Republicans across the state and even across the country are working diligently to make sure that Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder doesn’t take the fall for his administration’s role in the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water. Michelle Malkin and the Hot Air blog are both of examples of conservative, corporatist water-carriers who want the country to blame the U.S. EPA for the failures of Gov. Snyder.
UPDATE: The conservative site The Federalist has an op-ed this morning that also attempts to exonerate Gov. Snyder. You can read Dennis Sanders’ revisionist history piece titled “Hillary Clinton Can’t Blame Michigan’s Governor For Flint’s Water” HERE.
But the fact is that the buck stops at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) who signed off on the inadequate water treatment plans submitted by Flint officials. DEQ was headed up at the time by Dan Wyant. Wyant was appointed to chair what Rick Snyder called the Quality of Life group, three state agencies that includes the DEQ, the Department of Natural Resources, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. His qualifications for being the top official of DEQ which is responsible for our state’s water resources (including drinking water)? He has a a bachelor’s degree in food systems management from Michigan State University and an MBA from American University in Washington, D.C.
Given his paltry resumé when it comes to water systems and their protection, it’s little wonder that he was so clearly over his head when it came to dealing with Flint’s situation.
The Republican who wrote Michigan’s odious and undemocratic Emergency Manager law, State House Representative Al Pscholka, made it clear that Flint is getting no help from the state so long as he has anything to say about it:
“We have to look and have the best science and see what we can do to fix things,” Pscholka said. “I’m already receiving Christmas lists from Flint elected officials. That’s not going to solve this issue.”
He says the state shares only some of the blame for the water woes, because it was the city that opted to pull its water from the Flint River as part of a long-term plan to hook into a new pipeline system from Lake Huron.
“This was a local decision to take themselves off the Detroit system and join this pipeline, and that’s what started this whole series of events,” Pscholka said.
Except, of course, this is a total rewriting of history. As Dayne Walling told me in my interview with him, the decision to use the Flint River following Emergency Manager Darnell Earley’s choice not to pay for Detroit water after they jacked up their prices under the watchful eye of Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr was made entirely by the state-appointed overseers running Flint, not Flint’s elected officials:
Darnell Earley has been commenting on what happened six and seven months before he was appointed and the fact of the matter is that the resolution was only for the permanent supply and the financial projection which was to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, it had the City paying for Detroit Water and Sewerage Department until the switch was made. There was no discussion of the river as an interim source. City Council and I pledged our support. It went all the way up to the governor who supported the City going to the Karegnondi Water Authority based on all the financial and environmental analyses that had been done. […]
[Once switch was made], the City relied on assurances from the Department of Environmental Quality that we were meeting the standards, we were complying with the Safe Drinking Water Act and Lead and Copper Rule when, in fact, it wasn’t.
You had a problem you didn’t know about because the testing wasn’t being done properly.
Yeah. Exactly. And the corrosion control, the additional corrosion control should have been required to be in place from the very beginnging. So, the State was not prepared to implement the Emergency Manager’s proposal for the City to go to the Flint River.
Michigan Radio‘s Lindsey Smith confirms this in her most-excellent reporting this week:
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.” Yes, there was one councilman who did openly support that. But as a board, that vote never happened. Flint leaders never made that call (not that they had the authority to make such a call at that time anyway.)
Some state officials continue to confuse Flint’s vote to join the Karegnondi Water Authority with the state appointed emergency manager’s decision to temporarily switch to the Flint River.
As part of this “blame the EPA, not Rick Snyder” effort, Gov. Snyder is now working double time to prove that he’s the victim here, a sympathetic person who has taken responsibility for what happened. In an interview with Ron Fournier, Snyder says that the Flint Water Crisis is “his Katrina”.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder conceded Monday that his administration’s handling of the Flint water crisis is a stain on his legacy, reflects poorly on his leadership, and is aptly compared to President Bush’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s a disaster,” he said when asked about the comparison some critics have made to the 2005 natural disaster in New Orleans that became a symbol of government mismanagement—city, state, and federal. “It’s clearly a negative on what we’ve accomplished since I’ve been governor.”
