Alternative World Water Forum

In spite of the growing sense of disbelief and horror surrounding the lead contamination of drinking water in the Michigan city of Flint, at least one thing is clear: that the catastrophic levels of pollution and destruction are a direct result of the extreme policies pursued by the Michigan’s right-wing leadership.

A very conservative group has controlled Michigan since the election of Governor Rick Snyder and a Republican majority in its legislature in 2011. At the heart of their policies has been a concerted effort to remove control over cities and communities by the people who live in them, and to impose austerity and free market measures on populations who are mostly African American and people of colour.

Some of the key opponents to that threat to democracy, however, have been Detroit’s teachers. This January, the Detroit Federation of Teachers filed lawsuit, and some educators even staged a walkout of the city’s schools, to protest against the “deplorable, dangerous, unhealthy and unacceptable” conditions for children that have emerged from the wreck of Michigan’s autocratic rule.

The key to the conservative’s strategy has been the emergency manager law. While a version of it was passed in 1988 under a Democratic administration, new Republican office holders passed Public Law 4 in 2011, which was much more radical. It gave virtually unlimited powers to unelected managers appointed by the governor in times of financial distress, while elected city councils and school boards lost all decision-making power.

With none of the constraints of public accountability, emergency managers in several cities then proceeded to nullify union bargaining agreements and sell off public assets. Detroit itself was forced into bankruptcy in July 2013.

In nearby Flint, Governor Snyder appointed Darnell Earley as emergency manager in October 2013. Over the next 16 months, Earley laid the groundwork for switching Flint’s water supply from the municipal utility that serves Detroit to pumping water from the Flint River – a waterway that is highly-polluted as a result of decades of toxic waste dumping by auto plants and other heavy industry.

Read more on the website of Equal Times

Categories: Global stories

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