(FLINT, Mich)– Mayor Karen Weaver presented her third State of the City Address before residents, community leaders and government officials Thursday, October 18, at 5:30 p.m. This years State of the City was held downtown at the Capitol Theatre. A larger venue was chosen to give more residents an opportunity to attend. Some of the highlights of this years speech included an update on pipe replacement and economic development efforts aimed at moving the city forward.
The following is a transcript of Mayor Weaver’s speech:
First, I want to give honor to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Thank you all for being here this evening. It is a true honor to stand before you and give my third State of the City Address, as Mayor of the resilient and great City of Flint, Michigan!
As I look out and see residents, city council, other local and state officials, as well as pastors, business and community leaders, I can’t help but think of a hashtag that our chief recovery officer started earlier this year, #BeautifulFlint. I truly am grateful for the opportunity to serve you all and represent my hometown.
I want to thank my Family, my husband and children, my sister. Thank you for your strong support, you help me to stay motivated during the tough moments. Thank you for your patience on my busiest days and more importantly, thank you for not arguing with people on social media…this week.
I want to thank each and every one of the City of Flint employees, I am able to stand here today and speak about the greatest comeback story of all time, thank you for the hard work that you all put in every single day. Believe me when I say, that as a leader, it matters who is standing behind you and beside you in times of battle, so thank you all, for the work you do daily on behalf of the residents of Flint.
Makini, you know that I have to thank you, as our Human Resources Director, you make sure that we have qualified staff working on behalf of the city.
Two years ago, I stood before you declaring that I would use my voice to bring much needed resources and attention to the City of Flint around the water crisis. At that time, I made a declaration with absolutely no power. We stand here today with full power, the City Council and I, as it should be, full home rule. In April of this year receivership was fully terminated!
We were able to fully demonstrate that we are more than capable of operating in a sound and sustainable financial condition, this is the first time since 2011 that the City of Flint is free from emergency managers and state oversight.
This year we came out of receivership and adopted the budget, we are spending less than we are taking in and adding money to the general fund showing fiscal responsibility. The City of Flint was once again, awarded a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada. The Certificate of Achievement is the highest form of recognition in the area of governmental accounting and financial reporting, and it says a lot that we have been given this honor two years in a row. Thank you to our Chief Financial officer, Hughey Newsome and the entire Finance Department.
It has been my mission to ensure that Flint comes back stronger than ever before. While there is still work to do, we have come a mighty long way and continue to work hard during our recovery.
I know that at times, it may seem as if we are “yesterday’s news” but I can assure you, that the country, the world, is still watching, praying and rooting for Flint. As we work to secure resources, build economically, return safe clean and affordable drinking water to the City of Flint, I’m often met with words of how strong we are here in Flint. How our resilience is awe inspiring, how we are changing the way that this country deals with infrastructure and governmental responsibility.
While we may not have chosen to be on the front line in this way, we are the soldiers at the forefront, doing things that have never been done, and doing them quite well, Which is fitting, considering the rich history of this great city and its residents. We have always contributed to the way that this country makes decisions and moves forward.
Our strong spirit to fight for what’s right and to fight for our rights changed the way that this country dealt with laborers, our unions made a way for unions around the country. As we continue to stand with laborers and workers as they fight for a living wage, there is no doubt in my mind that we will see change.
Flint has been through some very tough times, no doubt about it. We have had has some hard blows as a result of our own personal economic depression, loss of state revenue sharing, strong public safety concerns, and a man-made water crisis.
But through it all, EVERY SINGLE BIT of it, we have managed to be stead-fast, we have challenged those who said that we could not and would not come back, we have shown them and continue to show them what it means to be a #FlintStrong #FlintStone
Our pastors and grassroots groups who led the way and sounded the alarm on our water crisis, took up a new cause, a just cause, members of the groups have gone around the country and have spoken out about the dangers of aging infrastructure. It was as a result of their voices, along with OUR medical community, and OUR State Senators and Congressional representatives, that we were able to secure funding to get us on our way to safe, clean drinking, water.
