- By Dayne Walling
- Thursday, February 28, 2013
- Hits: 1380
We continue to be in a tough fight here in Flint. Yet I continue to have faith that the force of our united community is enough to get us through. There are a number of serious questions about how we actually accomplish this unity of effort. That is a large part of what I will be addressing this afternoon. I will outline how we can work together toward Flint’s future.
I believe this is our year for transition from a generation of decline to an era of reconstruction. This afternoon I will outline how this transition can take place so that we are in a stronger position by the time we ring in the new year of 2014 — hopefully with another great celebration in downtown Flint.
If you were one of the thousands of people downtown on New Year’s Eve like Carrie and I were, then you know that we rang in the new year the right way.
State of the City
From all of the work being done through the comprehensive master planning process, we have as clear a view of the true state of the city as we have had in many years. We have weathered many difficult storms but today we have a clear view and I see rays of hope.
First, let me share with you what the thousands of people I have talked with and those who have participated in the Imagine Flint planning process have said about the state of our city.
Our most pressing problem is crime and lack of safety, and all of the guns and drugs and gangs and violence and vacancy and abandonment and desperation that goes with it.
Our greatest opportunity is to reach our youth with good education and training so they can be part of a productive economy, healthy family and strong neighborhood.
There is a lot more to be said, but this sums it up. Our most pressing problem is crime. Our greatest opportunity is our youth. Now how do we make this connection and get going on solutions — especially in light of the realities we face every day at City Hall and in our neighborhoods.
State of the City
Existing Conditions and Statistics
Let’s go through those difficult realities, the existing conditions we are living with every day.
At City Hall, our local government’s budget and personnel are smaller than ever. Property values and the corresponding revenues continue to decline by double digit percentages each year. The overall problem is exacerbated by the pending loss of personal property tax revenues due to legislation pushed through during the lame duck session. The accumulated deficit is now up to about $19 million.
However, the immediate financial condition of Flint has improved as the current budget year is expected to end in June without adding to the deficit. Cash flow has improved. The emergency financial manager is in place. The financial information presented here is from the finance department.
One major concern is how to hold up staffing levels in the police and fire departments. The recent financial and changes have been made without further reductions in police and fire operations. Public safety, though, is only marginally funded yet consumes 70 percent of the city’s general fund. The additional millage funding for police and fire protection is projected to be offset within a few years as grant funding for police officers and fire fighters expire.
You can see the five-year budget projection that reflects this difficult reality on the city's web site.
Without a major change in Lansing on the local income tax or state shared sales tax revenues — both of which I advocate — there will be personnel reductions again. The increases in taxes and fees have already been imposed on residents and businesses.
People are paying more. On the expenditure side, cost savings with reductions in city wages and benefits, including changes to the structure of employee health and pension benefits, have already been put in place. There have already been substantial long-term savings such as hundreds of millions of dollars in reductions in retiree health care. This is all in the city’s audit and that is online.
We know too well that the city’s infrastructure is aging. Water main lines break every day. Streets are not being maintained to an adequate standard. Residents are paying more but not seeing enough improvements.
This all means that budget balancing decisions will be focused on what level and type and extent of services the city can afford to provide, and how long-term investments can be made to reduce costs down the road in a sustainable fashion.
In our neighborhoods, there are difficult realities that families and seniors are living with every day.
During the fall of 2012, a citywide residential housing assessment was completed and resulted in a complete inventory of the 52,097 residential parcels of land and property.
More than 10,000 properties, more than 20 percent, are empty lots without a structure, completely vacant. More than 80 percent of all of the houses still in the city were built before 1970. More than 5,000 of these houses were rated poor or substandard and need to be demolished. The number grows every month. This is a $50 million demolition problem, not to mention the expense necessary to improve the open landscapes.
Now in addition to the age of Flint’s housing, metropolitan population patterns are also part of the explanation of what has happened to Flint’s neighborhoods. While there has been a relatively stable population in the county, the city has lost out as families have moved out away from the edges of the urban core.
