Flint City Administrator pens letter in response to claims of bribery

August 31, 2017

Open Letter to the Editor:

On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, Lakeisha Williams and Nancy Burgher made false, untrue allegations under oath in court about Mayor Dr. Karen W. Weaver and her City Administrator, Sylvester Jones, Jr. While it’s important to note that both ladies lied under oath, which is a crime in this country, it is also important to understand how such actions harm the larger community.

Since the false allegations were made, I have received hundreds of telephone calls and text messages from people across the country to encourage me to hang in there and not to be distracted by these allegations. Quite frankly, the allegations shook me to my core! Anyone who really knows me understands that I live a principled life. I have strong convictions of right and wrong and I will do anything in my power to help others.

I accepted an appointment in the Weaver Administration because I know she lives a principled life as well. While I knew the challenges before us would be daunting, I had no idea that I would be confronted with such a clear battle of good versus evil. That’s right, the false allegations made in court on Tuesday, August 29th against me and Mayor Weaver is a clear indicator that we are fighting a spiritual fight and this is Good versus Evil.

Having painted the picture for you, the question is not whether the false allegations are true or not. At this point, the question is where do you stand? The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated and I quote, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.” In the City of Flint, we are at a time of challenge and controversy so the question is, where do you stand?

Good people, where do you stand? In this context, I am not referring to everyone. I am talking directly to those people who believe they have a good heart. This is not about politics! This is not about race! This is not about religion and this is not about economics! This fight is about principles! If you believe you are a good person it’s now time that you stand up and fight for good people.

Mayor Weaver and I are trying to do the right thing. Will we make mistakes? Absolutely. Many years ago I was taught that anyone who is doing anything will make mistakes. The more important question is, “Are we TRYING to do the right thing for residents of the City of Flint?” The overwhelming answer to that question is ABSOLUTELY! While we are trying to do the right thing by the residents of the City of Flint, it is obvious that we will make some mistakes BUT it is important that everyone understands that we are principled leaders who desire to do the right thing.

As you consider the truthfulness of the allegations made against Mayor Weaver and I just remember why you elected her. Most of you elected Mayor Karen W. Weaver as your Mayor because you knew she has a good heart. That has not changed!

I accepted this appointment with the Mayor because I know she has a good heart and every day she and I are showing up to work with the sole intentions of doing what is in the best interest of the residents of Flint.

In closing, it is important that you know that the false allegations made by Ms. Williams and Ms. Burgher in court on Tuesday, August 29th are FALSE. More importantly, it is important that you know that the Mayor and I are principled leaders who want to do the right thing. Neither of us would sacrifice our freedom and/or our families for an election. Moreover, ask yourself, “Where is the proof that such a bribe took place?”

Ms. Williams says that she stopped getting signatures yet she is still a resident of the City of Flint. Ms. Burgher said I promised her a damage claim yet there is no record of a damage claim being approved for Ms. Burgher. The facts speak for themselves. We are principled leaders who desire to do the right thing for the residents of Flint.

As Joshua 24:15 states, “Choose this day whom you will serve!” Will you choose Good or Evil? Your actions – from this point forward – will answer this question! Mayor Weaver and I have made the decision to fight for Good. To live for Good and to be a blessing to God’s people.

In Service,

Sylvester Jones, Jr.

City Administrator

Online fundraisers help Flint bookstore give back to the community

FLINT, MI – Citing the need to fund several community programs, Flint’s only bookstore, Totem Books, recently launched an online fundraising campaign.

While Totem Books is involved in several charitable programs, including offering a section in their store of free books for “visitors who may not always have extra dollars in their budget to make a purchase,” Dean Yeotis, owner of Totem Books, says that the fundraiser is necessary to the continuation of the programs as he is the bookstore’s sole investor.

“We’ve never received a grant or any type of financial incentive or anything like that from anybody,” said Yeotis. “I believe that our community needs people to help, and that’s what I’m trying to do. It makes me feel good, and I feel like there’s a definite benefit to the community.”

