Benton Harbor Mayor talks Flint water crisis
It’s become a water catastrophe.
It stems from the city of flint Michigan’s decision to switch its water supply from Detroit’s Lake Huron, to the Flint River.
The thirst to save money ironically could now cost the city upwards of 1 billion dollars.
The White House, elected officials, and presidential candidates are now weighing in.
Hillary Clinton said in part “thousands of children may have been exposed to lead, which could irreversibly harm their health and brain functioning.”
Government leaders closer to home said this water crisis is the result of the state’s law to deploy emergency management.
“You have one person who is responsible for making all the decisions. All checks and balances that are part of our wonderful, democratic system are thrown out of the window in the name of fixing the finances,” Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad explained.
Benton Harbor Mayor Marcus Muhammad is no stranger to this process.
Between 2010 and 2013, when he worked as the city’s commissioner, Benton Harbor was under emergency management control.
The “Local Financial Stability and Choice Act 436” deploys emergency management officials to cities in financial distress.
The goal is for the manager to stabilize the city’s finances to keep them from filing bankruptcy.
Muhammad believes these officials often overstep their power and overrule recommendations by local government.
In Benton Harbor’s case, Muhammad said poor decisions made by emergency managers left the city with lawsuits worth several thousand dollars.
“The council passed a resolution 9 to nothing that the citizens of Benton Harbor should not be held responsible if the courts find that the city of Benton Harbor, under the thumb of emergency management is wrong.”
And in Flint, Mayor Muhammad said it was an emergency manager who made the call to switch the city’s water supply.
“One emergency manager executed it. The next emergency manager came in and implemented it. And now you have over 100,000 children affected and no one wants to take responsibility,” Muhammad said.
Michigan State Representative Al Pscholka said that is not true.
Pscholka said Flint’s City Council voted yes to the change before emergency management came in.
The state rep credits emergency management officials for getting Detroit out of major debt and for improving Benton Harbor’s finances.
“The city of Benton Harbor now has a $3 million surplus because of the emergency manager and the work of the state of Michigan. The fact that the city now has money to make improvements is a direct effect of the emergency manager law,” Pscholka said.
Mayor Muhammad said in cases where cities are in financial distress, he would recommend a financial team. Not one person who seemingly has absolute power.