The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 1/27/2016
Show: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
Date: January 27, 2016
Guest: Harold Harrington, Karen Weaver, Marc Edwards, Martin Kaufman, Mona
Hanna-Attisha, Sheldon Neeley, Debbie Stabenow, Charles Williams
ANNOUNCER: This is an MSNBC special presentation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anyone who`s concerned about lead in the drinking water
in Flint can relax.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sometimes I`ll get rashes. Sometimes I`ll itch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no broad problem right now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My kids are sick and it`s damage they`ll have for the
rest of their lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Government, please do your job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a 3-year-old, you know? I don`t want her to
GOV. RICK SNYDER (R), MICHIGAN: I`m sorry and I will fix it.
PROTESTERS: Snyder`s got to go!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep paying taxes. Keep paying water bills.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s three generations they`ve poisoned.
SNYDER: I`m sorry most of all that I let you down.
PROTESTERS: What do we want?
When do we want it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We weren`t told the truth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of Flint need action. They deserve action.
ANNOUNCER: “An American Disaster: The Crisis in Flint.” This is an MSNBC
town hall, from the Holmes STEM Academy, here now Rachel Maddow.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Welcome to Flint, Michigan. Welcome. Thank
you to everybody in this room for being here. It`s an honor to be here
among you today after covering this story for so long.
I want to thank you at home for being with us tonight.
We are here tonight for this special town hall because a disaster of
national proportions has hit this city. And even though the country has
now woken up to that disaster, we`re here tonight to report what I think is
fairly shocking news that the problem here is not actually being fixed.
This has been a story about Flint, a story about Michigan so far, but what
it`s going to take to fix it here is national. It`s American. It`s big.
And I want to show you something. This is at the heart of what went wrong,
and frankly, what still is wrong. The reason I`m using a cloth to hold
this is because this is lead.
This is lead pipe from Flint, and a lot of people in Flint have lead pipe
like this going from the water main that runs down the street into their
homes. All right? Lead pipe.
This, this is the kind of galvanized pipe that a lot of people have inside
their homes. This specific piece of galvanized pipe was cut out of a wall
in a house in Flint by a master plumber who lives in that house who grew up
in that house and who cut out this piece of it to show us what this
American disaster looks like up close, literally from inside the pipes.
When the state of Michigan made the inexplicable decision to send untreated
corrosive river water through the pipes in the city, that decision
basically wrecked the pipes. It started a corrosion process that sent
toxic lead into the water, into people`s homes, through the faucets and
into the bodies of moms and dads and old people and little kids in Flint.
And that corrosive water source has been switched. It`s been switched
back. But damage is done. Damage is done to the pipes, to all of them.
That is why you still cannot drink the water here. Not because the water
source is still bad. They switched it back to the good one. It`s because
the pipes have been hurt by the 18 months of bad water that flowed through
them. And so, we need to talk about how to help the kids who have been
exposed to this toxic stuff in this town and we are going to do that
tonight with the people who you want to hear from on that subject.
But we also need to have a little bit of a come to Jesus, a little bit of a
reality check about the fact that so far, no one is even starting to fix
what the problem still is here.
MADDOW: I`m just trying to get my head around what it`s going to take to
fix this problem in Flint.
HAROLD HARRINGTON, MASTER PLUMBER BASED IN FLINT: Yes.
MADDOW: Do you think that service lines are going to be need to be
replaced all around the city in order to make those homes safe?
HARRINGTON: If you want to make them safe, yes.
MADDOW: Let`s say this service line between here and the house is made of
lead. And part of fixing this problem in Flint is replacing that service
line. How big a job is that?
HARRINGTON: It`s a big job if you – you know, defending where it is, you
have to excavate it all the way into the house and remove the lead and run
a new line.
MADDOW: How expensive of a job would that be?
HARRINGTON: For something like this, probably three to five grand to get
the new line in there.
HARRINGTON: But that`s not counting the damage that`s in the house.
MADDOW: If you were going to come in as a master plumber, get hired to
replace the plumbing in a typical house like this – can you give me just a
ballpark about the dollar amount that would cost?
HARRINGTON: Single-story, without an upstairs, roughly $4,000. Just for
inside the house. Another thousand for the water heater. You know, the
line coming into the house, $3,000 to $4,000. You`re over $10,000.
These houses, just like my house – I mean, my house isn`t worth $10,000.
The plumbing`s going to cost more than you could sell your house for.
MADDOW: And we`re talking about 30,000 houses in the city of Flint.
MADDOW: Plus, every business, every –
HARRINGTON: Every school.
MADDOW: Every school building.
HARRINGTON: Every hospital.
MADDOW: Every hospital. Everything.