After forming a partnership with Flint’s Mass Transit Authority and several nonprofit organizations, Totem Books installed five “bus stop reading benches,” which allow citizens access to free books while waiting on the arrival of their bus. If the fundraising goal is met, Yeotis says that $3,000 of the funds will go towards maintaining these benches for one year.

Additionally, Yeotis says that $6,000 of the funds being raised will be used to host several free events for the community, including open mic nights, book signings by local authors, weekly readings of children’s books, and more.

Totem Books is currently trying to launch a program that will provide local individuals with training in various trade skills, which Yeotis says will “equip them with the ability to assist Totem’s path to sustainability while providing them with a marketable skill.” $5,000 of the fundraising goal is earmarked to pilot the project.

Other commitments given include $5,000 to support local programs and organizations that Totem Books has partnered with, $6,000 for community outreach, and $10,000 to help offset operational costs.

Totem Books is the sole bookstore in Flint, a fact that Yeotis says makes the business and its charitable programs even more important.

“I think a good independent bookstore is vital to any community. I’ve always felt that it’s a quality of life issue,” Yeotis said. “Independent bookstores are the type of places where you can do everything from bringing very interesting creative people together to collaborate on concepts and ideas to an individual transforming their lives through the power of the right book to someone falling in love at the bookstore. These are the things that make independent bookstores special. As Flint continues to transform itself into more of a college town atmosphere, I think that a quality independent bookstore like Totem is an important piece of the puzzle.”

“Indie bookstores are crucial to have in any community. In so many cases they can act as a social hub, a meeting place, a provider of knowledge, or just a place to loiter and browse the aisles,” said Edith Frost, who donated to the campaign from Austin, Texas and says that she one day hopes to visit Totem Books. “Totem [Books] seems extra special as a community hub, bringing all kinds of goodness to the neighborhood and the whole city.”

In a 2015 interview with the Flint Journal, Yeotis said of his decision to purchase and gut a liquor store in the heart of Flint and turn it into a book store that sometimes “a man has to have brains enough to recognize the impossibility of a situation, yet heart enough to proceed anyway,” quoting author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Asked to reflect on this, Yeotis said that “when I made that statement, I took that seriously because I recognized that there were a lot of logical pieces missing from the decision to open this business, and if my heart had not been essentially the decision maker I never would have made that decision. Do I regret making the decision? That is something that I am definitely not prepared to say yes to.”

“We’re never sure what’s going to happen in life as a result of our choices. All we can do is know that we chose the path with the heart and followed it to the best of our ability. After all is said and done, if you can look at yourself in the mirror and say that then I think that you can feel pretty good about yourself.”

The campaign, which has a goal of $35,000, is scheduled to end on Saturday, Sep. 21 and can be found here.

Judge questions police tactics, alleged bribery in fight against efforts to recall Flint Mayor Karen Weaver

Witnesses in a hearing fighting recall efforts against Flint Mayor Karen Weaver say they were called by Flint Police to appear in court on Tuesday morning – A move that a Genesee County Judge says is alarming and “threatens the credibility of their testimony.”

During the Aug. 29, 2017 hearing, witnesses claimed they were summoned by on-duty City of Flint Police Officers to appear in court that morning to testify in a civil suit filed by Weaver’s attorney, Kendall Williams, that alleges there are discrepancies and missing dates on petitions.

Williams had about 20 witnesses lined up for the Aug. 29 hearing.

“You get people who get nervous on the witness stand and I think that happened today,” Williams said after the hearing. “But you know some people just didn’t show up.”

“No arms were twisted, it was just a lot of people who volunteered to show up,” Williams said regarding Genesee County Judge Geoffrey L. Neithercut’s questioning of the credibility of the witnesses. “I believe he said it may affect his judgment on the credibility of those witnesses, not our case.”

