Why Obama's action in Flint fuels protests against Michigan governor

For some, President Obama's quick response to the water emergency in Flint, Mich., has made the governor look worse.

Jake May/The Flint Journal-MLive.com via AP)
Flint residents Keri Webber (left) and Janice Barryman (center) shout out in support as more than 150 gather to protest against Gov. Rick Snyder, asking for his resignation and arrest in relation to Flint's water crisis on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016 at the Capitol in Lansing, Mich.

President Obama declared an emergency in Michigan Saturday, granting Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for federal aid and assistance after lead contamination was found in Flint’s water supply. 

According to a White House press release, Mr. Obama authorized FEMA to “coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population … to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Genesee County.” 

FEMA’s emergency assistance will include providing safe drinking water, water filters, water test kits, and “other necessary related items” for no more than 90 days. Obama’s emergency declaration also frees up $5 million in federal aid for that state.

The Flint water crisis started almost two years ago after the city switched from Detroit’s water system 60 miles south to the Flint River amid budget cuts, The Christian Science Monitor reported Wednesday. 

The corrosive, untreated water from the local Flint River caused lead to leach out of old pipes, leaving the 99,000 residents of Flint with a  yellow, hazardous water supply. Governor Snyder made his executive request late Thursday, saying needs “far exceed the state’s capability” as emergency measures could cost over $40 million. 

And while the president’s declaration is in response to a request by Snyder, some local legislators and community members are contrasting president’s action with the governor’s inaction.   

“I welcome the president’s quick action in support of the people of Flint after months of inaction by the governor,” said US Rep. Dan Kildee, (D) of Flint, in a statement Saturday. “The residents and children of Flint deserve every resource available to make sure that they have safe water and are able to recover from this terrible man-made disaster created by the state."

Local demonstrators swarmed the State Capitol on Thursday, calling for Snyder’s resignation

“The actions of this governor should be considered criminal,” notes a resolution signed last week by local districts of the American Postal Workers Union. 

Even Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders has weighed in on the issue, calling for Snyder’s resignation. 

There are no excuses. The governor long ago knew about the lead in Flint’s water. He did nothing.… Gov. Snyder should resign,” Senator Sanders (I) of Vermont said in a press release. “The people of Flint deserve more than an apology.”

The Michigan State University Extension, an organization that connects Michigan residents with applicable research from the state university, has partnered with the Hurley Children’s Hospital to provide Flint families with nutritional information about the best lead-blocking foods and vitamins. 

And beginning Monday, Cher plans to donate more than 180,000 bottles of water to the city of Flint. The singer announced her donation on her Twitter account, using the hashtag #USALOVESFLINT.

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