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“Clinton: I Will Fight For Flint”: The Children Of Flint Are Just As Precious As The Children Of Any Other Part Of America!

It was around the time that the Rev. Kenneth Stewart said he hoped a woman would be the next president that the faithful at Flint’s House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church stood and cheered.

Maybe the crowd was more boisterous because the people at the church knew that a possible future president was in the building Sunday morning — Madame Secretary, Stewart called her. But it is difficult to imagine the pastor’s soulful performance as anything but normal for a Baptist church in a town failed by its leaders and virtually forgotten by the country until this recent tragedy struck.

“I don’t know what kind of crisis you are in … but be not dismayed,” he screamed.

There are few words to properly do justice to what Stewart laid down on Sunday morning. It was beyond powerful. It caused him to sweat profusely and run out of breath following a 15-minute rap in which he scoffed at the water crisis troubling this city of nearly 100,000 — what is a lack of clean drinking water compared to the power of God?

It was a tough act for Hillary Clinton to follow.

Originally billed as a “community meeting,” as Stewart’s sermon went on it became clear that Clinton would simply be addressing the congregation from the pastor’s pulpit.

Prepared to tell Flint exactly what it wanted to hear, she performed well.

“The time for action is now.”

“One child with lead poisoning is one child too many.”

“It’s not just the infrastructure, it is a problem for human beings.”

Expand Head Start, and support home nurse programs, more money for special education — “All things that address the problems that lead poisoning can cause.”

Clinton tied in her experience as a senator for New York dealing with lead poisoning there — of the paint chip variety — and she made a promise.

“I will fight for you in Flint no matter how long it takes,” she said, garnering one of the louder applause breaks of her remarks.

With her own sermon stretching on, Clinton was looked on by many in Stewart’s church as a second savior. And without stepping too far into the mannerisms and voice inflections of a black preacher, she was more than willing to play that role.

“If what had happened in Gross Pointe, or Bloomfield Hills,” she said in reference to two mostly white, wealthy communities outside of Detroit, “I think we all know we would have had a solution yesterday.”

“The children of Flint are just as precious as the children of any other part of America!”

And the crowd cheered.

Clinton may have served as Flint’s savior on Sunday, but when she leaves the people here will be on their own again, looking to themselves or the original messiah to watch over them and fix this mess.

But having no safe drinking water is the weakest of challenges for the faithful, Stewart reminded his followers. And if you were in the purple pews of his church on Sunday, damned if you didn’t believe him.

“While you tryin’ to figure it out, God already done worked it out!” he proclaimed.

“If a city’s water supply died, can it live again?” he asked.

The answer is yes, because it is always yes as long as you recognize your lord and savior Jesus Christ. Faith cures all. It absolves sin, redeems the sinner, makes pure the wicked, cures the sick, and provides answers when they are in short supply, according to Stewart. Flint’s leaders failed its people, but what the government can’t do, the church and the community can.

Clearly a committed Clinton supporter, Stewart and many in the crowd believe she can help too.

Clinton, Stewart said, is “The one that we been waitin’ on.”

 

By: Justine Glawe, The Daily Beast, February 7, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Flint Water Crisis, Hillary Clinton, Lead Poisoining | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Michigan’s Great Stink”: State Officials Knew They Were Damaging Public Health, Putting Children In Particular At Risk

In the 1850s, London, the world’s largest city, still didn’t have a sewer system. Waste simply flowed into the Thames, which was as disgusting as you might imagine. But conservatives, including the magazine The Economist and the prime minister, opposed any effort to remedy the situation. After all, such an effort would involve increased government spending and, they insisted, infringe on personal liberty and local control.

It took the Great Stink of 1858, when the stench made the Houses of Parliament unusable, to produce action.

But that’s all ancient history. Modern politicians, no matter how conservative, understand that public health is an essential government role. Right? No, wrong — as illustrated by the disaster in Flint, Mich.

What we know so far is that in 2014 the city’s emergency manager — appointed by Rick Snyder, the state’s Republican governor — decided to switch to an unsafe water source, with lead contamination and more, in order to save money. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that state officials knew that they were damaging public health, putting children in particular at risk, even as they stonewalled both residents and health experts.

