Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dereliction of Duty

Just got back from a trip to Hawaii — where wild roosters run free on the streets and I realized it's been so long since I had a tan that I'm officially fishy grey, not white. Not a pretty sight. I returned in time for the festive sound of gunshots that mark New Year's Eve in San Francisco. Sort of reminds me of home. My computer died on the trip, so I apologize for all the great comments that didn't get posted until now.

Happy New Year!

Flint Postcards: Autorama Motel, 2002 S. Dort Highway

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Art and Commerce at Sav-More Drugstore

Rich Frost remembers when Flint drugstores doubled as artist's studios...

When it comes to drug stores in Flint, Sav-More could not compare to any Herrlich’s or Cook’s Drug Store, especially their downtown Flint locations. Sav-More was on Second Street across from the Capitol Theater in the building that was later to house Grandmother’s Kitchen. It was a little bigger than a shoe box, but that’s not to say that its didn’t have a lot to offer customers.

There was a period after my parents divorced that my mom worked as a short-order cook at the restaurant in the Greyhound bus station nearby. Occasionally, I would hang around the bus station while she worked and we’d go home together.

Well, one day we noticed something different in the window at the Sav-More. An artist by the name of Jesse Fowler sat in the window doing chalk portraits of people for something like five bucks. It was 1964. I was ten years old at the time and the odds are pretty good that my mother and I only shopped at the Sav-More because it was near the stop where we’d catch the Franklin Avenue bus home.

At that time in my mother’s life, $5 was a pretty decent hunk of change, especially for a woman working a minimum-wage job and raising two kids on her own. But she wanted an artist rendering of her youngest child and she was willing to part with the five bucks to get it.

For about a half hour, I sat in the front window of this drugstore with people looking on as Mr. Fowler sketched out my portrait. I still have it today and I sometimes wonder how many other people had their portrait sketched my Mr. Fowler in the window at Sav-More drugs in downtown Flint.

Flint Photos: Faygo

Monday, December 29, 2008

Etiquette Lessons

The Durant Hotel ballroom in its glory years.

A conversation about etiquette lessons offered by Mrs. Church and Mrs. Patterson in Flint brought back these memories for Pat McFarlane Young...
In my quest to be "one of the bunch" or, as it was known in the forties, one of the "400" crowd at Flint Central, my typical screwed up teenage mind felt my life would be transformed if only I could attend Mrs. Church's etiquette classes. The culmination of the classes was a dance party in the Durant Hotel ballroom, which all the peons had to hear about in school the next day.

At the time, this quest rated right up there with bleaching a streak in my hair like Nancy Jacks, having an arm full of turquoise and silver bracelets from The China Closet, or a collection of angora ankle bobby socks. I knew my parents would never understand this desire and consider it a total waste of money. But somehow I got the money and enrolled with Mrs. Church. I believe the classes were held at her house in the Civic Park area, meeting once a week for a little more than a month.

After telling my parents some bogus story I would run to the bus stop on Lewis and Kearsley Park Blvd. and catch the bus. It was dark when class ended. The other kids’ parents would pick them up but I had to run like hell to catch the buss. If I missed it, I would have had a hard time explaining to my folks.

Somehow I made it through the classes and even finagled a dress for the dance party. My parents did drive me to the Durant, but I can't remember how I managed to arrange it. I do remember the thrill I felt standing on the balcony overlooking the Durant lobby and going in to the party. The big thrill of the night was that Don Cronin asked me to dance. He later became the mayor and worked with my dad at Darby & Son Real Estate. He turned out to be a very nice, kind man and I always remembered that dance.

Looking back I realize that high school is the hardest time in a young person’s life because they are trying to decide who they really are. It took me many years to figure it out, and I now realize old age is as hard as high school. I'm still searching.

A recent shot of the ballroom before renovations began on the hotel. (Photo by Mellowedee via Flickr.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stroh a Party

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Flint Portraits: Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka and some other more stoic guys, courtesy of

Flint Expatriate and children's book author Jon Scieszka has a new work out that's drawing praise from Lisa Von Drasek in The New York Times:

“Knucklehead” is Scieszka’s own tall tale, a memoir organized like a collection of snapshots about growing up with five brothers in the Flint, Mich., of the 1950’s. Ever the teacher, in this slim volume ­Scieszka writes a model memoir. Or as he puts it, when you are getting in trouble “it’s good to be the one telling the story.”

