President Obama says he is committed to Flint during Detroit visit

obamaLast Saturday when filmmaker/activist Michael Moore staged a protest rally in his hometown of Flint in front of City Hall, one of  his most impassioned demands was that President Barack Obama make it a priority to personally visit Flint as an extension of his visit to Detroit where the President was expected to visit the Detroit Auto Show on Wednesday.  President Obama’s Auto Show tour was in some ways the early beginnings of a farewell tour where he was able to once again draw attention to one of his greatest – and earliest – accomplishments while in office, namely the salvation of the American auto industry. Few can argue that the Big Three are now back in full force and producing vehicles faster than ever, while also producing jobs for local residents.
But despite Moore’s entreaties, the President was not able to add Flint to the itinerary. However, as he made clear as soon as he took the stage at Detroit’s UAW International Headquarters Flint’s struggles  are very much on his heart and mind. He reminded the audience of the $5 million he has already released in response to Flint being declared an emergency, and he said he will continue to be involved in whatever way he can. He did not address Gov. Snyder’s request to designate Flint as a natural disaster area which would enable the city to be eligible for much more funds.  Obama has denied that request, using the rationale that Flint is not a natural but a man-made disaster which the State government already knew about for nearly a year before finally acting on the situation under considerable pressure. By law, this prevents Flint from being considered a disaster area. Gov. Snyder has asked Obama to reconsider his decision.
Here is what the President said about Flint during the first few minutes of his speech (some words may be lost due to the interruption of applause and/or inability of  the recording to accurately record everything):
“I want to talk for a second about what’s happening in Flint. You know .I am very proud of what I’ve done as President, but the only job that’s more important to me is the job of father. And I know that if I was a parent I would be beside myself if my kids’ health would be at risk. That’s why over the weekend I declared a [state of] emergency in Flint. To send more resources on top of the assistance that they’ve already gotten. Designated a coordinator to make sure the people of Flint get what they need from their country. Yesterday, I met with Mayor Weaver, in the White House in the Oval Office. I told her that we are going to have her back and all the people of Flint’s back, as they work their way through this terrible tragedy. It is a reminder of why you can’t shortchange basic services that we provide to our people and that we together provide as a government.”
Earlier in the day, Obama also granted an interview with CBS News correspondent Lee Cowan for a CBS Sunday Morning interview which will be broadcast on Sunday, Jan. 24. According to the Detroit Free Press, this is what the President had to say  during that interview as he spoke in more detail about his reaction to the Flint crisis, which he described as “inexcusable”:
“What is inexplicable and inexcusable is once people figured out there was a problem and that there was lead in the water. The notion that immediately families were not notified, things were not shut down — that shouldn’t happen anywhere,” Obama said. “It’s also an indication that sometimes we downplay the role that an effective government has to play in protecting public health and safety of people and clearly the system broke down.”
Certainly it would have been great if President Obama could have made time to visit Flint, but considerably more important that the symbolic value of him showing his face at the scene was his face-to-face meeting with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on Tuesday, which she initially indicated last week she had no assurances was even going to happen. Actions always speak louder than words, and we will need to await the actions of the Obama administration following up on his supportive words. But for now, the people of Flint – including Michael Moore – should feel at least somewhat vindicated, as well as comforted, by the President’s willingness to speak out on their behalf and to meet with Mayor Weaver.

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