Friday, October 30, 2009

Flint Postcards: St. John Vianney

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Flint Foodies

Here's something I never really expected to see...a blog about the Flint culinary scene called Eating Flint. Maybe Flint and San Francisco aren't as different as I thought.

WFUM May Have a New Owner

It looks like Central Michigan might buy WFUM-Flint from the University of Michigan. Go here for the story. Thanks to Rich Frost for passing this along.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Luxury of the Seventies?

View Larger Map

David Harris of The Flint Journal reports:
"What was once a luxury apartment complex in the 1970s that turned into an eyesore in recent years is being torn down today.

"Two apartment buildings at 1710 W. Pierson Road were demolished by the City of Flint through a Community Development Block Grant fund."

Rowe Nears Completion

A worker put the finishing touches on an apartment in the ROWE building downtown. (Photo courtesy of Tim Jaglelo/The Flint Journal)

Speaking of luxury, the ROWE Professional Services Co. building on Saginaw Street is nearly ready for occupancy. Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal reports that "seven of eight luxury loft apartments are rented. Rent starts at about $1,050 a month for the more than 2,000-square-foot apartments that feature 20-foot ceilings, exposed brick walls and walnut floors."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Towne Club Pop

Show Some Respect

Youngsters in one Chinese province are forced to pay homage to the almighty auto. This didn't even happen in Flint during the boom years.

Sharon LaFraniere of The New York Times reports:
All the students at Luolang Elementary School, a yellow-and-orange concrete structure off a winding mountain road in southern China, know the key rules: Do not run in the halls. Take your seat before the bell rings. Raise your hand to ask a question.

And oh, yes: Salute every passing car on your way to and from school.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Your Pepsi or Your Life

The Detroit News reports:
A 77-year-old Flint man refused to give in to a would-be robber, instead fending off his assailant with a two-liter bottle of Pepsi before suffering a gunshot wound to the groin.

The Flint Journal reports Pat Gillespie is recovering at home after the shooting Thursday afternoon.

Gillespie says he was unloading groceries outside his home when one of two men pointed a gun and told him to empty his pockets. Gillespie tells the newspaper he "didn't want to give them nothing" and hit the gunman with a bag containing the Pepsi bottle. The men ran off, but shot Gillespie once.

Read the full story here.

And for the original Flint Journal story, that has a lot more detail, go here. This all happened in the Mott Park neighborhood.

Color Commentary

Designer turned marketer Chris Webb talks about how G.M. chooses colors for the Volt. It's basically a commercial for the internet age, but it's surprisingly interesting and offers a nice contrast with the yuppie extravagance of the Reagan-era Cadillac advertising I posted yesterday.

It did remind me a little of the color analyst scene in Roger & Me. And the part where Webb explains how G.M. uses three layers of color instead of two was somewhat reminiscent of the famous amp scene in Spinal Tap. (watch below)

All kidding aside, it seems like G.M. is finally figuring out how to market a car to a wider, more diverse group of consumers. (And no, G.M. did not pay me to say that.)

If you want a chance to fly to L.A. and test drive a pre-production Volt, go here to enter the Chevy color contest to name the strange green planned for some of the Volts. (Are they too broke to actually give a car away in the contest, as I mistakenly posted earlier? Apparently so.) Alas, there are no plans to re-introduce the "Bamboo Cream" of my grandma's Buick Electra.

UPDATE: If you scroll toward the bottom of this page, you can see some of the names people have submitted. And as some of the comments indicate, figuring out how to actually enter this contest is a real challenge. Perhaps I was a bit premature in declaring that G.M. has improved at the marketing game.

Citizens Bank: It Could Be Worse

Reuters reports that Flint's Citizens Bank is still losing money, but less than expected:
"Loss-making Midwestern bank Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc (CRBC.O) posted a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss, despite a spike in loan loss provisions and expenses.

"Third-quarter net loss was $62.1 million, or 48 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $18.9 million, or 20 cents a share, last year."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Cadillac Style: Let's Go! Let's Live!

