By Tammy Beckett
Flint Neighborhoods United (FNU) kicked off the new year at their monthly meeting Jan. 4 with a presentation about the psychological effects of the Flint water crisis, admonitions to get water meters replaced, and facilitated discussion from FNU President Carma Lewis about what the gathering of mostly civic leaders should pursue in the coming months.
They also heard from the city’s new ombudsperson and elected two new officers.
Study suggests Flint residents have more emotional distress
UM – Flint Professor Thomas Wrobel reported on his research-in-process into effects of the water crisis. He said his findings suggest that among the college students he surveyed, “Flint residents reported more emotional distress including depression, anxiety and stress than non-residents following the water crisis.”
Among other findings of the study, residents surveyed said they trust social media and doctors the most, and government the least.
Additionally, his study suggests, residents were better informed on lead in the water than on legionella, which led to 12 documented deaths and likely dozens more in 2014-2015 at the height of the water crisis.
Wrobel asked attendees to consider completing a survey provided, so he could cast a wider net of participants. He said he needed more Flint residents for continued research. Glenn Wilson from Community First, Inc., a local developer, asked if continued research was just for the sake of research, or if it would provide some benefits to the community.
Wrobel stated such research would “keep Flint and its concerns on the radar.” Flint activist Joyce Ellis-McNeal suggested a study of the school children of Flint should be done. Flint Ombudsperson Tané Dorsey (see below) added, such research is the “bread and butter of litigation.”
Ellis-McNeal expressed deep concern for the young people of Flint who she said have much more severe anger issues than she had ever seen in the past. She said she wondered if there might be a link to the lead in the water.
Ombudsperson “bridges the gap”
Introducing herself to the group, the city’s new ombudsperson, Tané Dorsey, summarized some of the duties of her post. Dorsey said her role is to be a mediator between residents and city administration. This includes city employees as well as city services such as MTA, damages incurred during city services, and blight.
She said her job was to “bridge the gap for residents and the city.” Dorsey stated if a resident had a damage complaint, there was a strict 45-day window to file. No extensions could be made beyond that time for any reason. Dorsey provided her phone number (810) 237-2020 and email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. FNU president Lewis assured the group Dorsey could be called back later for further discussion on the issues.
Blight of central concern
In discussion of what FNU should address in upcoming meetings, many neighborhood leaders expressed concern about blight and said they would like to see presentations on that. Other suggestions were gun violence, dumping, municipal finance, vermin control, and juvenile anger and conflict resolution.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley was in attendance, and stated emphatically, as he had at the last FNU meeting, that “blight is a priority.” Neeley said the blight department is being restructured and a citizens’ guide is being updated. He also indicated implementation of the city’s charter approved by voters in 2017, and bonding issues were being followed closely and explored.
Water meter replacement mandatory
Letters from the city regarding meter replacement are legitimate, Ellis-McNeal stated, adding that it is imperative that residents have their meters replaced in a timely manner while it is still free to do so.
Those who do not take advantage of this will be forced to do so at their own expense in the future, she emphasized; the new meters are mandatory. Residents should call Vanguard Utility Service, Inc. as soon as possible at (810)360-2272 to make an appointment.
Lucille James of the Brownell-Holmes Neighborhood and Talia Gordon of the College Park Neighborhood were elected by acclamation and verified by ballot for the positions of vice president and secretary respectively.
FNU meetings move starting in March
While next month’s meeting of the Flint Neighborhoods United will again be held at the Flint Public Library, Lewis announced the March meeting will be held at the Masonic Temple in downtown Flint, which is wheelchair accessible. The change is due to the library’s move out of its present location as major remodeling begins following passage of a November millage.
Lewis explained the library will host a “Moving Party” Feb. 29. From March 1 through May 1, there will be no library services available. Then, as of May 2, the library will be available at its temporary location at Courtland Center during renovations of its Kearsley Street home.
Among the attendees at the Jan. 4 meeting were Mayor Neeley’s wife Cynthia Neeley, a candidate for the 34th district state representative seat vacated by her husband on his election; and Gary Jones, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Poverty Task Force community affairs liaison.
In other news
The 5thAnnual African American Film Series will kick off with “A Ballerina’s Tale” on Jan. 9. On Feb. 13, the Flint Institute of Arts will show “Mr. Church.” Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Movies begin at 7 p.m.
New EVM Staff Writer Tammy Beckett can be reached at email@example.com.