Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flint Fires: Fire Fighters Struggle to Respond

Flintoid Johnny Mason took this photo near Court and Corunna at 7 a.m. today on his way to work.

More suspected cases of arson in Flint this week.

David Harris of The Flint Journal reports:
An abandoned house caught fire around 5:45 a.m. at 1713 Jane Avenue, near Franklin. It started in the living room and kitchen area, said Andy Graves, battalion chief.

Fire crews were responding to two fires simultaneously late last night, Graves said. The first was around 10 p.m. at an old apartment building at Oak Street near Court. One firefighter injured her foot when a nail went through her boot. She was treated and released, Graves said.

Flint Photos: Chevy in the Hole Redux

Thanks to Mo Arvoy — of Stride Rite shoe party fame — for the great photo.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Don Coleman Hospitalized

Flint Central High School and Michigan State football legend Don Coleman is hospitalized in Lansing. My mom remembers him as the friendliest hall monitor and an all-around great guy when she attended Central with him in the forties. He's also the first player to have his number retired at MSU.

Here's Don's bio from the MSU Athletic Department:

...when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Coleman was primarily a standout swimmer and a trumpeter at Flint Central High School.

His mother had lost two sons at young ages and didn't want Coleman to play prep football. Finally, she gave the OK, but his junior season ended because of conflicts with an after-school job as a busboy at the Durant Hotel.

When he went out for the team again as a senior, Coleman's adjustment was mercurial. He was an immediate state champion and an All-Michigan selection at tackle. And with help from legendary broadcaster Bob Reynolds, Coleman became a must-get recruit for then Michigan State College assistant Duffy Daugherty.

By May 1952, as he prepared for graduation from MSC, Coleman had become arguably the greatest player in school history - pound-for-pound the best lineman in the country. His memberships in the College Football and Michigan Sports Halls of Fame are just two of his honors.

Don's wife, Geraldine, is also in the hospital recovering from surgery, so they could both use some words of encouragement. Please send your get-well wishes to Don and Geraldine at the following address:

424 McPherson Avenue
Lansing, MI

Flint Artifacts: The City of Flint Grows Up by Carl Crow

Monday, March 29, 2010

Michigan Militia

Please tell me that none of these folks is from Flint.

Charlie Savage of The New York Times reports:
Nine members of a Michigan-based Christian militia group have been indicted on sedition and weapons charges in connection with an alleged plot to murder law enforcement officers in hopes of setting off an antigovernment uprising.

In court filings unsealed Monday, the Justice Department accused the nine people of planning to kill an unidentified law enforcement officer, then plant
improvised explosive devices of a type used by insurgents in Iraq to attack the funeral procession.

Eight of the defendants were arrested over the weekend in raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. A ninth remained at large, the Justice Department said. The indictments against them were returned last Tuesday. The defendants were identified as members of Hutaree, described by federal prosecutors as an anti-government extremist organization based in Lenawee County, Mich., and which advocates violence against local, state and federal law enforcement. The group saw local and state police as “foot soldiers” for the federal government, which it viewed as its enemy, along with participants in what they deemed to be a “New World Order,” according to the indictment.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Selling Cars: 1977 Chevy Monza Spyder Advertisement

Flint Fires: Readers Respond

Reader J.L. comments on the recent Flint fires:
These fires have really saddened me. Granted, the homes that burned the other night were (mostly) in pretty bad shape and weren't architecturally significant, and most were on the demolition list, but I didn't want to see them go down that way. Two burned yesterday in the neighborhood south of Chevy in the Hole, which completely made me angry. One was an apartment house in horrible shape, and the other an amazing, 2,000+ sq. ft. brick house on Glenwood that just needed a little work to be great again.

I'm not that worried about my neighborhood (Mott Park), since all of these fires have been at vacant houses in underpopulated areas. What I am worried about is having all of our firefighters busy and then having a real emergency they have to take care of.

I'm a big fan of Dayne Walling, voted for him, and still think he can do great things for us. Unfortunately, he cut too much from public safety and not enough from his own cabinet.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Par-Tay in the Li-Bray! (Officially the worst Flint Expatriates headline ever.)

The party scene at the Flint Public Library was apparently insane in the fifties. Go here for more historic photos. Warning: These images are not for the faint of heart.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Flint Expatriates Midterm Exam

Question: The above object is...

1. A stylish Zamboni
2. A bike helmet
3. An electric razor
4. Darth Vader's love child
5. G.M.'s latest vision of the future

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flint Fires: Map and Timeline

Go here for a map and timeline of the fires in Carriage Town and the Grand Traverse neighborhood.

