The fall out from the Flint water crisis reaches far beyond infrastructure issues and into the political territory of allowing those in power to circumvent public will. A new report from ProPublic and The Daily Beast show the trouble starting in 2011 when the city began being overseen by an emergency manager and questions if certain issues could have been avoided if a 2012 referendum was allowed to stand:
Emergency managers have the power to cut spending and sell of assets to raise money. In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that would increase the powers of these emergency mangers. This was a move which the public stood strongly against and voted to have repealed and succeeded with a 2012 referendum.
However the victory was short-lived as a new bill replaced the one that was previously repealed:
The replacement differed in some particulars — it gave local elected officials the right to propose alternatives to an emergency manager’s cuts, if they saved as much money, and to vote to remove him or her by a two-thirds vote (though only after 18 months.) But it retained the main elements of the rejected law, such as the power to modify union contracts and sell off local assets. The tweaks would only apply to future emergency managers, not the ones already governing cities and school systems. And the legislature attached a small budget appropriation to the new law, which made it impervious to referendum.