This story — America in the 21st century, and you can trust neither the water nor what officials say about it — would be a horrifying outrage even if it were an accident or an isolated instance of bad policy. But it isn’t. On the contrary, the nightmare in Flint reflects the resurgence in American politics of exactly the same attitudes that led to London’s Great Stink more than a century and a half ago.

Let’s back up a bit, and talk about the role of government in an advanced society.

In the modern world, much government spending goes to social insurance programs — things like Social Security, Medicare and so on, that are supposed to protect citizens from the misfortunes of life. Such spending is the subject of fierce political debate, and understandably so. Liberals want to help the poor and unlucky, conservatives want to let people keep their hard-earned income, and there’s no right answer to this debate, because it’s a question of values.

There should, however, be much less debate about spending on what Econ 101 calls public goods — things that benefit everyone and can’t be provided by the private sector. Yes, we can differ over exactly how big a military we need or how dense and well-maintained the road network should be, but you wouldn’t expect controversy about spending enough to provide key public goods like basic education or safe drinking water.

Yet a funny thing has happened as hard-line conservatives have taken over many U.S. state governments. Or actually, it’s not funny at all. Not surprisingly, they have sought to cut social insurance spending on the poor. In fact, many state governments dislike spending on the poor so much that they are rejecting a Medicaid expansion that wouldn’t cost them anything, because it’s federally financed. But what we also see is extreme penny pinching on public goods.

It’s easy to come up with examples. Kansas, which made headlines with its failed strategy of cutting taxes in the expectation of an economic miracle, has tried to close the resulting budget gap largely with cuts in education. North Carolina has also imposed drastic cuts on schools. And in New Jersey, Chris Christie famously canceled a desperately needed rail tunnel under the Hudson.

Nor are we talking only about a handful of cases. Public construction spending as a share of national income has fallen sharply in recent years, reflecting cutbacks by state and local governments that are ever less interested in providing public goods for the future. And this includes sharp cuts in spending on water supply.

So are we just talking about the effects of ideology? Didn’t Flint find itself in the cross hairs of austerity because it’s a poor, mostly African-American city? Yes, that’s definitely part of what happened — it would be hard to imagine something similar happening to Grosse Pointe.

But these really aren’t separate stories. What we see in Flint is an all too typically American situation of (literally) poisonous interaction between ideology and race, in which small-government extremists are empowered by the sense of too many voters that good government is simply a giveaway to Those People.

Now what? Mr. Snyder has finally expressed some contrition, although he’s still withholding much of the information we need to fully understand what happened. And meanwhile we are, inevitably, being told that we shouldn’t make the poisoning of Flint a partisan issue.

But you can’t understand what happened in Flint, and what will happen in many other places if current trends continue, without understanding the ideology that made the disaster possible.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, January 25, 2016

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Flint Michigan, Lead Poisoining, Public Health, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hello? Does Anybody Care?”: New Materials Put Flint Scandal In A New, Alarming Light

On Jan. 21, 2015, almost exactly a year ago, officials from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) administration attended an event in Flint City Hall in which they assured local residents there was no crisis with the city’s water system. The people of Flint, officials said at the time, should consider their tap water safe.

Those officials were wrong. It’s of great interest to know whether or not they knew it was wrong.

As Rachel noted on the show last night, the Detroit Free Press published an important report late yesterday that puts the developments in a new light.

In January of 2015, when state officials were telling worried Flint residents their water was safe to drink, they also were arranging for coolers of purified water in Flint’s State Office Building so employees wouldn’t have to drink from the taps, according to state government e-mails released Thursday by the liberal group Progress Michigan.

A Jan. 7, 2015, notice from the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, which oversees state office buildings, references a notice about a violation of drinking water standards that had recently been sent out by the City of Flint.

Specifically, the note said it was providing coolers of purified water to employees of the state office building in Flint in order to provide them with an option. “The coolers will arrive today and will be provided as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements,” the notice said.

So, let me get this straight. In January of last year, the Snyder administration told Flint residents their water was safe to drink. Two weeks earlier, the Snyder administration told its own employees in Flint – in writing – that “the public water does not meet treatment requirements.”

Rachel asked on the show, “If you lived in Flint, would you trust the state government to fix the problem there?”

