Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is Hummer Dead?


Hummer appears to be history, but as we saw with Saab it may not be dead yet.

Nick Bunkley of The New York Times reports:
Hummer, the brand of big sport-utility vehicles that became synonymous with the term “gas guzzler,” is being shut down after a deal to sell it to a Chinese manufacturer fell apart, General Motors said Wednesday.

G.M. said only that its planned sale of Hummer to the Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machines Company “cannot be completed,” without giving a reason, but the $150 million deal had been stalled as the companies awaited approval from the Chinese government. G.M. had been trying to sell Hummer for a year, and struck a preliminary deal with Tengzhong last June.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Simpsons and Flint, Michigan: City of Tomorrow


Gerry Godin at All Things Buick spotted this classic Vehicle City reference: "On this week's Simpson's episode Lisa was searching the attic for a family tree school project. She came across a Bicentennial edition of the Readers Digest. On the cover is FLINT, MICHIGAN: CITY OF TOMORROW."


At least there was no reference to crime.

A Sea of Plastic


A weekend visit to a small natural "beach" near the Genentech campus in South San Francisco reminded me of just how many varieties of plastic are floating around out there in our oceans and waterways. These shots represent just a small sample of debris from a tiny stretch of the San Francisco Bay measuring no more that 500 sq. ft. Pretty depressing. Then I watched the video below and got even more depressed.

I felt a little better when I read about funding to help clean up the Great Lakes, but the task still seems overwhelming. Reuters reports:
A year after President Barack Obama proposed a plan to clean up the Great Lakes, the government Sunday laid out its plan to improve the ecology of the major bodies of water that support much of U.S. agriculture and industry.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson met with governors of states that touch the inland waterways to describe an "action plan" that will focus on eliminating invasive species, cleaning up pollutants, and remediating more than a half million acres of the area's wetlands, she told reporters.

"It's about creating a new standard of care for the Great Lakes system," Jackson said. "Instead of minimizing harm, our new standard of care is to leave the Great Lakes better for the next generation than the condition in which we inherited them."

















Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Valley School on Facebook


There's a Valley School Facebook page for all you alumni looking to reconnect. Thanks to Bill Weber for passing this along.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Toyota and Congressional Hearings

Abraham Alberto, left, with two of his children Lilia and Douglas stands in his party store holding a memorial poster for his wife, Guadalupe Alberto, who was killed when the 2005 Toyota Camry she was driving crashed in Flint. (Photo courtesy of MSNBC)


Much like Tiger Woods, it now appears Toyota's image doesn't quite match reality. Peter
Whoriskey and Kimberly Kindy of the Washington Post report on three deadly crashes involving Toyota's, including one that occurred in Flint:
But in each of those three fatal episodes, the car involved was a 2005 Toyota Camry, a model that the company has indicated is free of the acceleration defects: It has not been recalled for either the sticky pedal or the floor mat interference.

"This raises a huge red flag," said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety.

He and other safety advocates have their own suspicions, aroused by a history of glitchy behavior in the electronics that control Toyota's engines.

"Many unintended accelerations do not appear to be explained by floor mats and sticky pedals," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who is holding the Tuesday hearing on the recalls. "One of the key questions we will ask at the hearing is whether electronic defects could be responsible."

Toyota officials declined to comment on the cases because they are in litigation.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Memory of Bill Custack


Bill Custack, who grew up on Greenway Avenue in Flint, died today in Seattle. He will be sadly missed.



Bill (third from left) with the Haskell neighborhood gang back in the seventies.

Flint Artifacts: AC Oil Filter Mug

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rollerworld: It's more fun for everyone

A shot of Skateland Arena in Genesee Township, which is still going strong, captures the feel of the late, great Rollerworld in Flint. (Photo by Scott Brauer/The Flint Journal)


UPDATE: I'm reposting this from Sept. 20, 2008 because a few readers have revived the Rollerworld discussion.

Here's the original post:

A reader mentioned Rollerworld in a comment recently, a Flint icon that I haven't thought of in years.

It was a skate rink located on Ballenger near Miller Road in a former Yankee's/Zody's store. My friend Jerry Gawne, who was always ahead of the curve on cool trends, introduced me to the place. (Jerry was pretty much the pop-culture arbiter among my circle of friends living on Bassett, Humbolt and Delmar in Civic Park. He established that Jaws was the greatest movie ever made; that DC Comics were an abomination compared to Marvel; that the Planet of the Apes movies were second only to Jaws; that the unlikely combination of Parliament and KISS was the epitome of musical taste; and, eventually, that girls were highly desirable.)

Jerry was friends with Justin Bates, a skater extraordinaire whose family owned Rollerworld and, I think, actually lived above it, which I thought was an amazing concept at the time. (This was a few decades ago, so don't quote me on any of this.)

