Saturday, January 30, 2016

Flint Water Crisis: Curt Guyette Named Michigan Journalist of the Year

Investigative journalist Curt Guyette, who ran the news department at Detroit Metro Times for nearly two decades, was named "Journalist of the Year" by the Michigan Press Association for his work at the ACLU of Michigan exposing the Flint water crisis.

Michael Jackman of the Metro Times reports:
"While the city and state were still insisting that the city’s analyses of the water supply showed the water to be safe, Guyette began to uncover evidence to the contrary. After a draft EPA memo was given to Guyette exclusively by a resident, Guyette became the first to break news that water tests conducted by an independent expert, Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, showed that the water quality in one Flint family’s home was so contaminated that it met federal qualifications for toxic waste. 
"Guyette and the ACLU of Michigan then joined with a coalition of Flint residents, Edwards and his team to collect nearly 300 water samples from homes throughout the city. As Guyette reported, Edwards’ tests proved that the lead contamination in Flint was severe and potentially widespread, posing an especially significant threat to the city’s children. 
"Combing through reams of public documents, Guyette also broke news of flaws in the city’s testing protocols, which produced misleading results that were reported to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Moreover, Guyette’s efforts also raised concerns about the MDEQ’s oversight of the water tests and the US Environmental Protection Agency ‘s response to the burgeoning crisis."

Friday, January 29, 2016

Flint Water Crisis: Crime and Sin

"As truckload after truckload of bottled water pours in; after the National Guard goes door-to-door; after Cher and Pearl Jam do their part; after Michael Moore tells it like it is to Larry O’Donnell; after thousands of parents take their kids in for lead testing; after Rachel Maddow and her crew pull up their equipment; after plumbers estimate and politicians fulminate, we still are left with one gigantic mess, and at the heart of it is a grave crime and sin."
— Jan Worth-Nelson, East Village Magazine

Read the rest here.

Tales of a Flint River Rat



Reposting from May 31, 2008.

Gerry Godin remembers his harrowing adventures on the Flint River in the days when kids could have unscheduled, unsupervised fun and bike helmets were not required:
The area of Gray and Maxson was my old neighborhood. We were known as "river rats" by the city kids.

My friends' houses down there are gone now. One of my old friends was caught off guard when it flooded in the '70s, and I don't think he even had time to move his car.

I probably was gone by the time of the yellow cloud, but does anybody remember when the river became florescent green in the late '60s? It looked just like the fake water in a View-Master slide. We followed it back to "Chevy in the Hole" and it was still being discharged when we got there.

We used to walk down the middle of the river all the way to downtown at the Saginaw Street bridge when the buildings were still built on the bridge. The river was most shallow in the middle with the deep spots near the bank.

One time when we were bored we came up with a game where we all put "dares" in a hat and drew them out. One kid had to swim across the river in high flood with ice flows and he almost drowned. My way of saving him was a bit odd but it worked. I dove in and got him to the opposite shore and, not wanting to walk two miles back, we dove back in with him holding my neck. We made it but were carried by the strong current almost to the I-75 overpass. I knew better because my father always helped drag the river for bodies and even got on the front page of The Flint Journal once.

Another time some of us got stuck during flood time on one of the I-75 bridge foundations and we had to be rescued. I remember it was shown on channel 5 news.

Being a river rat I have many stories.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Flint Water Crisis: What Took You So Long?


"The national media, along with various activists and celebrities, are suddenly obsessed with my beleaguered hometown of Flint, Michigan, after it emerged that state officials ignored clear signs of lead poisoning in the city’s water supply. Rachel Maddow is outraged. Erin Brockovich is on the case. Jesse Jackson is there to offer spiritual guidance. Cher—yes, Cher—called Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder a “murderer” on Twitter for his alleged crimes against the former factory town that Michael Moore put on the map with Roger & Me.

"I don’t blame them and the rest of the country for being angry. I’m angry, too. Who wouldn’t be? But I have to ask: What took you so long?"

Read the rest here in Politico Magazine.

