Tuesday, January 19, 2016
by Common DreamsFacing Calls to Resign and a Pile of Lawsuits, Snyder to Address Flint CrisisProtests are planned to take place outside Michigan governor's residence during Tuesday evening's State of the State speech
by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer
Amid mounting calls for his resignation and arrest—and in the face of a growing collection of class action lawsuits in which he is named—Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to address the Flint water crisis in his State of the State address on Tuesday evening.
In the third protest in as many days, approximately 60 demonstrators gathered outside Snyder's apartment in downtown Ann Arbor on Monday, chanting, "Justice for Flint! Arrest Rick Snyder!"
A group of protesters is expected to return to the residence for a picket during Tuesday evening's speech, scheduled to take place at 7 pm.
The Detroit News reported that the governor "will tell residents that he's asking lawmakers for immediate financial assistance to pay for recovery efforts ranging from citywide testing of Flint’s lead-contaminated water system to medical treatment and monitoring of residents with unhealthy lead levels, according to a Snyder adviser familiar with the speech."
The paper added: "The speech will be unlike any State of the State address in recent memory as Snyder seeks to explain how state agencies are responding to a crisis that he acknowledges the state is to blame for, the source said."
The Lansing State Journal further reported:
In his State of the State address tonight, Snyder will propose funding to help the City of Flint with utilities, thus alleviating the need for water shut-offs, said a Snyder administration official speaking on background. The announcement is the first step in what will be a broader plan the state will work on with the city to address the water bill issue, the official said. A second administration official vouched for the information.
Meanwhile, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who just last week announced an investigation of the Flint water crisis, on Monday criticized the practice of billing residents for water they cannot drink.
"If you can't drink the water, you shouldn't be billed for it," Schuette, whose duties include consumer protection, said on Twitter. "That's nuts and must be fixed."
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs in three class action lawsuits—against Gov. Rick Snyder, former Flint emergency managers Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose, the state departments of Environmental Quality and Department of Health and Human Services, and Genesee County—agree.
During a press conference on Tuesday, in which they outlined the cases that have so far been filed on behalf of Flint residents, the lawyers vowed to listen carefully to Snyder's address.
In addition to calling for a financial fund to address their clients' immediate needs—"our people need relief now," said co-counsel Michael Pitt—the lawyers demanded that the governor look beyond the state Department of Environmental Quality at other departments responsible the crisis.
For example, Pitt pointed to the fact that the state Department of Health and Human Services was aware of elevated lead levels in people's blood as far back as the end of 2014. Yet, "they were silent," he said. "They sat on it."
"Tens of thousands of Flint residents were unnecessarily injured and hundreds of millions of property damage resulted due to the deliberate indifference of a handful of state, city and county officials," Pitt said. "Public officials must never again be permitted to give assurances to the public about public health conditions when they know the assurances are false. Public officials must never again be permitted to ruin the lives of our children by remaining silent in the face of a public health emergency."
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