The people of Michigan can take some comfort in the recent criminal charges brought against two emergency managers responsible for the disaster in Flint. This is the first formal acknowledgement that the poisoning of Flint is directly tied to the lack of democratic control. Former Emergency Managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley were charged with criminal conspiracy. These charges affirm what most people in Michigan know. Emergency Managers are a means of sacrificing public safety and health in order to save money. In the course of these savings, some well-connected businesses make money.Even Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has vigorously defended emergency management laws, was forced to admit that the irrational drive to make public decisions based on balance sheets is at the core of this disaster. During the press conference announcing the filing of criminal charges Schuette said, “There was a fixation on finances and balance sheets. This fixation has cost lives. This fixation came at the cost of protecting health and safety. Numbers over people, money over health.”
Excerpt: “The false pretenses charges brought against former emergency managers Darnell Earley and Gerald Ambrose “are based on the Defendants gaining authorization to borrow millions using the alleged reason of an environmental calamity,” according to a statement issued by Schuette’s office.
“Without the funds from Flint,” the statement continued, “the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) Pipeline would have to be mothballed. However, as a bankrupt city, Flint needed the Michigan Department of Treasury’s approval to get loans.”
Earley and Ambrose face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison if convicted of false pretenses for the loan scheme—which, Todd Flood, special Flint water crisis prosecutor appointed by Schuette, described as a “classic bait-and-switch.”
Along with Earley and Ambrose, former Flint public works officials Howard Croft and Daugherty Johnson were each charged with two felonies alleging that they helped obtain the loan under false pretenses. They are also accused of allowing the Flint water treatment plant to begin operation before it was ready to adequately treat the river water.”
Mayor Duggan has launched an aggressive initiative to improve life in Detroit’s neighborhoods. This past week he has touted new initiatives on employing Detroiters. He announced efforts to strengthen executive authority requiring some businesses to hire at least 51% Detroit residents for their workforce. Those who don’t meet this goal will be fined, the money used to fund training programs. He has ordered a tightening of controls on landlords who are not paying heating bills. Currently, some people have gone more than a year without heat in their apartments. These efforts are all part of Duggan’s “20 Minute Neighborhood” vision where any person should be able to walk or bike to almost everything they need within 20 minutes.
Today, something called the KIND Foundation, “through its KIND People Program, awarded a total of $1.1 million “to catalyze empathy and heal divides.” Six activist/healers have been awarded $100,000 and one (Doniece Sandoval) was given $500,000. These are straight-up gifts, as opposed to grants; recipients can do whatever they wish with the funds. Among the recipients? Our very own community activist Monica Lewis-Patrick, who we profiled in our “People” issue last year.
An excerpt from the profile in Metro Times: Today, she fights for the rights of Detroiters to have access to water, even if they cannot afford to pay their bills. With the organization We the People of Detroit, she’s firing on all cylinders. Among other things, We the People manages a water rights hotline so people can get emergency assistance, and oversees four water stations that will even deliver water directly to those in need if they cannot make it to a station.
“I spoke in front of the U.N. in September, another tremendous honor,” she says. And are there more political plans in her future? “I really like being a free black woman if there’s such a thing in America, without someone else’s time clock or agenda,” Lewis-Patrick says.
“Everyone here is aware that the fight is not over. The company will challenge the decision. Trump will try to reverse it. “The legal path is not yet clear, and the need to put financial pressure on the banks invested in the pipeline is more crucial than ever,” says Chase Iron Eyes, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe attorney and member (and a recent congressional candidate).
Nor does today’s victory erase the need for justice and restitution for the string of shocking human-rights violations against the mainly Indigenous water protectors—the water cannons, the dog attacks, the hundreds arrested, the grave injuries inflicted by supposedly non-lethal weapons.
On December 4, 2017 the Obama administration announced the department of the Army will not approve the Dakota Access pipeline easement to cross Lake Oahe. They will seek another route.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe “wholeheartedly support the decision.” Dave Archambault II, the Sioux Tribal Chairman said, “Throughout this effort I have stressed the importance of acting at all times in a peaceful and prayerful manner – and that is how we will respond to this decision. With this decision we look forward to being able to return home and spend the winter with our families and loved ones, many of whom have sacrificed as well. We look forward to celebrating in wopila, in thanks, in the coming days.”
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was swamped this week with objections to its decision to allow Nestle Waters North America to increase its pumping of water from an underground aquifer. Nestle wants to more than double its current rate from 150 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute. This would amount to 210,240,000 gallons of water a year being sucked out and transported by truck to their Iron Mountain bottling plant. This bottled water is shipped throughout the midwest in little plastic bottles and sold for enormous profit.
“The interconnected water crises in Detroit and Flint demonstrate the massive human costs of destroying the public sector, which antidemocratic emergency manager laws have accelerated. The combination of risky financial deals and privatization is also increasing water rates and shutoffs in other cities. Although population decline and aging infrastructure partially explain water rate increases, neoliberal restructuring is at the heart of the problem. The decimation of the welfare state, which led to the removal of Michigan’s vendor pay program, have also made poor and working-class residents (disproportionately African Americans) more vulnerable to shutoffs.
Addressing this crisis will require a moratorium on residential water shutoffs, and implementing ambitious water affordability programs. The People’s Water Board and other organizations have pushed to get ten water affordability bills before the Michigan house. The People’s Water Board also deserves support.”
“Every time I go, I’m amazed by the people, but I’m sickened by the lack of help.
Don’t believe the hype that you hear about the water being fixed. That water’s not fixed. This shit ain’t over. Just because it isn’t being talked about doesn’t mean it’s over. Light still needs to be shone on this.
Just think of any other catastrophe that’s occurred in the U.S. There’s always been a government agency that’s come help.
What if this had happened in New York? You mean to tell me that the people of Flint — just because it wasn’t a natural disaster — can’t get no help? That’s ludicrous! The government just approved funding at the beginning of October, nearly two years after we learned that the water was fucked up. What took so long?
And that’s just a long-term fix — money for big-picture projects. It’s $170 million for a multibillion-dollar problem. It does nothing for the people who need clean water right now.
Building Movement Detroit Central United Methodist Church, Rev. Edwin Rowe Change Agent Consortium Cities of Peace Citizens For Highland Park Public Schools Cooperative Economics Critical Moment Detroit Communicator Detroit Green Party Detroit Eviction Defense Detroit People’s Platform DPS Education Task Force; Library Committee Free Detroit / No Consent Feedom Freedom Growers, Creative Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit Hood Research International Socialist Organization James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership Keep Growing Detroit Michigan Citizen Michigan Forward Michigan Welfare Rights Organization Moratorium Now! National Action Network, Michigan Chapter National Lawyers Guild Project Save Detroit Raiz Up Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development Sacred Heart Church, Father Norman P. Thomas Simmons’ Hush House Slowdown First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit, Lee Gaddies, Social Justice Chair St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Detroit, Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellerman Sugar Law Center; Team for Justice Uprooting Racism Planting Justice We The People of Detroit