I want to thank Senators Stabenow and Peters, as well as Congressman Kildee for their continued efforts on behalf of the residents of Flint. Your voices in congress have made ours here in Flint that much stronger.
Clean water in Flint
As a result of that funding, local contractors have excavated over 15,000 pipes to date, through my FAST Start service line replacement program. From the start, we have been ahead of schedule of the fastest service line replacement job in the history of this country. We are well on our way to meet our goal of replacing all of the known lead and galvanized services lines in the city by the end of 2019.
Crews are finishing up phase IV restoration and have started on phase V restoration with the goal being to complete the majority of the restoration prior to the end of the construction season.
I know that we have had to be extremely patient with everything that comes along with having a crisis that we did not create and for that, I would like to thank each and every resident for their patience.
As we restore the quality of water to our city, during construction, I will continue to encourage residents to use filters and drink bottled water.
While the water is testing better and we are changing service lines leading into the homes, we cannot ignore the damage that has been done to in home fixtures, water heaters, and appliances. I will continue to speak out and press for these things to be fixed as well, at no cost to the residents.
However, I do want to thank Sheryl Thompson from DHS, for helping to secure some funding for home water heaters for residents.
One question that I am asked all the time, is when will I say that the water is safe to drink? My answer has not changed: When all of the know lead and galvanized pipes have been replaced and when the scientist, Technical Advisory Council and medical community right here in Flint sign off on the safety of our water, THAT is when I will, too.
But we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel…water is testing better and we are over 85% done with replacing the known lead and galvanized service lines.
In addition to service line replacement, which will help restore safe drinking water, we have received $80 million in WIIN Funding. That funding will be used for several projects: water meter replacement, water quality monitoring panels, back up water line from GCDC, Dort and Cedar St. Pump station upgrades, and water main replacement. These projects will help the drinking water system stay in compliance in the short term and begin the required rebuilding of the system over the next 20 years.
Rob Binscik, our DPW Director will oversee these projects, thank you Rob.
We continue to upgrade our aging wastewater treatment plant. We are completing the $2 million SAW grant for the sewer department, resulting in a complete GIS coverage of the sewer system and the implementation of a state of the art computer maintenance management system.
In September of this year, WRAP was officially launched. The Water Residential Assistance Program is designed to help residents by providing up to $1,000 in water assistance funding over a twelve (12) month period.
HEALTH IN ALL POLICIES (HIAP)
We continue to work aggressively to address our city’s public health crisis as well as the public health threats that existed prior to the water crisis. As you know, the City established a public health department 2 years ago with Ford Foundation funding, under the leadership of seasoned public health professional, Dr. Pamela Pugh, the City’s first Chief Public Health Advisor.
Dr. Pugh recently enlisted additional capacity to augment public health team capabilities by securing a Public Health Coordinator, Billie Mitchell, and a Grants and Finance Coordinator, Chay Linesman.
Promoting a Health Equity in All Policies Approach has allowed me to ensure that the health and wellbeing of residents continues to be at the forefront of my administrations decision-making and that the science and medical/public health community is never again sidelined or disengaged from critical policies made in the City of Flint.
We have built relationships and trust with grassroots activist/thought leaders, public health, medical, and research science community through programs such as the Flint Resilience in Communities After Stress and Trauma (ReCAST).
I want to thank Dr. Vicki Johnson and all of the ReCAST team for dedication to the Flint residents.
For 2 years now, the city has continued to meet with and gain guidance from our City of Flint Technical Advisory Council, comprised of scientist and medical/public health experts.
This has helped tremendously in letting residents know that their voices are being heard and that the move from crisis to recovery is data driven versus by force.
In March of this year we hosted the second annual EJ summit and our second annual resiliency summit. With our ReCAST partners, we held the EJ and Resiliency summit together this year making this our First JOINT Resiliency and Environmental Justice Summit.
In doing this, we are also addressing the challenges and traumas that come along with historical disinvestment and discriminatory practices that were magnified by our crisis here in Flint. We are also placing a high priority on addressing our city’s environmental injustices, with sustainable development at the core and I want you to know that Economic Development and the Department of Health are working closely together to make sure this is happening in Flint.
