Lead in Flint's water. Who decided to change supply? Why is governor under fire?

I’m trying to understand this mess and keep hearing the city changed where the water came from to save money. But now the governor is being blamed for the lead poisoning of the children. Shouldn’t the blame be on the city government that made the switch? I hear Hillary Clinton playing the race card. Is the city government African American? Is race the reason for this or just a convenient target? I’d like to believe it isn’t.

I won’t get into the racism angle or what Hillary did or didn’t say. The short answer is that the city decided to ‘temporarily’ switch from water from Lake Huron to water from a local river, the Flint River. They had a process to treat the water already in place, as supposedly this measure was going to be temporary until a new pipeline to Huron was built and up and running (supposedly it was going to take 2 years). Of course, seemingly no one checked the water to see if the filtration in place would actually work on the river water. It didn’t. Apparently, the water is like 20 times more corrosive than the water the filtration was designed for, and it started corroding the pipe infrastructure…which was lead. Which means that lead was going into the taps of the local town…as well as high levels of iron and other nasty stuff.

Why? The city/town of Flint had major fiscal shortfalls, like much of Michigan, and with Detroit melting down as well there weren’t enough funds, so this was the stop gap measure the geniuses in charge felt could be used to save some money. Why is the Governor being blamed? From what I understand, the Governor (and administration) sat on this for months before it finally came out, and then dragged his feet over doing anything about it, even before declaring a state of emergency and getting some sort of mitigation strategy in place (more filters, bottled water, etc). All the while the folks there were getting sick, with some rather nasty potential long term health issues to follow (and some class action law suits in progress from what I understand).

Not incidentally, the emergency manager appointed to oversee Flint who ordered the cost-cutting move had been appointed by the governor ( as all emergency managers are, I believe ). I don’t think that is necessarily the fault of the governor per se, depending on where you draw “the buck stops here” line. But it is a direct connection to draw for a lot of legitimately angry folks.

According to NPR, tests were done and a solution was proposed costing about $200/day. Those reports were ignored.

The elected city government had no say in the matter. An Emergency Manager had been appointed by the governor to run the city. Emergency Managers are given blanket authority to make financial decisions without oversight.

The argument is essentially if the city government had not been stripped of authority they would not have made such a reckless decision.

There is already a >50-post thread in MPSIMS that answers the OP’s question. I’ll report this thread for closing.

The governor appointed the emergency manager, because Flint is one of those cities that has a long tradition of electing worthless idiots who aren’t fit to run a front-yard lemonade stand. (Granted, they’re not in a same league as Detroit in that regard.) The governor didn’t make any decisions regarding Flint’s water, and calls for his resignation are just naked political grandstanding.

The EMs tend to be unpopular, but the simple unpleasant truth is that the municipalities that get them tend to have a long history of really bad leaders who can be counted on to make bad decisions and piss away any money you give them. (See Detroit, and even moreso the Detroit Public Schools.)

Good summary. I would only add that the EPA knew about the problem as well and also dithered internally for several months rather than take action or publicize the problem.

Been following this situation for a couple of years now. Seems that the problem began when Flint was unable to pay Detroit for water furnished. Detroit has it’s own financial problems and was unable to continue furnishing water to Flint. Governor should have weighed in on overall problem. One helpful solution might have been the utilization of monies received from “Powerball” players to pay for water furnished by Detroit. Now the Governor wants Federal Funds (28 million?). If Obama does approve monies, he’ll probably be bad-mouthed by Republicans for furnishing help to a predominantly Black City. Give the Guy a Break? By the way: “Michigan is a Powerball State that doesn’t use receipts for education.” What happens to all of the money that Michigan makes from this Lottery???

I believe that thread should be merged into this one. This issue has been heavily politicized and Great Debates seems like a better place to discuss it.

He made the decision to ignore it for months while children were poisoned. I wouldn’t blame him for the initial contamination, but his response was nonexistent, and that is a blatant dereliction of duty.

Sort of like a parent who watches their child eat rat poison and does nothing while they die. Sure, they didn’t feed the kid rat poison themselves, but are you going to absolve them of all blame? They watched their kid die and did nothing. It’s not grandstanding to demand they be punished, or at least put their surviving kids in the custody of someone more responsible.

