Rick Snyder

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

High levels of lead in their drinking water have Flint residents relying on cases of bottled water for just about everything.  

It may come as no surprise that thousands of those residents have stopped paying their water bills.  

And that presents both questions and problems.    

Last week, Lynna Kaucheck handed a stack of papers to a staffer outside Flint’s mayor’s office.

If you’ve turned on any TV news channel today, my guess is that you saw experts talking about the meaning of the Iowa caucuses.

I watched more of that than I intended to, and discovered that the single best assessment did not come from one of the glamorous talking heads, but from a former congressman who is going to be 90 years old this summer.

Gov. Snyder signs a bill that secures $28 million in aid to Flint on January 29, 2016 in Grand Rapids.
Gov. Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder signed a law today that’ll allocate $28 million in emergency funding to address short-term needs stemming from Flint's water crisis.

It'll pay for bottled water, faucet filters, testing kits, additional school nurses, medical treatment, and help with the city's unpaid water bills. There are also funds to hire outside experts to figure out whether Flint's water infrastructure needs to be completely replaced.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate has unanimously approved $28 million in additional funding to address the lead contamination of Flint's water.

The emergency spending bill includes money for more bottled water and filters and services to monitor for developmental delays in young children. The funds also will help the city with unpaid water bills and cover testing, monitoring and other costs.

It is the second round of state funding allocated since the lead contamination was confirmed in the fall.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder met behind closed doors with the national president of the NAACP in Flint Tuesday night. 

NAACP president Cornell William Brooks said he, Gov. Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver had a “frank” discussions about Flint’s drinking water crisis. 

He called his closed-door meeting with the governor and the mayor a “robust conversation about specific reforms.”

michigan.gov

Some Democrats are upset that Gov. Snyder hired this new PR firm. They say Flint’s water problems are a public health crisis not a PR one.

Gov. Rick Snyder delivering his 2016 State of the State speech.
YouTube screenshot - GovSnyder

In most states, if journalists or citizens want to hold our elected officials accountable, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is an important tool in our political toolbox.

The Snyder administration is now in over-drive to create both the perception and the reality that the state is engaged in making rapid progress in dealing with the Flint water crisis.

Gov. Rick Snyder's office

Gov. Rick Snyder is hiring public relations specialists to help him deal with the Flint water crisis.

Snyder chief of staff Jarrod Agen says public money won't be used. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press say the governor has hired the Mercury firm, where Agen's wife is a senior vice president in the firm's Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, office.

Bill Nowling is also on board. He was the spokesman for the emergency manager who guided Detroit through bankruptcy.

Rick Snyder / michigan.gov

As promised, Governor Rick Snyder released a huge batch of emails “in the spirit of transparency and accountability” late this afternoon. 

Included are emails to and from Snyder, related to Flint, from 2014 and 2015. No emails from 2013, when the option to switch to the Flint River for a two-year period was first floated, were included.

While there is plenty of information to soak in, there were no obvious bombshells. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s governor has promised people living in Flint he will fix their tainted drinking water.

But many residents in the city of 100,000 don’t believe him. There’s increasing distrust as concerns about lead in the tap water have worsened in the last six months.

During his State of the State address last night, Gov. Rick Snyder apologized. He said he was sorry for mistakes that allowed corrosive river water to damage Flint’s water pipes – which allowed lead to leach into the city’s tap water.

Now what in Flint?

Jan 20, 2016

You may think this bizarre, but towards the end of Gov. Rick Snyder’s emotional State of the State speech. what popped into my mind was a scene from the epic movie Braveheart.

William Wallace, the medieval Scottish hero, has just eloquently rallied his men to take on a vastly superior British army.

“Fine speech,” one of his lieutenants said. “Now what?”

The governor’s future, as well as that of Flint, will be determined by the “now what,” of this crisis. In the movie, the hero tells his men “Just be yourselves.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder may have to go under oath about the Flint water crisis, if some class-action attorneys have their way.

A trio of class-action lawsuits have been filed in the Flint water crisis. Among other things, the suits are demanding the state create a special fund to cover damages related to the crisis.     

Attorney Michael Pitt says the crisis is the state’s responsibility.

“When I went to kindergarten, my kindergarten teacher said ‘if you make the mess, you clean it up,’” says Pitt.

Every year the governor of Michigan gives an annual State of the State address, modeled after the State of the Union given by the President of the United States.

Usually these are much ballyhooed, televised, and instantly forgotten. Do you remember what either President Obama or Governor Snyder said last year?

Late Friday afternoon I talked at length with Flint Congressman Dan Kildee, who had been urging the governor for months to seek federal aid for the water crisis.

Governor Rick Snyder finally asked the president to declare a federal emergency, which he swiftly did. Kildee, who first urged him to seek Washington’s help back in September, could have been crowing “I told you so.” But he wasn’t. Instead, he told me this was a direct result of a culture which puts balance sheets ahead of human needs.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Residents of Flint, Michigan have been dealing with a water crisis for more than a year now.

