The President proposes, the Congress disposes. The Governor proposes, the Legislature disposes. And, in the case of the never-ending ‘Flint Water Crisis,’ the mayor proposes, the city council disposes.
But the news media doesn’t seem to realize that.
In their coverage of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver’s stunning announcement April 18 that her administration has reversed course and reached an agreement to have its H2O delivered from the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) for the next 30 years, only one news outlet noted that Weaver’s ‘grand bargain’ is not a mayoral decree. It must be approved by the Flint city council.
This is the same city council that just three years ago voted 6-1 to end Flint’s relationship with GLWA in favor of the new Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline, which at that time was still under construction.
It’s the same city council that earlier this year rebuffed Weaver’s attempt to impose a new trash collection service — Rizzo Environmental Services — on Flint instead of continuing the city’s use of its traditional provider, Republic Services. Weaver was forced to back down after Rizzo’s reputation took a hit courtesy of corruption charges in Macomb County.
Last year, Weaver said Flint would stick with Karegnondi, which would have been ready to start business last summer were it not for the colossal bungling that led to the so-called ‘water crisis.’ Everything was put on hold. Now, Weaver says she’s changed her mind because of the $100 million Flint is expected to receive from the federal government to address the disaster. The mayor claims staying with GLWA water under a 30-year contract and using county (Karegnondi) water as a back-up would be the cheapest for Flint, costing $269 million over 20 years. Weaver estimates Flint would save $58 million by not having to upgrade its own flawed water plant and even more when and if the facility is closed. The savings would go to update other infrastructure in Flint’s aging and deteriorating water system, including replacement of lead service lines, she says.
The city remains on the hook for $7 million in annual bond payments to the KWA, which it will never use. But Weaver says that cost will be offset by credits from GLWA in exchange for Flint’s raw water rights. GLWA in turn will benefit by keeping Flint as a long-term customer.
Now, the city council will be asked to approve the settlement Weaver has reached with GLWA, Karegnondi, the Genesee Co. Drain Commissioner’s office, Gov. Rick Snyder, and the federal EPA. The basic questions council members may ask is: “Is this where we end up after decades of trying to get a better deal on water than GLWA gave us? We built a new pipeline (Karegnondi), which has been completed on time and under budget, and we’re not even getting a chance to use it? As onerous as Flint’s water bills have been in the past, how can we be sure they’ll be any more tolerable in the future?”
It will take more than a single town hall meeting within the next month to find answers to those queries, even though the media seems to believe that will be a slam-dunk for the mayor. In fact, most news stories about Weaver’s announcement treated it as if it were an edict that will meet no resistance.
The only way that will happen is if the council flip-flops as dramatically as Weaver. We should know by the end of next month. In the meantime, a number of Flint property owners have gone “off the grid.” They have severed their connection to Flint water and dug wells. They say doing so will pay for itself in three years. Now, THERE is a deal!