Without metropolitan population growth, every new house in Fenton results in a unit needing to be demolished in Flint. Flint's neighborhoods need to be updated to compete in a regional housing market or the unending need for demolition will continue. The state’s local government revenue structure also has to be reformed to account for these population shifts.
In the neighborhoods where vacancy and abandonment is concentrated, there is a corresponding high level of crime and violence.
It is a terrible distinction to again have the most violent crimes per capita in the country. This affects every family and business, indirectly if not directly. We have lost too many lives of our promising youth who were confined to environments that were always dangerous and all too often deadly. We must commit to reconnecting with our youth.
In our local economy, while there are a number of bright spots that I will touch on in a moment, there are difficult realities that our businesses are struggling with every week.
This is reflected in the fact that 10 years ago (in 2003), there were 57,287 jobs in Flint. Today there are 40,237. That is up from the bottom of the recession.
For the jobs that are available, many business employers are concerned about the skill and education levels of the available workforce even though Michigan’s Labor Market Information Bureau’s latest monthly report shows that Flint has a 16 percent jobless rate.
The skill gap is serious. About 17 percent of Flint’s adult population 25 years and older does not have a high school level education. Only 12 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. This is a major misfit with the needs of the knowledge economy that companies such as Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy are trying to expand in Flint.
There are opportunities in Flint to better meet resident's and worker's needs. While the resident population is declining, the daytime population is growing and stands today at about 133,882 when you look at the data on residents, worker outflow for commuters, the workers who come in to the city every day and the student population. Flint’s retail demand goes beyond demand from residents.
Looking only at residents, it is also obvious that Flint residents are traveling outside of the city for goods and services. They are spreading out across the region. There is a $154 million retail trade gap for Flint. This represents a promising prospect for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
In each of these areas, city systems, neighborhoods and the economy, there are positive projects and initiatives. But overall, we have to acknowledge the severity and durability of these persistent problems. It is going to take all of us working together toward Flint’s future.
State of the City
We all know the truth. We did not get here overnight, and it is going to take a generation and a new era of dedicated and coordinated efforts to again be a community filled with opportunity.
Every lengthy process starts somewhere with a few steps, and every significant project starts with a few building blocks. I want to step back to what I said a year ago and what has happened since.
We have assets and momentum to build from. In last year’s State of the City Address I mentioned master planning, job development, neighborhood improvements and demonstration projects.
What is the status?
The master planning process is on track. The planning staff, steering committee, advisory groups and everyone else involved has made great progress. I know many of you here this afternoon have been involved in some way. Thousands and thousands of volunteer hours are being put into this.
More than 100 community meetings and online tools have included nearly 2,000 participants. We have had great feedback. The existing conditions report is at www.imagineflint.com. That is all on track. There are a number of important next steps of which I will say more about later in my remarks.
More Flint residents do have jobs. About 1,200 more Flint residents were employed in 2012 than the year before. We are in the upswing from a deep bottom. Diplomat added about 150 jobs, new businesses came into downtown such as El Portrero, McLaren’s proton beam center is set to open, there are new businesses in the industrial park along Buick City and more are on the way.
The Oak Business Center on North Saginaw Street was renovated and is open for business. The massive construction project to build a new Michigan School for the Deaf put people to work and kept that important institution in our community.
More than 500 new and retained permanent jobs were added directly due to our economic development efforts with local businesses, the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce and Michigan Economic Development Corporation. This shows that we are in a good position. The economy is growing through businesses taking the lead themselves and our public and nonprofit investments in economic development are paying off.
Take the I-69 International Trade Corridor that has been set up under a Next Michigan Development Corporation for the four county area from St. Clair County and the Blue Water Bridge through Flint to Shiawassee County. This new organization was established last year. At our last meeting at Bishop Airport we acknowledged the progress that has been made in a year. You have probably seen the billboards up along I-69.
