West Michigan has long been especially prideful of regional economic successes prompting growth in what is still Michigan’s second largest city. The region as a whole has been equally prideful of its conservative values and fiscal restraint. But blind, fierce advocacy and one-issue politics comes up “penny wise, pound foolish” — and the very hard lesson of that is currently seeded in Flint and in Detroit Public Schools.
“Pure Michigan” to those around the world is now reflected in the photojournalism of children with high blood lead levels, third-world bowls of water and now inside the corroded and crumbling corridors of the state’s largest school district.
What happens to one of us happens to all of us.
Associated Press provides the facts of the issue succinctly: Flint's tap water became contaminated with too much lead after the city switched its water supply in 2014 to save money while under state financial management. Local officials first declared a public health emergency in October in response to tests that showed children with elevated levels of lead.
To save money.
The day Gov. Rick Snyder announced a task force to address the issue, health officials reported an excessive number of Legionnaire’s Disease cases, including 10 fatalities in Flint and surrounding cities. And Flint residents are still billed and expected to pay for the contaminated water. Who among them will trust the Governor’s Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee’s oversight?
On the heels of the public health disaster, Michigan legislators suddenly introduced legislation requested by Snyder eight months ago which would overhaul Detroit’s financially insolvent school district by splitting it. Associated Press reported the legislators included $250 million to launch a new district but balked on the question of paying off $500 million in operating debt. The problem decades in the making can’t be resolved fast enough.
Uneducated children grow up to be uneducated adults; uneducated adults are rarely able to sustain living wage incomes. Schools are far less costly than prisons and welfare programs.
Legislators are again reacting with short-sighted remedies that leave a legacy of misfortune and the promise of greater tax burdens.
Flint residents are receiving bills for contaminated water now, but every taxpayer in the state— east west and up north — will be billed for a lifetime, as children with lead contamination grow older.
Read the Michigan PBB disaster stories for reference and the decades-long fallout.
We have met the enemy and he is us.