Archives for category: Michigan

The fabulously wealthy DeVos family of Michigan bankrolls vouchers and hates unions. Now they are promoting legislation to punish the teachers of Detroit for their sickout action, which brought national attention to the abysmal physical conditions in the Detroit schools.

This message was distributed by the Michigan Education Association:

“Member Call to Action

“Urgent MEA member activism is needed to stop a package of anti-strike bills that passed the Senate Education Committee today — in even more extreme versions than originally proposed.

“Members are urged to call their state senators and representatives to fight back against this latest attack on school employees and their unions.
The bills were introduced to stifle the voices of Detroit teachers participating in alleged “sick-outs” to call attention to unsafe, unhealthy, and unacceptable conditions in Detroit Public Schools. The provisions would affect school employees statewide.

“Among the more far-reaching provisions in the substitute versions of Senate Bills 713, 714, and 715:

+ Teachers involved in alleged “strike activities” would face fines and loss of their certification.

+ To be considered a strike action, only one school employee must be found to be engaging in the activity.

+ Once a strike is declared, the school’s bargaining unit would be dissolved and prohibited from representing the unit for five years, whether or not it agreed to the strike and regardless of whether the school employee(s) involved in the action belong to the unit.

+ School districts that fail to enforce strike-related sanctions against employees would face a fine of 5 percent of their total state school aid.

“The bills’ sponsor, Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) tried to say in a press conference after the committee vote that the bills have nothing to do with the situation in Detroit. However, it’s clear this is an attempt to muzzle educators and their representatives at the bargaining table.

“The full Senate may vote on the measures this week, so urgent action is needed. Contact your legislators today!”

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BILL LINKS:

SB713
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28amvv05vynhqspffzjidgeuoa%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=BillStatus&objectname=2016-SB-0713

SB714
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28fr0hrd2mcwpjvff4zt4ntcbc%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=GetObject&objectname=2016-SB-0714

SB715
http://www.legislature.mi.gov/%28S%28vxp43pe521p1fkxchrqobzjl%29%29/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectname=2016-SB-0715

Film maker Michael Moore is a native of Flint, Michigan. He is outraged by what happened to the people of Flint when Governor Snyder’s emergency manager decided to save money by switching Flint’s water supply from a safe source to an unsafe one.

 

Moore wrote this post to identify 10 things about the crisis that are little known and make you even more outraged.

 

Here are a few examples:

 

 

1. While the Children in Flint Were Given Poisoned Water to Drink, General Motors Was Given a Special Hookup to the Clean Water.

 

A few months after Gov. Snyder removed Flint from the clean fresh water we had been drinking for decades, the brass from General Motors went to him and complained that the Flint River water was causing their car parts to corrode when being washed on the assembly line. The governor was appalled to hear that GM property was being damaged, so he jumped through a number of hoops and quietly spent $440,000 to hook GM back up to the Lake Huron water, while keeping the rest of Flint on the Flint River water.

 

Which means that while the children in Flint were drinking lead-filled water, there was one — and only one — address in Flint that got clean water: the GM factory.

 

2. For Just $100 a Day, This Crisis Could’ve Been Prevented.

 

Federal law requires that water systems which are sent through lead pipes must contain an additive that seals the lead into the pipe and prevents it from leaching into the water. Someone at the beginning suggested to the governor that they add this anti-corrosive element to the water coming out of the Flint River.

 

“How much would that cost?” came the question. “$100 a day for three months,” was the answer.

 

I guess that was too much, so, in order to save $9,000, the state government said f*** it — and as a result the state may now end up having to pay upwards of $1.5 billion to fix the mess.

 

3. There’s More Than the Lead in Flint’s Water.

 

In addition to exposing every child in the city of Flint to lead poisoning on a daily basis, there appears to be a number of other diseases we may be hearing about in the months ahead. The number of cases in Flint of Legionnaires Disease has increased tenfold since the switch to the river water.

 

Eighty-seven people have come down with it, and at least 10 have died. In the five years before the river water, not a single person in Flint had died of Legionnaires Disease. Doctors are now discovering that another half-dozen toxins are being found in the blood of Flint’s citizens, causing concern that there are other health catastrophes which may soon come to light.