We have continued discussions, partnership building, and resource gathering to position Flint as a Global Water Research and Resource Hub with a focus on water quality, affordability, and confidence in water system.
Just last week, we hosted Mayors from across the country, along with other thought leaders and decision makers, for the 2018 US Conference of Mayors Water Council Summit, in which, we explored ways to assure water quality, affordability and access, not just for Flint residents but for residents all over the country.
With multiple partners, including Ridgway White and the Mott Foundation, we are aggressively exploring how we address the city’s decades old water affordability and accessibility issues by developing broad ranging water affordability strategies to be implemented in Flint;
We are working hard with our school partners, with Flint Community Schools leading the way, and members of the COF-TAC to establish Flint school’s as a model for water quality and building confidence in school water systems through adequate and ongoing water system testing, monitoring, maintenance, and parent and community engagement.
Last week, in recognition of Children’s Environmental Health Day and ahead of the 2018 US Conference of Mayors Water Council Summit, we hosted a “Healthy Children/Healthy Schools” panel presentations and roundtable discussion. The purpose of this event, was to develop a framework aimed at ONE reducing childhood exposures to health hazards found in school environments and TWO restoring confidence in school drinking water/water systems.
Speaking of Flint Community Schools, I am excited to announce that after months of conversation between my administration, Flint Community Schools and the Musk Foundation, that Flint Community Schools (FCS) will be installing new ultraviolet (UV) water filtration systems for water fountains throughout all of the school buildings thanks to a nearly ½ million dollar donation from Elon Musk and the Musk Foundation.
The City must continue to be a champion and a fighter for the residents, under the guidance of our City Attorney, Angela Wheeler, we are doing just that. While the water crisis remains at the forefront, there are other industries that have preyed upon the City of Flint to create other health crisis. The opioid epidemic is a public health and safety crisis. Responding to the opioid crisis has required the city to sustain economic damages and to continue to bear a significant financial burden. We have or are filing a lawsuit against these companies because, like other communities across the country, the opioid epidemic has left its mark on the City of Flint. The problems that accompany opioid addiction, including overdose, crime, and sadly, death, forces the city to divert resources to address ensuing emergencies. While it has strained our resources, and created yet another challenge for our community, I have no doubt that our resilience and persevering nature will help us rebuild in the wake of the devastating crisis. An important part of this recovery is demanding pharmaceutical companies be held accountable. The City of Flint law department, along with the Beasley Allen and CK Hoffler Firms will help us to fight for the residents and hold opioid makers and distributors accountable for the harm they are causing to Flint.
We all know that as we address Health in all policies here at the city, it is important that we put an emphasis on the importance of physical health and physical activities. In the most recent past, the City of Flint has not had a department dedicated to recreation and fun, safe, family friendly activities for our community.
Under the direction of Sean Croudy, we have taken steps to reintroduce community recreation back into the governmental structure of our city.
For the first time in 15 years, we have a citywide Basketball league, right here in Flint. In partnership with ReCast, Cathedral of Faith (Pastor Chris Martin), CMB Basketball lead by Chris Mclavish, and Eagles Nest Academy (Pastor Reginald Flynn), over 300 youth benefited from the FREE, 10-week program.
We were able to bring Baseball back into the City as well, in partnership with Major League Baseball, the United States Conference of Mayors and Friends of Jackson Park, boys and girls, ages 4 through 12, participated in a 4-month long program that also focused on character education.
It’s important that as children grow, we give them the necessary tools to navigate through life. Conflict resolution, communication and sharing, are all components that are taught during the baseball program, as well as our Flint Police Activities League (PAL). Flint PAL offers free sports programs for youth ages 7 through 17, with a focus on violence prevention. Officer Kevin Smith serves as the Director of Flint PAL.
We know that there are a lot of young adults in this city who were not able to benefit from these programs, who still need to be equipped with tools. Which is why under the leadership of Sean Croudy and Bishop Urundi Knox of Ebenezer Ministries, we have joined Cities United.
