Is Snyder Culpable for Flint Water Crisis?

Is Snyder Culpable?

Photo credit: Cyberslayer

Now that the Flint water crisis genie is out of the bottle, political damage control is in full swing. And the elephant in the room is this: Is Gov. Rick Snyder culpable?

cul·pa·ble (adjective)
ˈkəlpəb(ə)l/

deserving blame. E.g.: ”Sometimes you’re just as culpable when you watch something as when you actually participate”

synonyms: to blame, guilty, at fault, in the wrong, answerable, accountable, responsible, blameworthy, censurable

The Snyder-appointed Flint Water Task Force sent a letter to Gov. Snyder in December explicitly placing responsibility on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and implicitly absolving Gov. Snyder and his administration. While the task force findings are important and quite likely identifies culpability within MDEQ, these findings are insufficient. It is not enough to investigate how and why the process failed. We must also investigate how and why the process was initiated in the first place.

When you seize jurisdiction by fiat, circumventing established governing bodies, against the will of the governed, like it or not, you assume ultimate responsibility. And this is exactly what Gov. Snyder has done through his scandalous appointment of an emergency manager to take control of Flint.

Consider a short parable:

The king of a small island nation decrees that his kingdom will relocate to a nearby island. Few of the citizens are pleased by this news, but they must comply because, after all, he is the king. The king assigns the task of transporting the citizens to an air carrier of his choosing and forbids the use of the local air carrier. During the inter-island flights, several planes crash into the sea, leaving many citizens injured or worse.

Is the king culpable in this case? Perhaps the air carrier company was negligent in their equipment maintenance practices or their pilots lacked sufficient training and skills. If so, they surely share in the culpability. But the king, by fiat, set the overall plan in motion.

Like the governor’s tweet, the Flint Water Task Force memo is an attempt to deflect attention from the “king” by focusing on the “air carrier”. If Gov. Snyder is, as he says, truly interested in getting to the bottom of the issue, he would stop blocking requests, filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for information regarding the decision process leading up to the crisis.

Truth withstands scrutiny.

But the eyes of the nation are now focused on the Flint water crisis as both a humanitarian emergency and a man-made disaster. The emergency will be solved. Culpability for the disaster will be assigned.

Will history label Gov. Snyder culpable? Yes, it will. The Flint water crisis will remain an indelible stain on the governor’s legacy.

2 comments for “Is Snyder Culpable for Flint Water Crisis?

  1. Kurt Riegger
    January 19, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Two important points — elected officials made the decision to leave Detroit water BEFORE emergency manager was appointed. Flint financial crisis is not a Governor initiative nor mandated by the Governor that it applies only for Flint as a poor city or for political rivals any more than Detroit’s own bankruptcy. State of Mi has to deal with insolvent cities and school districts because the debts come back to all of the people in the state. Not an option not to deal with them (just like in personal bankruptcy there are benefits to have a guided plan through the financial mess.)

    To update the example– prior Chieftain says we must leave the island or face starvation “we are going to the mainland” People agree with the decision; then King comes in and starts to execute the plan because he agrees that unless they move they will starve but on the day of departure bad weather comes up; King forges ahead and many are lost in the operation.

    • January 19, 2016 at 11:09 am

      Yes, that’s a reasonable parable update. And it leads to the same conclusion. The King must accept his share of culpability.

      And that’s my point of this post. Snyder is, at least in part, culpable for the Flint water crisis. Further, that culpability will become a–if not the–defining element in his legacy as king, er, I mean governor, of Michigan.

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