How Flint Became a Punchline

If you are going to read one story about the Flint Water Crisis, it should be local writer Connor Coyne's heartfelt, comprehensive and, ultimately, devastating take on what has happened to the Vehicle City in Vox. Part personal essay, part media criticism, and part political analysis, it describes the forces that have battered the city for decades, and the resilience of Flintoids as they battle seemingly overwhelming odds.
I was still skeptical about the extent of the problem, though, because the seeming diabolism of my friends' worries just sounded too ludicrous to be true, even for Flint. Even for a city in which one mayor had suggested we cut down all of the trees and put them up for sale and another had commissioned a massive bronze statue of himself, poisoning children with tap water just sounded too cartoonish to be real. 
The idea of the massive conspiracy involving collusion between local, state, and federal authorities that must have been involved in such a situation was too absurd to consider. Wasn't evil supposed to be banal instead of burlesque? 
After a parade of discolored water, E. coli boil notices, and total trihalomethanes violations, I finally had to concede the burlesquishness of evil. 
In October 2015, the state finally confirmed the worst of our fears: There was lead in the water after all. The city switched back to Detroit water, but the damage had already been done. We, and our children, were being poisoned.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Flint Water Crisis

“What took the governor so long to do something about this?” asked Dan Reyes, 46, an autoworker and Flint resident who brought bottles full of the city’s tap water to offer to legislators. “The message is clear to us: Flint is a predominantly minority, poor community. In Flint, you don’t matter to Snyder’s brand of politician.”

Read the rest here.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Skylarking


A Buick Skylark Limited surviving — barely — on the streets of San Francisco.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Flint Maps: Chevy in the Hole with Cloud Shadows


Great map of dear old Flint. Chevy in the Hole is front and center. Michigan School for the Deaf is lower left with the Crescent Drive mini neighborhood and park in front of it. Atwood, with a baseball diamond, is at the far right roughly in line with Chevy in the Hole. The big field just above Chevy is the park behind Durant-Turri-Mott Elementary, with Ballenger Park above it. You can spot Dupont Street, follow it up to Welch Blvd., take a left and it wraps around to Clio Rd., which runs off the top of the map. Those with good eyes can identify the big fields that form Bassett Park, Haskell Community Center, and nearby Civic Park School.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Colorless Smoke



"As he gazed at the four names on the screen, and considered the memories those names brought back, he felt the past silently mingling with the present, as a time that should have been long gone hovered in the air around him. Like odorless, colorless smoke leaking into the room through a small crack in the door."

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

International Students Find the American Dream — in Flint


In the summer of 2009, I met a group of Kettering and UM-Flint students from India playing cricket at Mama Calvo Field near Whittier and Central. It got me thinking about just who is coming to Flint during an era when many residents are leaving.

My recent story in the New York Times chronicles the international students from more than 40 countries who are coming to Flint in record numbers. Here's how it begins:
A few months after Abhishek Y. Utekar left Mumbai, India, to start an M.B.A. program at the University of Michigan campus in Flint, his landlord gave him a driving tour of his new home. Dennis Brownfield watched out for his tenants, and he wanted Mr. Utekar to understand the dynamics of a city often defined by deindustrialization and decay. His car provided the first lesson. It was a Honda Civic with a license plate that read “GM LEFT,” a commentary on the 70,000 automotive jobs that have disappeared over the years in this birthplace of General Motors.
They rolled to a stop in the empty parking lot between the main library and Central High School, an imposing brick building shuttered because of falling enrollment and budget cuts. “Now make sure you’ve got your seatbelt on because I’m going to show you an American custom,” Mr. Brownfield said. He shifted into reverse, cranked the steering wheel hard to the right, gunned the engine and popped the clutch. The result was a dizzying, deftly executed series of backward 360s. For a final flourish, Mr. Brownfield yanked the emergency brake to abruptly change directions.
“That’s called a doughnut,” he said when they had skidded to a stop. 
“It’s how we have fun in Michigan.” 
Rattled but impressed, Mr. Utekar realized: This was going to be a lot different than India.
Read the rest of the story here.