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Don’t forget Flint in Philadelphia

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

The story of Flint, where an estimated 10,000 children were exposed to lead-contaminated water for almost two years, seems to have been forgotten by our often opportunistic politicians who carefully depicted it as a great example of bureaucratic incompetence.

The Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting, Hillary Clinton, who made an issue out of the crisis during its initial stage, is no longer talking about Flint the way she did when the saga first began to unravel before the nation last year. “This has to be a national priority. What happened in Flint is immoral. The children of Flint are just as precious as the children of any part of America,” Clinton said earlier this year during an appearance in Flint.

Clinton pushed for the Democratic National Committee to have a debate between her and chief rival Bernie Sanders in Flint. But politicians are sometimes prone to exploiting issues for their own benefit. Flint was already a national story. Holding a debate there would not mitigate the crisis, though the symbolism of a presidential debate being held in Flint would help remind people of what happened.

Yet Clinton, despite raising hell on the campaign trail about how government broke down in Flint, had not even visited the city until the days leading up to the debate.

And now, it is no longer a campaign talking point or issue. In the last several months, we’ve not heard any significant pronouncement from Clinton and her Democratic surrogates about the next steps for Flint.

Even though the mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, already endorsed Clinton, the story seems to be falling off the radar of the candidate who vowed for restorative justice for Flint families. Weaver’s endorsement in January came during the height of the crisis and perhaps came too soon. Some politicos bemoaned the move then because they believed the mayor should have waited for Clinton to roll out a proper plan for Flint before endorsing her.

Politics is all about leverage. Making that endorsement too soon may have taken away the leverage the mayor could have had with the Democratic presidential candidate as the campaign progressed. She could have successfully pressed for some serious commitment on paper as well as influenced the Democratic platform committee.

But give Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette some credit for making Flint a focal point of his remarks at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

No matter what you think about Schuette’s motivation—his gubernatorial ambitions, and the fact that he should have recused himself from the Flint investigations, and appointed an outside counsel to oversee the criminal and civil probe his office is leading—at least he vowed justice for Flint residents before a national audience.

“Let me tell you a story about my state and a city called Flint, where the water was poisoned by lead. Pregnant moms and mothers with newborns still should not drink the water and that’s not right. But I will make it right, because in Michigan, the system is not rigged. In Michigan, we have one system of justice, which means there are rules for all,” Schuette said at the opening of the GOP convention.

Flint should never be forgotten. Let’s hope that Mayor Weaver will bring that message when she speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910 AM Wednesdays and Fridays. His column appears Mondays and Thursday.