Saturday, April 30, 2011
The crisis rolled on through the summer. Irrationality set in. All over the country, people wasted gallons of gas waiting in line for the gas they were afraid wouldn’t be there the next week. The crisis was the only news story anyone cared about. A protest outside Philadelphia turned violent. People stood guard beside their cars at night against thieves who siphoned out fuel. A board game came out called Gas Crisis, in which players had Large Cars or Small Cars and moved the action along with cards like “Oil Sheik” and “Walked to Work.”
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I got a few responses. On the micro level, anonymous suggests:
Privatize garbage. City will become a stinking landfill, but you'll theoretically have a few more cops. Make police pay scale the highest possible pay scale. Noone in city hall makes more than a cop with the same years of service. including the mayor. you'll have a few more cops. Shutter/sell/dismantle atwood. sad but time. play ball games at northwestern n swa. maybe get a few more cops out of that, it might be deeded or something tho so maybe not. and outside of a select few (like a handful), pull up the signs from the city parks and end what minimal maintenance is done on them. nature parks now. squeeze a cop or two out of those savings. beg, plead and steal federal law enforcement assistance. still not enough? sorry, all i got.JWilly offers up a big-picture solution:
Everyone knows the problem is driven by drug marketing. Everyone knows that Flint can't afford to manage ongoing petty crime, and has no constitutionally permissible tools to do anything about drug marketing. The suburbs prefer to keep their money and pretend the problem doesn't affect them. The state prefers to think of the problem as local and simply a matter of managerial and taxpayer choices. The feds by and large ignore the problem. Over the years the CIA and friends have even been involved in drug distribution in a number of ways, and the feds have used drug profits to extra-nationally fund various activities.I'd love to hear some more ideas.
Nothing will be fixed until the feds make ending drug marketing a national goal, and formulate a practical plan that doesn't involve interdicting individual mules or processing labs or plants.
One way to do that would be to bioengineer hardy, persistent genetic-attack vectors for the plant precursors for cocaine and heroin, and broadcast them in cultivable areas.
Much of the world would be outraged at our transgressing various nations' sovereignty in the process, and hurting poor farm families. We'd have to be led by someone that was willing to say, "tough $%@&...deal with it."
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Sales of new single-family homes in February were down more than 80 percent from the 2005 peak, far exceeding the 28 percent drop in existing home sales. New single-family sales are now lower than at any point since the data was first collected in 1963, when the nation had 120 million fewer residents.
Builders and analysts say a long-term shift in behavior seems to be under way. Instead of wanting the biggest and the newest, even if it requires a long commute, buyers now demand something smaller, cheaper and, thanks to $4-a-gallon gas, as close to their jobs as possible. That often means buying a home out of foreclosure from a bank.
Four out of 10 sales of existing homes are foreclosures or otherwise distressed properties.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
The intrepid Charlie LeDuff, riding along with a Flint cop, reports:
It’s not that the cops here are scared; it’s just that they’re outmanned, outgunned and flat broke.
Flint is the birthplace of General Motors and the home of the U.A.W.’s first big strike. In case you didn’t know this, the words “Vehicle City” are spelled out on the archway spanning the Flint River.
But the name is a lie. Flint isn’t Vehicle City anymore. The Buick City complex is gone. The spark-plug plant is gone. Fisher Body is gone.
What Flint is now is one of America’s murder capitals. Last year in Flint, population 102,000, there were 66 documented murders. The murder rate here is worse than those in Newark and St. Louis and New Orleans. It’s even worse than Baghdad’s.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Flint has a knack for showing up on the ubiquitous lists that rank some aspect of a city. They're always lists that most cities would like to avoid. Most Miserable. Most Depressed. Most Dangerous. Kurt "Bad News" Badenhausen spends a lot of his time at Forbes compiling these useless tallies. But they sure generate online hits, so they're not going away any time soon.
So even though I've questioned the need for these lists, it's still refreshing when the Vehicle City shows up on a list for something positive. Kiplinger, the influential business forecasting company, has selected Flint as one of 13 "Comeback Cities" in 2011.
The health care and life sciences industries are giving long-suffering Flint a shot in the arm. Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy relocated its headquarters from the suburbs to the city, using a former auto assembly site for its offices, while both the city’s public hospital, Hurley Medical Center, and McLaren Regional Medical Center are bulking up.
Meanwhile, Flint’s traditional employer, the auto industry, is no longer at idle. General Motors -- the community’s single largest employer -- plans to start a third shift at its assembly plant in Flint for a net increase of 750 jobs, phased in over the summer. Flint's employment fell nearly 12% during the downturn, and is forecast to rise about 2.6% this year.