Let`s say the will was there. Let`s say the governor or whoever came in
and said, go, we are going to take care of these service lines and we`re
going to do it as fast as humanly possible. How – how many people could
you imagine mobilizing to do that? Like, how long would it take to get a
significant number of plumbers here doing that work and doing it fast?
HARRINGTON: If we needed people here next week, I could get 200 people
here in a couple days. I could have a thousand people here in a couple
MADDOW: You could have a thousand plumbers on the ground in flinlt in a
MADDOW: If somebody said go?
HARRINGTON: If somebody said go.
MADDOW: Now, it`s a matter of figuring out if somebody is ever going to
There was an e-mail – the governor`s e-mails were all released and
something and somebody told him this past summer, listen, if we`re going to
replace all these lead service lines in Flint, that`s something that will
take 15 years –
MADDOW: – to do it.
HARRINGTON: It will take 15 years the way they`re going about it right
HARRINGTON: But we could have, like I said, 1,000 operators, 1,000
plumbers, 1,000 cement finishers, 1,000 laborers, I mean, we could start
hitting these right now. If there`s only 20,000 of them, we could have it
done in a lot less than 15 years.
MADDOW: Like how much time?
HARRINGTON: Well, depending on how much equipment, we get as much
equipment as we can get in here, we could do a street a week I`m sure. You
know? Not 15 years.
MADDOW: Joining us now, here at our town hall, is Flint`s mayor, Karen
Weaver. Also Virginia Tech environmental engineering professor Marc
Edwards, who collected hundreds of water samples showing elevated lead
levels here in Flint, really blew this whole scandal wide open. Also,
Martin Kaufman, professor at the University of Michigan. He`s working to
map all of Flint`s pipes and those service lines.
Mayor Weaver, professors, thank you for being here. I really appreciate
Mayor, I know you were at a press conference today with Governor Snyder.
He was really pressed on this issue of mow how come no pipes were getting
replaced yet, why that work hasn`t started. He basically said that`s a job
for the long haul, no reason to think about doing anything like that any
How does that sit with you?
MAYOR KAREN WEAVER (D), FLINT, MICHIGAN: It doesn`t sit very well with me.
We need that to happen right now. We know we need the lead service lines
And that`s what – you know, the questions that the reporters were asking
were the same questions we have. When is it going to start?
MADDOW: Professor Edwards, you`ve been absolutely key to the country –
the Flint itself and now the country understanding what happened here. You
have gone from the state, you know, ridiculing you and trying to box you
out to now putting you on their task forces. I know you`re going go be
overseeing lead testing here in Flint.
WEAVER: That`s right.
MADDOW: Do you feel like as an expert in this field, do you feel like you
know how much work needs to be done on Flint`s pipes in order to make this
MARC EDWARDS, VIRGINIA TECH: Yes, there`s actually three different phases
of work that has to be done. First, we have to restore this coating to the
pipe which is being done through optimized corrosion control. We have to
determine that the water, if and when it`s safe to drink again through a
federally approved lead and copper sampling which hasn`t been done,
unfortunately, in Flint, for a long time.
And longer term in Flint, not just in Flint, but around the U.S., we have
to figure out a way to get these pipes replaced. And what we`re struggling
with right now is there`s really no precedent for this kind of manmade
EDWARDS: And we don`t have a good roadmap to follow in terms of how to
replace these pipes and do it right. And we could jump into this and
actually do it wrong. Other cities have done it wrong and made the problem
worse in the past. So, we have to – we have to work with the EPA –
MADDOW: Are there best practices out there about how to get corroded and,
therefore, dangerous pipe out?
EDWARDS: There are –
MADDOW: – replaced with good pipe?
EDWARDS: There are absolutely. The hurdles we face, the records are so
poor, not only in Flint but all around the U.S., we don`t know where these
lead pipes are. The records we have are oftentimes wrong.
So, simply identifying which homes have the lead pipes is kind of a
MADDOW: Which brings us to Professor Kaufman who is working on the
monumental task. We don`t know specifically where the lead pipes are in
Flint but you`re trying to figure it out?
EDWARDS: We`re trying to figure it out. We have an indicator on parcels
in the city where the lead pipes are, also the hybrid pipes some of them
have been changed out to lead and copper. We estimate, there are about
20,000 to 25,000 lead service lines in this city leading into homes.
We`re going to need to get into people`s homes and do a test of their water
line coming into the home with a key and a magnet. People can tell what
type of service line that`s coming into the house, if it`s lead, it won`t
be magnetic. It`s (INAUDIBLE)
MADDOW: I see.
So, people with a little bit of instruction can diagnose whether or not
they have a lead line coming into their own home. They can tell you.