I remember talking my older sister, Katie, into taking me to Rollerworld one night. She wasn't too thrilled but she relented because she was always kind-hearted. I promised we wouldn't stay long. I eventually lost track of her in the splashy lights of the disco ball. I discovered her a little later, executing a hilarious figure-skating move with a guy on each arm while she laughed hysterically. I was shocked!

Anyone else out there with Rollerworld stories?

Flint Artifacts: Fisher Body Plant #1 Lighter

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Michigan Real Estate: Five Figure Territory

In 2009, the average sale price of a home in Michigan slipped below $100,000 for the first time in 15 years, reports UM-Flint professor of economics and finance Mark J. Perry on his Carpe Diem blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Flint Artifacts: Freeman's Dairy Noisemaker


Freeman's Dairy was located at 116 W. First Avenue in Flint.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sweet Marie's

There was a candy store right behind St. Mike's on Chippewa Street where the kids used to go after school. I think the place was called Sweet Marie's and I believe this is the building on Google Maps, but I'm not exactly sure. Does this ring a bell with anyone? It would have been in the early seventies, but it seemed like the place had been around forever.



View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Cat's Meow

The world's tiniest Cougar on the prowl in Rothbury, Michgian. (Photo by Chris Larson)


Ahh, western Michigan, land of tulips and right-wing politics, where Garfield lookalikes are magically transformed into vicious cougars.

Brian McVicar of the The Muskegon Chronicle reports:
Chris Larson was all but certain the animal with a large, lean body and sloping tail she recently saw prowling near her friend’s Rothbury home was a cougar.

Wildlife experts from The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment have another name for the animal Larson spotted on Friday — a large house cat.

“I feel in my heart that this is definitely not a house cat,” Larson said, adding she knows what cougars look like and doesn’t have poor eyesight. “I know what I saw.”

Although this is the equivalent of someone in Flint mistaking a carp for a shark, I say keep fighting for what you believe in Chris Larson. Don't let the DNR steal your dreams.

The Hero Experiment


Where does the psychologist behind the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment turn when he needs subjects for his latest project? Genesee County, of course.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Powers Deal Off?

UPDATE: It's official. Deal off. Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:

General Motors' Service and Parts Operations World Headquarters is staying put in the township, a decision that will cost Powers Catholic High School a potential new home but save hundreds of white collar jobs here.

A GM spokesman told The Flint Journal today that the company has made a final decision to remain in the 345,000-square-foot complex, and Powers said in a news release that officials there will continue to work toward finding a new home.

"This has been a very difficult six months. We believed we were going to be moving," said John McDonald, a GM spokesman. "Everybody had been working toward that goal."

An anonymous reader just posted this info on the plans for Powers High School to relocate to the General Motors SPO World Headquarters in Grand Blanc. Please note that this is unconfirmed:
It was just announced at Power's and at SPO that SPO will not be relocating so the deal is off. Sad day for Powers. When [Principal] Tom [Furnas] made the announcement at school today, I was told he sounded very sad. GM is committing to work with Powers on a solution.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Crack on Credit

It makes you proud to log in to the San Francisco Chronicle website and find a story about good ol' Flint:
Authorities said a man accused of stealing a car then reporting it stolen remains in custody after telling police he was robbed at gunpoint while trying to buy crack cocaine with a credit card. The Flint Journal said the man reported Thursday night that a 2003 Chevy Malibu had been stolen.

Flint Postcards: Bijou Theatre

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Flint Artifacts: PX Bar-B-Q Matches

Green Shoots for Michigan

To help temper the discouraging unemployment numbers, UM-Flint professor of economics and finance Mark J. Perry comes to the rescue with a statistical glimmer of hope for Michigan.

The Geography of a Recession

They don't call it the Great Recession for nothing.

If you'd like to get very depressed before the Super Bowl, check out The Decline: The Geography of a Recession by Latoya Egwuekwe, an interactive map that charts unemployment data. The saddest part is that the rest of the country basically turns into Michigan over the course of three years.

Thanks again Duane "Perfect Attendance" Gilles for cheering us up on a Sunday morning.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Powers Confirms Move

Here's a letter sent out from Powers High School Principal Tom Furnas on February 5th about relocation:
Dear Powers Parents and Friends;

We are acutely aware that there are rumors in the community surrounding the potential relocation of our school and that there is a fair amount of angst in the parent community about lack of communication from us. What we have communicated formerly remains true: we promised that we would give all effort to finding a feasible project and that we would then do our level best to bring that project to fruition.

Sometimes in the past we have allowed ourselves to get carried away in possibilities and hopes and we want this time to be different. At this point I can tell you that Bishop Boyea has signed a purchase agreement for the GM-SPO facility located in Grand Blanc Township off of I-475. The Township amended its zoning ordinances to allow for a high school to operate at that site with a special use permit. Their officials have also expressed a strong desire to work with us.

