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Flint task force urges lawmakers to change emergency manager law

sign that says "Flint Vehicle City"
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Leaders of a task force that looked into the causes of the Flint water crisis told a panel of state lawmakers they should consider changes to Michigan’s emergency manager law.

The task force report says a culture of arrogance and dismissal of local concerns helped cause the crisis, and so did the sweeping power of emergency managers. 

Former state Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema co-chaired the task force. He says the law focuses too much on fixing a local government’s finances without looking out for public health and safety.

“The emergency manager structure does a tremendous job on providing support and help on the financial piece, and it’s sort of loosey-goosey on everything else.”

Former state Representative Chris Kolb co-chaired the task force, and helped present the report. He says state-appointed emergency managers act with unquestioned authority, which can lead to failures like the Flint water crisis.

“I think you have an opportunity to take a look at that law and say, is it producing the results that we want, or not? Is Flint pointing out some deficiencies that we need to address?”

Flint pediatrician Lawrence Reynolds also served on the task force. He says emergency managers act with unquestioned authority. And he says their main job is to cut spending, not ensure the public’s health and safety.

“The emergency managers bring nothing and leave less because their primary function is financial,” he says.

Reynolds and other task force members told a panel of legislators looking into the water crisis they should restore some of the checks and balances sidestepped by emergency managers.

They said that might stop future bad decisions from going forward.  

The report also says emergency managers focus too much on budget-cutting and get little advice from experts on how to provide reliable public services. The task force was named by Governor Rick Snyder to examine what went wrong in Flint. 

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