The chairman is Shiawassee County Administrator Margaret McAvoy. She noted at the annual meeting that it has been for her a “special opportunity to be involved since the beginning.” I agree.
The purpose of the state-recognized group is to promote business development around our regional road, rail and airport infrastructure. Of course, Bishop International Airport is at the heart of our efforts.
Have you been through the airport after its recent expansion? If you have any questions about the viability of our region’s future, book a flight through Bishop International Airport and you will be impressed. This is one of our community’s greatest success stories. I want to recognize Bishop Airport Authority members and Director Jim Rice who are here today. Thank you.
We are working hard in our neighborhoods. A number of parks have been improved through the Park Tenders Program with Keep Genesee County Beautiful and with new programs through the Crim Fitness Foundation. There is a new playground at the Haskell Center as one example.
Progress with demolition continued, especially with the infusion of funds from the Neighborhood Stabilization phase 3 initiative that has allowed for nearly 300 units to be taken down in the Pierson Road and North Saginaw Street corridors. Private grant funds also were awarded for a new blight volunteers program from the national mayor’s cities of service coalition that will add a component to the Blue Badge volunteer program.
The application for that process is open now. Take a look at www.flintbluebadge.com.
Speaking of the Blue Badge program, we will soon be opening a new police ministation or Blue Badge Service Center with Kettering University in the building on the corner of North Chevrolet and University avenues. Also, with the neighborhood stabilization funds, more than 20 units now have occupancy permits in the Smith Village neighborhood.
All of these efforts are aimed at improving the quality of life in our neighborhoods. The challenge is that the high levels of violent and property crime are undermining our efforts. As I noted before, crime and abandonment patterns are connected.
We are going to have do a lot of hard work to coordinate our law enforcement efforts and investments with the city, schools and other partners to arrest this downward cycle of decline with abandoned houses, closed schools, youth without opportunity and rising crime.
On one hand, though, I want to thank Flint’s voters for approving a police and fire protection millage. Now it is time for accountability and for new officers to be put on the streets. We can not wait any longer. And, going forward, the next budget needs to include resources to support officers through a police academy so we continue to have a strong and diverse police force.
Flint’s partnership with the Michigan State Police on proactive patrols and the detective bureau and with the sheriff on the operations of the lock-up are essential tools.
The work against gun violence by the attorney general, county prosecutor, federal ATF and other partners is critical to continue. Technology upgrades are allowing this work to be completed more efficiently.
Law enforcements’ efforts need to be supported by the community adequately funded in the state budget and enhanced by new federal legislation. It will take a push on all levels to push down crime in Flint. We must reduce crime and violence to give our investments time to grow.
Indeed, the start of this positive transformation is already underway. There are new ideas and energy and accolades that are coming our way.
There are trees growing in the former Chevy in the Hole site along the Flint River and more will be planted this year.
Flint is embracing our colleges and universities. The UM-Flint chancellor and I worked together with David Lossing, mayor of Linden and this year’s Michigan Municipal League chairman, to kick off a statewide program around town-and-gown partnerships.
This will be more important than ever for us as Michigan State University moves into downtown Flint. Construction will start this year. MSU will occupy the building in 2014.
Downtown’s First Street is literally going to be the great divide with UM on one side of the street and MSU on the other. This will prove that Flint’s colleges and universities truly offer something for everyone: University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Kettering University, Mott Community College and Baker College — a powerful combination.
Finally, for memorable accomplishments of 2012.
Last year in this address I noted that Claressa Shields was joining Team USA. She became a national and international hero in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. From Berston to London and back home with the Gold. Claressa Shields, thank you for inspiring us and representing us with such determination and dignity. We will be investing Community Development Block Grants in Berston Field House this year and it is my hope that we are nurturing more Olympic athletes at that great facility.