My favorite part is when the polo-playing dude douses himself with water while sitting on the hood of his Caddy and two women jump up and down in excitement. You used to see scenes like that all the time in Flint. The two dim-witted housing developers who almost blow themselves up is also pretty cool.

Mapping the Economic Mess

The Geography of Jobs is a highly informative animated map that "provides a striking visual of employment trends over the last business cycle using net change in jobs from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics on a rolling 12-month basis."

"The timeline begins in 2004 as the country starts its recovery from the 2001 recession, following the bursting of the dot-com bubble. At first, broad economic growth was apparent across most of the country. Two notable exceptions are the Bay Area — the hub of the tech boom that drove job growth during the prior decade — and several metropolitan areas within the Midwest. The map reveals that much of the industrial Midwest never fully recovered from the previous recession, as manufacturers continue to shed jobs while other parts of the country were adding them in large number."

Go here to view the map.

Thanks to Haskell Community Center's Jim Holbel for passing this along.

Time Out

Time Magazine takes a look at Flint:

"No place has felt the pain of General Motors' collapse quite as completely as Flint, Mich., which is about an hour's drive north of Detroit. Back in the early 1970s, GM had as many as 80,000 employees around Flint, making it one of the premier company towns in the U.S. But as GM's fortunes have fallen, so have those of Flint. GM is still the largest employer in town by far, but its Flint payroll has dropped to fewer than 8,000. Meanwhile, the Genesee County Land Bank owns more than 4,000 vacant residential properties in and around Flint, which had 124,000 residents at the last census. Today, streets are mostly abandoned, the average value of a single-family home has dropped to $16,400 and the city's unemployment rate hovers at 27%, which is two points better than it was in August when it hit 29%. "

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Can G.M. "Transform" Itself?

Bernard Rosenberg writes: "
This was forwarded to me by my former Flint Southwestern girlfriend who lives in Maine. She got it from her Southwestern friend who now lives in California. Now you get from this from a Southwestern ExPat who lives in Florida."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cruzing for Bruising?

Will the Chevy Cruze and Volt save G.M. and, by extension, help Flint? Reader Shawn Chittle doesn't think so:

"Nissan's Leaf gets 367MPG and will be out about the same time as the Cruze and Volt, which gets 230MPG.

"As you know, yuppies and hippies don't buy Chevrolet cars. And few people I know have $45,000 sitting around for a new car anyway.

"These will be the most colossal duds ever — perhaps bigger than the Edsel — and just more ammunition for GM to close its last door on Flint for good."

Land Rush

Harry Ryan prepares for some neighborhood beautification. (Photo courtesy of Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

Dan Barry of The New York Times, who "takes readers behind news articles and into obscure and well-known corners of the United States," writes about Flint residents finding hope amid the ruins:

Harry Ryan, 59, the child of auto workers, traveled for years as a rhythm and blues musician before returning to follow his parents into the auto plants. He got laid off, found other employment, and is now retired, with gray in his moustache and a stoop to his walk.

In 2005 he went to the land bank — he is on its advisory board — and received permission to plant a garden on a lot it owns a few yards from the broken side window of an abandoned house. He and some neighbors cleaned brush, removed the remnant pieces of concrete of demolished houses, and planted hardy turnips and greens.

But the garden could not contain their growing sense of pride in their community. Soon they were mowing front lawns all along East Piper Avenue — for free, and without seeking permission. “We just cut everybody’s property, even if they were sitting on the porch,” he says. “Sometimes they wouldn’t say anything, and that would get us mad.”
Read the entire article here. Go here for the slideshow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Flint Maps: Chevy Cruze and Volt Manufacturing

The Chevy Volt concept car, trying very hard not to look anything like a Chevette.

