Howes: Why repealing right-to-work won't revive Michigan's good ol' days

Bankole: Gov. Snyder can’t turn his back on Flint

Bankole Thompson
The Detroit News

I expected the governor to match his words about repairing the damage done in Flint with action.

But in his 2017 State of the State address Gov. Rick Snyder failed the basic test of any leader: that is to give a status report — whether good or bad — on a growing problem on your watch so that others can determine if you have done enough or need to do more.

Instead of issuing a status report on the Flint water crisis and speaking to the city residents who were exposed to lead-contaminated water for 18 months, Snyder, spoke about Flint as if it was an issue of the past.

“This was a sad chapter in the history of our state. Our work is not done yet, we all owe the people of Flint a solution,” Snyder said almost 30 minutes into his address Jan. 17.

Those remarks are markedly different from a year ago when Snyder went on bended knees asking for forgiveness and promising to fix Flint no matter what it takes.

“No citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe. Government failed you: federal, state and local leaders by breaking the trust you placed in us. I am sorry, most of all, that I let you down. You deserve better. You deserve accountability; you deserve to know the buck stops here with me,” Snyder said then.

“I know apologies won’t make up for the mistakes that were made. Nothing will, but I take full responsibility to fix the problem so it will never happen again.”

“Let me tell you what has been done so far and what we will be doing in the coming days, weeks, months and years to keep our commitment to you. To make Flint an even cleaner, safer, stronger city than it was before, because that is what you and your families deserve, we are working to do whatever we must until this crisis is resolved.”

Twelve months after that atonement speech the crisis in Flint has not been resolved. Residents are still drinking bottled water. They are scared because the corrosive pipes that led to the crisis have not been replaced.

Lansing seems reluctant to do more for Flint after legislators approved $28 million in emergency funding last year. Since then there has been no significant monetary commitment to continue addressing the multitude of issues Flint faces, even though the state has a rainy day fund that Snyder remind us of in interviews and speeches.

But thanks to the federal government, particularly the U.S. Senate, for approving a significant rescue package last year that will provide $170 million to Flint to help mitigate the crisis.

Flint has become the most glaring example of government incompetence. This crisis happened under Snyder’s watch. Period. No attempt to rewrite history can change that fact. The city emergency managers who gave their blessings for Flint to withdraw from the Detroit water system to the unusable Flint River were appointed by Snyder.

That is the story.

The governor had an opportunity last week in his address to explain what has and needs to be done for Flint, but he failed to do so.

Such an omission sends a message that Snyder either has decided to walk away from Flint, given up on the legislative resistance in his caucus for help for Flint, or simply doesn’t see the issue as an emergency any longer.

But we cannot move on and let Flint rot. We will keep the issue in the spotlight. That is why what the governor did not say about Flint is another reason why politicians are not trusted. Under pressure they make all sorts of promises. Months later, it is a different story.

I welcomed Snyder’s remarks last year and thought it was a significant turning point for a governor who realized the magnitude of the problem on his watch.

The governor still has ample opportunity to right the wrongs of Flint. As Flint Congressman Dan Kildee told me recently, Snyder can urge the Legislature to give him a comprehensive rescue package before he signs any other bills passed this year.

Twitter: @bankieT

Bankole Thompson is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson” on Super Station 910AM weekdays at noon. His column appears Mondays and Thursdays.