Is Flint, MI really a strong city with an impressive master plan? HUD says it is

So I was reading the Sunday local news about Flint, MI yesterday when I came across a standard liberal hypocrisy. First, I saw the story announcing Flint as a recipient of Obama’s HUD department as a selectee of its expansion of the Strong Cities, Strong Communities initiative. Secretary Shaun Donovan said this.

“One of the things that really impressed us about Flint is that there is a brand new master plan and provides a clear road map strategy for the city and we really felt we could be helpful on.”

Sounds promising. A new master plan. A clear road map. Good stuff. Then I read on. I came across this op-ed from the emergency manager appointed to over see Flint’s finances, Darnell Earley.

On Friday, Jan. 3 the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated an injunction prohibiting the city of Flint from modifying health care for city of Flint retirees until the case is decided. The injunction was sought by a small group of retirees who seek to prevent the city from making any changes to their healthcare coverage.

As a city whose negative financial position has placed it into state receivership, Flint cannot afford to continue paying for the previous very generous level of healthcare coverage. If the federal district court’s decision is not reversed, it is almost certain that Flint will soon be unable to provide even the most basic level of city services.

Should the retirees be blamed for suing to get their healthcare benefits restored? No. Should the city be blamed for promising these benefits to retirees in the first place when they had no long-term plan in place to insure solvency? Absolutely. Who should pay for it now? No good options here. The city of Flint today is funded by taxpayers who shouldn’t be responsible for past discretions. Reality says it will be a combination of retiree benefit reductions, tax increases and future city worker compromises combined that will pay.

Then I found this story. A new water supply pipeline is under construction to supply Lake Huron water to Flint and bypass Detroit as its primary water source. Accordingly, Detroit gave Flint a notice to terminate its current contract after the city decided to join in the Karegnondi Water Authority, which is building its own pipeline to Lake Huron.

Detroit has made no decision on whether or not to continue water sales to Flint after April 17th when the current contract expires. If they do, Flint will be forced to obtain its water for now from the Flint River, hardly a clear blue supply. It will cost considerably more due to treatment if this is the case.

There is more. Consumers Energy has scrapped a planned $750 million dollar power plant scheduled for Genesee County where Flint resides – Chalk up another casualty to President Obama’s war on coal as Consumers elected to purchase an existing natural gas power plant in another area of the state. It will cost the Flint area hundreds of construction jobs as well as permanent jobs to maintain the plant upon its completion.

Does this sound like a city with a strong master plan? A potentially crippling bankruptcy looming. One-third of tax revenues dedicated toward retiree benefits. No concrete plan in place for the water supply. The loss of a huge construction project and the corresponding jobs. A declining population. So much so that a biogas project to treat the city’s waste is actually lacking enough of it – Flint population loss leaves Swedish Biogas project at a standstill. The declining population has been devastating to the school districts as well. Flint Community Schools are still struggling with a plan to address the financial shortfall – The district is paying teachers with loans –

Flint certainly fits the bill for yet another award and a new socialism project. This CAPCON article breaks down the decline.

In 2006, the city of Flint operated at a $5.9 million surplus. Four years later, the city was $48.1 million in the red.

For example, the city’s revenue from property tax, income tax and state-shared revenue dropped a combined $19.2 million from 2006 to 2011. Yet, the city’s contributions to the pension and benefit trust funds increased by $6 million over five years. It jumped from $22.2 million in 2006 to $28.2 million in 2011, a 27-percent increase.

City records show that Flint spent $45.2 million on public safety in 2006. Within two years, the city spent $78 million on public safety.

Overall, the city’s workforce dropped from 1,104.5 full-time jobs in 2006 to 835.3 full-time jobs in 2011. Despite a 24 percent reduction in the full-time workforce, the city’s expenses went up 28 percent. Expenses for “total government activities” increased from $109.9 million in 2006 to $140.8 million in 2011. Brown said about 80 percent of the city’s costs are tied to employees’ costs.

Fact is that socialist policies always fail when attempting to execute them within a free society, particularly one that purports to be a free market, capitalist one. Promising completely unsustainable lifetime benefits to public-sector workers is a toxic recipe to the future of any community. Flint will have to face its demons just as Detroit is. The only question is will the citizens allow their elected officials to take them right back down the same road in the aftermath.