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When a State Governor Poisons An Entire City - Flint Water Disaster

Updated on September 23, 2017

How Austerity Kills

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When Ideology Becomes Criminal Negligence

Michael Moore, award winning documentary film maker and son of Flint, Michigan says about the Flint water crisis -
"I am standing in the middle of a crime scene ...," Moore said. "Ten people have been killed ... because of a decision to save money."

A crime scene, one hundred thousand potential victims.
The crime?
Criminal Negligence.

For some perspective, ex Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (2002-2008) is serving a twenty eight year prison sentence for racketeering. Kilpatrick's convictions are for mail fraud, obstruction of justice and wire fraud etc, racketeering. Kilpatrick violated the public trust.
Michigan governor Rick Snyder violated the public trust in a much more egregious manner. Tens of thousands of people were physically harmed in his zeal, his rush, to save twelve million dollars, make his crony friends rich, and control the operations of cities and school districts that he was not elected to control. All in a pitiful, tragically blind, ideology motivated, obsession to implement his Emergency Manager law.

The Emergency Manager law allows the governor to literally nullify the local democratic process, especially elections, to install an Emergency Manager (EM), in cities and school districts with financial troubles. These cities are invariably, majority black, majority poor. The installed EM is under Snyder's control, accountable only to Snyder, not the local electorate. The EM then proceeds to dismantle and privatize the city's or school board's services. The EM process reeks of cronyism, which has dogged Snyder since he started dispatching EMs throughout the state.

Snyder's promiscuous use of the EM act, appointing his yes men, minions, to school districts and cities; to give privatized crony contracts, for the services and infrastructure of those public entities. Outside of the wishes and democratic process of the cities he politically occupied, this is the root, at the stinking core, of the Flint poisoned water catastrophe.
That is exactly what makes Snyder and the EM, Darnell Early directly, criminally accountable for the Flint water tragedy.
You think tragedy is too strong a term?
Would you think that if it was your child that is cognitively damaged by drinking lead tainted water?
Would you think that if it were you, your parent or grandparent stricken with Legionnaires disease from drinking biologically and chemically polluted water?

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How It Happened

On April 25, 2014 Flint mayor Dayne Walling pulled the switch to change Flint's water source from the Detroit system, to the Flint system, sourcing the Flint river. For fifty years Flint had used water treated and provided by the Detroit water system, sourcing Lake Huron. Governor Snyder, through the Flint EM determined Flint could save twelve million dollars by using water from the Flint river.

The Flint system changeover will cost millions in immediate expenditures to upgrade Flint's treatment plant. Kind of odd, when factoring in that Flint was already in financial distress. The theoretical savings were down the road, but supposedly, Flint's financial emergency was at the present time. It's a lot like a financially strapped family replacing its working furnace and heating system, spending funds it doesn't have, to upgrade ducts and other peripherals so they can save money a decade down the road. One can envision crony construction contracts being foisted on Flint's already distressed public funds.
But I digress....

Within weeks of Flint's April 2014 water switch, complaints flooded in telling of terrible odors and taste of the Flint river water. Many citizens started buying bottled water. Darnell Early, the Flint Emergency Manager appointed by Gov. Snyder assured the residents that - "it's (the water) a quality, safe product", Mayor Walling, serving Snyder and the EM, said: "I think people are wasting their precious money buying bottled water." The people of Flint were betrayed by the Governor, the EM and the mayor, a mayor with no power, but to bend to the will of EM law, and not the will of those that elected him. All in the service of ideological austerity, not flesh and bone humanity.
John Nichols, National Affairs Correspondent for The Nation writes -

Of all the destructive and anti-democratic policies of all the Republican governors elected in the 2010 wave election, none have been so destructive and so anti-democratic as Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s use of the power of the state to appoint “emergency managers” who have been empowered to override the will of the voters in Michigan’s major cities.

Snyder, a crude and cynical tactician, refused to treat urban centers fairly when it came to budgeting and the distribution or state revenues. He then claimed that local elected officials were incapable of managing municipal finances and moved to appoint unelected and unaccountable managers to implement austerity policies. So determined was Snyder to trump the will of the people (and common sense) that, when Michigan voters rejected the emergency-manager policy, he continued with a modified version of his authoritarian approach.

The governor wanted to have his say in the municipal affairs of Michigan’s cities, and he got it.

