Saturday, November 6, 2021

What Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" Infrastructure Plan Means for Michigan

Todd Spangler of The Detroit Free Press reports:

$7.3 billion in federal highway aid, $563 million for bridge replacement and repairs, and the chance to compete with other states for tens of billions more in projects deemed economically important.

$1 billion for buses, rail lines and other means of public transportation.

$100 million, at minimum, to help extend broadband Internet coverage, including across large rural sections of the state where it is lacking.

$1 billion over five years to be added to the $200 to $300 million a year that is used to pay for environmental projects in and around the Great Lakes.

$7.5 billion to help build electrical vehicle charging stations across the U.S., greatly helping Michigan’s automakers in their attempt to shift to selling more electric cars and trucks.

Melissa Nann Burke and Riley Beggin of The Detroit News report

The legislation, known as the Build Back Better Act, also tackles lead service line replacement with $9 billion in funding that would funnel an estimated $300 million for Michigan. There's also $150 billion for housing, including expanded rental assistance and home repair aid, and expanded health insurance coverage through Medicaid that the White House has said would cover 95,000 uninsured people in Michigan.

Additionally, the bill would give the three Detroit automakers a big boost over competitors through a $12,500 consumer rebate for electric vehicles, which includes $4,500 for cars built by union labor.

Shawn Hubler, Emily Cochrane and Zach Montague of The New York Times report:

In Michigan, the bill will infuse a record $1 billion into a decade-old program to restore and protect the Great Lakes, where drinking water and wildlife have been compromised by pollution. 

A loan program in the bill also will help local governments in states like Michigan set up projects to reduce the risk and damage from extreme flooding and eroding shorelines.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Requiem for Washington Elementary


Washington Elementary on Flint's East Side. (Photo by Paul Rozycki)

Gary L. Fisher reflects on the late, great Washington Elementary in East Village Magazine:
"She was nearly half a century old by the time I showed up. Creaky wooden windows, stifling forced heat, so thick you could taste it, zero air conditioning, lead paint everywhere, and asbestos-covered pipes. The ancient bathrooms with the old radiators (an especially egregious artifice when some miscreant relieved himself on it), with wooden stall doors, long ago removed, meant zero privacy.
"Really tough kids, and playground brawls. Giant concrete drainage tubes as our clubhouse, and dangerously engineered monkey bars so perilous they kept orthopedic surgeons in business at nearby St. Joe’s Hospital.
"Playground bark chips with razor sharp edges that shredded skin when tackled in to them. A gravel-filled baseball infield where a short hop could turn a bassist into a soprano, or remove a couple of teeth with more efficiency than the best dentist.
"God I loved the place."

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Flint Native Howard Bragman Creates Million Dollar "Coming Out" Fund at U-M

Howard Bragman
Howard Bragman in front of his childhood home on Sheffield Avenue in Flint.

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center, the nation’s first LGBTQIA+ college support center, celebrated “PR Guru” and U-M alumnus Howard Bragman has made a $1M bequest to establish the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund. The fund will be used to provide emergency financial assistance to students through the Spectrum Center, including help for mental and physical health services, short-term housing, long-term housing, transportation, and tuition. 

Growing up in the Midwest in the 1960s, without a lot of peers or role models to look to, Bragman (AB ’78) never quite fit in. “As a fat, Jewish, gay kid in Flint, Michigan, I always felt like a Martian,” he said. 

That all changed when he got to U-M. 

“This campus allows you to be yourself. It allows you to spread your wings in the way you want to spread your wings,” he said. Now a celebrated public relations expert and crisis manager, Bragman has gone on to an illustrious career of helping people — some quite famous — do just that, his approach to work and life formed in large part by his time on campus. 

But Bragman knows that even in a place as progressive as Ann Arbor, coming out as gay is a challenging journey. “I tell people, stay strong, even when it hurts. And, I promise, it hurts sometimes. But, there are places that will help you ease the pain sometimes. That’s what the Spectrum Center did. That’s what Michigan did,” he said. He created the Coming Out fund to make sure the center will continue providing support and guidance to U-M’s LGBTQIA+ community. 

“I don’t care how liberal the school is. I don’t care how accepting and loving your parents are. I don’t care how ‘woke’ the times are. Coming out is this most personal of journeys and it’s a challenging journey,” he said. “It’s so important for students to know they are not alone and that the Spectrum Center is there for them. I want to assure that other people get that same access that I had; life-changing, life-saving access,” he added. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t had the resources that the university had provided.” 

“I purposefully did not overly define or constrain the limits and uses of the fund,” explained Bragman. “In the four-plus decades that I have been out, the needs, and indeed, the very definition of our community has changed. I think it would be the height of arrogance for me to set the parameters of my gift after I am gone. I trust that the Spectrum Center will remain attuned to the acute needs of future generations.” 

After graduating from U-M, Bragman went on to a prominent career in public relations and crisis management. After serving as a vice president in the Chicago and Los Angeles offices of Burson Marsteller Public Relations, he founded media strategy and public relations firms Bragman Nyman Cafarelli (BNC) (which was bought by Interpublic Group) and Fifteen Minutes, was a Vice Chairman of, and currently runs La Brea Media in Los Angeles. A dynamic activist for LGBTQIA+ rights, he has earned acclaim for helping dozens of actors, athletes, and executives come out as gay over the past 30 years. 