Looking ahead into 2013, our task is to put our community assets and building blocks and new projects and developments and great traditions and set them all in alignment against our long-standing challenges. This is the purpose of comprehensive master planning and what we need to accomplish through the Imagine Flint process. This has to be one of our priorities this year.
I propose that our top three priorities for 2013 are selling a long-term financial plan, starting the transition out of receivership and adopting a comprehensive master plan. These three priorities are mutually reinforcing and represent the combination of responsibility, democracy and unity that we must be committed to in order to fulfill the charge of working together toward Flint’s future.
I know that the long-term financial plan is an immediate priority for the emergency financial manager and that work is well underway. I thank you Edward Kurtz for the invitation to myself and city council to participate in the budgeting process and you can count on my involvement.
As I see it, addressing the city of Flint government’s financial blight is as important as the physical blight we have in our neighborhoods. But we need to acknowledge that the city’s finances are related to long-standing challenges that can not be resolved by solely by an appointed manager — no matter how much cooperation is provided by the community.
An appointed manager has been in place 14 months so it is nearly 18 months and time to move on to a sustainable structure that can take on longer-term solutions with the community’s guidance.
As frustrating as it has been for all of us at different times over the past generation, our history teaches us that a prosperous future can not be imposed by any one faction or from the outside.
A prosperous future can only be created by us here working together. Mr. Governor the citizens of Flint deserve to decide the future of the city of Flint.
Mr. Council President, it is our responsibility to put forward a proposal to the state.
In 2013 it is necessary for the city to put in place a long-term comprehensive master plan, set the city’s water supply for the next 30 years and seat a new city council to serve for the next four years. These decisions must be decided in a democratic fashion.
I ask the city council finance committee to convene this week to begin to develop a resolution and proposal to be submitted to the governor and treasurer. Under PA 436, it is required that the mayor and council act in concert, so I ask for us to work together to prepare and submit a joint resolution within the next month. This is our local responsibility.
I ask for a consideration of the proposal for a transition advisory board to be appointed pursuant to PA 436 Sec 23 as soon as all of the legal requirements are met.
It is essential that financial accountability not only be left in place but be increased so that we never add another dollar to the deficit — no matter how tight it gets. The deficit elimination plan that will soon be set in place by the emergency financial manager must be set in stone.
PA 436 Sec. 22 4a requires the implementation of financial best practices. And Sec. 22 4c calls for financial and management training for all elected officials and department heads. Elected city officials in this room have to step up.
Also it is critical that the cost savings and revenue enhancements that have been put in place continue in the budget and deficit elimination plan. This is not a pull back. It is a push forward.
We have to be prepared to make every effort to continue to implement shared services that will improve the quality of life in Flint. The most important is the consolidation of 911 services. We also need to work with other units of government and school districts to find most cost-effective ways to fix our roads, pipes and parks.
In Flint we must stay true to our identity while recognizing that times are changing and we must adapt. One clear example of this is the need to review the City Charter.
I recommend that the proposal for a transition advisory board include a commitment to put charter reforms on the November 2013 ballot so the people lead the process.
These could be individual items that have been proposed in the past such as the elimination of staffing requirements for certain offices, reducing mayoral appointees and department heads and cutting the number of city council members. We could also look at the charter in its entirely through a charter review commission.
I look forward to hearing your views as citizens and working with city council members as we craft a proposal to the state over the coming weeks.
Ultimately, I believe that a combined, collaborative approach that brings together the best of the resources available to the state, county, city and schools is the best way forward for our community. As I have said many times, the job that must be done in Flint is far bigger than any one mayor, manager, governor, council member, county commissioner or leader of any kind. Our task requires responsibility, democracy and unity.
Working Together Toward Flint’s Future, this is our challenge and our charge.
I believe that our task is as great as has faced any generation in Flint yet we must take faith from the efforts of those who have gone before us to reinvent and transform Flint in the face of changing conditions and opportunities.
Before I take up the specific issues around adapting to being a smaller city, needing to cut crime and strengthen our neighborhood and finding a way to transform our economy and put people back to work, consider the alternative to imagining a future Flint and instead sticking with what we have now as it continues to decline and deteriorate.
Looking back at our history for examples on this point, Flint’s economy first boomed in the 1800s as a center of for lumber companies such as Atwood and Crapo. Then that industry started to change, shift to western states due to population migration and also the simple fact that nearly all of the original trees in Mid-Michigan that were mature when the settlers moved in were gone.
What if Flint had decided then to be content to be a shrinking city with fewer lumber companies, fewer employees, fewer families and fewer trees every year. If that had happened, then none of us would be here today.
I am glad that the lumber industry gave birth to the carriage industry with entrepreneurs like David Buick and Dallas Dort. You can still see one of the carriage factories, right there along the river, between where the old Atwood mills were and downtown.
Flint earned the moniker of the Vehicle City when more carriages were produced here than anywhere else in the world. I don’t have to tell anyone today that after the carriage boom there were other vehicles that came on to the roads.
What if Flint’s carriage companies were so fixated on the carriages that they did not evolve, that they continued to only produce carriages for a few collectors who wanted to preserve the past? What if Flint then had decided to be content being a shrinking city every year with fewer carriage companies, fewer employees, fewer families, fewer houses and fewer businesses?
If that had happened, then none of us would be here today.
I am glad that the carriage industry gave birth to the automobile industry and General Motors and the United Auto Workers. I am proud of how Billy Durant, and later Charles Stewart Mott and others, put together the greatest corporation in the world in the 20th century. The birth certificate, as it is called, for General Motors for its first financial loan is here in Flint.
With the power of the auto industry and the will of the union organizers, we gave our birthright to the American middle class and the greatest generation that the world has yet known. What if, in the face of global competition and rising legacy costs and a great recession, President Barack Obama and GM executives and UAW officials decided to throw in the towel and go into a traditional bankruptcy process and liquidate assets and pay off creditors?
The United States would have lost a million more jobs and been thrust into the greatest depression ever known on this continent. I honestly shudder to think at what the state of Flint would be today if that tragedy had occurred.
Thankfully, leaders and workers stepped up. Products were redesigned, quality improvements were implemented, new collective bargaining agreements were made and the American auto industry is stronger than it has been for decades. Right here in Flint, there are more General Motors jobs than at the bottom of the recent recession.
We are here today because the city’s leaders, fathers and mothers of the past generations, never packed up and walked away. They never just kept spending more time on doing less.
I for one, am glad that we are not still today a minor historic lumber village or a simple carriage town or only an auto company city. We possess a progressive tradition of transformation, innovation and change in Flint. We must be willing to take that mantle up again today. We must be willing to transition from reactionary, short-term procedures to reconstructing a diverse, sustainable 21st century city with new jobs, safe neighborhoods and great schools by making long-term investments that will pay off for our children and grandchildren.
When we take a moment to imagine Flint, imagine Flint in 2015, 2020 and 2030. I have been at the workshops and community meetings and talked with thousands and thousands of residents, business owners, students and youth.
When we take a moment to reflect on what it will take to make a reality of what we imagine for the future, it is apparent that we are all envisioning a comprehensive effort that involves economic, social, educational and environmental components.
We can’t just cut away our problems. We won’t survive with an ever smaller slice of the old pie with fewer of the same traditional neighborhoods, with fewer city employees doing the same old jobs and with fewer schools with fewer teachers and less enrichment.
We can’t live off the dried up crumbs of yesteryear. We must bake a new cake with whatever is left in the cupboard and whatever we can bring fresh into the kitchen.
We have to be willing to be tough but we are also going to have to get creative as we make the difficult decisions to adapt smaller city systems, to reduce crime with limited resources and to transform our economy.
The best decisions, I maintain, will come from a democratic process with input from people who represent the full diversity of our community. We have been having this conversation with thousands of people through the master planning process.
