By Tom Travis
Despite shouting, near physical fights, repeated racial slurs, and loss of quorum that have continued to characterize a dysfunctional Flint City Council, the elected body still managed to conduct some of the people’s business.
Those actions included acceptance of $21 million in grants — for an upgraded pump station, for St. John’s Street neighborhood, for Choice Neighborhoods assistance to the Genesee County Land Bank. Their actions also included allocation of $350,000 for a “cold case unit” for the Flint police.
And the council heard alarmed updates from public officials about sewage backups following the recent rain and bitter complaints from a resident who said he still has raw sewage in his basement.
Loss of quorum and a reconvened council complete agenda
Twice a month the city council’s Special Affairs Committee meet one hour before the City Council as a whole. In Monday’s meeting of the Special Affairs Committee, chaired by Council Vice-President Ladel Lewis (Ward 2), arguments of parliamentary issues congested a better part of the meeting. After a one-hour chaotic, bickering filled meeting the committee lost quorum as council members left their seats.
The City Council as a whole peacefully reconvened after a brief break. Eight council members were present, with only Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 5) absent.
The previous week’s Council Committee meeting on Wednesday, April 5 was a debacle and ended much the same way as Monday’s Special Affairs meeting. During that meeting, Councilperson Eric Mays (Ward 1) spewed racial slurs, calling other council members “handkerchief head negro.” Mays uttered the the racial slur more than 20 times as he yelled and walked out of the council meeting. Before Mays left, he and Councilperson Quincy Murphy (Ward 3) stood and argued face to face. Local activist Art Woodson approached the two from his seat in the audience to get between and subdue the two arguing elected officials. That meeting ended due to the lack of quorum as council members left their seats during the ensuing rampaging outbursts.
In addition to the chaos, city officials report on flooding and sewage back ups during deluge of rain
City Administrator Clyde Edwards, along with city ‘s Sewer System Supervisor Entrice Mitchell addressed concerns from council about recent sewage back ups in the city, mainly due to Pump Station number five failing.
Edwards told the council the city’s sewer system was “overwhelmed from the tremendous amount of rain.” He pointed out that municipalities in Shiawassee County and Owosso were also struggling with flooding and sewage back ups.
Edwards explained the city’s sewer system is designed to handle 30,000 gallons of sewage and during the deluge of rains the system was taking on 100,000 gallons of sewage.
Mitchell told the council sewage system updates are needed but cost “over a million dollars.” Mitchell explained, during the heavy rains, he went into the pump houses and observed, “where there is normally tw0 feet of sewage being processed I saw 10 feet of sewage.” Mitchell said he’s worked at the city for 25-years and has never seen the backup this bad.
Councilperson Quincy Murphy (Ward 3) asked if this will happen again and what should residents do with sewage back up? Residents can call the Water/Sewer Department at (810)766-7079; according to the city’s website, the lines are answered 24-hours a day.
Several homes along the Welch Boulevard neighborhood remain affected. Distraught Flint resident Sherdon Johnson told council that he still has raw sewage and pleaded for assistance to clean it up.
During council response to public speaking, Councilperson Dennis Pfeiffer (Ward 8) compared the city’s response of the November, 2021, Hogarth Street home explosion (located in Pfeiffer’s ward) to the sewage back up in residents’ homes and said that it should have been the same.
Pfeiffer recalled following the Hogarth home explosion help centers were opened, food was provided, Catholic Charities provided assistance for several days to the residents surrounding the area of the explosion. Pfeiffer said the “same assistance” should have been provided to residents plagued with sewage back ups in their homes. Pfeiffer’s remarks were followed by fellow council members and audience members applauding and verbally agreeing.
Ethics and Accountability Board Vice President, William Harris spoke during public speaking and said, “I am appalled to the city’s response to the man complaining about sewage in his basement. I don’t understand why the city didn’t put them up in a hotel.”
Council takes care of “city business” – appointments and resolutions appoved
Robert Jewell (Ward 6) was reappointed to the Flint Planning Commission for a three-year term expiring on March 23, 2026.
Matthew Telliga (Ward 8) was reappointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a three-year term expiring March 31, 2026.
Micah Hutchinson (Ward 7) was appointed to the Ethics and Accountability Board for a three-year term expiring on June 26, 2026.
Bishop Roger L. Jones Sr.’s appointment to the Hurley Board of Hospital Managers was sent back to Governmental Operations Committee for further review.
Approved resolutions from Monday’s meeting include:
$350,000 will be allocated to the Flint Police Department to establish a Cold Case Unit for a two-year period from 2023 to 2025.
Three grant resolutions were approved including:
The council approved the acceptance of a $1 million grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resource (MDNR) for the St. John Street Neighborhood Memorial Park/Flint River Trail. According to the resolution, continued funding will be available in subsequent fiscal years as funds are available.
The council approved a $20 million grant from the State of Michigan ARPA fund and the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). This grant will fund “enhancements” to the Avon Pumping Station, Battery B Grit Flow Control, Electrical Distribution improvements and the Waste Unloading Station.
The council approved the implementation of a $1.5 million grant from the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant Critical Community Improvement Plan to contract with the Genesee County Land Bank Authority to demolish publicly-owned properties in the Choice Neighborhoods area.
Additional resolutions approved by council:
— $197,780 to purchase four Special Service Vehicles for use by the Flint Fire Department, from LaFontaine Automotive Group.
— $525,353 for the purchase of a combination sewer truck for the city’s Water Service Center, from Fredrickson Supply company.
An embattled resolution over funding the operation of the city’s Public Health department was sent back to Special Affairs Committee. The resolution calls for $300,000 from the City’s budget to fund the department.
The city council chambers on the third floor of City Hall are being renovated over the next two to three months. During the renovation council meetings will be held in the Dome conference room behind city hall.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.