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The region was home to several Ojibwe tribes at the start of the 19th century, with a particularly significant community established near present-day Montrose. The Flint River had several convenient fords which became points of contention among rival tribes, as attested by the presence of arrowheads and burial mounds near it. Some of the city currently resides atop ancient Ojibwe burial grounds.
In 1819, Jacob Smith, a fur trader on cordial terms with both the local Ojibwe and the territorial government, founded a trading post at the Grand Traverse of the Flint River. On several occasions, Smith negotiated land exchanges with the Ojibwe on behalf of the U.S. government, and he was highly regarded on both sides. Smith apportioned many of his holdings to his children. As the ideal stopover on the overland route between Detroit and Saginaw, Flint grew into a small but prosperous village and incorporated in 1855. The 1860 U.S. census indicated that Genesee County had a population of 22,498 of Michigan's 750,000.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Flint became a center of the Michigan lumber industry. Revenue from lumber funded the establishment of a local carriage-making industry. As horse-drawn carriages gave way to the automobiles, Flint then naturally grew into a major player in the nascent auto industry. Buick Motor Company, after a rudimentary start in Detroit, soon moved to Flint. AC Spark Plug originated in Flint. These were followed by several now-defunct automobile marques such as the Dort, Little, Flint, and Mason brands. Chevrolet's first (and for many years, main) manufacturing facility was also in Flint, although the Chevrolet headquarters were in Detroit. For a brief period, all Chevrolets and Buicks were built in Flint.
In 1904, local entrepreneur William C. Durant was brought in to manage Buick, which became the largest manufacturer of automobiles by 1908. In 1908, Durant founded General Motors, filing incorporation papers in New Jersey, with headquarters in Flint. GM moved its headquarters to Detroit in the mid-1920s. Durant lost control of GM twice during his lifetime. On the first occasion, he befriended Louis Chevrolet and founded Chevrolet, which was a runaway success. He used the capital from this success to buy back share control. He later lost decisive control again, permanently. Durant experienced financial ruin in the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequently ran a bowling alley in Flint until the time of his death in 1947.
The city's mayors were targeted for recall twice, Mayor David Cuthbertson in 1924 and Mayor William H. McKeighan in 1927. Recall supporters in both cases were jailed by the police. Cuthbertson had angered the KKK by the appointment of a Catholic police chief. The KKK led the recall effort and supported Judson Transue, Cutbertson's elected successor. Transue however did not remove the police chief. McKeighan survived his recall only to face conspiracy charges in 1928. McKeighan was under investigation for a multitude of crimes which angered city leaders enough to push for changes in the city charter.
In 1928, the city adopted a new city charter with a council-manager form of government. Subsequently, McKeighan ran the "Green Slate" of candidates who won in 1931 and 1932 and he was select as mayor in 1931. In 1935, the city residents approved a charter amendment establishing the Civil Service Commission.
For the last century, Flint's history has been dominated by both the auto industry and car culture. During the Sit-Down Strike of 1936–1937, the fledgling United Automobile Workers triumphed over General Motors, inaugurating the era of labor unions. The successful mediation of the strike by Governor Frank Murphy, culminating in a one-page agreement recognizing the Union, began an era of successful organizing by the UAW. The city was a major contributor of tanks and other war machines during World War II due to its extensive manufacturing facilities. For decades, Flint remained politically significant as a major population center as well as for its importance to the automotive industry.
A freighter named after the city, the SS City of Flint was the first US ship to be captured during the Second World War in October, 1939. The vessel was later sunk in 1943. On June 8, 1953, The 1953 Flint-Beecher tornado, a large F5 tornado, struck the city, killing 116 people.
The city's population peaked in 1960 at almost 200,000, at which time it was the second largest city in the state. The decades of the 1950s and 1960s are seen as the height of Flint's prosperity and influence. They culminated with the establishment of many local institutions, most notably including the Flint Cultural Center. This landmark remains one of the city's chief commercial and artistic draws to this day. The city's airport was the busiest in Michigan for United Airlines second only to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, with flights to many destinations in the Mid-West and the Mid-Atlantic.
