Snyder taps two advisers to help on Flint water crisis
Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder has tapped two of his advisers to coordinate the state’s health, environmental and public relations response to Flint’s water crisis.
Snyder has appointed Harvey Hollins, director of the governor’s Office of Urban Initiatives, to be the point person between state agencies and Flint as they work to address elevated levels of lead in the city’s water system.
The Republican governor made the appointment in response to concerns raised by his Flint water task force that there was an uncoordinated state response to the crisis.
The Snyder administration also has hired public relations consultant Chris DeWitt “to strengthen community outreach efforts to make sure residents have access to the information they need,” Snyder wrote in a letter Tuesday to members of his Flint water task force.
DeWitt, a Democrat, has been a campaign adviser to Snyder for years. He previously was a political adviser to former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
Snyder’s appointments of Hollins and DeWitt drew immediate criticism Thursday from Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, who questioned their qualifications for dealing with his city’s water problems.
“Political appointees and public relations people are what got us into this mess, and they aren’t who we need leading us out of it,” Ananich said in a statement. “Anything less than a professional trained in emergency management or public health will not suffice.”
In a letter to Snyder earlier this month, the Flint Water Advisory Task Force said the state needs the departments of Health and Human Services and Environmental Quality to set goals and timelines for taking action in Flint. Task force members also recommended Snyder create clear lines of responsibility “for meeting the goals in a timely fashion and for contingency plans for the state if the goals are not being met.”
“One primary concern we have at this point is that the current efforts appear to be taking place in the absence of a larger project coordination framework that measures results and clearly delineates responsibilities for continuing actions to protect public health,” the task force members wrote in the Dec. 7 letter.
The task force is being co-chaired by former GOP Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema and former state Rep. Chris Kolb, a Democrat who is president of the Michigan Environmental Council.