Flint

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Ad claims "right to work" is Pure Michigan

"Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation will continue to use the Pure Michigan brand to promote business growth, including the fact that Michigan is now a so-called right to work state. The MEDC faced criticism for buying a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal this week touting the state's new right-to-work law as "Pure Michigan." It cost $144,000," Lindsey Smith reports.

Flint public safety administrator resigns

"Barnett Jones was Ann Arbor’s police chief before being picked to oversee Flint’s police and fire departments last April. But Jones has also been working as the head of security for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department since May. When news media outlets raised questions this week about Jones’ ability to do both jobs, Jones submitted his resignation in Flint," Steve Carmody reports.

Democrats want to ban "lame duck" sessions

"Some Democratic state lawmakers want to end so-called “lame duck” sessions. If lawmakers pass the measure and voters approve it, the Legislature would be barred from meeting between November elections and the end of December on even-numbered years," Jake Neher reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s public safety administrator has resigned, amid questions about another full-time job he’s been holding.

Barnett Jones was Ann Arbor’s police chief before being picked to oversee Flint’s police and fire departments last April.    He is a trained firefighter as well as a police officer.    

A Flint city spokesman says Jones mainly focused on Flint's fire department, but he also worked with Flint's police chief Alvern Lock on police matters. 

But Jones has also been working as the head of security for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department since May.

Orbitbid.com

You know you've always wanted a Zamboni.

Now's your chance (just got to find a place in the garage for it).

The cash-strapped city of Flint is selling surplus equipment in an online auction on January 15.

Such an auction is a first for the city, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to the hockey gear, you can pick up sections of chain-link fence, a Chevy S10, a tractor, and a Hobart mixer.

You can check out the 216 items up for sale on Orbitbid.com, the company conducting the auction.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Several of Michigan's largest cities already have eclipsed last year's homicide totals.

Murders in Detroit, Saginaw and Grand Rapids are up over 2011. The 66 homicides reported through Monday morning in Flint are tied with that city's 2011 tally.

WOOD-TV reports that Grand Rapids reached its 18th homicide Saturday night. The number still is preliminary. There were 17 murders there last year, compared to nine each in 2009 and 2010. Grand Rapids recorded 23 murders in 2006.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

66 people were murdered in Flint in 2012. That ties a record homicide rate set two years ago.

Flint’s political, religious and civic leaders have been trying to do something about the city’s high violent crime rate. But gun violence has claimed more than 60 lives for the second time in three years.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling issued a statement, saying “it is clear that the problem of illegal and military-style guns is widespread and is a major contributing factor to” the city’s homicide rate.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - Numbers are adding up to be a growth business in downtown Flint.

The Flint Journal reports that accounting firm Plante Moran has a staff of approximately 50 people and typically hires five to 10 a year since arriving in 2005.

Ken Leslie, managing partner at the Flint office, says internships provide candidates. The most notable supplier is the Flint campus of the University of Michigan. Leslie says people don't want to leave downtown once they're hired.

Fire stations across the state are being left abandoned as fire departments shrink and consolidate. Now a man hopes to transform one of those vacant stations in Flint into a homeless shelter.

John Bone says he's transforming an eye sore into a place where up to 100 people in need can find a bed and a shower.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor Snyder vetoes gun bill

Governor Rick Snyder has vetoed legislation that would have allowed people with concealed pistol permits to carry their guns in school buildings. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

"He said that school security measures in Michigan needed a thorough review. He also wants to find a way to better incorporate community mental health workers into schools. Snyder also said in his veto letter to the Legislature that the bill had a fatal loophole that didn't allow for those public institutions -- schools, churches, day care centers and stadiums -- to opt out of the new legislation and prohibit weapons from their buildings. The law specifically addressed only private buildings."

Earlier this week Snyder said the Connecticut shooting would play a role in his decision on the bill.

Snyder's approval rating drops 28 points after right-to-work

"A new poll from a firm that primarily does work for Democrats finds a huge drop in approval for Governor Rick Snyder among Michigan voters. Snyder has a 56-percent disapproval rating, after he supported and signed bills that make it harder for unions to collect dues. That's a 28-point drop," Tracy Samilton reports.

Flint names interim school superintendent

"The Flint school board last night picked a longtime district administrator to be its interim superintendent. Larry Watkins retired from the Flint school district in August. But he applied for the interim job when Flint’s former superintendent announced her retirement last month. Watkins takes charge of a school district that’s running a budget deficit in the millions of dollars," Steve Carmody reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A long-time district administrator has been picked to be the interim Flint schools superintendent.