Here's an overview of the story that ran on Friday in The Flint Journal.

Flint Fires: Mayor Links Fires to Politics

More on the series of fires in Flint.

Laura Angus of The Flint Journal reports:
Mayor Dayne Walling said today that the city is doing everything it can to curb the outbreak of fires, and promised to "not allow criminals and fear to take over this city."

He said investigators believe the fires have been set in routine pattern out to achieve a "perverted political purpose."

Flint Fires

Last night's spate of fires in Flint just before planned layoffs of police and fire fighters has people on edge, especially in Carriage Town and the Grand Traverse area. Residents were out patrolling the neighborhoods last night, and there are plans to board up abandoned houses today.

Bill Gainey, who owns the Hiram "Hardwood" Smith house near downtown, emailed me with an update:

Our neighborhoods are under attack. Especially Carriage Town. They seem to be targeting vacant Land Bank houses that are next to another vacant house. This is terrible. I was on patrol for the better part of last night and more of us will be patrolling tonight. This is a lesson for all of us. We should not have any houses wide open for someone to walk off the street and torch it.

A Scanner Darkly

Yes, you can actually listen to the City of Flint police and fire department scanners online. Go here. Even though the fire department responded to seven calls last night, it's not exactly riviting. But I could only listen for about 30 seconds because it made me feel like I was in a Richard Linklater movie.

The Ghosts of Michigan

Lots of Flint reminders in San Francisco today, starting with a Cadillac Fleetwood with the world's worst paint job, synthetic fur on the hood, and an after-market gun turret. (Sometimes it's really hard not to love California.)

I realize these shots might offend readers who spend their spare time restoring G.M. classics and actually like cars that look good. (Yes, I'm talking about Gerry Godin at All Things Buick.) So here's something that will calm you down that I found just two blocks from the Caddy — an almost mint Chevy pickup.

Not sure if either of these was actually manufactured in Flint but G.M. cars of any kind are scarce in San Francisco, so they'll have to do.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Richard Short and RASCO: A Tale of Con Men, Trailer Parks and Poodles

RASCO World Headquarters in Flint Township. (Photo courtesy of Hollyn Johnson/The Flint Journal)

Despite Flint's economic free fall, some local residents still burn with entrepreneurial zeal. Unfortunately, it's sometimes channeled into potentially illegal projects.

Take Richard Short, a con man with a long rap sheet and a thing for poodles operating out of a trailer park in Mt. Morris. (My apologies to Raymond Chandler for that sentence.)

Posing as the CEO of a company called RASCO — which has to be the most fraudulent sounding corporate moniker ever invented — he managed to secure a $9.1 million state tax break from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Outfitted with a very believable dark suit and a politician's haircut, he even stood on the same stage as Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who lauded Short's plans to produce 765 green jobs and invest $18.5 million in Flint, at a televised press conference.

Alas, Short's parole officer spotted him on the news and the entire operation begin to unravel. As Kristen Longley — who seems to get all the good stories — reported in The Flint Journal, Short's problems with MEDC were just the tip of the iceberg:
Genesee County Prosecutor David S. Leyton announced today that Richard A. Short, 57, will be arraigned on 24 counts of four felony fraud charges — common law fraud, embezzlement, obtaining money under false pretenses and multiple counts of illegal use of a financial transaction device.

Authorities allege Short improperly obtained power of attorney for an 86-year-old female neighbor in the Flint Township mobile home park where he was staying with a friend, Leyton said.

Short forged the woman's signature to obtain power of attorney for her, Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell said.
Short allegedly blew some of his elderly neighbor's cash on booze and dinners at Blackstone's downtown, a sure sign that the restaurant is a genuine success story.

But Short's not the only one in big trouble. Granholm is certainly feeling the political heat. And Greg Main, who heads MEDC, announced that he has offered his resignation to the governor. No word on if she will accept it.

"We obviously failed to do what we should have done in this particular case," Main told reporters after testifying before state lawmakers. "We've taken steps to rectify that. I can't make any excuses."
Now, about that poodle...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Flint Artifacts: Ham Radio Cards

Found these oddities on ebay: "QSL cards are written confirmation from a radio station or ham radio operator of a communication or signal reception. QSL cards are a ham radio operators calling card."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bob Lutz Walks Away from G.M.

The iconic and colorful Bob Lutz is retiring from G.M.

Lawrence Ulrich of The New York Times reports:
In an auto industry characterized by public apologies, hairshirt humility and bland company men, Mr. Lutz was more in the vein of the late Henry Ford II, whose lasting epigram was, “Never complain, never explain.”