The lessons from the 1920 master plan are an important starting point for envisioning a comprehensive effort that involves economic, social, education and environmental components. At that time the city had about the same population as it has today and the city was still going through the carriage to car transition.
The 1920 Nolen Plan, as it is called, begins with a call for “reconstruction” with words that are as applicable today as nearly a century ago.
“Reconstruction and the city: In authorizing the preparation of a comprehensive city plan, Flint joined a notable group of progressive American cities … Flint as a city has developed much like other rapidly growing places in this country (today we would substitute declining for growing), but today it is far ahead of most cities of its class, not only in its frank recognition of past mistakes, but in its keen appreciation of the opportunities of the present and its broad, practical planning for the future.”
Flint Reconstruction — Again
This afternoon I will outline my recommendations for reconstruction, for what the plan’s goals should be based on my own perspective on the key questions facing our community, and I will provide a few examples of how these goals can reasonably be met.
The first question is how we adapt our public systems for a smaller city.
First we have to accept that our population size does not measure our community’s worth and value or quality. As Aristotle put it, “a great city should not be confounded with a populous one.”
Great cities in the 21st century are vibrant and diverse, green and verdant, fun and filled will people of all ages, races and cultures. Flint has been, and can again, be one of these places.
That sure sounds good, doesn’t it?
You may be asking yourself, “How do we do it? Where do we start?”
As I said earlier, one of our goals has to be financial stability for the city of Flint. We can’t continue to cut every year and provide less and less of the same old services, especially when residents and taxpayers are actually being charged more for the same old service. We need to create a new equilibrium where the cost of the service and the value of the service are equivalent and sustainable.
Here’s an example.
Instead of resurfacing a few dozen miles of roads each year, the city needs to put a preventive maintenance program in place to cover more. The Michigan Department of Transportation seals the cracks on their roads like Court Street but Flint doesn’t. We need to shift our available road funding to maintaining what we already have in place so it lasts longer.
And some of our roads have too many car lanes. They need to go on a diet and be redone to have more natural green buffers and room for bikers and pedestrians. A road diet would be good for the city’s budget. This is what I am talking about when I stress the importance of sustainability.
Take Flint's utility system.
We need to replace the old concrete grey infrastructure, especially the storm water system, with innovative blue and green infrastructure that takes advantage of our available land, our rivers and lakes.
A neighborhood that has a lot of vacant land could have a new pond and wetland put in to replace the old concrete storm water pipes. This would create a kind of green and healthy new development type of environment in a neighborhood that is highly distressed today.
Then you could have quality senior housing or apartment complexes that can compete with any others in the county — the type you see as you drive down the expressway. We need more density in our housing and more healthy green space to improve places with vacancy. This is about getting creative. This approach will be cheaper for the city and residents and better for the environment. Over time this would stabilize property values. That helps the city budget.
Next question. How do we strengthen neighborhoods and increase safety?
Let’s go over another policy that needs to be put in place to improve our empty land and high vacancy neighborhoods where we have concentrations of blight and crime.
The city and Genesee County Land Bank demolition programs need to continue. We have word from the state that our community has preliminary approval for $3.7 million for blight elimination demolition funding. This will allow hundreds of units to be cleared — removing dangerous conditions from neighborhoods and improving quality of life.
We also need to address the empty properties with a better program going forward. As an alternative to spending money every year to mow the grass a couple of times and then watch it grow back and look terrible again, we need an investment mentality where funds are allocated to planting trees and hardy ground cover like clover that does not need to be mowed.
This is a case where a small investment up front saves a lot of money over the coming decades and it is much nicer for the remaining residents.
We need to do the same thing with our parks.
