The Flint Water Crisis reflects a progression of what I’ve written about, more theoretically than empirically, in my American Studies article on urban democracy in the age of austerity and money politics. Michigan’s emergency manager law, which represents a difference of degree rather than kind among state actions to limit urban home rule and public democracy, has enabled bottom-line decision-making that risked the health of Flint residents to save relatively trivial amounts of money in the city’s water service. These decisions were made in the absence of locally accountable elected officials, but Flint residents are not going to let the story end there. Protests have hit the state capitol in Lansing, demanding the resignation of Governor Rick Snyder, the champion of the state’s emergency manager law.
The Daily Show has jumped on this in a way that highlights the fundamental cruelty of the cost-cutting decision, though it doesn’t address the emergency management element of the story.
It’s worth mentioning that the emergency manager who made the decision to switch Flint’s water supply from Detroit’s Lake Huron water to the Flint River has been recently named the emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools.