I realize I’ve been on a bit of a tear regarding Gov. Rick Snyder‘s role in the Flint water crisis. Over the past couple of days, I blogged about Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders each criticizing the governor during the recent Democratic National Debate and I suggested the governor is at least partially culpable in this whole man-made disaster. So, after Tuesday’s State of the State 2016 address (MISOTS16), I might have just moved on. But then, one of my friends sent me a message asking about my reaction to the address.
“Did Snyder pass the culpability and accountability tests last night?”
And that got me thinking… Oh, my. Not even close.
Releasing his e-mail is a positive step. But all of “his e-mails” is not “all documents”. Gov. Snyder should have said that he will comply with FOIA requests. Ideally, he would have said that the exemption from FOIA for government officials should be repealed and that he would act as though it were repealed. Let’s remember, Michigan ranks dead last in the nation for government transparency.
I find it troubling that the governor claims he knew nothing of the crisis until September 2015. To me, that is either disingenuous or incompetence. I knew about it long before then, and so did many others. But let’s posit that he was simply incompetent and failed to pay attention (including not even listening to NPR from time to time). In that case, Gov. Snyder knew that people were being poisoned in September, but took no serious action until December (once the political crap-storm was undeniably involving him). He should have at the very least admitted some culpability for that delay in action.
The governor apologized to the people of Flint saying, “Government failed you at the federal, state and local level,” and that he would fix it.
But Gov. Snyder admitted zero personal culpability. None. Instead, he spent the first 10 minutes pointing fingers at everyone but himself and pointing out that people at fault had been fired. Later, without any apparent sense of irony, he closed his address by saying that finger pointing is counter productive; that it was time for action.
MISOTS16 was a political tap dance. The governor assured us that he is now in charge and that he will fix the problem. He’s positioning to take credit for the cure while shunning responsibility for the cause.
I understand that Gov. Snyder is not a pillar of evil, but he is also not a pillar of competence. His priorities are way off. He talks a good game but his actions speak (and always have spoken) far louder than his words.
(On a side note, that the very first item on his list of things he promised to the people of Flint was “his prayers” is pathetic. Please, let’s separate the church from the state. Either he is pandering to the religious or he believes that prayer is a causal force. Either way, he loses points in my book.)
(On another side note, he spoke of the importance of education–in connection with Flint recovery, but also in connection with the state of our state in general. Yet, year after year, he cuts education budgets. Over the past six years, I have witnessed numerous cases of teachers–personal friends of mine–going from wonderful, highly-motivated, enthusiastic educators of many years to disenchanted, disgruntled laborers looking to change careers as a result of living through six years of Snyder’s school policies. This is another prime example of talk being cheap and actions speaking louder than words.)