Flint, MI–Mayor Sheldon Neeley delivered his third State of the City address at the Capitol Theatre on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2022. Neeley said that the theme for his address was “from crisis to recovery.”
Since he was sworn in as mayor of Flint for his first term on Nov. 11, 2019, Neeley said that his administration has faced several challenges, including the ongoing water crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and a financial crisis.
Starting with the last of these four challenges, Neeley said that his administration inherited a financial department that was “decimated” under a series of emergency managers in Flint from 2011 to 2017.
“The emergency manager experiment failed most of us here in the City of Flint, Detroit, Pontiac, and Highland Park, to name a few. When we looked at the deconstructions of municipalities like Flint, it was very difficult to rebuild, and we are still rebuilding our infrastructure now,” Neeley said.
Neeley said the City of Flint has passed three consecutive balanced budgets under his administration. And with a $220 million infusion from the state of Michigan, Neeley said that the city’s upcoming budget will address shortcomings in Flint’s pension system.
Neeley went on to list several ways that his administration has addressed the longstanding problems in providing safe and affordable drinking water to residents.
His first example was the Genesee County Drain Commission (GDCC) secondary water pipeline that was completed in April 2022. In a video presentation, Flint Director of Public Works Mike Brown named the pipeline as one of his department’s biggest accomplishments of the year.
According to Neeley, the lack of a safe secondary water source was “what got us into trouble in the first place” with the Flint water crisis. Neeley called attention to the fact that the GCDC pipeline was used in August and September 2022 when the city’s primary water source, the Great Lakes Water Authority pipeline, suffered a water main break. The switch to the GCDC pipeline prevented service disruptions in Flint.
Neeley also said that the city’s mandated lead service line replacement project is now 97% complete. Last month, the City tentatively agreed to provide weekly updates after failing to meet the legally-required completion date for the project several years in a row.
The State of the City address also included information on crime. Neeley noted his administration’s ongoing work to reduce gun violence, including declaring a state of emergency over gun violence on July 23, 2021.
One of Neeley’s strategies to get guns off the streets has been a gun buyback program. According to Neeley, 2,088 illegal weapons have been confiscated and destroyed since 2019.
During his address, Neeley reported that the homicide rate in Flint went down 36% in 2022. He said he is committed to continue fighting crime with the introduction of a new cold case unit for the Flint Police Department as well as a witness protection program.
“You don’t see municipalities having a witness protection program, but we thought it would be important,” Neeley said. “If we’re asking you to participate in crime suppression by giving us information, we have a responsibility to you to make sure that you are safe.”
Neeley also cited the $17 million package for Ashley Capital’s redevelopment of the former Buick City site as a “game changer” for the city of Flint. Once this project is complete, Neeley said, it will bring in $300 million in investment to the city as well as 3,000 jobs.
Additionally, Neeley highlighted the new state park coming to Genesee County, a $39.5 million program to demolish blighted structures, and the Genesee Health System’s Center for Children’s Integrated Services that opened in November.
Moving forward, Neeley said he plans to continue improving the quality of the life of Flint residents.
“We have to change our focus away from the major manufacturing industry that created Flint, but definitely diversify our base, building an ecosystem that’s going to support education and quality of life for residents inside the city of Flint,” Neeley said.