One of the great positive legacies from the 1920 Nolen Plan is that we have a park within a quarter mile of every neighborhood in the city. Most cities are trying to achieve this today because it is clear how important this is from a public health and quality of life perspective. We already have it but we are running an old-fashioned maintenance system based on mowing. We need a creative approach to work with nature and nurture indigenous flowers and shrubs that don’t require gasoline mowers.
The city should set aside a portion of the parks millage funds each year to invest in the long-term secession to beautiful diverse landscapes that offer recreational opportunities for residents and support birdlife and plants and fish.
Our public safety challenges are the most obvious example of the need for an investment strategy. We are not going to reduce the rate of crime until we commit to investing in our youth. This is the area where we need to reinvent traditional strategies.
Take our tradition of police liaison or resource officers in the schools.
The Flint Police Department and the Flint Community Schools have operated a joint program since 1958 to fund police officers dedicated to school buildings and youth.
When I had the opportunity to speak with Vice President Joe Biden as he was developing proposals for the president to reduce gun violence, this was my recommendation. The federal COPS program needs to fund cops in schools, a 50-50 match so the funding we have locally for 12 police resource officers could double into 24.
Notice that I am not saying we can tackle all of our problems by ourselves. We need cooperation from the president, Rep. Dan Kildee and the federal government, the state, county and schools.
I asked a lot of people for input on youth development as I was preparing my remarks. I challenged people to put forward their ideas for how we reconnect and reconcile with our youth. I received so many great examples of programs that are working through the Flint School of Performing Arts, Flint Public Library, Boys and Girls Club, Police Activities League, TeenQuest, YouthBuild and more.
Still, we have to do more here as a community because I believe that as much as we have to deal with our financial blight with the city budget and the physical blight we have in our neighborhoods with housing and vacant buildings, we also need to address the social and human blight in our community. We are letting go of too many of our youth. We are allowing lives to be demolished and it has to stop.
As we reinvent our safety and law enforcement strategies we are going to have to do more to reconnect with our youth. Take the school liaison or resource officer program I mentioned earlier.
We have to extend this effort from the school building out into the neighborhoods and families. Police officers can’t do this by themselves. We need to put community resource teams in place that include a community director, a police liaison officer, a school social worker, a city blight inspector, a teacher, a mental health specialist and a trained nurse to go out and connect with the children who are not getting to school.
In the 20th century, community education was at the school. In the 21st century, community education needs to use the school as a home base for going into neighborhoods and homes. This is how we work together toward Flint’s future.
I believe that we have the staff and resources already available to make this a reality. It will take new coordination and focus but it can be done.
If our schools are going to be the home bases for our efforts, then we need to have a coordinated plan for our school facilities, the surrounding roads and parks and sidewalks, coordination with planning and zoning and development. We have suffered due to limited coordination and wasted resources.
Today I request that the chairman of the Flint Planning Commission and the president of the Flint Community School board convene a joint task force to outline a combined plan for school facilities and city infrastructure so that we have a long-term plan to educate our children and support our neighborhoods.
Let’s do this right this time. As a proud product of the Flint Community Schools, I stand ready to help in any way that I can as the task force’s plan comes forward as part of the overall comprehensive master plan.
Finally, how can we reshape the Flint economy?
Education is actually the foundation for a strong economy.
As we work on our neighborhoods and reconnect with our youth, we will also be strengthening our prospects to be successful in the competitive 21st century global knowledge economy. Expanding the state’s new Community Ventures initiative and having a comprehensive workforce development strategy in place through Career Alliance are critical for success and we need to have continued coordination there with the master planning process.
Knowing that we need to include social and educational components in our reconstruction efforts, our top specific economic development goal has to be to diversify our local and regional economy. One of the lessons of our history with the ups and downs of individual industries is that we must put a broader, more diverse economic base in place.
One recommendation is to update the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy or CEDS for the U.S. Department of Commerce. This time the strategy should be a truly regional effort encompassing not only Flint and Genesee County, but all of the I-69 International Trade Corridor. I ask for cooperation from all of our municipal and county partners in the region to work together. This is not only working together toward Flint’s future but a future for all of Mid-Michigan.