Every witness called testified that they did sign the recall petition, of the three that were asked if they dated the signature correctly one said they did not put a date on the petition.

One particular exchange between circulator and witness Lakeshia Williams came into to question when she testified that Flint City Administer Sylvester Jones allegedly agreed to help her move out of her neighborhood if she stopped collecting recall petitions.

“I initiated the contact with Sylvester Jones,” Lakeshia Williams said. “It was because of a rash on my arm, and I know there are a lot of people trying to sue the City of Flint. I just went down there to see if I could be relocated.”

According to Lakeshia Williams, Jones told her he would “see what he could do.”

“And then asked me to stop doing the petitions,” she added.

Lakeshia Williams said she met with Jones on three occasions and that the Weaver was present for one of those meetings.

“As I met Ms. Karen Weaver, you know… I felt something real, some sort of sympathy,” said Lakeshia Williams. “You can see it was like two weeks from when I got [the signatures] to when I turned them in because I was debating on whether turn them in or not. It was because they were basically trying to bribe me not to turn them in.”

Lakeshia Williams said she had three meetings with city officials including Jones, Weaver and a plain clothes Flint Police officer.

“I had three at the most,” Lakeshia Williams said. “They also said they would have somebody come out and fix my apartment, which [Jones] did have someone come out and look at it but nothing was ever fixed.”

Jones did say in an earlier interview with Flint Beat that he and Weaver met with Williams but he denied claims that Williams was asked to drop recall signature efforts.

“I did try to help that woman,” Jones said. “I even made calls to help her move but I never asked her to stop collecting signatures.”

Lakeshia  Williams, who also spoke with Flint Beat earlier this month, said she was detained by the Flint Police Department on August 10, 2017, for at least two hours and questioned about signatures she obtained regarding recalling Weaver.

“I have been collecting signatures for about 10 years and this is the first time I’ve ever had a problem,” she told Flint Beat. “I didn’t even collect that many signatures.” She said Flint Police officers had visited people living in her community on Flint’s south side and was told by neighbors that the police was looking for her which prompted her to head to the Flint Police Department on Aug.10, 2017 where she was questioned by Detective Tyrone Booth.

“Where I live that could be dangerous,” Williams who lives in Atherton East said. “I feared for my life. I can’t have my neighbors thinking I had the police sent to their house.”

Police issued a press release saying the department was investigating complaints alleging that residents were misled when signing the recall petition against Weaver.

Since then, residents have said they have been visited by police officers regarding the recall effort against Weaver.

Booth told Flint Beat that the department could not comment during an ongoing investigation but did not deny that Williams had been detained by Flint Police.

Weaver’s attorney claimed that Lakeshia Williams allegedly filled in dates and misled signees.

“I would never do that,” she said. “I’ve been doing this too long. I know the rules.”

Questions arose from Kendall Williams over whether certain signatures can be accepted from Lakeisha Williams because of missing dates like in the case of mother and son, Evelyn Spence and Jequell Norfleet, who agreed they signed the petition, but could not recall dating their signatures.

Another witness, Alisha Newsome said she remembers clearly that she did not date her signature and Tanisha Breedlove who didn’t recall what date she signed because she couldn’t remember if she signed at all, until being shown her signature on the witness stand.

All the witnesses that were petition signees, agreed they signed the petition to recall Weaver and said they were all contacted by Flint Police to appear in court.

“They knocked on my door,” said Breedlove. “I don’t associate with people when my door is closed and they just knocked on my door.”

Breedlove said the first time she ever learned there was an issue with her petition signature is when Flint Police arrived at her home.

Kendall Williams, who after the second hearing regarding the issue on Aug. 25, 2017, said he was confident that his team would be able to show that nearly 200 signatures were invalid, couldn’t explain the police efforts in the case on Aug. 29.

“I can’t speak to that your honor,” Williams said to Neithercut when asked about the police department’s involvement in calling witnesses to testify.