Scieszka gets children, and he gets their humor. Especially boy humor. He tells the truth about what really goes on when parents aren’t looking. (Chapter 34, “Fire”: “There is something about boys and fire that is like fish and water, birds and air, cats and hairballs. They just go together.” Good thing Scieszka’s mom was a nurse.

Of course, you expect good things from the country’s first national ambassador for young people’s literature, "a kind of children’s book version of the Library of Congress’s poet laureate program."

Friday, December 26, 2008

Flint Postcards: Puppies

Are these pups really from Flint? They seem a little groggy, so perhaps they just returned from a visit to the Rusty Nail or King's Armor with their master.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Debra Reburn Gearhart checks in with Santa at Smith-Bridgeman's in the late fifties.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Flint Postcards: Union School

Jackie Poplar Faces Recall

Flint just can't get enough of recall elections.

Joe Lawlor of The Flint Journal reports:
Councilwoman Jackie Poplar will likely face a recall on Feb. 24 after challenges to petitions against her didn't disqualify enough signatures to keep the issue off the ballot.

Petitioners ended up with 928 valid signatures, said Genesee County Clerk Michael Carr, while 858 were needed to ask voters to recall Poplar. Recall organizer David Davenport originally submitted more than 1,000 signatures.

"It looks like it's going on the ballot," said Carr, noting the petitions could still be challenged in court.

Perhaps Poplar can talk strategy with Mayor Don Williamson on how to survive a recall election.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Flint Artifacts: College Inn Hotel Matchbook

GMI and the American Legion

A reader wonders...

Does anyone remember the old American Legion Bar near the GMI Alpha Delt Fraternity house? There was a wonderful bartender named Fred and it was the scene of many fun General Motors Institute parties.

Bailout for Rowe Building

Downtown Flint developers catch bailout fever to keep the Rowe Building project from stalling.

Monday, December 22, 2008

How Bad Is It?

Even Toyota is losing money.

The Stride Rite Parties

Two shots of downtown I took in the early '90s on a visit to Flint. A depressing block with the shells of Grandmother's Kitchen and Betty Richard's. Does anyone remember buying shoes at Drew's Stride Rite as a kid? Or going to the parties that Mo Arvoy threw in the old shoe store?

Christmas with the Mayor

Jeff Stork remembers the holidays in Flint with his father, Robert...

One of the happiest recollections of Flint was holiday shopping with my father. In those days, and we are talking pre-energy crisis late sixties and early seventies, my little hometown was a prosperous place where the factories hummed along producing luxurious Buick Electras and shiny Chevy pickups, and a thriving downtown with prosperous merchants supplied the locals with their shopping needs.

The holiday season kicked off with the Glitterball. It was the glam party of the season, hosted by the University Club atop the Penthouse of the Genesee Towers. From the giant picture windows, one would look down nineteen stories onto the prosperous community below. Mom would spent a month making sure her holiday ensemble was "just so", even having her mink stole glazed beforehand (in those innocent, pre-PETA days).

Dad was a partner in a prominent CPA firm downtown and almost all of the local merchants were clients of his, so going shopping was downtown like visiting one endless holiday party with old friends. I nicknamed him the "Mayor of Flint," long before that would imply the felony convictions and sordid background that recent mayors have had.

We had a fabulous time. We'd start at James, Inc, the downtown men's store where Jim McLogan would offer me hot cider. Dad would have a glass of champagne at Betty Richards while choosing a smart suit dress or sweater ensemble for mother. From there we'd work Saginaw Street- drop in on the Goldsteins at Roberts David Alan for cookies, see the Hoyts at Harry's Camera and even check out Greenblatt's Furs. Lunch at the Masonic Temple was part of the ritual. We were treated like royalty every where we went. Every store had lights and holiday treats and friendly people to meet.

Of course it all started to change with the opening of Genesee Valley, the first major suburban shopping mall in 1970. Downtown retailers tried to hold on, many opened suburban satellite locations that in time replaced the originals, and by the eighties it was a pale imitation of itself.

But in the innocent days of my childhood, nothing could hold a candle to Christmas Shopping downtown with my own "Mayor of Flint".

Thanks, Dad.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bonus Babies

Regardless of where you stand on a Federal loan to the auto industry, I think we can all agree that Wall Street should not be doing this with our tax dollars.

Memories of Civic Park and Sears Kit Houses

Flint Expatriate Roadsidedinerlover looks back at the Flint houses she remembers...