MADDOW: In terms of the urgency, I hear an echo of what Governor Snyder
was saying today, the way you described this, Professor Edwards. In terms
of this coating, this idea that running treated water now through these
pipes is going to rehabilitate them a little bit. Do you have faith that`s
the right next step? Is that happening? Do we know how long that takes?
WEAVER: I don`t know that we know how long that takes. That`s what we`ve
been waiting to see, how long will that take? The other problem is, you
know, because we have been – our trust has been broken in the city of
Flint. Because that`s happened –
WEAVER: – because that`s happened, if we don`t get new pipes, people
aren`t going to trust that. And that`s a lot of the underlying issue.
We`ve had broken trust.
So, do we trust that that bio film is built up and water is safe, that the
pipes are safe, not the water, but the pipes are safe? And that will
always be in the back of the residents` minds.
MADDOW: Karen Weaver, Marc Edwards, Martin Kaufman, please stay with us.
We`re going to take questions for you guys from the residents of Flint. I
really appreciate you being here tonight and starting about this.
I got to tell you, overall, that we`re excited to be here tonight to be
meeting people of Flint. I want to thank the Holmes STEM Academy, the
Huskies for hosting us. I should tell you, we`re in the gym – I`ve got to
say the mascot.
I should tell you that we asked Rick Snyder himself multiple times if he
would please come tonight to this town hall and talk to the residents of
Flint. He never said no. He never said anything. But I think that means
he`s not coming.
That`s OK, though. One of the things people I think nationally have gotten
wrong about Flint in this crisis is that there`s a perception and sometimes
dismissive tone nationwide that Flint is the kind of place where people
don`t have a voice. That is wrong.
You guys on the ground here are why we are here. You are why we even knew
this was happening. It has been Flint residents that have been calling out
this crisis for what it is, for going on two years now.
You guys have protested. You have dug into the documents. You have formed
activist groups. You have organized water drives. You have organized
blood test clinics.
And one of the things I have learned covering this story is that Flint,
Michigan, is often underestimated, but that Flint is fierce and nobody
would know about this if it weren`t for you.
So that`s why we`re here. That`s why we`re here. And we`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can`t bathe, can`t drink, can`t eat. We`re paying for
water, contaminated water that we can`t even use and that`s a travesty.
Then, on top of that, they`re not talking about putting lines in. They`re
talking about doing a study. They`ve been studying for two years. They
shouldn`t have to study anymore. Come in, lines, put in-home filters in.
I mean, all the filters they bought putting on sinks they could have been
paid $1,000 to put in-home filters in until they can change the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Now to the growing outrage over the toxic
water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The mayor says it could cost as much as
$1.5 billion to fix the lead-contaminated water system. But NBC`s
Stephanie Gosk has found so far none of the pipes are actually being
STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: The plumbers in Flint say they are
HARRINGTON: We got guys available. If I need 200 guys next week, I can
GOSK: But the plumbers in Flint haven`t gotten the call. NBC News has
learned from both city water officials and the plumber`s union that there
are currently no lead pipes being replaced. And the plumbers tell us they
haven`t done any work since the governor`s October announcement that the
water wasn`t safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just some of the excellent reporting that`s been done in Flint by
a bunch of national news organizations including NBC News, including
specifically by reporter Stephanie Gosk who`s here with us tonight.
Stephanie, it`s great to have you here.
We also got our panel of experts and local leaders here and a room full of
people from Flint who we want to hear from tonight.
I want to start actually with that master plumber who we were just speaking
to, with Harold Harrington.
Harold, first of all, thank you for your – stand up for a second – thank
you for your hospitality walking around, showing us your town and what you
know about this as a plumber. Do you have a question for these guys in
terms of what needs to happen next?
HARRINGTON: Yes, I do.
MADDOW: Go ahead.
HARRINGTON: Yes, my question`s for Professor Edwards. The problem with
the treatment of the Flint River, they didn`t correct the corrosiveness,
and I think it was 19 times more corrosive than it should have been if it
was treated properly.
It was 19 times more corrosive than it should have been. So the piping,
you know, it ate the corrosive layer off the lead, but there`s also a lot
of galvanized in people`s homes in Flint that has corroded over the years
coming through that lead pipe – and from what I`ve read, it collects lead
over the years.
HARRINGTON: Now, did that corrosive water also expose all that lead in the
galvanized pipes that are in people`s homes?
EDWARDS: So, the corrosive water actually ate up every metallic pipe in
the system. The only pipe material that was immune is plastic. So the
damage that was done from the lack of corrosion inhibiter affected all the
metal pipes. That damage cannot be undone.
