Flint, Michigan, Offers Tragic Example of How ‘Fiscal Responsibility’ Can Lead to Policy Insanity




"Protestors make their way to city hall council chambers chanting for clean water at Flint City Hall in Flint, Mich. on Wednesday Oct. 7, 2015. (Christian Randolph/Flint Journal)"

“Protestors make their way to city hall council chambers chanting for clean water at Flint City Hall in Flint, Mich. on Wednesday Oct. 7, 2015. (Christian Randolph/Flint Journal)”

The state of emergency declared in Flint, Michigan due to the lead poisoning of its drinking water, highlights the severity of the situation and the policies that precipitated this crisis. The background of this tragedy is presented by a magazine in the following manner:

The problem dates back to April 2014, when Flint was under the direction of an emergency manager appointed by the state to try to fix the broken city. (Michigan law provides for the governor to select managers, and the provision has been used in several places in recent years, most prominently Detroit.) To save money, the city began drawing its water from the Flint River, rather than from Detroit’s system, which was deemed too costly. But the river’s water was high in salt, which helped corrode Flint’s aging pipes, leaching lead into the water supply.

The move saved millions, but the problems started becoming apparent almost immediately. The water starting smelling like rotten eggs. Engineers responded to that problem by jacking up the chlorine level, leading to dangerous toxicity. GM discovered that city water was corroding engines at a Flint factory and switched sources. Then children and others started getting rashes and falling sick…”

The responsibility of Michigan officials and effects of this contamination are described here:

Researchers at Virginia Tech who looked into the lead poisoning were even more damning, reporting last month that Michigan officials not only ignored complaints about the smell, taste and color of the water, but also lied about lead levels and tried to conceal evidence. And there have been reports that the city failed in its own lead-testing duties.

The state says it has identified 43 people suffering from elevated levels of lead, which poisons the nervous system and can stunt brain development in children. In addition, state officials disclosed this week that in 2014 and 2015, there was a spike in Legionnaire’s disease cases in Genesee County, which includes Flint, including 10 fatalities, coinciding with the contamination of the water supply. They said they were investigating whether there might be a connection.”

Prominent Flint native, filmmaker Michael Moore, in an open letter to President Obama states that:

We need

  1. The CDC here at once to truly assess all of the disease and damage that has been forced upon the people of Flint.
  2. FEMA has to supply large water containers in every home in Flint — and they must be filled by water trucks until the new infrastructure is resolved.
  3. The EPA must take over matters from the State (can the governor be removed and replaced like he did to the mayor of Flint?). Immediately.
  4. You must send in the Army Corps of Engineers to build that new water infrastructure. Otherwise, you might as well just evacuate all the people from Flint and move them to a white city that has clean drinking water — and where this would never happen.

One interpretation of the politics behind the appointment of emergency managers is the implementation of extreme austerity fiscal policies. Democracy at the local level is eroded, and profound negative impacts in the fabric of the communities are inflicted in the name of “fiscal responsibility”.

About Ricardo Toro

Anaheim resident for several decades. In addition to political blogging, another area of interest is providing habitats for the Monarch butterfly. http://www.orangejuiceblog.com/2013/12/caterpillars-crossing-in-a-city-at-a-crossroads/