 

4. People’s Homes in Flint Are Now Worth Nothing Because They Cant Be Sold.

 

Would you buy a house in Flint right now? Who would? So every homeowner in Flint is stuck with a house that’s now worth nothing. That’s a total home value of $2.4 billion down the economic drain. People in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the U.S., don’t have much to their name, and for many their only asset is their home.

 

So, in addition to being poisoned, they have now a net worth of zero. (And as for employment, who is going to move jobs or start a company in Flint under these conditions? No one.) Has Flint’s future just been flushed down that river?”

 

Read the other six reasons to understand the terrible injustice done to the people of Flint by their own government.

 

Here is the last point, which explains why the state government did what it did to the people of Flint:

 

“When Governor Snyder took office in 2011, one of the first things he did was to get a multi-billion dollar tax break passed by the Republican legislature for the wealthy and for corporations. But with less tax revenues, that meant he had to start cutting costs.

 

“So, many things — schools, pensions, welfare, safe drinking water — were slashed. Then he invoked an executive privilege to take over cities (all of them majority black) by firing the mayors and city councils whom the local people had elected, and installing his cronies to act as “dictators” over these cities.

 

“Their mission? Cut services to save money so he could give the rich even more breaks. That’s where the idea of switching Flint to river water came from. To save $15 million! It was easy. Suspend democracy. Cut taxes for the rich. Make the poor drink toxic river water. And everybody’s happy.

 

“Except those who were poisoned in the process. All 102,000 of them. In the richest country in the world.”

 

 

 

 

The Detroit Federation of Teachers, the AFT, parents, and students filed a lawsuit against Detroit Public Schools and state-appointed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

 

Earley was the Emergency Manager in Flint, when the decision was made to change the source of the town’s safe water supply to the polluted water in the Flint a River.

 

“According to the lawsuit, DPS “has not performed its duty to its students, parents, teachers and community to provide a minimally adequate education and to properly maintain the schools.”

 

 

“The lawsuit said DPS and Earley have allowed the condition of some schools to “deteriorate to the point of crisis” and “forced Detroit’s school-age children to spend their young lives in deplorable surroundings risking their health and safety in the process.”

 

 

“The lawsuit also said, “It is not a surprise that due to this, and other reasons, including budget cuts and mismanagement, that DPS is in dead last in academic performance with a majority of its students being left behind the rest of the country.”

 

“Last week, the city of Detroit posted the inspection reports from 11 schools from Jan. 12 to Jan. 17.

 

“Each school inspected was found to have multiple violations. Nine schools had damaged or falling ceiling tiles while five schools had a rodent problem. Four had leaky roofs and three had heating issues….

 

 

“At Carleton Elementary, Teachers posted pictures showing water damage and pieces of tile coming loose and falling off the ceiling,” the complaint states. “One teacher reported the debris striking a student in the head during testing.”

 

“Other examples include pictures of rodent droppings at Dossin and bathroom equipment that doesn’t work at Osborn….”

 

“With the lawsuit, DFT is hoping that the court will remove Earley from his duty as emergency manager and restore local control over DPS. Also, they want the court to force DPS to perform periodic inspections, investigate complaints filed by parents and teachers and fix all code violations found by the city of Detroit.

 

“On top of that, the plaintiffs also want DPS to “develop and institute a capital plan that provides the students of Detroit 21st century schools in which parents would want to send their children and educators would want to teach.”

This Michigan blogger read the voluminous emails from Governor Rick Snyder’s office and discovered that Flint would have saved millions of dollars by staying with the safe water from Detroit.

 

What was the motivation for the switch? Who benefited? Why switch to unsafe water? These are questions that should be answered by a serious and credible investigation, not by a lawyer who contributed to Governor Snyder’s campaign.

