The following post is an article I wrote. I had hoped to sell it to Cracked.com, but was told that the topic was too narrow of a focus for their website. Since, I had already written the article, I didn’t want to let it go to waste, so I am posting it on this site.
Telling someone that you grew up in Flint is like telling someone you are an Iraq War veteran. Most people are surprised you made it out of the city alive. People want to know if you’ve “seen some shit,” and talk to you about how tasty the water is. The questions get old after awhile.
To be considered any sort of real success in the city you only have to do one of two things. You have to eventually move your ass out of the city, or manage to not have any sort of PTSD when you finally kick the bucket.
I count myself lucky to have moved away and without PTSD. I also count myself as a bit of an oddity. I was very much privileged and went to private school, I also grew up in the “good” neighborhood. My neighborhood was by all appearances one of the nicer places to live in the city, but that didn’t mean it was free of burglary and the occasional murder. I had a liquor store within walking distance where I grew up, and right next to the pharmacy near my parents house is a medical marijuana dispensary to pick up a totally different kind of prescription.
Flint is a fucking crazy place to have lived in, and now living in the Bible Belt of Michigan, I totally miss weird and insane shit that would happen there. The most interesting thing where I live at now is when someone starts an organic farm, not what I would consider really interesting news.
For people only just becoming familiar with this city because of the current water crisis. Let me tell you the city has always been crazy. The Flint Water Crisis is just one of several insane news stories. Here are five other stories/facts to prove how wacky and strange Flint and its neighboring communities are.
5. The city had its own superheroes
I live in the suburbs now, I rarely hear the sound of sirens, and when I do it is for almost completely non-serious reasons. Living in Flint though, the sounds of sirens was practically my lullaby. I could hear them nightly, it was actually more scary when they weren’t ringing, and irrational fears of a lawless town free of police started to fill my dreams. Which is why there just might be a need for a local superhero.
Phoenix Jones and the Rain City Superheroes in Washington aren’t the only vigilante crime fighters in the U.S. In Flint, or rather Burton, had their own trailer park crime fighter named Bee Sting.
Burton , commonly known as Burtucky, is the white meth addicted neighbor of Flint. In 2012, a 38-year-old superhero with an itchy trigger finger took it upon himself to become the trailer parks personal security task force.
Apparently, Mr. Bee Sting took issue with the noise levels of some motorcycles, and decided to fire off a few blasts of his shotgun at one of the riders.
He is complete with his own superhero origin story.
“ Bee Sting is a combat veteran who after recovering from injuries sustained in Iraq returned home to help others.” – The Flint Journal
Of course police weren’t happy with this nutcase and he was arrested.
Bee Sting apparently belonged to a group called the Michigan Protectors, which were a group of real life superheroes within the state. Although, Bee Sting may have been the most notorious and well known of the group.
Flint had two other local heroes as well Red Jacket and Checkmate. Whether these two comic book nerds are still living or operating in one of America’s most dangerous cities is unknown to me at this time.
4. The city has been one of the most dangerous cities in the country for a number of years
Flint consistently ranks in the top 10 for the most dangerous places in the country. It has taken the top spot a few times. From 2010-2012 it was number one in the country.
For the brief time that I worked at a local newspaper, the staff would all make guesses as to what the end of the year murder total would end up being. As dark as this may sound, when you live in a city that is as self-destructive as Flint you develop an affinity for tasteless humor, and things like trigger warnings take on an entirely different meaning than what they are commonly defined as.
The dangerous aspects of the city are attributed to a number of things. Mainly a mass migration of people out of the area and into the more suburban areas sometime in the 80s after the auto industry began pulling out. The people that remained were impoverished.
Most people live below the poverty line as well. In fact living in poverty is so understated in the city, that while doing research for this article I hadn’t realized I was currently living in poverty as an underpaid newspaper reporter. Although it might not be directly related there does seem to be a correlation and might explain why I can be so stabby.
Also when your situation in life seem inescapable and bleak, people will sometimes turn to drugs. The city has a thriving drug problem that also seems to play a role in the increase crime statistics.
3. The city is a food desert and the police department is horribly understaffed
It might seem cool for white hipsters to start urban farming projects, but having lived in Flint I don’t think there is anything wrong with a bunch of skinny jeaned weirdos trying to grow food within the communities. Flint for the last three to four years was a bit of a food desert. Which for some less privileged people without transportation can make acquiring food a bit of a chore.
Without a car your options are really only limited to fast food, and the crap they sell at the liquor store. Wanting to have healthy alternatives other than something that comes out of a wrapper shouldn’t be that difficult. Yet, for some reason when a woman decided to raise chickens in her yard, it became a concern for area politicians.
The funny thing is though is that the police department is notoriously understaffed. So urban farmer Roxanne Adair baited city officials to actually try to enforce the law there, knowing that it was going to be a fucking chore for them to actually do.
“I’m not going to willingly give up my birds,” said Adair, who has been given 30 days to relocate them from her home in city’s College and Cultural area after a blight ordinance enforcer cited her for harboring the chickens this month.
“The kicker that got me … when I talked to someone at the city, I said I would fight for them, and I was told if I didn’t remove the chickens they would send police to forcefully remove the birds.
“I had to laugh, because my garage has been broken into … my car has been broken into five times and only once did the police come out, (and that was) five hours later,” Adair said. – The Flint Journal
Adair isn’t exaggerating either about the response times. This problem is over 10-years old. More recently, the city has been using state police officers to help pick up some of the slack. However, even with state police helping out the city’s police chief has told residents to continue to expect long response, because the state police can’t answer 9-1-1 calls.
2. The city has elected convicted criminals
In most places you’d think murdering a person would ruin your chances of holding elected office. Not in Flint, in 2013 the city elected two convicted criminals to their city council, one of which is a convicted murderer.
City Council member Wantwaz Davis served 19-years in prison after pleading guilty to second degree murder in 1991. To be fair Davis, did say he turned himself in after the murder, and it was kind of an accident.
The other council member that was elected that year with a questionable past was Eric Mays who was convicted of felonious assault with a firearm in 1987.
However, having criminal politicians working in the city is hardly anything new, in fact it feels like tradition. Former mayor Don Williamson was sentenced to three years in prison for taking part in a number of business scams. He has also been accused of bribing people in order to win an election, giving out more than $20,000 at his wife’s dealership with campaign literature included.
1. Flint has the most amount of vacant houses within the country by percentage and has wild dogs living in them
Have you ever watched a western where the good cowboy, probably played by Clint Eastwood, strolls into a deserted town? If you have and wonder what that would look like in modern times then come visit Flint.
Not only is the city at different points in it’s history considered one of the most dangerous places in the country, it is also one of the most vacant places as well. Driving through portions of the city is like driving through a bombed out hell hole in some foreign land.
Houses are rotted out, bars on the windows, and whole blocks on the city’s north side are are completely abandoned. At 7.5-percent the city has the most vacant properties within the country by percentage. It is then followed by other Michigan eye sore affectionately known as Detroit which was at 5.3-percent.
According to the real estate data used to determine this most of the vacant properties are investment properties. On paper this sounds amazing, but with the Flint water crisis making the city seem like an unlivable shithole, parts of the city are slowly morphing into an alternate “Book of Eli” type reality minus one Denzel Washington.
With whole neighborhoods completely abandoned in the city, replacing the residents of these abandoned areas are stray dogs. The dogs take residence in the properties, and the last remaining people living in the area are at risk of dog attacks in the summer months.
Much like the Russian government during the Sochi Olympics the city has taken to putting down a lot of these ravenous beasts.