The next Democratic debate will be taking place in Flint, Michigan March 6, 2016. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are due to debate at the University of Michigan at 8 p.m. ET. This particular debate was a late entry, set up by the Democratic National Committee. The later scheduling is likely due to the amount of coverage the city of 99,000 has been receiving.
The Flint water crisis is an ongoing story that began in 2011 when the state made a decision to cut costs by switching the city water supply from Lake Huron to, the now-infamous, Flint River. Flint is a city that has already been caught in the crosshairs of poverty, due to the closure of car manufacturing jobs over the past few years.
Flint now suffers even more, since the city was declared to be in a state of financial emergency before the state took over the budget in 2011. Governor Rick Synder hired an emergency financial manager, whose only job was to cut the budget, at any cost. CNN reported that Michigan would save up to $100 a day if the anti-corrosion water treatment was disregarded that made Flint River water safer to drink. That cost included the thousands of residents who were placed at risk when water from the Flint River went through the lead pipes and was left untreated. The water was distributed throughout the city in 2014. What was meant to be a temporary cost-saving measure, leeched the lead from the pipes, into the water of resident’s homes. It rendered the water poisonous and impossible to drink or bathe. It was fit only to be flushed.
The water crisis has slowly garnered the attention of the rest of the country, as the inexplicable reasonings made by the state and the federal government came to light. Governor Snyder, eventually, admitted to having known and ignored the numerous complaints made by residents of the city. Once the switch was made, in October of 2014, immediate complaints about the smell and color of the water followed. What ensued were cases of Legionnaire’s Disease that resulted in 10 fatalities, and up to 12,000 children suffering from high levels of lead in their bodies. There is the question of women suffering from miscarriages due to the lead, which MLive reports, is under investigation. The Democratic Debate that will be taking place at the University of Michigan will doubtlessly focus on the pressing issue.
CNN reported that the school’s chancellor, Susan Borrego, stated that while the water issue was a story that should not be ignored, she hopes that people also understand the underlying issues in the city as well. The Detroit News reported that CNN gave out 300 tickets for the DNC debate to residents of Flint while the expected audience number is 1,381. Seating is limited, due to the Clinton and Sanders campaign members, Democratic Party leaders, and party sponsors who will also be in attendance.
Where do the candidates stand on the issues of the water crisis?
The Former Secretary of State visited Flint Feb. 7, 2016, veering away from her campaign in New Hampshire, which she ultimately lost to Sanders. She gave a speech at House of Prayer Missionary Baptist Church, where she declared that what had happened to the citizens was immoral and a civil rights issue. Clinton stood in front of a baptismal portrait of John the Baptist and Jesus while she spoke, going on to say that access to clean water was a basic right, and was not optional.
She called on Congress to pass a $200 million bill to help replace Flint’s infrastructure. On the other hand, Sanders visited the city on Feb. 25, 2016, expressing that it was not a rally, like his other events. Instead, he sat and listened to the residents as they told him their experiences and what they wanted to change. CNN said that he asked several questions about the amount of water distributed, the health issues, and other problems of the city.
Sanders also installed a field office in Flint, where he could meet with families privately. He has gone on to speak about Flint, at length, while campaigning, citing a deeper issue that affects the entire country. Sanders began calling for the repair of the American infrastructure in his speeches, noting that there are problems all across the country in cities like Flint, that do not have plans to replace the lead pipes.
The Huffington Post stated that there is no way of knowing how many pipes there are throughout Flint, let alone the country. There is also the ongoing issue of lead paint, a waste system, the roads, and railways that all need to be evaluated. Sanders said that this is a road to more jobs at a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He said, “If you think Flint is the only city with a collapsing infrastructure in America, you would not be right..we have to rebuild Flint, and get our priorities right as a nation.”
Clinton also lauded Flint’s mayor, Karen Weaver, in her handling of the issue. Weaver has only been the mayor of Flint for a short time, having inherited the impoverished city and its water crisis as the first female mayor. The Detroit Free Press reported that Weaver noticed virtually none of the Republican candidates even mentioned Flint in their debate on March 5, 2016, with the exception of Senator Marco Rubio who said, it should not be politicized.
The Republican debate came on the heels of a number of emails that were released, showing that the governor and his officials had known about the lead levels for months and did not address the public. Weaver has since begun the exhaustive replacement of 8,000 lead pipes, after declaring a state of emergency and firing the police chief, fire chief, and city administrator. While she waits on the funds for the new pipes from the city, Weaver is unable to drink or use the water that is coming into her own home. She lives in an older home and the state-issued water filters do not fit her faucets. She says she is “in the same boat as everyone else.”
By Juanita Lewis
Politico: Everything you need to know about the next Democratic presidential debate
When is the debate, who moderates, and lots of other stuff.
The Detroit News: Limited tickets set for Sanders, Clinton Flint debate
NBC News: Hillary Clinton: ‘What Happened in Flint Is Immoral’
9&10 News: Bernie Sanders Speaks In Traverse City, Discusses Plans For Detroit, Flint
The Detroit Free Press: Flint mayor: GOP candidates were as dismissive of concerns as state was
Huffington Post: Lots Of Cities Have The Same Lead Pipes That Poisoned Flint And there’s no plan to dig them up.
Image Courtesy of Tony Faiola’s Flickr Page- Creative Commons License