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Flint's toxic water: the backstory

By Public Affairs


At his state of the state address today, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder plans to defend his administration’s role in the water crisis in Flint, which has some residents calling for his resignation. The public health disaster, caused by lead and other contaminants in the tap water, gained national attention over the weekend, as President Obama declared a state of emergency in the struggling city.

bridge over Flint River

The Flint River, downtown Flint (Andrew Jameson via Wikimedia Commons)

There’s a backstory to how Flint, operating under a state-appointed emergency manager, decided to switch water suppliers, and how the decision stood despite mounting evidence that something was very wrong.

Stephen Menendian, assistant director of Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, writes about the politics behind the crisis, and why Flint, which is largely African American, is “one of only two cities in the entire country with citywide levels of concentrated poverty.”

State disinvestment “was followed by a more pernicious state role,” he says “Local control and community health was sacrificed in the interests of budgetary savings. Rather than invest in the city and help revive its fortunes, the state enacted the most punitive form of austerity.”

Read Stephen Menendian’s post on the Berkeley Blog.