“Wow,” Neithercut said in response to Kendall Williams lack of explanation. “That may affect credibility issues on this case.”

After the Aug. 25 hearing, Williams told media that the witnesses came from voluntary phone calls and he had nothing to do with the police investigation being conducted by Flint Police into the recall effort.

But the Aug. 29 witness testimony left Neithercut questioning the credibility of the witness Kendall Williams had lined up for the hearing.

“I have a concern about what is being said here,” he said. “In civil suits the statute says we authorize either the county sheriff or a civil process server, to serve subpoenas. I don’t understand why you have City of Flint Police Officers involved in a civil suit. What’s that all about?”

Neithercut asked both parties to have witness summaries submitted to his court by Tuesday, September 5.

Flint City Council says ‘no’ to funding PR firm for program to replace city’s pipes

FLINT, MI –Flint City Council members say an initiative to replace the city’s pipes doesn’t need help from an outside public relations firm.

In a 7 – 1 vote on Aug. 14 council members turned down a $92,000 request by Flint Mayor Karen Weaver to continue using Lansing-based Martin Waymire for public relations services regarding the mayor’s pipe replacement program, FAST Start.

In June, the Flint City Council voted 8 to 1 to postpone expanding funding to Martin Waymire, a Lansing-based public relations firm. Waymire was hired in August of last year for Mayor Weaver’s FAST Start lead pipe removal Initiative. The change order is to the tune of $92,500, this puts the contract at a total of $160,000, total. The previous contract with the city was signed in March and was for $67,500 for the year. 

“I don’t believe we need to be spending that kind of money on public relations, I think the programs in place and moving fine,” said Councilman Scott Kincaid in June. “We don’t need to spend anymore money with Waymire.

Kincaid then said he believes Flint’s public relations officer Kristin Moore is “paid well.”

 “I don’t think we need this outside firm now,” Kincaid said. “This is well within her capacity, personally I think we could use those funds to cut down on folks water bills.”

Moore said in an email that, “the agreement with Waymire is for the FAST Start pipe replacement initiative,” only and that, “employee’s from the firm are not involved in the day-to-day public relations/information/communications operations for the City of Flint.”

“There isn’t one medium that works best for communications of a project of this size,” said FAST Start Coordinator, General Michael CH McDaniel.  According to McDaniel, the firm volunteered their time to the city since March 2016,” before formally entering into a contract with the city.

Martin Waymire was put on retainer at $5,625 per month. The new contract of $13,214.29 per month would have run from  August 2017 to March 31, 2018.

David Waymire, senior partner at the firm said the cost was quite low and a ‘good deal’ for the city, during a June interview.

“We’re trying to leave it open in terms of cost for the printed stuff,” Waymire said. “We don’t make any money off of that and that is an expensive but required component.” Waymire said the additional social media fee of $2,500 a month was, “a necessary and unfortunately time-consuming responsibility.” He also said that there was a 41,000 per month in Facebook promotions. we also have a $1,000 a month for Facebook promotions.”

 “As the contractors get closer to an area, we don’t want to have those teams perform another door-to-door canvas again, we’d like to have them get in there and get right to work,” Waymire said.

The funds come from a $500,000 contract with the state for Weaver’s pipe replacement program. A communication plan was required by the Environmental Protection Agency for Flint to move forward with the pipe replacement initiative.

McDaniels said d that much of what is needed in terms of communication must be handled from a day-to-day week-to-week basis with “many changing factors involved.” Saying, “people don’t communicate by one medium anymore and we need to reach people as fast as possible,” he said.

“People don’t communicate by one medium anymore and we need to reach people as fast as possible,” he said.“The job is also two-pronged it’s to helps us advocate for outside funding and to work with people in the community as well.The group is putting out information not just to advise members of the community over social media, but we’re also advising them about what is happening on the ground in a particular neighborhood, that goes with the signage, the door hangers and everything else that is required, which is too much for any one person to do.”  

