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Posted under: News Politics

This man is responsible for Flint's water crisis, and is now managing Detroit Public Schools

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While much of the public scrutiny focuses on Governor Rick Snyder for his mishandling of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, his subordinates share some, if not most, of the blame. The origins of the water crisis date back to April 16, 2013, when both Flint and Detroit were under emergency management appointed by Governor Rick Snyder. When Ed Kurtz, Flint's Emergency Manager at the time, authorized creating a new water district that would reroute Flint's water supply from the expensive Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to Lake Huron, Detroit's Emergency Manager Kevin Orr informed him that they had to give a one-year notice to terminate the 50-year contract. This would have resulted in even higher costs since the project wouldn't be completed by April, 2014. Detroit's attempt to exploit Flint's financial crisis, while it was in the midst of a financial crisis itself, should have been reason enough for Governor Snyder to reassess his managerial approach to his states' issues, but alas it was not. Fast forward to February of 2014, DWSD director Sue McCormick offered Flint an opportunity to continue using their water supply until their pipeline was complete; enter newly appointed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley and this letter he sent to McCormick that inflamed the crisis.
Photo: aclumich
Photo: aclumich
Photo: aclumich Earley declined McCormick's offer, choosing, what should have been the city's temporary solution, to source the Flint River for their city's tap water; a decision that led to residents being exposed to toxic waste. Now, Earley who is no longer mismanaging Flint, has taken his cut-corners approach to Detroit's public schools where a series of protests have called attention to the underfunding of the school system. Plagued by molding, rat infestations, deteriorating infrastructure, and inadequate staffing, teachers have been calling out sick so much that last week, schools were closed for three days straight. But how has Earley been able to cause such damage in Michigan? The problem is Michigan's decision to employ emergency managers, and most notably Governor Snyder's decision in 2011 to bypass democracy with his Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act. Investigative Reporter Curt Guyette (ACLU) says these emergency managers are given extreme unchecked authority for a limited time frame of 18 months. However, Governor Snyder has evaded this time limit by having the managers resign about 30 days before their term expires; he puts a new emergency manager on the job and restarts the 18-month term. And it was in this rearrangement that Earley took his current post in Detroit. In October of 2015, Earley sought to absolve himself of being responsible for the water crisis saying that he had no reason to second-guess a consensus decision. However, perhaps it's not constructive to blame management. As Guyette notes, the state's decision to treat their issues --- from financial woes seeping into public works and education --- as a managerial problem, as opposed to a structural one, is where the offense lies. Guyette told Democracy Now, "It’s like being the captain of the Titanic, and you hit an iceberg. It doesn’t matter who’s at the helm; the ship is going down unless you plug the hole. And they haven’t plugged the holes. They haven’t fixed the structural problems." On Saturday, President Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint and pledged $5 million in federal aid to the water crisis, which will send FEMA to facilitate the dispersal of water filters and other much needed items to the residents of Flint. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called for Governor Snyder's resignation, and singer Cher has even orchestrated the donation of 180k bottles of water to the people of Flint, but the problem is bigger than water and resignations. If we really want to help the people of Flint, and other communities like it across the nation, we need to address the structural implications that let it get to this tragic point.
Photo: 4gifs
Photo: 4gifs
Photo: 4gifs
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