Famously blunt, occasionally stubborn and blessed with a knack to lead, inspire and provoke, Mr. Lutz, a onetime Marine aviator, will wrap up a 47-year career when he retires on May 1.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Flint Artifacts: Key To Life Crusade

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flinty Writers

Jan Worth-Nelson — a novelist, poet, essayist, short story writer, and long-time writing teacher at UM-Flint — was recently named "Flint's Best Writer" by Broadside, a local independent newspaper. It's always nice to be honored for your work, but it's even better when the prize is a lighter, which is far more impressive, useful and Flint-like than a plaque of some sort.

Jan's novel Night Blind is a great way to discover her writing. Here's the Amazon description:
Melanie, a beautiful young Peace Corps volunteer, is murdered one October night in the Kingdom of Tonga. For young American Charlotte Thornton, the killing sets off an unnerving cascade of questions. Charlotte can’t help but wonder if she’ll be able to survive and work in the tense postmurder atmosphere.

She plunges into her job as a public relations officer for a Tongan noble. But during her off hours, she drinks too much at the Coconut Club and awkwardly tries to adapt her sexually bold inclinations to Polynesian customs. After getting thrown out of a party for cavorting naked with Melanie’s ex-lover, she retreats — embarrassed, depressed, and haunted by Melanie’s death — to her Tongan family. She then falls in love with Gabriel Bonner, a married Peace Corps psychologist.

When Gabriel abruptly leaves and an earthquake rocks the area, Charlotte’s life seems as if it is about to collapse. How will she navigate her way through this tropical ordeal, night blind and 9,000 miles away from home?

Medicaid Cuts Hit Home

Kevin Sack of The New York Times reports:
It has not taken long for communities like Flint to feel the downstream effects of a nationwide torrent of state cuts to Medicaid, the government insurance program for the poor and disabled. With states squeezing payments to providers even as the economy fuels explosive growth in enrollment, patients are finding it increasingly difficult to locate doctors and dentists who will accept their coverage. Inevitably, many defer care or wind up in hospital emergency rooms, which are required to take anyone in an urgent condition.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Al Jazeera Comes to Flint

Mayoral Recall Effort Sidetracked by Lack of Spellchecker

The Genesee County Election Commission has rejected Flint Board of Education member David Davenport's initial recall petition against Mayor Dayne Walling.

The reason?

He spelled a word wrong.

Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal reports:
The three-member commission said that David Davenport’s language “jeapordizing the safety of the citizens of Flint” wasn’t clear.

“I don’t know what this word is,” David Leyton, Genesee County Prosecutor and an election commission member, said of ‘jeapordizing.’ “Therefore, it’s unclear on it’s face.”

“It’s not a word,” added Jennie Barkey, an election commission member and Genesee Chief Probate Judge.
Davenport — who is facing a recall himself and also working to recall six of his fellow Board of Education members — quickly filed new recall language against the mayor.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Flint Photos: Atwood Stadium 1939

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Flint Photos: Nancy Kovack on Star Trek

For more on Flint-born Nancy Kovack, go here.

Adler Auto Parts

BJ has a question:

I'm happy to keep the most popular blog going with a question that seems most appropriate to be asked in this column. I recently crossed paths with a New York native who said her father grew up in Flint and worked for Adler Auto Parts. I lived in Flint for 32 years before moving out east but I don't recall the store. Does she have the wrong city for her dad's birth, or can a fellow Flintoid out there jog my memory?

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Disgruntled Flint Fire Fighter, I Presume

What exactly does this photo have to do with Flint? Keep reading to find out. And, no, it's not a reference to Paul's Pipe Shop.

Sometimes crediting the source of a blog item takes up more space than the item itself, which is one of the reasons many lazy bloggers (which may be redundant) don't even bother. But I have high standards for Flint Expatriates — except when it comes to spelling or making a profit — so bear with me.

Here's an item from Ron Fonger at The Flint Journal, who got it from an email in response to another Journal article — actually, just a reprint from The Florida Times-Union, a strange paper that runs a daily Bible verse in its editorial pages — that referenced a website called Eighteen in America, which is where Fonger ultimately got the quote he used.

Hello? Are you still with me? Are you wondering why I don't just reprint the "You know you're from Flint if...", which is the most popular post in the history of Flint Expatriates? That would be more interesting, right? But we've come this far, so let's just get it over with.

Apparently, some kid from Williamstown, Massachusetts named Dylan Dethier
decided to golf in every state in the country, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, and he got in a round at Swartz Creek Golf course, where a former firefighter allegedly told him: "Be careful around here. Keep your wits about you. I was a firemen in this city for 27 years, and it's as bad now as ever. If I were you, I'd play this course and then get the hell out of Flint by the time it gets dark."

