Newly elected mayor of Flint, Michigan, Karen Weaver, took the oath of office this morning. Ms. Weaver is the first African-American women elected Mayor of Flint. She won in a landslide, 82% to 18%, and clearly has a strong mandate.
In a one hour swearing-in ceremony Mayor Weaver emphatically pledged to keep her campaign promise to return Flint's glory and reputation. Ms. Weaver campaigned on hope and bringing back good paying jobs to Flint. While that may not be an unusual campaign pledge, her strategy appears unorthodox. She pledge to return Flint to full employment by rebuilding and demolishing the defunct Auto World Theme Park continuously throughout her four years in office and if necessary, during a second term, until everyone is fully employed.
Most political observers dismissed Ms. Weaver's campaign rhetoric concerning AutoWorld, assuming it was just "talk". However, during her swearing in ceremony Mayor Weaver spent 58 minutes of her 60 minute speech on AutoWorld, making it very clear she is serious.
"As an educator I understand the importance of education and we need to educate the few remaining young able body people in Flint about our glorious past. The best way to do that is to bring back AutoWorld. Not only that, think about the jobs and historic preservation".
The Chamber of Commerce vowed to support the new Mayor. Flint Chamber President, Tim Herman, was giddy with excitement. "Mayor Weaver is an inspiration and genius. She knows that AutoWorld was the future and it was demolished before it got started. It was never given a chance. To bring it back is great. But to propose to build it and tear it down over and over is pure genius. Flint is BACK."
However, there are dissenters. James Sykes, President of the Mediocre Quality Housing Association, was visibly skeptical. "That again! It didn't work the last time. With the wages paid at AutoWorld, workers couldn't even affordable my apartments and that says a lot. When are we going to get some folks around here with some common sense? But I must say, the idea of building and tearing it down over and over again might work".
In addition to support from the Chamber, the Mayor has managed to secure the strong backing of organized labor, always a plus in this union town. Sam Collins, Local 939, said "who cares if people come or not, my members will work on the construction and demolishment and that means jobs and union dues are paid. I love it!"
Ms. Molly Chase, of the local historic preservation society, also expressed cautious optimism but was concerned that important parts of the buildings might be damaged over time given the constant building and demolition.
Mayor Weaver has asked Flint native Michael Moore to produce a film documentary of the initiative. Furthermore, she named, Mark Farner, formerly of the rock band Grand Funk Railroad, to serve as Czar of the AutoWorld jobs program. Given that Flint is in receivership, the fate of the initiative will depend on Natasha Henderson, City Administrator. Ms. Henderson was unable for comment but did release an encouraging statement through her spokesperson:
AutoWorld, a beauty past and tomorrow
Gleaming towers attached to rays of hope
Pisa has leaning tower for the world to see-it builds only once
Flint, you must show it can done
Build it, tear it, build it, tear it, and they will come