The article is topped by a photo of the governor looking like he’s ready to cry.
Yesterday, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley gave an MLK Day speech at the Greater Lansing Area Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission Luncheon but didn’t utter one syllable about the crisis in Flint or his administration’s part in it.
For their part, the EPA is denying any responsibility:
Speaking to reporters after an event at a Washington soup kitchen, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy defended the federal government’s response.
“EPA did its job but clearly the outcome was not what anyone would have wanted. So we’re going to work with the state, we’re going to work with Flint. We’re going to take care of the problem,” McCarthy told reporters. “We know Flint is a situation that never should have happened.”
She said EPA has established a task force of experts and is conducting an audit of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s water program “to make sure whatever improvements need to be made get made and get done quickly.”
As my friend Bill W. pointed out to me in an email, when the EPA directly regulates a state, Republicans are quick to call them things like “jack-booted thugs” engaging in outrageous government overreach. However, when they follow protocols that limit their ability to act, they are called slackers and held responsible for anything that goes wrong.
With a huge rally planned in front of Lansing City Hall this evening starting at 5 p.m., just prior to Gov. Snyder’s State of the State Address, Republicans are trying desperately to do something to deflect blame from them and the tragic outcome of their promotion of Emergency Management in Michigan which has led to Flint’s drinking water being poisoned. So, during their protest rally, they have started a bottled water collection for the residents of Flint:
They clearly want to be able to portray themselves as “doing something” while the protestors just want to point fingers. It would be interesting to watch their “collection” to see how long Mitt Romney’s niece, Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney, stands in the frigid cold collecting water bottles. My guess is not long at all. Pity their poor interns and staffers…
What needs to happen is for the Emergency Manager Law to be repealed and for the Republican-dominated state legislature to start doing what’s needed to fix this problem and to make reparations to people of Flint. The ACLU’s Kary Moss is calling for the Emergency Manager law to be repealed. So is 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer who has six other recommendations, as well:
What Flint needs now are answers and long-term solutions. The governor should immediately take bold action to protect the people of Flint and start repairing the damage he caused by:
- Waiving his office’s FOIA exemption and releasing all documents on the water crisis.
- Refunding Flint water bills for the entire period the water is contaminated, and providing free cartridge replacements for water filters.
- Firing Darnell Earley, who currently serves as emergency manager for Detroit Public Schools.
- Repealing the emergency manager law.
- Pledging to replace all lead pipelines in Flint by the end of next year and statewide by the end of this decade.
- Committing long-term funding for the collaboration between Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Center – led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha – to mitigate developmental challenges faced by children who were poisoned by lead-tainted water.
- Hiring 100 new special education teachers for the Flint School District.
Please join the protest rally this afternoon. Anne and I will be there covering it for Eclectablog and we’ll have photos and commentary on Twitter followed by a post after the event.
RSVP and learn more at the event’s Facebook page HERE.
Speakers at the event will include:
- Melissa Mays, Flint resident, founder of Water You Fighting For
- Nayyirah Shariff, Flint resident, Flint Democracy Defense League
- Cindy Estrada, Vice President of the UAW
- Mark Schauer, former MI Congressman and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate
- Lonnie Scott, Executive Director of Progress Michigan
- Curt Guyette, Investigative Reporter with the ACLU of Michigan
- Cheryl Weston, RN at McLaren Lapeer and Board Member of the Michigan Nurses Association
- Steve Dawes, UAW Region 1C Assistant Director
Check the Facebook page for information on buses running from various communities to Lansing to take people to the rally. In Washtenaw County, the Washtenaw County Democratic Party and Ann Arbor Democratic Party have organized a car pool with cars leaving at 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. Click HERE if you can drive others or if you need a ride.
[Graphical meme by Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]