News that GM will use four plants in the greater Flint area for the assembly of Chevrolet Volt and Cruze engines has people wondering what it will mean for the Vehicle City.
The decision could be a turning point for the city, bringing back jobs and the sheen of an automotive industry striving to reinvent itself," writes Camille Ricketts of GreenBeat. "While many skeptics have accused GM of exaggerating the driving range and convenience of the Chevy Volt (pictured above), it is still expected to be the most practical plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle available next year. The car maker says the eventual price should hover somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000, making it much cheaper than Tesla Motors‘ $109,000 roadster (and even its more affordable Model S), and Fisker Automotive’s $87,000 Karma — while still remaining more similar to traditional vehicles than supposedly cheaper EVs made by Zenn Motor Company and Coda Automotive."
Flint Expatriates has put together a map of what's happening at the various plants. Simply click on the blue car icons. For a larger map, which is a little easier to read, click on the link below.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

City Speak Blog

Although City Speak claims to be an "insider" look at City Hall, the "official blog of the City of Flint" really just offers up an extremely positive spin on the Walling administration. There aren't many comments on the posts, and no responses from the city — yet — to those comments. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a true forum for citizens and city officials.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rosie, Bill Bailey, and Water Street Pavillion

There have been several mentions of Rosie on Flint Expatriates and her performances of "Bill Bailey" in various Flint locales. Steve Hester, a producer and director at Zoom Digital Media in Grand Blanc, passed along this video of Rosie singing her signature tune.

"Rose Mary DeRosia was one of Flint's all-time great characters," Steve writes. "I taped this when I worked at Water Street Pavilion in downtown in 1988.

"Rosie, as she was universally known, had one true love in life: singing. Her theme song was 'Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey,' and for years she would belt it out anyplace, anytime, especially if there was a band or a crowd nearby.

"Physically disabled and a survivor of 30 years in a mental institution, she was not homeless but spent much of her time on Flint streets, hitchhiking to get around.

Rosie got her moment in the limelight for her 68th birthday, in 1987, when 500 people came out to hear her sing — backed by some of Flint's top musicians — in a concert put on just for her at the Windmill Place.

"Rosie died March 18, 1990, after being hit by a car. Benefit concerts and fundraisers paid for a complete funeral and a headstone inscribed with the opening notes of 'Bill Bailey.'"

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Zombie City

Even the living dead like a deluxe with olives every once in a while. (l.)

After everything Flint has been through, a few zombies aren't really a problem, especially if they have jobs and spend their money at Halo Burger. They also seem very charitable.

Flint Artifacts: WTAC License to Listen

Obviously, thanks to Mr. John Bingel (No. 5093) for this great artifact.

Vehicle City Bands

Anyone remember a Flint band from the late '40s called The Rhythmers, or perhaps it was The Rhythmaires?

UPDATE: The Rhythmers (?) had musicians from all over Flint. I knew of them as I played in Central High's band and Jerry Sawdon, the drummer, was a good friend of my family. His stepfather, George Domm, was a real estate agent and acquaintance of my dad. His brother was discharged from the Navy and came home and formed the band. His name was Dick Sawdon and he played sax. I often went to the Sawdons house with Jerry as he lived two blocks from Central off Second Street. His mother owned and ran Maria's Cleaners on Second near their house. The band rehearsed at Jerry's house and I became friends with one of the girlfriends of the bass player. She was Lois Scotton who in later life owned the Scotton Shop on Third Ave. in what's now called Carriage Town. She introduced me to her friend the bass player Earl Prahl, brother of Marie Prahl, who later became Dean of Women at Flint Community College. Earl and Lois went to Northern and brought another Northern alumni, Jack Thomas. I think he played the piano. He later went on to teach at Boston Conservatory of Music. There was another member I liked very much but can't remember his name. He was Polish and lots of fun. The band ended in tragedy when returning from a gig in Saginaw they were involved in a car crash and Dick Sawdon was killed. I moved to Detroit after that and aside from my life long friendship with Earl Prahl I lost contact with them and didn't return to Flint for many years.
— Pat Young

Flint Artifacts: Summer Fun in Flint 1956

Sorry about the resolution on this one. You can click on the image to enlarge it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Flint Artifacts: Baker Drug Sweet Oil

Dream Weaver

I noticed that Dream Weaver was #17 for the week of March 12, 1976 on the WTAC Music Guides I posted earlier. This song was definitely in heavy rotation in Flint when I was a kid. I may have heard it playing in Double D Market. I got this unfortunate song stuck in my head on a torturous hike in the Sierras about three years ago. Couldn't get rid of it. I want all of you to feel my pain by watching this video. In the process, I hope you gain a new appreciation for satin pajamas and singers with a very limited range.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Flint Artifacts: 1976 WTAC Music Guides

Click on images to enlarge.
Thanks to Clarke Ingram for the Flint Artifacts.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Say Yes to Michigan

The doors open at Cobo. This photo by Daniel Mears of the Detroit News is part of a slide show available here. If you think the economic crisis is easing, watch the slide show.

How bad is the Michigan economy when Flint residents drive to Detroit to get help? Charlie LeDuff of the Detroit News reports on the chaos that ensued when desperate crowds gathered at Cobo Center to get applications for rent and utility bill help from the Fed:

Luis Irizarry, 35, drove from Flint for the chance he could get assistance. He later found out only Detroit residents are eligible. He said it was a shock to see this many people in need.

"This is ridiculous," Irizarry said about the thousands who showed up.

Matt Latimer: From Flint to the White House

What happens when a Flintoid joins the Bush White House? Matt Latimer tells all in his new book Speech-Less: Tales of a White House Survivor.

The Economist evaluates the book in its Lexington blog:
Mr Latimer grew up in Flint, Michigan, a town so depressed he was once arrested because the police thought a well-dressed white boy could only be there to buy drugs. He started loving Ronald Reagan around the time he started shaving. He came to Washington young and idealistic, and worked for a congressman, three senators and Donald Rumsfeld. He still admires Mr Rumsfeld and two of the senators, but despairs of nearly everyone else. He joined the White House for Mr Bush’s last couple of years, but soon found that the president was not the conservative hero of his dreams. Instead of pushing for the overthrow of tyranny everywhere, as he had once promised, he was now reluctant to demand the release of an Egyptian political prisoner in case he upset President Hosni Mubarak. He was making overtures to Iran, though he had previously said this was like talking to terrorists. And when the financial crisis struck, neither Mr Bush nor anyone around him seemed to have a clue what to do. They ended up spending lots of money.

Family Affair

Flint voters aren't shy about recalling mayors, but what about board of education members?

Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal reports:
The Genesee County Election Commission today approved recall petition language for six Flint Board of Education members...Genesee County Elections Director Doreen Fulcher said [board member David] Davenport has 180 days to collect 8,004 valid signatures for each board member. If he gets enough signatures (they can’t be older than 90 days when he turns them in), the recall could go to ballot.

Davenport, who was elected to the board in May and could not immediately be reached for comment, wants to recall the six members because he believes they are violating a district policy by allowing Superintendent Linda Thompson to hold her position, while her brother Bashir, sits on the board.

GM: The Same, But Different, Sort Of

The Chevrolet Equinox, not to be confused with the GMC Terrain.

The GMC Terrain, not to be confused with the Chevrolet Equinox.

One of the myriad complaints about GM was their near pathological habit of selling the same car under different nameplates after "differentiating" them with a few cosmetic flourishes. Despite financial ruin, it seems old habits die hard. Christopher Jensen of The New York Times reports:
The new GMC Terrain is a mechanical twin of the Chevrolet Equinox — identical in size and driving manners, though different in appearance — that is aimed at larger game than its sibling...The Terrain’s styling is pointedly different, with exaggerated S.U.V. flourishes like squared-off wheel wells. But aside from the look, consumers are unlikely to see huge differences between the two vehicles.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Joys of Indoor Baseball

Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press on the Tigers excruciating final game of the season:
Ryan Raburn knew this was an unusual day when it started raining indoors.

"Stuff kept dropping," the Tigers' leftfielder said. "It was hittin' me. I was wonderin' what the hell it was. Sure enough, the roof was leaking."