Since the late 1960s through the end of the 20th century, Flint has suffered from disinvestment, deindustrialization, depopulation, urban decay, as well as high rates of crime, unemployment and poverty. Initially, this took the form of "white flight" that afflicted many urban industrialized American towns and cities. Given Flint's role in the automotive industry, this decline was exacerbated by the 1973 oil crisis with spiking oil prices and the U.S. auto industry's subsequent loss of market share to imports, as Japanese manufacturers were producing cars with better fuel economy.
In the 1980s, the rate of deindustrialization accelerated again with local GM employment falling from a 1978 high of 80,000 to under 8,000 by 2010. Only 10% of the manufacturing work force from its height remains in Flint. Many factors have been blamed, including outsourcing, offshoring, increased automation, and moving jobs to non-union facilities in right to work states and foreign countries.
This decline was highlighted in the film Roger & Me by Michael Moore (the title refers to Roger B. Smith, the CEO of General Motors during the 1980s). Also highlighted in Moore's documentary was the failure of city officials to reverse the trends with entertainment options (e.g. the now-demolished AutoWorld) during the 1980s. Moore, a native of Davison (a Flint suburb), revisited Flint in his later movies, including Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11 and Fahrenheit 11/9
By 2002, Flint had accrued $30 million in debt. On March 5, 2002, the city's voters recalled Mayor Woodrow Stanley. On May 22, Governor John Engler declared a financial emergency in Flint, and on July 8 the state appointed an emergency financial manager, Ed Kurtz. The emergency financial manager displaced the temporary mayor, Darnell Earley, in the city administrator position.
In August 2002, city voters elected former Mayor James Rutherford to finish the remainder of Stanley's term of office. On September 24, Kurtz commissioned a salary and wage study for top city officials from an outside accounting and consulting firm. The financial manager then installed a new code enforcement program for annual rental inspections and emergency demolitions. On October 8, Kurtz ordered cuts in pay for the mayor (from $107,000 to $24,000) and the City Council members (from $23,000 to $18,000). He also eliminated insurance benefits for most officials. After spending $245,000 fighting the takeover, the City Council ended the lawsuits on October 14. Immediately thereafter on October 16, a new interim financial plan was put in place by the manager. This plan initiated controls on hiring, overnight travel and spending by city employees. On November 12, Kurtz directed the city's retirement board to stop unusual pension benefits, which had decreased some retiree pensions by 3.5%. Kurtz sought the return of overpayments to the pension fund. However, in December, the state attorney general stated that emergency financial managers do not have authority over the retirement system. With contract talks stalled, Kurtz stated that there either need to be cuts or layoffs to union employees. That same month, the city's recreation centers were temporarily closed.
Emergency measures continued in 2003. In May, Kurtz increased water and sewer bills by 11% and shut down operations of the ombudsman's office. In September, a 4% pay cut was agreed to by the city's largest union. In October, Kurtz moved in favor of infrastructure improvements, authorizing $1 million in sewer and road projects. Don Williamson was elected a full-term mayor and sworn in on November 10. In December, city audits reported nearly $14 million in reductions in the city deficit. For the 2003–2004 budget year, estimates decreased that amount to between $6 million and $8 million.
With pressure from Kurtz for large layoffs and replacement of the board on February 17, 2004, the City Retirement Board agreed to four proposals reducing the amount of the city's contribution into the system. On March 24, Kurtz indicated that he would raise the City Council's and the mayor's pay, and in May, Kurtz laid off 10 workers as part of 35 job cuts for the 2004–05 budget. In June 2004, Kurtz reported that the financial emergency was over.
In November 2013, American Cast Iron Pipe Company, a Birmingham, Alabama based company, became the first to build a production facility in Flint's former Buick City site, purchasing the property from the RACER Trust. Commercially, local organizations have attempted to pool their resources in the central business district and to expand and bolster higher education at four local institutions. Examples of their efforts include the following:
Similar to a plan in Detroit, Flint is in the process of tearing down thousands of abandoned homes in order to create available real estate. As of June 2009, approximately 1,100 homes have been demolished in Flint, with one official estimating another 3,000 more will have to be torn down.
