Just when the water crisis in Flint seemed like it couldn’t get any worse, the state of Michigan has recently passed new legislature that all but removes the city’s ability to sue the state.
The new rules came shortly after Flint Mayor Karen Weaver notified state government officials that her city might file a lawsuit against the State of Michigan. In the days following her notice, Michigan wasted no time at all in changing the rules by which Flint is governed. Now, the city will not be able to file a lawsuit unless it is first approved by a state-appointed board. Clearly, this kind of arrangement will have a predictable outcome: Flint will never be able to sue the state. The only way the city may have a fighting chance is if it is able to provide insurmountable evidence of the state’s wrongdoing.
However, given the Flint government’s own role in the water crisis, it seems unlikely that they would be able to do so.
Darnell Earley, the Democrat who served as Flint’s emergency manager, maintains that the decisions to end Flint’s deal with Detroit and temporarily rely on the Flint River for water “were both a part of a long-term plan that was approved by Flint’s mayor, and confirmed by a City Council vote of 7–1 in March of 2013 — a full seven months before I began my term as emergency manager,” according to National Review.
There is a lot of evidence of wrongdoing on all sides when it comes to the Flint water crisis; the blame does not lie solely at the feet of the state government. National Review reports that the EPA knew about the high amounts of lead in the water for months and never said anything about it, and that the municipal officials in Flint responsible for monitoring the water supply also failed to do their jobs. Flint was in a state of crisis for a very long time, even before the water supply contamination was exposed. There are many people who are responsible for what happened in Flint – the local government is not exempt from that.
It is totally unconstitutional for a state to revoke a city’s ability to sue them. Having to put your grievances before a state-appointed group of individuals to see if your complaints are “worthy” is not how this country is supposed to be run. However, one also has to wonder how the Flint government can honestly say that what transpired in their city was not the direct result of their own failures, and a testament to the perils of corruption.
In reality, the only people who should be suing anybody are the citizens of Flint – and they should be suing their own government, the Department of Environmental Quality and the EPA.