Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What Do Flint and Grand Rapids Have in Common?

Why can't Flint get its act together? The budget deficits, the bad streets, the talk of increased taxes and, of course, the layoffs really make the place look bad compared to other cities. Why can't Flint be more like, say, Grand Rapids? I mean there's a city that knows how to live within its means without begging for cash from the state and federal government! With hard work and thrift, Grand Rapids has managed to...oh, wait. Never mind.

Jim Harger of The Grand Rapids Press reports:
Faced with yet another year of budget cutting, the City Commission vowed Tuesday to renew efforts to pry more money out of Lansing.

But as City Manager Greg Sundstrom laid out his latest budget request, no commissioner offered a solution to the pension and health-care costs that are expected to continue rising in the future.

"This remains a fundamental structural problem that we simply have to find a way to get around," Mayor George Heartwell said.

Sundstrom told commissioners the budget he is proposing for the fiscal year starting July 1 assumes voters will approve a city income tax increase May 4 that will raise $7.5 million.

The spending plan also assumes commissioners will create a street lighting fee, reduce the personal income tax exemption from $750 to $600, and tighten enforcement of overdue parking tickets.


  1. Living in Grand Rapids, I certainly should not be chuckling right now - but I am. On a weekly basis, I put up with "up turned noses" when I mention my family is in Flint and how much I enjoy going home (and wish we could move back, to be honest). So much for GR being better. Just sayin'.

  2. My brother and two sisters all went to Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, and I always loved visiting them. So I wasn't trying to pick on the place. Just trying to show that the economic collapse is hitting a lot of places, even the ones usually portrayed as economic success stories in the western part of the state.

    Hey, is the Intersection Bar still there?

  3. Funny you should mention the Intersection. Yes, it's still in GR (although it moved from Eastown to a spot of the south side of downtown). And it would be doing really well if an employee hadn't been siphoning money for some time. Consequently, the Intersection is in bankruptcy, but it remains open and is actively booking acts. Went there last month with my daughters to see the Ann Arbor band, Tally Hall.

    As far as the West Michigan snobbery goes -- I've lived away from Flint and over here now for over 20 years. And maybe I'm just becoming one of them, but I don't see it as much. It's still there, but I think economics have humbled everybody.

  4. Pat McFarlane YoungApril 13, 2010 at 10:32 AM

    Ask your brother Matt and his pal Phil about the Intersection Bar in Grand Rapids. I would like to hear some of their history there when they were supposedly studying at Aquinas.

  5. Could you imagine if Dayne Walling asked for a raise in taxes! In Flint! Ha!

  6. Sheldon Neeley (my ward's councilman) suggested just that, and it was met with near universal disdain. Even the mayor said that it wasn't a good idea. As for Grand Rapids, I do like the place, but there does seem to be a sense of superiority that over there.

  7. The only thing Grand Rapids did that made them look better all these years is to annex a whole bunch of land around 1960, nearly doubling its area. Statistics looked a lot better when they annexed. But now look, it's surrounded by Grand Rapids fearing suburbs like Wyoming, Kentwood, and Walker to stop much new annexation since then.

  8. Pat, I know you've heard a lot of the history. I have many fond memories of that place. Scott and Gini used to be the daytime bartenders there. Vince was arrested one night walking home from there because he decided that a parking meter would look great in his room and was nabbed dragging it down the sidewalk. Too many to put in this little space. I miss those days. I still get to GR on occasion. They have fabulous health facilities, but that's about the best I can say for it. The rest has become largely a company town, propped up by Amway money.

  9. Pat McFarlane YoungApril 14, 2010 at 12:13 PM

    Thanks Phil for your reminiscing about the Intersection Bar and info about my "adopted' son Vince's misguided actions on the streets of Grand Rapids. Perhaps you could shed some light on a street sign I have been storing for many years in my garage from the corner of Alten Rd. and Fulton.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.