Bishop Knox has been an important part of the work that we are doing to reach the youth in this city, young men in particular. His church has had several ministries over the years geared toward the philosophy that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men, so naturally his vision fit right into the program model of Cities United.
Cities United is a comprehensive violence prevention program targeting young men and boys of color.
Boys who are taught to sort out their problems and walk away from violent situations, become productive men who build their communities. We want to make sure that we give the youth in Flint every advantage in life that we possibly can.
We know one of the ways to give children access to a better future, is cultivating a safe environment for them to thrive. I stood before you last year and announced that crime had gone down in Flint.
Thanks to our hard working Police Chief, Timothy Johnson and the many men and women who work tirelessly day in and day out, I can stand here today and say, we are standing strong in our fight against crime.
Shortly after being appointed Chief of Police, he noticed that the department needed to utilize technology more to fight crime. In order to accomplish this objective, he established an Intelligence Bureau with orders to create a full Intelligence Operations Center to better serve the citizens of the city.
Flint Police Departments Intelligence Center is now the heart of the departments operations, and is capable of analyzing crime statistics, monitor and map crime patterns and crime predictions. Through information gained from crime analyses, the Intelligence Bureau provides support in all investigations and direct how the police department responds to incidents throughout the city of Flint.
Another key operational feature of the Intelligence is the ability to monitor locations through real time camera feeds throughout the city of Flint. Through the camera Project CATT EYE, the police department can be at a location instantly and have video evidence to support criminal cases.
The police department continues to build the Intelligence Bureau by adding new investigative tools all the time and coming soon, a state of the art cell phone analytical system, Drones, and the highest rated software platform system used by the top investigative governmental agencies. Securing the city of Flint’s residents, businesses and its visitors remains the departments’ primary focus.
The Crime Area Target Team continues to provide unmatched highly skilled tactics bringing the city’s most violent criminals to justice. We are safer because of the work that the men and women in Patrol Operations, Traffic, Task Force Officers, the Detective Bureau, Records and Identification, Police Reserves, and Part Time Officers are doing every day.
We are also fortunate to have a strong dedicated leader supporting Chief Johnson, Deputy Chief of Police Devon Bernritter. Through the work that the entire Police Command staff are doing, we have seen lower numbers in the most violent offences. That is something to be proud of.
Our dedicated Fire Department, led by Chief Raymond Barton, who has excellent back up in Carrie Edwards, responded to nearly 5,000 fire and EMS calls for service since the last state of the City address and the department was in 100% compliance with NFPA standards for residential structure fires.
Our “Climbing for life” fire safety initiative distributed over 260 safety ladders and installed and distributed over 1,200 smoke alarms in the community since October of 2017.
Worked with representatives from the Insurance Service Rating Office (ISO) maintaining our ISO Rating and seeking ways to improve our rating through: Training, maintaining staffing levels, and adding a 102’ Aerial Ladder Platform to our fleet.
The Department educated nearly 1,000 children from the Flint Community Schools in fire safe practices during Fire Prevention Week and over 1200 in Genesee County;
Partnered with Sheldon Banks Funeral Chapel in efforts to install Automated External Defibrillators (AED) in five area churches
We continue to partner and seek grants to ensure that our Fire Department remains compliant, our firefighters are safe and we improve on the service offered to the residents. We have refurbished the safety house through a grant, which means that we will be able to continue education around fire safety for our youth.
We were gifted a Gumby survival suit for water rescues, and thermal imaging camera, which allow firefighters to see areas of heat through smoke, darkness or heat-permeable barriers.
Moving Flint Forward
When I became Mayor, I knew I was just an ordinary resident who wanted to help move my city forward, to put Flint back in the news for being the wonderful historic trailblazer that it once was.
My administration and I continue to move forward with that in mind, we are residents who want to move this city to being a great place for other residents to raise families, participate in recreational activities and retire, safely. We want Flint to be a place that people visit and want to return year after year.
