DETROIT (AP) — Incumbent Karen Weaver survived a recall effort to remain Flint’s mayor as the Michigan city slowly recovers from a lead-contaminated water crisis.
Weaver won Tuesday’s winner-takes-all election and will serve the final two years of her four-year term. The lengthy ballot included Weaver, recall organizer Arthur Woodson and longtime City Councilman Scott Kincaid, who had received significant donations from labor organizations in a union-heavy town.
The ballot didn’t refer to the water crisis. The official reason was Weaver’s decision to hire a suburban Detroit trash hauler that became connected to a federal corruption investigation. Still, the troubles caused by Flint’s ill-fated switch to a cheaper water source were on everybody’s minds.
The city stopped using Detroit’s water system and instead tapped the Flint River during an 18-month period in 2014 and 2015, as a way to save money while the city’s finances were under state control. But the river water wasn’t properly treated, which caused lead from pipes in older homes and buildings to leach into drinking water.
Some children were found to have elevated lead levels in their blood, which can cause developmental delays and other health problems. The disaster has led to 15 current or former governmental officials being charged with crimes, and lawsuits have been filed by numerous residents.
Some experts have also linked the tainted water to the deaths of 12 people who died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease, a type of pneumonia.
Woodson didn’t mention the lead crisis in his petition for the recall election, but he argued that Weaver and other city officials lacked the competence or experience to deal with the problems it caused.
Weaver countered by saying she’s “doing the job” voters elected her to do. She has denied any wrongdoing related to the trash hauler or its affiliates.
Weaver made the water problems a focus of her successful 2015 mayoral campaign when voters ousted Dayne Walling, who along with other officials initially told residents the water was safe but blamed state and federal agencies for the problems. At the time, Weaver said residents needed leaders who will “speak out” and she called for a federal investigation into the water crisis.