Snyder set to discuss Flint crisis with Obama, mayor

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Gov. Snyder speaks at Blackstone bar in downtown Flint on Monday.

Lansing — The White House has granted Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for some face time with President Barack Obama during the president’s visit to Flint on Wednesday.

Snyder will participate in a briefing with Obama and federal officials on Flint’s water crisis after greeting the president on the tarmac of Flint Bishop International Airport, Snyder spokesman Ari Adler said Tuesday.

“The governor is pleased to meet with the president to help explain the efforts underway by the state to help the people of Flint recover and the need for additional and ongoing federal support to address the initial failure at all levels of government,” Adler said in an email to The Detroit News.

Air Force One will arrive at Flint’s airport just before noon, according to the White House.

Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver will participate in a midday briefing with Obama at the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the president has the opportunity to visit with both the governor and the mayor outside the context of that larger meeting as well,” Earnest told reporters Tuesday during his daily briefing.

After that, Earnest said, the president will take part in a roundtable discussion with Flint residents, “where he will hear from Flint residents dealing first hand with the impact of the crisis.”

Obama also will meet Mariyanna Copeny, the 9-year-old Flint girl who wrote the president a letter with an “odd request” to come visit her hometown.

“The president looks forward to meeting with Mari and her family while he’s in Flint tomorrow as well,” Earnest said.

The president will end his visit with a speech before a crowd of 1,000 people at 4 p.m. at Flint’s Northwestern High School, the White House said.

The News reported Monday that Snyder would participate in the tarmac greeting, even after Earnest took a jab at the Republican governor over whether he had time to meet with the Democratic president.

Snyder said Monday he requested a meeting with Obama after returning home from a week-long trade mission in Europe.

Last week, Snyder told The News he wasn’t sure he’d have time in his “pretty busy schedule” to join the president in Flint after the newspaper confirmed Obama was planning a visit.

Snyder has been critical of the federal government for months after the Obama administration denied his request for a disaster declaration in Flint.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency contends disaster declarations and assistance are only intended for natural disasters such as a flood or hurricane and not a man-made disaster like Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis.

A Snyder-appointed task force concluded the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality is largely to blame for Flint’s water crisis for not requiring corrosion controls be added to river water that caused toxic lead to leach.

Some Republicans also have said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials deserve some blame for remaining publicly quiet for months after learning of lead problems and a lack of corrosion control chemicals in Flint’s water.

Earnest said Tuesday it would be “premature” for him to discuss Obama’s views on who should be held accountable for Flint’s water contamination crisis.

“I think the president is concerned that there was a failure on the part of government officials to ensure the people of Flint were protected,” Earnest said. “And there’s a lot of work that’s gone into determining exactly why and how that happened. That work is ongoing. But I think the fact that something like this happened in a community that is so economically disadvantaged is something that troubles the president.”


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Twitter: @ChadLivengood