But the new coating with the phosphate is being formed as we speak and, in
fact, probably it`s largely reformed already. The issue really is we
really have to test that water before – we want to err on the side of
caution before we tell anyone to even think about drinking it at this
MADDOW: Is there any scientific basis for expecting how long that`s going
EDWARDS: In our laboratory under normal circumstances, it takes anywhere
from four weeks to six weeks to get to a level where you can meet the
federal standard. And, everyone, you know, acknowledges the federal
standard is kind of weak, but it could very well – it`d be 50/50 if the
legitimate lead and copper sampling was done today whether Flint would
But the water is much, much better than it was last August when we sampled,
when we issued our warning, you know, there`s no way Flint water was
meeting the federal standards.
MADDOW: Let`s take another question here. Say your name.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Jill.
MADDOW: Go ahead, Jill. What`s your question?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: This is actually informed by some of the conversations
I`ve been having with activists in Detroit who have been making linkages on
the work they`ve been doing against emergency management and their limited
access to water in that city as well. It`s about in the meantime, and all
the reliance on bottled water and what does that mean for environmental
issues and also economically, who`s benefiting from the reliance on bottled
water and what happens with all of this plastic that is being used in this
MADDOW: Any of you want to take that on?
You know, the environmental costs of bottled water and plastic is nothing
compared to protecting children and pregnant mothers from the ravages of
lead. So, we have to be willing to pay that cost until we know that the
water is meeting federal standards. So, keep using those filters, keep
using the bottled water until you get the all clear.
MADDOW: Is it sustainable for Flint to live on bottled water for much
WEAVER: We are looking at the recycling piece because we have to have that
in place. We can`t have all of the plastic just around, so we are going to
be doing something about recycling as well. But no, it`s not realistic,
it`s not normal.
MADDOW: You can hear it in the room. We got a verdict in the room on that
KAUFMAN: And it creates a hardship on people because bottled water doesn`t
have any pressure. So you can`t bathe in bottled water.
MADDOW: All right. Mayor Weaver, Professor Edwards, Professor Kaufman,
thank you for contributing to this part of this town hall.
One of the ways that people and politicians have tried to minimize what`s
happened in Flint by saying it`s only a few dozen kids who are testing
positive in terms of lead exposure. But it should be noted that your blood
lead level is only a temporary snapshot, only shows up as having an
elevated blood lead level for something like 28 days after you were
The doctor who not only helped uncover that thousands of kids in Flint were
being exposed to lead but who has since blown the whistle on people and
politicians trying to minimize the problem by saying, “Oh, it`s only a few
dozen kids who got positive lead tests right now,” that doctor is another
one of the real heroes of this story and she`s one of the people who`s
going to join us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANITA WILLIAMS-HENDERSON, FLINT RESIDENT: I have to buy water all the
time. I`m concerned with bathing even though they say it`s okay to bathe.
I`m not really sure that`s true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JENNIFER RIVERA, PRESCHOOL TEACHER: All right, guys. What are we going to
GOSK: Jennifer Rivera is a preschool teacher in Flint. She describes her
4-year-olds as low-income, high-risk.
CHILDREN: Thank you for my family.
RIVERA: Well, it breaks my heart because they already have a struggle.
Everything is a struggle for them already. What do we do with this?
GOSK: Now she watches closely every day for signs of lead poisoning.
RIVERA: I`ve noticed the speech, the articulation, and I`ve noticed
behaviors of anger.
GOSK: Right now, Flint is getting a lot of attention. Right now these
kids are getting a lot of attention.
But this is the insidious part about lead exposure. The symptoms may not
show in the weeks to come or even the months to come. It could take years.
And every single one of these children will have to be tracked their entire
UINIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fifteen and –
UNIDENTIFIED KID: Eighteen.
GOSK: Education, good nutrition, a stable upbringing help lessen the
effects of lead exposure. But those building blocks of childhood are also
exactly what was lacking for so many in Flint before this ever happened.
Do you have faith that the city officials and the state officials are going
to be committed to this problem and are going to do what is needed to fix
it and to help these kids?
RIVERA: I do not at this time.
GOSK: That trust is gone, isn`t it?
RIVERA: Uh-huh, because they knew, in my opinion, and they let it happen.
MADDOW: Welcome back to our town hall in Flint, Michigan –
MADDOW: – where the lead exposure for this town really isn`t measured in
the few dozen positive lead tests we keep hearing about from state
The experts closest to this crisis say that the lead poisoning crisis here
is actually measured in thousands of kids. Every kid in Flint who drank
that water is now at some risk for long-term effects, but there are things
we can do as a community and as a nation to help these kids. And
apparently, the faster we act, the better.
Joining us now is Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who helped
expose the elevated blood lead levels in Flint`s children.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
You can hear the way that she is viewed in this town, the spontaneous
standing ovation for Dr. Mona.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Welcome. The community appreciates you.