Monday, April 11, 2011
If there is a single block that has come to epitomize Flint's struggles with economic decline and population loss, as well as the Genesee County Land Bank's efforts to deal with blight and abandonment, it's the 1600 block of Jane Avenue on the city's east side. Although it is just one of more than 400 blocks in Flint that are more than 50 percent abandoned, it became a handy visual aid for many journalists, including me, to illustrate Flint's problems. Here are a few of the photos I took for "The Jane Avenue Blues," a slide show that accompanied a profile of Dan Kildee, the former land bank chief who now runs the Center for Community Progress, that was published in Slate.
Arson is a byproduct of abandonment in Flint, and Jane Avenue had more than its share of fires. David Harris of The Flint Journal reported on the street in January:
A single east-side block of Jane Avenue between Minnesota and Iowa avenues was the hardest hit in the city, with 20 arsons last year.It's not much consolation, but Flint is not alone. Adam Geller, covering nationwide arson trends for Insurance Journal, reported:
What once was lined with houses is now just barren land on the north side of the street.
All that’s left is a burned-out shell of a house. The rest of the charred homes have been bulldozed away and the sites filled with dirt.
The bark on the trees is still black from the fires. The houses on the south side of the street remain standing but are dilapidated.
“They burned the whole block,” said Allen Willard, 53, who lives in the only occupied house left. “I used to wake up at 2 or 3 a.m. I’d open my eyes, and I’d see flames (reflecting) on my bedroom wall. A house a week started going down.”
Fires in vacant homes rose 11 percent to 21,000 in 2006 — the latest year for which figures are available — while all home fires rose just 4 percent, the National Fire Protection Association reported in April. More than four of every 10 vacant building fires were intentionally set, the group reported.
Some of that is arson for financial reasons. But in neighborhoods of sagging homes worth little, fires are often set by vandals, the homeless or people seeking revenge.
The threat grows as empty homes multiply, said John Hall, the NFPA’s division director for fire analysis and research. Vacant homes nationwide topped 19 million earlier this year, up from 15.7 million in 2005, according to the Census Bureau.
“The best way to prevent vacant building fires is to prevent vacant buildings,” the NFPA concluded.
Or eliminate the buildings altogether. When I was in Flint last month, I drove down Jane and discovered that nearly every house had been demolished. It's probably the best solution for the block at this point, but it's still hard to get used to the new view that's created when an entire block disappears.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
John Terbush of Talking Points Memo reports:
In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder (R) is facing a backlash of his own.
Last November, Snyder beat Democrat Virg Bernero by a huge 18-point margin. But in a PPP poll released yesterday, registered voters suggested they wish they'd elected Bernero -- who won a hypothetical do over, 47% to 45%.
Since taking office, Snyder has pursued a number of controversial proposals, such as one that would grant him the power to declare a financial emergency in a given city and appoint an emergency manager to modify or void union contracts, and even dissolve a city government -- a proposal one supporter likened to "financial martial law."
In PPP's latest poll, 50% of respondents said they opposed that proposal, versus 32% who said they supported it.
The also poll found that a majority of registered voters in Michigan disapprove of Snyder's job performance. Fifty percent of respondents said they disapproved of the job Snyder was doing, while just 33% said they approved.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:
The city says it can't afford to help pay for fixing one of the most deteriorated sections of Carpenter Road, Flint's northernmost border, leaving the Genesee County Road Commission saddled with the full bill for the local share of the job.
"...in its own small way, [Broadside] provides a service to local readers as the only publication in the area where they can find a real diversity of perspectives facing our community and our world. But for some reason, businesses in Flint don't have a lot of extra room in their budgets to buy print advertising in anything that isn't bright, glossy, and a blind cheerleader for all things Flint. For a publication whose business model is to sell only enough ads to cover each issue's printing costs (± $777), that can be a pretty precarious position. Which, after the computer we use to layout each issue crashed and burned, is precisely where we find ourselves."How can you help? You can go here to donate to Broadside and keep it running. Or go here to subscribe and catch up on some Flint news. Want more info? Check out this NPR story on Broadside.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Mark Huffman of ConsumerAffairs.com reports:
Two members of the U.S. Senate, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, have taken a step by sponsoring the ROADS SAFE Act, which would authorize $12 million a year for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop technology that would prevent an intoxicated person from driving a vehicle.
The objective, of course, is to prevent drunk drivers from getting on the road and causing fatal accidents. Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Bob Corker (R-TN) co-sponsored the legislation, expressing hope their bi-partisan approach will help secure passage.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
You could say that Mr. Sheen and the audience failed each other. The ticket buyers did not show him the “love and gratitude” to which he felt entitled, and he did not give them the kind of entertainment they thought they had paid for. But you could also say that the performer and the audience deserved each other, and that their mutual contempt was its own kind of bond. The ushers, in their black gold-braided uniforms, retained an air of inscrutable dignity in the midst of an orgy of depthless vulgarity. Everyone else in the room — onstage, backstage, in the $69 orchestra seats — had to swallow a gag-inducing, self-administered dose of shame. And no, the journalists who traveled to Detroit to gawk and philosophize at the spectacle are not exempt from that judgment.