Not sure that was even worth it.

By the way, are there people out there — besides troubled individuals trying to sound like Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson — who actually say things like "Keep your wits about you"?

Re-Habin Da Hood: The Reality of Flint's Housing Market

Flipping houses in one of the worst markets in the country is inherently dramatic, so Flint Central grad Sophia Taylor created her own public-access reality show about the process. It's called Re-Habin Da Hood.

Kristen Longley of The Flint Journal reports:

Taylor, a self-described singer/actress/writer with a passion for real estate, got the idea for the show after moving back to Flint a year ago from California to manage some of her rental properties.

Anyone can renovate a home, but with her natural on-air personality and a flair for drama, Taylor decided to have a camera start following her around as she rolls up in her Hummer and performs a top-to-bottom extreme home makeover.

If an opportunity for footage comes up, she calls in the camera crew. The show is put together locally, too, at Flint’s Inner City Productions, she said.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Don't Be Fooled...T-shirts Are Still Available

Don't be alarmed...Flint t-shirts are still available. We sold out the initial inventory — hence the SOLD OUT message some of you may have got earlier. But we have more and they're available from the Slow Loris homepage. But they do seem to be selling fast and supplies are limited. Okay, I should stop because I fear I'm starting to sound like a Flint car salesman.

Just click here and select the "For the Love of Flint" shirt option.

UPDATE: Now you can get an Extra Small version in white with blue ink.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Housing Crisis: Paying Homeowners to Leave

How many Flintoids will line up to take advantage of this? David Streitfeld of The New York Times reports:

In an effort to end the foreclosure crisis, the Obama administration has been trying to keep defaulting owners in their homes. Now it will take a new approach: paying some of them to leave.

This latest program, which will allow owners to sell for less than they owe and will give them a little cash to speed them on their way, is one of the administration’s most aggressive attempts to grapple with a problem that has defied solutions.

More than five million households are behind on their mortgages and risk foreclosure. The government’s $75 billion mortgage modification plan has helped only a small slice of them. Consumer advocates, economists and even some banking industry representatives say much more needs to be done.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Welcome to Flint Central High School

If you just have to have the welcome mat from Flint Central High School, it's for sale on Craigslist.

Flint Journal Adds a Dead-Tree Edition on Tuesdays

Unexpectedly, The Flint Journal is back to publishing a paper edition on Tuesdays, although at newsstands only.

The Auto Town Ambassador

Louis Uchitelle of The New York Times profiles Edward B. Montgomery today. The executive director of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers has made several trips to Flint, and Mayor Dayne Walling is quoted in the article:

On his travels he has helped to channel millions of dollars from the stimulus package and other government pools. He does not know, he says, just how many millions. At many of the stops, particularly in Ohio, which went for George W. Bush in 2004 and just barely for Obama in the last presidential election, there is an implicit political message in this largess. It goes something like this: Stick with the president and the Democratic Party, and while we cannot bring back mass production with its large-scale employment, we can help you in the transition to other sources of income and jobs.

“What they are doing is all well and good,” said Daniel Luria, research director of the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center. “But if you are one of the people in distress, what you really want is a national manufacturing strategy that insures that the share of what is made here does not continue to fall.”

Mr. Montgomery describes that thinking as unwarranted interference in the private sector, and counterproductive. “The question of whether you should order private companies to locate in these communities; that is not a prescription for success,” he said.

His approach has produced results that are hard to measure. He has visited Flint, Mich., for example, three times in the last year, and the unemployment rate remains above 25 percent. On the other hand, several hundred additional people are enrolled in job training as a result of stimulus money that Mr. Montgomery steered to Flint, according to the mayor, Dayne Walling. In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving more quickly than it otherwise would have, the mayor said, to clear former factory sites for other commercial use.

“That was a thicket that Montgomery’s people helped us to navigate,” the mayor said.

Flint Maps: 1899 Plat Map

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Flint Artifacts: Matches

Thanks to Harry Fisher for supplying the matchbooks.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Recall Fever and the Flint Board of Education

Who knew the Flint Board of Education was such a volatile group of elected officials?

