Michigan Civil Rights Commission to Hold Third Public Hearing on Flint Water Crisis Thursday, Sept. 8

Contact: Vicki Levengood 517-241-7978
Agency: Civil Rights

September 7, 2016

Lansing  – The Michigan Civil Rights Commission (the Commission) will conduct a public hearing on Thursday, Sept. 8 to take testimony on claims of discrimination and racial bias in the Flint water crisis, beginning at 3 pm in the Northbank Center Grand Ballroom, located at 432 N. Saginaw St. in Flint, Michigan. The third Commission hearing on the Flint water crisis will focus on the environmental justice implications. Commissioners will welcome public comment at approximately 6:30 pm.

“In the previous hearings, we have heard the eye-opening personal experiences of Flint residents – the people directly impacted by this crisis,” said Rasha Demashkieh, Co-Chair of the Commission. “In this hearing, we’re looking to individuals well-versed in environmental justice to help us understand both the concept and the role it may have played this crisis.”

The hearing will begin with Commissioners taking testimony from three panels of experts in the field of environmental justice and individuals with knowledge of the role it may have played in the crisis.

Panel 1 – What is Environmental Justice/Injustice? Panelists include:

  • Paul Mohai, Professor, University of Michigan

  • Michael Mascrenhas, Associate Professor, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Panel 2 – Michigan’s History with Environmental Justice and its role in the Flint water crisis. Panelists include:

  • Kyle Powys Whyte, Associate Professor, Michigan State University

  • Sara Gosman, Professor of Law, University of Arkansas

  • Chris Kolb, Co-Chair, Governor's Flint Water Advisory Task Force

  • Ken Sikkema, Co-Chair, Governor's Flint Water Advisory Task Force

Panel 3 – Looking ahead: What can be done to move Michigan forward? Panelists include:

  • Guy Williams, President and CEO, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice

  • Eric Lupher, President, Citizens Research Council

  • Michael Stampfler, former Emergency Manager for Pontiac, and nearly 30 years City Manager experience

  • Joe Harris, CPA and former Benton Harbor Emergency Manager

  • Steve Chester, Miller Canfield, former Director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (tentative)

On January 25, 2016, the Commission unanimously passed a resolution to conduct public hearings in order to examine allegations of discrimination involving residents of the city of Flint and their public water supply.

The resolution stated that the Commission would convene hearings “to accept and/or compel testimony to address the question of whether the civil rights of Flint residents have been violated or abridged as a result of actions resulting in the provision of unsafe water to Flint residents through the public water system.”

The Michigan Constitution established the Commission and proscribes its duty to investigate discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin in the enjoyment of the civil rights guaranteed by law and by the constitution, including Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). ELCRA specifically prohibits discrimination based on religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status, disability or marital status.

Under the constitution, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission has the power to hold hearings, administer oaths, require the attendance of witnesses and the submission of records, to take testimony, and to issue appropriate orders.