the flint water crisis: water, water everywhere…and not a drop to drink.

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Photo by Jake May of MLive.com. Click here for original posting.

Seems some party zealots on the right are taking a new line of defense for their favorite “nerd,” Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The latest? He’s a scapegoat. The real fault, they say, lies with Flint city officials who voted in favor of switching from Detroit Water to Flint River water in 2013. Those darn Democrats! It’s all their fault! Right?

Wrong.

Accountability.
Right off the top, holding one to account for their decisions is not scapegoating, so let’s put that nonsensical argument away, right now. Further, stopping cold after stating Flint leaders voted in favor of the switch omits—willfully or others—several very important details. Here’s an excerpt from a Jan. 21, 2016 Truth Squad article published by a major Michigan news outlet, MLive.com:

“It’s true that city officials voted in 2013 to switch to a new water supply when a new pipeline was completed in 2016. But more relevant is the documented evidence that the decision to use Flint River water in the interim was made by state-appointed emergency managers, not democratically elected city officials To cite the council vote without mentioning the state’s role in switching to Flint River water is a transparent attempt to deflect blame – and possible financial responsibility – for a man-made tragedy.”

You can read the rest of the article for yourself right here.

It’s also worth noting the Flint city officials vote also was completely moot, as the city was already in receivership. The City of Flint was placed in the control of an emergency manager by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder from December 2011 – April 2015. During that stretch, Flint officials could’ve voted to approve building a rocket and launch it by 2016 and it would’ve counted about as much as that 2013 vote.

Another not-so-minor detail glossed over by zealots is Flint’s officials voted in favor of switching water sources in 2016. It was not Flint’s choice to switch water sources in 2014. That decision belongs to then-emergency manager Ed Kurtz, which he signed in April 2013; nearly 18 months after the Flint local government was nullified by Gov. Snyder. In March 2014, Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley rejects Detroit Water and Sewage’s offer to continue supplying water to Flint. A month later, the switch was made to Flint water.

The rest is well-documented history.

Failure of Oversight + Corruption.
One part of that well-documented history that must not be lost in all this is the fact that Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality approved the switch from Detroit to Flint water. That decision ultimately led to the resignation of MDEQ’s director, Dan Wyant. Why is that detail lost in all this? I don’t know. Perhaps one reason is because, once the problem was identified, the state didn’t move very quickly to fix the problem. On top of that, state officials falsified documents presented to MDEQ and the federal Environmental Protection Agency. From MLive on Nov. 19, 2015:

“City water officials filed certified documents with state regulators that claimed the city only tested tap water from homes where residents were at the highest risk of lead poisoning, but records obtained by The Flint Journal-MLive show those claims were false and may have delayed efforts to fix the public health emergency here.”

Another reason for so much blame heaped upon Snyder and his love affair with throwing Michigan cities into receivership: his appointed emergency manager made matters worse by selling the pipe that connected Flint to Detroit’s water. That’s right. There was no backup plan. It was sold out from underneath Flint residents, courtesy then-emergency manager Darnell Earley.

A Series of Bad Decisions.
As with most crises, it isn’t just one decision that leads to the crisis; it’s a series of bad decisions falling into and on top of one another that created poisonous water for the residents of Flint. And it’s worth remembering this is not some podunk community. Flint, Michigan is a city of 100,000 people—9,000 of whom are children—at serious health risk from drinking and bathing in contaminated water. Let us never forget that.

The Human Cost of Contaminated Water.
Medical professionals anticipate chronic health issues for the children affected to last for years.

That’s why there is outrage. That’s why there are protests. That’s why people have donated water and money to Flint. Because they were failed by the decision makers who followed one bad decision after another with even worse decisions. The Snyder administration’s slow-witted moves are only outdone by its slow-footed reaction and response.

This is not about political gain. Only party-line zealots bust out the “scapegoat” straw man. This is not a D-vs.-R issue. This is an issue of public safety and a complete and total breach of that safety as well as trust that runs all the way up to the governor of Michigan’s desk.

There are many factors at play here, but the biggest and most glaring detail is Rick Snyder’s administration is to blame for this mess. Who cares about his political affiliation? I don’t. Neither should you.

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Filed under analysis, michigan, opinion

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