As for the national focus on the crisis, Flint came up in a Republican presidential debate for the first time last night, when one of the moderators asked Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), “Your colleague, Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan is under fire – he and his administration – for the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the botched response to it. How would you have handled that?”

The GOP candidate responded, “Well, you’ve got to be on top of it right away. And, you know, I don’t know all the details of what Rick Snyder has done.” His answer went on to talk about problem-solving in general, without mentioning any Flint-related specifics.

Kasich isn’t alone, of course. Marco Rubio recently seemed to have no idea that the Flint story even existed.

The Washington Post’s Janell Ross suggested this morning it’s time for the GOP field to “read up on” developments in Flint. That seems like excellent advice.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 29, 2016

January 30, 2016 Posted by | Drinking Water Standards, Flint Michigan, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Why Weren’t Their Voices Heard?”: The Awkward Question About Flint That No One Wants To Answer

Flint does not look much like the rest of the state of Michigan, or even the average American city its size.

More than four in ten of its residents live in poverty. A majority of them are African-American. Their homes are worth about one-third of typical houses in Michigan, and the families get by on about half as much income.

This picture, the city’s new mayor believes, helps explain why state officials were slow to respond to a long-building water crisis in which thousands of Flint children may have been exposed to toxic levels of lead — even well after residents first began to cry about the city’s murky water.

“Would this happen in a different community?” Mayor Karen Weaver asked, as she attended a national conference of the country’s mayors in Washington on Wednesday, after meeting with the president. Her city, she points out, has high unemployment (9.7 percent). It’s been governed by a state-appointed emergency manager. It’s the kind of place that garners little attention and few favors.

If the poor and minorities tend to wield less political power in America, here was a whole city of them, 70 miles north of Detroit.

“It’s a minority community, it’s a poor community, and our voices were not heard,” Weaver told reporters. “And that’s part of the problem.”

Her comments echoed a provocative jab by Hillary Clinton in the final Democratic debate on Saturday night. “I’ll tell you what,” Clinton said, “if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.”

The problems in Flint began nearly two years ago, in April 2014, when the city began to draw its water from the Flint River to save money. Residents immediately began to complain about the look and smell of the water, and last year researchers at Virginia Tech confirmed that lead was present in water samples at rates that could cause kidney damage and neurological problems in children.

Still, Michigan’s Republican governor Rick Snyder did not declare a state of emergency in Flint until Jan. 5 of this year. He didn’t mobilize National Guard troops to help distribute water until a week later.

Weaver’s question — and, by extension, Clinton’s — is less about whether another community might have similarly fallible infrastructure, but whether the rest of us would be willing to leave it unaddressed for so long. Flint’s health risk has been apparent for more than a year, but equally importantly, people who live there have been asking for help for just as long.

“We have been crying about this for what will be two years in April, and that’s what we want to know: What took so long?” Weaver asked. “Because it didn’t take a scientist to tell us that brown water is not good.”

That’s a fair, if awkward, question to ask. American history is full of environmental injustice: poor communities saddled with landfills or singled out for toxic neighbors next door. It’s not a conspiracy theory to worry they might also get a slower cleanup.

As for herself, Weaver says she and her husband stopped drinking the local water back in 2014, as soon as the city switched from the Detroit system (she wasn’t elected until this past November). “It’s sad that I would say ‘thank God my kids are grown and not there,’” she says, “but everybody can’t say that, and we shouldn’t have to say that.”

 

By: Emily Badger, Wonkblog, The Washington Post, January 20, 2016

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Flint Michigan, Lead Poisoining, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Candidates See As Our Infrastructure Priorities”: Time To Press The Presidential Candidates On Flint’s Water Crisis

In every presidential campaign, there are issues everyone knows beforehand will be discussed — what should we do about immigration, how can we improve the economy, where should we go on health care — and events that become campaign issues when they burst into the news. So it is with the public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, where a public health catastrophe has played out over the last two years, and more and more politicians are being asked to comment on it.

