Ann Arbor, MI–Flint residents recounted and relived some of their worst experiences from the Flint water crisis in front of the US District Court, where Judge Judith Levy will make the decision on whether or not to preliminarily approve a $641 million settlement from the state of Michigan.
The demonstration, which started at 1 p.m. at the steps of the Ann Arbor Federal Building, saw the attendance of over 30 Flintstones. With the help of a megaphone, citizens took turns going over the effects the water crisis had on them, their friends and their family.
Though Levy was not present during the demonstration, many attendees spoke about the importance of having their voices heard, even though they questioned if anyone was listening.
“I hope that Judge Levy hears us … not just judge Levy but everybody, the entire world. We’ve been screaming for seven years and now we’re at a point where we could possibly get some type of relief from this water crisis,” said Joelena Freeman, a Flint resident and mother of three who gave her testimony at the steps of the court.
“But really, it’s not a relief. I can only imagine that the 600 (million) is just not enough … we can’t know, the attorneys said they can’t know,” said Freeman in reference to the fact attorneys have not specified the amount of money individual citizens would be receiving. How the money will be dispersed is complicated, but Freeman’s sentiments echo that of many Flint residents who say the settlement amount is just not enough.
Councilman Eric Mays, who spoke at the event called the settlement amount “not adequate, fair and reasonable.” By his calculations, which have not been confirmed, Mays says after lawyer fees, which he estimates to be about 30% of the settlement, only $400 million will be left to the city.
After taking into account how the city plans on disbursing the money, he says citizens eligible to receive money from the settlement will get no more than $500.
“We know in the adult category, three percent property, they even put a $1000 cap on that. If you do the arithmetic on three percent of $400 million … it’s about $12 to $14 million,” Mays said. “You divide that between 30,000 water customers, you’re not even at $1000 … “
Mays noted that for children, for whom there is a larger pool of money and smaller pool of eligible recipients, that settlement money may be higher, around $1600. Despite this, Mays says current numbers are too low.
Freeman and Mays were joined by other speakers like Lela McGee-Harvey, co-founder of Operation Unification, a development company based in Flint. Harvey says her business suffered greatly during the time of Flint’s handling by the Snyder-appointed emergency managers, two of whom were recently charged for their alleged role in the water crisis.
She came to the event in support of all of Flint’s businesses that saw similar negative effects during the height of the water crisis.
“We come in a humble spirit,” said McGee-Harvey. “We don’t come to say she (Levy) is not doing her job, we came to say ‘please remember us’ … Her decision is going to set the template for the rest of the money that is to come and we’re asking her to put the residents first.”