Dr. Karen Weaver, the mayor of Flint, Michigan, made a surprise announcement on a Tuesday morning call with reporters originally organized to provide updates on the city’s lead contamination crisis. While thanking both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for calling attention to the city’s water woes during Sunday’s debate, Weaver said Clinton’s response went above and beyond.
“Hillary Clinton was the only candidate, Democrat or Republican to reach out to us and ask, ‘What do you need?’” Weaver said. “We want a friend like Hillary in the White House.”
When a reporter remarked, “It sounds like you’re endorsing her for president,” Weaver confirmed.
“It does sound like I’m endorsing her for president,” she said. “I want Hillary. When you have someone stepping out and supporting us like that, we want to do the same for her, step out and support her.”
Weaver also praised Clinton for highlighting the crisis as an example of racial injustice. “If the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action,” Clinton said during Sunday night’s debate.
“The Secretary was exactly right,” Weaver said Tuesday. “We are a predominantly African American community. We also have 40 percent unemployment, so it’s a class issue too. If this were a more affluent community, I think the response would have been different.”
Weaver also reminded reporters that despite finally beginning to receive federal and state aid, the residents of Flint will need support for years to come.
“We need more than just water and filters,” she said. “We need better infrastructure. We need to care for these kids and families that have been impacted. Right now, people are angry, people are scared, people are confused.”
The lead contamination, which occurred when the state attempted to sever Flint’s water system from nearby Detroit’s, has left tens of thousands of residents without drinkable water and with possibly irreversible damage to their health. Officials fear that some the children in Flint who drank and bathed in this water may have permanent brain damage, among other long-term health problems. Residents had been pleading with the state to act since the summer, saying their water was discolored and foul-smelling, but Republican Gov. Rick Snyder did not declare a state of emergency until mid-December. He has since called in the National Guard this week to help clean up the city’s water supply and distribute bottled water and water filters.
Snyder is expected to address the crisis in his State of the State address Tuesday night.
Asked her thoughts on Sanders and others calling for the resignation of Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) — who many have criticized for not taking action until months after receiving reports of the dangerous contamination — Weaver demurred.
“I want the investigation to show us who knew what when and give us some accountability,” she said. “We need our governor to continue to be pushed on this, because water is a basic right.”
Weaver also plans to meet with President Obama “so he can hear firsthand” about the crisis.