As a Canadian outsider, it strikes me that the government in that state - at all levels - appears highly dysfunctional: and that this disfunction is shared by Republicans and Democrats, city and state, alike. The fissures between White and Black, Rich and Poor, Republican and Democrat, City and State government - all contribute to that disfunction, are used by all sides to justify it, and more effort is spent on casting blame, corruption-seeking, and ass-covering than on solving the state’s numerous and apparently intractable problems.

In this case, at least to outward appearances, the Governor is guilty of ass-covering. We will no doubt be treated to a round of blame-casting as a result (fully justified), no doubt followed by corruption-seeking as federal money flows in. All the while, things just get worse for the hapless residents.

When you appoint someone to become the dictator of a city, then makes a stupid decision without addressing all the technical concerns, and that decision made by someone who answers only to you winds up poisoning a city, you deserve every bit of criticism that comes your way.

In defense of the elected officials, when your factories shut down, your unemployment rate goes up and your tax base goes down, I don’t care who you are, you’re not going to be able to properly fund city services without tax hikes or going deep in debt.

So what accountability did this bonehead EM get? A new gig at a higher salary as EM for Detroit Public Schools.

This is not true, the original decision to stop buying water from Detroit was done by the city council and the mayor. This was done because Detroit kept upping the price. This was supposed to save Flint 2 million a year.
What happened then was that as soon as Flint announced plans to stop buying Detroit water and build its own system that would be ready in three years, Detroit announced it would stop selling Flint water in one year.
The Emergency manager who has then in place made the decision to go to the backup plan which was the Flint River. This was the plan created by the Flint’s water department and would have happened no matter who was making the decisions, because the only alternative was to pay Detroit alot more money and the water department claimed it would be able to do it safely.
Flint’s water department was unable to get the water to the correct ph which caused the pipes to corrode and fill the water with lead and rust. The Michigan Department of Environmental then conspired with the Flint water department to cover this up, until the obviousness of what was happening made that untenable.
The Flint city government and Emergency manager are responsible in that they put their faith in the city’s water department to produce drinkable water. No malfeasance, but in retrospect an error in judgement. The governor is responsible in that the Michigan DEQ is a state agency and ultimately he is in charge of all state agencies. There was nothing he personally did wrong.

Many of the problems of Detroit and Flint are due to the allocation of tax revenue. I ask non-American Dopers to contrast this with tax distribution in their own countries.

The higher-paid workers in industrial cities like Detroit or Flint tend to locate in suburbs with expensive homes, leaving the poor to congregate in inner city areas. These different areas are incorporated as distinct cities so that property and sales taxes paid by the rich are used for schools and infrastructure enjoyed by the rich, while the poor are dependent on property and sales taxes paid by the poor. This becomes a vicious circle – inner-city schools (and infrastructure for water, sanitation, etc.) are under-financed, so deteriorate, so those with the financial means to move to a better suburb do so, further lessening the tax revenue of the poor areas.

The effect is exacerbated by ethnic division. As you can see if you zoom in on this map(*), Michigan is highly “ghettoized” – in a state with 14% black population, Detroit is a whopping 83% black. This ethnic divide makes some voters less sympathetic to the plights of the underfinanced cities that neighbor them. (* - But I don’t know how to save a link to a specific view after zooming and adding labels.)

How about countries of Europe? Are local tax revenues spent only in the town or district where raised? Are there ethnic divides as extreme as in Michigan?

OK. What about what he* didn’t* do?

[QUOTE=septimus;19031864These different areas are incorporated as distinct cities so that property and sales taxes paid by the rich are used for schools and infrastructure enjoyed by the rich, while the poor are dependent on property and sales taxes paid by the poor.[/QUOTE]

Minor correction. Generally speaking property taxes are collected locally and used to fund local (city) governments while sales taxes are collected at the state level and not directly usable by local governments. Some cities or counties have add-on sales taxes. A few cities (or counties(?)) have income taxes. But your main point stands.

I can’t speak for other countries, but in England and Wales state schools are funded by the central government through the Education Funding Agency, and the money is channelled through county councils. A UK county is more populous than a US county but less so than (most) US states.

Of course, we need a test for identifying worthless idiots who aren’t fit to run a front-yard lemonade stand.

Question One for that test: “Appointed a manager who put lead-tainted water into the mains to save money (Y/N)?”