Students try to "Imagine Flint"
Victoria Morkel specializes in urban planning, and hosted the discussion.
By Heeba Dlewati and Times Staff Wrtier
A diverse group of students and staff led by Victoria Morckel, assistant professor in earth and resource sciences, gathered for the City of Flint Master Plan Input Session on Thurs., Jan. 17 in Michigan Room A.
The Master Plan is a policy document that provides a foundation for city decision-making and development. The last City of Flint Master Plan was created over 50 years ago, and since then, Flint has changed drastically. “Imagine Flint” workshops are now being held throughout the city to encourage optimum feedback from everyone in Flint. “Do it yourself” kits make it easy for anyone to hold their own workshop, and encourage outreach.
“Community input is vital,” Morckel said, who used a kit to lead the discussion.
Following the introduction of the project, questionnaires were handed around the room. Everyone was asked to answer the first question: identify five concerns confronting Flint. Two large “Post-It” pads were placed on either side of Morckel. A few minutes of silent brainstorming were followed by a dynamic listing and comparison of concerns. Two of Morckel’s students kept post by the “Post-Its,” writing each suggestion down. Issues ranging from safety and crime, to student housing and diversifying the economy and changing the negative image of Flint were voiced. Many of the attendees had the same concerns, and the completed posters were attached to the walls.
The listed concerns were then prioritized, the top three being safety and crime, quality of education and economic growth and diversity. Attendees proposed what they would do if they were in charge of the city and had access to unlimited resources. Finally, the group was asked what they thought were Flint’s primary strengths and assets. Rich civic history, parks and downtown events were a few of the strengths mentioned.
Leyla Sanker, community outreach coordinator at University Outreach attended the meeting. She stressed the importance of more students participating in “Imagine Flint”, whether by attending workshops or just becoming more involved in events downtown, like the Fire and Ice Festival coming up in February.
“It’s important for students to lend their voice on what they want to see in their college town,” Sanker said. “It would help make Flint a great place for students.”
Calix Martinez, a senior at UM-Flint majoring in energy and sustainable systems also attended the workshop. He has attended previous “Imagine Flint” events outside the campus, and plans on attending future ones as well.
“I was raised here, so I feel responsible for the city in a sense,” Martinez said.
“Imagine Flint” workshops cover a variety of issues to form a comprehensive plan for the entire city with a 20-year focus. The planning phase of the Master Plan should finish early 2014. One of the anxieties raised during the meeting was the actual implementation of the plan, since previous plans like the Flint Riverfront Restoration Plan have remained unexecuted. Morckel reassured the participants, however, adding that the input from Thursday’s session will be analyzed and included along with results from workshops throughout the city.
The workshop ended on an optimistic note, and attendees were encouraged to participate in future workshops, or even start their own. All the posters hung on the walls declared the concerns, strengths and hopes of the 15 people who had gotten together to imagine Flint.
“It’s an exciting time to be in Flint,” Morckel said.
More information about the City of Flint Master Plan and ways to get involved is available at www.imagineflint.com.
Heeba can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org