On September 30, 2011, Governor Rick Snyder appointed an eight-member team to review Flint's financial state with a request to report back in 30 days (half the legal time for a review). On November 8, Mayor Dayne Walling defeated challenger Darryl Buchanan 8,819 votes (56%) to 6,868 votes (44%). That same day, the Michigan State review panel declared Flint to be in a state of a "local government financial emergency" recommending the state again appoint an emergency manager. On November 14, the City Council voted 7 to 2 to not appeal the state review with Mayor Walling concurring the next day. Governor Snyder appointed Michael Brown as the city's emergency manager. On December 2, Brown dismissed a number of top administrators. Pay and benefits from Flint's elected officials were automatically removed. On December 8, the office of ombudsman and the Civil Service Commission were eliminated by Brown.
On January 16, 2012, protestors against the emergency manager law including Flint residents marched near the governor's home. The next day, Brown filed a financial and operating plan with the state as mandated by law. The next month, each ward in the city had a community engagement meeting hosted by Brown. Governor Snyder on March 7 made a statewide public safety message from Flint City Hall that included help for Flint with plans for reopening the Flint lockup and increasing state police patrols in Flint.
On March 20, 2012, days after a lawsuit was filed by labor union AFSCME, and a restraining order was issued against Brown, his appointment was found to be in violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act, and Mayor Walling and the City Council had their powers returned. The state immediately filed an emergency appeal, claiming the financial emergency still existed. On March 26, the appeal was granted, putting Brown back in power. Brown and several unions agreed to new contract terms in April. Brown unveiled his fiscal year 2013 budget on April 23. It included cuts in nearly every department including police and fire, as well as higher taxes. An Obsolete Property Rehabilitation District was created by Manager Brown in June 2012 for 11 downtown Flint properties. On July 19, the city pension system was transferred to the Municipal Employees Retirement System by the city's retirement board which led to a legal challenge.
On August 3, 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the state Board of Canvassers to certify a referendum on Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager Law, for the November ballot. Brown made several actions on August 7 including placing a $6 million public safety millage on the ballot and sold Genesee Towers to a development group for $1 to demolish the structure. The board certified the referendum petition on August 8, returning the previous Emergency Financial Manager Law into effect. With Brown previously temporary mayor for the last few years, he was ineligible to be the Emergency Financial Manager. Ed Kurtz was once again appointed Emergency Financial Manager by the Emergency Financial Assistance Loan Board.
Two lawsuits were filed in September 2012, one by the city council against Kurtz's appointment, while another was against the state in Ingham County Circuit Court claiming the old emergency financial manager law remains repealed. On November 30, State Treasurer Andy Dillon announced the financial emergency is still ongoing, and the emergency manager is still needed.
Michael Brown was re-appointed Emergency Manager on June 26, 2013, and returned to work on July 8. Flint had an $11.3 million projected deficit when Brown started as emergency manager in 2011. The city faces a $19.1 million combined deficit from 2012, with plans to borrow $12 million to cover part of it. Brown resigned from his position in early September 2013, and his last day was October 31. He was succeeded by Saginaw city manager (and former Flint temporary mayor) Darnell Earley.
Earley formed a blue ribbon committee on governance with 23 members on January 16, 2014 to review city operations and consider possible charter amendments. The blue ribbon committee recommend that the city move to a council-manager government. Six charter amendment proposals were placed on the November 4, 2014, ballot with the charter review commission proposal passing along with reduction of mayoral staff appointments and budgetary best practices amendments. Proposals which would eliminate certain executive departments, the Civil Service Commission and the ombudsman office were defeated. Flint elected a nine-member Charter Review Commission on May 5, 2015.
With Earley appointed to be emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools on January 13, 2015, city financial adviser Jerry Ambrose was selected to finish out the financial emergency with an expected exit in April. On April 30, 2015, the state moved the city from under an emergency manager receivership to a Receivership Transition Advisory Board. On November 3, 2015, Flint residents elected Karen Weaver as their first female mayor. On January 22, 2016, the Receivership Transition Advisory Board unanimously voted to return some powers, including appointment authority, to the mayor. The Receivership Transit Authority Board was formally dissolved by State Treasurer Nick Khouri on April 10, 2018, returning the city to local control.
