By Bankole Thompson, Ebony and other sources
President Barack Obama was in the Motor City on Wednesday for the the 2016 North American International Auto Show where he touted his administration’s successful rescue of the auto industry and explaind how he is helping Detroit recover post-bankruptcy under mayor Mike Duggan.
But not far away from Detroit is another troubled city, Flint, where the public health disaster of 10,000 children as young as four years old is at hand. Their lives are at risk for drinking lead-contaminated water in this majority African American city.
For almost two years, state government did nothing to alert Flint residents and instead ignored warnings from independent studies as well as civic leaders and health officials who stated the water from the Flint river was not good for human consumption. So much so, that General Motors stopped using water from the Flint river 14 months ago after it was damaging vehicles parts.
While in Detroit, Obama issued his first public statements about the Flint water crisis, saying he would be beside himself if he were a Flint parent.
“I am very proud of what I’ve done as president, but the only job that’s more important to me is the job of father. And I know that if I was a parent up there, I would be beside myself that my kids’ health could be at risk,” said Obama.
Obama should have used his visit to Detroit as an opportunity to drive the hour or so it takes to get to Flint and talk to residents.
Nothing could be more of an emergency right now in Michigan than what’s happening in Flint, where the world’s attention and outrage is currently focused.
Before his Detroit visit, the White House announced earlier that the Department of Health and Human Services will be the federal government’s point of contact in the Flint crisis.
At the same time Flint mayor Karen Weaver met with President Obama at the White House Tuesday as well as with senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and director of intergovernmental affairs Jerry Abramson to brief the administration about what’s been the emergency in her city.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder whose administration failed the people of Flint by ignoring warnings from citizens and experts to intervene in the lead crisis, apologized profusely in his State of the State address Tuesday night.
Unfortunately, his speech, which was initially billed as an address that would finally lay exactly what would be done to help the people of Flint, failed to offer a bold plan. Instead the governor continued the same remarks he’s already given in previous media interviews that efforts are being made to deliver thousands of bottles of water to daycare centers and other places that need clean water to operate.
Also, to the dismay of many political watchers last night, Snyder’s attempt to detail the history of the disaster failed to even mention the name of Darnell Earley, the former appointed emergency manager in Flint, who signed off on the plan to stop Flint from using Detroit’s clean water and switch back to using the toxic Flint river water all under the guise of saving money.
Many had expected Snyder to announce Earley’s removal as the current emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools. Instead, Snyder announced a series of commissions that will be set to look into what happened in Flint, a signal of yet another layer of state bureaucracy.
In the case of Flint, the lives of little, poor Black children are at stake. Their intellectual and psychological development has been severely threatened or hampered with lead in their bodies. Their lives do matter and that should be echoed loud and clear by the nation’s first African American president who in just a short ride, can see for himself how these bureaucratic decisions have adversely impacted an entire community.