Posted tagged ‘Flint’

The Flint Primary

February 6, 2016

Actually there is no official “Flint (Michigan)” Primary. There probably should be but it is highly doubtful that anything good would come of it. Flint is a poster child for so much. A Flint Primary would be about a city that won’t take care of itself, a State which is blindly following a “no new tax, no spend” formula, and a Federal Government Agency which is running on autopilot with controls set firmly on neutral.

The Flint story tied to beginnings of the auto industry, its growth, and now its decline. Over the years, automobiles were good to Flint and the city became home to several auto parts and assembly plants each employing thousands. Flint also became home to the top notch engineering school, “General Motors Institute” (now named the Kettering University after Charles Kettering, inventor and GM executive). One would think that there would be no dearth of technical knowledge in Flint.

In the 80s and 90s, the production of automobiles began to drop in Flint as newer assembly plants were build elsewhere. With the drop in production came a drop in employment. Executives and skilled tradesmen move away to other jobs while the less skilled remained behind. Soon poverty and unemployment were rampant.

A few years ago, the city leaders decided to reduce costs by changing the source of its drinking water. The officials selected the Flint River over the previous supplier, Detroit Water, and restarted its own water treatment plant. City officials were told that the Flint River water needed to be treated in a certain manner in order to prevent the untreated water from corroding existing pipes. If the existing pipes corroded, there would be discoloration of the water and even worse the release of lead from the pipes into the water.

No treatment was implemented and soon the water discolored and lead began to accumulate.

General Motors noticed the change fairly quickly and began treating the water used in its plants itself. Why? Because the water was corroding expensive equipment. Hmmm.

Citizens complained and State agencies reviewed the matter and made their own recommendations. None were implemented.

After about 18 months, the EPA became involved and determined that lead pollution existed and provided the State with a set of recommendations. Nothing happened as a result. No State action, no EPA follow up.

About 2 years after the switch to Flint water, the dire situation became front page news. Now there is more activity on who did what and whose to blame, than acton. Flint citizens are still drinking bottled water.

A Flint Primary might reveal residents who were content to grumble, and who wanted be taken care of rather than taking care of themselves. The largely African American population accepted their fate as it it were a by-product of a war effort.

The Flint educated and more wealthy citizens immediately switched to bottled water and installed home filters, and nothing more. Leading businesses like General Motors took care of themselves and went on about their business. Flint elected officials worried about getting elected again and not the water.

State officials were content to follow Governor Rick Scott’s fiscal restraint agenda. No new taxes and reduction is State services. To be fair, Detroit was bankrupt and presented a huge fiscal mess, Flint just didn’t rate that high. And, the Federal EPA was far more concerned with super fund sites and global warming, a shameful excuse.

A Flint Primary would allow voters to register their demands for immediate action on a basic life requirement, clean water. The primary could make the unemployed voices clear that they wanted jobs so they could pay for the water, and by the way they demanded the water be lead free. The Flint Primary could vote out the incompetent and callous Flint officials who had allowed what they knew health-wise as clearly wrong to persist.

The Flint Primary could also shine a bright light upon the “no new taxes” advocates who are happy to hold the line on taxes by reducing necessary government services. “No new taxes” may be defensible but only under conditions where existing services are made much more productive (or eliminated) so that funds could be applied to those essential services. In Michigan as in most other “no new taxes” States, there is little effort to ensure essential services continue, or to consider the need for necessary infrastructure repair and maintenance.

The Flint Primary could do so much. Given the history off Flint resident’s complacency, I can’t help but wonder, however, how many Flint residents would show up to vote.