Larry Watkins likes to say he’s worked for the Flint school district since he was 14, when he was a high school locker room attendant.  He retired from the district in August, after a long career as an administrator.

Last night, the school board hired him back, on an interim basis, to fill the void left by last month’s retirement of Flint’s former superintendent.

Efforts for Freeing Son Inspired Music at Mott

Dec 6, 2012
courtesy of FreeAmir.org

Musical inspiration comes in a variety of ways.  For Dr. Mathew Packer, it came from the imprisoned son of a colleague at Mott Community College.

Amir Hekmati was taken prisoner in Iran – accused of being a spy after travelling there to visit his ailing grandmother.  His family is now working to get him freed.

Packer, a music professor at Mott, heard about the family’s efforts to free him and created a song called “I WILL FLY” which is being performed and recorded for sale to benefit the Hekmati family on Friday afternoon.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s controversial Emergency Financial Manager law has survived a legal challenge.

But the judge’s decision may have opened a new door to legal challenges.

Michigan’s old Emergency Financial Manager law (Public Act 72) was repealed when state lawmakers passed a new law in 2011 giving the managers even broader powers.  However that new tougher law was rejected by voters last month.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - With just three months remaining before winter tax payments are due and with about 8,000 parcels rolling toward tax foreclosure in April, Genesee County treasury officials are ramping up programs aimed at keeping people in their homes.

The county Land Bank already has 9,500 parcels of land to maintain after three straight years of at least 2,300 foreclosures. That's after selling 500 foreclosed parcels earlier this year.

Marijuana in Michigan: What new pot laws mean for the state

Nov 14, 2012
miss.libertine / Creative Commons

Marijuana users across the state are claiming victory after the success of pro-pot ballot proposals in several Michigan cities.

Supporters say decriminalization of the drug in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Detroit shows that Michiganders are warming to the idea of a pot-friendly future.

But beyond symbolic value, how will these votes affect the way marijuana is managed and policed throughout the state?

Michigan Radio is venturing into the morass of overlapping local, state, and federal law to determine how the state manages weed.

We begin with a look at the new laws and how other Michigan towns have chosen to regulate marijuana.

$16.8 million expansion unveiled at Flint's Bishop Airport

Nov 13, 2012
redlegsfan21 / flickr

Flint’s Bishop Airport unveiled a $16.8 million expansion at a public dedication ceremony Tuesday morning.

From the Flint Journal:

The construction project included a larger Transportation Security Administration area, which was opened in October.

It also added 47,000 square-feet of terminal space, four gates and doubled the width of the corridor linking two sections of the airport.

About $7 million for the project came from FAA grants and the airport used about $9 million of its reserve funds to pay for the rest.

The expansion is expected to double the airport’s capacity to accommodate 2 million passengers.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s Emergency Financial Manager says his job hasn’t changed, despite Tuesday’s vote to repeal Michigan’s controversial Emergency Manager law.

Flint voters strongly supported repealing the law. Their city is among those that have complained the most about the draconian measures the law permitted state appointees to take.

Marijuana plants
A7nubis / Creative Commons

Voters in several Michigan cities passed proposals to ease legal restrictions on marijuana. On Tuesday people in Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids voted overwhelmingly to make small amounts of marijuana okay to possess under city law. I’m not talking about the medical stuff here; this is just regular old pot.

"Prosecuting someone for peacefully using marijuana is about as ridiculous to me as prosecuting someone for sipping a vodka martini,” Tim Beck, chair of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit, said. Beck also worked to put Michigan’s medical marijuana laws in place.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint voters have approved a property tax hike to pay for public safety.

The six mill increase will add about $79 to the annual property tax bill for the average Flint home owner.

Flint mayor Dayne Walling says the vote shows the “absolute support” city residents have for the city’s police officers and firefighters.

“They want those services. They want to support those departments,” says Walling, “And now we’re going to deliver on that commitment.”

Flint’s police and fire departments faced possible layoffs if the property tax hike was not approved.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In Grand Rapids a number of groups are offering people rides to their polling places.  

Organizer Josh Leffingwell leans out of the backseat of a minivan to flag down a man walking down the sidewalk.

“Excuse me sir? Have you had a chance to vote yet today?” he asks.

Grand Rapids resident Samuel Johnson accepts the free ride to the school where he votes – nearly a mile away.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The man leading the ‘vote Yes’ campaign is optimistic Flint voters will approve a big millage increase on Tuesday.