DR. MONA HANNA-ATTISHA, PEDIATRICIAN: Lots of heroes. It took a village
to save a village, so lots of hero.
MADDOW: Also want to bring in State Rep Sheldon Neeley who said he warned
Governor Snyder about the water crisis in Flint a year ago.
STATE REP. SHELDON NEELEY (D), MICHIGAN: A year ago.
MADDOW: I also want to bring in Anna Johnson, who`s the principal of this
very school, Holmes STEM Academy, and who now like a lot of other leading
educators here is confronting what the schools` role is going to be in
doing right by Flint kids throughout their childhood.
So, thank you all for being here, all leaders and heroes in the story in
your own way.
Dr. Mona, I want to start with you. You`re the person who first told not
just Flint but told the world that Flint`s kids were exposed in such big
MADDOW: What do you saw to Flint parents who are worried about their kids
and kids` future?
HANNA-ATTISHA: Right. So, we do what we do best as pediatricians. We
provide reassurance. Not every kid is going to have every problem. So, we
give them hope.
Our community needs hope. They`re absolutely traumatized.
And there`s things that we can do right now. I feel we`re in a state of
emergency because if we don`t act for these kids now, we will see those
consequences in 10, 15, 20 years. So we need to provide a stable, loving
home environments, we need to provide great parenting skills, we need to
tell them love your kid, read to them, do everything you would do for them,
for any kid at risk for developmental issues.
Nutrition plays a tremendous role. We have no grocery stores in Flint. We
have pre-existing access to nutrition. So, we need to bolster the kids`
nutrition to help their brain development. We need to get them to their
medical home, which is their primary care doctor, because the sooner I pick
up a delay in the kid, the sooner I refer them to services, the better the
So, we need a whole-child approach. We need to wrap these kids around with
every single resource so that we don`t see those consequences and that is
our goal. We want to flip this story. We want to turn lemons into
lemonade and give these kids what they need already.
MADDOW: Principal Johnson, the place that kids spend more time than
anywhere other than with their families is at school.
ANNA JOHNSON, HOLMES STEM ACADEMY PRINCIPAL: Yes.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the resources that you got now. I mean, how
are Flint schools resourced right now? Do you have school nurses? Do you
have good school nutrition programs already?
MADDOW: Do you have stuff in place? Do you feel like your district really
needs to be transformed in order to do what Dr. Mona`s talking about?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Say it.
JOHNSON: Currently we need a lot of help. We are a cash-strapped district
but we have resilient people.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes, we do.
JOHNSON: We have a lot of people working very hard with the resources that
we have but we know and we look at the number of students that we`re
servicing, it will fall short and no one can tell us that our children
aren`t worth it.
MADDOW: Are you fully staffed up in terms of school nurses, for example,
in terms of special ed?
JOHNSON: We are not. We are blessed enough to have a health navigator
that allows our parents to make connections with the community but we do
not have a school nurse.
MADDOW: You do not have a school nurse.
JOHNSON: We do not. None of our schools do. Usually that responsibility
falls on our secretaries. I give medications. We`re trained to do certain
Again, we make do with the staff that we have who are devoted to serving
MADDOW: Flint community schools do not have school nurses right now?
JOHNSON: We do not. We have one in our district level.
MADDOW: One for all schools?
JOHNSON: Yes, ma`am.
HANNA-ATTISHA: Michigan ranks last in the nation in terms of the
recommended ratio of students to school nurses. We`re the last in the
MADDOW: So, you`re talking about a suite of things that need to be done
for Flint kids that should be done for all kids everywhere, right?
MADDOW: But Flint kids because of what happened here, it especially needs
to happen here, but it`s especially not happening here already.
HANNA-ATTISHA: Right, and an emergent basis. It needs to happen now.
MADDOW: Representative, you know about how the state feels about Flint and
you know what the state is capable of. And what they apparently aren`t
capable of in terms of Flint. Do you have faith that the state will
provide these kind of resources that we`re talking about here? This is
very nuts and bolts stuff, not esoteric stuff.
NEELEY: You know, our governor has been very disingenuous as he provided
relief for this community, he`s been very late. We have a great
contingent. Myself and State Representative Phil Phelps, and Senator Jim
Ananich, we`ve been fighting on the state level. Money will be
appropriated to those efforts, to prioritize school nurses and other
resources for the Flint community schools.
I made a request. Our current school district, we owe the state of
Michigan $16 million. I asked the governor to forgive those dollars so
they can re-appropriate those dollars for the onset of the kids they`re
going to have to educate in the future.
MADDOW: A lot of appetite in this room to talk about this issue with
community leaders. We`re going to do that and hear from these guys right
after this. We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON JOHNSON, FLINT RESIDENT: For me, I worry more so about the kids
because you know how they are, they want to run, drink the water, but we`re
scared to take showers. Cooking is a challenge when you want to wash your
food and stuff like that. So, you have to make sure you have enough
bottled water around and things like that. I`m telling you, it`s a
challenge around the house.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Welcome back.
