[nfbmi-talk] Fw: civil rights and flint water and more

David Robinson drob1946 at gmail.com
Sun Feb 21 13:46:32 UTC 2016

----- Original Message ----- 
From: joe harcz Comcast 
To: Lt. Gov. Brian Calley 
Cc: Mike Zimmer LARA DSA ; Ed Rodgers BSBP Dir. ; Mike Pemble BSBP Dep. Dir. ; Sarah Gravetti MISILC DNM ; Rodney Craig MISILC ; Dawn Reamer MSILC ; Jim Wheyland MSILC Member ; lisa cook gordon misilc ; Robin Bennett MSILC Member ; Mike Zelley TDN ; Marlene Malloy MCRS Dir. ; BRIAN SABOURIN ; Elmer Cerano MPAS ; Michael Steinberg ACLU ; Sidhu,Mehgan ; Mark A. Riccobono NFB Pres. ; jfroyal2000 . ; Larry Posont NFBMI Pres. ; terry Eagle ; Mark Eagle ; David Robinson NFB MI ; Georgia Kitchen FANFB ; Mary Ann Robinson NFB MI ; Eleanor Canter ; Darma Canter ; Timothy Beatty HHS ; Leigh Campbell-Earl ; Bill Earl MI ADAPT ; Clark Goodrich ; Scott Heinzman ; Laura Hall ; Norm DeLisle ; Jill Gerrie ; Elizabeth Picciuto ; Egan, Paul 
Sent: Sunday, February 21, 2016 7:52 AM
Subject: civil rights and flint water and more

Open Letter About State and PWD

Citizens with Disabilities are People Too




Note the excellent opinion article after my signature line. Also note I am an activist who is blind who has drank this Flint water and note it is a disability issue as well not only for residents of Flint, but also the entire county. For, example my elderly father is now in McLaren Hospital in Flint, and that is where the Legionnaire’s outbreak directly linked to the Flint water took place. And also note I’ve been trying to get our Bureau of Services for Blind persons, our Statewide Independent Living Council , our local Disability Network, and other state entities to inform persons who are blind and others with disabilities of actual resources. But, I’m greeted with press releases, spin control and Freedom of Information Act delays and charges.


This all goes to how the Snyder Administration has destroyed all consumer control of all entities serving people with disabilities and how it has established a system of agency control of all our consumer driven entities. That includes the destruction of the consumer controlled Michigan Commission for the Blind, the continuing games and lack of consumer control in most, if not all of our centers for Independent Living and Statewide Rehabilitation Council, and the destruction of any meaningful consumer control over our Statewide Rehabilitation Council. It also goes to the Snyder Administration’s destruction of consumer control over the Quality Control Council.


Related to all of these issues and more I have literally been abused with FOIA charges now approaching $1 million and moreover, Dozens of us were denied our civil right of access to our own Americans with Disabilities Act celebration on September 17, 2015, sponsored by state agencies and state funded agencies. And this was on the Capitol Lawn during broad daylight in the most public of public forums where people are supposed to protest including recent protests over the Flint Water crisis. I was even arrested by the Michigan State Police for attempting to enter that event. What was our crime? We were bringing to light with words on pamphlets and voices, a First Amendment right, the fact that these state agencies routinely violate the ADA and that they exploit we people with disabilities with segregated and non-competitive employment, if we have a job at all. But, we don’t even apparently have equal rights like non-disabled folks to protest, or to freedom of speech and press!


But, to the point here not only were state actors not only dismissing we citizens with disabilities and our “grievances” against government actors, but they actually retaliated against us for doing so. They actually “criminalized” our civil and constitutional rights on the very day meant to celebrate those rights. How arrogant!


And those State actors, mostly without any disability let alone a significant one include, among many others Sarah Gravettie, the Chair of the Statewide Independent Living Council and The Disability Network Michigan, Lt. Governor Calley, Sharon Ellis, Michigan ADA Compliance Officer with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the entire Capitol Police contingent!


By the way there is no and I repeat no emergency preparedness program for the tens of thousands of people with disabilities here in this county. For example, there are no methods in place for communicating resources affirmatively for those of us with sensory disabilities, and again inquiries of how the Flint office of the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons has engaged blind citizens are met with lying press releases and FOIA responses. Resourses, or even accessible information and referral to resources, don’t exist on a daily basis so how can they exist when a disaster occurs. And the right of access to a public event is denied so I guess we people with disabilities can’t access emergency services either.


Yet, we’ve got mostly non-disabled, mostly white and mostly male operatives sucking up millions of dollars in resources from the feds to abuse neglect and not even listen to us!


And, this goes not only to lack of empathy but to documented, wide scale, malicious discrimination which, during a disaster does become deadly.



Moreover, the culture goes not only to front line employees but also to the Snyder Administration appointed hacks who run these agencies and who routinely dismiss we citizens and our complaints.

Joe Harcz

1365 E. Mt. Morris Rd.

Mt. Morris, MI 48458

(just outside of Flint)


joeharcz at comcast.net








When empathy dies: How everyone failed citizens of Flint

 Nancy Kaffer,

Detroit Free Press Columnist 12:14 a.m. EST February 21, 2016

635914987266809726-flint-kaffer.JPGBuy Photo


Members of the Red Cross carry jugs of purified water while going door-to-door delivering the free purified jugs of water and water filters to Flint residents

dealing with the water crisis on the the city's north side on Friday January 8, 2016, while helping the members of the Genesee County Sheriff's Department

and the Sheriff's Reserve.(Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo


It's the most maddening thing about the Flint water crisis: It's not like they didn't know.


