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Muskegon Heights man fishes from potholes, highlights ongoing road issues

A resident who has lived in the Muskegon area all his life is using humor to address a problem that often leaves drivers upset.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — It was a simple TikTok – a woman driving down Hoyt Street, stumbling across a man wearing in a life vest – fishing from a pothole in the middle of the road.

That “fisherman” is 36-year-old James Coffee, and he remains convinced he’ll get a bite.

“If I don’t find (anything) in this pothole, onto the next pothole on the other street,” he said in video. “Or to the next pothole on the other street, because I know for a fact there’s some fish in one of these potholes – that’s how deep they are.”

The tongue-in-cheek performance comments on the city’s dilapidated streets, and the lack of attention they’ve received for years.

“As a person in the community is like, I feel like I don't matter,” Coffee said. “It really bothers me when you drive out here and you have to drive maybe one mile per hour, turn around, turn through each pothole, and then you go to other communities that's like, two minutes away – no issue. It makes me feel like I'm less than or make me feel like I don't exist, or I don't matter, you know – not appreciated.”

A proposed Master Plan that was adopted in May 2019 is available from the city of Muskegon Heights’ homepage. The word “pothole” is only used twice, and only three areas of troubled streets are mentioned. Pages 67 and 75 state:

  • Jefferson St, north of Sherman Blvd has several potholes that need to be repaired.
  • Howden St and Reynolds St, north of Sherman Blvd have several potholes that need to be repaired.

13 ON YOUR SIDE visited all three spots. Of the only three identified pothole-ridden roadways, only Reynolds Street is pothole-free.

With hope of some level of change to one day come to his community, Coffee said he will continue to have a sense of humor about the challenges he and his neighbors face. He said his TikTok from last year is only the beginning.

“I’m gonna keep pushing – keep pushing until they say, ‘OK, alright. I’m tired of the jokes – let’s get this together,’” he said. "If they don’t get it together, you might see four or five of us together fishing in each pothole. Maybe scuba diving, you know? You never know.”

13 ON YOUR SIDE has spoken with Muskegon Heights Interim City Manager Melvin Burns, but was unable to be interviewed due to scheduling issues. We plan to speak with Burns next week.

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