Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Letter from Canada

Susanne Grundison, the new owner of Gypsy Jack's house, sends a message to Flintoids from British Columbia:

"I have enjoyed all the feedback, support and dialogue on my 'leap of faith'. I was contact by a neighbor of the home and she was kind enough to send me photos of the inside taken within the last 6 months. You are correct that the photo of the home in it's original glory is a far cry from where it is today. But, you can still see the good bones so there is still optimism. I am trying to get out there to visit the property before the bad weather comes, I may just have to organize boarding the home up just to leave it in the state it is now and come out in the spring/summer to start working on it when the weather is better. So please don't be offended if it is boarded up for now. If you could watch over it until I get there it would be appreciated. I have been reading up on Flint, your colorful history, your spirit, and am happy that you are all passionate about your neighbors. I look forward to meeting you all. "

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Canadian rides to the rescue?

A tip of the cowboy hat to Susanne Grundison, a seemingly good-natured Canadian from British Columbia who purchased the Wild West home of Flint legend Roy "Gypsy Jack" Steffenson Jr. on eBay.

"The house intrigues me," she said. "I hope when I get there it continues to intrigue me."

Bryn Mickle, who appears to be almost single-handedly filling The Flint Journal with copy, tells the tale:

With a starting bid of $2,000, the house had just four bids before Grundison placed the final and winning bid.

Grundison, who lives in British Columbia, paid another $499 in closing costs and will also have to pay $626 in unpaid summer taxes.

Although she knows she is taking a risk buying a house based on a picture on the Internet, Grundison said with Gypsy Jack's colorful history she couldn't pass it up.

She has already looking for a local property manager to take a look inside and said she may fix it up as a rental, although it could be months before she gets a chance to visit her new acquisition.

But there is one thing she can't figure out given the house's lore: "Why does nobody in the United States want to buy it?" said Grundison.

Ahh, that's a good question, Susanne, but I'm sure the answer will be revealed on your first visit to The Vehicle City when you discover that the house is in a lot worse shape than the outdated eBay photo led you to believe. But let's not be negative. Here's hoping this is the start of better days for the former home of Gypsy Jack.

Chevy dealer folds

The world's largest Chevy dealership, with branches stretching from Alabama to Texas, goes belly up and 2,700 lose their jobs.

Flint Postcards: Flower Gardens and Residence of C.S. Mott

Crime and Punishment (and media coverage)

Mary — who grew up in Flint, moved to San Francisco, and then returned to the Vehicle City — reflects on how crime is covered in the two cities:

"The Flint Murder Map bothers me on a couple levels. I hate the catastrophic loss of life, of course. San Francisco has murders every day, too, but the Chronicle and Examiner don't document every crime that is committed. I was mugged twice in SF. Once on the bus (broke my baby finger but kept my purse). The second time was a block from my 5th Avenue and Lake Street apartment. No injuries, but my purse was stolen. The cops shrugged their shoulders, and I had to write up my own police report.

"Ironically, I've never been a victim of crime in Flint. (Oops, I just remembered the vandalism to my Chevy Chevette 30 years ago. The driver's side window was shot out when I was living at 3rd Street and Grand Traverse, and someone tried to steal or destroy the antenna. It might have been the "firethorn" color that enraged the perpetrators.) I don't have an overwhelming sense of impending danger when I leave home, though. But if I'd been mugged in Flint (unlike SF), there would have been stories in the Police Blotter in The Flint Journal. It's a question of scale. Anything that happens to anybody is news in Flint. Tragedy sells newspapers wherever one lives.

"I know some of the jaded Flint readers will think I'm a Pollyanna. Nothing will change if people don't believe it can. I'm not even talking about the power of positive thinking. Places can be revitalized and reborn. As long as Flint doesn't hang all its hope and grief on General Motors, it can move forward. Biogas will not be the savior, but it could be a little piece of the puzzle for getting Flint back on its feet."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Flint Artifacts: Town House Matchbook

Saturday, September 27, 2008

City management the Don Williamson way

The Kearsley Park Pavillion

Kay Kelly, who is widely credited with reviving the fortunes of Kearsley Park while serving as a city project director, got the ax from Mayor Don Williamson earlier this month.

