"The work we've been doing here, it's hard but we're making progress, said Genesee County Treasurer Dan Kildee. So much progress you might say, he TMs taking his work on revitalizing urban areas to the national level.
On January 1, 2010 he will head an upcoming non-profit effort in Washington D.C. with connections to the Obama Administration and the Mott Foundation. The group will assist urban regions across the country in tearing down blighted properties, and turning the areas into anything from parking lots, new buildings, even community gardens.
Kildee, who helped give birth to the Genesee County Land Bank, has been part of the demolition of 11,000 abandoned properties in the city; even turning the Durant Hotel into a construction project after 35 years of abandonment. The Barriage Hotel in Flint has been turned into a 20 unit apartment complex.
Kildee told NBC25 the work is a way to deal with reality.
"Flint has half the population that we had 30 years ago, Kildee said. Even if things go really well in the next 10 years or so, that population is not going to be restored, he said. Though Kildee will be doing the same work on a national level, he said Flint will have a central focus, complete with a technical assistance office in place for the upcoming group he TMs working with.
The fact that an idea that was born here in Flint now is significant enough to attract the attention around the country is something we should be proud of, he said.
But with the national attention came the national criticism, from talk radio hosts including conservative giant Rush Limbaugh, when getting wind of speculation that Kildee TMs urban consolidation plan would equate to bulldozing portions of the city.
I am ready to change my mind on bulldozing Flint, Limbaugh said on EIB Network TMs The Rush Limbaugh Show back in June. I say go for it. Let TMs just bulldoze it, he said.
Kildee said it TMs all a misconception.
"In fact their neighborhood may get better services by placing less of a focus of government dollars dealing with abandoned, junk properties and more of the neighborhoods that may be helped even more, he said.
Kildee has worked in Genesee County government for about 35 years, and considered taking a position with HUD in the Obama Administration before launching into this venture.