By Coner Segren
The Step Up, Pick Up program will combine fitness with community litter pickup, offering cash prizes of $1000 (1st prize), $500 (2nd prize) and $250 (3rd prize). The program will offer cash prizes to community groups that pick up the most trash and debris in their areas. Groups can collect trash from Oct. 19-25 to address litter in their areas and compete for the prizes. Groups must sign up and complete a form at the end of the event to be eligible for prizes.
Glenn Wilson, executive director of the non-profit Communities First, Inc., described the new program at the regular monthly meeting of Flint Neighborhoods United (FNU) Oct. 3. He said Communities First will launch the Step Up, Pick Up program, along with FNU and Keep Genesee County Beautiful.
“This is going to be a way to get some cash and have some friendly competition,” Wilson said. Communities First also is offering a Litter Champion Award, to recognize individuals who go above and beyond to take care of litter on a regular basis. They will be nominated by the community, acknowledged on social media, and given a $25 gift card. A nomination form is forthcoming.
“People have been doing things in the community for a long time and they have been recognized the way they should,” Wilson said.
Blight and Litter – the battle continues
Blight Court Judge Torchio Feaster emphasized the need for more Neighborhood Safety Officers (NSOs) to help combat blight in the city. “We lost one due to COVID, and we lost a few more during the Coronavirus pandemic, so we are hoping to get to a minimum of 12,” Feaster said.
“The only way for the blight court to be successful is for us to have Neighborhood Safety Officers who are writing tickets.” Feaster also said his hope is to eventually have 18 NSOs throughout Flint, meaning at least two in each ward. Currently Flint only has 6. Flint residents can sign up for the Step Up, Pick Up program by clinking the link provided here. Torchio Feaster and the Blight Office can be reached for questions at (810) 410-1205
Remediation of Buick City Site Stalled by PFAS and other chemicals
Grant Trigger, the Michigan Cleanup Manager for RACER Trust, an environmental cleanup and redevelopment company, gave an update on development plans for the former site of Buick City.
The company had some success in getting companies like SpiralWeld and Lear Corporation to build on the site. However, in 2018 concentrations of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS above State of Michigan standards were found at several locations around Buick City. PFAS is a common type of chemical runoff found in old manufacturing sites.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Per and Polyfluoroalkyl substances are a group of man-made chemicals that includes PFOA, PFOS, GenX, and many other chemicals. These chemicals are very persistent in the environment and in the human body – meaning they don’t break down and they can accumulate over time.
An update on the company’s website stated, “A major project to stop PFAS discharges, the rerouting of a storm sewer line through Buick City, is nearly complete. We are coordinating final activities and expect to finish this work before the end of the year.”
Racer Trust used to hold in-person conferences to give updates on development, but this has ceased during the COVID pandemic. “One thing we’re all sharing right now is learning new communication techniques and the better we can communicate that’s better for all of us,” Trigger said. Instead, the company will be holding its first virtual meeting on Oct. 22, at 5:30 p.m.
Summaries of the company’s findings can also be found at the link provided here www.racertrust.org/buickcity18. Questions about activities at the former Buick City site can be answered by contacting (855) 722-3741.
Distracted Driving Causes Thousands of Deaths Every Year
Kip Darcy, a PhD candidate in Urban and Regional Planning at MSU specializing in automated vehicles, delivered a presentation of the dangers of distracted driving, as well as potential solutions.
“I think we all know folks who are perplexed or obsessed with their phones, and other activities within the vehicle,” Darcy said. “And they’re not focused on the task of driving and that has very real cost for us.” In 2018 alone, 2841 lives were claimed by distracted driving according to a study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
Michiganders also suffer from high costs associated with owning a car and driving. Michiganders pay the second highest automotive insurance rates in the country, only behind New Jersey, according to Darcy. “The key issue would be, is there an opportunity to free people from the model of vehicle ownership, which in Michigan can be quite expensive.”
One of Darcy’s proposed solutions is for more automated transportation. “There is an argument to be made for moving further along in the automation level, because so many people are not focused on the task of driving,” Darcy said. “I see [Flint] as an amazing place to embrace technology and look at new opportunities.”
In addition to removing distraction from driving, Darcy also says automation could open more equitable access to transportation by reducing the costs associated with owning or leasing a car. By allowing for more flexible transportation options, he argues, it could allow people to spend their money on things besides car insurance or repairs.
While other cities have taken a ride-sharing, or “Uber Model,” approach to transportation, Darcy does not think this would be a good fit for Flint. “It assumes availability, and it also assumes you’re banked or that you have access to credit cards.”
Instead, Darcy stresses the need for more flexible vehicle options where vehicles are available on a more as-needed basis, either to rent or to hire or to own and for a broader range of purposes. “Here in Flint we may find that we have neighbors who aren’t banked and that they may need the vehicle to get to a job in Auburn Hills. So, I think we need to look at new models that have flexible rental/lease options.”
Next FNU meeting via Zoom
The meeting was conducted once again over Zoom due to the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic. The meeting was moderated by Theresa Roach, program director of the Crim Foundation; and Lucille James, FNU vice-president; with the assistance of FNU president Carma Lewis. The next Zoom FNU meeting will be Saturday, Nov. 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
EVM reporter, Coner Segren, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.