FLINT, Mich. (WOOD) — MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday hosted a special program in Flint on the city’s water crisis, talking to city leaders and questioning why the problem hasn’t been resolved yet.
A few hundred people filled the gym at Holmes STEM Academy on Flint’s north side for the program. Most were residents, but there were also politicians, clergy and community leaders. Attendees included Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing.
“I really appreciate Rachel coming out and giving the people of Flint the opportunity to come out and ask questions directly about what’s going to happened going forward,” Sen. Stabenow said.
That statement was echoed by Mayor Weaver before the town hall.
Also in attendance was Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Professor Marc Edwards of the Flint Water Study group and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Conspicuously not present: Republican Gov. Rick Snyder.
Maddow said she was hosting the special in an effort to return attention to the needs of city residents rather than assigning blame for the crisis.
“The problem here is not actually being fixed,” she said as the program started.
The water crisis, which has received attention only in recent weeks, has actually been ongoing for nearly two years. It started when the city switched its water source from the Detroit system to the Flint River in April 2014. The highly corrosive river water damaged the city’s aging pipes, causing them to leach lead and contaminate the drinking water being sent into homes. Even after the source was switched back to the Detroit system, the water remained tainted.
>>PDF: Timeline of events in Flint
During her program, Maddow addressed what many see as the biggest question: Why hasn’t work started to fix the lead pipes Flint? She interviewed a local plumber who criticized Snyder’s timeline of 15 years to replace old pipes. Requests were made to use state rainy day state funds to start work now.
Additionally, the topic of repealing Michigan’s emergency manager law was discussed, with the majority in attendance in favor. Flint was under the control of an emergency manager when the water source was switched in an attempt to save money and many say that contributed to the crisis.
>>Inside woodtv.com: How you can help Flint residents
Residents wore their emotions on their sleeves during the town hall, cheering when they agreed, yelling when they didn’t and giving standing ovations to the people they consider the heroes in this crisis. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician credited with drawing attention to increased lead levels in Flint children, received a standing ovation when she joined the program.
“I thought it was wonderful, it was very informative,” Flint resident Carmella Johnson said.
“We all want to get the same results, get the water fixed,” fellow resident Sherman Mays added.
Many residents were hopeful that the town hall may result in action.
They said they were happy Maddow decided to host the special in Flint and many credit her for getting the crisis national attention.
“I love Rachel. I love her. I’m so proud of her. I wish it was for something different, but at the end of the day we are going to make sure it doesn’t happen to another city in America,” Johnson said.
The program was taped starting at 7 p.m. and aired during Maddow’s usual time slot on MSNBC at 9 p.m.
24 Hour News 8’s Heather Walker was at the program and will have a full report at 11 p.m. on WOOD TV8.
–The Associated Press contributed to this report.