Pastor Timothy Stokes says “at the end of the day, everyone’s concerned about public safety.”

Stokes is the chairman of the ‘Yes to Police and Fire Protection Committee’.  The group has been campaigning for the passage of a six mill property tax increase that’s on Tuesday’s ballot.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Leaders from Flint will meet with state officials in Lansing tomorrow. The conversation will be about water.

Flint has been getting its municipal water from Detroit’s water system for more than 30 years.   But Flint officials say the Detroit water is becoming more and more expensive, and their city needs an alternative.

They want to be part of a project to tap water from Lake Huron.

“We expect that within 36 months…we could have a fresh, raw water supply to our water treatment plant in Flint,” says Howard Croft, Flint's director of infrastructure.

The city of Flint is hosting a conference this weekend which to look at ways to transform the city.

The Congress for Urban Transformation is bringing activists, artists, urban planners and others to Flint.   The conference is looking at a variety of ways to reclaim Flint, from urban agriculture to improved city planning.

Rob McCullough is the local program coordinator. He says they are looking at new ways to reclaim Flint’s industrial sites and hard hit neighborhoods.

Project in 23 Michigan schools seeks healthy approach

Oct 27, 2012

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan education officials are launching a pilot project in 23 high schools that aims to boost academic achievement by incorporating physical, emotional and social health programs.

The effort dubbed "think.respect." is funded through a $24 million federal grant and will be administered by the Michigan Department of Education. Schools were selected based partly on persistently low achievement.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint voters face a tough choice on Election Day.

Agree to a big property tax increase…or face even more cuts to the city’s overburdened police and fire departments.

On November Sixth, Flint voters will decide if they are willing to pay an additional 6 mills on their property taxes or about 79 dollars extra a year for the average home owner.    

Supporters say about five million dollars would be raised for police and fire protection.

Flint set a record for homicides two years ago.     And could do it again this year.   Flint’s arson rate has exploded as well.

Booking photo of stabbing suspect Elias Abuelazam
Arlington, Virginia Police Department

FLINT, Mich. (AP) - A man charged in a series of stabbings in a Michigan city in 2010 will face no additional trials unless his first murder conviction is overturned on appeal.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton says two murder cases and six attempted murder cases will be suspended against Elias Abuelazam. The action was disclosed Friday at a court in Flint.

Leyton says additional trials would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Abuelazam, a native of Israel, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole after a first murder trial last spring.

People convicted of first-degree murder in Michigan are automatically entitled to an appeal. Abuelazam's is in the early stages.

Abuelazam defense attorney Ed Zeineh called the prosecutor's decision appropriate.

An attempted murder case is pending in Ohio.

Former Flint Mayor Don Williamson.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Former Flint Mayor Don Williamson is suing the city after officials demanded that he pay out $4.5 million awarded to police officers in a 2011 discrimination suit.

Williamson is arguing that city officials violated his constitutional rights when they asked a judge to require the former mayor pay the sum, Kristin Longley of the Flint Journal reports:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A stalled housing project in Flint is finally moving forward.

Smith Village has been a longtime headache for Flint city leaders.

The Smith Village project started in 1998 when the federal government gave the city of Flint money to build low and moderate income homes.  The plan was to rebuild a neighborhood with more than 80 new, low-to-moderate income homes.

But numerous delays and lawsuits stalled the development.

Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

The Flint Journal reports this morning about three killings over the weekend, bring the total number of homicides to 50:

Three homicides in as many days has brought the city's total to 50 slayings for the year.

The latest was a shooting and hit and run that left one man dead...

The city didn't record its 50th homicide last year until late October.

In 2010, the city set a record for the number of homicides at 66. That's in a city with a shrinking population.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint is restarting its derelict home demolition program.

The program was stalled earlier this year because of a lack of money.

Flint’s Emergency Financial Manager Ed Kurtz says the city plans to use some federal grant money to tear down abandoned homes that have become public safety problems.

“Hopefully, with the 2.3 million we can maybe get somewhere…around 300 homes,” says Kurtz,  “Just to put it into perspective….there’s probably some ten thousand properties in the city that would be subject to demolition.”

The city is still carrying debts that add up to $19 million. Emergency financial manager Ed Kurtz says services have been cut to the bone. Tax increases could be coming.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The city of Flint will soon launch a new crackdown on illegal metal scrappers.

Like many Michigan cities, Flint has been plagued by thieves illegally stripping metal from homes and other sources, and trying to sell the metal to scrap dealers.

Beginning in December, Flint will require people trying to sell scrap metal to get a permit from the city.

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