‘It’s unbelievable’: Michiganders chide GOP lawmakers for leaving without passing emergency flood relief

By: and - July 1, 2021 5:32 pm

Residents in a Grosse Pointe Park neighborhood throw out damaged belongings after the flooding on July 1, 2021 | Ken Coleman

Greg Bowens, a Grosse Pointe Park resident, has spent much of the last several days in his basement trying to drain out water and sift through damaged belongings.

Bowens is just one of many Michiganders attempting to recover from historic rainfall that hit parts of the state last Friday and early Saturday. The flooding hit the metro Detroit area particularly hard, with many neighborhoods facing heavy rainfall, flooded roadways and damaged homes.

Flooding resources

  • Disaster contact info for Wayne County Communities: Click here
  • Questions on flooding contamination or cleanup: Call 734-727-7400 for the Wayne County Public Health Division Environmental Health Unit
  • For assistance: Call 2-1-1 for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan
  • For immediate help: Call 1-800-RED-CROSS for the American Red Cross
  • For those needing help staying cool in the heat and humidity: Visit detroitmi.gov/health or call 313-876-4000 for the Detroit Health Department
  • To report a power outage or a downed powerline: Call DTE’s 24-hour number at 800-477-4747 or report online here
  • If you or a loved one are stranded on a freeway/other roadway during a flooding event, call 9-1-1 for help (only call once due to heavy volume of calls)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Wayne County on Saturday to better coordinate local support and resources. The GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature also seemed poised to help this week, with both chambers on Wednesday sending legislation for millions of dollars in supplemental flood relief money to each other.

But neither the House nor Senate took up the other’s bills. So both chambers adjourned for lawmakers’ two-week summer break without approving $10 million in emergency flood funds.

Bowens said he’s disappointed that the Michigan Legislature failed to address the issue this week, and wishes lawmakers paid more attention to critical infrastructure issues that often exacerbate the effects of extreme weather events.

Residents in a Grosse Pointe Park neighborhood throw out damaged belongings after the flooding on July 1, 2021 | Ken Coleman

“It’s unbelievable that the representatives in the state Legislature would not respond to a catastrophic event that is entirely preventable,” Bowens said. “We need to have some creative solutions to these long-term problems.”

Donna Givens Davidson, CEO and president of the Eastside Community Network, spoke along similar lines to the Advance. She said her organization’s service area in Detroit was hit hard by the rainfall and believes that government should respond immediately to the issue.

Stories of affected residents were told during her organization’s recent “Authentically Detroit” podcast.

“We have infrastructure that is not working,” Givens Davidson said.

Local numbers to report flood damages

  • Detroit: 313-267-8000 | Water and sewage damages and backups form
  • Ecorse: 313-386-2520 | Sewer backup form
  • Dearborn Heights: 313-943-3030 | Flood assistance form
  • Garden City: 734-793-1800 | Contact the city here to receive flood packet
  • Highland Park: 313-252-0050 (ext. 242 or 255) | Complete “Wayne County Flood Feedback” form here
  • Inkster: 313-395-3050 | Fill out a 2021 flood damage report
  • Melvindale: 313-429-1064 (Water Department) or 313-429-1070 (police department; press 2 in case of emergency)
  • Redford Township: 313-387-2670 (Water Department; M-F, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.) | 313-387-2553 (police department for assistance outside of Water Department hours) | Sewer disposal or storm water system event form
  • River Rouge: 313-842-4803
  • Romulus: 734-942-7579 
  • Wayne: 734-721-8600
  • Westland: 734-467-3200 (Mayor’s office) or 734-467-3169 (City Finance Department) | Damage assessment and incident forms should be returned to Westland City Hall Finance Department as soon as possible

The Legislature will not return until mid-July. Leading up to Sept. 13, the Senate will only convene for four days total, the House will hold session for six days and only one day (Sept. 9) will see both chambers overlap.

Besides the $10 million in supplemental relief funds, lawmakers also punted on passing a full budget plan before their self-imposed Thursday deadline.

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Twp.), other Democrats and the liberal group Progress Michigan admonished GOP leaders for failing to pass essential provisions before adjourning for two weeks.

“I simply cannot believe that Republicans left town again without doing their jobs,” Lasinski said Thursday. “For six months, Democrats have called for bringing home federal COVID relief dollars, and for six months, Republican leadership have bounced bills between these chambers without getting help to families.

“Now, our families are literally underwater across lower Michigan, and no help is coming. Democrats are fighting for families, but Republicans are more interested in their vacation plans,” Lasinski continued.

Lavora Barnes, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP), also released a statement excoriating Republican leaders for leaving town with the budget and other bills undone.

“Republicans understand very well how much it impacts their constituents to arbitrarily move the goalposts on funding local police, roads, and supporting small businesses,” Barnes said. “… After using two out of the three final days they should’ve used to pass a budget to instead golf at political fundraisers, the GOP made it loud and clear that the only financial security they are concerned with is their own. Michigan families and small businesses can’t afford the continued irresponsibility Republicans are putting on full display in Lansing.”


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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.