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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Defeated Citizen: State Integrity and Flint Water

The Defeated Citizen: State Integrity and Flint Water
By Jeremy Johnson, Communications Intern for the Michigan Sierra Club

A report from The Center for Public Integrity (http://www.publicintegrity.org/2015/11/09/18693/only-three-states-score-higher-d-state-integrity-investigation-11-flunk) ranks Michigan last in terms of government transparency, ethics, and integrity. Many say that this (http://michiganradio.org/post/where-does-michigan-rank-state-integrity-investigation-dead-last#stream/0) report is the result of money slowly driving the shadowy aspects of our government’s decision making. Michigan has become so weak on transparency and disclosure that the voices of ordinary people are being drowned out by special interests, corporate polluters and lobbyists. This ranking is an embarrassment to the state that I am so proud to live in. This is not a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

I wasn’t surprised to find out this ranking because I've seen first-hand that the United States political system is dominated by money more than ever before. This makes it unsurprising to see more and more secrets spill over Flint’s water issues, and seeing no movement on the dangerous Line 5 pipeline that could destroy the Great Lakes. The state allowed Flint to add the wrong chemicals to drinking water pumped from the Flint River. That failure allowed the more corrosive river water to leach lead from the city's aging pipes and through faucets throughout the city. Tens of thousands of people were exposed to lead poisoning, which will have irreversible effects on the city's children.

Flint's water crisis is the product of ethical failures and prolonged inaction by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Governor Rick Snyder's office, and the City of Flint itself. This leads to another difficult question: when something goes horribly wrong, how does government police itself? What's required is accountability: not just to get mad and lay blame, but to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. At the very least, we need to vote for elected officials who will not tolerate environmental negligence.

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