Kelly told Joe Lawlor of The Flint Journal that she didn't know why she got fired, but she "somehow must have irritated (Williamson)." She added: "(Williamson) doesn't have the best interests of the city at heart. He wants power."

The mayor already has a replacement in mind:

"Mayor Don Williamson is apparently considering a county commissioner for a key parks job, a potential move his critics are calling a political hiring," Lawlor reports.

"Commissioner Miles Gadola, R-Grand Blanc, said he is being considered for the Kearsley Park project director job. Gadola would replace Kay Kelly, who was abruptly fired on Friday after five years in the position.

"Gadola, who said he does not have any parks experience, said he's eager to learn on the job.

"'It's an intriguing job and one that I'm interested in,' said Gadola, who was laid off this year from his position as a city probation officer. Gadola was a victim of city budget cuts."

As usual, the mayor's actions are having financial repercussions:

"The $65,000 Kearsley Park position was paid out of a two-year, $150,000 Ruth Mott Foundation grant that's now in jeopardy.

"Steve Wilson, executive director of the foundation, said the foundation may move the money elsewhere.

"'It's a significant enough change that we would need a new proposal from the city,'Wilson said. 'Our question is why change something that's very successful? All of us are proud that Kearsley Park has been restored and is a very safe park in the heart of the city.'"

Not to worry says Williamson. He promises to fund the position out of his own pocket if the Ruth Mott Foundation pulls out.

The situation prompted Councilman Scott Kincaid to say he believes Williamson wants to give Gadola the job so that the mayor could influence the county board. The Flint Journal's Andy Heller captured reader outrage over the firing. And the move is also drawing fire from Flint bloggers:

"It is infuriating that in a town so often bereft of good news that Kay's remarkable project should have to fight for support, much less be axed," writes Macy Swain on Night Blind. "This is not just knucklehead myopia, this is urban sadism."

Gadola told the Journal that a city job would have no influence on his voting:

"Gadola said he has a 'great deal of honesty and integrity' and he wouldn't allow himself as a county board member to be influenced by a job in city government. He said even though he's worked for the city for 18 years, no one has ever asked him to vote a certain way since he's been a commissioner.

"'It hasn't happened, and I don't have any reason to believe it would happen,' Gadola said."

Williamson Watch

If you're not getting your fill of Mayor Don Williamson on Flint Expatriates, there's a much better source: Williamson Watch.

Monir G. Alyatim, R.I.P.

Bryn Mickle of The Flint Journal reports:

Two people arrested in connection with the weekend slaying of a party store clerk were released from custody Friday.

A third man arrested is still being held on an unrelated probation violation.

The Genesee County Prosecutor's office said the men were released pending further investigation.

Police arrested the trio Wednesday night after searching two homes near Saba's Mini Mart where store clerk Monir G. Alyatim, 36, was killed Sunday night.

Surveillance video showed one suspect reaching over the bullet-resistant glass at the front counter and shooting Alyatim.

For more Flint Journal coverage go here.

The Flint Murder Map tracks homicides in the Vehicle City throughout the year. Please note that the map is incomplete and offers only a partial list of murder victims.

Mowing for the mayor

When he's not ordering city workers to create useless drag strips with taxpayer money, Flint Mayor Don Williamson is having them spruce up his own property.

Joe Lawlor of The Flint Journal reports:
Two city parks workers said that they and other workers mowed the grass, cleared debris and pulled weeds for three hours in late August on property that is serving as new headquarters for Williamson's gubernatorial campaign.

Parks workers Tony Cole and Fred Snowden said the cleanup of Williamson's property and an adjacent parking lot was included in two days they and other workers spend tidying up a quarter-mile of Glenwood Avenue from Asylum Street to Chevrolet Avenue.

"It's not cool. We're not getting paid to do that. We're getting paid to help the city," said Snowden.

But Williamson was not apologizing for the cleanup, saying that it's part of the city's plan to improve all of Glenwood Avenue.

Wait a minute! Did I read that right? Gubernatorial campaign? Is Don Williamson really planning to inflict his "leadership" on the entire state? How did I miss this?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gypsy Jack: A Flint Legend

As this photo reveals, you just never know what you'll run into on the East Side of Flint.

