PHILADELPHIA — During the primary season, Flint garnered a lot of media attention following Hillary Clinton’s mention of the Flint water crisis in a presidential debate in January. In the weeks and months that followed Michigan’s March primary, media attention slowly drifted away from the city onto other topics. However, federal support for Flint has remained in the House of Representatives, Senate and executive branch.
Early this year, Clinton repeatedly made promises that she would not forget about the citizens of Flint and would continue to fight for them. At the time, many considered the statements to be a politicizing of the issue, despite the candidate’s claims to the contrary.
The city’s continued importance to Clinton was highlighted at the Democratic National Convention this week with a speech from Flint Mayor Karen Weaver. Michiganders who attended the convention further supported the idea that the Flint water crisis is of importance to Clinton and that she has also continued her support for the city.
In her speech, Weaver said Clinton has stood by Flint’s side and brought the national attention and federal aid the city desperately needs.
“I am a voice for Flint, calling out for help,” Weaver said. “Do you know who has also heard the call from Flint? Hillary Clinton. She said, ‘I will fight for you. I will stand with you, every step of the way. I will not for one minute forget about you or forget about your children. I will do everything I can to help you get back up and to help you get your strength and resilience flowing through Flint again.’ ”
Steve Dawes, a Michigan delegate from Genesee County — which houses Flint — told the Daily that Clinton has helped his community immensely and will continue to do so as president.
“She makes changes, and she has already made changes in Flint,” he said. “She brought that spotlight onto the city and brought a lot of the relief that we continue to see now. I can’t wait until she’s the president.”
While Clinton has been unable to enact policy in support for the city since she is still on the campaign trail, the Michigan congressional delegation has continued its support for Flint through pushing legislation in the House and Senate.
Dawes said the city’s state and federal representatives have been key in continuing support for Flint.
“They are golden to us,” he said. “They are the rock behind us, they push things through for us.”
Rep. Dan Kildee (D–Flint) said the White House has done a lot to help the city, but the state government and Congress needs to increase their aid to Flint to truly foster recovery.
“Federal support from the administration has continued,” he said. “President Obama has directed his agencies of government to do what they can to help Flint. There’s been a lot of work done, but not at the scale that they need to be at. What really needs to happen is at the state level the government really needs to increase their support, and Congress really needs to take up our bill to provide additional relief.”
Kildee sponsored a bill in the House, which would provide additional funds for the city, but he said it continues to be blocked by Republicans.
Michigan Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow have also been working on a similar bill — the water infrastructure bill — in the senate to try to assist with infrastructure improvements across the country. In addition to larger aspects, the bill would provide more than $100 million in funding for the city to replace lead water lines and increase grants for lead abatement programs.
“It had strong bipartisan support, and I’m very confident that when the bill gets to the floor of the Senate it will pass,” Peters said. “This is a national issue that has received bipartisan support, and in that is key language that would help the city of Flint.”
Kildee and Peters both agree that the Flint water crisis is an issue of personal importance to Clinton. Kildee said Clinton spoke with him a few weeks ago and immediately asked about Flint while also knowing some details about the city’s progress.
Peters added that if Clinton does appear to forget the city after the election, he will work to bring it back to her attention.
“I’m not going to let her forget about it,” he said. “I’m going to be focused on it every single day.”