Michigan Governor Finds Himself at Center of Flint Water Crisis

A case is made that Gov. Rick Snyder's handling of the lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan is analogous to former President George W. Bush's bungling of the crisis resulting after Hurricane Katrina touched-down on the Gulf coast in August 2005.

2 minute read

January 14, 2016, 7:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's webpage sends a mixed-message to his constituents. "I want the Flint community to know how very sorry I am that this has happened," he states, but then adds, "Flint is not the only city that has an aging infrastructure," as if aging water pipes, not his administration's decisions, caused the lead pollution.

"Over the weekend, the editorial board of the Detroit Free Press turned its attention directly to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who’s facing calls for his arrest from protestors, comparing his handling of the Flint crisis to George W. Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina," writes MSNBC's Steve Benen.

The analogy to Katrina is, of course, lacking in many respects. Unlike a hurricane, the editorial refers to the tainted drinking water as "one of Michigan’s greatest man-made public health crises." Benen is more direct: "Flint’s disaster was the result of public officials showing breathtakingly bad judgment."

In three short paragraphs, Benen recaps the origins of the crisis, elaborating on what was posted here last month, explaining how the Snyder administration made serious errors, initially denying the lead poisoning from the local pipes.

In 2014, the city of Flint, under the control of an “emergency manager” appointed by the governor, was looking for ways to save money. To that end, the Snyder administration approved a plan in which the city would switch its water source: instead of getting water from Detroit, Flint would cut costs by drawing water directly from the Flint River.

In theory, there’s nothing particularly wrong with getting drinking and bathing water from a nearby river; plenty of communities across the country already do that. But in order to make Flint River water safe for people, it has to receive a special anti-corrosion treatment. Failing to treat the water sends corrosive river water through local pipes, it starts to eat through plumbing, and the result is lead poisoning.

The Snyder administration did not take the necessary precautions. What’s more, as the community grew concerned about its water, administration officials initially told local residents not to worry and to keep drinking the water.

In a video accompanying the article, MSNBC TV host Rachel Maddow also addresses the public health crisis, specifically the role of Gov. Snyder in his handling of it in a 5-minute newscast on Jan. 11.

Maddow contrasts Snyder's handling of the drinking water crisis of his own administration's making with West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D). He dealt with a public drinking water crisis two years ago on Jan. 9, caused by a chemical spill into the Elk River that resulted from a ruptured storage tank owned by a private supplier of industrial chemicals.

Maddow also reports that FEMA is now on the scene, though not at the request of Gov. Snyder.

Hat tip to Michael Keenly.

Monday, January 11, 2016 in MSNBC

View of small-town street with brick buildings and cars parked in diagonal parking with string lights going across street in Cleveland County, Oklahoma.

Norman, Oklahoma Eliminates Parking Mandates

The city made a subtle, one-word change that frees up developers to build parking based on actual need and eliminates costly unnecessary parking.

September 14, 2023 - Next City

Few passengers waiting in subway station with multiple platforms and "North Station" signs in Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Transit Riders Report Safety Concerns

Almost three-quarters of current and former riders report feeling unsafe while using MBTA services.

September 18, 2023 - Hoodline

View of Boston from Bunker Hill with statue in foreground

Boston to Begin Zoning Code Update, Mayor Announces

It’s been nearly 60 years, but the city of Boston is finally ready to do a comprehensive rewrite of its zoning code.

September 14, 2023 - The Boston Globe

Sidewalk in Seattle with yellow fall leaves on the ground and cars parked next to the curb.

Proposal Could Mandate Sidewalks as Part of Seattle Complete Streets

Almost a third of the city’s neighborhood streets lack sidewalks.

6 hours ago - The Urbanist

View of San Francisco neighborhood from top of hill with misty bay in background.

San Francisco Supervisors Punt Housing Ordinance

After hours of public comment, the zoning reform package aimed at increasing housing production and limiting red tape was delayed for further discussion.

September 24 - SF Standard

Woman wearing helmet riding POGOH bike share bike in bike lane in Pittsburgh, PA.

Pittsburgh Launches Adaptive Bike Share Fleet

The new bikes include a recumbent bicycle and a front-loading cargo bike.

September 24 - Pittsburgh Magazine