The Flint Journal has discovered that Gypsy Jack's house is for sale on eBay, which is old news to Flint Expatriates readers. The Journal story includes two fantastic file photos, so we finally have a nice shot of the house and Roy "Gypsy Jack" Steffenson Jr. in all his glory. (Thanks to Slick for passing this one along.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mt. Holly Ski Pass

Love among the shelving units

Redgirl, a Flint Expatriate now living in Europe, reflects on a very American instituion...

Rollerworld, now those were the days...At barely 15, I spent a lot of time there on Friday nights thanks to my school friend Carla, who had a raging crush on Justin Bates and introduced me to the place. Where else could you skate to songs from AC/DC's "Back in Black" album and Aerosmith's "Walk this Way" one minute and Parliament-Funkadelic's "Flashlight" or Earth Wind and Fire's "September" the next?!

But more than that, I will always associate that time and that place with those first experiences at meeting kids quite apart the rather sheltered world of home and school I was accustomed to. Talk about excitement, talk about trepidation! And all of those few hours on a Friday night free of the watchful eye of some authority figure. Except maybe for Justin's mother, who occasionally had to shoo hormone-driven couples locked in horizontal embraces out of the shelving units at the back of the place behind the lockers. Yes, the shelving units. No, I wasn't one of the shooed.

But it was at Rollerworld that I met every parents' nightmare for their little-big girl: long hair, leather jacket, a couple of years older, drop-out, a penchant for drinking Jim Beam straight out of the bottle with no chaser and hanging out with a pack who did the same. Good God, what was I thinking? Wait, I know what I was thinking. Anyway, to this day when I see a bottle of that awful Kentucky corn, the smell of which makes every last nerve in my body shudder, my thoughts trail back to Rollerworld and some of those west side kids, including the one in the leather jacket, some of whom went on to do bigger and better things and some who didn't. One or two of them never even made it to 18, I heard, and at least one of them is now serving time for murder. She was violent back then, beating up on everyone - boys included - with her fists, her feet, her chain belt, you name it. Of quite the opposite nature, and to be honest rather frightened of her, I was an easy target for her once, my face the landing place for her fist all because of the one in the leather jacket. Needless to say that didn't go over well at home, and not too long after that rather shaky start at independence I quite fortunately found another channel for all that curiosity about other people.

But when my mind occasionally wanders to that conflicted and, now I can safely say it, tender time, I really can still feel that excitement, maybe even more so the trepidation, and I can see most of those kids just as clear as a bell still. And for at least a brief time Rollerworld was that initial venue.

Voter turnout

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Michigan Messenger allegations that Republicans planned to use foreclosure lists to exclude voters, especially in Flint and Detroit.

Ian Urbina of The New York Times reports on the Democratic response:

"Last week, Senator Barack Obama’s campaign filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking to prohibit the Michigan Republican Party from using foreclosure lists to single out and challenge voters. The state Republican Party has denied having any such plans.

"Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic vice-presidential candidate, sent a letter last week along with a dozen other Democratic senators to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey asking him to ensure that voters facing foreclosure are not harassed or intimidated at polling places."

And as Urbina points out, Michigan isn't the only place where people who've already lost their home, may lose their vote as well:

"More than a million people have lost their homes through foreclosure in the last two years, and many of them are still registered to vote at the address of the home they lost. Now election officials and voting rights groups are struggling to prevent thousands of them from losing their vote when they go to the polls in November.

"Many of these voters will be disqualified at the polls because, in the tumult of their foreclosure, they neglected to tell their election board of their new address. Some could be forced to vote with a provisional ballot or challenged by partisan poll watchers, a particular concern among Democrats who fear that poor voters will be singled out. That could add confusion and stretch out lines that are already expected to be long because of unprecedented turnout."

Update: The Michigan Messenger has posted the following clarification on their original story:

By Jefferson Morley 9/19/08 5:48 PM

Michigan Messenger received a letter yesterday from Douglas J. Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party in Columbus Ohio, disputing Eartha Melzer’s summary of remarks he made to a local newspaper about voter challenges.

Citing an article in the Columbus Dispatch, Melzer had reported in her story “Lose your house, lose your vote” that Priesse had said he had not ruled out voter challenges due to “foreclosure related address issues.” In his letter, Priesse said that he had not stated or implied any such thing.

