Brittney Chew / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

October 3, 2016

Flint Community Leader Recounts City’s Fight for Clean Water

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The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has its roots in a broader dismantling of democracy in the state, according to Claire McClinton, a Flint resident and grassroots leader in the clean water struggle.

At a lecture Friday, McClinton — who is also an advocate for labor rights and has spent decades fighting poverty, according to the University — discussed recent economic trends in Flint and how the privatization of public assets has harmed both the city and state.

In 2014, the city’s water supply was switched to the Flint River for financial reasons; after this change residents began reporting problems with water quality.

“Somebody was trying to take advantage of Flint’s and the rest of Michigan’s economic disaster,” McClinton said.

The 2011 passage of the Emergency Manager Law, which allowed for the appointment of emergency managers in cities across the state, “strips local communities of their elected mayors, city council or school boards,” she said.

An emergency manager is appointed when the state determines that a region is “fiscally insolvent” and cannot manage its own affairs, according to McClinton. However, she said these criteria are usually overlooked in favor of three others: “That it’s a majority-minority city or school district, [there is] a high percentage of poverty [or there are] valuable assets … to be taken.”

McClinton examined the actions of the emergency manager appointed in Flint, saying the city’s water system is “toxic.” She said the residents educated themselvelves about what was transpiring with the water crisis and became “citizen scientists.”

“The people in the city of Flint are resilient, and we’ve created our own paths to resolve this problem,” she said.

In an interview with The Sun, McClinton added that she became involved in the clean water struggle after she and her family were personally impacted by its effects.

McClinton said she hopes to “help inspire a new generation to establish and build a new America … an America that services the needs of their fellow man.”