We are in Flint, Michigan, for our special town hall on the water crisis
here. We got a panel here of leaders including local pediatrician Dr. Mona
Hanna-Attisha who really blew the whistle in terms of the blood lead levels
in Flint`s kids. Also, Michigan State Representative Sheldon Neeley, and
the principal of this school, Holmes STEM Academy, Principal Anna Johnson.
We`re going to take some questions.
Can I start with you?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes.
MADDOW: Please stand up. Tell us what your name is.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Lashana (ph).
MADDOW: OK. What`s your question?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening, everyone.
MADDOW: You can take that from me. There you go.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: This is heavy.
MADDOW: You`ve got to hold it tight. There you go.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Good evening, my name is Lashana and I`m here with my
daughter, Sidney. She`s 13, but she`s still my baby.
As the educator of early childhood, I teach pre-K, I am really concerned
about my children in my classroom. I understand that during this time,
their brain development is very critical. And simply put, I just want to
know if the effects are irreversible and how can I and my co-workers, as we
like to say, their school mamas, how can us as educators advocate and
protect our children while we`re here?
MADDOW: Great question.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. Oops, sorry.
MADDOW: Any of you want to respond to that?
HANNA-ATTISHA: Sure. So, lead, the reason there`s no safe level of lead
because it is irreversible neurotoxin. But there`s things that we can do
to limit the impact of this exposure. Going to Head Start, being in
preschool is one of those interventions that can actually lessen the impact
and the life-long consequences.
Those kind of things are the things that promote development. But
educators need to be educated about what to expect, so to pick up on the
signs of, oh, this is a social emotional problem that could be from this,
this is kids not doing what they need to be doing. They`re going to need
the resources to be able to manage those kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Right.
MADDOW: Let`s take one other question here. What`s your name?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi. I`m Ashwena (ph). As a pediatrician at Hurley,
representing the pediatricians who work on this, I want to know about
future funding going forward, trying to identify at-risk populations,
particularly newborns, not a population we test for lead and we know they
can be affected, so just talking about them.
MADDOW: Question, I mean, that`s an interesting question in terms of how
much support you feel is coming. As a state representative, you may know
some about what`s coming from the state, but as an educator and doctor, you
guys may have your own horizons here.
NEELEY: Well, the dollars have been allocated to start the emergency
triage of this community, to resurrect it. But if the governor has been
genuine in his approach, his budget is coming out within a month. We want
to know how much money has been dedicated to this effort inside the city of
Flint, guaranteed, instead of lip service.
We want to make sure we get enough resources for this community to make
sure we educate our children.
MADDOW: We have another question on the subject of kids and supporting
kids in Flint. Sure, right here.
What`s your name?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Andrea. I`m a transplant from Boston. I`m
living with M.S. and I have a son who`s 32 years old living with high-
functioning autism. I understand the importance of what you`re doing.
Early intervention`s crucial, Head Start, you know, early childhood
education in every public school is so important.
My biggest fear is, how do we prepare? And this is true, and I lived it, I
have enough paperwork to wallpaper a city. How do we prepare, best prepare
parents? And I would call them my sisters and/or brothers because I`ve
done this and lived this – as to what they`re going to need to face along
the road ahead, the mazes of state agencies, education, everything that`s
As well-intended as the people that the providers are, the bottom line is
always the budget. That`s a big concern of mine.
And one more, the adults.
MADDOW: The adults is a question we`ve had come up a lot that this is
obviously something for whom the kids is a primary concern and you`re a kid
doctor. But are there concerns, reasons, especially people dealing with
chronic illnesses? And people dealing with broader family concerns on
HANNA-ATTISHA: Yes. Lead impacts everybody, absolutely everybody.
Adults, seniors, pets, everybody has been impacted this. In Flint, that`s
a population of about 100,000 people who have been impacted.
Everybody will present with different things and hopefully people will have
no symptoms and no complications. But we need their resources to get the
interventions in place for the entire exposed population.
MADDOW: All right. We`ve got a lot more still to come tonight.
I want to tell you that the NAACP met with Mayor Weaver and Governor Snyder
yesterday and released a set of priorities. NAACP priorities for tackling
this crisis like hiring local young people to do door-to-door water
distribution and paying them minimum wage.
NAACP want to get free home inspection to see how safe people`s homes are.
But it`s interesting, the NAACP, in making up this list of priorities, they
said their number one priority for addressing this crisis is repealing the
emergency manager law that stripped local democracy from Flint.
