Snyder pledges ‘not to let you down again’
January 26, 2016
Courtesy of MIRS News Service
A contrite Gov. Rick SNYDER, his voice cracking at times over the dull roar of protesters outside the Capitol, pledged to fix Flint’s lead-tainted water supply and to “not let you down again.”
Snyder dedicated 18 minutes of this sixth State of the State message to the Flint water crisis — his version of what had happened, what he’s done to address it and his pledge to not let it happen again.
In an unprecedented move, the Governor vowed to release his 2014 and 2015 emails regarding Flint on Wednesday. He’s asking the Legislature to sign off on $28 million for water filters, testing kits and immediate health services to the children of Flint. He released a public help website.
He’s putting together a task force to look into public infrastructure needs in Flint and elsewhere in Michigan with aged water pipes, some made out of wood or cast iron.
All the while, more National Guard troops, state residents, the State Police and others have visited 21,000 homes with bottled waters and filters. Old fixtures are being replaced in schools, daycares and hospitals.
Nurse visits, adolescent health centers and environmental assessments are on the way.
“We will not stop working for the people of Flint until everyone has clean water every single day, no matter what,” he said.
The pronouncement comes 113 days after Snyder said he was first briefed by his administration about the extent of the lead still contained in the city’s water supply. Up until that point, Snyder said he was told by his Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that the lead levels in the water were within compliance levels. His Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) told him elevated lead levels were “seasonal trends.”
It wasn’t until Virginia Tech’s Marc EDWARDS and Dr. Mona Hanna ATTISHA came out with their studies on Flint’s water and the lead level in people that the agencies took another look.
“Government failed you — federal, state and local leaders — by breaking the trust you placed in us,” Snyder said. “I’m sorry most of all that I let you down . . .
“I know apologies won’t make up for the mistakes that were made — nothing will,” he said. “But I take full responsibility to fix the problem so that it never happens again.”
Senate Minority Leader Jim ANANICH (D-Flint) said today’s address was a “step in the right direction,” but “I I can tell you we need all these services and we needed them yesterday.”
The roughly 50-minute speech had few applause lines. The Democrats stood but didn’t clap when Snyder entered the chambers and only stood to applause when members of the military or special dignitaries were announced.
They rolled their eyes when he botched the pronunciation of released political prisoner Amir HEKMATI’s last name. One House member was seen making a gaging motion when Snyder rolled out his “Relentless Positive Action” moniker near the end of the speech.
He talked about Detroit Public Schools possibly having to close as soon as April since they are running out of money and the state is not legally able to lend them any more money at this point.
Snyder mentioned automated cars and creating another lock at the Soo Locks that can handle enormous iron-ore carrying freight.
But Flint was the subject on everybody’s mind both before and after his speech.
“What I heard is a leader who accepted responsibility and I’m committed to fixing the problem. No finger pointing. I’m going to fix the problem,” said Senate Majority Leader Arlan MEEKHOF (R-West Olive). “That’s the mark of a real leader.
“When somebody, like the Governor, who has not broken his word, says that, ‘I’m going to fix the problem’ I believe him.”
Likewise, House Speaker Kevin COTTER (R-Mt. Pleasant), said he felt the Governor did a “tremendous job” opening up, sharing information and extending a sincere apology to repair the situation going forward.
“I’m very committed to doing what’s necessary to fix the situation. We need to look at it in phases. Phase 1 is making sure the health crisis is contained and not allowed to further spread,” he said. “Then we need to look at long-term solution. There will be a time when we look at what happened, getting into additional details. But job one is make sure we stop the problem.”
Snyder didn’t get praise from Rep. Henry YANEZ (D-Sterling Heights), who wants to end the emergency manager program.
“It’s because of an emergency manager that we have what’s going on in Flint today. I felt that the Governor had received the spirit of FDR the way he was talking about rebuilding Michigan,” Yanez said. “The question is, ‘How are my Republican colleagues going to pay for this? And who’s going to get the shaft on that?'”
Sen. Curtis HERTEL, Jr. (D-Meridian Twp.) said he thinks it’s sad that it took national media being involved for him to come up with a plan.
“I think instead of the politics and the blame game we should be focused on is those 1-, 2-, 3-year olds, who are in the middle of their neurological development who were poisoned with lead,” he said.
“That’s where our focus has to be so any solution has to be about getting them into see a doctor and making sure there’s a nurse involved early on. We need to focus on early education. And we need to focus on nutrition. That’s what our focus should be on.”