Trump: ‘Incompetent politicians’ caused Flint crisis

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump briefly waded into Flint’s water crisis during his Monday night speech in Warren, blaming the contaminated drinking water on unnamed “incompetent politicians.”

Since visiting Flint on Sept. 14, Trump has added a line to his standard campaign stump speech that cars used to be built in Flint and the water in Mexico couldn’t be consumed — and now the opposite is true.

The New York businessman repeated the line Monday night, vowing to reverse the fortunes of Flint, which he called “a troubled place.”

“You talk about incompetent politicians,” Trump said. “They take good water and they say ‘Let’s give them bad water.’ They had clean water and they said, ‘Let’s go to another source that’s bad.’ Who are these geniuses?”

In 2013, Flint’s state-appointed emergency manager, Ed Kurtz, approved switching Flint from Detroit’s water system to a new regional pipeline and putting the city’s water treatment plant back into service.

After negotiations broke down with Detroit over a short-term water contract, Flint began pumping and treating its own water from the Flint River in April 2014. The temporary use of the Flint River helped save the city $1 million a month compared with the cost of treated water from Lake Huron.

The switch was approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the state Treasury Department, which supervises emergency managers appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Trump did not mention Snyder or any other politician by name.

But the remarks were among harshest Trump has made about Flint’s lead-tainted water on the campaign trail. During a Labor Day weekend to visit to Detroit, Trump called the Flint water crisis “a horror show.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has been an outspoken critic of how the Snyder administration handled Flint’s water troubles since January, shortly after Snyder declared a state of emergency over unsafe levels of toxic lead in the water.

Clinton highlighted Flint’s water troubles during a Democratic presidential primary debate in January and visited the city in early February. Her campaign convinced the Democratic National Committee to schedule a debate in Flint two days before Michigan’s March 8 primary.

During the Flint debate with Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton called for Snyder’s resignation and indicated she would support recalling the Republican governor — an effort that never got off the ground with the Democratic Party establishment.

In September, Democrats lambasted Trump’s visit to Flint to tour the non-operating water treatment plant and visit a local church, calling it a campaign stunt.

Trump’s visit to Bethel United Methodist Church in Flint was cut short after the pastor chastised him for trying to give a political speech about Clinton’s economic and trade policies.

Republicans accused Clinton of doing the same earlier this year when her campaign filmed television commercials of her speaking at a predominately African-American church in Flint.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood