)
  • Property Taxes: $866,000 (2011)

Operations at the plant are expected to wind down in July of this year.

The plant was first built by the U.S. government in 1942. Sherman and Pershing tanks were built there.

Stateside: Investigating Michigan's homicide rate

Jan 15, 2013
http://jmc.msu.edu/alumni/madisonian.php?id=23

Though the national homicide rate has declined over the past decades, many Michigan cities are struggling to follow the trend.

Dayne Walling, Mayor of Flint and Gregg Barak, Professor of Criminology at Eastern Michigan University and author of "Violence and Nonviolence: Pathways to Understanding" spoke with Cyndy about the state’s homicides.

“Homicide rates across the country are down to about 4.8 per 100,000…Here in Michigan, the state as a whole is at 6.2. In Detroit, it’s eight times higher…I’m not that surprised in terms of Detroit. Its rate today is no higher than it was when we were identified as the murder capital of the world,” said Barak.

Orbitbid.com

The city of Flint is experimenting with an online auction of things it no longer needs.

It’s unclear how much money the cash-strapped city will get from the auction.

If you’re looking for a used Zamboni, or tractors, or, in some cases, stuff that could be best described as junk, the city of Flint hopes you’ll take advantage of its online auction today.

This is the first time the city has turned to the internet to auction off its surplus equipment, used furniture and other items.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Government and religious leaders from Lansing, Flint and Saginaw came together today to call for new federal gun control laws.

All three cities saw an increase in murders in 2012.

The group, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, wants the federal government to require background checks for all gun sales.    It also wants a ban on assault weapons and an expansion of gun trafficking laws.

Darnell Earley is Saginaw’s city manager.   He says something must be done to stop what he calls “neighborhood warfare.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Officials in Flint will review work records of former public safety administrator Barnett Jones who was holding two full-time jobs at the same time.

MLive.com reports City Administrator Michael Brown will look at Jones' schedule.

Jones resigned Thursday after it was learned he also was chief security and integrity officer at Detroit's water department, about 70 miles away.

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