While the ongoing dispute in Franklin County does concern voter challenges that are based, in part, on the eligibility of foreclosed homeowners, Priesse’s comments to the Dispatch did not specifically address the issue of foreclosed homeowners.

We have revised the article accordingly.

Monday, September 22, 2008

(Not) Street Legal

JMack at HoodHype comes through with a great shot of one of the most desirable cars at I.M.A. Safetyville — an orange mini Chevy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Wild west auction

The former home of Roy "Gypsy Jack" Steffenson Jr., a local legend who lived in the wild west shrine at 1458 Davison Road across from Homedale Elementary for more than three decades, has landed on eBay.

The opening bid is $2,000.

UPDATE: An annonymous reader writes: "Whoever owns poor old Gypsy Jack's home now owes more than $600 US plus penalties in taxes to the city. I drove past the home just a week ago, and it's seen its better days. The photo posted here makes it look so much better, almost when Roy was alive. I would not be surprised if the building was currently condemmed."

Go here for the City of Flint property tax and ownership information on the house.

If anyone in Flint has the time and the inclination, I'd love to be able to post some current photos of the house. Email them to me if you have them. Thanks.

UPDATE: The auction is now complete. Final sale price: $3,050.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back to the future

John remembers when Safetyville seemed futuristic:

When my family moved to Flint in 1973 — yeah, people moved to Flint back then — I was not happy. I loved South Carolina. Two things cushioned the blow. First, a stop at the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH on the way up. Second, going to Safetyville once we settled in.

I had read about Safetyville in some school magazine. It was magical and even more impressive actually being there. I remember writing a letter to a friend back in South Carolina to tell him about this advanced, futuristic land I was now living in.

Flint Postcards: Water Works Park

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Move-in day at UM-Flint

Okay, this is not exactly riveting video, but footage of actual students moving into the dorms at UM-Flint will give you a little bit of hope for The Vehicle City.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Flint Artifacts: I.M.A. Safetyville Brochure

Click on the images to enlarge them.

For more Flint Artifacts related to I.M.A. Safetyville, go here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Shrinking cities on parade

Here's a map highlighting shrinking cities over time.

World Map of Shrinking Cities from 1kilo on Vimeo.

Bringing people downtown

More small steps that might add up to real change in Flint:

"Thousands of car buffs and enthusiasts gathering to admire shiny rides and the years of memories they elicit," reports Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal.

"Hundreds of people enjoying a concert, sampling food and drinks on a warm summer day.

"They're part of a grassroots group's vision to pack downtown Flint with a festival or event every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day in 2009, piggybacking off several successful and highly attended downtown events this past summer.

"Steve Casner, owner of Casner Insurance Agency Inc. in Flint Township, and four other people who share a love of cars have been talking for more than a year about bringing more events and festivals downtown. The group -- which includes a physician and a teacher -- would like to see the events bring in 10,000 or more people each weekend."

Thankfully, it does not appear that drag racing will find a spot on the Flint calendar.

Flint Postcards: St. Joseph Hospital

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mayor puts drag racing plans in reverse

I hate to break the news to all the Flint Expatriates and residents who were gearing up for the drag racing season, but Mayor Don Williamson, in his infinite wisdom, has pulled the plug on his own ridiculous project. At least for now.

Joe Lawlor of The Flint Journal reports:

Plans for a drag strip on Bluff Street have come to a screeching halt.

Mayor Don Williamson on Saturday said it's too late in the season to do any racing on Bluff Street.

"These things take time, and you need to do planning," Williamson said. "We ran out of time, and we ran out of gas."

That means racing on Bluff Street likely won't happen at all, because Kettering University is building a research center there, and Williamson said he's moving forward with plans for a permanent drag strip south of the Flint River at the "Chevy in the Hole" site. The permanent drag strip would be built in the spring, the mayor said.

But don't worry, the mayor has created the perfect venue for illegal street racing — at taxpayer expense:

Resident Tina Morris, who lives near Bluff Street, said she's happy it's not happening.

"That's great news," Morris said. "I'm glad. Now if we can just get (racers) off the street in the middle of the night."

Morris said in some ways it's too late. Racers are using Bluff Street illegally anyway, because now there's a newly paved street that has start and finish lines marked for the racers.

"We need the police to patrol there," Morris said.

