Pass Flint authority to ensure water funds used effectively

flint-downtown

It’s fast approaching the one-year anniversary of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha courageously stepping forward to expose the tragic impact of the Flint water crisis. With all the headlines dying down and news trucks leaving Flint, it’s important to remember that there are still families, including my own, that cannot safely and reliably drink water coming from their tap.

Relief efforts have been fractured, delaying desperately needed help and demoralizing the community. As Bridge Magazine has already reported, there’s some funding coming in, but not enough results coming out. We have persistent, challenging issues that demand comprehensive, long-term solutions. Dedicated volunteers and generous groups like the C.S. Mott Foundation have been doing their part to assist in relief efforts, but we need to create a structure that will help us sustain the decades-long recovery that is necessary.

Lansing has taken a step forward by appropriating resources and the city’s government is working hard to deal with state bureaucracy while still performing its duties for citizens, but Flint needs a dedicated team to manage the restoration of its water supply.

In late May, I introduced Senate Bill 979 to help bridge that organizational gap. The bill would allow for the formation of a municipal recovery and development authority, similar to authority structures that have been successfully utilized in the past. It would be managed by a board of directors appointed by the city’s own local government. The members, including a civil engineer, accountant, education professional and health professional, would guarantee that funds were being used effectively, with the city’s best interests in mind. These experts would be able to provide additional capacity to a city that’s already strapped, allowing city personnel to focus on addressing the day-to-day needs of its citizens.

There’d be no secrets, either. Under this legislation, the board itself would operate with full transparency and would be subject to the Open Meetings and Freedom of Information acts — because local residents deserve a greater say in their futures, especially in Flint.

It’s an incredibly frustrating situation that residents are forced to deal with, and it demands far-reaching reforms — including massive infrastructure, educational and economic initiatives.

Last spring, I served on the Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency. We held multiple hearings to determine what kinds of policy changes Flint needs to ensure its recovery and to prevent a disaster like this from ever happening again. The committee’s official report needs to be made available soon so the Senate can act on much-needed legislation in the coming weeks. My priorities will be making sure it includes substantial changes: a long-term commitment, more accountability and oversight, and a renewed focus on public health.

No community should have to go through what happened in Flint.

We need to make sure that’s the case and that Flint has the support it needs, long after the reporters have gone home and there’s a new governor or legislature. The state alone can’t undo the damage that’s been done to the people of Flint, but we can take steps now to position the city for long-term success — and protect others from a similar crisis.

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Comments

Bernadette
Wed, 09/21/2016 - 12:32pm
I appreciate this article by Senator Ananich. I can understand the frustration he must be feeling, because I have experienced frustration myself. There are good suggestions in this article, and may be a step in the right direction. I am totally perplexed by this situation in Flint. I have been following this situation closely since the Emergency Manager took over, the change of water from Detroit to Flint, to the total incompetence of state government in handling this situation, to the now current conflicts of interest in handling this situation between the departments of state government. I began writing the governor and the attorney general over 2 years ago because of my concerns with responses lacking insight or concern. As a healthcare provider, I knew the impact of high lead levels on children. I was shocked and unnerved by the lack of care, concern, compassion or competence of either of those men. I don't understand how they are still in office playing politics as usual with no seeming outrage by the public. This administration is allowed (by politics as usual) to continue to block initiatives that will help. This administration is tone deaf to what the people want. My only hope is the mix of republicans and democrats change in the state legislature, and am so grateful the governor is term limited. The cost of this issue (penny wise, pound foolish) will impact Michigan taxpayers for decades to come, and, the republican governor and legislature still spend time on legislation to promote their own agenda. I am appalled.
Matt
Thu, 09/22/2016 - 2:11pm
Given the long history of local government failure in Flint (among many others), why do you believe this time this board will be successful?
Joann Helmbold
Tue, 09/27/2016 - 4:51pm
I have written to "Ask the Tough Questions" (WNEM) three times and seemingly been ignored. 20 years ago I had a line for my sump pump installed (Approx 75') it involver a trencher, attach & lay PVC pipe & bury line - $410.00. On a news clip there several months ago was a story about in Lansing how they were replacing water lines by attaching new line to old line at the house, pulling the old line "out" from the street by the water main and then attaching the new line on both ends. They could "do" several a day and would come to Flint to help the DPW get started. I have heard nothing of this since and Flint is hiring contractors at (over) $7000 to do one house and can only "do" one or two a day. I have been asking WNEM if someone from Flint has their "hand in the till" or is sending inflated contracting jobs to their friends while "they" are waiting for more federal or state money to do this. I wonder if WNEM is being selective in what they investigate and / or if there is misuse of funds in Flint. It doesn't make sense to me.