During a campaign stop in Flint, Michigan, on Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders expressed indignation at the city’s water crisis, calling it “one of the most serious public health crises in the modern history of this country,” Politico reports.
At Flint’s Woodside Church, Sanders heard complaints from residents about the lead contamination in their tap water, and asked what they wanted the government to do to resolve it. He also tied the crisis to an ongoing theme of his campaign: the nation’s neglected infrastructure and the need for federal-stimulus spending to repair and upgrade it. “While Flint may be the canary in the coal mine,” he said, “there are a lot of other canaries all around the country.”
A central plank of the Vermont senator’s unabashedly expensive campaign platform is a ten-year, $1 trillion infrastructure spending program that he claims would create 13 million jobs.
Sanders also expressed outrage at the recent revelation that not only were Flint residents being served with poisoned water, their water bills were nearly double the national average.
In his remarks to the crowd, which Politico described as “overwhelmingly white” considering that Flint is a black-majority city, Sanders did not offer any proposals for how he would respond to the problem if he were president, preferring to ask his audience what they wanted done.
Last month, Sanders called for Michigan governor Rick Snyder to resign over the Flint crisis. His rival, Hillary Clinton, called it a “civil rights issue.” Snyder accused the two Democrats of manipulating the crisis for political gain. Both candidates have opened campaign offices in Flint.
The Republican presidential candidates have mostly ignored the Flint crisis, except Senator Ted Cruz, whose campaign sent bottled water there last month, but only to anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.” Politico reported Thursday that Cruz had placed a “soft hold” on an $850 million aid package for Flint and other areas with deficient water infrastructure, but his spokesperson quickly announced that he would not prevent it from moving forward.
His opponent Marco Rubio, when asked to comment on the Flint crisis during a campaign stop in Iowa in January, said it was “not an issue that, right now, we’ve been focused on.”