The number of children with higher lead levels has doubled since 2014, when the government switched drinking water sources. For almost four months, people have been told not to drink the tap water because there’s too much lead in it.

But it was just Saturday that President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency in Flint.

It’s practically a political certainty that Governor Rick Snyder will announce a plan for cleaning up the Flint water crisis tomorrow evening when he delivers his sixth State of the State address.

Flint water takes front seat

State of the State speeches tend to be laundry lists of accomplishments and ambitions, but it’s what the Governor says about Flint, and how the state is going to tackle the water crisis it helped to create, that will command the most attention.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has the backing of Michigan’s governor to wield more power.

But she needs to get the approval of a state oversight board. 

At a news conference earlier this week, Gov. Rick Snyder said Weaver should have more authority to hire and fire at city hall.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Snyder met privately with Flint and Genesee County leaders today, hours after asking the Obama administration for help in dealing with the city’s water crisis.

“We’re finally getting the attention that we need and deserve,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in a written statement. “For so long, our voices have gone unheard. This man-made water disaster has been devastating and frustrating for the residents of Flint. We can’t fix what’s happened to the people of Flint. But, we can get them the things they deserve as a result of it.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan National Guardsmen are in Flint today.

They’re there to pass out bottled water and filters to residents. That’s because for more than a year, the city’s tap water has been unsafe to drink.      

Numerous missteps by government agencies allowed the city’s water to become contaminated with lead, and many residents say they no longer trust the governor to fix the problem.

Tuesday afternoon, about a dozen children were sitting at a table in their school gymnasium piecing together snowflakes in an arts and crafts project.  

A Flint water protest
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has activated the National Guard to help distribute bottled water and filters in a city that is confronting a drinking water crisis.

His executive order issued late this evening is intended to bolster outreach to Flint residents. The crisis comes after state health authorities confirmed elevated blood-lead levels in children.

Flint River and water plant
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder found himself bombarded with questions about Flint’s water crisis as he toured the North American International Auto Show on Tuesday.

Before the governor could offer opening remarks to reporters about the auto show, reporters began peppering Snyder with Flint-related questions.

Snyder highlighted the state’s ongoing efforts to help Flint residents deal with unsafe drinking water.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Gov. Rick Snyder is adding his voice to those calling for an end to teacher “sickout” protests in the state’s largest school district.

Dozens of Detroit public school buildings have closed this week with teachers staying home, and several more have been forced to close in recent weeks.

Snyder hopes teachers will find other ways to protest state control of Michigan’s largest district, health and safety issues in classrooms, and other problems. He says there are other avenues to call attention to those issues that don’t hurt students.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder continues to defend himself against questions about when he knew the extent of the Flint water crisis.

On Monday, the governor was in Flint to announce the formation of a joint city-state panel to examine the city’s water crisis and ways to address it. 

The Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee will be composed of state officials with emergency management, environmental quality, health and human services, and other state agencies. Flint’s mayor and Genesee County officials will also be on the committee.

The state Legislature returns to the Capitol this week and Governor Rick Snyder will kick off the political year in Lansing with his State of the State address next week.


Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

Five new centers have been set up in Flint to get water filters and testing kits to city residents.

It’s another step to address the lead contamination crisis in Flint as Governor Rick Snyder faced a growing crescendo of criticism over the weekend on the state’s handling of the crisis.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A group of protesters angry at Governor Rick Snyder gathered in front of Flint city hall Friday.

People holding signs saying “Fire Rick Snyder” and “Arrest Snyder,” along with one protester wearing a giant Rick Snyder papier-mache head and prison stripes, made their displeasure with Michigan’s governor clear. 

Monica Lewis-Patrick with We The People of Detroit says she believes something criminal has happened with Flint water.  But she says the problem is deeper.

Gov. Rick Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder says he would like to give Flint’s mayor "more authority." 

Flint has been under state oversight since 2011, when Snyder appointed the first of four emergency managers to run the city.   The last emergency manager left in April 2015.

But this week, after meeting with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver about the city’s drinking water crisis, Snyder suggested it’s time to move closer to local control.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder and Flint Mayor Karen Weaver met today to discuss the city’s water crisis, and the state’s role in solving a problem it helped create.

State-appointed emergency managers decided to save money by using the Flint River for drinking water damaged pipes. That move damaged pipes and caused lead to leach into the water. 

Following the meeting, Governor Snyder publicly apologized for a second time for the state’s role in Flint’s water crisis.

“We want to work closely together to earn the trust of the people of Flint,” he said.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Common Cause, a political watchdog group, is calling on Governor Snyder to release all documents related to Flint’s water crisis.

The governor’s office is not covered by Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act.  

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