Flint goes to Washington


Photo ACLU Michigan

Photo ACLU Michigan

As some day it may happen that a scapegoat must be found, they’ve got a little list. The investigations into the poisoning of Flint, Michigan are only just beginning. The FBI is now involved:

WASHINGTON — Government officials tangled on Wednesday over who was to blame for the crisis in Flint, Michigan, that allowed lead-contaminated water to flow to thousands of residents at a combative congressional hearing that devolved into a partisan fight over witnesses and no-shows.

“A failure of epic proportions,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at the first Capitol Hill hearing since the crisis in Flint emerged last year.

Flint’s former state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Earley, was a no show. He refused a federal subpoena claiming there was too short a notice for him to appear in Washington. The Detroit Free Press reports:

As the hearing before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee got underway on Wednesday, its chairman, U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said he’d turn to federal marshals, if necessary, “to hunt him down” and serve the subpoena on Earley, garnering cheers in the packed hearing room.

Earley was state-appointed financial manager in Flint when it switched its water supply to the Flint River in 2014 as a temporary cost-cutting move. Because that water was not treated with corrosion control, the more corrosive river water leached lead from old pipes into residents’ taps.

It’s not just the water that smells. Charlie Pierce thinks he sniffs “a bag job in utero, seeking to pin responsibility for the crimes in Flint on the federal Environmental Protection Agency.” For my money, the early favorite for fall guy is actually named Earley.

The New York Times Editorial Board weighs in this morning on Michigan’s use of emergency managers to circumvent democratically elected leadership:

The emergency managers in Flint and Detroit schools went in as dictators, and it is not surprising they made glaring mistakes, while ignoring complaints and suggestions from the communities they were supposedly helping. Unlike the financial control boards in New York and Washington, which included people who had a stake in those cities, Michigan’s emergency managers answer only to the governor and the Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, who tend to be elected from suburban and largely white parts of the state.

Poor, disenfranchised communities make such easy prey and convenient scapegoats. Don’t be surprised to see Fox News and the Right Wing Noise machine go “Lower Ninth Ward” once again on the city of Flint.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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