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“Unfit For GM Engines, OK For Children”: Rick Snyder’s Top Aides Knew Flint’s Water Was Unsafe More Than a Year Ago

In October 2014, General Motors informed the Michigan governor’s office that the Flint River’s heavily chlorinated water was rusting its car parts. The governor’s environmental-policy adviser, Valerie Brader, decided that water unfit for washing engines probably shouldn’t be ingested by children. More specifically: If the chlorine in the water could corrode car parts, it was probably also corroding Flint’s lead pipes. Governor Rick Snyder’s chief legal counsel, Mike Gadola, agreed, according to emails obtained by the Detroit News.

“To anyone who grew up in Flint as I did, the notion that I would be getting my drinking water from the Flint River is downright scary,” Gadola wrote in an email to the governor’s chief of staff and other top aides. “Too bad the (emergency manager) didn’t ask me what I thought, though I’m sure he heard it from plenty of others.”

Gadola went on to note that his mother still lived in Flint. “Nice to know she’s drinking water with elevated chlorine levels and fecal coliform,” he said. “I agree with Valerie (Brader). They should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control.”

It would be nearly a year before the city followed Brader’s advice.

Snyder himself was not copied on the email, and Brader told the News that she never shared her concerns with the executive personally. “I certainly was never in a meeting with him (Snyder), nor did I raise what I wrote in that email,” Brader said. “And to my knowledge, neither did Mike Gadola.”

The governor’s chief of staff, Dennis Muchmore, told the paper that his office agreed with Brader’s assessment but was prevented from acting because of resistance from the Treasury Department and the legislature.

“Since we’re in charge, we can hardly ignore the people of Flint,” Muchmore wrote in an email to communications officials in the governor’s office and Treasury Department. “After all, if GM refuses to use the water in their plant and our own agencies are warning people not to drink it … we look pretty stupid hiding behind some financial statement.”

But Muchmore never asked the legislature for a supplemental spending bill to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water system, concluding that such a proposal would be “dead on arrival.”

Public-health officials believe that as many as 8,000 children in Flint ingested water with dangerously high levels of lead.

The emails are the latest in an ongoing series of publicly released messages from the governor’s office concerning the state’s handling of the water crisis in Flint. Prior emails showed that government workers in Flint were provided bottled water more than a year before it was given to regular citizens.

 

By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 26, 2016

February 29, 2016 Posted by | Flint Water Crisis, Lead Poisoining, Rick Snyder | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Loud And Depressingly Familiar Voice”: The Koch Brothers Kick Detroit While It’s Down

Over the last five months, a deal has come together that would solve some of the most contentious issues in Detroit’s bankruptcy. It would minimize the pension cuts for 30,000 retirees and city workers, save the city’s art collection and give a reasonable amount of money to the city’s bondholders.

As expected, there were some objections from a few big insurance companies that stood to lose heavily. But with the support of Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, the deal seemed to have a shot in the state legislature, which would be required to spend about $195 million of tobacco-settlement money on behalf of Detroit’s pensioners.

And then, a few days ago, a loud and depressingly familiar voice rose in protest. The Koch brothers, through the screeching megaphone they built known as Americans for Prosperity, condemned the deal and announced plans to contact 90,000 conservatives around the state to build up pressure against it. The Associated Press reported that the group threatened to run ads against any Republicans in the legislature who voted for the deal in the coming days.

AFP has already set up a website — “No more bailouts for Detroit!” — that plays on the long-running, sometimes racially inflected resentment of Detroit around Michigan.

“Michigan has rewritten its laws numerous times to give Detroit special treatment and more financial assistance,” the website says. “Unfortunately, all this help has encouraged, rather than corrected, bad behavior. Years of fiscal mismanagement, corruption and cronyism resulted in Detroit’s staggering $18 billion of debt. Yet its leaders continue to blame the State for Detroit’s problems.”

The poor management of the city by its own officials is well-known and stretches back decades, but the state and its residents bear a huge responsibility for Detroit’s plight. State officials allowed fleeing white residents to hide behind suburban boundaries that depleted the city’s tax base while cutting revenue sharing. The think tank Demos found that revenue sharing cuts amounted to a third of the city’s revenue losses between 2011 and 2013.

As Robert Kleine, a former state treasurer, wrote in the Detroit Free Press last August:

“Detroit may have mismanaged finances, but the state’s cuts to revenue sharing doomed the city. One option would have been for the state to restore revenue sharing to previous levels which would have been worth nearly $200 million to Detroit. The state could have afforded to do this if it had not cut business and income taxes in 2000, and then given business another $1.8-billion tax break in 2011.”

