by Michael Byrne | March 18, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder told a congressional hearing that his emergency manager law failed the citizens of Flint, but his testimony largely sought to deflect the blame for the city’s poisoned water, infuriating residents who had traveled by bus for 14 hours to see justice done.
“We want his resignation! No justice, no peace,” came the chant as approximately 100 Flint residents marched into a Capitol Hill press conference after the hearing. Few of the residents were able to get into the packed hearing room. Even an overflow room with CSPAN coverage could not contain all the angry Michiganders who crowded the hallways, telling their stories to the news media and anyone else who would listen.
“This is a catastrophe that has decimated our city and hurt families,” said Tyrone Wooten, an AFSCME Council 25 member who works as an environmental technician at a Flint medical facility. “We now know the governor knew about this long before he declared a state of emergency. We came here today to see that those responsible for this human tragedy are held accountable.”
But they came away disappointed, said Chandra Yates, an AFSCME member who works at the Genesys Hurley Cancer Institute. “We have a governor bragging about giving us a fraction of a percent rebate on our water bill. We’ve been paying high prices for poisoned water since April 2014. I want my money back!”
Yates was worried about rashes on her granddaughter and sudden deterioration of her brother, who has a mental illness, just as Wooten expressed concern about the future development of his two young children. His wife, a nurse, has come home crying about the unusual and unexplained illnesses of both children and adults.
“We’ve had eight deaths from Legionnaire’s Disease,” Wooten said. “We don’t know what kind of bacteria has gotten into our water because of improper treatment, not to mention the lead leaching from old pipes. This is a lesson for every community in America that we’ve got to fix our infrastructure, or it’s going to kills us.”
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters told the press conference that a bill he is working on with the state’s other senator, Debbie Stabenow, and Rep. Dan Kildee (Flint) would provide $170 million in emergency funding and loan guarantees to help communities replace lead pipes, leveraging additional funding, and $50 million for health programs related to lead poisoning Kildee also spoke, declaring that Snyder “is not telling the truth.”
Bishop Bernadel Jefferson, a minister and city employee, said “we tried to talk with officials in Flint and in Lansing, but we were ignored. But now, thanks to help from AFSCME and the AFL-CIO, we are being heard in Washington, D.C.”
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