As the Mayor of the City of Flint and a Flint resident, I am glad to see that grassroots organizations and residents are coming together to express their concern about the health and well-being of our community. It is important for people to be active and let their voices be heard. It is encouraging to see so many people joining the fight to ensure that Flint receives the justice and support the city deserves as we work to recover from the water crisis.
I want residents of Flint to know that I understand their frustration and their concerns, especially when it comes to the recent discussions pertaining to bottled water no longer being provided at the state-run Point of Distribution Sites (PODS), and liens being put on property taxes for unpaid water bills. I also recognize that we are facing extraordinary circumstances brought on by the man-made water disaster and that must be considered as we work to recover. There is a lot of misinformation circulating in the community, so I wanted to take the time to make a few points regarding these matters.
On the issue of bottled water distribution and the PODS which are run by the state; as a result of the lawsuit settlement earlier this year, it is true that the state could legally begin closing the PODS this month if the water quality meets federal standards. While we know the quality of the water in Flint has improved significantly and the water system is healing, I have informed state officials that I disagree with bottled water distribution ending in Flint and all PODs being closed by September. I am working with my Administration to see what we can do to keep at least some of the PODS open, without adding expense to our cash-strapped city or the people of Flint.
Regarding property tax liens related to unpaid water bills; when I was elected Mayor of Flint in 2015, there was a law that had been in place for over 40 years dictating that each year balances on water bills that are six months past due are transferred to account holders’ property tax bill. In 2016, I went to the governor and was able to get water credits applied to customers’ accounts, so we avoided the situation of possible liens. When the water credits abruptly ended this February, there was no way to avoid following the law as it relates to this process. After making several unsuccessful requests to the governor for a continuation of the water credits, I then turned to local organizations to help assist residents with paying the water bills.
I also asked members of my administrative team to inform City Council, the legislative body of the City, that they have the authority to change the law. City Council then placed a moratorium on water liens, and I supported the move. When the Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) rejected the proposed moratorium (due to the added expenses to the city after Council chose not to support my water source recommendation), I stopped the liens from being transferred to the County due to the extraordinary circumstances we are dealing with. Therefore, no water liens, from April 1, 2014 to present, have gone to the County Treasurer. I am also working with city officials to amend the ordinance to provide officials more discretion under extraordinary circumstances regarding this matter in the future. We hope to have an update on this effort soon.