Over the past few weeks, Michigan residents have read new, damning evidence exposing Gov. Rick Snyder’s criminal role in the poisoning of Flint. Each day, the media reveal more details of the tens of thousands of emails sent to and from the governor’s office and among various state officials over the water crisis. Many emails became public record through Freedom of Information Act requests. Emails from the governor himself — who enjoys FOIA immunity under Michigan state law — were released after public outcry. But much of their text is redacted.
The liberal group Progress Michigan released an email sent Feb. 17, 2015, that blows the lid off Snyder’s claim that he only became aware of the Flint water crisis in October 2015. He emailed his executive director, Allison Scott, to propose a meeting on a list of issues that included “Flint water.” By this time, the credibility of Snyder’s ignorance claim was falling apart as emails revealed a growing list of governor-appointed officials and staff who were sounding the alarm about Flint water.
These near-daily leaks show that, at least eight months earlier than he claimed, the state’s top boss knew Flint’s water was contaminated. Yet he and his cronies perpetuated the toxic lie that the water was safe to drink and wash with. This is blatant environmental racism.
It is now clear that Snyder, not his numerous accomplices, “pulled the trigger” with the now infamous decision for Flint to disconnect from Detroit Water and Sewerage and draw water from the highly polluted Flint River. The state thwarted numerous attempts to reconnect to Detroit. Flint received a $7 million state loan to its general fund on the condition that the city not unhook from the Flint River.
Calls for Snyder’s arrest continue to increase. Outside the March 3 GOP debate, hundreds of demonstrators chanted, “Flint lives matter! Arrest Rick Snyder!” The Detroit Light Brigade projected the message, “Arrest Snyder for Flint water,” right onto the outside wall of the Fox Theater, where inside the debating bigots refused to offer a solution to the pain and suffering of Flint residents.
While several state officials have resigned or face discipline, none of the culprits are facing criminal charges. Instead, Attorney General Bill Schuette has gone after former state representatives Cindy Gamrat and Todd Courser. The two embarrassed the Republican Party when, after running as “family values” candidates, they carried on an extramarital affair and used state resources to cover it up. Schuette, a Tea Party Republican, squandered millions out of the state budget defending Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — funds that could now help Flint. Apparently Schuette’s party’s hypocrisy is a worse crime than poisoning 100,000 people, a majority of them African-American.
The Democratic Party has not shown resolve in confronting this tragic injustice. At the March 6 Democratic presidential debate, held in Flint, neither Hillary Clinton nor Bernie Sanders would call for Snyder to be arrested.
State, feds sit on funds; GM offers paltry sum
The people of Flint want their aging water infrastructure — damaged by corrosive Flint River water that was never properly treated — to be rebuilt. The coldheartedness of some politicians, who are sitting on enough funds to replace all of Flint’s lead and lead-soldered pipes, knows no bounds. Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter has asserted that Flint would get no more state aid until October.
This means no new pipes. A freeze on assistance means the funding for filters, lead testing in the homes, testing of children and assistance to families affected by lead will dry up. Will even the distribution of free water by the state come to an end? Right now the suffering is only mitigated by the generous solidarity of people around the country. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver blasted Cotter, stating, “For Speaker Cotter to say we should wait until October to maybe — maybe — have these most dire threats addressed shows callous disregard for the lives of the people of Flint.”
At the federal level, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah has put a procedural block on voting on $220 million which could go to Flint — or potentially other cities facing a lead-tainted water crisis. The funds are being generated, not by additional tax revenues, but by redirecting money set aside to assist the auto industry when it was in distress.
Sen. Lee’s excuse for blocking the federal package is that, when the state budget surplus and the rainy day funds are combined, Michigan is sitting on more than $1 billion in available funds. Lee is making the people of Flint continue to suffer for a crisis they did nothing to create.
The state is not the only source of potential funding. General Motors, whose disastrous environmental and economic practices are factors in the Flint water disaster, made an all-time record profit last year of $9.7 billion. The restructuring in auto, which has cost hundreds of thousands of jobs, including 72,000 in Flint, has been a source of astronomical profits. What GM contributed to Flint for water assistance, part of a $3 million donation made jointly with the United Auto Workers, was a mere .0003 percent of their 2015 profits.
The money to fix Flint’s water is there. It’s time to join with Flint in chanting, “No pipes, no peace!”