I watched the PBS Newshour tonight and learned that the State Attorney General had selected a lawyer (with the ironic name of Flood) to get to the bottom of the scandal in Flint. In the discussion, Judy Woodruff said that Mr. Flood had contributed to the State Attorney General’s campaign, and the person she was interviewing said that Mr. Flood had also contributed to Governor Snyder’s campaign. However, Flood dismissed any possibility of a conflict of interest.

 

Will the state and the governor be sued? This article says that they are protected from litigation by a concept called “sovereign immunity.”

 

One environmental lawyer said, “They poisoned children.”

 

Not only that, state officials were warned repeatedly of the danger of the polluted water and ignored the warnings. If no one is held accountable, justice will not be served.

Chris Savage at Eclectablog has been following the fortunes and misfortunes of the Michigan Education Achievement Authority since its inception in 2011.

 

Savage was thinking of writing a summary of the serial scandals, corruption, incompetence, and educational disaster, but decided the best way to show it was to post a list of the headlines of the stories he has written about the EAA.

 

This was Governor Rick Snyder’s pet program for “saving” the poor children of Detroit from their failing public schools. Instead of helping the public schools, Snyder decided to create this special district, in which all the lowest-performing schools were clustered. There, they would be under the control of a single administrator, selected by the Governor. The first EAA leader was John Covington, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendents Academy. He swiftly left his job in Kansas City (which lost its accreditation after he departed) to take the higher-paying job in Detroit. He left the EAA under a cloud.

 

This should be a documentary about the failure of corporate reform. Maybe someone who sees Chris Savage’s stories will start thinking of making that documentary. It is a very sad story, because the children of Detroit need a good education, and they are not getting it under Governor Snyder’s rule.

In a tv interview, Jeb Bush praised Michigan governor Rick Snyder for his leadership in responding to the Flint water crisis.

 

 

This morning, the New York Times criticized Snyder for his lack of leadership and said it was time to take action. The editorial says the state should replace the corroded water pipes in Flint, at a cost of $1 billion.

 

“The conditions on the ground in Flint still do not seem to have sunk in at the Michigan statehouse. Thousands of residents are still relying on trucked-in water, as if they were in a war-zone refugee camp, while worrying that their children may suffer developmental and other health problems from a water system poisoned by lead. Gov. Rick Snyder has been busy apologizing, but the tiny steps he is taking to repair the damage shrink beside the urgency of the problem.

“The challenge now is to replace the corroded pipes or perhaps the whole water system in this city of nearly 100,000 as quickly as it can be done. The cost may reach $1 billion or more, but that cannot stand in the way of moving forward to make the city fit for habitation. No Americans should have to live with poisoned water that is a direct result of the government’s decisions and neglect.

 

“Mr. Snyder and officials who work for him first wasted time trying to shift blame for the catastrophe to the city — at least until an independent task force and internal emails released last week showed that the state was responsible. Now he is wasting more time by maneuvering to get out of paying the bill for the huge repairs project.”

 

 

 

Remember that the shut-off of safe water was supposed to save millions. A very stupid, short-sighted, inhumane decision that will cost the state hundreds of millions and leave behind brain-damaged children.

 

 

The Néw York Times reviewed 274 pages of emails released by Governor Snyder’s office about the Flint water crisis. Confronted with multiple claims that something was wrong with the water, the Snyder administration belittled the critics.

“The correspondence records mounting complaints by the public and elected officials, as well as growing irritation by state officials over the reluctance to accept their assurances.

“It was not until late in 2015, after months of complaints, that state officials finally conceded what critics had been contending: that Flint was in the midst of a major public health emergency, as tap water pouring into families’ homes contained enough lead to show up in the blood of dozens of people in the city. Even small amounts of lead could cause lasting health and developmental problems in children….

“Though Mr. Snyder issued the emails as part of an effort to reveal the administration’s transparency on the matter, the documents provide a glimpse of state leaders who were at times dismissive of the concerns of residents, seemed eager to place responsibility with local government and, even as the scientific testing was hinting at a larger problem, were reluctant to acknowledge it.

“The messages show that from the moment Flint decided to draw its water from a new source, the Flint River, officials were discounting concerns about its quality and celebrating a change meant to save the cash-starved city millions of dollars. From 2011 to 2015, Flint was in state receivership, its finances controlled by a succession of four emergency managers appointed by Mr. Snyder’s administration.

