Kokomo: Out and about

I’m watching and reading the news about Swine fever and I’m worried about the rest of the WHYS team in Mexico City. I was relieved to watch their video and how they planned to produce the show. I hope they get here safely.

Today I’ve been shown around Kokomo. The lovely Lisa Fipps , a local journalist and the editor of the Kokomo Perspective, has volunteered to take me around. We went through the rough part of town and through there we stopped at this abandoned old auto-factory that used to be one of the Haynes plants. Now, as you see in the video above it’s deserted ; its parking lot full of abandoned old cars where you can get an odd spare part if you wanted. The reason it struck me was because it is very representative of the fears that many of the people in Kokomo have expressed to me.

Many are scared of what will come of the auto-industry and what will happen to Chrysler and Delphi plants , the main employers in this town. If something isn’t done soon people will move and many factories will eventually look like the one standing behind me. Lisa told me the last thing anyone in Kokomo wants to do is move. Life is nice and quite in Kokomobut the air of tension and uncertainty is palpable. Andy Jones is a father of two he workd in Indianapolis and lives with his family in Kokomo. He’s holding his breath and told me if the factories here would close, that simply means their house will be worth nothing. “no on eis going to want to live here if those factories close.” he told me.


 We made our way through many of the locations we’ll be broadcasting from ; Howard Regional Health System , the lovely Op Shop or the Kokomo Opalescent glass company, Kokomo High School, Kokomo Rescue Mission ,UAW local 292 and downtown Kokomo. The place I’ll remember the most, however, is Bill Hall’s home in Mulberry St. it’s in the poorer part of town mainly inhabited by African Americans. According to Lisa, Bill is an amazing character a black historian who’s lived in Kokomo all his life and back in the day worked in a restaurant where he cooked and cleaned but was not allowed to eat there. Unfortunatelywe couldn’t find him , he’s still in rehab according to the folks in the neighborhood but his house is still there. Even in this poor neighborhood, where a bad economic situation is most apparent, I couldn’t help but notice how friendly and open everyone is. All you had to do is slow your car down or pullover and people start waving at you with beckoning smiles.

I really look forward to our show on Wednesday, in the meantime stay tuned for more videos and of course listen out to the show from Mexico City.

11 Responses to “Kokomo: Out and about”

  1. 1 Dennis Junior
    April 27, 2009 at 02:42

    I hope that the WHYS will enjoyed the time in Kokomo, thanks for the excellent information in the text….

    Also, I am also worry about the team in Mexico City….

    ~Dennis Junior~

  2. 2 J&A
    April 27, 2009 at 13:15

    We are residents of Kokomo, and we are hurt. Your blog has made Kokomo look poor and run-down. We wonder why you chose to only comment on the “poorer” area of Kokomo, and call out some of the African Americans of our city. You make it sound as if Mr. Hall, a well respected citizen of Kokomo, seems to be a recovering drug addict, by stating that he is in rehab. We believe that you have misinterpreted the type of rehab he is in, he is in medical rehab. Also, your video tape of the old Haynes Plant is deceiving. Why did you not include footage of the newer Chrysler and Delphi buildings? The next time you visit our city, let us be your tour guides so we can show you the real, bright side of Kokomo!!

    • 3 Shaimaa
      April 28, 2009 at 13:26

      To Jand A
      I’m really sorry you are hurt and by no means did I mean to portray your town as a run down poor place. I did not only focus on the poorer area if you look a little further I’ve posted a picture with a lovely family in a more affluent neighbourhood.

      When I was in London I tried very hard to get teh programs to broadcast from the plants in Delphi or Chrysler and was turned down.

      I’ve taken so many pictures in so many places in Kokomo but did not post them just yet becasue the program was focusing on the Swine Flu story and our team there.

      I’ll put the other pictures up and you’ll see that I’ve been around to more than just the poorer areas. About Bill, by no means did I want to portray him as a drug addict I said what I was told and I was told he’s in rehab and I wasn’t told he’s in medical rehab. By the way I spent a good time of the day trying to find and speak to him.

      We’re going to be reporting from many amazing places in Kokomo and I hope you look and listen out for them.

  3. 4 Sanders
    April 27, 2009 at 14:47

    Shaimaa has obviously come to our city knowing that she is going to say, ready to paint an inaccurate picture of Kokomo. We are a community with a great number of problems like many Midwest communities; but our people are strong, focus and dedicated to remaking this community. To strip us of the title “Fastest Dying City in America”, Kokomo needs new leadership, it is not a republican or democrat issue anymore it is a battle for our survival. Many are losing there job and those that do have jobs are fearful of the future with little hope their children will have the same opportunities they had 20 years ago. This reporting like others we have seen makes us angry, but must be an inspiration to rebuild Kokomo. God has blessed us in so many ways, I love our city, and it is worth saving. This is our wake up call.

