As if things could not get any worse in my hometown of Flint, Michigan, we have now become the 2010 version of the great city of Rome…in the worst way possible. Check it:

In the past two weeks, the city of Flint has seen the number of fires almost triple.

Since the city laid off firefighters two weeks ago, there have been 80 fires reported around the city.

Flint typically only averages 30 fires for a two week period. But for one Flint family, the magic number is 24. Twenty-four is the number of people who escaped from the fire at their house Friday.

The arson fire started at a house at Avenue A and East Taylor. It didn’t take long for it to spread to Mildred Lott’s home next door.

She says firefighters threw up their hands at the magnitude of what they’re facing. Lott is blaming the mayor.

Lott and her family are the innocent victims in what’s been going on in the city. They weren’t the target of an arsonist. But they are the ones suffering.

Lott, her husband and three of their children are in a hotel. They don’t know where they will live. They have no money to rebuild and they have a great question for Mayor Dayne Walling.

There were 25 fires just this weekend in the city, so the number of arsons is not going down.

Lott hopes the mayor puts firefighters back on the street before more innocent families get caught up in this. She also needs financial help to provide for her family.

As the number of vacant house fires grows, some have started to question whether the fires may actually be benefiting demolition and Genesee County Land Bank efforts in the city.

But the head of the bank says the fires are actually hampering their demolition plans for the city.

“I think a lot of folks were assuming that the properties that burned were Land Bank properties,” said Genesee County Land Bank Director Doug Weiland.

“But the numbers we looked at were just six out of 80.”


It was one thing when the fires were set in vacant areas, but now these deliberate acts of arson are starting to impact citizens. Coupled with the effect these fires are having on the city, there are the actively employed firefighters who have to be considered. In their profession, one of their worst possible enemies they could face is fatigue. Combatting fires is difficult in and of itself. But when a firefighter is dog tired from having to put in extra time accommodating for all the laid-off personnel, it’s a breeding ground for disaster.  Dangerous situations become that much more dangerous.

A petition to recall Flint mayor Dayne Walling has been circulating as a direct result of the recent police and firefighter layoffs in the city. In some respects, I can’t blame citizens. But at the same time – and in an effort to take some of the heat off the mayor – my question to the citizens is simple: what are you doing to help quell the problem?

Some of the dialogue I hear from protestors falls eerily in line with the same nonsense I hear within the assembly of Tea Partiers. The reverberating mantra: “We want stuff. But we don’t want to sacrifice anything.”

I understand that in a city with an unemployment rate of 16.4%, increasing taxes seems fiscally absurd. But I would much rather see my taxes and those of other taxpayers raised 2-3% for a few years as the city tries to climb out of its hole, especially if the alternative is watching our homes quite literally burn to the ground because of some misplaced belt-tightening. Instead of spending our time screaming about how we want less government and lower taxes, we need to open our eyes to the reality that the goods and services contributing to our safety and quality of life COST MONEY. This stuff ain’t free, sorry to say. But rhetoric in certain political circles has convinced us that taxes are of the devil and that government is the red-headed stepchild of corruption (true to a large extent, but its certainly a necessary evil). With appropriate oversight, the question of fiscal waste, corruption, and irresponsibility can be a pretty quick fix in my opinion.

The city of Flint has been an economic wasteland for years now. All indicators point to the idea that it will continue to suffer on a massive scale for the next several years. But instead of facing the situation with abject capitulation or armchair quarterbacking wrapped in some inactionable whining, I think it’s time for us to take a good look in the mirror, understand our role in adverting this crisis, and make sacrifices for the good of everyone.

After all, these are governments “…of the people”, right? Maybe we need to start acting like it.