The owner of the Detroit Pistons pledged to raise $10 million from the private sector for relief and revitalization projects in lead-poisoned Flint.
Tom Gores' fund-raising goal is more than a third the amount that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has asked state lawmakers to release for immediate efforts in the impoverished city.
Gores, a billionaire financier, said he plans to kick in an unspecified sum himself and will hold benefits at the team's venues. He also promised to seek money from business leaders across the United States that will go to pay for water, health care and education and economic development programs.
"This is a national issue,” Gores said in a statement Thursday. “Flint was once a cornerstone of American industry that gave a lot to this country. We need help now more than ever and ask that people from coast to coast continue stepping up."
Gores is the latest figure outside of government to donate to Flint. Aretha Franklin, Cher, the rock band Pearl Jam and R&B singer KEM have also ponied up cash, touched by the plight of city residents exposed to toxins because of a disastrous cost-cutting decision to start using water from the Flint River.
Companies including Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi and Coca-Cola are supplying bottled or canned water since the water coming from people's taps is still running through corroded lead pipes and is not safe to drink.
The governor said Wednesday that he has no immediate plan to replace those pipes, even though that's the permanent solution to two problems: making sure the water doesn't have unsafe levels of lead and winning back the trust of Flint's disillusioned citizens.
Instead, the short-term plan is to see if the addition of phosphates to the water creates a protective coating on the pipes and keeps lead from leaching out. Officials could have added those phosphates when they switched to river water — at a cost of $100 a day — and prevented the corrosion.
Some $3 million of the governor's request will go to deal with unpaid water bills. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said many people are refusing to pay the bill for water they can't drink and she doesn't blame them, although it's causing a financial problem for the city.