20 Jan 2016

Flint, Detroit

Someone asked my opinion on the situation in Flint* on twitter. Here's my longer response.

The problem can be traced to a combination of:
Now it seems that the people there face a future of bottled water while waiting for $1.5-$2 billion of spending to replace all the cities pipes.

This is a farce in one of America's most poor and violent cities (thanks for pointing that out, Mr. Moore)

I thus suggest that the people of Flint be paid $50,000/household (that's about $2 billion) to move to the neighboring city Detroit, where property is cheap, it's possible to move neighborhoods "intact"** and the water department is desperately seeking customers.

Bottom Line: Let's make lemonade! Move the people from Flint to Detroit so they can drink the water, communities intact, and strengthen a "better" city.

* My understanding: The city switched supplies from Lake Huron to the Flint River, which had lower quality and -- more important -- interacted with pipes, to destabilize them and increase lead leeching. This "could have been prevented" by spending $100 on additives, but that was not done. Now, after switching back to lake water, the pipes are still destabilized, thereby calling into question the entire system's function. One solution -- replacing the city's pipes -- is projected to cost $1.5-$2 billion.
** NB: Some people benefitted from their flight from dysfunctional neighborhoods in New Orleans, so it may not be the best idea to keep "violent poor" neighborhoods intact, but you can see the political drawbacks of such an opinion.

Addendum (Sep 2016): Excellent background article/graphic on the slow train wreck that finally developed into a national scandal.


Andrew Middleton said...

Has anything like this proposed federally assisted evacuation and resettlement been formally proposed or executed elsewhere in the US? I can think of a dozen rural communities in West Virginia with appalling environmental conditions and no economic opportunity that would be prime candidates as well. There are places where people are living that are just too expensive to maintain and human health suffers as a result.

David Zetland said...

Well, it sure makes sense and it happens indirectly (some places subsidize your move there; others are relatively more attractive due to official and unofficial reasons), but this article highlights some international examples: http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/pay-go-countries-offer-cash-immigrants-willing-pack-their-bags

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