First, a background question: What is the Flint water crisis?
Here is what has happened so far:
1. In March of 2013, the Flint City Council voted to leave the Detroit water system and join a new pipeline project that would deliver water to the city from Lake Huron. The state agreed that it was a good idea, since it would save the financially strapped Flint 19 million dollars over 8 years. [ Addendum: The news media and progressive spin is that the cruel state unilaterally imposed this decision on Flint. That’s not true, and don’t trust any source that claims it is. Here’s one such hack, who states “In 2013, the Emergency Manager for Flint, Ed Kurtz, signed the order that Flint would stop relying upon Detroit for water and, instead, switch to a the Karegnondi Water Authority run out of Lake Huron.” The Flint City Council voted 7-1 to take this course prior to the sign-off. It was approved by Kurtz, but this blogger’s statement that the crisis “is a direct result of reckless cost-cutting by the unelected bureaucrat who Governor Snyder appointed to run the city under the state’s controversial “Emergency Financial Manager” law” is deceptive and false.]
2. Detroit retaliated by announcing that it would cut off Flint’s water supply. Since the new pipeline wouldn’t be ready for three years, Flint had to find a temporary supplier of its water needs. It then spent millions upgrading its water processing plant.
3. The months leading up to the Detroit shut-off deadline generated many meetings with the state and regulatory bodies. Mayor Dayne Walling, a Democrat, announced that the temporary supply would come from the Flint River. The plan for the switch was implement by state-appointed emergency manager, Darnell Early. The system went into operation in April of 2014.
4. Immediately, residents started complaining about the water’s taste and appearance. Early (the state) and Mayor Walling (the city) insisted that it was safe to drink. Four months later, there was a fecal content alert, meaning that the water wasn’t being sufficiently purified. In October of 2014, General Motors said that the water seemed to be corrosive, and it would no longer use it in its plant.
5. In January of 2015, Flint told its residents that the water wasn’t safe because of chemical contamination that could cause serious health problems. Detroit offered to go back to the old arrangement. Flint declined. Erin Brockovich (yes, that Erin Brockovich) publicly argued that there was a water safety crisis in Flint. The Mayor asked the state for assistance, and was assured that they were “working on it.”
6. Activists said that the water was dangerous and the city should go back to its old arrangement with Detroit. The city hired an expert who claimed the water was safe. More work was done to fix the problem, but the City Council voted to re-connect to the Detroit system, and Lake Huron water. However, the vote had to be approved by the State’s emergency manager for the city. He didn’t approve it. The advocates for going back to Detroit water sued in Federal court, and lost.
7. This mess dragged into last fall. In September of 2015, researchers from Virginia Tech University reported online that their testing of Flint’s water found it “very corrosive” and that it was “causing lead contamination in homes.” “On a scientific basis, Flint River water leaches more lead from plumbing than does Detroit water,” the report concluded. “This is creating a public health threat in some Flint homes that have lead pipe or lead solder.” The very same day, Michigan told Flint that the earlier chemical contamination had fallen within acceptable levels due to improved treatment methods, and the water was officially compliant with all standards, and safe.
8. Later that month, however, testing showed frightening levels of lead in the blood of Flint infants and children. A new lead warning was sent to Flint residents.
9. In October, 2015, the County issued a warning that Flint’s water was dangerous, and asked the Governor to declare a State of Emergency. The next day, Governor Rick Snyder announced various measures to address the problem.
10. Again, the city, this time through a special advisory committee, recommended that Flint switch back to the Detroit supply. On October 8, Snyder announced a multi-million dollar plan to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water. A week later, the Michigan Legislature and Snyder approved $9.4 million in aid to Flint, including $6 million to switch its drinking water back to Detroit.
11. Thanks to the water problem, Walling was defeated in his race to be re-elected as mayor by Karen Weaver. The switch didn’t stop the lead problem, because the corrosive water had prompted a deterioration in Flint’s lead pipes. It took a the entire holiday period for this to become sufficiently obvious, for some reason, as many residents drank lead-contaminated water they had been told was now safe.
12. Shortly after Christmas, Snyder fired Department of Environmental Quality Director Dan Wyant and apologized for what was happening in Flint. He declared a state of emergency.
13. On January 13, Governor Snyder activated the Michigan National Guard to distribute bottled water and filters in Flint, and asked the federal government for assistance. The same day, Michigan health officials reported an increase in Legionnaires’ disease cases during periods over the past two years in Flint and the surrounding county. Snyder requested a major disaster declaration from President Obama, and more federal aid. Obama signed an emergency declaration last week, ordering federal aid for Flint and authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate relief efforts.
Why doesn’t everybody know about this?
Good question! My cynical answer is that President Obama hasn’t said—yet—that some of the children poisoned by the water in Flint could have been his kids, but I’m in a bad mood. I hadn’t heard or read about the crisis before a commenter here mentioned it in passing, and really outrageous memes started showing up on Facebook, posted there by my left-wing actor friends who should stay on stage and out of politics. The mainstream media really hasn’t covered the long-running mess prominently until this month, even after both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders alluded to it—dishonestly and irresponsibly, respectively—in their debate. I think I know why the media isn’t making a bigger deal out of it.
Is there a short version?
