Flint resident emails to Snyder: ‘Too little, too late’
They used biting words like “canned” and “garbage.” And as for Gov. Rick Snyder, they had choice words for his lack of “bold” leadership and endangering the lives of many, including children.
Those were some of the highlights from constituent emails sent in early to mid-October and December 2015 to Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration in response to the Flint water crisis. Ranging from downright indignation to the rare compliment, the emails primarily showed frustrations with state officials more than a year and a half into the disaster that has engulfed his governorship.
And what did they receive in return for expressing concerns? A form letter from Laura Stoken of the governor’s Constituent Relations division. And for all intents, they let Stoken have it, expressing anger that Snyder didn’t act soon and decisively enough to address the basic tenants of the crisis.
While thanking the emailers, Stoken wrote the detailed letter indicating what actions the various agencies had been taking and that the governor had revealed a “comprehensive action plan with state, federal and city leaders to address concerns about the drinking water.”
And it quoted Snyder saying Flint needs to have “access to safe, clean, water now and long into the future.”
The names and email address were redacted by state officials but were part of thousands of emails made public by the Snyder administration this week related to Flint’s April 2014 switch to the city’s river that brought lead-tainted water into the city’s homes.
One resident complained on Oct. 12 to Stoken: “The governor’s legacy will now include the poisoning of thousands of Flint residents, many of whom are children. The cost of health care and remedial actions will be in the billions and will be shouldered by the state. Such a tragic event. I fear the governor’s aspirations for higher office may be a bridge too far.”
Another person’s forceful retort to the letter on Oct. 8: “How can you respond with such garbage,” the person wrote. “Do you read or just pass on trash you are told to. I read, research and come to educated conclusions!!! Does everyone in authority think everyone else is stupid, uninformed, hysterical and uneducated? Well not so. Bye.”
The governor’s office is exempt from the state’s public records laws but Snyder said this week he wanted to open the records up for public scrutiny.
On Oct. 1, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed a lead problem in the drinking water supply and the city of Flint officially urged residents to not drink the water. The next day, the governor acknowledged that state officials had been wrong about the initial findings that the water was safe enough to drink and released a 10-point plan to address water system, $1 million for water filters and anti-corrosion treatment for the water supply to reduce lead levels.
One constituent thanked Stoken for her response but summarized her letter as indicating that Snyder “is doing too little, too late.”
“Water filters are, as we all know, insufficient,” the constituent wrote on Oct. 6. “I’m glad the residents are receiving free drinking water, but they also need water for cooking, washing their dishes and bathing and washing their clothes. All of these activities are exposing them to lead poisoning. And the free water comes in plastic that is just adding to the landfills — but it is a good temporary solution. Snyder needs to reconnect Flint to Detroit’s water!! And he needs to do it NOW!!!”
Flint would reconnect to Detroit’s water system later that month at a cost of $12 million.
Another e-mailer on Oct. 8 thanked the state for “your detailed response,” and then while lauding “all the positive steps,” the writer then declared “but not the type of bold leadership I was hoping for when I wrote my e-mail.”
But the anger over the crisis — and seemingly figuring out the letter was not specifically written to address individual residents — dominated the responses.
One person wrote on Dec. 22: “Your reply seemed incomplete and inconsistent with what I have read … so I did more research. I can see from the two fonts in your replay that it is a form obviously sent in reply to any Flint water inquiries … and far more words to be politic garbage and most insincere. You and the governor should be quite embarrassed … but I doubt that you will be.”
Another person replied on Dec. 23 to the constituent response he received: “I want to know what is being done for the victims. I know all too well the lies that executives and governmental officials will tell to save face and save money; it is pure evil.”
Not all were outraged. On Oct. 8, a constituent wrote: “I was very pleased today to hear the governor step up and take major steps to solve the Flint water problem. Please pass along my compliments for a job well done.”