Night Blind

The flora (and concreta) of Chevy in the Hole. (Photo courtesy of Jar With Most.)

There are Flint residents. There are Flint Expatriates. And then there are the rare individuals that are both at the same time.

Jan Worth-Nelson — who blogs as Macy Swain — teaches at UM-Flint during the academic year and lives with her husband in San Pedro, California during the summers and holiday breaks. It gives her an insider's understanding of Flint mixed with the perspective of an outsider. It also means her blog, Night Blind, offers the duality of Flint and Southern California.

It's an intriguing mix that leads to some fascinating posts. Here's one describing a botanical tour of what was once Chevy in the Hole:
"The site is now a giant brownfield. I find it irresistibly ghostly and haunting.

"I took my 'Green Ink' students there on a bike tour a couple of weeks ago. Increasingly, it seems right NOT to drive a car when paying tribute to this fallen behemoth. Pausing to catch our breath on Bluff Street overlooking the acreage, we didn't have much to say as we took in the concretized channel of the river and the silent expanse where some of the fights of the 1936 Sit Down Strike took place and where millions of cars were banged out on noisy and oily assembly lines. Several mallards noodled along in the brown water. A red-winged blackbird sailed by. A remarkable single cottonwood did its leafy hula. It really is a cemetery.

"The brownfields of Chevy in the Hole are not really brown: there are many green things growing in the cracks and edges. I asked our tour guide, Christina Kelly of the Genesee County Land Bank, what they were. "Just weeds," she said.

"My biology professor friend Tracy Wacker, with her usual bracing candor, said 'The definition of a weed is a plant growing where somebody doesn't want it to. Looked at that way, none of the plants at Chevy in the Hole are weeds, because nobody cares if they grow there.'

"This is just the start of what I have to say, but in quick summary, when Tracy and I walked back to Chevy in the Hole yesterday, scrambled around a chain-link fence and poked around in the humid overgrowth on the cracked concrete and the river bank, she called out the names of least 30 different plants: rumex, chicory, bachelor's button, black nightshade, common mullein, curlydock, dogwood, catalpa, coreopsis, lanceleaf plantain, milkweed, dames rocket, buckthorn, bull-thistle, crown vetch. That's about half of them."
The contrast between the Flint and San Pedro posts shows that even though America has become homogenized by chain stores and strip malls, with bland exurbs defining the look and culture of the country, there are still unique regional differences out there.
"Tomorrow is the Korean Bell's big day — one of only two in the year it is rung. Tomorrow the site at the top of the hill overlooking a wide expanse of harbor and ocean will be crowded with well-wishers, celebrants, politicians and ringers wearing white gloves. Today, it was quiet and enveloped in fog. At first I was the only one there -- what delight to be alone here. Then a hawk getting chased by crows. Then these two gulls. Then a long-haired guy with a long-haired dog. Then three gabby Korean men with a bottle of Windex and a red rag, polishing the plaques — for tomorrow, I suppose. It's one of my favorite places in San Pedro."

And sometimes, in a bar like Harold's Place in San Pedro, Flint and SoCal overlap a little.
"A guy sitting next to us didn't say a word to anybody. He poured beer into his glass an inch at a time and fastidiously sipped, savoring every swallow. But he gave the waitress some money to put in the band's tip jar.

"A round little troll about four feet tall wearing a huge straw hat ambled in with a black bag over his shoulder, hawking...straw hats, as it turned out. Nobody bought. An enterprising madame in lycra and a helmet parked her bike out front and tried to sell Debbie some body wash -- also unsuccessful, but still. The pleasantly unexpressive bouncer came and went. We ordered a second round. More people wandered in in teeshirts, baggy shorts and flipflops. Everybody seemed to know who they were.

"'Howdya like the band?' Debbie asked.

"'They're good. I liked the blues,' I said. I was thinking about other dives I've hung out in — The Tonga Club in Nuku'alofa, Hat's Pub and The Torch Bar and Grille on Buckham Alley, both in Flint, and I was thinking how good it felt to be sitting on Pacific Avenue in Pedro with a row of people bent over their drinks, heads nodding just so slightly to the music, which wasn't totally bad."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The fate of Catholic churches

A source familiar with the negotiations on the fate of various Catholic parishes in the Flint area wrote in with this information:

"I have two confirmed reports if you are interested and want to post them on your website. The Diocese of Lansing website should release this information soon.