He hopes his gift inspires other alumni to give, but also hopes to raise awareness of what the Spectrum Center is. “The Spectrum Center is certainly one area where Michigan is the leader and best!” he said. “I hope this will let the students know that they have this extraordinary resource available to them.” 

Bragman helped organize the Spectrum Center’s 40th anniversary commemoration and is excited about the 50th anniversary celebration, which kicks off this fall and will culminate in a gala on May 20, 2022. 

“It’s important to understand that the Spectrum Center has endured; that’s huge,” he said. “It was founded only two years after Stonewall, which we look at as the birth of the modern LGBTQIA+ rights movement. So the center is not a flash in the pan, but something venerable that’s been on campus for a long time and is going to be on campus as a permanent fixture, like the pillars outside Angel Hall.” 

For more information about the Spectrum Center’s 50th Anniversary and how to get involved, click here. To support the Howard Bragman Coming Out Fund, click here.

Monday, August 9, 2021

So Much Human Longing

Flint’s Gilkey Creek (Photo by Jan Worth-Nelson)

"Most days my husband and I slept in and he would venture out to get coffee at our favorite place, still open for drive through," writes Jan Worth-Nelson. "I folded myself up on a big green chair and waited for Cuomo to come on with his (up till then) New York charm. What did we know? By midday, it got stuffy in the den. Lucky for me, in 2014 we had taken advantage of one of the remarkable Flint real estate deals and bought a house with a dozen rooms to wander around in. Still, even 2800 square feet can satisfy only so much human longing."

Read the rest of Jan's story and her other recent work on Medium.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Infrastructure Solution for Struggling Cities Like Flint, Michigan

Dan Kildee on Jane Avenue in Flint in June 2010. (Photo by Gordon Young)

In the newly released revised and updated edition of Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee endorses a massive infrastructure project to help troubled cities like Flint. 

The water crisis is the latest egregious symptom of the punishing global economic forces, along with misguided Federal and state policies, that penalize places like Flint. It will take a  monumental national effort to turn things around. That means an investment of federal and state money that gives Flint a chance to prosper but might not pay dividends for years.


Dan Kildee, Flint's Democratic congressman, has championed downtrodden cities for decades. He believes he has the solution to achieve this seemingly impossible goal. We both grew up in the Civic Park neighborhood at a time when the city was slipping but still had a lot to offer. Neighborhood kids had to decide which of the dozens of free summer programs to attend. It was a far cry from today’s Flint.


Kildee believes a massive program that devotes several trillion dollars to rebuilding the country’s infrastructure has the greatest chance of someday getting support in Washington. And if special emphasis is given to Flint, Youngstown, Gary and cities like them, it could function as a new Marshall Plan to “reset” these troubled areas, much the way the U.S. helped rebuild Europe after World War II.


“I don’t think we can chip away at the problem,” he told me. “We need a big, bold, and very significant effort to help areas where you have chronic poverty. Until we fix the fundamental problems, we are really just managing the decline.”


Kildee envisions clearing away the thousands of abandoned structures in distressed cities. Extra funding would be used to rehabilitate abandoned factory sites and provide tax credits for developers to build on them. Cities would also get resources to right-size their aging, inefficient water and sewer systems. Because these projects would take years to complete, job programs could train the chronically unemployed to complete some of the work.


It’s a clear-eyed plan that doesn’t downplay the problems facing Flint. I want to believe this could all come to pass, but I also know that Flint is a place where optimism gets its ass kicked on a regular basis.


Kildee didn't try to reassure me. He simply pointed out that there aren’t very many alternatives, other than tinkering around the edges. “It may well be that this does not happen anytime soon,” he said,” but it will never happen if we don’t define what the real solution is for Flint. And it will never happen if we don’t try.” 

I agree, but I was skeptical Washington would ever approve such an initiative on the scale needed to make a real difference. But Biden's recent proposal — and its positive reception from the public — has left me cautiously optimistic.

White House officials said the proposal’s combination of spending and tax credits would translate into 20,000 miles of rebuilt roads, repairs to the 10 most economically important bridges in the country, the elimination of lead pipes from the nation’s water supplies and a long list of other projects intended to create millions of jobs in the short run and strengthen American competitiveness in the long run.

Flint offers many lessons. One of them is that small, scattered solutions to monumental problems seldom result in real progress. An ambitious infrastructure initiative can change the fortunes of places like Flint across the country. Let's hope it actually happens.

Monday, March 8, 2021

1970s Flint Fashion: Purple Satin St. Mary's Jacket

1970s Fashion: Purple Satin Jacket

Distance Pain

"In Wales, for example, Welsh is spoken by barely 20 percent of the population, so we can only hope that the evocative Welsh word hiraeth will somehow be preserved. It means 'distance pain,' accompanied in extreme cases by tuneful lamentation (mine never got quite that bad). But, and this is important, it always refers to a near-umbilical attachment to a place, not just free-floating nostalgia or a droopy houndlike wistfulness or the longing we associate with romantic love. No, this is a word about the pain of loving a place."

— Sally Mann, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs

Flint on Film: 1940 Parade

Friday, March 5, 2021

Flint Photos: Ben's Barber Shop, Pierson Road


Thursday, March 4, 2021

Flint Photos: North Land Drive-In, Dort Highway