Flint’s Water Crisis
Flint, Michigan has undergone serious environmental health concerns during the last couple months. Due to General Motors’ decline, Flint, traditionally an industrial town, has been in a financial crunch for three decades. Former mayor Dayne Walling declared Flint’s financial emergency status in December 2011, resulting in a loan from the state government. With assistance from the state, though, came cuts. As of April 2015, “nearly $30 million […] in Flint’s general and water funds [had been] eliminated” (Fonger 2015). Those cuts led to a greater issue: authorities switched the water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in April 2014 to save money because it had to previously pay Detroit for the water line. However, the water from the Flint River is a “notorious tributary” recognized by its filth (Ganim and Tran 2016). The water is highly corrosive, and, according to a water quality expert, “Flint has about 15,000 drinking water service lines made of lead” (Edwards). Lead, which can cause serious health affects, seeped into the water and ran into Flint’s residents’ homes. Many residents have reported various concerns. The town broke federal law by failing to treat the water with an anti-corrosion agent. On top of that, officials kept hush about the contamination. By the time Virginia Tech researchers released their concerning findings, the lead-infused pipes had already made their impact (Ganim and Tran 2016). The major actors are the citizens of Flint, and more specifically those who are filing the lawsuits, the mayor, the Michigan state government, the federal government, and the researchers at Virginia Tech; however, this analysis will focus on Flint’s residents and mayor. The stakeholder analysis strategy allows one to recognize how Flint’s citizens and mayor’s power and opportunities have resulted in collaboration and movement towards a solution.
The citizens have a strong stake in this case, as one can understand by using the PAPI (proximity, attitude, power, interest) framework. The citizens have a strong proximity and interest in the issue, have medium power, and are not supportive towards the problem. While the citizens as a whole cannot be considered to have high power, they are able to speak with their representatives who, with reelection or legacies in mind, should follow the desires of their constituents. Unquestionably, the citizens are perturbed by this issue and have a strong interest in finding a solution. They have a close proximity to the issue because they have been exposed to the contaminated water supply and are living with the consequences. The fact that the contamination was hidden from the public likely increased the interest in the issue. A class-action lawsuit was filed against Mayor Snyder, the state of Michigan, the city of Flint and other state and city officials (Ganim and Tran 2016). Because litigation can create change, the residents have the power to influence change.
The mayor, Karen Weaver, is another influential stakeholder in this case. By using the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, one can see that while she has several weaknesses and threats, she also has several strengths and a lot of authority, making her a powerful stakeholder. Weaver’s weaknesses include a difficulty in receiving funds, lack of power compared to the state and federal government, and a deficiency in public trust due to the concealment of the contamination. Her major threat is not being reelected. However, by taking her weaknesses and threat, and bridging the gap between a negative and positive point of view, Weaver has taken the opportunity to draw national attention and support, and has the opportunity to be reelected if she solves the problem efficiently. She knows the city better than state or federal authorities, and thus, has political insight to find streamlined solutions that would best fit the needs of the city. Weaver said in a recent interview that she is “morally obligated” to act, and is in the process of finding solutions. Weaver has several strengths and opportunities that she can use as resources to find remedies.
By using “PAPI” and “SWOT” analysis, one can see that the victims and the mayor have demonstrated their power to urge for a solution. All three levels of government are working together to fix the problem: filters and bottled water are being distributed, $28 million have been awarded to the city by the state, and $80 million were awarded to the state from the federal government in order to cope with the consequences and repair the water system (Botelho 2016). The fact that Flint received financial help from higher up reflects the state and federal government’s strength of having more funds available, as opposed to a municipal government. The cooperation between the hierarchies of government is essential in this situation.
Botelho, Greg, “Flint water crisis: City gets $28 million in state aid,” CNN, 29 January 2016.
Fonger, Ron, “Gov. Snyder Declares End to Flint’s Financial Emergency,” mLive, 29 April 2015.
Ganim, Sara and Tran, Linh, “How tap water became toxin in Flint, Michigan,” CNN, 13 January 2016.
Johnson, Jiquanda, “Flint, Detroit Among Nation’s Poorest Cities, New Census Data Show,” mLive, 17 September 2015.
Kennedy, Merrit, “Flint Mayor: ‘Politics and Profit’ Perpetuated Lead-Tainted-Water Crisis,” NPR, 21 January 2016.
Longley, Kristin, “Emergency Manager: Flint’s Financial Problems ‘Massive,” mLive, 12 January, 2012.
McLaughlin, Elliot, “Flint’s Water Crisis: 5 Things to Know,” CNN, 21 January 2016.
Ortiz, Erik, “Flint Water Crisis: Mayor Says ‘Lead Pipes Have Got to Go,’” NBC News, 2 February 2016.