Chelsea Clinton visits Flint; mayor touts water program

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Flint — Chelsea Clinton said Friday it is “ludicrous” that Flint residents may have to wait behind recently flood-ravaged Louisiana for federal emergency aid to fix the city’s drinking water supply after lead was discovered a year ago.

“Are we really in the business in this country in determining which of our children deserve emergency relief where there is an emergency?” the daughter of Hillary Clinton said during a visit to Flint for her mother’s Democratic presidential campaign.

Chelsea Clinton, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver used a mid-day news conference at a Flint church to draw attention to the lack of federal aid for the city in a short-term federal budget bill authored by Senate Republicans.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, said earlier this week that federal aid for Flint should wait until the December “lame duck” session and he has worked to separate it from aid for his state’s August flood damage.

“The notion that two years of crisis somehow diminishes its urgency is ridiculous,” said Kildee, D-Flint Township. “Two years. For God’s sake. It’s a moral outrage. We’ve been waiting.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, defended the short-term funding agreement as a “clean extension” that doesn’t add a lot of other spending requests and that is intended to prevent an election-year government shutdown.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, whose state has been the country’s epicenter of the Zika virus crisis, has said he would vote for the continuing resolution because it contains $1.1 billion to combat Zika “with no political riders,” according to Politico.

“There have been broad requests for a clean continuing resolution. So that’s what I’ve just offered,” McConnell said in a Thursday statement. “It’s the result of many, many hours of bipartisan work across the aisle.”

Chelsea Clinton visited Flint to get an update on the city’s recovery from the discovery of toxic lead in Flint’s water system a year ago. She also campaigned for her mother Thursday in Grand Rapids and East Lansing and visited a Democratic Party phone banking operation Friday afternoon in Flint.

Flint’s public health crisis is blamed on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s failure to require Flint to treat Flint River water with corrosion-controlling chemicals when the city switched water sources in April 2014.

Michigan’s delegation has been pursuing up to $100 million or more to help fix Flint’s water infrastructure damaged by the switch.

Chelsea Clinton said the Republican-controlled Congress should act with “moral urgency” to help Flint recovery from the water crisis – a recovery officials say requires the replacement of more than 11,000 damaged water pipelines.

Chelsea Clinton was last in Flint on March 6 to announce the creation of the Flint WaterWorks program, two days before Hillary Clinton narrowly lost Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Flint youth ages 16 to 24 were put to work this summer distributing bottled water and food to residents.

Hillary Clinton got Chicago venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker to donate $500,000 to underwrite the Flint WaterWorks program, Weaver said.

Weaver said Friday another $600,000 from unnamed donors has been donated to the Flint WaterWorks program, which provided paid jobs to 78 Flint youth.

The mayor said the program has helped young Flint adults gain employment skills.

“When they finish with this program, they will have skills that no one can take from them,” Weaver said.

Ten philanthropic foundations have pledged $125 million toward the city’s recovery.

Chelsea Clinton acknowledged Friday that her family’s Clinton Foundation hasn’t sent financial aid to Flint.

“My family has personally contributed financially to the Child Health Development Fund under Dr. Mona’s leadership,” Chelsea Clinton said at a news conference with Weaver and Kildee.

The Flint Child Health & Development Fund, also known as the Flint Kids Fund, was started by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the Flint pediatrician whose research exposed high levels of lead in the blood of Flint children a year ago Saturday.