Power of the people 

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For instance, newly elected Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has found herself embroiled in a dispute with Snyder over the pace of replacing lead service lines throughout the city. Weaver wants the state to replace all of the service lines immediately. Snyder, though, isn't sure that needs to happen.

In addition, immigrant-rights activists are worrying that not enough is being done to ensure that Flint residents who speak little or no English are being properly informed about the danger lurking in the water. Compounding their concern are fears that undocumented immigrants could be deported if they go seeking bottled water from relief sites.

Add to that the many stresses associated with a city trying to get by on bottled water for months.

And then there are the various lawsuits, both current and pending, that could keep the city and state embroiled in court proceedings for many years to come as lawyers and judges sort out just what is owed to the victims of this completely avoidable man-made tragedy.

The cost of addressing health issues, the price tag on increased educational and wrap-around services for lead-poisoned children, the significant loss of property values, and damage to infrastructure ­— taken together, the toll for the state's attempts to impose austerity on Flint seems almost incalculable.

In a sense, Shariff and others tried preventing this disaster long before anyone was talking about corrosion control and water service lines. Now, even with their trust in government badly fractured, they continue working to make sure residents are protected as fully and, as quickly, as possible.

In November 2012, Michigan voters went to the polls and rejected a law passed the year before by the Republican-dominated legislature. It was a law that usurped the power of elected municipal officials and gave them to "emergency managers" appointed by the governor to run financially stressed cities and school districts. Shariff was part of the prolonged volunteer effort to get the issue on the ballot, and she was disgusted when the Michigan Legislature, less than a month after voters soundly rejected a proposal for one "emergency manager" law, passed a similar law in lame-duck session. Adding to her disgust was the fact that the legislators included a democracy-quashing attachment to the bill that made it "referendum-proof."

And so Shariff joined forces with a handful of others. They began meeting regularly as the Democracy Defense League to talk about problems with the emergency management system and ways to oppose it.

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