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Ignoring The Data - Poison Water

After months of citizens complaints falling on the Governor's and EM's deaf ears. In October 2014, General Motors declared it wouldn't use any more Flint river water in its plant. GM spokesman Tom Wickham declared that the water from the Flint river was corrosive to GM's metal products. GM said it would be reverting back to Detroit's water.

In January 2015 a duly elected, yet powerless Flint city council voted ceremoniously, yet impotently, because they had no power; to return to Detroit treated water. A Virginia Tech water study of the Flint river found -
"A 2011 study on the Flint River found it would have to be treated with an anti-corrosive agent for it to be considered as a safe source for drinking water.

Adding that agent would have cost about $100 a day, and experts say 90% of the problems with Flint's water would have been avoided."

*
Snyder didn't make the $100/day expenditure.

There is Federal culpability also. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as reported by the Detroit News -
"An EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, identified potential problems with Flint’s drinking water in February, confirmed the suspicions in April and summarized the looming problem in a June internal memo. The state decided in October to change Flint’s drinking water source from the corrosive Flint River back to the Detroit water system.

Critics have charged Hedman with attempting to keep the memo’s information in-house and downplaying its significance. . .

Federal officials for months engaged in a bureaucratic, behind-the-scenes "battle" with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) "over whether Flint needed to use chemical treatments to keep lead lines and plumbing connections from leaching into drinking water," the paper reports. Hedman argued that it was not the "role" of the federal agency to regulate local water operations."

The EPA knew early on that Flint river water was toxic. But it didn't alert the public.

Governor Snyder - Criminal Crony Capitalist

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Lack of Accountability - Criminal Negligence

Katrina vanden Heuvel of the Washington Post reports -
"All of this is the result of the Snyder administration’s stunning lack of accountability, beginning with the fateful decision to put Flint under the control of a political appointee who was unelected and unaccountable to the public. When the city’s residents initially reported their concerns in 2014, officials responded by pumping hazardous levels of chlorine into the water. When complaints persisted, officials assured citizens that the water was safe to drink, repeatedly disregarding clear evidence that it wasn’t. But when elevated levels of lead showed up in children’s blood this past fall, the government was forced to admit there was a problem. Snyder appointed a task force to investigate the crisis, which found, among other things, that legitimate fears were met with “aggressive dismissal, belittlement, and attempts to discredit” the individuals speaking out."

Governor Snyder is not only politically liable, he is criminally liable. These are living, breathing, human beings that he callously disregarded in his zealous pursuit of political aggrandizement and ideological fanaticism.

Arrest him now.

Thank you...I sincerely hope my voice did the citizens of Flint justice.

One Love, Duane Townsend

Update - Governor Snyder Has Vanished

Governor Rick Snyder, a 'run government like a business' Republican celebrity in Michigan has virtually disappeared from public life since the Flint water crisis has been revealed. Snyder is still Governor, presumably until the 2018 election cycle.

MLive reported in June that manslaughter charges have been filed against -
"Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint emergency manager Darnell Earley, former Flint Department of Public Works director Howard Croft, former Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Office of Drinking Water chief Liane Shekter-Smith and DEQ District Supervisor Stephen Busch."
Mlive goes on to report -
"All of the new charges relate to a Legionnaires' outbreak and the death of a single man -- 85-year-old Robert Skidmore, one of at least a dozen fatalities tied to the outbreak."
Darnell Early is a direct, high level, Emergency Manager, Snyder appointee.

Before the Flint tragedy broke, Governor Snyder was regularly in the media pridefully touting some reform policy, usually related to his emergency manager program. Since the Flint Water Crisis revealed the hideous nature of public elected officials attempting to run government like a business, Snyder has been Governor in name only.
Most likely it's a political decision intended to minimize damage to the Republican party. I for one will use my keyboard and soapbox to keep Snyder and his deplorable policies present in the minds of the public.

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    • Duane Townsend profile image
      Author

      Duane Townsend 12 months ago from Detroit

      Thanks billybuc.

      Your comment came just as I am planning to do a follow-up Hub on Flint.

      I'm afraid this issue gotten lost in the fireworks of the past election season.

      Sad the way both candidates used Flint as simply a campaign prop, neither offered any meaningful policy to help the people of Flint.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 12 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I have no words for this. We live in a society I am, at times, ashamed of.

      I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, my friend.

    • Duane Townsend profile image
      Author

      Duane Townsend 22 months ago from Detroit

      Thank you Larry.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 22 months ago from Oklahoma

      Very disturbing and disappointing happenings, but they needed to be written about.

      Well reported.