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Lessenberry talks Flint water, MSU student athletes, and Grace Lee Boggs

Oct 7, 2015

Credit jordanmrcai / Creative Commons

This Week in Michigan Politics, Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the latest on the Flint water problem, how Michigan State University doesn't want to release  the names of student-athletes who were suspects in criminal cases to ESPN, and Lessenberry reflects on the life of Grace Lee Boggs.


Flint's water problems

A group of state and federal environmental officials, as well as outside experts, meets today in Flint to discuss a plan to deal with the city's water emergency.

Flint River water is corrosive and in some places is causing lead to leech out of old pipes and get in to the tap water.

Last week, state officials announced a plan that included more testing of Flint water, and to spend $1 million for the purchase of water filters for city residents, but there's been no decision on reconnecting to Detroit water.

Lessenberry says since lead has already started leeching from pipes, it’s unclear if getting water again from Detroit will automatically fix the lead problem. Lessenberry says the lead in the water is creating lasting consequences.

“It’s been proven that infants and small children are suffering lead poisoning that causes brain damage. It’s irreversible and people ought to be asking what the social cost of this is,” he says.

On top of that, Lessenberry says people in Flint are paying three times what other people pay for water. "That is really bad," he says.

Lessenberry says the problem began with Flint’s former emergency manager’s decision to switch Flint’s water source from Detroit to the Flint River.

Now that the emergency manager is gone, Governor Rick Snyder, who appointed him, is to blame.

Lessenberry adds, “there’s a real question, too, about Mayor Dwane Walling — who’s running for re-election — what he knew and when he knew it.”

MSU, treatment of student athletes and ESPN

Michigan State University faces a deadline at the end of the month to release the names of student-athletes who were suspects in criminal cases.

MSU is asking the state Supreme Court for a reprieve.

MSU was sued by ESPN for redacting the names from incident reports where student-athletes were listed as suspects. MSU says it does not have to release the names unless someone is actually charged with a crime.

ESPN says it wants to know if student-athletes get special treatment from the university and law enforcement.  Lessenberry says ESPN’s research, so far, indicates that student athletes don’t get preferential treatment, but Lessenberry thinks in the end, the student names will have to be released.

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs died Monday at the age of 100.  She was influential in many social movements. 

Lessenberry was friends will Boggs and says she was an “amazing, thoughtful woman who was a second generation Chinese American who came to Detroit, lived in the black community, and went on fighting to make things better.”

He said Boggs inspired people to make changes.

Jack quoted Boggs who once said, "We can’t look to leaders to make changes for us. We have to be the change."