Flint Cong. Dan Kildee says all Americans should be focused on the water emergency in his city. Today, Pres. Barack Obama spends the afternoon in Flint. We talk Cong. Kildee about the visit and about his proposal for tougher federal lead standards for drinking water.
Pres. Obama is visiting Flint today to see firsthand the effects of lead contamination in the city’s drinking water. The president is vowing more federal aid for residents, and says the government will be there for them in the long term. But many in Flint who’ve been coping with the contamination for two years believe the president’s visit is too little, too late.
Cong. Dan Kildee is a Democrat from Flint. He’s travelling with the president today. Recently Kildee has sponsored legislation that would lower the threshold for lead-tainted water that would require the federal government to step in.
Current State speaks with Cong. Kildee as he prepared to fly home to Michigan aboard Air Force One.
What is the purpose of Obama’s visit?
“Hopefully it’s to bring more attention to this case. A lot of us have been concerned that the spotlight would fade. Having the President of the United States come to Flint will obviously have a big impact on that. Further, it’s a chance for him to hear directly from the people of my community. He’ll be able to understand the human dimension of this tragedy. I’m very happy that the President is coming. I hope it translates into some real help for the people of Flint.” -- Dan Kildee
On who President Obama will meet with
“He will meet with some of the families that have been affected by the crisis. He’ll meet with the agencies that are coordinating the response on the ground. My understanding is that the Governor may join that particular meeting - along with myself, Senator [Gary] Peters and Senator [Debbie] Stabenow. President Obama will address a larger crowd of people from the area at Northwestern High School in the afternoon.” -- Kildee
How is politics getting in the way of that effort?
“Most of the focus seems to be blame shifting. The Republican chairman of the oversight committee who excoriated the EPA, said it was their fault. The very next day, when asked if that meant the federal government had a responsibility to fix it, he said ‘No, this was a state-created problem.’ That kind of double talk is just politics, and it has no place when we’re talking about a community crisis.” — Kildee
On the response to his proposed bill that would increase water quality standards
“I think there’s a lot of concern about it. This is one of those areas where Governor Snyder and I agree. He proposed a higher standard for the State of Michigan. I think it should be even higher - and higher at a federal level. The concern isn’t so much that the standard is wrong; but whether or not this country has the will to make the investments to improve water systems so the standard can be met.
I proposed a phase-in plan over ten years to go from 15 parts per billion down to five. If we can’t figure out in the next decade how to improve these water systems that are falling apart, then we’re not really living up to our obligation to the people we work for.” -- Kildee
On Governor Snyder drinking Flint water
“Well, it’s a nice gesture. I can’t fault him for drinking Flint water. A public relations stunt like that is such a small step when you think about all the things they’re not doing. It’s obvious that the Governor’s first response when this crisis began was to hire two public relations firms. He’s been listening to their advice, when he should have hired hundreds of public health nurses to help the people in Flint. I’m exhausted by the political and public relations effort that the Governor has launched. It’s just tiring - we need real help. We don’t need more photo ops.” -- Kildee