NAACP warns state of action over Flint

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

The national branch of the NAACP on Monday promised an “intense” campaign of “direct action” against the state of Michigan if it doesn’t replace Flint’s lead pipes, do away with the emergency management law and investigate the controversial water switch to the Flint River.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks.

NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, who attended a news conference in Flint to announce the effort, said he is giving Gov. Rick Snyder and his administration 30 days to come up with significant progress on a 20-point “list of priorities,” which includes providing more dedicated money to support residents affected by lead, free home inspections and pro bono legal advice for residents, among other requests.

“The residents of Flint have suffered irreparable harm due to the poor decisions made by government officials,” Brooks said.

“The NAACP is expecting significant progress on the 20-point list of priorities to give residents a timely and clear resolution to this man-made crisis. In the absence of significant progress over the next 30 days, the NAACP will embark on an intense, broad-based campaign of direct action until progress is made and the residents of Flint receive measurable relief.”

Frances Gilcreast, president of the NAACP Flint branch, said direct action means sit-ins, marches, sleep-ins, and that “it all depends on the response from Gov. Snyder. It means we are taking it to the streets.”

Brooks, who met with Snyder and Mayor Karen Weaver last month in Flint to discuss the crisis, said there has been “insufficient progress” since that meeting, and the response “to date has been a largely unproven, untested and uncertain” to what the nation has seen as an environmental calamity.

“Flint, Michigan, is an example of the result of disinvestment in the local economy and the disinvestment in democracy,” Gilcreast said. “The 20-point list of priorities is a result of our listening to the community’s concerns, and we will remain in service to the community as we use those priorities as our marching orders to ensure the goals of the 20-point plan are achieved and implemented.”

Dave Murray, spokesman for the governor, said Snyder announced last week he is teaming up with the Flint officials to replace lead pipes and “work is under way to locate high-risk, high-priority areas so removal efforts can begin quickly.” There was money included in the $28 million supplemental budget request approved late last month that could be used for utilities, and the governor last week requested an additional $25 million for removing lead pipelines.

“Part of the challenge is locating all the lead service lines,” Murray said. “We know there are about 5,000 lead service lines, and about 25,000 service lines that are not made of lead. But there are about 10,000 service lines of unknown composition. Work continues to coat the inside of the pipes, a process recommended by Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards and other experts.”