“That upbeat mood lasted for months, even as residents began complaining about the new water’s foul odor, odd color and strange health effects, and began showing up at events with “jugs of brownish water.”

The governor has apologized.

He should be charged with willfully endangering the lives of the citizens of Flint and held accountable for his administration’s criminal negligence.

Michael Moore visited his hometown of Flint and helped to draw the national attention that this sorry situation deserves. As readers of this blog know, Governor Rick Snyder got a law passed allowing him to appoint emergency managers to take over cities and school districts that were in financial distress. The voters overturned the law. The legislature and the governor re-created it through some devious maneuver, giving Snyder the power to override democracy whenever he chooses.

 

Snyder’s EM for Flint was Darnell Earley. He decided to save money by cutting off the supply of safe water from Detroit and to have the residents use Flint River water instead. There are high concentrations of lead and other pollutants in the Flint River, and 10 people have died of Legionnaire’s Disease. Untold numbers of children may have suffered lead poisoning, which can cause irreversible brain damage.

 

This series of events is shocking. It is criminal. Governor Snyder should resign, as should all of his emergency managers. He should be charged with criminal neglect and tried for endangering the lives of the people of Flint by action and by negligence. An elected mayor would never had risked the health and safety of Flint’s citizens.

 

Of course, Darnell Earley is now in charge of the Detroit public schools. We should fear for the children.

 

And on Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder announced that the Flint area saw a spike in Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia, around the time the city switched its water source — a spike in illness that proved fatal for 10 people. Officials did not confirm the water switch had to do with the spike, but a drinking water expert has said there was very likely a connection.

 

The situation has drawn rebukes from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said there is “no excuse” for the crisis, and from Bernie Sanders, who had similar statements and said Flint residents “deserve more than an apology.”

 

In response to the intense criticism, Snyder said at a news conference Wednesday: “We’re taking every action within reason, and going beyond reason to address this,” he said. He also said, “This is something you wish that never happened, and let’s see that it never happens again in the state of Michigan.”

 

At the protest on Saturday, Moore also pinned the city’s water conditions on governmental neglect because of the city’s income level and racial makeup.

 

“They would never do this to West Bloomfield,” he said. “They would never do this to Ann Arbor. They would never do this to Farmington Hills. Let’s call this what it is. It’s not just a water crisis. It’s a racial crisis. It’s a poverty crisis… That’s what created this.”

 

 

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interview Curt Guyette of the ACLU about the effects of the Emergency Manager law in Michigan. They note that the Emergency Manager who poisoned the water in Flint is now the Emergency Manager of the crumbling Detroit public schools.

 

 

Guyette, an investigative reporter explains how it works:

 

 

“Well, one of the things about the emergency manager law is that these managers were given extreme unchecked authority. And the thinking was, the reason for doing that is they were given the ability to come in, clean up the problems and get out. And so there was an 18-month time limit put on their terms. Except that this governor is exploiting what amounts to a loophole in that law. So what happens is that these emergency managers serve for 17 months and 29 days, and the day before their term expires, they resign. A new emergency manager is put in place, and the clock starts ticking all over again. And they just shuffle them from one place to another. So Earley goes from Flint to run DPS. And it just perpetuates this control. It can go on, really, forever, if they want it to, denying people of their democratically elected representation, because the school board, which has been fighting emergency management every step of the way, gets completely marginalized. They have zero authority whatsoever. And that goes to the heart of the problem of this law. It eliminates the democratic checks and balances that make a democracy functional.

 

“And the other thing is, what we’re seeing here is really the imposition of austerity. This is what austerity looks like. So you have all the problems in these schools that you just reported on, because they’re treating it like a managerial problem rather than a structural problem. I’ve used before the analogy: It’s like being the captain of the Titanic, and you hit an iceberg. It doesn’t matter who’s at the helm; the ship is going down unless you plug the hole. And they haven’t plugged the holes. They haven’t fixed the structural problems.”

 

 

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