For the past seven years, the city of Flint has been under the control of the state of Michigan. All government decisions made there were made by an unelected Emergency Manager or, later, a Receivership Transition Advisory Board. In the meantime, the city had its water poisoned with the powerful neurotoxin lead, saw 12 people die from an Legionnaire’s Disease outbreak tied to the Flint Water Crisis, and was put on an austerity budget that would crush most municipalities. Property values have completely tanked. The homes of the people living there (and all of the water-using appliances in those homes) have been damaged. And the trust of residents for government, in general, is gone.
Having accomplished all of that, the state turned to the keys to the kingdom back over to local officials yesterday. Apparently their work there is complete.
Mayor Karen Weaver, who came to power as a happenstance of the Flint Water Crisis, pasted a smile on her face and tried to spin it as positively as she could. “I’m excited. I’m glad they’re gone,” she told reporters. But Mayor Weaver and the City Council know that the state must not be let off the hook:
Even though state oversight had ended, Mayor Weaver says Flint still needs Lansing’s help to fix things.
“We’re still working with the state,” says Weaver. “We still want some more things from the state.”
Weaver hopes state officials won’t use the end of state oversight as an “excuse” for not helping the city recover.
If they do, Flint City Councilman Santino Guerra says Flint residents need to stay “positive.”
“We got to be ready to rally down there and say, “You started this mess,” says Guerra. “Let’s make sure we clean it up together.”
Flint was the last municipality to emerge from Emergency Management, an anti-democratic policy that has largely failed to address the systemic issues that plague our aging manufacturing cities with economic bases hollowed out by globalization and the flight of their jobs to other countries. Rachel Maddow called Emergency Management in Michigan “THE most radical Republican experiment in the 21st Century.”
Make no mistake: Flint’s problems have not been solved and the same problems that existed in 2011 that led to the fiscal emergency in this once-flourishing city still exist today. But now they are made worse by austerity, poisoned water, even more deteriorated infrastructure, and an economic base that is wholly incapable of sustaining a city of this size.
Well done, Republicans. This will be your legacy.
[Images by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]