My earliest Flint memories were of my loving grandparents, Marguerite and David. Their home [left] was built by my grandfather from a Sears kit in 1920. I think their home was the one called 'The Bandon."

My grandmother was a homemaker who made incredible meals and lemon meringue pies that I still dream about. My grandfather was a tool and die maker for the Buick factory. He came to Flint because
they would not hire him as an Irish Catholic man in Boston.

My mother was the first born child and then came my uncle. Both of them grew up in the Civic Park area on Mt. Elliott Avenue and attended Civic Park school. They had aunts and uncles who lived in the area as well. The earliest photos I have of them as children show Civic Park with few trees and only a handful of houses. My mother told me that there used to be a streetcar that ran down Dayton Street and then turned onto Detroit Street to take her and her mother downtown. This would have been in the early 1930s. On the corner of Dayton and Detroit was an A&P store where I would go shopping with my grandmother. I always thought "Ann Page" was a real woman.

I loved sitting on my Grandma's porch. One day she was upset and crying because a little boy from across the street had been hit and killed on Chevrolet Avenue. There was so much love in that house. The first time I saw it again after my uncle sold it, I was dumbstruck by its condition. I did not know it had been repossessed by a local mortgage company. I wish I could win the lottery and buy it and fix it up. This is a just one of many houses in Civic Park that are tattered and torn up. So many emotions come over me...anger and sorrow being the strongest ones. Anger towards
General Motors is my primary one.

My great Aunt Emma's house [left] is on Dayton across from Civic Park school. There used to be a large Coca Cola sign on one of the stores across the street. It was a great soda fountain shop and drugstore I believe. I remember going there and having something sugary to eat. This store was right down from the Balkan Bakery. I would love going to see my aunt and seeing all of her old furniture from the past. She had a Hoosier Cabinet in her kitchen and a clawfoot bath tub upstairs. This home was occupied the last time I saw it about 5 years ago.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Give Back to Flint

If you are looking to help out Flint with a donation of either time or money this holiday season, there are several worthy organizations working to make Flint a better place. Here are just a few that readers have suggested. This is in no way a definitive list of worthy Flint charities, so feel free to pass along others in the comment section.

  • St. Francis Prayer Center, founded by Sister Joanne Chiaverini, who died this summer. I couldn't find a website, but here's the contact info:
G2381 E Carpenter Rd
Flint, MI 48505
(810) 787-5330

The Joys of Michigan in December

Are you a Flint Expatriate living on the West Coast or down South who sometimes misses Michigan in the winter? Here's a recent shot of downtown passed along by Randy Gearhart, along with some footage from December 12, 2000 to refresh your memory.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Flint Artifacts: Flint Salt Shaker

Drugstore Lore

BJ has a question:

I realize its off the subject of the CB Bank dime-savers, but theChurchGuy's comments about baseball cards got me to thinking. In 1959 I used to purchase my cards and stale gum at Herriman's drugs on Dayton and Detroit (now MLK, I believe) Street or Herlich's Rexall drugs in downtown. I use to splurge once a month on a 10 cent Superman comic while shopping there. Do either of those stores still exist in some shape or form? Or did I miss their abandoned, burnt-out wrecks during the street scenes of Roger and Me?

Flint Gets a Jolt of Bad Economic News

G.M. has put the proposed Volt engine plant in Flint on hold.

Bush Approves Loans to Automakers

David M. Herszenhorn and David E. Sanger of The New York Times report:

"President Bush on Friday announced $13.4 billion in emergency loans to prevent the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler, and another $4 billion available for the hobbled automakers in February with the entire bailout conditioned on the companies undertaking sweeping reorganization plans to show that they can return to profitability.

"Mr. Bush made his announcement a week after Senate Republicans blocked legislation to aid the automakers that had been negotiated by the White House and Congressional Democrats, and the loan package announced by the president includes roughly the identical requirements in that bill, which had been approved by the House."

Flint School Closings

Flint's declining population and budget woes are causing some agonizing decisions about school closings. The facilities committee of the Board of Education has come up with various scenarios to ultimately shutter 12-14 schools.

None of this is set in stone, but in all three scenarios the committee recommended closing these elementary schools: Anderson, Coolidge, Freeman, Garfield, Merrill, Pierce, Summerfield and Wilkins.

