Lawmakers talk to Flint residents about water crisis

Jacob Carah
Special to The Detroit News

Flint — U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee led a congressional delegation into the city Monday to hear from business leaders and residents impacted by the city’s ongoing water crisis as well as further understand the city’s problems.

This was the second time that Kildee brought congressional colleagues to the Vehicle City. Representatives held a roundtable discussion with local area small business owners to talk about how the water crisis affected their business. According to Kildee’s office, the business roundtable included 20 invited local area small business representatives from the community, as well as State Senate Minority leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and a representative from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Kildee, D-Flint Township, was joined by House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, U.S. Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Scott Peters, D-Calif., Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, and Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn.

Mayor Karen Weaver welcomed the delegation and thanked the lawmakers for coming to Flint.

“I want people to know they have been here all day,” Weaver said. “They didn’t just come in and go out. They’ve been here talking with people and listening to what has been going on in Flint first hand, that way they can take things back to D.C.”

Cummings, the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said he experienced “highs and I’ve had my lows” in evaluating the city’s problems.

“I had a high when I met with business people when I heard the things they are trying to do to make this city the very best it can be, on the other hand, I had a low in that same meeting when woman talked about a business she was forced to close down because of the water issues,” he said.

Cummings sees himself and his colleagues having a role to play in Flint.

“My job is to look into this situation, to look at what happened here to make sure it never happens again,” Cummings said. “America is better than this. We really are. We are going to be about the business of keeping this on the front burner.”

The delegation’s focus on Monday was to hear from residences and business owners but also to help keep attention on the issue.

“What happened in Flint is of national interest,” said Kildee, adding “100,000 people living in this city are victims of neglect, a form of neglect from their own government and state government, and they deserve to have a response equal to that of the crisis.”

Kildee said Flint’s case serves as warning to the rest of the nation “because neglect of older cities, neglect of our infrastructure, neglect of our long-term obligations to create a sustainable society is something that impacts everyone in this country.”

Hoyer added he “came to see about the lead in the water, and what I saw here was the Flint in the people of Flint, I see their determination and expectation that their tomorrow will be better than their today.”

The congressional group also visited the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village. Leading the delegates through the former job training facility and school, neurosurgeon and neuroscientist Dr. Jawad Shah said the group had recently bought the facility for $1 and had initially planned for a nonprofit service facility to be an all around aid center for urban youth.

While that venture will continue, Shah said, the volunteer group of doctors, dermatologists, and community volunteers were quickly pulled into service because of the water crisis.

“We are focusing in on the northern wards, to provide the community with good testing, nutritional information and guidance all while providing a safe place for kids to come for different activities to help their all around growth,” he said.