Having said that, Journal columnist Andrew Heller is a must-read for anyone hoping to keep tabs on the city. He's been on the job for 18 years, and he clearly revels in "getting paid to be crabby." He's sort of like Flint's version of Mitch Albom, minus the smarmy platitudes, smug self-assurance, saccharin writing style, and massive bank account. Heller is often funny and insightful, particularly when it comes to his coverage of Flint's Mayor Don "The Don" Williamson. A brief example in the lead up to the recent election:
"Flint, do you know where your Don is? Honest to gosh, where's he been? I see his campaign signs everywhere, so I know he's out there, but other than that, you'd hardly know an election was nigh. This last month is supposed to be the silly season. Where's the Don's customary announcement of some bizarro project that will turn Flint around -- like, say, turning Genesee Towers into the world's biggest haunted house or making the former Forest Park into a hunting preserve?"And he seems to elicit some very entertaining responses to his work from the public, like this recent missive from Thorgrimm44 reflecting on Williamson's reelection.
"All I know is the sooner I can get out of this nutty town the better. I hate it here. There is no reason to stay and putting this nut back in office is just another example of how low the IQ in this town has gone...You are also correct in saying its going to be a wild ride. God help this city if that goofball gets to re-write the city charter. Next the money will read...in Don we trust...I could go on but I have packing to do."
Indeed, Heller's greatest accomplishment may be putting in print what scores of civic boosters have been unwilling to admit about Flint, an admission that's really the first step in ultimately transforming the place into something better:
Yes, we have a bad image. But it's not an undeserved image. To the contrary, it's very deserved, through little fault of our own.
Flint is ground zero. A nuclear bomb of economic change landed smack upon our formerly fair city. Manufacturing jobs, as they have all over the country, were vaporized in the blast. Nothing new has replaced them.
As a result, we lead the league in a whole host of social ills. Poverty, drug use, crime, obesity, joblessness. You name it.
What's worse is there's little we can do about many of our troubles. Move Toyota or Honda in here, sure, we'd improve quickly. Poverty would drop, crime would fall and so on. But that's not bloody likely to happen, now is it?
Good people don't want to hear it, and smart people should never believe it, but it's true: Our problems aren't going away. Barring a miracle, the Flint you have now is largely the Flint you'll have five years from now.