Berridge Reborn

Photo by

The former Berridge Hotel has reopened as an apartment house featuring 17 lofts after a $6 million renovation.

Thanks to Becky Spratke for catching this story.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Flint Artifacts: Citizens Bank Dime Saver

Flint Artifacts: Vida Bingel's AC Spark Plug Employee Badge

Vida Bingel's AC Spark Plug employee badge from sometime in the thirties.

John Bingel writes: My Grandmother, Vida Bingel, worked at AC from sometime in the '30s until she retired in 1965. She was born in Montrose in 1900 and graduated from Montrose High School in 1917. My Mother worked at AC through the WWII years.

Bush Reverts to Form

Did anyone think President Bush would really help out an industry with a powerful labor union? After hinting that a bridge loan from the Wall Street bailout was in the works, then a little hemming and hawing and stalling, the White House is now floating the idea of an "orderly" bankruptcy for G.M. and Chrysler. Let's hope it's slightly more orderly than the way the president — who has a staggering 68 percent disapproval rating — handled Iraq, Afganistan, New Orleans, and the financial crisis.

Rhythm of Life

I was feeling a little depressed over the realization that the once-mighty AC Spark Plug — workplace of Crowbar Charlie Koziol, my mom (however briefly) and thousands of others — had been reduced to several discrete piles of rubble. Then I watched this and I felt a little better. Maybe it will help you, too. (It's best played loud.)

Now, does this have anything to do with Flint? Not really, but legend has it that Sammy Davis Jr. once stopped in at The Golden Leaf.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

FDR Comes to Flint in 1936

Grumkin writes: "My grandfather took this footage in 1936. It was taken from the 2nd story of Baker Drugs. President Roosevelt drove down Saginaw Street then later on to Atwood Stadium."

The Home Front

A reflection on AC Spark Plug from Cooley's Dictum:

"During WWII my mother and several of my uncles and aunts worked at AC building the implements that defeated the Axis powers. At the time my dad was a flight engineer in the Army Air Corp while his wife was building the .50 caliber machine guns that provided armament for the Air Corp planes.

"Having lived in the Potter School area from '58 until I went into the Army in '67, the AC complex was one of the areas that you passed through several times a day to get to school, downtown, well, to get virtually anywhere that your life took you in those days. Considering its sprawling size, it was a major part of the neighborhood and well-suited to gumming up local traffic at shift change.

"Later, my sister and my first wife (...ack!...) worked there making oil filters and cruise control assemblies.

"And now, reduced to compact piles of rubble and debris, it's gone, what with the rest of the manufacturing world having closed up shop locally and moved away overseas.

"Truly, I am bummed. One can never go home again. Home no longer exists. Wall Street sold it for short term profits."

Flint Artifacts: 1947 Purple Cow Menu from the Durant Hotel

Direct Democracy

What happens when the U.A.W. pays a visit to Sen. Richard Shelby? Go here to find out.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Aerial Destruction

John von Linsowe, a Delphi employee who happens to be a pilot and an amateur photographer, has chronicled the demolition of the old AC Spark Plug plant. A booklet of the photos is available on eBay for $29.95. Included are extra aerial photos of other General Motors facilities demolished in the Flint area. It's 40 pages of 5" x 7" high-resolution photographs. That price seems a little steep but he seems like a nice guy, and he did fly around in a plane and everything.

Here's a more uplifting image of the old AC from Lori Wenzel.

Rooting for the Competition

Not only does God favor a loan for the Big Three, but the Japanese automakers are praying that none of the American companies folds.

Yuri Kageyama of The Associated Press reports:

"But now as GM and the entire U.S. auto industry teeter on the brink of collapse, Toyota and other Japanese carmakers are hardly rejoicing. They say the bankruptcy of any of Detroit's Big Three would spell serious trouble for them as well.

"Should that happen, 'the damage to our business is certain to be tremendous,' Toyota Motor Corp. spokesman Hideaki Homma told The Associated Press on Monday. 'The conditions for the U.S. auto market are extremely tough right now, and any additional negative is sure to make things worse.'

"One major problem is that Japanese carmakers in the U.S. share many of the same parts suppliers. If a Detroit automaker were to collapse, suppliers would likely follow, setting off a chain reaction that could would wreak havoc for Japanese production in the U.S., a vital market."

Republican Senators from the South, are you listening? Probably not.

Thanks to Jim Holbel for finding this one.

