City of Flint
Flint FAST Start Campaign
Goal: Replace every lead-tainted service line in the city leading from the street to residents’ water meters.
Because the Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) is a Martin Waymire client, we were familiar with BWL’s lead pipe replacement program, which had systematically replaced 13,500 lead service lines over the past decade at a cost of $42 million. That enabled us to help Mayor Weaver tap BWL officials’ and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero’s knowledge and experience in deciding the most realistic plan for replacing Flint’s lead-tainted lines and gave us an understanding of what such an undertaking would involve so we could help Mayor Weaver and General McDaniel communicate that to reporters.
We also worked with Flint Congressman Dan Kildee and Michigan’s two U.S. senators to pressure Congress to approve money for Flint, and with researchers at the University of Michigan to determine how many service lines needed to be replaced.
Action Plan & Communication:
Martin Waymire worked with Mayor Weaver and her staff to create, launch and manage a blend of earned media, website posts, speeches and informational materials to inform residents and the media about the FAST Start project. Our guiding principles were to be transparent and proactive and to cooperate with other stakeholders working to resolve the crisis. That included working with Gov. Rick Snyder and his administration, including Melanie Brown and Tiffany Brown, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce, and with the many nonprofits responding to the crisis. We consulted frequently with the mayor’s public relations director, chief of staff and other city employees. The City of Flint handled social media relating to FAST Start, with posts created by Martin Waymire for promoting the FAST Start initiative and the progress being made.
Within the first six months of the campaign:
- 650 Flint homes had new service lines, and the city finally had the federal funding it needed to replace lines to 6,000 homes in 2017 and more homes in following years.
- Martin Waymire helped Mayor Weaver begin to fix one of the nation’s worst public health tragedies and to communicate with residents about the progress being made by creating and executing a crisis communications plan that kept the need for replacing Flint’s lead-tainted service lines in state and national headlines,
- Martin Waymire was able to obtain generally favorable coverage of Mayor Weaver and her FAST Start initiative and to keep critical stories to a minimum.
- Through its crisis communications plan, Martin Waymire was able to create awareness of the plight of Flint residents struggling with the effects of the water crisis and to make sure those residents and the media knew what was being done to once again restore safe drinking water.