by Madeline Ducharme
On February 9th, 2016, the Roosevelt Institute at Columbia University discussed the extremely relevant and pressing topic of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. With the concentrations of lead in Flint’s water far surpassing basic human health standards, there has been outcry from all over the country. People are considering Flint’s crisis as a case of environmental racism as the community affected is comprised largely of people of color as well as people living below the United States poverty line.
Headed by the Roosevelt’s co-presidents of environment, Charles and Nikita, we considered drastic policy solutions that included the complete overhaul of Flint’s water infrastructure as well as the implementation of a new “sexier” New Deal (truly in the spirit of Roos himself). The discussion also dealt with the issue of responsibility. While many supported the immediate resignation of the mayor of Flint and the governor of Michigan, others found this action to be too extreme and a waste of Flint’s quickly depleting financial resources. The argument over this mostly boiled down to the difference between ideology and action; some found the the lack of immediate prosecution of the mayor and governor a potentially dangerous precedent to set while others believed that all government funds should be focused on dealing with the crisis at hand, bearing in mind that there is little time to find replacements for these positions if the two men were to resign.
Roosevelt discussed some of the intense implications that this crisis has on United States infrastructure overall due to the fact that Flint is by no means the only city dealing with dangerously contaminated water. The economic aspects of this issue were also hotly contested amongst the group. This became quickly became a rather divisive issue for Roosevelt as members debated whether the municipal, state, or federal government should pay for the intense repairs that need to be undertaken. Despite the back-and-forth on infrastructure, resignations, and economics, Roosevelt disbanded Tuesday night with the overwhelming sentiment of the fact that water is a human right and we, as a highly developed country, cannot allow for crises to escalate like this.