For most of us in the United States, a lack of clean drinking water sounds more like a third world problem than a local issue. For those living in Flint, Michigan, it is very much a daily issue, and Mayor Karen Weaver is working to give Flint back this basic necessity.
“We deserve to be angry,” Mayor Weaver said, speaking of the lies Flint was repeatedly told by local and state officials that the water was safe to drink. “That emotion was appropriate. Justified.”
Karen Weaver took over the office of Mayor in November 2015. She was a concerned citizen who decided she could do better for the City of Flint. While not a politician by trade, Mayor Weaver understood the emotional trauma experienced by the city from her time working in the field of psychology. This experience has helped her to navigate the politics of local, state, and national government, as well as work with the media to focus attention on the crisis and get Flint the help it so desperately needs.
She credits a strong family support system and faith for giving her the strength to take on the daunting task of running for mayor in a city with a major health crisis. “Prepare yourself. Don’t be scared. Try new things,” she said. Her first order of business in taking back control of the city was to declare a State of Emergency. “I said it was what I was going to do, so I did it,” she said about the action. “I had conversations with God, and I knew I wouldn’t be alone.”
Faith has been a major comfort and support for Mayor Weaver as she begins the arduous process of reclaiming Flint. She has also made sure to surround herself with strong women (and a few men) as she seeks to correct the mistakes of the State-appointed Emergency Manager. The city implemented a “Fast Start” program, replacing lead pipes that were most harmful to pregnant women and children. By sometime in August, the replacement of the rest of the pipes should be under way.
The state has given Flint $30 million to cover water bills until the water is safe again. It has also given $25 million that will go to the infrastructure of the city, and it will give an additional $140 million to fund programs.
Already, the Mayor and her team are discussing early childhood literacy programs and Head Start, as children with lead in their system may suffer from poor development and need the extra support of educational programs. Additionally, the city is working with Michigan Works and Mott Community College to create apprenticeships and classes for students who wish to learn the plumbing trade. “We have built in jobs, and if we don’t turn this situation into a positive for the City, we’ve failed,” Mayor Weaver said, with hope that Flint may be used as a template for any other city that finds itself in a crisis such as this.
With the whirlwind of activity that has surrounded her since she first declared a State of Emergency for Flint, the Mayor says that she has to take one step at a time, or risk getting overwhelmed by the entire process. When asked about her biggest challenge right now, she said, “Patience. This is taking too long.” There is some relief amongst the Citizens of Flint, but trust and confidence in the leadership will take time to rebuild. Mayor Weaver wants the city to know, “I’ll tell you good news. I’ll tell you bad news. I’ll tell you if there is no news. The citizens of this city have been lied to long enough, and right now people just need the truth.”
Donations of water are still being accepted. For more information on where to volunteer, or to donate water or money to families affected by the Flint Water Crisis, visit:
Rachel Laurie is from Montrose, MI and currently works in the Genesee County Clerk’s Office in Flint, MI. She has History degrees from the University of Michigan and American Military University. Rachel is a self-professed nerd with interests in video gaming, comic books, and all things internet related.
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