Under the circumstances, the proposed state contribution on behalf of vulnerable pensioners is a modest way to make up for Lansing’s decades of abandonment. But it’s too much for the Kochs to stomach. They apparently want city workers and retirees to publicly suffer for the sin of having been union members. They want bondholders and insurance companies at the front of the creditors’ line, and don’t seem to care if the Detroit Institute of Arts has to sell off its paintings and sculptures to put them there.

As they have in so many other areas of public life, two of the country’s wealthiest citizens are using their good fortune to make life far more difficult for those at the bottom of the ladder.

 

By: David Firestone, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, May 21, 2014

May 22, 2014 Posted by | Detroit, Koch Brothers | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Punish Them At The Polls”: Michigan’s Sweeping “Rape Insurance” Law Goes Into Effect

A new Michigan law forcing individuals or businesses to purchase costly additional insurance to cover abortion care went into effect Thursday.

The law applies to private health plans in the state, including plans secured through the state health exchange and employer plans. If a person does not purchase the additional insurance, then they will be forced to pay out of pocket for the procedure if they need to access abortion care. As it stands, very few insurance plans cover abortion care; the new law will likely further drive down the already tiny fraction of abortions covered by health insurance in the state, potentially putting the procedure financially out of reach for many people.

There were approximately 23,000 abortions performed in Michigan last year, and barely 3 percent of them were covered by insurance.

As Jessica Valenti at the Nation rightly pointed out at the time the measure first passed the Republican-controlled Legislature, eliminating insurance coverage for abortion will have devastating consequences for all people who need abortion care, which is essential and basic medical care. There is no hierarchy of “good” abortions or “bad” abortions. But pro-choice lawmakers in Michigan and much of the national coverage has focused on what many see as the most extreme feature of the law — its lack of exceptions for survivors of rape or incest.

The lack of exceptions has led many to call the law “rape insurance.”

At the time of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said she was raped as a college student and couldn’t imagine having to face the additional trauma of such a law had she gotten pregnant. She asked her “Republican colleagues to see the face of the women they’re hurting by their actions today.”

“Thank God I didn’t get pregnant as a result of my own attack,” she continued, “but I can’t even begin to imagine now having to think about the same thing happening to my own daughters.”

 

By: Katie McDonough, Assistant Editor, Salon, March 13, 2014

March 14, 2014 Posted by | Abortion, War On Women, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Good Girls Don’t Have To Pay”: Michigan’s Shameful “Rape Insurance” Plan

No one plans to get raped, to be the victim of incest or to find herself pregnant when her birth control fails or was not used (something that is a joint responsibility, which lawmakers trying to legislate sex sometimes forget). So why would anyone buy abortion insurance? Who plans for such a thing?

Yet, this is exactly what Michigan’s legislature is requiring women to do. Using a rare procedural tactic, the state’s legislature is forcing – without the signature of the governor, conservative Republican Rick Snyder – women to obtain “abortion insurance” even before they get pregnant. The idea is so extreme that even Snyder opposes it. And it flies in the face of perhaps the most important part of the Affordable Care Act, that which prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage due to “pre-existing conditions.”

It’s similar to policies some people have had prior to the passage of the ACA, policies that, for example, demanded people buy special cancer insurance just in case they get the serious illness. Who thinks he or she will get cancer? But if you do, and you don’t have the coverage to pay for the very expensive treatment, you’re dead. Maybe literally.

What makes the Michigan law so hateful and misogynist is that it has little to do with actual cost; abortions don’t cost as much as chemotherapy and tumor-removal surgery. It’s about shaming women, insisting that they brand themselves with a big scarlet A on themselves to show they think they may be just the sort of irresponsible whores who might need abortion access at some point. Good girls, apparently, don’t have to pay, since they won’t be having sex.

And what about cases of rape or incest? It shouldn’t matter, since the decision to have an abortion ought not be based on whether the female in question is a victim or sexually active. But women and girls – some of whom might be too poor to pay for an abortion or too scared to come forward after an assault – will have to pony up for an abortion or pay in advance.

This raises some interesting issues for the defense, should a female report a rape or incest to police. So, Miss Slutsmith, you purchased abortion insurance. Should we not infer that you were planning to get pregnant – and could not possibly have been raped or abused by a male relative?

But then again, the law doesn’t address men’s sexual health. It doesn’t insist that men pay in advance, for example, for treatment for sexually transmitted diseases or for Viagra. They get to have sex without consequence, unlike the women. They don’t have to give up their privacy and undergo the humiliation of paying extra to deal with erectile dysfunction or gonorrhea. But for the women – shame! The word is appropriate here. But it ought to be directed at the Michigan legislature.

 

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, December 13, 2013

December 14, 2013 Posted by | War On Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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