Mayor: Hillary Clinton heard Flint’s call for help

Jonathan Oosting, and Maureen Feighan

Philadelphia – Hillary Clinton heard Flint’s call for help when others did not, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said Wednesday at the Democratic National Convention, touting the former secretary of state’s response to the city’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

“She made a commitment as president that she will work towards a lead-free America, and that’s why I’m with her,” Weaver said in a roughly four-minute speech at the Wells Fargo Arena.

Weaver knocked Michigan’s Republican-controlled state government for using a controversial emergency manager law to take over the city deeply in debt and alleged the state “switched our water source to a polluted river to save a handful of dollars.”

She also criticized the Republican-controlled Congress for failing to act on federal aid proposals that could help the city rebuild its drinking water infrastructure.

Clinton “came to Flint when the water crisis hit,” Weaver told fellow Democrats and television viewers. “She joined with our community groups and our churches. Hillary said ‘I will do everything I can to help you get back up and to help you get your strength.’ ”

Flint was ground zero in the Michigan primary battle between Clinton and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Both blamed the city’s water crisis on Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and called for his resignation during a televised debate held in Flint two days before the March 8 primary, which Sanders narrowly won.

In the debate, Clinton said she would commit to a five-year plan for removing lead “wherever it is,” including water systems, soil and paint.

Clinton sent top aides to Flint in early January, when she began to discuss the water crisis in national interviews. Weaver endorsed Clinton that month, and the two later collaborated on the “Flint WaterWorks” initiative, which provides young residents with jobs distributing water, food and information.

The 51-page Democratic Party platform, officially adopted Monday, calls Flint a reminder that “low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately home to environmental justice ‘hot spots,’ where air pollution, water pollution, and toxic hazards like lead increase health and economic hardship.”

Democrats also released Wednesday a new water crisis video that includes footage of Flint mother Nakiya Wakes discussing her family with Clinton during one of the visits to the city, along with clips of Clinton speaking to residents.

“Republican Gov. Rick Snyder allowed families, children, and members of the community to drink polluted, toxic water,” the Democratic National Convention Committee said in a release. “Hillary Clinton listened to the people of Flint, stood up, and spoke out.”

Michigan Republican Party spokeswoman Sarah Anderson called the video a “sad attempt” to “further exploit” the Flint crisis for political gain. Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton noted the governor and state Legislature have so far approved $234 million in state aid for Flint.

“While the Clinton campaign has the luxury of sounding off on the Flint crisis when it is politically convenient, Gov. Snyder and the rest of us in Michigan are still focused on solutions every day,” Anderson said. “Her pandering on this crisis did her no favors in Michigan — she lost the primary here.”

Steve Dawes, assistant director of the UAW 1-D who has worked with the Eastern Michigan Food Bank and United Way of Genessee County to provide bottle water to Flint, applauded Weaver’s remarks. He believes Clinton can truly make a difference in Flint with its contaminated water system.

Like former President Bill Clinton said on Tuesday, “when she commits to something, she does it,” Dawes said. “She finds a way to do it.”

A Snyder-appointed task force placed primary blame for the Flint crisis with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which did not require corrosion control additives when the city used Flint water between April 2014 and October 2015.

The harsh river water ended up damaging aging pipes, which leeched lead into the tap water.

It is unclear how many residents were exposed to the contaminated water or how many children may be permanently affected by lead poisoning.