An official in Flint, Michigan, has been forced to resign after a recording of him using a racial slur to describe residents of the city surfaced.
Phil Stair, a longtime employee of the Genesee County Land Bank, resigned after water activist and independent journalist Chelsea Lyons released the tape. Mr Stair, a white man, had made the comments while Ms Lyons was with him driving to a restaurant, according to Truth Against the Machine, an organisation where Ms Lyons is a reporter.
“Flint has the same problems as Detroit — f*****g n*****s don’t pay their bills, believe me, I deal with them,” Mr Stair is heard saying in a recording.
The release of the recording led the former sales manager to resign from his position at the Land Bank, which Ms Lyons said she is concerned with because it is Flint’s largest property owner. The agency takes over tax-foreclosed properties before conducting demolitions, rehabilitations, and sales on the homes. The Land Bank is a non-profit organisation whose stated mission is to "restore value to the community" through the rehabilitation of those properties in cooperation with stakeholders "who value responsible land ownership."
“The Land Bank is taking up all of the properties in Flint... They are pushing people out of the neighbourhood,” Ms Lyons told Michigan Live.
Flint’s ongoing water crisis has led many to express concern that more and more homes will be foreclosed as residents struggle to pay their water bills, and their property taxes. At least a third of the properties in the city are already vacated, foreshadowing a wave of blight that could overtake the city in coming years.
Even with that seemingly imminent catastrophe rushing over the horizon, fiscal realities have pushed the government to resort to seemingly desperate measures that have had the potential to push people out of their homes even quicker.
Earlier this year, for instance, the city sent out notices that unpaid water bills would result in tax liens that could have wrenched houses out of the hands of more than 8,000 residents who haven’t paid their bills — even though the water is still so toxic that it is virtually unusable at this time. That proposal was blocked that effort for a year by the city council amid uproar.