Sure: This is multi-level government dysfunction and incompetence, combined with neglected infrastructure decay.
Is the episode a fair topic for partisan warfare?
I don’t see how anyone can read that summary and conclude that. The disaster was a classic collision of local and state officials, local politics, poor communication, inept administrators, problems that had been festering for decades, budget issues and bureaucratic idiocy. The Flint decision-makers were Democrats; the Governor is a Republican, and the various agencies and appointees are a mixed bag. It is a disaster and people have been hurt: there will be consequences. Still, as usual, most of the criticism is hindsight bias. Nobody wanted this to happen.
What is the ethics verdict on Hillary Clinton’s statement during the debate?
Inexcusable, misleading and unfair. She said,
“I think every single American should be outraged. We’ve had a city in the United States of America where the population, which is poor in many ways and majority African-American, has been drinking and bathing in lead-contaminated water. And the governor of that state acted as though he didn’t really care….He had requests for help that he basically stonewalled. I’ll tell you what, if the kids in a rich suburb of Detroit had been drinking contaminated water and being bathed in it, there would have been action.””
Nobody set out to contaminate the water, Hillary, and there is no evidence of any cover-up. Does she know the facts? I doubt it. Plenty of people were paying attention and trying to fix the problem for years. By no interpretation can anyone argue that Snyder “acted as though he didn’t really care.” Hillary is playing Kanye West here, mimicking the rapper’s disgusting insistence that because New Orleans had large black population, President Bush didn’t make rescuing residents from the Katrina aftermath a priority.
Let me get Hillary’s allegation here straight: Snyder was willing to poison white Flint residents in order to neglect black residents? What does the percentage of black citizens in Flint have to do with anything? This is open and obvious race-baiting. Hillary is also saying that Black Lives Matter more, while making a vile accusation that Snyder values white lives more. This is anti- Republican hate porn, essentially.
The statement really was an irresponsible, despicable stroke by Clinton, made less than effective only because most people didn’t know what she was talking about. By the way, here is what Darnell Early, who insisted the water was safe in 2014, looks like:
Good looking guy, don’t you think?
Bernie’s statement was also unfair and, ironically, irresponsible: “A man who acts that irresponsibly should not stay in power.” There is no proof that Snyder acted irresponsibly, or that he knew enough to act any differently than he did.
Should Snyder resign?
He wasn’t responsible for the fiasco, but he’s accountable: it’s his state, environmental protection agency, and water boards. He’s not the only one who should step up and fall on his sword, but sure: if you’ve read here for long, you know I support leaders and managers losing their jobs when massive screw-ups happen on their watch, especially when, as in this case, it is a joint effort. It’s too easy to say, as is the current cowardly habit among the political class, that everyone was at fault, so no one was. Or, in the partisan version, the other party is always to blame. Yes, I’d love to see Snyder resign, so the statement can be made that government failed its duty to the public, and as the leader in charge, he acknowledges the failure.
There is no reason why Snyder should be the only executive to adopt this principle. I encourage Democrats to join me in my support of it, recognizing that the same principle would have demanded the resignation of Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sibelius, who botched the roll-out of Obamacare; his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, who is responsible for the disastrous “Dear colleague” letter; and Secretary of Energy Chu, who would have been obliged to quit for the excruciatingly slow process of stemming the Gulf oil spill. Then there would be multiple Secretaries of Defense that did not predict the rise of ISIS, the head of the Office of Personnel Management who oversaw the incredible and devastating Chinese hack into its database; Timothy Geithner, who should resigned as Secretary of the Treasury after the I.R.S. scandal was uncovered; obviously Eric Holder, whose Justice Department engineered the “Fast and Furious” gun running fiasco, and…let’s see now, I know I’m missing someone…oh yes, Hillary Clinton, who by her own words was “responsible” for the Benghazi attack’s carnage as Secretary of State.
There are many others, but you see the implications of Snyder’s symbolic resignation.
Wait…isn’t this an EPA area of responsibility?
Why, yes! It is! Yet you would hardly get that impression based on Clinton’s comments and the news coverage.
In fact, we now know that EPA officials knew there was lead in Flint’s water at least six months before state regulators issued a lead contamination warning to Flint. The EPA’s Susan Hedman did not publicize the EPA’s concern over Flint’s water quality nor the water’s dangerous health concerns as her agency battled the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality about what measures to take….while Flint residents kept drinking the water. EPA water expert, Miguel Del Toral, also identified potential contamination problems last February and tests confirmed his suspicions in April. He then authored an internal memo about the problem in June.
Asked about this, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Gina McCarthy told reporters that the agency “did its job.” “EPA did its job but clearly the outcome was not what anyone would have wanted,” she said. “So we’re going to work with the state, we’re going to work with Flint,” McCarthy said. “We’re going to take care of the problem. We know Flint is a situation that never should have happened.”
FEMA, meanwhile, initially turned down Snyder’s request for assistance, saying that the water problem was a man-made disaster, and thus ineligible. Hmmm…are we sure it wasn’t because of all the blacks in Flint? Are we sure the EPA’s involvement wasn’t based on racial bias? Of course: this is the benefit of having incompetence presided over by a black President. When it was Bush in the White House, it was racism. When it’s Obama, it is just typical, benign, color-blind incompetence.
Facts and Graphic: MLive
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