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Politics & Prejudices: The agony continues in Flint



You have to hand it to the Snyder administration. You might find it hard to believe that they'd still be kicking Flint in the teeth, especially after their poisoning the water and trying to cover it up totally destroyed their credibility.

But they are.

The irony is that Governor "Relentless Positive" Rick might otherwise even now be stripping pensions out of budgets in Washington, D.C. However, his political future is as dead as that of a poisoned cormorant rotting on a Lake Michigan beach.

He's the fellow, after all, who took forever to respond after his emergency managers switched Flint, a poor rundown manufacturing town of about 100,000 souls, to corrosive and contaminated water from the Flint River.

General Motors announced within months it was going to find another source of water to use in its Flint factory because the water was so corrosive it was ruining engine parts.

Do you think anyone might have thought we shouldn't be making people drink this stuff?

Not till a team of independent researchers proved the water was dangerously full of lead did the governor and his minions agree to switch the city back to Detroit water.

Then it took another two months after that for him to fire Dan Wyant, who led the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Brad Wurfel, his sneering spokesman who belittled reporters who asked about lead.

Under pressure, the state did then take what they had done to Flint seriously — in part, no doubt, because of political necessity. Exact figures are hard to come by, but the state has already spent more than $300 million on the crisis.

Nobody knows what the total cost will finally be. There are many more pipes that need replacing. Nobody will know the final cost for many years, as the effects of lead on the brains of the young children who drank it gradually become clear.

Finally, in the last six months, lead levels in Flint water — while still not perfect — have finally fallen below federal action levels.

That doesn't mean residents trust it; they don't. After all, government officials were lying to them two years ago and telling them it was safe to drink.

But last month the compassionate Rick Snyder told Flint Mayor Karen Weaver the state would no longer help residents with their water bills. The mayor was astounded; she thought the credits, which covered 65 percent of residential water bills and 20 percent of those for businesses, would last through March. Flint residents, by the way, pay the highest water bills in the nation — more than three times the average in Detroit. This comes at a time when Snyder has also been battling in the courts to be able to cut off deliveries of bottled water to Flint.

After all, that, too, costs a little money. If you were a Flint parent and your child asked if the governor hated him and his city ... how could you say no in a way you both could believe?

Could anyone also say with a straight face that you think the state response would have been the same had this been a white Republican community — Holland, say?

And if all this were not enough, the Snyderites managed at the start of this month to whack Flint with one more insult.

On March 3, the Flint Area Community Health Environment, or FACHEP, had a meeting set with state officials to discuss what they'd found about the mysterious Legionnaires' disease outbreak. Back when the city was being forced to drink Flint River water in 2014-15, there was a sudden outbreak of the disease. Seventy-four people got sick. Twelve died.

State and federal officials knew about this, considered warning the public — but didn't.

Naturally, when the story finally got out a year ago, Ricky Snyder swore he'd never heard a thing, not a blessed thing.

Dicky Nixon didn't know about Watergate, either. Last month, for the first time ever, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta announced they'd found a genetic link between Legionnaires' and Flint River water.

A team of researchers, many from Wayne State University, have been looking at that, and were going to share their findings with the state. But when the meeting began, state officials freaked when they discovered Pamela Pugh was there.

She certainly should have been. She is chief public health adviser for the city of Flint. She's more than well qualified: Pugh has a Ph.D in public health from the University of Michigan, and a degree in chemical engineering.

What's more, she also was elected to the State Board of Education, by voters statewide three years ago.

But maybe because of that, the Snyderites panicked. "I was singled out and told by (Dr.) Eden Wells ... that since I wasn't a public health authority under Michigan's public health code, I should leave the room," she said.

That's especially laughable, since during the original Flint water crisis, Wells, the state's chief medical executive, was moonlighting at the University of Michigan and only working part time for the state, something even the Detroit Free Press noted "appears to have plainly violated state law."

Rules are different for the elite, of course. Dr. Pugh stood her ground. "My job is to protect the health and well-being of Flint residents. Therefore I have every right to hear firsthand the information that was to be presented," she said.

State officials then abruptly ended the meeting. Later, Nick Lyon, Snyder's director of the Department of Health and Human Services, put out a bizarre press release accusing Wayne State University for not adequately protecting data.

That made no sense, and was denied by WSU's vice president for research. (Having taught there since 1993, I can say that while Wayne has its faults, in my experience it is almost obsessive about observing proper research protocols.)

What was really going on was pretty clear. The Snyder administration's first instinct is always to keep the public from knowing — no matter how much harm the cover-up causes them.

"It can appear they are looking for a reason to keep information closed," Pugh told me the next morning.

Some things never change.

Cutting to the chase

Whatever your politics, it is now perfectly clear that we have a possibly deranged pathological liar in the office of President of the United States.

More than likely, he already has committed impeachable offenses, particularly in connection with Russia. To say he is corrupt has no meaning whatsoever, since he doesn't have the faintest comprehension of morals, rules, laws of ethics.

Nor does he have any idea what the presidency is, what his job in supposed to be, or how the government of this nation is supposed to work. George W. Bush was a far better leader; drunken Richard Nixon talking to the portraits in August 1974 was a better president, and so was William Henry Harrison after he was dead. This creature exists only to sow hatred, disruption, and to attempt the hopeless task of gratifying his own ego. We must not, whatever we do, normalize him.

Most of those who voted did not vote for him. Even many who did clearly didn't want what they are getting now. He is an accidental president on a mission to wreck what we stand for.

We have never had anything like this, and this will only be our country again after he resigns, is removed, or is defeated, and we need to remember that every single day.

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