Wednesday, August 17, 2016


            In 2013 Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, accountant by trade and inclination, appointed Darnell Early, public administrator by fiat, Flint’s third emergency manager.  The Republican-dominated legislature passed PA-436 in 2012 allowing the governor to install a proxy, usurp the authority of elected representatives in financially distressed municipalities or school districts in exchange for state financial assistance.  Voters repealed a despised earlier version of the bill.  The 2012 law was crafted to prevent further voter interference.  Early, charged with slashing expenditures regardless of human cost, signed off on tapping the Flint River to provide residents with less expensive water.  Meanwhile, a plan went forward to construct a pipeline connecting Genesee County to Lake Huron, a deal rife with patronage that diverted resources away from the politically inconsequential residents of Flint.  Flint, a company town famously decimated by a spectacular loss of manufacturing jobs, opportunity and hope, is populated by a majority black citizenry, most of the populous too poor to immigrate elsewhere.  Driving through town, decades of hopeless misfortune at every turn, I search for metaphors for the current crisis.  Streets named for American poets, Whitman, Emerson, Frost and Bishop are nothing short of cruel irony.  Now and then my route takes me down Dort Highway for a close up view of the iconic tower marking the notorious water treatment plant.  “FLINT” emblazoned in the round, my brain never failing to add skull and crossbones.  Like many others, I take a souvenir snapshot, as good a metaphor as any in a city awash with them.    

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