We knew that during this water crisis, we had to have a plan to move forward, to begin to recover. In April of this year, our Chief Recovery Officer, along with our Chief Public Health Advisor and one of our Deputy Directors of Economic Development partnered with Flint City Council members to host “Community One-on-One’s”. As a result of those meetings, Jameca Patrick Singleton, our Chief Recovery Officer, formed a steering committee to gather information for a resident driven Flint Recovery Plan. This plan will be the blueprint for creating more programs and policies based on direct input from residents.
We also held a recovery resource fair as a result of the Community One-on-One’s, residents were not sure of what resources were out there or how to obtain them. The resource fair was such a success, a second one will be held next month.
As we continue to engage residents and make sure that they have the most up to date information regarding our efforts and events, as well as to ensure the administration has information regarding the desires and needs of the residents, one thing we heard you loud and clear on is beautification of the City. We continue to address the issue of Blight for the City of Flint, we have much to be proud of this last year. By collaborating with and supporting other departments, community organizations, and nonprofits, we have achieved some significant goals and had a much greater impact than we would on our own.
Through our partnerships with the Flint Police Department, AmeriCorps NCCC, and the Genesee County Land Bank, we were able to clean, board, and secure over 600 vacant properties within the City of Flint by the end of June. As of September, a third NCCC Team was awarded to the police department, meaning that we will potentially add another 200-300 properties to that list by the end of the year.
Over the last 9 months we have provided resources and supported the efforts of neighborhood associations, block clubs, community organizations, and concerned citizens to conduct nearly 100 neighborhood cleanups around the city. The hard work and dedication of our residents is truly incredible and we are honored to be able to work with them on a regular basis.
We are working on a pilot project with community partners (especially the GC Land Bank, Ruth Mott Foundation, Neighborhood Engagement Hub, and Flint Neighborhoods United) to combat illegal dumping. This project is in the beginning stages but we are looking at a number of creative approaches to preventing dumping.
Today we’re honoring some of our residents who have gone above and beyond to make their home beautiful and improve their neighborhood. Would those honorees please stand. This is an ongoing project and we will open another window in the spring for new honorees. As part of the Mayor’s Beautification Initiative, we will also be implementing another Citywide Corridor Cleanup. This event will kick off Flint’s Love Your City Month.
I said earlier, that we want Flint to be a place where families feel welcomed and want to raise children. Growing up in Flint, there use to playgrounds and parks all over for children to enjoy outside activities and we want to get back to that. Seven new playgrounds across the City were built this past summer and we are working on new multi-use courts for tennis, basketball, and blacktop games Dewey park, Clara Hilborn Park, and Cook park.
And if children are going to play here, we need to make sure that they have a safe place to stay here. We have received not one, but two HUD grants, one to address housing needs and the other to address safety.
Thank you to Suzanne Wilcox, our Director of Planning and Development, and the whole Planning and Development team for your diligent efforts in securing the choice neighborhoods grant. I also want to thank the residents and the Flint Housing commission for working with our planning and development team to secure this grant.
The 30-million-dollar Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant will be used to develop over 300 units of mixed-income housing and to improve surrounding neighborhoods. Nearly 300 Million was leveraged in the city’s application and Flint was one of the only five nationally chosen and the FIRST and ONLY in Michigan to receive the award. Construction is set to begin the spring of 2019.
Flint Housing commission was awarded a $250,000 grant to address safety. They will purchase security camera systems at River Park and Howard Estates to improve security and monitoring. The Flint Police Department will have the ability to view the cameras in real time through the CATT system.
We have some of the best educational institutions right here in Flint with Mott Community college, University of Michigan-Flint, Kettering, Baker, and Michigan State University. We continue to make strides in housing, making sure that as our millennials graduate from college, they choose to stay right here in Flint.
Coolidge Park Apartments, a collaboration of Communities First, Inc. and Coolidge Park GP, Inc. has begun renovation on the former Coolidge Elementary School. Along with new construction, this development will bring new life to the area, as well as adding 54-units of mixed-income housing. The total project cost is expected to be nearly $15 million, and the City has provided over $700,000 in HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) funds to support the project.
