By Jan Worth-Nelson
To Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson, one of the biggest challenges following approval of $170 million in federal funds for water crisis response in Flint is healing the community’s doubts about its public servants.
Nelson voiced appreciation for how Senators Peters, Stabenow and Kildee “rolled up their sleeves and went to fight for Flint.” He also noted the bipartisan nature of the act “had to be an across the aisle thing — the Democrats alone couldn’t do it, so some Republicans had to come on board.”
But most of all, he said, “We have to earn the trust of this community back. We must be transparent across the board — making sure the monies go where they’re supposed to go.
“The trust issue is high,” Nelson said. “We have to show the people of this community that we’re doing everything we can to bring good clean drinking water to Flint.”
In comments after a press conference celebrating the federal funds Thursday, Congressman Dan Kildee pointed to another source of mistrust: whether the pipes actually will be replaced. Asked about recent suggestions from some state representatives that filters alone might be enough, Kildee had a ready reply.
“People at the State need to understand that folks in Flint are quite suspicious about the nuances of this situation,” he said. “Because of what happened in Flint we need to have absolute certainty that the water is safe. For people to trust that — this is purely a consequence of the state’s deception — this has created an environment where we can’t take them at their word.
“And,” he asserted, “the pipes need to be replaced. I don’t think Flint citizens or the community itself has a future if we don’t have a system that is safe, that doesn’t have lead leaching into the water.”
Still Kildee contended the recent political success of getting substantial federal funds should assure people that sometimes government operates in the common good.”Once in a while, we see that it does,” he said.
“People of Flint have a right to be angry, to be suspicious, to be untrusting of government,” he said. “But even if we weren’t responsible for it, it’s up to all of us to rebuild that trust.”
First Ward City Councilman Eric Mays says he’s “excited” about federal funds coming to Flint, but also hopes there will soon be “more boots on the ground” to help replace the pipes.
“People want it done fast,” he said, “and they don’t mind if there are twenty companies” at work. He said he hopes local contractors will be included in the mix of those chosen for the infrastructure work.
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at email@example.com.