Flint City Councilman Eric Mays was the only supporting vote for Weaver’s request. Councilwoman Kate Fields was absent from the Aug. 14 meeting.

 

Communities First, Inc. to hold street art competition this weekend during Back to the Bricks

FLINT, MI–  Communities First, Inc. is hosting Art on the Bricks and a parking fundraiser this weekend in conjuncition with the city’s annual Back to the Bricks festivities in downtown Flint.

Art on the Bricks, a street art competition, will begin at the University of Michigan-Flint Outdoor Rink located at 303 S. Saginaw Street.  Artists from Flint, Detroit and Lansing will compete for $1000 in prizes. The audience will have the opportunity to meet the artists, observe the creative process and see the pieces being judged.  

Artists will use aerosol paint and have less than 24 hours to create their masterpieces. New this year, guests will be able to try their hand at street art on the Community Board. This event is a part of the organization’s Culture Shock program and will introduce thousands of attendees to a unique art form.

Artists in the competition will begin sketching and prep work on Friday, August 18 from 5:00pm-9:00pm and final touches will occur on Saturday, August 19 from 8:00am-2:00pm. Judging and prizes will take place at 2:15pm on Saturday. Pieces will be on display until 4pm. Art on the Bricks is made possible through the generous support of Hagerman Foundation and Community Foundation of Greater Flint.

Fundraiser

Through a relationship with TeamOne Credit Union, Communities First, Inc. will be at the TeamOne parking lot raising money for Communities First, Inc.  For a minimum donation of $5, guests can park in the TeamOne parking lot at 606 Stevens Street to help support the work of Communities First.  Parking lot hours are Saturday, August 20 from 7:00am-3:00pm. All money collected directly benefits Communities First programming.

Communities First, Inc. is a non-profit organization and contributions are tax deductible.

For more information about Communities First, Inc. visit their website at ww.communitiesfirstinc.org.

Ford Motor Company Fund grant helps Kettering University, east side center develop solar-powered irrigation system

FLINT, MI – The Ford Motor Company Fund has awarded Kettering University and the Asbury Community Development Center in Flint $25,000 to integrate productive solar energy systems to scale up urban gardening efforts in the community. The award is part of the Ford College Community Challenge (C3).

“Nutrition is a big issue for people in our community,” said Pastor Tommy McDoniel. “Then the water crisis hit. With proper nutrition, many of those negative side effects can be kept dormant.”

“Our desired outcome is to enhance the understanding of the potential of solar energy to provide sustainable solutions in the community while enhancing residents’ access to proper nutrition in Flint.”

In response to the nutrition issues in the Eastside neighborhoods in Flint, Asbury purchased and leased land in the neighborhood surrounding Asbury Church from the Genesee County Land Bank and constructed a hoop house to provide year-round access to healthy food options.

Now, Kettering students will assist with the project by installing solar-assisted irrigation systems for the community gardens. The proposed project will also use surface rain catchment to collect water.

“With the sustainable method of collecting rain water, we can really turn this project into a large-scale process, into a large-scale business involving the community,” said Noah Lukins ‘18.

Lukins believes that Kettering students will be able to apply the engineering skills learned in the classroom and from their co-op employers to provide leadership and expertise on the project.

Support from the Ford Motor Company Fund will lead to the development and installation of the solar technology. The ultimate goal of the project is to implement sustainable technologies in urban gardens in Flint to improve urban agricultural outputs and enhance access to healthy food for residents in Flint.

Each year, 10 Ford C3 grants of $25,000 are awarded by Ford Motor Company Fund to colleges and universities. The winning proposals address an unmet community need tied to driving social mobility, changing the way people move through smart mobility and building sustainable communities. Overall, the program is designed to empower college students to inspire community-building projects addressing pressing local needs. The Ford C3 is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017.

