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Governor Snyder should resign

Feb 29, 2016

Normally I have little or no patience with those who demand elected leaders resign or be recalled or impeached every time they disagree with them. I also think Governor Rick Snyder has had two great successes during his five years in office.

The badly needed Gordie Howe bridge would be nowhere near reality if it wasn’t for Governor Snyder, and he did a a masterful job shepherding Detroit through the bankruptcy process. Yet none of this makes up for Flint.

Reading through the thousands of recently released emails, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that Rick Snyder owes it to the people of the state of Michigan to resign. This is, I should say, not the official opinion of Michigan Radio, of its reporters and editors, or anyone but my own.

A month ago, I never thought I would get to this point, but then, under pressure, the governor released his staff’s emails about the crisis. The level of malfeasance is nearly unbelievable. Virtually every member of his inner circle and senior staff knew there were serious problems with the water.

They were aware of a possible link between Flint River water and Legionnaires’ disease a year before the governor said he did.

Dennis Muchmore, the governor’s chief of staff, knew how serious the problems were. “If we procrastinate much longer in doing something direct, we’ll have real trouble,” he wrote a year ago.

Snyder’s then chief counsel wrote sarcastically, long before the lead issue, that his mother, who lived in Flint, “was drinking water with elevated chlorine and fecal coliform” bacteria.

These men had access to the governor every day. It is nearly impossible to believe they said nothing to him, which is what we are being asked to believe.

But if that is true, it would make Snyder a candidate for worst manager ever. If your top subordinates don’t think they should tell you about a problem that could poison an entire city, you don’t belong in management.

But my conclusion that the governor should resign is not based on any desire to punish him. It is because this state needs and deserves a full-time, fully engaged governor for the next three years.

Rick Snyder has irretrievably lost all credibility. Gongwer News Service interviewed high-ranking power brokers in Lansing last week. They described what happened as “a mortal wound signifying a colossal breakdown in the administration.”

They concluded, “at best, Mr. Snyder will limp through his remaining 34 months in office.” That’s not what Michigan needs.

Ironically, some top people in both parties probably don’t want Snyder to leave. Neither Dan Kildee nor Gretchen Whitmer, the most likely Democratic candidates for governor, wants to have to run against an incumbent governor Brian Calley in two years.

Bill Schuette and Candice Miller, the Republicans most likely to go after the job, don’t want to be potentially blocked either.

I’m not concerned with them, but with this state. Governor Snyder has to know that if Michigan were a business, he would already have been forced out. Six years ago, he said he was getting into politics because he cared about our state.

Now, if that’s still the case, he needs to do what’s right for all of us, leave, and let new leadership start anew.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.