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?
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.