Flint must top the president-elect’s agenda

Stephen Cooper

The interminable failure of government to marshal all available resources, brainpower, imagination, and resolution of spirit, to finally solve Flint, Michigan’s contaminated water problem, stands as a giant scarlet letter branded on the breast of America.

Buried in the press cycle of post-election hype is a recent order from a Michigan judge directing the state and the city of Flint to immediately start home delivery of four cases of bottled water per resident of Flint, every single week, for the foreseeable future. The only exception is for households that opt out, or where officials have verified that a water filter has been installed and properly maintained, which the judge’s order describes as a seemingly Herculean task.

In an upbraiding that will long be remembered, U.S. District Judge David Lawson’s no-nonsense order reminded Gov. Rick Snyder and other state and city officials what should be obvious to any educated person: “A safe water supply has always been critical to civilization...In modern society, when we turn on a faucet, we expect safe drinking water to flow out. As the evidence shows, that is no longer the case in Flint. The Flint water crisis has in effect turned back the clock to a time when people traveled to central water sources to fill their buckets and carry the water home.”

Now compare a February column I wrote exploring the nefarious link between lead poisoning and the racist imposition of the death penalty, and a report in The Washington Post concerning the reaction of affluent Californians to water restrictions brought on by drought.

“A poor, disenfranchised child of color, exposed to excessive lead in the United States during their childhood,” I wrote, “could as easily wind up on death row as he (or she) could serve time behind bars.”

Meanwhile, The Post story quoted wealthy Californians from the ultra-rich enclave of Rancho Santa Fe saying out of touch, and—when you consider the deplorable, life-threatening water situation in Flint—truly asinine things, such as, “people should not be forced to golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful.” Or, even worse, an interior designer’s observation: “I think we’re being overly penalized, and we’re certainly being overly scrutinized by the world.”

In his victory speech on election night, President-elect Donald Trump, said: “We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools (and) hospitals. We’re going to rebuild our infrastructure, which will become, by the way, second to none.”

There is no more worthy cause Trump can tackle upon taking office than ensuring equal access to clean drinking water for the poor, predominately black people of Flint.

Stephen Cooper is a former D.C. public defender who worked as an assistant federal public defender in Alabama between 2012 and 2015.

Twitter: @SteveCooperEsq