Flint, Rick Snyder — January 21, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Once more with feeling: Flint officials did NOT vote to switch to Flint River water


Everywhere anyone has written about the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water by the Snyder administration, there are inevitably a few Snyder defenders trying like Hell to pin this on the Flint City Council. As I have said before (repeatedly), this simply did not happen.

Former mayor Dayne Walling confirmed this in the interview I did with him when, discussing the City Council vote to join the the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA), he said, “There was no discussion of the river as an interim source.”

Michigan Radio’s Lindsey Smith said it, too, in her recent piece of truly excellent journalism titled “Reporter’s notebook: Some state officials still in denial or misinformed over Flint River decision:

Here’s what’s true about what the governor’s press folks are saying.

Yes, Flint had an interest in joining the new Karegnondi Water Authority before Governor Rick Snyder was in office.

Yes, Flint City Council voted on March 25, 2013 to join the Karegnondi Water Authority.

This is why I wrote “Once it was clear Flint could save millions of dollars a year with the new system, Flint got on board.”

But the governor’s press folks are either sorely misinformed or willfully blind to what happened after that vote.

Months and months after dealing with us reporters picking apart this decision, they still don’t get it. I’m not breaking any news here. They should know this stuff by now.

Nowhere in that vote or other votes did Flint City Council say, “We support getting water from the Flint River.”

And, today, the fine folks at Bridge Magazine spell it out in equally clear language:

The crisis timeline distributed to reporters and now available online states that in June 2013, “City of Flint decides to use the Flint River as a water source,” a phrasing similar to what the governor used in his State of the State speech, (“Flint began to use water from the Flint River as an interim source”) suggesting that the city, not the state, drove the interim decision to use the highly corrosive river water for city residents.

Here’s the problem with that: City officials did not make the decision to take water from the Flint River. There was never such a vote by the city council, which really didn’t have the power to make such a decision anyway, because the city was then under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.

The council’s vote in March 2013 was to switch water supply from Detroit to a new pipeline through the Karegnondi Water Authority – but the pipeline wasn’t scheduled to be completed for at least three years. (And even that decision was given final approval not by the council, but by then-state Treasurer Andy Dillon, according to Snyder emails released Wednesday.)

So, NOW can we put this BS notion to rest that the blame for this rests with the Flint City Council? Please?

In other news, Congress is now calling for Gov. Snyder to testify before them:

A U.S. House committee is expected to hold a hearing Wednesday, Feb. 3, on the Flint water crisis and the government’s response to high lead levels in drinking water there, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence’s office said Thursday.

And Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who has apologized for the state’s handling of reports of high lead levels in Flint’s drinking water after it switched to the Flint River as its water source, is expected to be among those invited to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

UPDATE: It turns out that Gov. Snyder has NOT been invited to appear before Congress. Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence wants him to appear but she has no power to make that happen since Democrats are in the minority in Congress.

Given how freaked out the Gov. appeared when he gave his State of the State address earlier this week, that particular testimony should be VERY interesting to watch. I suspect he’ll continue to throw others in his administration under the bus, people who are now gone like Treasurer Andy Dillon and DEQ chief Dan Wyant.

If the emails the governor released yesterday are any indication, and you’ll excuse me for being dubious, especially since he didn’t release any from 2013 when many of the crucial decisions were being made, Gov. Snyder didn’t know anything about the problem until late last fall because the man seemed to show almost no interest in the issue at all. This is despite raucous cries from Flint residents and whisteblowers that began nearly immediately after the switch to the Flint River happened in April of 2014. According to his emails, the man sent only seven emails about it. That’s about as disinterested as you can get.

Speaking of those emails, how is this for “transparency”?:

That’s literally the first page of the emails he released.

Here’s the second. At least I THINK it’s the second. They redacted the page number, too:

I’d show you the third one but it’s just a large white rectangle with a smaller black rectangle at the top of it. If you don’t believe these are real – and I wouldn’t blame you, it seems completely unreal to me, too – you can read them all for yourself HERE.

So far the only “news” that I’ve seen out of the emails is that Snyder’s underlings spent enormous amounts of time and energy trying figuring out who else they could blame. We also get confirmation that the decision to switch to the Flint River was signed off on by then-State Treasurer Andy Dillon. This comes as no surprise since he was the boss of the Emergency Managers and had to approve all the big things they do.

The story has gone international now. I have gotten Google alerts from papers in Amsterdam and Australia and that’s just today. Time magazine has it on the cover of next week’s issue. Click HERE to read the story behind that and to see what Flint’s poisoned water did the skin of a Flint baby. It’s beyond heartbreaking and the Detroit Free Press photographer that captured them, Regina H. Boone, is sure to be up for multiple photojournalism awards for her work.

Michigan is clearly, to paraphrase the proverb, cursed to live in interesting times.