Snyder ranked among world’s 19 ‘disappointing leaders’

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Fortune Magazine has placed Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder in a class of “disappointing” world leaders for his administration’s failures in Flint’s water-contamination crisis.

The wealth-promoting publication asked its readers to rank Snyder among 18 other corporate and government leaders to see which one is the most disappointing of them all.

The dubious list of leaders includes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the former chairman of the emission-cheating Volkswagen automaker, the former president of the scandal-plagued FIFA world soccer organization and the CEO of the declining

Fortune’s editors bestowed Snyder — a millionaire businessman who was elected governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014 — with its “Don’t Blame Me, I’m Just The Governor Award.”

“I never thought I’d say this, but I voted for Rick Snyder today — in Fortune Magazine’s poll of the world’s most disappointing leaders,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon said Wednesday in a statement. “Gov. Snyder was already at the top of the list of Michigan’s most disappointing governors, so it comes as no surprise that he’s considered one of the most disappointing leaders in the world today.”

Snyder spokesman Ari Adler dismissed the Fortune article and online poll.

“Gov. Snyder is focused on fixing problems, not Internet polls,” Adler said in a Wednesday email. “Nevertheless, it is unfortunate that a major news publication would ask its readers to vote on something like this and then give them incorrect information on which to base their vote.”

Fortune Magazine described Flint’s lead-tainted water as a result of the Snyder administration pursuing a “cost-savings ... that is being blamed for illness and brain damage, especially among its youngest residents.”

Adler disputed the magazine’s contention Flint used river water for 18 months in 2014 and 2015 to save money.

“The decision on whether to use corrosion control in the Flint water supply was not about saving money, but rather was a mistake made by bureaucrats who misinterpreted a flawed federal rule,” Adler said.

The state Department of Environmental Quality never cited saving money as a reason for not adding corrosion control chemicals to Flint’s new water source in April 2014. But the decision to use the Flint River as a temporary source of drinking water was designed to save money for the cash-strapped city.

A task force appointed by Snyder said last week the governor’s own emergency managers in Flint spurned requests to switch the city back to Detroit’s corrosion-treated water after residents complained about the water’s foul smell and orange color.

In October 2014, then-Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley told top Snyder aides that the city’s “water quality problems can be solved and it would be cost-­prohibitive to return” to Detroit water, according to the task force report.

In March 2015, then-Flint EM Jerry Ambrose also cited the $12 million reconnection cost in rejecting another request to switch back to Detroit’s Lake Huron water pipeline.

Snyder has repeatedly apologized for the crisis while rejecting calls from Dillon and other Democrats to resign from office.

“Gov. Snyder is the only leader at all levels of government involved in the Flint water crisis who has been willing to stand up and apologize, take responsibility for what happened on his watch, and tackle the problems head on to fix what happened in Flint and fix the system that caused it to happen,” Adler said.

Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, refused to apologize for her agency’s role in the crisis during a March 17 congressional hearing while sitting next to Snyder.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has admitted it did not require Flint to treat the river water with corrosion control chemicals to prevent toxic lead from leaching into the water supply.

Snyder sought the switch in October after state environmental officials confirmed independent studies showing high levels of lead in the city’s water and the blood of residents.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood