In filing criminal charges against three officials responsible for maintaining safe water in Flint, Michigan, the state attorney general declared that they “had a duty to protect the health” of Flint residents and “they failed to discharge their duties.”
That clear, compelling and obvious statement of accountability Wednesday is far removed from the reprehensible, self-serving bleating of Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton this week regarding a local lead-poisoning danger.
Instead of providing a journalistic public service by focusing on city officials who displayed a callous disregard for the safety of residents near Mangan Park in south Sacramento over a period of years, Breton chooses to blame nearly 32,000 city residents, myself included, for the mess.
That incredible connection, if one can call it that, was our vote against Kevin Johnson’s attempted power grab in 2014 via Measure L. Breton apparently is still in a snit that his public declarations of support for his buddy Johnson failed to overcome voters’ wariness of our morally challenged mayor. A strong mayor, Breton seems to argue, would have established clear lines of authority throughout the city bureaucracy and all would be dandy for children, parents and other residents near Mangan Park.
Breton’s strained logic trivializes a serious issue of public safety and does nothing to establish needed accountability for a health danger initially recognized in 2006. According to a Bee story earlier this month, more than 20 tests conducted inside the range between 2006 and 2014 found lead in nearly every corner of the building that was used as rifle and pistol range.
The city-owned building was closed in December 2014 after elevated levels of lead were found on the roof, but local residents were not notified about the potential danger. The city did not conduct soil tests or put up a barrier around the building until the Bee starting investigating the issue recently.
The toll on public health remains to be seen. I haven’t read anything about what warnings – if any – were given to those who used the indoor gun range for years. The lead levels measured inside the building were sometimes hundreds of times greater than the state’s hazard threshold, according to the Bee. Then there are all the neighborhood children – including my two grandchildren – who played in the park with no awareness of possible unseen danger.
Who knew what and when they knew it should be investigated. Let’s see the emails and other internal communications among city officials, council members and the mayor. Maybe, as in Flint, criminal charges are warranted.
Meanwhile, if Breton is as enraged as he claims to be about this mess, he might start looking closer to home. Why didn’t he or others at the newspaper know what was going on for the past 10 years? Why wasn’t the 2014 closure investigated then? Why were the watchdogs asleep on the job?