Governor Rick Snyder devoted most of Tuesday's State of the State speech to the Flint water crisis. He promised to fix the problems that started while the city was under state emergency management, and he promised to do a better job of helping the public understand what went wrong.
It was a humbled Governor Snyder who took to the podium for the sixth State of the State address of his administration. A year ago, he was just-reelected to a second-term, pondering a bid for the presidency, and basking in the apparent success of Detroit’s exit from bankruptcy.
Today, the governor’s reputation for can-do accomplishment has been shredded by the water crisis in Flint. Children are showing elevated lead levels that could lead to all sorts of neurological and developmental health risks. A visibly emotional Governor Snyder told Flint residents fixing that is a responsibility he takes personally. “I give you my commitment that Michigan will not let you down," he said. That’s after months of administration officials denying was a problem, followed by a shakeup that cost at least two senior environmental officials their jobs, and last week, the state asking the federal government for help.
The Obama administration partially approved the request for assistance. This is White House Press Secretary Joshua Earnest.
“This is obviously an effort that should be led by state and local officials, but the federal government is mobilizing significant resources to support that ongoing effort.”
That includes sending bottled water from emergency reserves and sending advisors to help the city tap into more federal resources. Governor Snyder said he will ask the federal government to send more help. He also promised a short- and long-term strategy for helping Flint and other cities with water infrastructure.
The governor called the Flint water crisis a failure at “every level of government” – city, county, state, and federal. “We will not stop working for the people of Flint until every single person has clean water every single day no matter what.”
The sounds of protests could be heard inside the Capitol, even as the governor delivered his speech. Nayyarah Shariff was one of those demonstrators. She says it took too long for the state to acknowledge the problem and to start doing something about it.
“And now we’ve got the whole world looking at Rick Snyder and, hopefully, that will force him to change, because we had to drag him kicking and screaming into this fight.”
In the speech, Snyder promised to release his e-mails related to the Flint water crisis to show what his administration did right and to help the public understand how things went wrong. Rick Snyder and his aides say they understand the reality that he owns the problem. And that it’s up to Rick Snyder to fix it.