In Michigan, the idea of a government of, by, and for the people did not apply to poor black cities, and when residents were robbed of the ability to govern themselves, they suffered. In Flint, it meant they got poisoned. -- Bill MoyersThe current disaster in Flint has its roots in Gov. Snyder's racist, anti-democratic coup d'etat in which power was usurped from local elected officials in financially distressed municipalities across Michigan. Snyder replaced them with his own appointed political cronies and corporate managers.
Flint isn’t the only city in Michigan deeply affected by the coup. In fact, Flint was one of six cities — most of which were poor and had a majority black population — to be placed under emergency management by Snyder since 2011.
Bill Moyers, who grew up in Flint, writes:
The emergency manager law gave unchecked power to the governor in the name of helping these communities emerge from financial distress. But in reality, it unleashed a series of devastating austerity and privatization measures adopted in the name of progress, and took away democratic rights from poor communities of color.The financial distress came, not as a result of mismanagement or corruption -- although there was plenty of that right in Snyder's office as well as in the legislature -- but from the state's massive de-industrialization and collapse of the state's auto industry which began in the '70s. But Snyder, a right-wing ideologue, who believes that autocratic rule should trump democratic decision making, didn't want to let a good crisis go to waste.
Snyder replaced the elected city governments in Muskegon Heights. and Highland Park with hand-picked business czars. In Muskegon Heights, an emergency manager dissolved the public school system and turned it over to a for-profit charter school, only to have the company bail on the contract because, as the emergency manager put it, “the profit just simply wasn’t there.” The districts were left in a state of chaos rather than academic improvement.
In Pontiac, emergency managers privatized or sold nearly all public services, outsourcing the city’s wastewater treatment to United Water months after the company was indicted on 26 counts of violating the Clean Water Act, including tampering with E. coli monitoring methods to cut corners on costs.
In Flint, says, Moyers, "children were poisoned to save money."
The poisoning of the children and families of Flint was part and parcel of the poisoning of democracy in the state of Michigan. Now IL Gov. Rauner is proposing the same measures for Chicago and its school district. If you want to see where that leads, look no further than Flint.