President Barack Obama visited the city of Flint, Michigan. After a briefing from officials on the city's water crisis, the president assured residents his administration would coordinate with Michigan leadership to give them relief (video below).
The president arrived in Flint on May 4, where he was greeted at the Flint airport by Michigan's Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, The Associated Press reports.
The Michigan State Senate had approved a spending bill on May 3, granting $144 million to help provide aid to the city of Flint, $25 million of which reserved to replace aged pipes that had leached lead into the town’s untreated water supply.
The president was briefed by federal officials on the response to the lead poisoning crisis. Shortly after, Obama took a drink of the filtered Flint water, remarking that he normally does not participate in political stunts but would make an exception.
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Michigan officials are trying to convince Flint residents to drink their tap water using a filter, stating that the newly treated water will improve as they course through the city’s piping. Snyder has tried to encourage skeptical Flint residents by drinking the water himself, but with petitions for his recall being circulated, he has lost credibility with a large swath of the town.
Obama was scheduled to speak before a crowd of 1,000 at Flint high school. Snyder, who attendees were not expecting to appear, took the stage before the president.
“Let me begin by saying I understand why you are angry and frustrated,” Snyder told the crowd, his words met with a mass of boos, according to CNN. “I want to come here today to apologize. You didn’t create this problem. Government failed you.”
“You failed us,” a voice in the crowd shouted back.
President Obama’s reception was more well-received. He seemed to amend Snyder’s admission that government had failed the people of Flint, instead stating that the conservative ideology that government should do as little as possible was to blame, The Detroit News reports.
The president described this sentiment as “a corrosive attitude that exists in our politics and exists in too many levels of government."
“Clean water for drinking and bathing are not government overreach,” Obama told the crowd. “It’s not too much to expect of all Americans that their water is safe.”
The president developed a cough during his address, eventually asking if he could get a glass of water. After assuring the crowd that he had not rehearsed his symbolic sipping of the filtered Flint water, he told them that residents who use a filter can drink their tap water, as long as they are not pregnant women or children under 6.
Obama also called on Congress to pass legislation that would provide $100 million in federal aid to Flint, helping to replace its outdated pipes and address the health care needs of the residents stemming from the lead issue.