Flint voters have elected Karen Weaver as the city’s first woman mayor, bouncing Dayne Walling from office after six years by a convincing margin.
Weaver, a clinical psychologist and small business owner, received 55 percent of the votes cast (7,825) in the election Tuesday, Nov. 3, compared to 43 percent (6,061) for Walling.
In the process, she made history, becoming the first woman elected to the city’s top job since Flint was incorporated in 1855.
Weaver takes over the office of mayor at 12 p.m. Monday, Nov. 9, according to the city charter.
“I’m excited because we talked about all of us having a seat at the table. That’s what had been missing,” Weaver told a cheering crowd of supporters at Raspberries Rhythm Cafe. “I said I was going to be a mayor for all of Flint, (and) that’s what we are going to do.”
Former state Rep. and ex-Flint Mayor Woodrow Stanley introduced Weaver as mayor-elect at her victory party, saying her election marked a milestone for her supporters.
“We started on a journey some time ago to make sure that we took our voice back at City Hall and the vehicle (to do that) is Dr. Karen Weaver,” Stanley said.
Walling thanked his supporters and telephoned Weaver as her victory became increasingly apparent as precinct after precinct reported voting results as the night wore on.
The incumbent, who has been mayor since 2009, made no comments to reporters or any public concession of his defeat after predicting victory to his supporters earlier in the evening at Tom Z’s coney island restaurant on Court Street.
Walling was hit hard by Weaver during the campaign for his role in the decision to use the Flint River as the city’s water source in April 2014 even though the decision was made while a state-appointed emergency manager was running the city.
Walling joined in a ceremony celebrating the switch, toasting with Flint River water and was among city officials who assured residents of the safety and quality of the water supply until recently.
After testing showed increasing levels of lead in Flint water, Walling said he privately argued against the change, which led to a public health emergency and eventually, a return to purchasing water from the Detroit water system.
A political novice, Weaver called for a federal investigation into the Flint water crisis and many of the citizens who were active in demanding an end to the use of the river joined in her campaign.
Weaver, 56, also appeared to carry over her own support from the August primary election and to take the majority of the votes that went to other candidates who finished behind her and Walling in that race once the campaign narrowed to a one-on-one contest.
A graduate of Flint Northern High School who received her doctorate from Michigan State University, Weaver has said she plans to conduct an in-depth analysis of City Hall operations during her first 90 days in office with the review aimed at finding ways to eliminate waste and duplication of services.
During the campaign, she advocated for stepped-up economic development efforts in order to increase income tax revenues and provide jobs for city residents.
The mayor’s job in Flint has changed in recent years because of the state’s involvement in running the city since Gov. Rick Snyder declared a financial emergency here in 2011.
Since that time, Snyder has appointed a succession of four emergency managers to run the city.
Although the last of those managers left Flint earlier this year, a Receivership Transition Advisory Board remains, as does a city administrator with broad powers and more than four years remaining on a contract signed by former emergency manager Darnell Earley.
An emergency manager’s order signed in April gives City Administrator Natasha Henderson the authority to recommend, subject to the mayor’s approval, the appointment of the police chief, fire chief, finance director, planning and development director, public works director, chief legal officer and chief personnel officer.
The administrator — not the mayor — also oversees all department heads, division heads, managers and non-elected city employees, according to that emergency manager’s order.
The unofficial results from Tuesday’s election showed 13,982 city residents voted compared to more than 15,000 when Walling was elected to his first full term as mayor in 2011.
In Walling’s first election as mayor in 2009, more than 19,000 votes were cast.
Upon taking office I will thoroughly familiarize myself with every line item in the general fund, every special fund, and every source of revenue. Beyond that I will:
A.) Conduct a forensic audit of the general fund and all special funds to ensure there are no additional hidden financial mishaps or miscues in the city’s coffers.
B.) Meet with the governor to implore him to return the city of Flint to actual home rule as opposed to the current structure which is just another emergency manager at the reigns of city government with the MTAB to back her up.
C.) Meet with every department and division head in city government to advise them that austerity is the rule of the day, and that I will demand a tight and fiscally sound operation of each department and division.
