Trump kicks Snyder from Council of Governors

Detroit News staff

President Donald Trump made clear again this week that Gov. Rick Snyder isn’t among his revered governors.

Trump announced on Monday his appointees to the 10-member Council of Governors would be Republican governors Rick Scott of Florida, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma and Eric Greitens of Missouri, Democratic governors Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, Steve Bullock of Montana and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, and independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker.

Scott, Fallin and Greitens were among Trump’s favorite governors on the campaign trail, with Fallin considered a possible running mate. Trump reappointed the Democratic governors, who were on Obama’s panel, but didn’t reappoint Snyder, who had served on the council since 2015.

It shouldn’t be a surprise since the president reminded Snyder during a mid-March auto industry event in Ypsilanti that he remembers Snyder’s non-endorsement in the presidential campaign.

Trump motioned the governor to join him and others for a photo “even though you didn’t endorse me.” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao added that, “He’s never forgotten,” to which the president quickly responded, “I never forget.”

Snyder still has tried to build relationships with the new Republican administration, especially through the office of Vice President Mike Pence, who hired two Snyder staffers.

The council, which is supposed to be split among Democrats and Republicans, was created in 2010 by President Barack Obama to help state leaders work more closely with federal officials.

Ananich: Fire DEQ official who’s retiring

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich is calling on the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to fire a top-ranking drinking water official over comments he made regarding the Flint crisis.

Bryce Feighner, director of the department’s Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance Division, is planning to retire effective June 30. But Ananich doesn’t think the state should wait.

“I think he should be fired, no doubt about it,” Ananich told The Detroit News on Wednesday.

Feighner last week said treating Flint River water with corrosion control chemicals would not have prevented the municipal water crisis, breaking with a general consensus among experts. Although he called the crisis “heartbreaking,” he suggested “hype” hurt residents even more than the actual event.

Feigher sought to clarify his comments Tuesday, stressing that what happened in Flint was a “failure of government at all levels” and should never have happened.

The presentation last week “was meant to convey the many complications associated with Flint's water problems and that no single action or activity, such as the lack of orthophosphate treatment, could provide a complete explanation of what occurred,” he said in a statement.

But Ananich was not satisfied. The typically mild-mannered senator on Wednesday proposed stripping Feighner’s entire $136,605 annual salary from the environmental department budget. He accused him of “lies and revisionist history.”

“It is clear to me, and it should be clear to everyone in this room, that Bryce Feighner should have no role in my city’s recovery and frankly should have no role protecting anyone in this state,” Ananich said.

Conyers reintroduces EM bill

Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, has reintroduced his bill that would withhold a portion of federal grant aid from states with emergency manager laws that permit “unchecked” decision-making by state-appointed managers in financially distressed cities.

The bill is also sponsored by Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint Township and Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, as well as 17 co-sponsors. The legislation was first introduced last year.

Critics of Michigan’s law say it allowed former emergency managers to switch Flint’s water source more than three years ago, which resulted in crises over lead water contamination in Flint. They also blame the law for Detroit’s deteriorating school system.

The legislation is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican-controlled Congress. A task force appointed by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder urged the state Legislature to reform the state’s emergency manager law, but the Legislature hasn’t acted.

“Three years later, the people of Flint continue to suffer from the misguided and disastrous choices of an emergency financial manager they did not elect to represent them,” Conyers said in a statement.

“We ... must continue to stand together and make sure the unaccountable emergency financial managers responsible for these disasters – and the legal system that empowered them – are not permitted to inflict further harm on our citizens or our constitutional rights.”

The Emergency Financial Manager Reform Act would direct the U.S. attorney general to withhold 5 percent of the law enforcement funds to a state violator under the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program.

The attorney general would need to determine that a state-appointed EM failed to protect against abuses such as harm to public health, conflicts of interest or unilateral rejection of labor agreements.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Melissa Nann Burke and Richard Burr