Flint mayor discourages Donald Trump tour of water plant today
For the second time this month, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is heading to Michigan, this time to Flint to tour the city that has been plagued by a public health crisis from drinking water contaminated with lead.
The campaign hasn't released details yet, but Trump's travel schedule initially included a tour of the Flint water plant. But Mayor Karen Weaver discouraged that plan and said Trump had never contacted her about the tour.
"Flint is focused on fixing the problems caused by lead contamination of our drinking water, not photo ops," she said in a statement Tuesday evening, adding that the employees and staff at the water plant "cannot afford the disruption of a last-minute visit."
It wasn't clear Tuesday night if the tour of the water plant would happen.
Trump's visit, his second in the last 10 days aimed at reaching out to communities with large populations of African-American voters, was also supposed to include a meeting with pastors to talk about the problems facing the city, but the campaign wouldn't provide details on where the meeting will be held.
Weaver, who has endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, will be in Washington, D.C., to urge Congress to pass legislation to provide federal funding to fix the water problems in Flint.
Democrats in the presidential campaign made Flint a key talking point during the presidential primaries. Both Clinton and Bernie Sanders visited the city, and one of the Democratic Party's debates was held in Flint. Weaver also spoke at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.
But Republican candidates during the primary and after Trump became the nominee have scarcely mentioned the Flint water crisis — much less visited. It came up briefly during the Republican debate held in Detroit, and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette talked about the crisis during his speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
"He's taking the Flint water crisis as an opportunity to exploit the Flint community at large. He has not said anything at all about the Republican control under the emergency management which caused the crisis in the city of Flint," said state Rep. Sheldon Neeley, D-Flint, "I'll be very interested to see if indeed he's going to say anything about the Republican mess that caused the human health crisis in Flint. If not, he's being disingenuous by even visiting my town."
The Trump campaign could not be reached for comment.
Trump's visit follows his first foray as a presidential candidate into an African-American church in Detroit on Sept. 3 and two other visits to Michigan — a rally in Dimondale and a speech to the Detroit Economic Club — in August.
In addition to attending services at the Great Faith Ministries International Church earlier this month, Trump also sat down for an interview with church Pastor Bishop Wayne T. Jackson on the Impact Television Network that Jackson founded in 2010. That interview is to air at 9 p.m. Wednesday.
The Flint water crisis began when the city, which was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, switched its water supply in April 2014 from the Detroit Water and Sewerage System, which draws from Lake Huron, to a new supplier that drew water from the Flint River. The new water supply, which was more corrosive than the lake water, was improperly treated, causing pipes to deteriorate and leach lead into the water going into the city's homes and businesses.
As a result, Schuette has charged nine people have been criminally charged for their role in the water contamination and filed a civil lawsuit against two businesses who were involved in the water switch.
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Contact Kathleen Gray: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @michpoligal.