The “Flint Syndrome” is a quick way of summing up the long-run consequences of disinvestment in our cities that have resulted in widespread breakdowns in public safety and the quality of life for citizens. While the phrase refers to the terrible water debacle in Flint, just about any expert in municipal finance will tell you the syndrome could easily apply to just about any sizable city in Michigan.
The puzzling and frustrating thing about this particular malady is that it has been largely caused not by any one error, but by a series of state policies adopted over nearly the past 40 years.
“Cities are bound and gagged financially by the state,” Mitch Bean, the widely respected former long-time director of the nonpartisan House Fiscal Agency, told the Center for Michigan’s online Bridge Magazine, as part of a series of articles on the state-inflicted crisis in municipal finance several weeks ago.
“And there’s no way out.”
One example: Bridge found that 2,300 police officers had been laid off by Michigan cities from 2005-2014, more than in any other Midwestern state. Squeezed by tight resources, many cities around the state are reducing services to residents, even undertaking such drastic measures as holding local fundraisers to buy fire equipment.