They want democracy back as priority one in fixing this crisis. There is
some support for that idea in this room.
Hold that thought. We`ll be on that when we come, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MSNBC PRODUCER EMILY DREW: What would you like to say to the government?
DORIAN GREEN, FLINT RESIDENT: State or federal?
To the federal government, do what you can. We`ve need help for a long
time, and I hate that it took a crisis of this magnitude for them to step
in and do something about it.
To the state government, it`s all your fault. Accept the responsibility.
Step down and let somebody who`s capable of running the state do so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNYDER: Well, Steve, the way this really happened is the community made a
decision that city and the county all wanted to switch away from Detroit`s
Actually, the city council of Flint voted, in fact, to move away from DWSD
as a water source. That was ratified then by the emergency manager.
It was a 7-1 vote of the city council to leave the Detroit water system.
Government failed you. Federal, state, and local leaders by breaking the
trust you placed in us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Brief fact check.
It is true that government failed the city of Flint, Michigan, but local
leaders here in Flint were not actually at fault because local leaders were
replaced in Flint by emergency managers who ran the city on their own say
so and who reported only to the governor and not to the voters of this
A state-appointed emergency manager signed the order to get ready for
drinking water from Flint River. State-appointed emergency manager
presided over the switch. That is how this happened.
Is fixing that part of fixing this crisis?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yes.
Back with us now, Flint mayor, Karen Weaver. She`s joined by Senator
Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and the Reverend Charles Williams, who`s
president of the National Action Network of Michigan.
Thank you, all, very much, for being here. I really appreciate it.
Mayor Weaver, let me start with you. It`s clear to me getting rid of the
democratic process in Flint is part of how this happened. When I look at
people from Flint holding jugs of dirty water, this is terrible, saying we
have to reverse this, having nobody able to hear the complaints who could
do anything about it, I realize, OK, there`s the breakdown.
If democracy is restored in Flint, is that going to help solve this
WEAVER: Democracy needs to be restored in Flint. That`s what`s happened.
That`s how we got here. We didn`t have a voice. It was taken.
And when you`re elected, even under emergency manager, when you`re elected,
you`re supposed to speak up and speak out on behalf of the people that got
you. That didn`t happen in our case.
It didn`t happen in our case. And we need democracy. That`s how we are
heard as a community, that`s how we`re heard as a voice. And it wasn`t in
place for the citizens of Flint.
MADDOW: Reverend Williams, you`ve been such an activist, along with a lot
of other people in Michigan, you`ve been one of the activists who`s really
highlighted the dangers of the emergency manager law.
Do you think the Flint crisis will change the emergency manager law and its
politics and its viability here?
REV. CHARLES WILLIAMS, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK OF MICHIGAN PRESIDENT:
Well, you know, I was thinking about what I was going to stay on the way
here, and I felt like Marshawn Lynch, all I got to say is Governor Snyder
got to go.
WILLIAMS: One-point-two billion dollars of surplus money is sitting right
in Lansing right now because Governor Snyder cut welfare, because Governor
Snyder cut pensioners, because Governor Snyder gave $2 billion to his fat
cat folks in Michigan, and you can`t find $1.2 billion to make sure pipes
are going in the ground right now? The governor needs to dig those pipes
MADDOW: Senator Stabenow?
SEN. DEBBIE STABENOW (D), MICHIGAN: Yes?
MADDOW: The federal government has stepped up in a lot of ways.
Obviously, there were problems in terms of the EPA`s response. Federal
government was not blameless here.
But since the crisis has come to light, the federal government has been
devoting a lot of resources to this. That`s on its face good. Is it also
letting the state of Michigan off the hook?
STABENOW: Well, first thing I would say, the most important thing here is
fixing things for the people of Flint. We`ve got to make that number one.
I do feel that there`s another piece on emergency manager, Rachel, I just
want to get in. And that is in 2012, we had a ballot proposal passed
statewide to repeal the emergency manager. The state legislature and the
governor went back and changed the little bit and put it back in.
MADDOW: So, it can`t be repealed by vote again?
STABENOW: Right. I want to say this is worse than it sounds.
WILLIAMS: In fact, I`d just say, took over every blame city in Michigan.
Took over every black city in Michigan.
Flint, Detroit, Ecorse, Detroit public schools, Benton Harbor, and has
failed at every cities he has taken over.
I`m putting in emergency management to keep Detroit from going bankrupt.
What happened? Detroit goes bankrupt. I mean, it`s ludicrous and anybody
who fails at the rate that Governor Snyder has failed, I would have been
fired a long time ago.
All I got to say is Governor Snyder got to go.
STABENOW: Let me – let me also say one thing I promised I would say to a
very special – from a very special person that I talked with today and
that is President Obama who wanted me to say thank you to you, wanted me to
say thank you to everyone. He loves you and he has your back and we`re
going to do everything humanely possibly federally to help.