The foundation of Kettering’s project is a unique partnership between Kettering faculty and students and a community non-profit in Flint. Dr. Laura Sullivan, Mechanical Engineering faculty member, is driving the collaboration by connecting Kettering students with community initiatives.

“This is an opportunity for students to demonstrate leadership in the community with an emphasis on sustainability. I’m looking forward to seeing Noah leading other Kettering students to engage residents of Flint about the potential of solar energy to help pump water for urban gardens,” Sullivan said. “Our desired outcome is to enhance the understanding of the potential of solar energy to provide sustainable solutions in the community while enhancing residents’ access to proper nutrition in Flint.”

For more information about Kettering University visit their website here.

 

(Written By Pardeep Toor | Contact: Pardeep Toor – ptoor@kettering.edu – (810) 762-9639)

 

First-ever Flint Homecoming happening this week

FLINT, MI — For the first time ever, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce and its partners will host Flint Homecoming, bringing together Flint expatriates from across the country to the invitation-only, one-and-a-half-day event.

The event will feature panel discussions, site tours, networking opportunities and more.

Flint Homecoming is designed to provide opportunities to reconnect, rediscover and invest in the future of the Flint area. The event will be held on Aug. 17 at the GM Durant-Dort Factory One, 303 W. Water St. For more information about Flint Homecoming click here.

Expected speakers include:

    Speakers

  • Host Committee Co-Chairs:
    • Phil Hagerman, Diplomat CEO;
    • Tim Herman, Flint & Genesee Chamber CEO
  • Flint Mayor Dr. Karen Weaver
  • Rich Baird, Senior Advisor to the Gov. Snyder
  • Lt. Gov. Brian Calley
  • Ridgway White, President, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
  • Mary Kramer, Group Publisher, Crain’s Detroit Business & Crain’s Cleveland Business
  • Mark Reuss, GM Executive Vice-President of Global Product Development, Purchasing & Supply Chain

                       

Opinion: HOLY WATER? City’s water crisis leads to suppression of Flint voices

In Flint, Michigan you hear a lot about the word “trust.” Trust that the State of Michigan is sorry and has your best interests at heart (despite poisoning you). Trust that “transformation manager” Rich Baird, a Snyder advisor, cares about you because he is from the city of Flint (despite making more than 3 times what the average Flint household makes per year). Trust that back-door deals and meetings behind closed doors is the only way to get things done in this crisis because if you just trust the state (and city of Flint administration) blindly, you’ll be just fine.

Aaron Foote is a graduate student and long-time Flint resident writing a doctoral dissertation on the Flint Water Crisis.

This demand for blind trust is met with outrage, cynicism, and activism. The tipping point of this cynicism: on January 10th, 2017, the city administration, state, and Environmental Protection Agency held a closed-door meeting in Chicago (which the city tried to rectify by holding a half-assed Flint community meeting-about-the-meeting).

The continual exclusion of the city council and the refusal to let even a few community representatives (a citizens advisory board if you will) sit at the table to make these decisions has driven people to activism, outrage, and protest.

So when I heard about the Town Hall meeting that Flint Mayor Karen Weaver had planned April 20, 2017, I was optimistic. She had announced a week earlier that the city had come to an informed decision about where it would purchase water going forward, but was still very interested in the community’s response. A town hall meeting to me seemed like a strong indication that the mayor was serious about including the community on decisions going forward.

That was until I stepped foot in the House of Prayer church on a cold, rainy Thursday on the north end of the city.

I have to admit that I was initially skeptical of having a town hall meeting in a church. The city has a city hall that can fit hundreds of citizens and we also have plenty of other public venues in the city: Mott Community College, the University of Michigan-Flint, and the city’s esteemed Whiting Auditorium are viable alternatives. But I went in with an open mind; after all, much of the city’s population is concentrated on the north end, so it seemed totally plausible to me that the choice of venue was more about location than religion.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I entered the sanctuary of the church to find no less than 15 officers, most in SWAT regalia, but others in city issue uniform, and a few (the mayor’s security detail) in dress attire with a badge pin on the lapel of their suit coats. I became uneasy.

