Flint, MI– A Flint activist and a Flint attorney are each taking action regarding the $641.25 million water lawsuit settlement the City joined two weeks ago.
Flint City Council voted to approve the city joining the settlement with $20 million of insurance funds, to the dismay of many citizens who were disappointed in the terms and amount of the settlement.
Activist Jasmine Hall started making demands to get residents more money and resources out of the settlement, and Attorney Loyst Fletcher has made requests to get residents more information.
Hall said she had been reading about the settlement, and seeing residents voice concerns about it on social media. She decided to organize conversations with Flint community members to discuss the settlement and determine changes that should be made.
“I’m young, I’m healthy, I’m angry, and I’m read to fight,” Hall said.
On Dec. 28, Hall shared videos of her conversations on Facebook.
“I just wanted to let the record say this settlement is wrong,” Hall said in one of the videos. “It’s unjust, it’s unfair, it’s not enough, and it’s not distributed equitably.”
She said the amount needed to be increased by at least threefold, and named healthcare, college, pipe replacement, and in-home fixture replacement as other necessities.
Former Mayor Karen Weaver, who has spoken out against the settlement, was in the video as well.
“This payment is reflective of how little they value our lives, and we’re supposed to get excited about it,” Weaver said.
After several conversations with multiple community activists, Hall pieced together a list of demands. With the help of Hall, Black Millennials 4 Flint, an environmental justice organization, created a petition that makes it easy for residents to send an automated email to Judge Judith Levy urging her not to approve the settlement.
Those demands are:
1) Clean Water. Hall said after speaking with resident and activist Arthur Woodson, she determined that having rigorous water testing would be an important demand.
2) Repair the pipes inside AND outside of homes/residences (including replacement of home appliances). Flint residents need to see a physical change to trust the water again, Hall said.
3) Free health insurance for life that follows individuals even if they relocate and leave the state of Michigan. Hall said this healthcare should not have age or income requirements.
4) $1.5 billion in reparations after lawyer fees. Hall said while she and other activists agreed there was no perfect number, this amount would be more reasonable.
5) Remove the burden of medical proof for all individuals impacted by the crisis. Hall said there are “so many flaws” with the requirement to prove exposure. She said there are issues with accessibility to testing, but also that some medical issues may be difficult or impossible to prove as being related to the water crisis.
“Doctors don’t necessarily say the cancer or kidney disease was directly caused by the water crisis,” Hall said.
Additionally, she said it’s not right that lead and Legionnaires’ disease are the only aspects of the water that are included in the settlement, since other things like, PFAS and TTHMs were issues too.
6) Access to tuition-free college/universities within the State of Michigan. Hall, an epidemiologist and Harvard graduate, said providing a college education would be extremely helpful.
“We’re going to need a work force, and a college education can change your life,” Hall said. “College education for adults and children when they grow up makes a lot of sense, and could give us structural change.”
Hall said if their petitioning and protesting of the settlement doesn’t change the total amount but gets people healthcare or access to a college education, “it would have been worth it to cause a ruckus.”
Judge Levy has said she will be providing her decision mid-January, and will be considering what citizens have to say.
Attorney Fletcher is concerned that residents don’t even have enough information to decide whether or not they want to participate in this settlement.
On Dec. 8, he sent a letter to Special Master Deborah Greenspan requesting more information.
In this letter, Fletcher requested the “estimated payout per adult claim,” and “estimation of the number of adults that will qualify to make a claim.”
Although the settlement provides a breakdown of percentages of funds allotted to each population category, estimations of the actual dollar amount each adult might get have not been provided.
Fletcher said he was told he would be getting a call in response to his letter from Dec. 8, but never did.
He sent another letter on Dec. 31, reminding the Special Master of his previous requests, and requested a copy of the original Master Settlement Agreement (MSA).
“I see no reason to hide the ball,” Fletcher wrote. “…It is only fair that the adult citizen water customers be allowed to review the MSA.”
If that is not possible, Fletcher requested an explanation in writing as to “why the adult citizens cannot have this information.”
“At this stage of the settlement proposal, transparency should be paramount,” Fletcher wrote.
He said he has not yet gotten a response to this letter, and guessed that he’s “being ignored.”
Special Master Greenspan could not be reached in time for publication.