Monday, February 1, 2016

 How Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, Committed Political Suicide and Woke Up America.

By now we all know, from a variety of sources' that Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, is the man who engineered the poisoning of the water in the city of Flint, via a succession of incompetent, appointed(not elected) city managers. None of these city managers was remotely responsible to the good citizens of Flint, but served at the pleasure of the Governor. His desk is where the buck definitely stops.

 Though there are loud calls for his resignation and a gaggle of pending lawsuits, he's still on the job.   He hasn't figured out yet that, in a democracy, elected officials are responsible to the people who elect them. I can only hope that he will eventually get the memo, resign from office and toddle back to corporate America from whence he came. Some powerful people in high places are calling him a criminal, and even want to see him do jail time.  On the face of it, the slammer seems like a good place for him. Certainly his dream of capping a successful business career with a few years of public service in his home state has gone down the drain ( to coin a phrase).  He'll be lucky not to be tarred and feathered and driven out of town the way things are going.

Here's what happened in a nutshell. To save money, Governor Snyder signed off on a plan to change Flint's water supply from pristine Lake Huron, to the less than healthy but much closer Flint River. Water from the new source began to flow into Flint's homes and its remaining businesses at the end of April,2014. Problem is, the water was toxic, the pipes carrying it corroded, and what came out was brown and full of lead and other goodies. Consumers began complaining just days after the switch but city officials turned a deaf ear. Protests grew. There were demonstrations. State and City officials went into defensive mode. The water may look bad and smell worse, but it definitely is safe to drink they assured worried citizens.  Yeah-- sure. Drink that brown stuff. Bathe your kids in it. Cook with it.  It is totally safe.  NOT.  An estimated 8000 children under the age of six will live with the lifelong effects of lead poisoning in Flint because of Governor Snyder's decision and the subsequent state and city cover up. Talk about having the blood of innocents on your much for Rick Snyder's political ambitions.

  By August of 2014, Flint's water supply had tested positive for e coli and citizens were advised to boil it before using. By the beginning of 2015, the water was testing positive for lead and other carcinogens and people were getting mad. .  The mayor and city council were still saying it was safe to drink( although now it turns out that bottled water was being trucked into Flint for state workers at this time. Nice, eh?) Calls for the governor's resignation got louder. By the end of 2015, President Obama weighed in and declared Flint a Federal Emergency .  Access to bottled water, testing kits and the like were provided to residents and Governor Snyder finally apologized for the whole mess and announced that Flint will soon return to Lake Huron water at a cost of 12 million dollars.  I really do not understand why this man has not yet resigned.  Can he possibly think that he has a political future after bungling so badly? Flint is the canary in the coal mine of crumbling American infrastructure.  Watch this CNN video and weep. 

All across America, an antiquated infrastructure is crumbling.  The American Society of Civil Engineers gives our dams, bridges, roads, and public transportation a resounding D+ in its most recent report.Where  I live in central New Jersey, the bridges and highways are only marginally safe for the morning commute.New Jersey is a leader in polluted industrial sites as well. New York City has three 19th century water tunnels which bring fresh water into the city. The clock is ticking on those babies while the politicians haggle about replacement.  It is ticking as well on the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, Manhattan's lifeline to the mainland.  Our nation's trains run on track that was laid out in the 1870's and the service sucks when compared to any European or Asian country.  Ditto our airports.  We're great at building bridges to nowhere in Alaska, but decent public transportation? nah.Where's the short term profit in that?

A decade ago,my local municipal water company was sold to United Water, itself a subsidiary of a massive, multi national corporation based in France.  A couple of years ago they put new smart meters in all the basements in town and beefed up the water storage supply.  Since then,  my water rates have increased...a trend I expect to continue. This is not a municipal authority. It is a multi-national, profit making, corporation.  There is nobody to complain to except their customer service.The fox is guarding the hen house again and the one percent is happy with its dividends. The customer is a profit opportunity, not a tax-paying co- owner of the business.

Flint's water crisis is a warning for the rest of us.  Let's get our house in order. It is amazing that so little time is being spent by a broadcast media seduced by the phony glitz of Presidential campaigning on the disaster in Flint.  It is more surprising still that the man who caused it all is still in office and not being held accountable. I hope he will be before this is over.  In the meantime,  Wake up my fellow Americans, the clock is ticking.  The next water crisis could be yours.

photo Credit:  DonkeyHotey, Flickr