"In Flint, St. Mary's will cluster with St. Michael's. Both parishes will continue to function as separate parishes, but will employ only one priest, whom I assume to be the priest at St. Mary's, since Father Phil Gallagher, last acting pastor at St. Mike's, has recently retired from active duty.

"Most Blessed Sacrament, Burton, will merge with St. John, Davison, when deemed necessary. Most Blessed Sacrament Church will then become Most Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The church building at MBS will remain open only; all office duties, clubs, CCD, etc. revert to St. John's. When the priest at MBS is reassigned in the future — that is the "deemed necessary part — the parish will then merge with St. John's immediately."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Flint Artifacts: Copa Remember Me Card

Vote early and not very often

Here's a quiz for you.

How many votes does it take to get elected to the Flint City Council? The answer is not that many. Delrico J. Loyd won the 1st Ward seat in August with just 745 votes. Eric Mays came in second with 702. According to the City of Flint website, each councilperson for the city's nine wards represents approximately 15,640 people.

It makes it sound like an enterprising young politician could start a career in Flint. Of course, getting elected would be the easy part.

UPDATE: A reader asked for the election results of the 2007 mayor's race. Here they are via USA Today:

Dayne Walling 11,853 (49%)

W -- Don Williamson* 12,434 (51%)

Williamson, a 73-year-old multimillionaire businessman, dipped deeply into his own account to fund his campaign. Williamson overcame criticism of his criminal distant past — he served more than three years in prison in the 1960s for crimes related to bad checks. Walling, a 33-year-old Rhodes scholar with multiple degrees who worked in the District of Columbia government, had promised to revitalize the city.

The Flint Journal provides an unofficial breakdown by wards:

Dayne Walling Don Williamson

1st WARD

1 240 217

2 216 222

3 77 169

4 162 205

5 151 203

6 99 164

Total 945 1,180

2nd WARD

7 186 214

8 223 255

9 143 173

10 143 211

11 154 150

12 175 156

Total 1,024 1,159

3rd WARD

13 146 224

14 80 134

15 122 194

16 29 34

17 88 147

18 93 126

19 74 135

Total 632 994

4th WARD

20 110 202

21 112 188

22 235 317

23 104 162

24 27 36

25 224 308

Total 812 1,213

5th WARD

26 133 164

27 104 181

28 135 190

29 211 242

30 2 7

31 7 29

32 87 110

33 29 41

Total 708 964

6th WARD

34 398 260

35 196 195

36 163 149

37 345 181

38 290 184

39 87 125

40 24 26

Total 1,503 1,120

7th WARD

42 466 225

43 305 191

44 250 143

45 390 144

46 234 216

47 424 294

Total 2,069 1,213

8th WARD

48 189 238

49 166 223

50 283 281

51 97 115

52 15 13

53 443 265

54 192 234

Total 1,385 1,369

9th WARD

55 108 218

56 15 17

57 169 132

58 54 71

59 224 264

60 186 171

61 280 254

Total 1,036 1,127

Absentee 1,739 2,095

TOTAL 11,853 12,434

Friday, September 12, 2008

Flint Postcards: Walker School

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Volunteer to help Flint kids

Are you a Flint Expatriate looking for a way to help Flint? The Flint Club has a pen pal mentoring program that will match you with a kid in Flint. I've signed up and there are still plenty of spots available, but they need to fill them quickly.

The Youth of Genesee County NEED YOU

Flint Club's Pen Pal mentor program is still in need of 50 mentors. We are asking you to assist us as we strive to recruit individuals that are willing to invest ten minutes a week in an elementary student.

If you are interested please contact Sonyita Scales, Program Director via email at sonyita@flintclub.org or by calling 810-233-5468.

Lose your house, lose your vote

Some may see Michigan's foreclosure crisis as another sign of the country's economic problems. But the state's Republican Party sees it as a way to stop citizens from voting, especially in cities like Flint and Detroit where the vote is likely to tilt heavily toward Obama, according to The Michigan Messenger.

"The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day," reports Eartha Jane Melzer in The Michigan Messenger. "Statewide, the Republican Party is gearing up for a comprehensive voter challenge campaign, according to Denise Graves, party chair for Republicans in Genesee County, which encompasses Flint. The party is creating a spreadsheet of election challenger volunteers and expects to coordinate a training with the regional McCain campaign, Graves said in an interview with Michigan Messenger."