D.) I will convene a committee of local financial experts who will meet at least once monthly, to serve as monitors of the city’s general fund. Down the road
I will retain experts to advise me on how we can completely over haul and right size city government to make it more compatible with our population loss and revenue streams, including consolidating departments, streamlining and combining functions, and trimming fat and excess wherever possible.
The combined effect of safe, drinkable water, a strong public safety presence, and attractive neighborhoods, coupled with effective schools, provide a solid foundation for economic development. We have to all understand that economic development of any significance in the city of Flint is going to be a marathon rather than a sprint. Considerable work has to be done in all of the above areas to lure manufacturing concerns to our city. It’s ironic that General Motors in Flint decided to switch to Detroit water rather than the corrosive Flint River water in its manufacturing processes. Water is a major problem that has to be fixed, along with crime, and crumbling neighborhoods.
Small business development in the city of Flint is a smaller bite of the apple that can be more readily accomplished, first by making certain we retain existing small businesses, and, secondly investing more into the development of additional small businesses. When one looks at the major employer in the country, small businesses far surpass large companies in number of employees.
Again, grant money may be a source here, where foundations may be willing to fund innovative approaches to spawning small businesses in our community.
As Mayor, I will insist upon a more equitable distribution of government resources to impact every sector of the city of Flint, north, south, east, west, and downtown, rather than concentrating the bulk of city, state, and federal funds in the downtown Flint area. I will advocate with our Washington delegation to continue lobbying for demolition funds, however, with a slight twist—for every two structures that are demolished, funds are provided for one new built, so that our neighborhoods are rebuilt.
One of my priorities will be to straighten out Smith Village. The current situation there is a mess. It’s evident the subdivision was constructed for the sake of expedience and without a lot of forethought and planning. I will find money to either purchase and demolish and/or rehab the older homes in the neighborhood to improve the aesthetics of the area and make it more appealing to potential buyers, thereby saving the city’s huge investment in the area. The newly constructed homes there now are merely languishing because the neighborhood is not an attractive place to live.
Loretta Lynch won confirmation as the nation’s first black female attorney general Thursday from a Senate that forced her to wait more than five months for the title and remained divided to the end.
The 56-43 vote was enough to confirm Lynch, who is replacing Eric Holder. This is a big step for women everywhere.
Karen Williams Weaver, nominee for Mayor of Flint, commented on the appointment. “This is just one more glass ceiling that has been broken. It’s a long time coming. It gives women everywhere hope. That is one thing we want to restore.”
Lynch is viewed as a hard, but extremely fair, prosecutor. It will be her job to ensure things are done right.
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As a concerned citizen, and a lifelong resident of the city of Flint, I am saddened and disappointed about the situation we find ourselves in, in 2014. To listen to the rhetoric, the noise coming from the Emergency Financial Manager, Darnell Early, and the recommendations coming from the twenty two members comprising the Blue Ribbon Committee is outlandish.
First and foremost, the legitimacy of the committee is in doubt. According to The Charter Revision Handbook, Michigan Municipal League, page 5, a change in form of government requires a charter revision. More specifically, “revision of city charters may be initiated by a resolution adopted by 3/5 of the legislative body or by petition signed by at least five percent of the registered voters, unless the present charter provides otherwise.” Whichever way this is achieved, the decision to revise the charter is one that is voted on by the people.
Additionally, a nine member commission committee must also be selected to do the revisions, and none of these committee members can be an elected or appointed official. The committee must also be voted on by the people. These are just a few but very important violations committed by this Blue Ribbon Committee, which was put in place by the EFM.
Where is the outrage over such terrible violations of the city charter and the rights of the people of the city of Flint? Where is the open meeting discussion from the people? To take it a step further, city council asked for a special meeting to give the people and themselves adequate time to discuss the recommendations in a public setting, their request was denied as well. It’s beginning to be more shameful and ridiculous that this kind of behavior is being forced on the people.
We are being told that these are recommendations that we are going to vote on. The question in one’s mind is: are these legitimate recommendations by an illegitimate group? This has the perceived spirit of a return to 50 years ago; to fall under this kind of dictatorship! In order to not go back 50 years, the public should be well versed, and it should be openly discussed among Flint voters, not just 22, but 80,000 plus registered voters. The entire voice of the Flint residents should be the Blue Ribbon Committee. Are some of the recommendations good? That has yet to be determined; the process certainly was not.