This story out of Flint, Michigan is so wrong, so astoundingly and obviously unethical, such a satire of government ineptitude at its worst and bureaucratic soullessness at its most damning, that I literally didn’t believe that it could be anything but a momentary hiccup, and that it would be resolved by the state, the city, an elected leader with guts and the sense God gave a mollusk, within a day or two, after the voices of millions were heard screaming. “WHAT????”
I was wrong. You want to know why it is insane to place your freedom, health, livelihood and survival and that of your families in the hands of government? THIS is why. Exactly this.
Thousands of Flint, Michigan residents risk losing their homes if they don’t pay their overdue water bills less than three years since the start of a prolonged, botched, water safety crisis that led to extremely dangerous levels of lead in the city’s water pipes. In a move that will stand through the ages as the epitome of shamelessness and gall, the Flint government sent threatening letters to more than 8,000 residents warning them they will face a tax lien if they do not pay water and sewage bills they have avoided for six months or more. Residents have until May 19 to pay the delinquent bills, and after that, a process begins that could end with foreclosure on their homes. Flint sends these letters annually to property owners whose payments are at least six months late, but skipped this process in 2016, given that the water the residents weren’t paying for was only technically water at all. The better label was “poison.” This year’s letters cover two years of past-due balances.
After the full danger and disgrace of the water crisis was revealed , Michigan subsidized the city’s bills by providing Flint residents with a water credit. Gov. Rick Snyder, who hardly has clean hands in this epic fiasco that goes all the way to Washington D.C. and the EPA, ended the credits in February. Meanwhile, The water in Flint has is still not safe to drink or cook with, and many families buy bottled water for everything.
“I must say, I agree with those who have spoken out against this process. I have met with our Interim City Attorney and Finance Director and they say the city is obligated by local ordinance to follow this procedure, and we must follow the law,” Flint’s pathetic Mayor Karen Weaver said in a statement . “I am working to see if any changes or something can be done to help those affected by this, especially given the extraordinary circumstances we have endured due to the water crisis.”
Well that’s comforting! The mayor is trying to see if there is some way to avoid doing what she admits is unjust, unfair and moronic, which is a fair description for threatening people if they don’t pay for their non-use of poisoned water. Here’s a “way.” Mayor: don’t threaten the victims. Don’t send the letters. Make it clear that since this was the city’s fault (and the state’s, and a lot of incompetent state employees…), whatever needs to be done to mitigate the damage to the people of Flint, rather than, you know, magnify it. Don’t tell us that you agree with the critics of what you are doing and that it’s really terrible but you’re going to do it anyway.
City officials say they are in a tough situation and need the two years of unpaid bills totaling more than $5 million dollars. “We’re in a tough spot (so this justifies us screwing you)” is not an ethical argument. Billing people for water they could not drink and would get sick if they did is not an ethical solution. The city government is trying to make its problem the problem of the victims in this disaster, and bleating, “We have no choice!”
It is obligated not only to cancel those water bills. It is obligated to refund the bills of the citizens who paid for water that was contaminated. How does the city then pay its bills? Gee, I don’t know: they are the alleged professionals at governing. But Flint can’t do it this way.