Michael Moore: Obama should visit Flint

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

Flint -- Filmmaker and former Flint resident Michael Moore called on Barack Obama to visit the beleaguered city of Flint next week when the president plans to tour the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Michael Moore held a press conference in front of Flint City Hall in Flint, Michigan January 16, 2016. He said "I'm standing on a crime scene".

The White House has not hinted at making on side trips outside the Motor City.

“We need the president of the United States here,” Moore said. “We need federal help. We need the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We need the (Centers for Disease Control). We need the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.”

His comments came after the president earlier Saturday declared that an emergency exists in Flint, but denied Gov. Rick Snyder’s request to also declare a major disaster in the city.

The federal government will cover 75 percent of the costs for additional water, water filters, filter cartridges, water test kits and other related items for up to 90 days. The state is expected to cover the other 25 percent of the cost. Emergency funding is initially limited to $5 million, and the president must alert Congress if additional resources are needed.

FEMA’s David G. Samaniego will serve as the federal coordinating officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area, and the president is also offering assistance to help identify other ways the federal government could support the recovery effort beyond the emergency declaration.

The Flint native appeared outside city hall Saturday afternoon, drawing a crowd of roughly 200 despite frigid temperatures.

Protestors gathered outside of the Flint City Hall on Saturday, January 16, 2016, with Flint native Michael Moore.

He pleased many of those on hand by calling for Gov. Rick Snyder to step down -- following his online petition a week ago urging the arrest of the Republican leader. It featured a photo of the former Flint residents holding a pair of handcuffs with a sign that read “#ArrestGovSnyder.”

Moore referenced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in calling on state lawmakers to consider removing Snyder from office.

The anger among Flint residents over their long-running water crisis was on full display during the press conference -- particularly in the signs many drew up for the occasion. Among them: “Callous Rick, Made Flint Sick,” “Snyder, Pure Evil” and “Snyder, Lead Me Draw You a Bath.”

Michael Ellard, a 55-year-old Flint resident, came downtown to add his voice to the chants calling for Snyder’s resignation. Like many, he is living off bottled water and using filters.

“I think they work,” Ellard said. “But we just don’t know if we can be sure.”

Earlier this month, Moore launched a petition drive on his Web site that called for Snyder’s arrest on charges of corruption and assault.

This month, Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint and brought in the Michigan National Guard to help distribute bottled water to city residents.

Other celebrities have made even harsher calls for action. Singer and actress Cher has posted Tweets that support jail time for Snyder, but also include the hashtag “#FIRING SQUADWORKSFORME.”

On Thursday, House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel said Snyder should resign if he was aware of the dangers posed by Flint’s water and failed to respond appropriately.

Flint residents have been dealing with water issues since April 2014, when the city began using the Flint River as its source. After failing to negotiate cheaper rates with former provider Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, the city agreed to become part of a new regional water authority that will come on-line later this year.

To keep the water flowing until then, the city began drawing from the river. But local and state officials failed to use corrosion controls -- chemicals added to the water to help prevent lead from leaching in.

That omission is believed to be responsible for water that tasted, smelled and looked bad to many residents. More important, it is thought to be the cause of high levels of lead that have been detected in the water and in the bloodwork of Flint children.

Much of the anger over Flint’s long-running water problems has fallen on Snyder due to the fact the decision to use river water came while the city was under the control of an emergency manager he appointed.

In addition, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s handling of the water problems has been roundly criticized. In October, Snyder appointee Dan Wyant, DEQ’s director, admitted his department had improperly interpreted the federal Lead and Copper Rule designed to protect drinking water.

In late December, Wyant and DEQ Spokesman Brad Wurfel resigned over the Flint crisis. A task force appointed by the governor laid much of the blame for the situation on DEQ.

“Although many individuals and entities at state and local levels contributed to creating and prolonging the problem, (DEQ) is the government agency that has responsibility to ensure safe drinking water in Michigan,” the task force summary reads. “It failed in that responsibility and must be held accountable for that failure.”


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