Last month, the board passed a resolution to censure one of their own members, David Davenport. Laura Misjak of The Flint Journal reports:
"The resolution states specific instances of misconduct, including leaking information to the media about a closed board meeting, verbally assaulting staff during meetings, publicly criticizing board members and soliciting private information about students as though he was approved by the board to do so.
Of course, Davenport should have expected a little hostility after he initiated the process to recall six of his fellow board members last fall. Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal reports:
Davenport, who was elected to the board in May, 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.
Just to keep things interesting, a Flint resident turned around and filed recall petition language against Davenport last month.
"The petition reads that Davenport should be recalled for “A) inappropriately disclosing to the media details of a closed meeting of the board, B) verbally assaulting and insulting staff at board meetings, C) violating board policy by soliciting of private student information, D) violating board policy by publicly criticizing individual board members and E) publicly making derogatory and defamatory remarks, statements about public officials," according to the Journal.
Not to be outdone, Davenport set out to recall Mayor Dayne Walling for “jeopardizing the safety of the citizens of Flint.”

Melissa Burden, who is clearly on the Flint Recall beat, reports:
Davenport said he filed the petition against Walling in response to him last week pink slipping 80 police and firefighters due to city’s budget problems.

“As a leader of the city, for me to allow money to be top priority over the safety of the citizens of the city is ridiculous,” Davenport said.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Making Sense of the Flint Board of Education

Seriously, if anyone can explain the Flint Board of Education to me, I'm all ears. As you may remember, the board opted to close Central High School, then refused to sell it to Powers High for relocation. Now there's a large empty building sitting in the heart of the cultural district.

Now comes this news from Melissa Burden of The Flint Journal:
The Flint Board of Education gave the OK today for two churches to meet for the next year in two closed school buildings.

The board in unanimous vote agreed to renew its lease with Cathedral of Faith Ministries Church of God in Christ at the closed Gundry Elementary School, 6031 Dupont St. on the city's north side.

It also 7-0 voted to a least part of the closed Longfellow Middle School building, 1255 N. Chevrolet Ave., to El Bethel Evangelistic Missionary Baptist Church, which has a Davison address.

Board members David Davenport and Stephanie Robb Martin were absent.

"I like to see the buildings being occupied," said Vera J. Perry, board president. "(I'm) happy to see churches in the buildings."

Really? So why is Central sitting empty while Powers continues to look for a new location?

According to an earlier item in the Journal, the board apparently wants to reopen Central in four years, or tear it down and build a new school. They just need to some how, some way scare up the millions to do it. Is there any plan whatsoever to make this a reality? Can anyone explain what the board is thinking when it comes to Central? And what sort of influence does the mayor's office have over the board?

St. Joseph in the House

Desperate Michiganders are turning to arcane ritual and St. Joseph — the Biblical contractor — to sell their houses.

Zlati Meyer of The Detroit Free Press reports:
"Our sales on the St. Joseph kits increased over 227% between July of 2008 and June of 2009," according to Leann Cooper, a spokeswoman for Michigan Church Supply of Mt. Morris, near Flint, one of the nation's largest religious-goods stores. "Since June 2009, the sales have decreased about 25%, but remain much higher than before the real estate crunch."

Home sellers are counting on the statues to help them beat the odds: Metro Detroit houses that sold in January had been on the market for an average of about 100 days, according to Realcomp, a Farmington Hills-based multiple listing service.

How is St. Joseph supposed to work? Bury the figurine upside down in the yard of the house you want to sell.

Some say the little fellow should face east. Others say a prayer, asking for a quick sale. Another school of thought adds a candle and oil.

Flint Photos: The Joys of Being Mayor of Flint

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stories that Flint could have used about 20 years ago

Are we living in some kind of bizarre parallel automotive universe? Here are the leads from two stories on today's The New York Times homepage:
General Motors said Tuesday that United States sales rose 11.5 percent in February, including a 32.2 percent gain for the four brands it is keeping: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.
Toyota has recalled six million cars in the United States over concerns about sudden acceleration. But an analysis of government documents shows that many Toyota Camrys built before 2007, which were not subject to recalls, have been linked to a comparable number of speed-control problems as recalled Camrys.

Spring Training

Now that the Olympics are over, let's set our sights on spring training. This should help...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tom Foreman — Not Anderson Cooper — on Flint and Luck

CNN's Tom Foreman looks very disappointed in this photo. And why shouldn't he be after Flint Expatriates mistakenly attributed some of his work to CNN's Anderson Cooper. Thanks to several readers for pointing out this pre-coffee error.

Anyway, Foreman says America should give Flint a break in an open letter to President Obama:

"Sometimes I think it is too easy for people to heap praise on places that succeed, like Austin, and to call them prescient; and simultaneously too simple to pile scorn on places that struggle, like Flint, Michigan, and call them ill-prepared for changing times, as if they should have seen it coming.

"Maybe they should have. Or maybe they were unlucky. Or maybe a little of both."