FLINT, MI — Flint City Councilman Josh Freeman is done with the city.
In a one-sentence statement to be delivered Wednesday, Dec. 30, to Flint City Clerk Inez Brown, Freeman said:
“Madam Clerk, I resign from my position as Flint City Councilman, 4th Ward, effective 12/31/2015 at 11:59 PM.”
First elected to the council in 2004, Freeman has served in multiple capacities, including as council president and finance committee chairman, and he filled a seat on the Karegnondi Water Authority board before he recently was replaced.
In a letter to residents of the 4th Ward, Freeman said he is stepping down from his elected position so he can spend more time with his wife and four children.
“My family and I haven’t lived together since 2010,” said Freeman, whose children attend Davison schools. “My kids are going to school for opportunities in another community they just didn’t have here in the city of Flint.”
His family has lived in Davison while he remained in a home in Flint, he said.
He said he chose to stay in Flint and continue serving as a City Council member. Looking back, he said, he made the wrong choice.
Now, he’s moving to Davison.
Freeman called living apart from his family “a hardship,” and he wants the chance to be a “full-time dad, not somebody that’s just there on the weekends.”
He said another motivating factor for his resignation is “just kind of the circus atmosphere that’s at the city right now.”
“That gets old after a while, too,” Freeman said. “Politics takes precedent over policy and what’s right. They look to score some political points and not doing what’s right in the big picture. I’ve always tried to take the long-term view of the big picture.”
But with water and lead-in-water issues in the city becoming a national storyline now, Freeman stands resolute in the decisions he’s made as a member of the council.
“I think every time the city has faced an issue with the water, we’ve dealt with it,” he said, from the installation of a $1.6 million filtering system to lower levels of total trihalomethanes, or TTHM, in the water system to negotiations with Detroit to move back to that water system after elevated lead levels were detected in city residents following the city’s switch to using Flint River water.
Freeman said part of the issue no one has talked about is the lead that existed in children’s blood before the water issue came to everyone’s attention.
“It’s difficult to have a rational discussion about the water issues here in the city of Flint,” he said, with the problem labeled a water crisis. “I think there were issues. I think the city has responded responsibly to all those issues. To call it a crisis plays into the politics of all of it.”
He said the focus needs to move to mitigating the effects of the lead in people. Regarding lawsuits and court rulings over water rates, Freeman said any money water customers receive will ultimately come out of the taxpayers’ pockets.
“It’s like you are suing yourself,” he said. “The city of Flint doesn’t print money.”
Freeman said a large portion of the city’s revitalization — along with the use of federal dollars it’s received with the help of U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee to demolish blighted properties — will ultimately come down to water flowing into the city via the Karegnondi Water Authority pipeline.
“One thing that I’m most proud of is getting Flint involved in the KWA,” he said. The pipeline will stretch from Lake Huron to several communities, including Flint. “Myself and Councilman (Sheldon) Neeley (now a state representative) were able to strike a deal to have Flint involved in that KWA project.
“The impact on not just the city of Flint but the entire region once we have that raw water coming in is going to have a huge economic impact for the entire region,” Freeman said.
He pointed to food distribution plants and Hemlock Semiconductor in Saginaw County as some of the potential types of businesses that might be interested in the Flint area when the pipeline is completed.
“It’s not all doom and gloom here at the city,” Freeman said.
City officials and residents developed the first master plan in more than 50 years, as well as a capital improvement plan.
While Freeman is moving outside Flint, he might not be done with politics.
“Public service, it’s in your blood,” he said. “It’s been gratifying to meet, to help hundreds of residents navigate through city services. It’s much more than attending a meeting a couple times a month.”
A large part of the job, Freeman said, is answering questions from residents who are just looking for someone to point them in the right direction to get help for themselves and their families.
“If you’re in a community, you need to be involved in that community to help move it forward,” he said.