Can Elon Musk Show Flint How to End the Water Crisis? [OPINION]
Elon Musk, a CEO and one of the world's richest men, is stepping up to take care of a fixable problem that has persisted for far too long.
Elon Musk is a brilliant and unpredictable multi-billionaire. He recently put inexpensive flamethrowers on the market because, well, they're cool. He sent one of his cars into space for the hell of it. He can do whatever he wants, and quite often does... unless of course, you're talking about selling cars in Michigan. Our lawmakers made sure he couldn't do that, and perhaps that's why he's stepping in to solve a major problem in the birthplace of one of the big three.
Musk tweeted yesterday that he would personally take on the Flint water crisis, offering to fund the repair of any home with seriously contaminated water:
Musk later clarified what exactly that would entail:
Then, predictably, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver got involved:
Here's the thing that makes me nervous about this whole thing -- if our mayor knew how to solve this problem quickly it would be done already. We've had hundreds of millions of dollars thrown at the Flint water crisis from federal and state government, as well as celebrity and citizen donations. Sure, the FAST Start program is a thing that's happening, but why are there only a few companies working on this? Why not triple the number of workers and wildly reduce the schedule of the project? I'll tell you why -- money.
Once you get money involved in a political process it starts to get real messy. Just take a look at Flint's unnecessary garbage debacle a few years ago. Our mayor made decisions and moves that were not only non-sensical but were also heavily rumored to be motivated by financial kickbacks (the company she chose was later found to have bribed local officials in other Michigan cities). Could that sort of thing be happening with the FAST start program? I have no idea. I'm not an expert on how this program came to be, but, as a citizen, the limited amount of people on the job certainly looks suspicious to me.
Given my feelings on the current political climate, I really hate to say this, but perhaps this is the kind of problem only an incorruptible rich guy could fix. He's not going to be looking for kickbacks or ways to funnel money out of a humanitarian crisis like some local officials may or may not be guilty of. He legit sees a problem and has decided to move on it.
Could his actions all be his way of thumbing his nose at the Big 3? Sure, but maybe he's just sick of seeing social media posts like "[insert literally anything that is happening], but Flint Michigan still doesn't have clean water." Either way, he probably thinks that it's an easy way for him to look like a good guy, and I don't think he's wrong.
His entrance into this ongoing crisis will make things very interesting. What I'm most interested in is his approach of starting where the problem is the worst. How hard would it have been for our local government to take care of the houses with elevated lead levels first and work their way out? Hell, they could probably still do that, but apparently are not if we have rich guys stepping up to do it. These are the kinds of details that start to look suspicious when one looks at the whole picture.
Also, how many homes are there with lead levels that are still too high? I'm actually very interested to find out that number. You occasionally hear about one or two here or there, but what is the actual number? I'd be very surprised if it were higher than 100 inhabited homes. If it is, our city has to do better. Even if it's not they need to do better. The people of Flint have waited long enough.
Editor's Note: I am not a Flint water crisis expert. I'm just a guy from the area who has been keeping a close eye on this for several years. I follow the stories, and I keep tabs on what is and is not happening, and I write about it occasionally. As someone who has had close friends affected by the water crisis, I find it infuriating that our local government has not yet fixed this problem with all the resources they've been provided. It's also probably worth noting that over the past few months, I have reached out to the people running the FAST Start program several times through multiple channels hoping to get answers to just two questions. I have yet to receive any type of response.