If you had to make a list of the remarkable events in the Twins' extra-inning, extra-game, extra-painful elimination of the Tigers on Tuesday, the indoor rain would be ... what, 47th on the list? This was one of those rare, special days in sports where the moment seems so important, the game cannot possibly live up to it -- and then the game exceeds it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


The Tigers are absolutely killing me. Tied up. Extra innings. Rodney, my favorite player, will not let us down.

Update: Well, maybe he will, but he threw a lot of pitches. Not his fault. So many chances to win this game. Tigers lose. Season over.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Numbers Game

Some numbers simply can't be nuanced. The Genesee County Land Bank newsletter The New View has these sobering statistics in an article about a series of community forums being held to address Flint's housing and population issues.
"Flint's population is about forty five percent smaller than it was in 1960. Thirty two percent of residential properties are abandoned. With a surplus of abandoned properties, sale values continue to decline. This year, the average sale value of a single family home in Flint is $16,400."
You can go here to sign up for the newsletter.

Running on Fumes

When the Answer Fella at Esquire magazine wonders if cars really can "run on fumes," he turns to Flint for help:
Ray Rust, mechanical-engineering academic lab coordinator at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, notes that "every time you fill it, gunk gets into the gas tank and settles into the lowest point [and] winds up around the fuel pickup nozzle if that's the only fuel left in the tank. So if you keep running your tank low, you're more likely to suck up small particles and clog up your fuel filter. Also, the lower the tank [level] is, the more work that pump has to do."

Flint Postcards: Buick Garage

Sunday, October 4, 2009

G.M. and eBay: A Noble Experiment

G.M.'s innovative attempt to market cars on eBay is generating a lot of press, but it doesn't appear to be selling a lot of cars. Alejandro Martínez-Cabrera of the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
Neither company released the number of complete transactions that resulted from the program, but according to the Los Angeles Times, the last two weeks produced only 13 sales out of 21,000 listings.

"My understanding from the numbers I've been told is that (the program) drove a lot of inquiries and a lot of traffic but didn't sell a lot of cars," said Peter Welch, president of the California New Car Dealers' Association. "I suspect it was because consumers decided it was more convenient to go to the dealership."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Flint Postcards: Paterson Carriage Co.

Shocking News!

News Flash! Forbes Magazine discovers it's hard to get a job in Flint!

Grand Blanc Gets Grander

What's not getting smaller? The Grand Blanc School District.

Is Smaller Better?

The small South Baltimore neighborhood of Wagner's Point before and after it was purchased by the city and razed. (Photos courtesy of Urbanite)

Genesee County Land Bank Chief Executive Dan Kildee has become the Pied Piper of the shrinking city movement. Michael Anft of Urbanite magazine considers if the approach would work in Baltimore and examines Flint in the process:
Desperate, a handful of cities have chosen to deal with the unpaid taxes and headaches that come with forgotten properties by getting rid of them. They’ve bulldozed thousands of homes, shrinking their “footprint” and saving the money it costs to provide roads, schools, sewers, water, and other services to neighborhoods with only a sprinkling of people left. By selling off valuable land in Flint, Genesee County has raised $6 million, using the money to raze a thousand homes and convert entire blocks into pocket parks and gardens.

Flint can count among its recent victories dozens of urban open spaces and some neighborhoods where home values are actually rising—a departure from a slow, torturous decline since the 1980s. Large-scale developments remain elusive, but Kildee says there’s more than a glint of hope. In north Flint, the Genesee County Land Bank bought abandoned properties, cleared them, and sold them to a developer. The result: twenty-four units of new, affordable housing. “These aren’t big numbers,” he says. “But seeing new construction in Flint and seeing the market respond—that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Go here for the entire story.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tigers Close In on Division Title

The Tigers can clinch their first division title in 22 years today. Go here for the Detroit Free Press live blog of the game against the Twins, which is getting started right about now.

UPDATE: Tigers lose 8-3. Detroit still has a two-game lead with three games left.

UPDATE: 4-1 Twins in the 5th.

UPDATE: Not good...Tigers down 3-1 in top of 4th. Twins have two on with no out.