Then and Now

Jar With Most gave us the corner of Miller & Ballenger, circa 1977. Now Arnold McIntyre gives us the same spot in 2008.

Drunken Sailors

Monday, December 15, 2008

Flint for the Holidays

Flint Expatriate Randy Gearhart recently visited Flint and provided these photos of Saginaw Street decorated for the holidays. And as the final shot shows, Flint is no longer "The Vehicle City."

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pop Versus Soda

Click on the map to enlarge it.

Michigan is extremely pop-centric, according to this map detailing the preference for the term pop versus soda. In fact, it appears to be the most pro-pop state in the union.

Notice how the battle lines are drawn between the western UP and northeastern Wisconsin. Things must be very tense along the state line up there.

And Alaska appears to be having a real soft-drink identity crisis.

Thanks to Strangemaps for this gem.

Remembering Flint and Elaine Daenzer

Lanny Hayes, far from Flint, after a recent hike in the Smoky Mountains

Flint Expatriate Lanny Hayes looks back on hometown and Christmas with his family.

Whenever I think of Flint, I think of Mom.

My grandparents moved to Flint from the farms around Bay City and Frankenmuth after the Great War. My Mom, Elaine Daenzer, was born in Flint in 1924 to Paul and Emma. They lived in a modest home on Clement Street around the corner from Longfellow Junior High [left].

My grandfather, a veteran who saw action in France, worked at Chevy in the Hole from 1923-50. Grandma worked for AC and Mom joined her there in 1945 and stayed for 20 years.

We lived in a little starter home on Winona Blvd before moving to 3201 Mackin Road in 1965. Dad worked for Buick, and Mom retired that year to spend more time with her little family.

Flint was in its glory. The economy was good and we lived the American dream. What a wonderful life it was. I went to St. Paul Lutheran School on Ballenger Highway. I think we saw every Disney movie ever made at the Capitol. There was the circus, ice capades, and swimming lessons at Central High pool. Friday night was shopping night with my grandparents. We lived from holiday to holiday because Mom loved them all and celebrated each one to the hilt. Christmas was the highlight and she went full bore. Thanks Mom.

She traveled all over the country and to Europe and thought Flint was the best place there ever was. She would have been broken hearted to see Flint become a punchline and a shell of its former self. Mom loved Flint. She was born there, lived her whole life there and died way too soon at the age of 45 after wasting away in McLaren hospital from cancer, leaving three devastated little children behind. Christmas is bittersweet now. I remember how much she loved it, and it hurts to think of all the ones we couldn’t share together.

I left for Florida in 1977 and haven't been back since. I don't know the Flint of boarded up houses; I only have the memories of how great it was to grow up there. After things started going bad and Flint was making national news for all the wrong reasons, I used to derisively tell people that Flint was a great place to be from...far from. Now 31 years have gone by and I would love to see the old town at least once more. Life is funny, like the weather ball it is always changing. I now live in East Tennessee after 28 years in Florida. However, one thing can’t change. I am from Flint, Michigan and will always be from Flint. I may be long gone but as long as I can remember Mom, Flint will be right next to her in my heart.

Yankees Versus Rebels

Robert Reich describes the new war between the states over auto manufacturing:
"A new Civil War is breaking out when it comes to automaking in America, and it was evident in the lineup yesterday of senators for and against bailing out Detroit. Japanese, Korean, and German automakers are now building 18 auto assembly plants in the United States, none of which is unionized. Kentucky (home to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell) already has Toyota's biggest auto assembly plant outside Japan. Tennessee (home to Senate Rep. Bob Corker, who came up with the "chapter 11" bailout amendment which was the basis for an attempted compromise yesterday) houses Nissan's North American headquarters. Alabama (Senate Rep. Richard Shelby) hosts a range of foreign automakers.

"There's no reason to suppose the good citizens of Kentucky, Tennessee, or Alabama are particularly excited at the prospect of handing over their taxpayer money to competing firms and their workforces, especially since almost every one of these states already gave foreign firms big tax-payer supported inducements to come and create jobs there."

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Albom Takes Off the Gloves

I'm really shocked. Twice in one month. (Hell, twice in one decade would be a record.) It's another Mitch Albom column I like:
"Kill the car, kill the country. Sen. Richard Shelby, Sen. Bob Corker, your names will not be forgotten. It’s amazing how you pretend to speak for America when you are only watching out for your political party, which would love to cripple unions, and your states, which house foreign auto plants.