With this concrete reality in front of us and a short time frame within which to work, the next task is to approach people in the community who have the potential to provide lead cash gifts (as well as pledges) to ensure that we can make it all come together. To that end, a number of receptions are being hosted throughout the community to which we are inviting major donors who can provide a substantial portion of the funds necessary to make the move possible. We have a March 1 deadline to obtain significant support to ensure our success. After this March 1 deadline, we will broaden and continue our capital campaign. We will need the support of our entire community to get to the finish line and look forward to working with you in the near future. If you know of people that should be included in this first, critical phase or would like to discuss your own gift possibilities, please contact either Bill Milne or me.

Please understand that the order in which we are soliciting gifts is recommended protocol. It is not our intention to either exclude or to offend anyone. We will need every individual gift of time, treasure, and talent. It is together that we will achieve our success.

With the hope of opening a new facility in January of 2011, we will need the support of everyone. Please continue to pray that God may guide us in His will and bless us in our efforts.

Sincerely,

Tom Furnas
Principal

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Powers Catholic Closes in on Grand Blanc Location

As Flint Expatriates reported* back in September, Powers seems poised to relocate to Grand Blanc.

Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:
Powers Catholic High School wants to move into General Motors' Service and Parts Operations World Headquarters by the end of this year and has asked the township for permission to get started.
Just think, Powers wanted Flint Central first, but the Flint school board wasn't interested.

Thanks to Duane "Perfect Attendance" Gilles for alerting me to this.

* Okay, so I really just repeated an unsubstantiated rumor back in September, but since it turned out to be true, let's call it "reporting."

UPDATE:


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Flint Real Estate: To the Manor Born

The post on the remarkably low-priced house on Woodside Drive generated a lot of comments from readers. I asked Ryan Eashoo, a real estate agent I interviewed in Flint this summer, to offer his perspective on the house and the Flint market. Here's what he had to say:
The home at 1143 Woodside Dr., Flint, MI 48503 does indeed have an offer on it at this time due to the low list price. Unfortunately, the City of Flint has witnessed a steep decline in real estate market values over the past 3 years. In the news you hear of a price decline of approx. 10% in values, however, it has been my experience in the City of Flint that homes are worth 50% + less than what they were just 5 years prior. This is due to the high volume of foreclosure listings and sales in the area.

I find that the banks selling their foreclosure listings are pricing them under market value, making other homes around them worth less as well. The home on Woodside was a short sale (meaning the seller is working with the bank to sell for less than what the home is worth) and a majority of sales transactions in the College/Cultural neighborhood are short sales. Homes are no longer worth what they were purchased for originally. It is like putting good money after bad and many clients want to move from a home they owe tremendously more on than what it is worth. Right now, there are no homes in the college/cultural area listed over $179,500.

The home on Woodside is a beautiful home and is priced correctly for this market. Below are some additional homes in that neighborhood and what they are selling for as well as other properties in the City of Flint with similar sq. ft.:

I know it is sad, but this is how the market here is driven. We originally listed this home at $149,900 and progressively lowered the price throughout the months it was listed to get an offer. Many clients are moving away from the City of Flint as the prices of homes in the suburbs have declined as well and are just as affordable as the urban listings. The City of Flint school district does not have a good reputation and I find few clients with children moving to the City who are sending their children to city schools and this plays a major factor as well.

I could ramble on all day about real estate in Genesee County, but I won't. Like everything else in a market driven economy, price decline and incline are cyclical and this is typical. Right now, I do not believe we have hit the price bottom for real estate and experts are saying (and I agree) that it will take the next decade for home values to start rising again. Apart from all of the doom and gloom, homes are selling and now is an excellent time to buy. If one needs to sell their home, it can be done now as well, but it takes some creativity on the part of the seller and Realtor. I do believe the foreclosures will start to dry up in the next few years and the market will be less saturated with them and real estate in general will improve. Working in one of the toughest real estate markets in the county, I can definitely attest to this!

Here's the rest of the original post:




If four houses in Beecher for $4,000 isn't your style, how about 3,000 sq. ft. of Tudor splendor off East Court Street listed at $74,000, which is about three years rent for the average San Francisco couple. According to Zillow.com, it sold in 2001 for $225,000.

Thanks to Betsy for pointing this house out.

UPDATE: Mark J. Perry at the Carpe Diem blog estimates what a typical mortgage payment would be for this house on Woodside Drive: $326.44/month.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Flint Photos: Winter Scenes from the Seventies


The backyard of my grandparents' house at 1515 Illinois Avenue with Hubie the dog.


Hubie in action again on Illinois Avenue next to the Wilson's convertible. Remember when shoveling snow seemed fun?


Breaking out the plaid jacket and the Champion sled on a cold day at Kearsley Park.


Fighting for survival in frigid conditions on the East Side.