Flint is the largest city north of Wayne County and east of Lansing and Ann Arbor in Michigan. We need to take advantage of our position at the center of the prosperous Mid-Michigan region, the place where Interstate 69, Interstate 75 and U.S. 23 come together, the point halfway between Chicago and Toronto, the center of the region that includes manufacturing, agriculture, technology, engineering, financial services, eds and meds and entertainment.
Taking all of this and adding the advantages that will come from the new Renaissance Zones to redevelop and recycle our brownfields and the access to raw water from the Karegnondi water pipeline, then all that is left, is for us to seize the opportunity to create a truly sustainable economic powerhouse region for the 21st century with world class water, talent, industry, land and infrastructure.
We also have a rich pool of local entrepreneurs and artists that can drive our economy from the bottom up. Through a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the cooperation from the Greater Flint Arts Council, the Flint Institute of Arts and the BEST Project and other partners, we are bringing artists into the planning process and we are working on a citywide arts and culture plan.
The fact is that the arts and creative industries are a major driver in the new economy. We have tremendous assets and talent in this area. There are artists in residence that will be setup in every ward. Let’s get the Capitol Theater renovated as one more asset and let’s get going.
So add the arts to the world-class water, talent, industry, land and infrastructure that we have to work with. This opportunity is right in front of us. What do you think, Flint? Are we ready to work together toward Flint’s future? I know I am. I am ready to transition to an era of reconstruction in the 21st century.
In 2013, we must put a long-term financial plan in place, transition with the state and adopt and start to implement the comprehensive master plan, Flint's first since 1960.
As I have requested that the city’s budget and financial plan recognize the need to shift from spending to investing, I also challenge our foundations to be prepared to help implement the comprehensive master plan.
The support of the C.S. Mott Foundation, the Ruth Mott Foundation and the Greater Flint Community Foundation has been critical in the planning process. But this plan is only the beginning.
I ask you to set aside funds to support the specific initiatives that will be detailed in the master plan and to incorporate the goals and objectives and strategies that make up the plan’s framework into your own ongoing grant making so that the resources are available to rebuild the city and community we are imagining.
2013 is going to be a good year for Flint. We are coming out of a series of storms and challenges with building blocks and assets in all nine wards that provide a foundation for our future. We have an opportunity to be the first in the state to put in place a transition advisory board.
And by adopting the master plan we will have a blueprint for the city and community we are imagining.
Important projects will be completed this year.
Powers Catholic High School will open its doors in the historic Fay Hall on the campus of the Michigan School for the Deaf. A Genesys facility will open its doors in downtown Flint. Another round of improvements will be made at Riverbank Park, Berston Field House and the Oak Business Center.
This is our year of transition.
We need to transition to an era of investment and reconstruction, when we set aside the old battles of North Side versus South Side, young versus old, black versus white, council versus mayor, republican versus democrat. We need to work together toward Flint’s future. We need to take all the necessary steps to reform, recycle, redevelop, reconnect and reconcile.
As President Abraham Lincoln stated when he could foresee the transition from war to reconstruction, “I stand before you today with malice toward none, with charity for all, it is time for a new birth.”
It is time for a new birth of democracy, responsibility and unity in Flint.
I ask each of you to join me in a spirit of reconciliation, with an energy of determination and a passion for this city that we love so much, to do everything necessary to make this transition a reality. It is a transition into our future for the sake of all of our families, seniors, businesses, students and, most importantly, children and youth.
The city we can create together will be beautiful, strong and proud, sustainable. The city of Flint for the 21st century. The beating heart of the region. A place of opportunity for all — again.
Thank you. May God bless you and your family. May God bless the city of Flint.
(Note: This report is provided as a service to our readers and a to the group or individual mentioned in the release. Usually, only minor editing is done. The group or individual is responsible for all information provided.)
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