Just as he promised during a swing through Detroit earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump will visit the stricken city of Flint today. He is scheduled to take a look at the water treatment plant in Flint that became the center of attention earlier this year when citizens’ drinking water was contaminated with toxic levels of lead. Various media are contending that the visit is part of his outreach to black voters.
Flint is approximately 57% black. Commentators and locals have frequently said that the infighting between local, state, and federal agencies that caused the rolling disaster is evidence of “environmental racism.”
In an interview with the Detroit News on September 3, Trump promised to visit Flint. He said, “I think it’s a horror show that it was allowed to happen and to be honest with you it should have never, ever been allowed to happen.” His visit coincides with the airing tonight on Impact Network of his September 3 interview with Bishop Wayne T. Jackson of Great Faith Ministries. Jackson is also a real estate developer, as is Trump.
Spero News covered a protest that occurred outside Great Faith Ministries in Detroit, a largely black congregation where Trump made his appearance on September 3. Demonstrators conflated the situation in Detroit with Flint, focusing on what they believe to be failures of Republicans to respond to the decades-old economic stagnation in both cities, rather than decades-old political leadership on the part of Democrats who administered failing municipal infrastructures.
Flint’s Mayor Karen Weaver appeared less than impressed by the prospect of a visit by Trump. In a statement, the mayor’s office said: “Mayor Weaver went on to point out that neither Donald Trump nor any staff members from the Trump campaign have ever reached out to her since the Flint water crisis was officially recognized as an emergency in December 2015, and he never let her know that he was coming to the city this week.”
The statement said Flint water treatment plant personnel "cannot afford the disruption of a last-minute visit." Ultimately, a spokesperson for the mayor said that the city would cooperate with the visit.
Between April 2014 and October 2015, the city used water drawn from the Flint River without treating it with chemicals to prevent corrosion of water supply pipes. The river’s corrosive water has been blamed for causing lead to leach into the city’s drinking water. Millions of dollars have been spent on bottled water, water filters, and projects to remove lead pipes. Several criminal and civil lawsuits are now ongoing. The crisis was the focus of Congressional attention and brought Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and federal environmental officials to testify.
Weaver, who supports Democrat Hillary Clinton, will not be in town to receive Trump. She will be in Washington DC and will answer questions at a press conference about the millions in federal aid that Flint has received and will receive to address the water crisis. She will be joined by Michigan’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), and environmental activists in calling for congressional action. According to POLITICO, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) does not believe that the water resources bill in question will be resolved before the November 8 federal election.
The leader of Democrats in Michigan’s state senate, Jim Ananich, said that Trump’s visit will not have any “serious” proposals for reversing urban decay in what was once of the most thriving cities dominated by General Motors. In a conference call, Ananich said “The people of Flint, we need a lot more than photo ops.” He added, “We need resources to come to our community to replace the pipelines.”
As for Hillary Clinton, the Democrat made it a cornerstone of her campaign during the primaries this past winter. She made an appearance at a local church and gave an address that has been featured in campaign ads. Ananich said that the difference between Clinton’s visit to a church and Trump’s visit is that the former Secretary of State “made sure resources came in.” Chelsea Clinton also made an appearance in Flint.
Trump is slated to visit the largely dormant water treatment plant in the afternoon. As of October 2015, the plant has been unused ever since Flint switched back from sourcing its water in the Flint River to water from Lake Huron that is supplied by Detroit.
Gov. Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency over the lead-tainted water in early January. He toured the plant in March with Weaver, federal Environmental Protection Agency officials, and Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Director Keith Creagh. Creagh suggested in August that Genesee County, in which Flint is found, may play a future role in treating the city’s water supply. So far, the job of Flint’s water director has gone unfilled.