UPDATE: Flinn's Journal says: "The Macomb County GOP chair has issued a statement saying the GOP won't use foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polls. They must have been stung by the reports." The story from the Detroit Free Press is here.

UPDATE: And just how widespread is voter fraud in Michigan and the rest of the country? Apparently, it's quite rare and seldom intentional. The New York Times reports:

"Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

"Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

"Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show."

Update: The Michigan Messenger has posted the following clarification on their original story:

By Jefferson Morley 9/19/08 5:48 PM

Michigan Messenger received a letter yesterday from Douglas J. Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party in Columbus Ohio, disputing Eartha Melzer’s summary of remarks he made to a local newspaper about voter challenges.

Citing an article in the Columbus Dispatch, Melzer had reported in her story “Lose your house, lose your vote” that Priesse had said he had not ruled out voter challenges due to “foreclosure related address issues.” In his letter, Priesse said that he had not stated or implied any such thing.

While the ongoing dispute in Franklin County does concern voter challenges that are based, in part, on the eligibility of foreclosed homeowners, Priesse’s comments to the Dispatch did not specifically address the issue of foreclosed homeowners.

We have revised the article accordingly.

Commenting on comments

I was trying to reject a couple comments for inappropriate language, and I accidentally axed about eight at one time. My apologies for the error.

By the way, I reject all comments that include swearing, or daily newspaper-style decoys for swearing like "s%$*" or "f'ing." I'm not a Puritan. I like swearing in most settings, especially family gatherings. But I'm trying to maintain a sense of lofty decorum in the comment section. It's nothing personal.

Unfortunately, there's no way for me to contact commentators if I reject something because I don't have your email. If you're wondering what happened to a comment, feel free to send me a personal email. (And swearing is fine in the emails.)

Mack Q. Sykes, R.I.P.

Shannon Murphy of The Flint Journal reports:

The investigation continues into the death of a 54-year-old man whose home is believed to have been set on fire.

Mack Q. Sykes died Wednesday morning in his home on North Street near Carton Street.

Firefighters were called to the home about 6 a.m. Sykes was found dead in an upstairs bedroom.

Firefighters attempted to rescue him, but there was too much heat and fire in the home, said Flint Fire Battalion Chief Theresa Root.

Root said it appears Molotov cocktails were thrown on the porch of the home. Witnesses said they heard three loud booms prior to the fire breaking out.

Police are calling Sykes' death a homicide.

The Flint Murder Map tracks homicides in The Vehicle City throughout the year. Please note that the map is incomplete and offers only a partial list of murder victims.

Flint Postcards: Old City Hall

Is this the building in the background of Ike Eisenhower's 1952 visit to Flint?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hot air in Lake Fenton

Before there were beige-colored McMansions on Lake Fenton, there were cottages and, on occassion, hot-air ballons courtesy of Capt. Phogg, who's still in business. Mary Fisher took this shot in 1980.

Flint Postcards: Armory Building

Mott enrollment increases

Mott Community College posted a slight increase in enrollment over last year. There are now 10,666 students registered for classes.

Art for art's sake

"Since 2003, attendance at The Flint Institute of Arts has increased 41 percent, soaring to 120,000 visitors in 2007-2008," according to a story by Carol Azizian in The Flint Journal.

"The museum's exhibitions have been drawing record crowds -- including people from around the state -- since the FIA underwent a $20-million redesign and expansion from 2004-2006.

"This year, the museum received the 'Governor's Award for Arts and Culture.' It's the second largest art museum in Michigan."

Obama (and Ike) visit Flint

Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama was in Flint on Monday talking about the economy and Sarah Palin's fictitious opposition to the "Bridge to Nowhere."

This political event gives me a great excuse to run some more of Mary Fisher's great photos of Flint in the fifties. On October 1, 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower visited the Vehicle City. Ike gave a speech downtown touching on foreign policy, the Korean War, and Democratic partisanship. (I apologize in advance for my inability to figure out how to insert an arrow in the photos to identify Ike. Consider this a presidential version of Where's Waldo?)

