Democrats: Snyder shows ‘a lot of ducking’ on Flint

Leonard N. Fleming The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Democratic leaders accused Gov. Rick Snyder of “a lot of ducking, a lot of deflecting” in Tuesday’s State of the State address that focused mostly on Flint’s contaminated water crisis.

Even though the second-term Republican governor apologized directly to the people of Flint and said the “buck stops” with him, House Minority Leader Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills argued the speech showed a “complete refusal by the governor to take personal responsibility for what occurred.”

Although admitting that “we all need to work together to fix the problems in Flint,” Greimel of Auburn Hills and Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint said Snyder is losing the trust of Michiganians. The Republican governor needs to come up with specifics for a long-term fix for those affected by lead in the city’s water that will help restore trust, they said.

“The first priority has to be fixing the problem but, yes, obviously the trust of Michigan residents in the governor has been harmed by this,” Greimel told The News following the speech.

“... This was about an administration acting as a bunch of bureaucrats, including the governor, instead of a leader and instead of somebody who has real compassion for real people affected in a tragedy.”

“There was a little bit of rewriting history and a little bit of trying to shift and pass the buck, blaming the EPA and blaming local officials and everybody else but fully taking responsibility,” Ananich said. “Saying sorry is important, but at the same time you are saying sorry you are blaming other people.”

An Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday that the federal agency did not act fast enough in addressing the growing problem in Flint after hitting resistance from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on how the city’s water should be treated with chemicals to prevent corrosion of lead pipe connections.

State Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, was pointed in his critique of Snyder, calling him “scripted” in an address that was “too little, too late” to restore trust with the people of Michigan.

“It’s always good to take responsibility for what you are a part of and what you are the lead of, but citizens are concerned about the lack of transparency and the lack of understanding of what really took place,” Johnson said. “I needed to hear something new. I didn’t need to hear promises because, frankly, this governor leaves in 2018 the same as I do. Being here for the long haul is not even an option.

“You talk about the lost decade … I will take the lost decade anytime versus lost or contaminated lives,” he said of Snyder.

Congressional Democrats jumped into the fray and demanded that the Republican administration provide much more money than its initial proposed $28 million to fix Flint’s problems.

“While I was pleased to hear the governor speak directly to the people of Flint, I believe the plan he outlined tonight fell short of what is needed to fully address the extensive needs of Flint residents suffering from lead exposure, especially Flint’s children,” first-term U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, said in a statement.

Flint area Democratic U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee criticized the governor’s proposed supplemental funding bill.

“For those who think $28 million will begin to remedy the Flint water crisis, that is a fraction of the money city residents have paid for poisoned water that they cannot drink,” Kildee said in a Tuesday statement.

“Flint deserves an immediate response equal to the gravity of this ongoing public health emergency. A state-appointed emergency financial manager created this problem and the state must step up and do more to help Flint families and children right now.”

Snyder officials have said the $28 million is an initial infusion of cash that will be followed by a long-term funding plan in early February that will be part of the governor’s proposed 2016-17 budget. The state has a $575 million surplus.