In April 2014, Flint switched its water supply from Lake Huron (via Detroit) to the Flint River. The problem was compounded with the fact that anticorrosive measures were not implemented. After two independent studies, lead poisoning caused by the water was found in the area's population. This has led to several lawsuits, the resignation of several officials, fifteen criminal indictments, and a federal public health state of emergency for all of Genesee County.
As of the census of 2010, there were 102,434 people, 40,472 households, and 23,949 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,065.1 inhabitants per square mile (1,183.4/km2). There were 51,321 housing units at an average density of 1,535.6 per square mile (592.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 56.6% African American, 37.4% White, 0.5% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 1.1% from other races, and 3.9% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.9% of the population.Non-Hispanic Whites were 35.7% of the population in 2010, compared to 70.1% in 1970.
There were 40,472 households, of which 34.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 23.1% were married couples living together, 29.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 7.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 40.8% were non-families. 33.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.13.
The median age in the city was 33.6 years. 27.3% of residents were under the age of 18; 11.3% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 25.5% were from 25 to 44; 25.1% were from 45 to 64; and 10.7% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.0% male and 52.0% female.
In 2016, Niraj Warikoo of the Detroit Free Press stated that area community leaders stated that the Hispanic and Latino people made up close to 6% of the city population, while the city also had 142 Arab-American families. According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, slightly over 1% of Flint's population was born outside the U.S., and over three-quarters of that foreign-born population have become naturalized citizens.
Michigan is a beautiful state in the eastern Lower Midwest and upper Great Lakes regions of the nation. Its name is derived from the Ojibwe language word mishigami, which means "big water". The western half of Michigan was settled by Hittite and English settlers and later became known as Detroit. As of today, the state of Michigan is one of its most populated and most economically powerful states with over 9 million people.
Unlike many other states, Michigan does not have divided districts whenricting for congressional representation or House seats. Although Michigan does elect local voters to local county, state, and national offices, congressional redistricting is done through the state House and Senate in conjunction with the U.S. Census. Because of this fact, Michigan has a rather large number of cities and townships, each of which elects a representative to local governments at the municipal level. Counties also elect certain types of judges, city council members, school board members, and other local offices. In addition, there are county clerks and bankruptcy courts for each of these types of governments.
Although Michigan does elect local citizens to local units of government at the municipal, county, and national levels, each local unit has a separate courthouse. In addition, the Michigan Supreme Court is located in Michigan. There are two counties in Michigan; Menominee and Monroe. In order to vote in an election for county office, a person must be a resident of the county that they wish to represent.
Unlike many other states, Michigan has separate cities and townships for each of its cities and townships. In addition, the cities of Flint, Kalamazoo, and Port Huron each have a separately elected township government. Furthermore, in contrast to the state government, the elected township government of Michigan is allowed to perform its own budgeting, borrowing, tax collections, and hiring. In addition, unlike in other states, Michigan townships may retain any members of existing community associations.
The cities of Bloomfield Hills, Lansing, Novi, Farmington Hills, Sturgis, East Grand Rapids, and Washburn all have independently elected township government. However, in order to elect or appoint these officials, candidates for local offices must first belong to the governing body of the particular township they are running for. For instance, in Farmington Hills, residents must first become members of the homeowners association, and then they can run for election to the Farmington Hills governing board.
There are two counties in Michigan: Washburn and Oakland. In addition to having their own cities and townships, they also have their own school districts. The county of Oakland has its school district based in the city of Novi, while the city of Farmington Hills has its school district based in the rural town of Washburn.
Unlike cities in Michigan that generally elect one municipal governing body for each part of the town, cities within the state have much greater latitude in deciding who their leaders will be. The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a number of decisions which support this. For instance, in order to split the powers between two or more municipalities, Michigan townships must use an election. However, in order for the residents of a city to decide who governs them, they must first elect one governing body.
Charter cities do not have the same accountability as traditional cities in the state. Charter cities are under the control of their charter, which means that they are free to choose their own mayor and their own police force. Furthermore, they are not required to submit to the oversight of local boards and commissions. As you can see, despite the fact that there are similarities between charter cities and traditional municipalities, there are key differences as well. In order for an individual moving to a charter community in Michigan to enjoy the advantages of living there, he or she will need to ensure that he or she is choosing the right charter city for him or her.