To get you up to speed, in 2014, in an effort to save money, the city stopped getting its water from Detroit and began getting it from the contaminated Flint River. It turned out that all manner of nasty chemicals were contained in the water, most alarmingly, lead. It’s important to understand that at the time, Flint’s own elected officials were all but powerless, because the city was being run by a “emergency manager” appointed by Michigan governor Rick Snyder; it was the emergency manager who made the final call to switch their water supply (you can read more about that here). Emails released yesterday by Snyder’s administration show that as Flint residents were complaining about the water’s color and taste, and reporting ill health effects, state officials were not particularly eager to do anything about it. Snyder’s chief of staff wrote in one email that other state officials felt that “some in Flint are taking the very sensitive issue of children’s exposure to lead and trying to turn it into a political football.”

Well it’s a political football now — as well it should be. I’ve long been an advocate of “politicizing” just about everything (see here or here), not because candidates should take any excuse to blame each other for anything going wrong anywhere in the country, but because elected officials need to make choices, and campaigns provide an opportunity to get them on record saying how they’d address critical issues. Right after a hurricane is the best time to talk about what government should do to prepare for disasters, just as the aftermath of a high-profile police shooting is the best time to talk about police practices. It’s when our attention gets focused on a problem and there’s a real opportunity to make progress.

So what we’re seeing now is that Democrats, particularly President Obama and those running for his party’s presidential nomination, are eager to talk about Flint. Obama met with Flint’s mayor, declared a state of emergency that will allow federal funds to flow there, and called the crisis “inexplicable and inexcusable.” Hillary Clinton raised it in Sunday’s debate when asked what issue she wish had been brought up but hadn’t, saying, “We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population which is poor in many ways and majority African American has been drinking and bathing in lead contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care. He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would’ve been action.” For his part, Bernie Sanders called for Snyder to resign.

And the Republicans? It won’t be surprising if they aren’t interested in discussing the race and class issues the crisis raises, and thus far, they don’t seem to want to talk seriously about it at all. Ben Carson was the first to give any substantive comment, placing the blame on Flint’s elected officials and the federal government, neatly excusing Governor Snyder’s administration of any involvement. Marco Rubio was asked about it on Monday and said he couldn’t say much, since “That’s not an issue that right now we’ve been focused on”; from what I can tell he hasn’t said anything about it since. Donald Trump was also reluctant to discuss it, responding to a reporter’s question on Tuesday by saying, “A thing like that shouldn’t happen, but, again, I don’t want to comment on that.” John Kasich said, “I think the governor has moved the National Guard in and, you know, I’m sure he will manage this appropriately.” I haven’t been able to find any comments from Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, or Rick Santorum.

But there is one Republican candidate who made detailed remarks about the issue: Ted Cruz. “It is a failure at every level of government, a failure of the city officials, a failure of the county officials, and the men and women of Michigan have been betrayed,” Cruz said. “Every American is entitled to have access to clean water. And to all the children who have been poisoned by government officials, by their negligence, by their ineptitude, it’s heart-breaking.” In addition, Cruz’s Michigan state director wrote on her Facebook page that the campaign was bringing bottled water to “crisis pregnancy centers” in the city, which try to convince women not to have abortions.

Cruz did his best to fit the issue in with his broader critique of government, but it isn’t surprising that the rest of his Republican colleagues didn’t really want to talk about it. If Snyder were a Democrat, you can be sure they’d be blaming him, but he isn’t. They aren’t going to say that this disaster demonstrates that the problems that affect poor and black people are given less attention by government at all levels than the problems that affect rich and white people, because most of them don’t think that’s actually true. They aren’t going to say that this shows that we need a major investment in infrastructure spending in America, because they don’t really believe that, either.

But those are the broader issues that the catastrophe in Flint raises, and that’s what the candidates ought to be pressed on. They don’t even have to agree on who bears the lion’s share of the blame to agree that we have a national problem that requires attention. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country’s drinking water system a grade of “D” and says that in the next couple of decades we will need to invest hundreds of billions of dollars, perhaps even into the trillions, in order to bring the system up to where it should be.

So now that we’re focusing on the question of drinking water, the candidates should say what they see as our infrastructure priorities, how we should address them, how much we ought to spend, and how that fits in with the other things they’d like to spend money on.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, January 21, 2016

January 24, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Flint Michigan, Hillary Clinton, Presidential Candidates, Rick Snyder | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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