Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and eight other former officials were charged last Thursday in a sweeping criminal investigation into the Flint water crisis. Snyder faces two charges of willful neglect of duty, a misdemeanor. In 2014, Flint’s unelected emergency manager, appointed by then-Governor Snyder, switched the city’s water supply to the Flint River as a cost-saving measure. The move has been linked to at least 12 deaths from an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease and widespread lead poisoning in residents, including children, in the majority-Black city. “It is really important that many of those elected, including the governor, are held to a higher standard,” responds Congressmember Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. She says some children face ongoing side effects from the water crisis, such as learning disabilities, and many residents remain sick and in need of support for their care.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Congressmember, I wanted to ask you about a big story closer to home. In Michigan, the former Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday pled not guilty to two counts of willful neglect of duty in relationship to the 2014 Flint water scandal. Your reaction to, one, his indictment and, two, the importance, the significance, of indicting a former governor?
REP. RASHIDA TLAIB: Yeah, I think it’s really important that many of those elected, including the governor, is held to a higher standard. The public welfare, people’s health were in his hands. They hid, for months, even a year, I believe, from the Flint community and kept saying that the water was safe.
I want people to understand this is not only just about getting clean drinking water; it’s the fact that many died because of the poisoning. Many of our children in Flint are now having side effects and will forever have lead in their DNA, that can later be passed down to their children. And so, for many of the Flint families, they’re already sick.
And they wanted to see justice. They wanted, no matter who he is or she is, whoever was involved, that hid the fact that they were drinking poisoned water, be held accountable. And that includes the governor, includes jail time, includes that kind of justice that I think many of folks want to see.
But they also have testified in the House Oversight Committee, that we had a hearing in my district, that they also want to see medical coverage. They want to see, on top of, of course, holding him accountable, but coverage for them to be able to take care of themselves now that they are sick, that they have children that need extra care, many of which are struggling to learn in school.
So, there has to be a combination: of course, justice, in that sense of holding the governor accountable for what he did, knowingly and intentionally — it’s criminal negligence — but also to make sure that we’re taking care of the people that we, the government, that Governor Snyder and others, allowed to get sick. The horror stories I’m hearing currently still is, so many, again, are suffering from the aftermath with illnesses and with other side effects of, again, poisoning their bodies with lead.