Finley: What isn’t helping in Flint

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

A crisis isn’t solved by finger pointing, grandstanding, gotcha games, exaggerations and hysteria. That’s what’s been going on in Flint, and it isn’t helping.

Instead of pulling together, Michigan is fracturing. Politicians see in Flint not a disaster that demands single-minded focus on solutions, but a delicious opportunity that can’t be squandered.

We are months into the awareness that the city’s water system carried lead into residents, and still there has not been a summit of local, state and federal officials to unite behind a fix-it strategy. What’s been going on is an embarrassment, and has additionally damaged a state whose reputation is built on pure, abundant water. That isn’t helping the people of Flint.

Michigan’s congressional delegation is heading off willy-nilly demanding federal funds, with little coordination with the governor’s office. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, echoing a plea from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, last week demanded $1 billion from the feds to rip out and replace the tainted water pipes. Yet water experts, including Virginia Tech prof Marc Edwards, who discovered this mess, say that allowing the recoating process to continue may be the fastest and most efficient means of restoring clean water to Flint. Pushing high-dollar fixes that aren’t rooted in research isn’t helping.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, is playing Madame Defarge, hoping to place Gov. Rick Snyder’s neck in the Washington guillotine for the sole purpose of humiliating him on the national stage, and repeatedly overstating the number of children impacted. Across the state, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, is grousing that no extra dollars would be needed for Flint if the state simply diverted money from the Pure Michigan tourism campaign. That isn’t helping.

State and federal officials, who share in the blame, are playing hot potato. The EPA accuses the Snyder administration of a cover-up. The governor responds with an ill-conceived flier that details his response on behalf of Flint, and accuses the Obama administration of doing nothing. This is no time for spin by either side. The PR battle is lost. Just suck it up and fix what you broke.

Hollywood’s shooting stars are streaking through Flint, making it the cause celebre of their endless round of self-inflating awards shows. Some come in earnest, with welcome truckloads of bottled water. Others wrap their gifts in uninformed opinions on the culprits and consequences of the tainted water. The worst — Michael Moore, Jesse Jackson, Cher — are hell-bent on persuading already distrustful residents they were intentionally poisoned because they are mostly black and poor. That sure isn’t helping.

And now misery, here’s your company. Hillary Clinton brings her presidential campaign to Flint today. Even with her own hands stained by Benghazi blood, she’ll stomp around and fuel the narrative that a bungling and heartless Republican governor is doing nothing for Flint’s children. Neither she, nor the other Democrats who find profit in keeping this crisis rolling, will mention the hopeful news out Friday that lead levels are finally falling in filtered water.

That isn’t helping. Not much is.

Nolan Finley’s new book, Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice, is available from Amazon.