Energy

Michigan Dem Says Flint Water Crisis Perfect Time To Make Gov’t Bigger

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Chris White Tech Reporter

A Michigan Democratic lawmaker said Monday he intends to introduce a bill that would create a panel of bureaucrats to help Flint citizens recover in the long-term from their on-going water crisis.

The process to fix Flint’s dilapidated water pipes and tainted water supply will take years, Michigan Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich said, making it less likely that the current spate of politicians and local officials will be around to see the final solution.

“Obviously the relationship between the mayor and the governor is fluid and changing…,” Ananich told The Detroit News. “At some point in time, there will be a new governor, a new mayor and a new legislature, and there still needs to be a vehicle that can have transparency and focus on the long-term efforts.”

Ananich told reporters he thinks the city of Flint will require a five-member panel made up of politicians “to help run the long-term recovery while the city is focused on running the day to day and, obviously … the pipe replacement.” The panel — given the obligatory term Flint Recovery Authority — will consist of two mayoral appointees, two city council appointees, and some lucky resident chosen from a list of five citizens.

It will also operate much like Detroit’s Public Lighting Authority, which was created in 2012 and funded by Detroit’s utility user taxes. The Detroit Public Lighting Authority was tasked with lighting up Detroit’s dimly-lit streets shortly after Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013. The group was treading water until Odis Jones, the authority’s CEO, took the reins and finished installing streetlights on all major streets in the city.

Ananich envisions the body will handle all of the donations from private and public actors, as well as the expenses that will go along with putting Flint’s water supply back in line.

The response to the Flint water crisis has been beset with political bickering, infighting, and allegations of corruption from the mayor’s office.

Flint’s former city administrator filed a lawsuit in May claiming Flint Mayor Karen Weaver instructed a handful of city employees to redirect donations slated for a charity called Safe Water/Safe Homes in February to a political action group called “KarenaboutFlint,” supposedly a group raising money for Weaver. There is no evidence of such a group existing in Michigan.

“Karen About Flint” was the mayor’s campaign slogan.

Weaver, for her part, denies the allegation, telling reporters, “It saddens me that someone would attempt to taint me as mayor of a city that is dealing with a major public health crisis, which has affected every man, woman and child in Flint.”

The political shenanigans predate Weaver’s corruption allegations.

Michigan Department of Environmental Quality official Mike Prysby, along with Flint’s water department supervisor, Stephen Busch, as well as he city’s water quality control supervisor, Mike Glasgow, were all charged in April with felonies related to the water crisis.

Busch, Prysby, and Glasgow were charged with misconduct and tampering with evidence; Glasgow was also charged with neglecting his duties. Prysby allegedly told Glasgow at a meeting in 2014 that it was unnecessary to treat Flint water pipe lines with phosphate chemicals.

“You don’t need to monitor phosphate because you’re not required to add it,” Prysby told Glasgow, prior to Flint making the switch from Detroit water to Flint River water.

Michigan and Flint’s inability to solve the water crisis — even after politicians and bureaucrats shelled out more than $3.5 million to federal, state, and local workers to help deal with the city’s lead-infused water – has prompted citizens to plead President Barack Obama for help.

“It is time for the President to help bring this ugly mess to an end,” Flint activists Pastor Allen Overton and Rhea Suh wrote in a May 4 editorial in prior to Obama’s visit to Flint. “And that means taking the fix out of the hands of the folks who made the mistake to begin with and have moved far too slowly to resolve it.”

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