  4. 5 Lisa Fipps
    April 28, 2009 at 00:52

    Just to clarify, the Haynes building that’s abandoned was used when Elwood Haynes and the Apperson brothers were still making autos. It’s not been a manufacturing site for decades.
    Give Shaimaa time to get a feel for the people of Kokomo. On Sunday, she was generally interested in finding out what people really thought. She’s certainly put way more time into finding out about this city than CNN recently did.

  5. 7 Shaimaa
    April 28, 2009 at 14:04

    To Sanders
    You’re absolutely right about your city being worth saving. It’s a lovely place and it’s people are open and welcoming. You’re wrong however about me knowing what I wanted to say before hand I came here and my aim was about speaking to as many people as possible and hear as many views as possible.

    And this is what us being here is all about. Like I said to J & A we’ll be doing broadcasts from so many difefernt places please listen out for them. You can listen to us on line.

  6. 8 Benjamin
    April 29, 2009 at 00:06

    The residents of Kokomo posting here are part of what I see as the growing problem in America of disassociation with their surroundings. If you sit in your nicer neighborhood and act like nothing is wrong in your city then when an outsider says ‘hey, i’m here to report on whats wrong’ sure, you’re going to be a little confused. Yes, there is a point to going to a poorer part of town, especially when the town itself is in danger of vanishing. Kokomo is also all of its residents and properties (did you see how green that lawn in the picture is?) so dont get all huffy when a reporter is trying to find a story.

  7. 9 Sanders
    April 29, 2009 at 00:59


    I agree with you that stories need to be written about all parts of a community, but when every story paints the same picture and never gives a clear indication of who or what direction that communities strengths are being utilized. If in deed this story is about our people than I am more than confident that the true spirit and nature will show how we can turn the corner and build for the future. I do see a pattern with USA today, Fortune magazine and many other news outlets that are covering the same perspective though and it does become frustrating, I didnt point my anger and Shaimaa because reporting didn’t make us a dying city, poor leadership did. Shaimaa has the opportunity to get to know our community and I look forward to reading more of her reporting and if there is something new and insightful it should be applauded.

  8. 10 Kyle
    April 29, 2009 at 15:47

    I just left Kokomo 3 months ago, after growing up there and spending the first 5 years of my career at Delphi – having left to find something more stable. I think that if the residents of Kokomo take a step back and look at what is happening they will see Shaimaa is not painting an overly bleak picture of what is happening here. The manufacturing base has been declining in the midwest for decades, we all know that well. Fingers can be pointed at city leadership for not “diversifying the portfolio” so to speak – but Kokomo has a very large proportion of highly-skilled manufacturing employees – who are expensive to employ. That makes it very difficult to a.) bring in new mfg. jobs, and b.) Get comfortable hourly workers to move to a place where there are fewer benefits and lower pay, which any new manufacturing job would likely be. The other, under-reported travesty of this story is the large loss of high-tech engineering jobs that have been bleeding out of Delphi due to the current automotive manufacturing landscape. Many amazing innovations have been invented or developed in Delphi’s Engineering Departments over the past century, including satellite radio (developed, not invented) among other things, and it also was home to the worlds largest semiconductor manufacturing facility, although that has been a while. Kokomo’s long-term viability is contingent on these types of jobs staying in town, which they are hemorrhaging right now. Mayor Goodnight is working hard to come up with plan b., however this may be too little, too late. It was for me, but for my co-workers and friends that are still employed at Delphi, I hope not.

  9. 11 Jason Miller
    April 30, 2009 at 03:53

    I was saddened by the forum at the rescue mission today. this should have been an opportunity to promote our town and put forth ideas to help it recover while the world listened. Sadly it turned into a huge anti-Obama forum and there were so many issues that could have been touched on like healthcare reform and foreign policy. Sadly the world recieved a fairly accurate view of Kokomo politics. It is narrow minded and ultra conservative. There are some in this town that would say “Kokomo has the same amount of open minded people here” to which I say where were they ? I hope The BBC will follow up in Kokomo in 5 years to see if we will survive or be just another ghost town like Gary,Indiana. Thank you for visiting and if you need any correspondants in Indiana please contact me.

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