Obama: ‘I’m Confident Flint Will Come Back;’ Snyder Booed
May 10, 2016
A jacketless President Barack OBAMA told 1,000 Flint residents today to be proactive about the future in the midst of the city’s current water crisis.
“Our kids will be fine, but you now have to take action,” Obama said. “Don’t wait for someone else to reach out and ask whether your child has gotten a checkup.”
The President used his first visit to Flint, where its public water supply has been tainted with lead, to warn residents not to let anger and despair leave an unnecessary burden on the city’s children or its future.
“Do not communicate to our children in this city that they’re going to be saddled the rest of their life,” he warned. “Because they’re going to be fine.”
Obama, who was met at the airport by Flint Mayor Karen WEAVER and Gov. Rick SNYDER, at one point joked he had both officials who have recently butted heads in his car, surrounded by secret service, and that he wasn’t going to let them out until “this was solved.”
“What I said was the city and the state and the federal government . . . everybody is going to have to work to get this done,” Obama said. “We have to get started.”
While promising to expedite the resources to make sure Flint lead service lines are replaced, Obama primarily used his visit to stress the safety of consuming filtered Flint water.
He began that message while at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, where he was briefed by the federal Flint response team for roughly an hour and a half. At one point, he stopped to drink a glass of what he said was filtered Flint water.
“If you’re using a filter . . . then Flint water at his point, is drinkable,” Obama said. Following the briefing, Obama stressed the federal government has thoroughly tested filtered Flint water and found it safe to drink.
Despite the safety of drinking filtered water for most Flint residents, the President said that doesn’t mitigate the need to replace Flint pipes, but warned residents that could take some time.
“It might take a year, it might take two, it might take longer,” Obama said.
During his briefing, Obama was flanked by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCARTHY to his right and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia BURWELL to his left.
During his remarks, Obama defended embattled EPA Directory McCarthy by stating he was “very proud of the team — Gina McCarthy at the EPA, Secretary Burwell at Health and Human Services, and everybody who is represented around this table.”
While defending his team, Obama warned he was there to sort out the causes of Flint, and that the crisis wasn’t a time for politics.
“There are times for politics and there are times for turf battles. This is not one of those times,” he said at the Food Bank. “This is where everybody locks arms and is focused on getting the job done.”
While asking the people of Flint not to let anger and despair set in, the President did use the crisis to argue against a national mindset he called corrosive.
“It’s a mindset that believes that less government is the highest good, no matter what,” he said.
“It’s an ideology that undervalues the common good.”
While America is and should be proud of individual accomplishment, Obama said those accomplishments are made possible and underpinned by the collective effort government represents.
“Through our government, we should do together what we can’t do for ourselves,” he said. “You can’t hire your own fire department, or your own police force, or your own army. There are things we have to do together, basic things.”
Weaver called the visit encouraging.
“It’s encouraging to know that the President of the United States is very concerned about what’s happened here in Flint and what our children and families are still going through because of this man-made water disaster,” she said, adding she hopes the state Legislature will soon pass the $148.8 million supplemental and Congress will pass the $220 million in the Water Resources Development Act.
In the days leading up to today’s visit, the federal and state governments appeared to be bumping into one another trying to demonstrate who’s done more to respond to the crisis of Flint.
Pushing back against claims from Snyder’s team that the federal government wasn’t engaged, the White House released a background brief Tuesday on exactly the steps Obama’s administration has taken on the issue.
The briefing asserts “at the direction of President Obama, there has been an all-of-government response to the crisis.” Among the actions the White House highlighted were distribution of 50,000 water filters distributed FEMA to the expansion of Medicaid as well as bottled water shipped to the city from the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA).
Response from today’s crowd made it clear which level of government was winning the PR battle when Gov. Rick SNYDER was roundly booed.
After approaching the podium to address the crowd of roughly 1,000, Snyder was instantly and loudly booed by the audience. For several moments, the crowd refused to quiet down and allow Snyder to speak.
“Let me begin by saying I understand why you are angry and frustrated,” he said. “I want to come here today to apologize.” Snyder at one point told the crowd “you didn’t create this problem, government failed you.” A comment that earned a yell from the crowd “you failed us.” He responded, “I will apologize, and work hard to fix that.”
When President Obama began his remarks and identified officials in the crowd all were applauded, except when he mentioned Snyder, who was again booed.
Following today’s events, Snyder said the way to help the people of Flint is “to break through political barriers and find a way to work together, which is why I was pleased to meet with President Obama today to share an update on what the state is doing and how the federal government might be able to help us do even more.”