You may need to break out the magnifying glass for this, but Ike is on the far left, framed by the second window on the left, wearing a light-colored suit and distinguished by his familiar bald head.

The speaker's podium. No idea if Ike is up there or not.

A man in a dark suit waves to the crowd as if he's the president, but he's not. No idea who he is. (Aren't these informative cutlines?)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Political motives

Many young people move away from Flint to pursue an education or economic opportunities elsewhere. Others have more specific reasons for leaving:

"A 23-year-old man was plotting to set off bombs to coincide with the Republican National Convention, according to details federal prosecutors released Wednesday," reports CNN correspondent Joe Johns.
"The suspect, Matthew DePalma of Flint, Michigan, is charged with possessing Molotov cocktails, a type of gasoline bomb.
"DePalma was locked up on August 30.
"The criminal complaint also alleges that in July 2008 DePalma told an FBI confidential source that he wanted to travel to the RNC to 'make some bombs' and 'blow s–t up.'"

Marian Easter, R.I.P.

RoNeisha Mullen of The Flint Journal reports:

A Flint woman was shot to death and another injured after someone broke into their home.

Police where called to 217 E. Belvidere Ave. just before midnight Monday, on a call of a male breaking into the residence.

When police arrived they found 20-year-old Marian Easter dead of multiple gun shot wounds, and 47-year-old Jo Ann Easter in critical condition.

Police said they suspect is familiar with his victims, but did not release his name.

Neighbors on the street are upset about the incident.

"I didn't even know the girl and my stomach has been turning since they told me about it," said Helen Shuman, who doesn't live on the street but visits friends there almost daily. "She was only 20 years old. I couldn't imagine being her mother and getting that news."

The Flint Murder Map tracks homicides in The Vehicle City throughout the year. Please note that the map is incomplete and offers only a partial list of murder victims.

What a drag

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. Injured citizens and lawyers, start your liability claims. City accountants, start writing checks. (Photo by John W. Adkisson/The Flint Journal)

With Flint's infrastructure crumbling and violent crime soaring, Mayor Don Williamson has city workers paving an eighth-mile section of Bluff Street between Chevrolet Avenue and Stevenson Street. Guard rails are also being installed.

The reason? The mayor plans to have city-run drag races on Saturdays.

Bryn Mickle and Joe Lawlor of The Flint Journal report:

Lapeer County drag strip operator Ed Vakula, however, is skeptical of the city plan.

Vakula said a new drag strip hasn't opened in Michigan in 40 years, something he attributes to neighbors raising a ruckus over the noise before plans even get off the ground.

Neighbors of Vakula's Lapeer International Dragway complain of noise from four miles away and Vakula doesn't envision that residents living near the Flint drag strip will be too happy either.

"It's loud but we are used to it," said Tom Coulter, who lives near Vakula's drag strip.

"If the wind blows this way... You would have to raise your voice (to have a conversation)."

Aside from noise, there is also the question of insurance and making sure the cars are fit for racing, said Vakula.

Insurance for a drag strip can run upwards of $1,000 a day and a mishap with a stick shift transmission can turn a car into a bomb, sending shrapnel into spectators.

"I've never heard of anyone putting (a drag strip) in a city," said Vakula.

"I can't believe they would do that."

Hockey in the great outdoors

Rudy offers up a review of Flint's outdoor hockey venues:

Being a former GFHA player, I skated many, many Saturday mornings at all of the outdoor rinks. Memorial Park downtown was fantastic. No dressing rooms, just a big room to get dressed in always with a huge fire going. It was a very small rink with no fencing around the boards. We used to rent it with a couple of buddies for around $40 an hour well into the mid-90s.

Whaley was probably the best. Drop in hockey after 8:00 for $3. We could play as long as they would stick around. Plus we would always go to Angelo's afterward.

Broome was the worst. Since the it was right in the middle of the park there was never anything to stop the wind. We would have to play the games in half so that it would be fair that both teams skated into the wind an equal amount of time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Baker Drugs then and now

A 1974 shot of the Baker Drugstore window on Saginaw Street by Martha Baker. Not only could you satisfy your 4711 cologne needs, but your model building cravings as well. To the left you can spot some of the classic monster models that I favored for a while — Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Dracula. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

The entrance to Baker Drugs as it looked this summer. Photo by Grumkin.