Mayor: Clinton in ‘constant communication’ with Flint

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Philadelphia – Hillary Clinton has not forgotten about Flint after making the city’s water contamination a key part of her Michigan primary campaign, Mayor Karen Weaver said ahead of her speech at the Democratic National Convention.

“We have been in constant communication, and that’s one of the things I’m proud to talk about,” Weaver told The Detroit News. “We have been in communication on almost a weekly basis, if not more. She has not gone away. We have been on her heart and mind.”

Weaver and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan are expected to address the convention Wednesday, but times have not been announced and the lineup remains subject to change. A day later, Clinton will accept the Democratic presidential nomination to formalize her general election matchup with Republican New York businessman Donald Trump.

Duggan said he will use his time on the national stage to talk about the progress Detroit is making and how the city is “coming together in ways it hasn’t in a long time.”

“We’ve put a lot of the historic divisions behind us,” Duggan said. “We’ve got the mayor and the council working together. We’ve got the mayor and the president working together. We’ve got unions and companies working together. That’s really what I think the country needs.”

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have visited the city several times in the past few years. The Obama administration and Gov. Rick Snyder have helped shift more than $127 million in federal mortgage aid relief for use in blight removal to Detroit.

The federal government has launched an investigation of the city of Detroit’s use of the blight elimination money, which has included seeking the records of one of the demolition contractors. The Detroit Building Authority and the Land Bank Authority have received subpoenas. Duggan has said he welcomes the probe.

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Detroit resident Henrietta Ivey are expected to speak Thursday at the convention. Ivey is a home care worker that Clinton met during a visit to Michigan, according to her campaign.

Michigan’s heavy presence at the convention is a sign that the state could see attention this fall as a “battleground state,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon.

A Republican presidential candidate has not won Michigan since 1988, but Trump’s campaign has repeatedly mentioned Michigan as a target as he trumpets opposition to free-trade agreements unpopular with blue-collar union workers. GOP vice presidential candidate Mike Pence is visiting Grand Rapids and Oakland County on Thursday, while Trump is scheduled to campaign Wednesday across the border in Toledo.

“It’s clear Trump is trying to capitalize on some of the anxieties that people have, particularly in the Midwest and Rust Belt states,” Dillon said. “We’re going to win the state, I’m very confident, but we saw in the primary where Republicans took Donald Trump for granted. I’m not going to make that mistake.”

Flint’s water contamination crisis became a central issue in the Democratic primary between Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who narrowly won Michigan but on Monday again urged supporters to vote for Clinton in November.

Sanders in January called on Republican Snyder to resign over the Flint crisis. Clinton had already sent staff to Flint and later joined Sanders in calling for Snyder’s resignation during a nationally televised presidential debate held in Flint two days before Michigan’s March 8 primary.

Weaver, who took office in November after the state had already confirmed independent findings of dangerously high lead levels in Flint water, endorsed Clinton in January and said Monday she remains convinced she is the best candidate for the job.

“We need to keep a Democrat in the White House — Hillary Clinton in the White House — to help move our agenda forward,” Weaver said.

“One thing we know is there are hundreds of Flints all over the country, when you look at failing in infrastructure,” she said. “We have to be a voice to speak out about investing infrastructure and maintaining and demanding high water quality standards.”

State regulators failed to ensure the city used corrosion control chemicals when it tapped Flint river water between August 2014 and October 2015. The harsh water, which quickly prompted taste and color complaints from residents, ended up damaging aging pipes and leaching lead into the drinking water.

Residents in Flint continue to rely on filtered and bottled water for their daily needs, and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township said he expects the city’s plight to remain an issue that Clinton highlights in the general election.

“I just spoke to Hillary a couple weeks ago, and the first questions she asked me were pretty informed questions about how things are going in Flint,” Kildee said. “She and I shared some thoughts about how we continue to address the federal side of the Flint recovery plan that we’re trying to get funded. She’s pretty engaged in it.”

Kildee praised Clinton for elevating the Flint water crisis during her primary campaign.

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to Secretary Clinton for bringing attention to the case, along with other people as well who contributed to that (awareness),” he said. “In a lot of ways, we’re positioned to get more help now, partly because of her effort.”