Why were so many police necessary at a community event in a church? It didn’t take long for that question to be answered by none other than Timothy Johnson, the city’s chief of police.

“I’m not gonna play with ya’ll tonight!” were the words he uttered as he then instructed men (and only men) to remove their hats in the sanctuary, that there would be no foul language (as this was a church) and that if anyone was asked to be removed he was escorting them to the back door, and then if they interfered any longer with the meeting he was taking them to the jail. (By the end of the evening a half-dozen people had been arrested.)

If the opening prayer wasn’t enough of a reminder that the Town Hall meeting was going to be restrictive, play by religious doctrine, and seek to suppress the perspectives of many residents of the city, the Police chief’s warning made it clear. Which begs the question: was this meeting really about hearing community concern?

It would seem that if the mayor (and state) were interested in hearing the perspectives of all of the city’s residents that they would’ve found a venue that would be able to accommodate the anger, frustration, concern, militancy, and religious diversity of all of the city’s residents.

Anyone who violated the religious codes was in trouble, even though people who don’t attend a contemporary Black church may not even know these codes. Choosing a church would only make sense if the aim were to pit city residents against other residents. And that’s EXACTLY what this did.

If you were a man and refused to take your hat off in the sanctuary, you were asked to leave and if you refused, you were arrested. If you cursed, you were asked to leave, and if you objected, you were arrested. If you were loud or angry, you were asked to leave, and then subsequently arrested if you objected.

The most disheartening part: that so many of the city’s residents bought into these religious appeals. Arguments like: the church wasn’t the “right” venue, but if you didn’t like it you shouldn’t have come; that the church has “rules” and if you don’t respect them then you should have been asked to leave (or arrested), were all arguments that were heard both in the pews of the church, and in the discussions that followed outside of it.

Those who defended church rules for the meeting missed that these rules meant that people lacked the ability to deliver their message, to air their grievances, without frustration, despite the Water Crisis being an issue that has decimated their family and community. Even if the entire room agreed with you outside of the church, people were unable to hear you in it because they were blinded by contemporary formalities that exist in the church.

This suppression is both genius and heinous.

Genius in the sense that it suppresses any opposition to establish plans for the city moving forward, but heinous because it does little to answer questions about health insurance, water quality, and poverty.

Thursday night’s Town Hall in the city of Flint was an opportunity to build trust and to move forward as a community. Instead, it was the reiteration of the same petty tactics, strategies, and behaviors that created the distrust in this city.

Let me be clear, until Mayor Weaver, Governor Snyder and the State of Michigan include citizens, the city council, and community activists in the discussions and decision-making processes moving forward, they don’t deserve our trust.

Because trust is more than Rick Baird parading around as being from the city, it’s more than believing in Mayor Weaver because she attends your church functions, it’s more than the state throwing some frivolous amount towards a disaster that they created.

Trust is about inclusion – and throughout this entire process have we been included?

(Aaron Foote is a graduate student and longtime Flint resident writing a doctoral dissertation on the Flint Water Crisis. He can be contacted at acfoote@soc.umass.edu.)

“We can’t undo the damage that has been done by the Snyder,” says candidate for governor
FLINT, MI – Four Democrats vying to be Michigan’s next governor met in Flint, Mich. on Saturday, Aug. 12 evening with messages of hope for the residents who have been affected by the city’s ongoing water crisis.

“We need to elect a governor who will give the [Flint water] crisis the attention it demands. This crisis was caused by bad leadership, followed by incompetence, corruption, and more bad leadership,” state Representative Phil Phelps (D-49), the event’s moderator, said to launch the forum at University of Michigan-Flint. “We are desperately in need of transformational change in our state leadership.”

People in attendance had the opportunity to ask former Senate minority leader Gretchen Whitmer, former executive director of the Detroit Health Department Abdul El-Sayed, entrepreneur Shri Thanedar and former Xerox executive Bill Cobbs a series of questions including inquiries regarding Flint’s water crisis, public education and increasing employment opportunities for college graduates in Michigan.

“We live in a state where the governor has a forty-million-dollar rainy day fund but doesn’t think that Flint is a rainy day,” said Cobbs in his opening remarks.

Flint was the main focus of the forum, and all four candidates offered viewpoints on the city and its path to recovery.

“We can’t undo the damage that has been done by the Snyder administration, but what we can do is provide people a path so that they can be successful and so that they can take care of themselves,” Whitmer said. “This state owes the people of Flint every opportunity to be successful.”

The Flint water crisis has plagued the community since 2014. In fall 2015 health officials announced that Flint children exposed to the city’s water had elevated blood lead levels from being exposed to lead tainted water after state officials switched Flint’s water supply from Detroit to the Flint River

The crisis finally gained national media attention early 2016.

“We need to keep our air clean and our water pure,” Thanedar said. “We need to do everything possible to make sure that we live with a good quality of life, and that means we need to make sure that we keep our air clean and our water pure.”

The water crisis has called for a number of extended benefits including Medicaid coverage for Flint children exposed to the lead tainted water and state run water pods throughout the city providing Flint families with free bottled water.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that everybody who was affected by this water crisis has access to healthcare, up to age 21 and beyond,’ said El-Sayed, who, if victorious, would be the nation’s first Muslim governor. “I will advocate as governor for a Medicare for all program to make sure that literally, everybody in this state has access to that kind of healthcare. That’s something that I promise to Flint, and that’s something that I promise to this state.”

Candidates addressed not only the surface issues of the water crisis but also the underlying forces that are in play and the indirect outcomes. The decision to switch Flint’s water from Detroit to the Flint River happened while the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager which called for Michigan and Flint leaders to question the emergency manager process.

“It has been nothing more than a means of destroying communities that are largely minority based,” said Cobbs of the emergency managers in Michigan. “It was used as a tool to disenfranchise a group of voters who could least afford it.”

Flint has been plagued with ongoing issues including high crime, a troubled school district, and steady population decrease.

“The people of this city have been through so much, and have paid the ultimate price for a failure of government,” said Whitmer. “This is ground zero of why ensuring we elect leaders with experience matters, why we demand accountability from our leadership, why we’ve got to have a governor who cares about people more than nickels and dimes on a balance sheet…You can feel the energy here, people are engaged, and I think that’s extremely positive.”

The forum was sponsored by the Michigan People’s Campaign, Progressive Caucus of Mid-Michigan, Progressive Caucus of Flint and the University of Michigan-Flint College Democrats.

All questions were subject to review by the event organizers, who say they received a number of question submissions but narrowed it down to 35 submissions before the event.

“When I came in I wanted to hear what the four Michigan Democratic candidates had to say,” said Flint resident Jia Ireland, following the event. “I already heard from the majority of them before, but now that I am hearing more of their platforms and stances it really matters and it was good to be here to hear what they had to say so I can make an informed decision when it comes to the election.”

Democratic candidates vying to be Michigan’s governor are set to debate in Flint
FLINT, MI — Four Democratic candidates for governor of Michigan are expected to participate in a Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, debate at the University of Michigan Flint’s Harding Mott University Center in the Kiva room starting at 5:30 p.m.

Candidates Bill Cobbs, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, Shri Thanedar and Gretchen Whitmer are set to participate in the event which is being sponsored by The Michigan People’s Campaign, Progressive Caucus of Mid Michigan, Progressive Caucus of Flint and the University of Michigan-Flint College Democrats.

State Rep. Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, will serve as moderator of the debate.

To submit questions for the candidates please click here.