"Corker, you’ve got Nissan there and Volkswagen coming. Shelby, you’ve got Hyundai, Honda, Mercedes-Benz and Toyota. Oh, don’t kid yourself. They didn’t come because you earned their business, a subject on which you enjoy lecturing the Detroit Big Three. No, they came because you threw billions in state tax breaks to lure them.

"And now — this is rich — you want those foreign companies, which you lured, and which get help from their governments, to dictate to American workers how much they should be paid? Tell you what. You’re so fond of the foreign model, why don’t you do what Japanese ministers do when they screw up the country’s finances?

"They cut their salaries.

"Or they resign in shame.

"When was the last time a U.S. senator resigned over the failure of his policies?

Yet you want to fire Rick Wagoner?"

What's Next Cocktail Lounge

The corner of Pasadena and Clio, where party politics takes on a new meaning...

Friday, December 12, 2008

King Arthur

Art Bowden, my former neighbor on Bassett Place and the founder of King Arthur's Pasties.

From the looks of the hill and the houses, this is when Art brought pasties to the masses in San Francisco.

The King Arthur's location near Atwood Stadium is pictured to the left.

Both photos are courtesy of Flintstoner80.

Settling Scores

Care to take a peek at the Senate Republicans' internal strategy memo? It seems dealing a blow to organized labor was a bigger concern than dealing with the economic crisis when it came to loaning money to the Big Three.

The Paperless Newspaper

Do you look forward to reading the old-school paper edition of the Detroit Free Press every morning with your coffee? Well, prepare yourself for a new morning routine and consider investing in a laptop.

J. Linx writes:
"On top of everything else, the WSJ is reporting that the Detroit Free Press and its partner paper, The Detroit News, may stop home delivery everyday but Thursday, Friday and Saturday. An abbreviated print edition would be available at newsstands on the other days. Readers would be directed to an expanded digital version."

Bush to the Rescue! Huh?

Either President Bush has suddenly discovered a new-found love of shoprats, or he doesn't want to be remembered as the next Herbert Hoover. After Republicans in the Senate filibustered to stop a vote on a government loan for the Big Three, the White House announced the Wall Street bailout funds could be used to help the auto industry.

Gran Torino

In "Gran Torino," Clint Eastwood plays Walt Kowalski, a
retired, bigoted Detroit autoworker. The movie reflects the city where it was made, and the entire nation, according to Manohla Dargis of The New York Times:
"Made in the 1960s and ’70s, the Gran Torino was never a great symbol of American automotive might, which makes Walt’s love for the car more poignant. It was made by an industry that now barely makes cars, in a city that hardly works, in a country that too often has felt recently as if it can’t do anything right anymore except, every so often, make a movie like this one."

Citizens Gets Its Share

Citizens Bank claims $300 million of Federal bailout money.

And the news prompted Rich Frost to slightly rewrite the Citizens Bank Weather Ball Song:

When the weather ball is blue...
Colder temperatures are due

When the weather ball is red...
Warmer temperatures are ahead

When the weather ball blinks in anticipation...
There's a chance of precipitation

When the weather ball turns green...
Citizens get bailout bucks to finance their corporate dreams

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Spending Spree

At least the senators who don't think the auto industry deserves a loan are keeping a close eye on how Wall Street is spending their bailout money, right? Well, not exactly.

TPM Muckraker reports:
"Among the measures that Congressional Democrats successfully held out for -- against the wishes of the White House -- were meaningful oversight mechanisms that would allow Congress and others to track what the Treasury Department is doing with all that money.

"That seemed like a victory for taxpayers at the time. But now, over two months later, we've learned a bit about what those oversight mechanisms have been able to provide. And there's real reason to question whether in fact they were designed adequately for the task in the first place.

"'It's a mess,' Eric M. Thorson, the Treasury Department's inspector general, told the Washington Post last month. 'I don't think anyone understands right now how we're going to do proper oversight of this thing.'"

Bailout Bill Stalls in Senate

Many of the Republican senators who gave Wall Street a $700 billion handout with no strings attached are refusing to vote for a $14 billion bridge loan for the Big Three, despite almost total government oversight of the money. The so-called bailout bill appears to be dead in the water.

Maps and Legends

The house at the corner of Third Avenue and Stone Street as it looks today, along with its hand-drawn image in an old Flint map. Flintstoner80 provided the photos and he has plenty more on his Flickr page.

