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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling In Pittsburgh Discussing Flint's Transformation

In the city of Pittsburgh, PA Mayor Dayne Walling shares his vision for transforming Flint into a 21st Century sustainable city with new jobs, safe neighborhoods and great schools.

Here is the article on Mayor Walling's visit that appeared in today's edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Flint mayor comes to Pittsburgh to discuss plan for Michigan city
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

If you think your town has it tough, check out Flint, Mich., where one in four people are unemployed and one-third of the land is vacant.

Those grim numbers don't deter Flint's new mayor, Dayne Walling, who will be in Pittsburgh tonight talking about his efforts to transform the town of 114,000 with an audience that would like to make some of the same ideas work here.

Here's one of the 35-year-old mayor's plans: Use sewage to generate electrical power. Mr. Walling is working with a Swedish company to turn methane from human waste into power that will be coursing through municipal buildings' wires soon, then hopefully those of private businesses.

Here's another: Craft a first-in-decades plan for redeveloping Flint. That's one thing members of Pittsburgh Councilman William Peduto's Guyasuta Fellowship will hear about at 6 p.m. in Council Chamber on the 5th floor of the City-County Building.

"Citizens in Flint know that as mayor, I can't change international trade laws or the national economy," Mr. Walling said yesterday. What he can do is end crisis politics that left past mayors "focused on short-term fixes and managing decline. ... My approach is you need to rebuild a foundation for the future."

Flint's history mirrors Pittsburgh's, without, so far, the semi-happy ending. Big steel's collapse foreshadowed the auto industry's blowout, but Pittsburgh became the most livable city, while Forbes magazine in 2008 ranked Flint as the third most miserable. The Flint region's unemployment rate is more than double that of the Pittsburgh region.

Just as Pittsburgh had two quick mayoral transitions in 2006, ending with Luke Ravenstahl, 29, as mayor, Flint had three mayors last year, with Mr. Walling winning an August election.

"This community came out in a special election and voted me into office, 64 to 36 percent," Mr. Walling said. "There are very high expectations for what my new administration will be able to accomplish."

Flint has been buying around 1,000 vacant homes a year. Mr. Walling held meetings in all nine wards to get thoughts on what to do with that land. Next up: development of 10 action items for each of 28 neighborhoods. Then comes a summit leading to a plan for bringing together federal funds, neighborhood ideas and environmental entrepreneurship.

"We will begin, for the first time in over 30 years, the process of developing a new comprehensive master plan for the city of Flint," he said.

Mr. Peduto met Mr. Walling in September and was impressed by his enthusiasm.

"He speaks confidently about how there is this great opportunity to turn things around for Flint," Mr. Peduto said.

The Guyasuta Fellowship, created by Mr. Peduto but funded privately, includes young people who are studying the economics of environmentalism and community recovery, and who will report to council in the spring. Mr. Walling's presentation is free and open to the public.

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