Years of engineering reports had documented the challenges inherent in treating Flint River water. Despite that, the city's treatment plant, with the approval

of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, failed to properly dose the water before serving it up to Flint residents.


Months of resident complaints about the taste, smell and appearance of the water failed to penetrate the cocoons of bureaucratic security at the Michigan

Department of Environmental Quality or Department of Health and Human Services. Nor did warnings from a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency water-quality

expert, or copious test results delivered by a Virginia Tech University lead specialist. All three, behind the scenes, were dismissed. The health department's

own analysis showing a spike in blood-lead levels in Flint kids was ignored, in favor of a different analysis that indicated everything was fine.


And then there are the e-mails.


I've spent a lot of time, over the last six months, reading e-mails written by and to state officials about Flint's water crisis. It's a narrow, voyeuristic

look into the professional lives of midlevel functionaries, and the indifference with which not one or two employees, but seemingly entire state agencies,

dismissed concerns raised by both residents and scientists is stunning.

This e-mail sent by an MDEQ supervisor dismisses concerns


This e-mail sent by an MDEQ supervisor dismisses concerns raised by an EPA drinking water specialist. (Photo: State of Michigan)


The first draft of an elaborate "not my problem" e-mail written by Liane Shekter Smith, now-fired head of the state's Office of Drinking Water Management,

to LeeAnne Walters — the Flint woman whose home tested astronomically high for lead-contaminated water  —  rebuked Walters for having plumbing work done

at her home without a permit. EPA employee Miguel del Toral, whose memo raised the alarm nearly a year ago about lead in Walters' water and throughout

Flint, was called a "rogue" employee. An MDEQ supervisor joked that employees deserved a raise for their handling of the Flint crisis.


None of this is terribly surprising to people who study crisis management.


"I've probably looked at 100 major disasters or crises in my career," said Matthew Seeger, dean of Wayne State University's College of Fine, Performing

and Communication Arts and a professor of communication who has studied crisis communications. "Every one of those has warning signs and signals. There's

no crisis that happens that’s a completely surprising event —  there are always warning signs and signals that something isn’t right."


So what happens?


"The signals don’t coalesce; people are focusing on other things, other demands," Seeger said. "Sometimes the signals come from people we don’t understand:

outsiders, people with a different orientation, who speak a different language, who don’t have access to the same channels. This is not a new phenomenon."


There's abundant evidence of that. State officials seemed bemused by resident Walters, who demonstrated again and again that the water at her home contained

alarming levels of lead, based on results returned both by the city and by Virginia Tech professor Marc Edwards. Edwards, a McArthur genius grant recipient,

was dismissed as someone with an agenda, a man who found lead everywhere he looked.


"These e-mails do give a good indication that there were warnings," Seeger said. "And that there was a bureaucratic effort to dilute responsibility. There

were several agencies involved here, and each assumed it was somebody else’s responsibility."


And there's a more basic element, says Don Conlon, Eli Broad professor of management at Michigan State University's Eli Broad College of Business: "In business,

there’s always a strong motivation to avoid embarrassment. People — and more generally, companies — put a premium on looking very rational and sensible

at work.  If we don’t know something, we don’t like to admit that we look bad or that we need help. We worry it makes us look incompetent, or like we have




Both pointed to the siloed nature of state government as a contributing problem.


"We all have divisions of labor and functional specializations," Seeger said. "It's more so a function of highly bureaucratic organizations.


"Organizations have a hard time processing risk messages," he added. "When you get a warning message, you don’t know what cubbyhole to put it in, and sometimes

it's easier to ignore messages."


Seeger suggests thinking about a "check engine" light on your car's dashboard. When it flashes, what does it mean? What if it flashes only briefly, then

goes off?


"It's harder for us to process messages that things aren’t acting in a normal way than messages that are predictable and we know how to deal with. When

there is uncertainty in a message we have received, we often interpret it in the easiest way, using the least resources necessary," he said. "So if we

had conflicting messages, one said 'the engine’s just fine,' and the other said 'no, the engine has a problem,' which of those messages is easiest for

us to believe?"


It's important for agencies like MDEQ and the department of health to have permeable boundaries, Seeger says — to be able to take information and evidence

from outsiders.


It's also important for rank-and-file to have a conduit to the top, Conlon said — and an emphasis on ethics and social responsibility.


These are all sharp, important critiques, and I hope the State of Michigan, in its post-Flint self-audit, takes note.


I can't help but feel something else happened in Flint, in the flurry of test results and lead levels and dealing with this e-mail or that complaint.


Some state employees seem to have forgotten the basic charge of public service: That the work they do matters, not just on paper, but to real people's lives.

That test results showing elevated lead in someone's drinking water represent a real person's plight, not an inconvenient  data set that means more work

and substantial criticism.


That there are people on the other end of the line.


Contact Nancy Kaffer: nkaffer at freepress.com




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