When the Planets Align

How good is G.M. at creating something new and competing with foreign competitors? Well, not very. Case in point: Saturn.

Micheline Maynard of The New York Times reports that the experiment looked promising at first...
"But Saturn quickly started losing its shine. G.M. executives cut spending, and shoppers flocked to S.U.V.’s. Eventually, many workers resisted the new management style. Now the brand that was once a symbol of G.M.’s future will have a bit part, at most.

"G.M. said Tuesday that it was 'exploring alternatives' for Saturn, which come down to selling it or relegating it to a smaller role in G.M.’s lineup.

"G.M. once hoped it would sell 500,000 Saturns a year. But sales peaked at 286,000 in 1994, according to Unless Saturn sales rise sharply in December, this year the division will sell fewer than 200,000 vehicles, for the first time since 1992."

Is it time to mention the unmentionable? A gas tax!

There seems to be a slight problem with forcing the Big Three to produce more small cars and develop hybrid and electric vehicles — they won't be profitable in the short term, especially with gas prices suddenly plummeting. In fact, many auto analysts believe Toyota actually loses money on every single Prius it sells. So if the Japanese aren't turning a profit on a very popular car, how would the Americans pull it off?

This has led some to propose something that will probably never happen...a gas tax or broader-based carbon-emissions tax to give buyers a real incentive to give up their gas guzzlers.

Andrew Samwick is one of them:
"The reason the tax works is that it encourages us to conserve in every way we possibly can. Nobody likes to pay higher taxes, but if we are serious about reducing emissions, a carbon tax is the most fair and comprehensive way to get the job done."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hard to Get

The City of Flint just can't seem to get its hands on the dilapidated Genesee Towers.

Echoes of Flint in Chicago Factory

Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy, and Christopher Phelps, who teaches at Ohio State University at Mansfield, compare the Flint Sit-Down Strike with the current takeover of the Republic window factory in Chicago:

Just as FDR once told reporters, "If I worked in a factory, the first thing I would do is join a union," so too has President-elect Barack Obama declared the Republic workers "absolutely right" in their quest for remuneration. More importantly, Obama observed that the Republic factory closure "is reflective of what's happening across this economy."

Indeed, it is not just that workers are suffering during a severe recession, but that the owners of capital, both large and small, are morally compromised in the crisis that besets the nation.

Bank of America, the giant lender, played a large role in the Republic factory closure when the bank, noting a decline in Republic's sales, cut off the company's line of credit. In normal times, this would have been considered prudent banking practice, but just last month Bank of America received $25 billion in a financial bailout meant to keep loans and credit flowing.

But Main Street managers have dirty hands as well. According to the union, the owners of Republic Windows and Doors failed to give their workers a legally required 60-day notice that they would close. And the Chicago Tribune reports that in the weeks before the factory shutdown, people with apparent ties to Republic formed a corporation that bought a similar plant in western Iowa.

It is hardly surprising that Republic's workers have laid temporary claim to the factory in which some have given decades of their lives. Its owners and creditors have forfeited their own claims, both moral and legal, to rightful stewardship.

Photographic Evidence of The Infamous Tiles

Tom Wirt tempts fate on The Tiles

Would you ride your bike across this thing?

Long-time readers may remember an earlier discussion of The Tiles, the elevated sewer pipes just off River Valley Drive near McLaren Hospital. There was some back and forth about where The Tiles were located, or if they even existed, before Gerry Godin provided the details on the place where kids went to prove they were men:
"This was where you went to prove your bravery in the '60s.

"My friends and I were not that stupid; if you fell off while crossing you would either kill yourself or be maimed for life.

“This was the main sewer line for the city of Flint running all the way to the waste treatment plant located off Beecher Road. There is now a subdivision located next to the black pipe, but this was all field in the '60s. We always heard the legend about the kid who crossed it on a bike but that would have been impossible due to the large joints which protruded outward. I walked out about twenty feet on it before turning back, so I guess I was a little ignorant.”
Now Tom Wirt (a.k.a. Jar With Most) has provided these stunning 1974 photos — including one with Tom strolling nonchalantly across the ravine — proving that we weren't imagining The Tiles after all.

But this conclusive visual evidence does raise another intriguing question: Is there anything in Flint that Tom Wirt hasn't photographed?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ad It Up

Click on image for expanded view.

Thanks to Max for sending this my way.