Early Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver met in Lansing to discuss how the city and the state will manage the ongoing lead contamination crisis in Flint, Michigan.
On Tuesday, Governor Snyder declared a state of emergency for Genesee County, the county surrounding Flint.
After today’s meeting, Snyder spoke generally about setting up an inter-governmental agency group to work with the State Emergency Operations Center.
He also admitted that this “should have never happened.”
But what he never really addressed – is why this is happening to begin with.
And that’s probably because the blame lies squarely on Snyder’s shoulders, and because he knows that he should probably to go to jail for it.
The whole story starts back in 2011, when a new financial emergency management law in the state took effect, allowing Governor Snyder to unilaterally ignore democratically-elected mayors and city councils, and appoint little dictators called “emergency managers” in cities and districts that were in financial trouble.
In other words, it gave Governor Snyder the authority to appoint city dictators to “cut costs” and “balance budgets.”
For Governor Snyder and his appointed dictators, as good Republicans, that means doing whatever it takes to gut spending on essential services, and privatizing everything else of value off to their billionaire buddies.
In Flint, that meant that back in April of 2014 the city switched its water source from the Detroit Water system, which comes from Lake Huron, and instead started using the Flint River for its municipal water.
The problem is: Flint has been the home of General Motors since 1908, and it was one of the biggest car manufacturing towns in the country, until Bill Clinton’s so-called “free trade” killed much of the US auto-industry in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Those factories used Flint River water for manufacturing, and for waste disposal.
So the Flint River has been the site of industrial processing ever since 1908, and it doesn’t take much to realize that over a century later, the river is hardly suitable for drinking.
Filmmaker and Flint-native Michael Moore put it plainly in a letter addressed to the governor yesterday.
He explained that “[Gov. Rick Snyder] cut off the clean, fresh glacial lake water of Lake Huron that the citizens of Flint […] had been drinking for decades and, instead, made them drink water from the industrial cesspool we call the Flint River, a body of “water” where toxins from a dozen General Motors and DuPont factories have been dumped for over a hundred years.”
And the criminal mismanagement didn’t stop there.
They added chemicals to the water to “clean it up,” but those chemicals really just ended up stripping the lead from the inside of the city’s pipes, and sending the lead and the chemicals directly into people’s homes.
Moore also points out that GM announced back in October of 2014 that it couldn’t use water from the Flint River for manufacturing – because it corrodes car parts.
That’s right. General Motors declined to use the water from the Flint River, because it was too corrosive for CAR PARTS.
And Republican Gov. Rick Snyder deemed that Flint River water would still flow into people’s homes for another year, until they switched the water source back to Lake Huron, last October.
Between April 2014 and October 2015, the period that Flint got its water from the Flint River, residents of Flint experienced skin lesions, hair loss, vision loss, depression, anxiety and exposure to lead levels that far exceeded what the EPA considers “toxic waste.”
And the scope of the impact is truly astonishing.
In his letter, Moore makes it clear just how astonishing the situation is: “To poison all the children in an historic American city is no small feat. Even international terrorist organizations haven’t figured out yet how to do something on a magnitude like this. But [Rick Snyder] did.”
He’s right, and Rachel Maddow reported the other day that Rick Snyder’s chief-of-staff had even sent emails – TO RICK SNYDER – concerned that the results of Flint’s water tests weren’t being taken seriously enough.
Another preliminary report, from a Snyder-appointed task force, placed the blame with Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality, forcing that agency’s director to resign.
So, emergency managers appointed by Governor Snyder oversaw the water-switch, which then wasn’t appropriately monitored or managed by Snyder’s Department of Environmental Quality, and then Governor Snyder personally ignored warnings about the matter from his own chief-of-staff.
In other words, no matter which way you slice it, Governor Snyder is ultimately responsible for every single part of this catastrophe.
As Michael Moore wrote in his letter: “The children whom [Gov. Rick Snyder has] poisoned have to endure a life of pain and lower IQ’s from [his] actions. [He has] destroyed a generation of children, and for that, [he] must pay. It is time for [him] to go to prison.”
Michael Moore has started a petition to Attorney General Loretta Lynch, calling for the immediate resignation of Governor Snyder, and for the FBI to arrest him.
We support Moore’s petition, and encourage you to go and sign your name, especially if you are a Michigan resident. You can find it at www.michaelmoore.com.
If the people of Flint are going to get any justice for what’s been done to them, it means holding Rick Snyder accountable.