However, it does not take the place of the state. Early on, I made sure
that we had ready to feed formula for WIC moms. The state was not stepping
up and acting. We now have stepped up on the ground and we`re focused on
We`re going to get a grocery store in Flint. We`re going to make sure that
fresh fruits and vegetables are available to children. Health care, very
quickly, Congressman Kildee and Senator Peters and I are going to have an
announcement on how we can step up to help with the pipes as well Dr.
Mona`s vision on long term.
But, Rachel, none of this is takes the place of the fact that the state has
a surplus and a rainy day fund. They caused it. They have to step up and
MADDOW: I want to make sure we get some questions and comments from folks
here in the audience. What`s your name?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is Errol Wetson (ph). I`m on the Flint school
My question is we appreciate all the donations of water coming in our
district and city. That`s a temporary fix. What are we going do for a
permanent solution? Are going to bring in the Army Corps of Engineers in
here to come up with their alternative way of distributing water to the
city? As we wait for the infrastructure to be repaired?
MADDOW: That`s a good?
Senator, do you want to comment on that?
MADDOW: I mean, obviously, that`s one of the things that`s been floated
here and it sounds radical but it also sounds real.
STABENOW: Well, I think – I mean, I`m happy to do that. I was here all
day on Monday, meeting with the mayor. You were in D.C. still. I was
meeting with the folks at city hall.
And bottled water`s not enough. First of all, the people here deserve the
dignity and respect of having water coming out of their facet.
But I said, maybe we need to bring in Department of Defense, maybe we need
to have big water tankers and so on, Dr. Mona said and one of my heroes,
Dr. Mona and Dr. Lurie is here for the president, said that we need to have
water filters that fit that are on the facets, every two weeks they need to
have a cartridge replaced, people need to know how to do that.
If we had that for business and homes – I talked to a gentleman on Monday
who has a barber shop, we have to get that fixed.
And so, the water filters are a very important piece of this. I say this
not because – I don`t trust anything the state says right now, but when
the experts that I trust, Dr. Mona and others, are saying water filters
work if we get them on right, I think we need to take that seriously.
WILLIAMS: With all due respect, I think water filters are important, but
at the end of the day, we have been fighting this for two years.
WILLIAMS: Folks have been around here.
WILLIAMS: When I came here two years ago, almost a year and a half ago,
people were coming up to me with rashes, hair falling out, water didn`t
smell good. One lady told me that the cat didn`t want to drink the water.
I mean, when is enough enough?
WILLIAMS: I think if the Governor Snyder wanted to stay in office, which I
believe he shouldn`t stay in office, like I said before, if he wanted to
stay in office, you need to move to Flint, Michigan, and he need to take a
shower right here in Flint, Michigan. Move his family here in Flint,
MADDOW: President Charles Williams, president of the National Action
Network of Michigan, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Flint mayor,
Karen Weaver – thank you all for being here.
I want to tell you that being here in Flint there is a conclusion that I
have come to today being here talking to people that I did not expect to
come to, the conclusion that I came to is that this crisis is fixable, that
it will be fixed. I believe it. What convinced me of that is next.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: America does big things. America has done interstate highway
system, man on the moon, right? The expectation of clean drinking water
everywhere in this country, big things.
You here in Flint did nothing to bring this disaster upon yourselves. The
poisoning of this town was done to this town by your state government, not
by you. And it really is a big disaster and it has consequences for this
generation and for generations to come.
This is not some little thing that went wrong in a small to medium size
city that used to be a little bit bigger. This is – this is a disaster.
This is a manmade American disaster of national consequence.
And part of the reason we came here tonight is not because I`m from here,
I`ve got some Michigan connection here. I don`t. And most Americans
aren`t from here and don`t have some specific connection to this place.
But we as your fellow Americans have to start thinking about the
restoration of this town, the restoration of Flint as one of the big things
we need to do as a country.
Flint already is strong. You all know how strong you are. You are not
alone. It took a while, but America is with you now, Flint, Michigan.
It is a matter of getting it done of getting people in place who will do
the big things that need to be done to fix this. I am convinced it is
going to happen. It is going to be hard, but it has to happen because we
as a country will not let something like this lie.
I want to say a big thank you to all of our guests tonight. I want to say
a huge thank you to everybody who was here tonight. And to our house at
the Holmes STEM Academy here in Flint, you guys here, you Flint residents,
you`re the ones who are fighting for your own kids, for your own family,
your own community, your own state, and ultimately, as Americans, you are
fighting for all of us. So, thank you.
It`s clear we have a big job ahead and we`re going to stay on this story.
Thank you for being with us. Good night.
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