The planned mixed-use development known as Flint Marketplace, at the site of the former YWCA building on E. Third, will be moving forward. The development includes a mixed use building, green space, underground parking and 92 units of housing, of which 48 will be affordable. This represents a $20 million-dollar investment and the City provided $250,000 in HOME funds.
It doesn’t matter if we are trying to retain our current residents, attract new ones or talk recovery, one thing is for sure, Economic Development is an essential pillar to any community. Key to economic development success is more jobs and private investment.
Earlier this year, we established an economic development department in the city for the first time in 14 years. Working in partnership with Flint Genesee Chamber on achieving economic development goals. We are grateful to the WK Kellogg Foundation for their generous grant which provided the foundation to build the capacity for our city’s economic development efforts. COF EDC re-established a new board of directors and loans up to $35K. Three new loans approved averaging $23K and two previous outstanding loans paid off.
We’re securing economic development wins straight out of the gate with large companies such as Lear and Huntington Bank, Android, The Ferris Wheel, the Dryden Building pop up shops, Mott’s Culinary arts school in Flint and smaller companies such as Kalm Clothing, 160 Driving Academy (truck driving school), Eight-ten Nail Bar (nail salon), Flint Trading Company, Bedrock Apparel clothing new location at Capital Theater, Shift (women’s clothing also at the Capital Theater), Old No. 4 CrossFit (gym and fitness center) finding our market as a great launching pad to build their brand and market.
The COF Economic Development department has reached out to close to 300 small businesses either engaged in small business roundtable discussions, onsite visits, shared information regarding partnerships, workforce development and shared resources.
Essential to growing any economy is not only attracting firms and investments in the near term, but also increasing the market’s competitive position over the long-term. In other words, we can’t just focus on trying to get companies into our city, but must also focus on making sure that we’re making sure that Flint is the best place for companies and workers.
I am pleased to say that with all of the upgrades and extensive testing of our water, the City of Flint and General Motors have reached an agreement to switch the Engine Plant back to City of Flint water.
Our innovation, work ethic, assets, and processes and systems must all elevate our posture as the best city in America for job growth and productivity. Over the last six months we’ve led a process that’s included community meetings in each district, small business roundtables to hear the successes and concerns of local firms which represent the backbone of our city, and have committees led by business members in each of our targeted sectors to refine our strategy. I’m excited to roll out this economic development strategy that we’ve coined Flint 2025. It outlines 6 bold strategies which represent the foundation of new economic opportunity that we’re building in Flint.
This strategy is already gaining momentum as we now have an economic development department of four people and have a solid pipeline of projects under consideration. We need additional resources to completely execute our strategy, but are encouraged by the support we’ve received from Kellogg and Mott Foundations and are optimistic that additional support is forthcoming from other friends and partners.
Last year, I stood before you and said that I would look near and far, high and low, to secure the resources necessary to rebuild Flint’s infrastructure in a way that protects our health, creates economic opportunity and helps to make our water more affordable for all residents. My administration and I have been working diligently to accomplish just that.
I recently had a chance to speak with some young college students who wanted to serve their community through public office. I told them that while “STUFF” rolls downhill, their voices ROAR uphill, fighting for democracy and against injustice.
Well Flint, let me modify it, for us Flintstones, because we know a lot about roaring uphill.
As the world continues to keep their eyes on Flint, we will continue to roar our way out of this water crisis. Fighting against anybody that would tell us that awards and rewards should be given to those who contributed to our suffering.
We will continue to roar against economic depression and unfair working wages right here in Flint. Saying that this is the home of the sit-down strike and we don’t play unfair labor practices here.
We will continue to roar against crime and the criminals who perpetrate such activities. Saying that our homes and streets will be safe for our children.
We will continue to roar for our retirees, our veterans, and our homeless. Saying that not one resident who has worked their entire life and earned the right to rest should be disturbed. Not one person who has served this country, ensuring our safety, should be without proper care now that they are back home. Not one person should be without a roof over their head, no matter the weather and no matter the reason.
Yes, Flintstones, we will roar, loud and proud for the world to hear, so that they may know what it means to be Flint proud, Flint strong, Flintstone!
Welcome back to bedrock, baby!