Before I launch into this, let me establish a few things first:
1. The Mott Foundation and Mott Family have unquestionably done great things for Flint. I have no doubt the city would be much worse off without all support the city has received from the Motts.
2. I believe that it’s possible for developers and investors to make money and improve Flint at the same time. In other words, just because someone hopes to profit from a deal doesn’t mean the deal can’t be beneficial for the city. I say this because it seems as though many people automatically attack Uptown because there is a profit motive involved. I don’t think that’s fair.
Having said that, it distresses me to see the level of control Uptown, which appears to be controlled by a Mott scion, Ridgeway White, and the Mott Foundation has over the City of Flint. While acknowledging the good the family has done for the city (see #1 above), both the Mott Foundation and the individual family members have made horrible decisions over the years that have harmed the city. Case in point: AutoWorld. There are others, but let’s stick with the most obvious. Just because the Mott’s are willing to spend money, doesn’t mean they are always right. Even the well-intentioned can screw things up royally. Let me put it to you this way, if a family or entity with more insight and skill had been in charge of all the money the Motts have lavished on Flint, don’t you think the place would be in a little better shape today? (Again, it pains me to criticize an entity that seems to have its heart in the right place, but let’s be honest here.)
There is also something unsavory about the cozy triangle of power formed by the for-profit Uptown Developments LLC, the non-profit Uptown Reinvestment Corp, and the Mott Foundation. It’s not illegal, but it’s an arrangement dominated by a single family that pretty much does whatever it wants with very little public input or transparency. It’s not the profit motive that bothers me (see #2 above); it’s the unchecked power in the hands of people who do not have a great track record when it comes to public policy.
I fear this is all playing out again with the plan to move the Farmer’s Market. Judging from the terse, unyielding missive from Tim Herman, president of Upton Reinvestment and CEO of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce, there’s no intention of getting public feedback. There was no mention of public meetings or an email address to solicit thoughts from the folks who sell and buy items at the market. I hope I’m wrong, but this seems like it’s going to happen.
Think about this. A city that is a poster child for economic failure is going to tinker with something that has deep historical roots and has somehow survived. Yes, it survived with the help of Uptown, but that doesn’t give them the right to move it because they hope to up the value of one of their properties. And, again, given the track record of the people involved, do you have any confidence the market will survive in a new location?
We’re about to let another piece of Flint history slip away. Yes, the buildings need some work. Historic preservation, in short-term rehab expenses, is often costlier than other alternatives. That’s why strip malls exist. That’s why the old Vogue store, the Sill Building, and countless other Flint landmarks are gone. But history, tradition and memories have a less quantifiable value. They are worth preserving, especially in a city where they are in short supply.
Saturday, July 7, 2012
A Reader Weighs In on Plans to Move the Flint Farmer's Market
Sable Pelt responds to reports that the Flint Farmer's Market may be relocated to the old Flint Journal Building: