Last week, Mayor Dayne Walling gave his State of the City address to the public inside City Hall. After accidently trying to sit in his seat, this reporter scurried to the back to settle in. The hall was just about full that afternoon. Whispered chatter continued into his speech as residents listened and weighed in with their neighbors on all they were hearing.
“I believe this is our year of transition,” Walling said. “From a generation of decline to an era of reconstruction. We will be in [a] stronger position by 2014.”
Walling credits the research from the City’s Master Plan for the clear view they have now. For the first time in a long time, the City and its residents have accurate and current data about everything from population to how much green space is being used. While these are good steps, they don’t directly fix the number one issue.
“Crime is our most pressing issue: the drugs, guns, vacancies, abandonments and desperation,” Walling said. “But our greatest opportunity are our children and their education.” He reiterated this point at least three times throughout his speech, challenging the community to find a way to reconnect with its youth population.
Some of his one-liners drew loud murmurs from the crowd as he spoke to their plights.
“Without major changes in Lansing there will have to be more personal reductions again. Residents are paying more and not seeing any improvement,” Walling said.
This was another theme that Walling brought up again and again. He sees a healed Flint in the future, but only if federal, state and local government can work together. One of the things he wants to see cooperation on is a transition plan out of having an emergency manager.
“It’s time to move on to a sustainable structure, and this can only be achieved by us here. So Mr. Governor, the city of Flint wants to vote. And Mr. Councilman, it’s our job to write that proposal,” Walling said.
The new emergency manager law set to take place in March does have a provision for a transition board. But the board can only assemble after the emergency manager has sent the governor his two-year budget proposal.
“We have to show unity before the governor can consider this. There were a number of times before the EM was appointed that city council and I had disagreements, which resulted in necessary action being delayed. We need to show local responsibility,” Walling said.
At the end of his address, the mayor called for both sides of the aisle to stand up and put their differences aside.
“We have to put to rest all of these old wars. North versus south, black versus white, city council versus mayor, republican versus democrat,” Walling said. “It is time for a new birth of responsibility. The city we can create together will be beautiful and strong. It will be the beating heart of the region.”
Natalie can be reached at email@example.com