This week brought an important development in the future of Flint and its drinking water.
Mayor Karen Weaver says she wants Flint to return to a long-term agreement with the Detroit-based Great Lakes Water Authority. This reverses the plans to connect Flint to the new, competing Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA).
The Michigan Senate Minority Leader, Senator Jim Ananich, D-Flint, joined Stateside's live show in Flint last Saturday to talk about the state of the city and why something needs to be done about the water rates.
"It's definitely an issue that we have to resolve," Ananich said. "For one, it's just inhumane to expect people to have to choose between paying their water bill and paying other necessities. Water is a right ... it's something that we have to have. I live in Flint here with my family and I know how expensive my water bills are and it's just my wife and I and my son. So, for families that are struggling to make ends meet, we have to have this."
Ananich admitted that he still does not drink the water because, like many other Flint residents, there's a still a strong feeling of mistrust.
"I was lied to like everyone else was, so I buy bottled water with fluoride in it for my son, and I use that primarily myself," Ananich said. "I have a filter, but I had people look at me in the face at the highest levels of government and lie to me. So I feel like a lot of people in Flint do. There's still a lot of frustration, a lot of anger, a lot of fear that is real and needs to be addressed."
One of the bills that Ananich put forth last session, and again this session, is to make sure that every child is tested for lead on a regular basis to make sure they are safe. This would include places like daycare centers and schools. Some politicians are balking at the price tag for a program like that, but Ananich said the safety and health of our children is more important.
"I don't really care what the cost is," Ananich said. "Lead is a neurotoxin that has really damaging results to people and if they're worried about costs, then that's just a ridiculous reason not to make changes."
Ananich is frustrated with the state government's slow response to the water crisis, and the reluctance of some politicians to put tougher regulations in place.
"Michigan should lead the way [in water quality standards]," Ananich said. "We should have the best standards of anywhere in the country and other people should follow us and we should start that here in Flint."
Listen to the full interview above (or watch it below) to hear why Ananich is offended by the term "Flint fatigue," and why he thinks repealing the emergency manager law would be an important first step toward avoiding another water crisis in another Michigan city. Since that conversation in Flint last Saturday, the state Senate and House voted to send $100 million in federal money to Flint. It'll help replace lead-damaged water pipes. The measure is now on its way to Governor Snyder for his signature.
Thanks to Kimon Kotos and Ann Bratsburg from Digital Spectrum Enterprises in Muskegon for videotaping the live show.