Home > Uncategorized > Flint residents don’t need water bottles, they need democracy

Flint residents don’t need water bottles, they need democracy

February 2, 2016

I’ve been unimpressed with the recent coverage of the Flint water crisis. The overall message is that there’s been a “run of bad luck” but that certain generous people and corporations are coming to the rescue. If you believe the reports, we should be grateful for all the water bottles being flown in from Nestle and Walmart, and we should rest assured that water filters are being handed out and installed, even though they are inadequate.

In many of the articles on Flint, the switch from Detroit to the Flint River is mentioned, as is the concept of water as a human right, but not much more is explained. Specifically, there are two important questions left unanswered. First, how did this happen? And second, where else is it going to happen?

When you think about how Flint residents got into this situation, it’s critical to remember it was directly caused by a suspension in democracy. It was an emergency manager appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that made the switch to the Flint River as a water source. I’ve talked a bit about which municipalities get their democratic powers taken away; turns out that process often involves poor people of color. The entire point of emergency management is to remove accountability from the actors who put people’s lives in danger under the guise of saving money. Rick Snyder is, unbelievably, still in office.

Speaking of money, what’s the larger story here? It’s that, as a country, we can’t seem to pony up the resources to keep up our infrastructure, especially when it comes to water. A 2012 report by USA Today found that water prices had doubled in a quarter of the cities surveyed since 2000. This is because federal funding for water and waste systems have been reduced by 80% since 1977. And that would make sense if our water infrastructure were robust, but it’s not. In fact it’s in crisis, and we’d need $1 trillion to update it. The result is widespread crappy water, expensive water, and privatized water system disasters. We just let it rot at the local level, in other words, and deal with it – or not – in the most expensive ways, when it’s already an urgent situation.

Guess where the pipes are the oldest and most decrepit? You guessed it, where poor people live. When we ignore infrastructure we are inviting yet another punitive tax on the poor, and as it happens, a life-long debilitating level of lead poisoning.

So, let’s answer the second question: where else is this going to happen? The answer is pretty much everywhere unless we get our priorities straight. And I’m not talking about water bottles.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. mathematrucker
    February 2, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Speaking of democracy, partly just because my vote is so much more important than those of my WA relatives, I’m looking forward to attending my first caucus of all time February 20th! A young Hillary supporter recently rang my doorbell…I quickly made it clear to him that I’ll be on Bernie’s side of the room on the 20th.

    Speaking of money, infrastructure and empire (military) compete, don’t they. As far as I can tell, the “infrastructure lobby” (citizenry) stands the best chance of gaining any traction against the military lobby if and only if Bernie’s the next president. No such traction will be gained with hawkish Hillary at the helm.


  2. February 2, 2016 at 10:22 am

    The mainscam media will stick to the story they are paid to sell.

    One good place to follow the developments is Eclectablog.

    The fact that the people of Michigan already repealed the Emergency Manager law, only to have Snyder’s TEAGOP minions turn right around an dspit in their faces by passing the same law under a different number, adding an appropriation rider to immunize it from referendum — all that is just way too subtle to get through the bitty brains of the usual talking heads.


  3. February 2, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    As bad as the situation is in Flint, it gets worse when you check out details in the multiple Emergency Manager laws. How’s this for power “The Manager is an official appointed by the Governor to take control of a local government under a financial emergency. A manager temporarily supplants the governing body, chief executive officer and/or chief administrative officer of the local government with the ability to remove any of the unit’s elected officials. Managers have complete control over the local unit with the ability to reduce pay, outsource work, reorganize departments and modify employee contracts.[28] Emergency managers assigned to school districts may transfer failing schools to the Education Achievement Authority.”


  4. Auros
    February 3, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    My understanding is that the idea of saving money by switching to pulling water from the river was under discussion before the emergency manager was brought in. But one suspects that had the elected city council gone forward with that plan, they only would’ve done so if getting _properly treated_ river water would’ve saved money relative to sticking with buying lake water out of the Detroit system.


    • Auros
      February 3, 2016 at 6:16 pm

      One thing that I find confusing / alarming is why there don’t seem to have been more whistle-blowers, earlier, from the corps of people responsible for running the water system. Surely some engineer there said, “Hey, if we pull water from the river we need to run it through treatment before sending it to the pipes!” Or maybe they’ve fired all the engineers and replaced them with people who don’t understand the equipment they’re operating? In any case, that’s a part of the story that does not seem to have been reported on much yet.


    • RTG
      February 5, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Another point to note is that last year the City Council voted to go back to using the Detroit system after many issues with the Flint River water starting showing up. But the Emergency Manager over-ruled them.


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