Letters about our piece
on Gov. Snyder and Flint
We received some insightful letters to the editor after our piece on Gov. Rick Snyder’s handling of the Flint water crisis. We love your feedback. Send bouquets and brickbats to talk [at] theannmag.com, or look us up at facebook.com/theannmag and @theannmag on Twitter.
• • •
Start leading, The Ann
One can offer only a few explanations for the alleged inaction of Gov. Rick Snyder concerning the disaster in Flint:
1. He deliberately wanted to kill black kids.
2. He is completely inept.
3. He was ill-informed and blindsided by poor decisions of those he appointed.
I would suggest that only the third explanation makes any sense.
Of course, Snyder could have done things differently. But I always bristle when I hear people engage, with great vigor, in Monday morning quarterbacking. Sure, it looks so much clearer after the fact.
I spent 20 years in education and another 20 managing business. I am a “victim” of Snyder’s alleged mistreatment of teachers, so I am not a supporter of Snyder at all cost.
From a business perspective, even in a small company, management is often not aware of decisions, actions and consequences of people in their organization. Kyle, do you know everything that goes on with your publication?
Rather, serious problems resulted in Flint from the failure of General Motors, a decade ago. They have not recovered. I’d suggest that the tax base in Flint is close to zero and the citizens are unwilling to vote in higher taxes, of course. So how would you suggest that the state of Michigan bail them out? Flint seems to have a proven record of not being able to fix their own problems. Is the better solution just to ignore them?
And one more observation, Kyle. I read your April article with some distaste, as it reflects the anger and frustration of many of your readers. They seemed to say, “Let’s just crucify Snyder.” Instead, I’d like to see publications like yours take a leadership role in generating some new solutions. In the end, anyone — even people with no brains — can complain about something gone wrong. It’s easy to criticize. But it’s much harder to create something new.
In contrast, I note with much enthusiasm the many organizations that have worked together to collect water to send to Flint. Hundreds of residents donated thousands of hours to help people that they have never met. That seems positive to me.
• • •
Blame the agencies
A lot of thought went into designing the April cover of The Ann depicting Gov. Snyder appropriately entrapped in a maze of water pipes. Something else should require a lot of thought: The water that flows through those pipes is the responsibility of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, a federal agency. Governors, presidents and local officials come and go, so we create government agencies with specific responsibilities and expertise to ensure consistency in providing citizens and ingoing and outgoing leadership guidance, direction and support for our infrastructure.
In the nine full pages and 10 concerned citizens providing input on Gov. Snyder and the Flint crisis, the EPA was mentioned once, the MDEQ was not mentioned at all, and Snyder was mentioned around 45 times as being responsible for the lead contamination of Flint. Now there are several other cities, in Michigan, Ohio and nationally, that have “suddenly” been revealed to have elevated lead content previously undiscovered by the responsible agencies. Is Snyder responsible for those lead problems, too?
All the evidence leads to the failure of these agencies. The misdirection, the ambiguous implementation of regulations, the culture of intimidation and the immunity from accountability not only contributed to, but caused the Flint crisis. The articles I read in The Ann perpetuate and divert attention from the real problem — government agencies and their employees not doing their job and then hiding behind a cloak of protection. When Snyder pointed out MDEQ’s failure, his opposition called it a “blame game.”
Snyder also didn’t create the emergency manager law, as several contributors imply. It was signed into law in 1988 by Democratic Gov. James Blanchard. Also, Public Act 72 authorizing the state to intervene in local governments experiencing financial emergencies was passed on his watch. And Snyder didn’t assign the first emergency manager to the city of Flint, that was Gov. Jennifer Granholm. From 2002 to 2004, Flint was under an emergency manager. Prior to 2012, Flint was under local Democratic control that, again, failed its residents. The 2011 emergency manager law’s main element provided immunity for any appointed emergency manager, the same immunity that is enjoyed by all public employees, including the MDEQ and EPA employees whose legal fees the taxpayers are also paying.
If Snyder is to be held accountable for the failure of MDEQ’s misdirection and incompetence, then shouldn’t we be talking about President Obama resigning for the failure of the EPA to blow the whistle on MDEQ’s negligent behavior? Or the resignation of Democrat Gina McCarthy, EPA director? And let’s not forget Susan Hedman, EPA regional director, who consulted an attorney, presumably on the taxpayers’ dime, to cover herself and received a bonus and full retirement upon her resignation for her Flint failures. It seems democracy for The Ann and several of its contributors is selective.
The continued lack of factual scrutiny does not only a disservice to Flint, but to the entire nation that depends upon the competence and expertise of government agencies to do their due diligence and live up to their fiscal and ethical responsibilities.
Democracy is not what is at stake here; accountability and trust of public agencies and their employees to reliably and honestly do their job is the issue. Ultimately, these agencies answer to the citizens, not Snyder, and as responsible citizens, it’s our duty not to create a political whipping boy or sow sour grapes, but to identify and hold accountable the government agencies designed to serve us through the countless political transitions that occur in a democracy.
Snyder didn’t “step in it,” he’s being forced to wade through it.
• • •
Employees let Gov down
I do not agree with Kyle Poplin’s criticism of Gov. Snyder (in the March 2016 issue). I think it was appropriate for Snyder to appoint an emergency manager in Flint. The city was in terrible shape partly due to inadequacies by elected officials. An emergency manager was the best solution to save the city and ensure services and an economic future for residents. An emergency manager saved Detroit. You don’t even mention that in the article.
The emergency manager in Flint made a good decision to switch the water supply. He could not have realized that some fool down the line in the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality would decide not to add corrosion controls. After that mistake, communication by government employees was poor.
I don’t believe Snyder had a distaste for government before this crisis. I expect he has a distaste for government now, since it was government employees who let him down.
• • •
Stay informed, but how?
I just finished reading the April issue of The Ann and found the various opinion items of interest. Mary Morgan’s opinion really struck me. She presents a very frustrating dilemma regarding the availability of information about the workings of our state government. Yes, it is critical to keep as informed as possible. However, our most timely and pertinent information seems to be obtained via national media coverage regarding Michigan’s governing problems long before any significant local coverage. This was true of Benton Harbor’s emergency manager’s actions and most recently the Flint water crisis. We first learned about these Michigan problems from “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MNSBC and from The Huffington Post.
There has apparently been little to no interest on the part of MLive editors to cover Michigan politics. This is evidenced by the absence of this title on their menu options. A previous inquiry regarding coverage of Michigan politics elicited a response verifying the lack of interest. So while current coverage of the Flint crisis is quite informative, it is a single topic, not the broader coverage of Michigan legislative/governor/attorney general actions we need. Yes, we have a responsibility to be informed, but with the ongoing withering of news sources, it becomes more and more of a challenge to do so.