Snyder: ‘Lessons to be learned’ from Flint, DPS crises

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Harrison Township — Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday there are “lessons to be learned” from the Flint water crisis and the struggling Detroit Public Schools but argued Michigan overall is on the right path.

Appearing at the Macomb County Chamber Alliance’s annual Governor’s Lunch at MacRay Harbor, Snyder said Michigan’s economy has made a huge comeback and pledged to continue the state’s progress by improving education and infrastructure.

Several Macomb County officials were in attendance at the governor’s appearance, including county executive Mark Hackel.

Snyder, who has come under fire in recent months for his role in the Flint water crisis, said the biggest challenges before him are in Flint and the Detroit Public School system. Snyder also said the state is working diligently to improve roads in Michigan in the next few years.

“Let’s look at our past, let’s understand there are lessons to be learned so we never have the lost decade happen here again,” Snyder said. “Places like Flint, Detroit education, these are serious, hard problems but we can solve them.”

Snyder reiterated during his speech that he takes full responsibility for the lead-contaminated water in Flint. He said “experts that had decades of experience” in water quality made “terrible decisions.”

“If someone working for you makes a mistake, you’re responsible for it,” Snyder said.

The governor is seeking $165 million for Flint, in addition to $67 million already approved by the Legislature. He’s also trying to win agreement from lawmakers on a $715 million package to rescue and restructure DPS, which is struggling with hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

Hackel praised Snyder for accepting responsibility for the Flint water crisis.

“Probably the thing that surprised me most is that he’s willing to come out here and speak,” Hackel told reporters after the luncheon. “He’s going through some incredibly challenging times and adversity with people who are mad at him, upset with him, want to take political advantage of this difficult situation.”

Snyder touted the state’s economy during his speech Monday, saying 444,000 private sector jobs have been created since 2010.

Still, the governor said Michigan will need to make more progress with education and infrastructure in order to be a leader in the United States.

One solution, he said, will be appointing a 21st century education commission to boost achievement in schools and a 21st century infrastructure commission to build better roads, water and sewer systems and pipelines.

Snyder said he wants to re-establish career technical training as an alternative to a four-year college degree.

He also said he is committed to solving the problems in DPS.

A successful school system will make Detroit a force that helps other communities in Michigan grow, too, the governor said.

“By having a strong Detroit, it’s a win for all of us,” Snyder said.

State residents can expect to see progress on roads over the next two or three years, Snyder said.

“Infrastructure that’s under the ground (is) in just as bad shape as the roads,” Snyder said. “We shouldn’t leave them like that.”

nterry@detroitnews.com

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@NicquelTerry