Christmas may be over but the work of Christmas is just beginning; to help those who are most vulnerable. One example of need in our communities is Flint, Michigan’s water problems. No public official in Michigan was deliberately trying to poison children in Flint. There is no public enemy number 1; rather we see a series of bad choices and then a cover-up. “Administrative Evil” is normal administrative professionals engaging in evil acts without being aware that they are doing anything wrong (Adams, Balfor 2009).
My poem “Flint (2014 ongoing) captures a real case of administrative evil in action.
Flint (2014 ongoing) by Julie Robinson
purveyor of health
taken for granted
streams out of taps
into our mouths
circles down drains to
no filters in place
brackish, brown, stinky
a public disgrace
none of it safe
flows through the body
restricted to bottles
Summary of the Flint, Michigan Water Issue
My husband, a physician, frequently says the United States health system is more dependent on our high quality public health programs than on our abundant supplies of physicians and hospitals. One example of this is drinking water from the tap. If you have travelled in other countries where the water is undependable such as Mexico or China, you know what a gift it is to be able to drink water directly from the faucet in the U.S. Of course, that is not true everywhere is the U.S. The place that has received the most publicity for public health problems over the past few years is Flint, Michigan. In Flint, a decision was made to move the drinking water to the Flint River in 2014. This decision was made to allow time to build a pipeline to connect to the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA).
Mayor Walling explained the decision as follows: ‘It’s regular, good, pure drinking water, and it’s right in our backyard… this is the first step in the right direction for Flint, and we take this monumental step forward in controlling the future of our community’s most precious resource.’ “
Rather than testing the water first to make sure the public was safe. The City chose to take a less expensive route of “waiting to see” what happens.
High lead levels started being documented in February 25, 2015. This information was deep-sixed by public authorities. By December 2015 as lead levels continued to climb, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency over the elevated lead levels in the city’s water. “I am requesting that all things be done necessary to address this state of emergency declaration, effective immediately,”
The water continued to be unsafe in Spring 2016. Both Presidential candidates Trump and Clinton and President Obama visited to symbolize their concern. Concern is not corrective action! By July nine public officials in Michigan had been charged with criminal offenses for the problems with Flint, Water. These public officials were charged with misconduct and misuse of public funds.
By December 2016, four officials — two of Flint’s former emergency managers, who reported directly to the governor, and two water plant officials — were charged with felonies of false pretenses and conspiracy. They are accused of misleading the Michigan Department of Treasury into getting millions in bonds, and then misused the money to finance the construction of a new pipeline and force Flint’s drinking water source to be switched to the Flint River.
Today, filtered Flint water is safe to drink but not everyone, especially low income families, have access to working filters. The courts have ordered that these individuals be provided with bottled water.
A $170 million stopgap spending bill for repairing and upgrading the city of Flint’s water system and helping with healthcare costs was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on December 8, 2016. The Senate approved it the next day. $100 million of the bill is for infrastructure repairs, $50 million for healthcare costs, and $20 million to pay back loans related to the crisis.