Gov. Rick Snyder speaks about the Flint, Mich., water crisis during a news conference at city hall in downtown Flint.
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Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder did the right thing last week when he accepted responsibility for the Flint water crisis in his annual State of the State speech: “I’m sorry I let you down. You deserve to know the buck stops here with me.”
He had a lot to apologize for. An emergency manager he appointed switched the aging, impoverished industrial city from water purified in Detroit to Flint River water to save money. That water proved to be so toxic and corrosive it leached lead out of city pipes, which means that thousands of children are at risk of developmental damage.
Afterward, Snyder appointees at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ridiculed those who worried about lead and claimed their studies showed the water was fine — until independent tests showed that some of it met the standard for toxic waste. This was more than bad enough.
But incredibly, some partisan hacks have begun claiming, some with racist undertones, that somehow Flint residents and the Democratic party are responsible for decisions made by Mr. Snyder’s Republican administration.
Genesee County Volunteer Militia members and protesters gather for a rally outside of Flint City Hall over the city’s ongoing water crisis. The militia was handing out free bottled water and water filters.
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One Dennis Lennox, a former drain commissioner in Cheboygan, Mich., disseminated a column claiming that “the lion’s share of responsibility rests with the city,” and that Flint City Council authorized a switch to the toxic river water.
In fact, they never did, and in any event, had all the power taken from them under the emergency manager rule.
Worst of all was a hate-filled rant by a former suburban Republican legislator, Chuck Moss, who bizarrely attempted to blame “UAW Democrats” in an “African-American political stronghold” for everything wrong with the city.
Democrats, to be sure, may not have always been prudent stewards of the people’s money. Though Flint’s economic collapse seems entirely because of the decline of the auto industry in a place where General Motors was vital to the town.
But in this case, the Snyder administration was entirely to blame for the mistakes, a cover-up, and waiting far too long to act even after it was clear the lead poisoning was real. Playing partisan games is the last thing that is needed here. Instead, supplying clean water and treating sick children should be everyone’s priority, perhaps for years to come.
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