By Tammy Beckett
Amid the pandemic and the outcries of the Black Lives Matter protests, Flint Neighborhoods United met via Zoom for its monthly meeting June 6, discussing how to tackle a wide range of problems, including systemic racism, blight and excessive force.
More than 50 participants and community leaders from many Flint neighborhoods came together electronically, expressing through many comments and presentations the goal of making Flint stronger, safer, and more beautiful.
Michael Freeman, executive director of the Genesee County Land Bank, was the featured speaker. Others included U.S. Representative Dan Kildee, Flint Mayor Shelton Neeley, and various community leaders.
No foreclosures during pandemic
Freeman said there would be no foreclosures this year due to the pandemic. However, homes and properties are available for sale among the total of more than 15,000 properties currently owned by the Land Bank. Freeman stated tenants who pay their rent but have landlords who do not pay their taxes are not evicted, so some residences that are owned by the Land Bank are occupied.
Resident Meshelle Merritt expressed concern that there was a glitch in the computer systems that are currently in use by the city and county that processes tax payments, and it needs to be audited. The same company handles the back-end of the automated system, she said, and “I think there may be a glitch that causes people to lose their home.”
Addressing issues of blight, dumping, and squatting, Freeman stated that Land Bank signs that might alert neighbors to which homes are owned by the Land Bank actually cause more harm than good.
Portal one way to determine ownership for blight complaints
Resident Lucille James recommended using the property portal to determine ownership when neighbors suspect a property is being used for dumping or illicit activities. The portal can be accessed at www.flintpropertyportal.com. The Genesee County Land Bank can be reached at (810) 257-3088. For inquiries on sales, use Ext.2, and for questions regarding land contract, rental, and option payments, use extension 3. Office hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If there is suspected illegal activity, the police should be notified.
Kildee: Policing Act would end chokeholds, limit military sales
In light of the recent and ongoing racism manifested in police responses to people of color, Fifth District U.S. Rep. Kildee described a new act he recently co-sponsored. The Policing Act seeks to not only end racial and religious profiling, but also build trust between communities and law enforcement, he said.
The goal is to address systemic racism. The Act further seeks to end discriminatory and excessive policing by banning the use of chokeholds, investigating police misconduct, limiting military equipment that can be used on American streets, and establishing a National Police Misconduct Registry
Kildee also introduced H.R. 7103 which will redirect the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation to establish a National Land Bank Network, and for other purposes.
Blight “part of racial inequity,” Mayor Neeley says
Mayor Sheldon Neeley announced he is in the process of implementing a six-point action plan to speak to system racism. The plan includes developing a Black Lives Matter Advisory Council. For more information on or to get involved, go to https://www.eastvillagemagazine.org/2020/06/07/flints-black-lives-matter-advisory-council-application-process-open/
Commenting on the city’s blight challenges, Neeley called blight part of “racial inequity” and state he and his administration are continuing to tackle that issue. He also announced Republic Services, the city’s trash contractor, has been put on notice for breach of contract . He explained the city also has contractors for mowing green spaces such as gateways and vacant lots, and said residents can contact Alissa Paquette, firstname.lastname@example.org, for mowing concerns on those city-owned public spaces.
Beautification efforts adjusted around pandemic
Nancy Edwards from Keep Genesee County Beautiful said the agency was has been notified it received a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Flint for programming. However, due to the pandemic, “Instead of funding programs or events in parks that traditionally gather large crowds of people, we are focusing on neighborhood-based, socially distance, safe programs,” Edwards said.
Those interested in applying for program funding will need to fill out a program request form. For more information, contact Edwards at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Funding is limited.
Those interested in a mural arranged by the Flint Public Arts Project are asked to email the information on the proposed building mural site to email@example.com.
Chelsea Wentworth of Michigan State University (MSU) stated the Flint Leverage Points Project, a partnership between the Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF) and MSU, is recruiting new participants for a digital project on how community members access food during COVID-19. She said some results already are available. More information is available on the website: https://www.canr.msu.edu/flintfood/ Wentworth implored participants to reach out to her at “firstname.lastname@example.org or to Joe Schipani at email@example.com if with questions or to be involved.
Library relocation delayed, but moving forward now
Kay Schwartz, director of the Flint Public Library, updated the group on the progress on the relocation of the library at Courtland Center. Things have taken much longer than originally expected due to the pandemic. She said “We’re almost done moving, then we will be waiting for a certificate of occupancy at Courtland before we can even bring staff in to START unpacking.”
Following that, library staff will set up and determine how library services will be provided in light of the Covid 19 restrictions. Unfortunately, she said, it will be several weeks before the library can be opened up to the public, but people are encouraged to use their online resources at https://fpl.info
EVM staff writer Tammy Beckett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.