Outrage, criticism, and calls for the resignation of Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder have emerged in the wake of the failure by all levels of government to adequately address the water crisis in Flint. National Guard units, state troopers, and charitable organizations are fanning out in the stricken city to distribute bottled water and filters to the city that has had unacceptably high levels of toxic lead in its drinking water. Calls for Snyder’s resignation have come from celebrity activists such as Hollywood movie director Michael Moore, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others.
Moore, who was born in Flint but does not reside there, is circulating a petition calling on the Obama administration to undertake a federal investigation of Gov. Snyder. Moore states in his appeal to supporters, "What's happening in Flint, Michigan, is disastrous—and it's personal for me: Flint is my hometown and the community at the forefront of my first major documentary film, 'Roger & Me.'
Flint Council Member Wantwaz Davis and activist Michael Moore
"I’ve been demanding justice, especially for the children of Flint, and it’s progress that President Obama has now declared our lead-poisoning crisis a federal emergency—but much more needs to be done, starting with holding Governor Rick Snyder accountable for poisoning our children. Please sign my petition to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch calling on her to hold Gov. Snyder accountable, which says: We demand an investigation and, if warranted, the arrest and prosecution of Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
"The governor must be held accountable for poisoning the children of Flint, for fraud and political corruption, and for covering up the actions of his administration. Gov. Snyder violated federal law by cutting off clean drinking water to the city of Flint, impacting more than 100,000 people. Instead of safe, clean drinking water, the people of Flint had polluted water piped into their homes from the Flint River—water that was then contaminated with lead."
Moore goes on to declare that Snyder did this "to save money. He knew he could get away with it, because Flint is one of the poorest towns in the country." Accusing the state government of a cover-up, Moore said that Flint's children "will now have to endure a life of pain, irreversible brain damage, and lower IQs because of Gov. Snyder's actions and the ensuing cover-up. Justice must be served—and other elected officials must be put on notice that people's lives are more important than balancing a budget."
Gov. Snyder has held himself accountable, and pointed out that all levels of government had lost the confidence of the people. On January 21, for instance, a controversial regional director of the federal Environmental Protection Agency resigned over allegations that she had spiked a report from her staff in 2015 that showed problems Flint officials had with lead levels. Also, the state’s director of Environmental Quality has resigned. There are several investigations now going on, while at least three class action suits have been filed against the governor and the state government.
Gov. Rick Snyder
But the wrath from the left appears to be directed solely at Snyder and Republicans in general. Critics cite Michigan law that allows broad powers for state-appointed managers for cities where mismanagement and financial woes have been noted. Two of the managers appointed by Snyder, Darnell Earley and Jerry Ambrose, were in that position during the decision to switch from water supplied from Detroit to water sourced from the Flint River. The city council approved by a 7-1 vote the switch from Detroit-supplied water to water from the Flint River. When adequate corrosion controls were not put into place, the river water thus leached lead into the water system as local, state and federal officials wrangled over the science involved and their respective responsibilities.
Activist/film-maker Michael Moore
Flint had city managers in the past. The departure of much of the auto industry from the area in the 1990s brought about a demographic collapse. Homes and businesses were abandoned, schools and infrastructure deteriorated, and local politics was at times divisive. Accusations of racism have been rife. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) recently said in a television interview that race did play a part in the debacle but did not say to which race she was referring.
Darnell Earley - former state-appointed administrator, City of Flint
During his recall over his mismanagement of city funds in 2002, former mayor Woodrow Stanley said that his critics were motivated by racism. Even though he departed the mayor’s office, he remained a fixture on the local political scene since he was elected later to the post of Genesee County Commissioner and later to the Michigan legislature. The state appointed a financial manager to deal with the fiscal crisis in Flint. While he is not in office now, Stanley was a key supporter of the current Mayor Karen Weaver, who defeated the incumbent mayor and fellow Democrat Dayne Walling. For her part, according to CNN, Weaver
claimed that there are no grocery stores in Flint. Spero News did a Google Map search and found several grocery stores, in addition to a farmer's market and smaller stores in Flint, contrary to Weaver's claim.
The city has a debt in excess of $30 million and still has considerable pension obligations for retired civil servants. Even before the water crisis, local officials were calling for Michigan’s National Guard to patrol the streets to control crime. Flint had the highest murder rate of any city of its size in the country. Currently, the Flint police force is at about half its former compliment. Gov. Snyder has deployed state troopers to put a lid on the murder rate. Numerous schools have closed their doors and have been torn down, while hundreds of abandoned structures await their turn for the wrecking ball.
City of Flint Mayor Karen Weaver PhD
Flint’s city council is made up entirely of Democrats, the majority of whom are African-American.
Among the council members is Wantwaz Davis. Davis was elected in 2013, after having served 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in 1991. His conviction was never publicly reported during Davis's campaign. He has touted the experience as evidence that people can change. Citing the story of St. Paul, who was converted from his persecution of Christians to become a Christian himself. “We cannot cast aspersions against people who went down the same path as Paul,” said Davis, “I was not notorious like Paul. Some men sexually assaulted my mother when I was a kid and I defended my mother. And unfortunately, a murder ensued.” The victim, Kenneth S. Morris (27) was reportedly shot three times: one tap each in the hip, abdomen and mouth. In 2015, he said that the water crisis amounted to "genocide."
On the council is Eric Mays, who has also been visible in protests over the water crisis. In 1987, Mays pleaded guilty to felonious assault and served a year of probation. He claimed that he brandished a gun at a man who had threatened his life. Mays said a man had been threatening his life before Mays threatened him with a gun. Unfortunately, he may be absent from council chambers. On January 5, 2-15 he was sentenced to jail for 28 days for impaired driving. Police say that they had found him outside a disabled automobile facing the wrong way on an expressway two years ago. A prosecutor accused Mays had crashed his car in Flint before driving almost three miles on the I-475 freeway. Police said that Mays confessed to excessive drinking.
Councilwoman Jackie Poplar filed for Chapter 13 protection in a federal bankruptcy court, one year before her election. It took her over six years to repay her creditors the $21,000 owed. She claimed that much of the debt was due to funeral expenses following her mother’s death. In 2008, prosecutors said that they could conclude whether or not Poplar intended to spray several people with insecticide following a council meeting. Four of Poplar’s fellow council members said they saw nothing. According to an aide to the mayor, and a citizen, Poplar laughed as she sprayed them at close range with insecticide, crying "Pests, pests, we've got to get rid of these pests."
And Councilwoman Monica Galloway and her husband, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 1999.
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee was elected in 2012 and took office on January 3, 2013. He has been in office throughout the water crisis. In addition, he has served on the Genesee County Board of Commissioners and was elected to the office of Genesee County Treasurer, serving from 1996 to 2009. He founded the Genesee County Land Bank, which administers hundreds of abandoned properties that it acquired through tax foreclosure. His uncle, Dale Kildee (D) served the area as U.S. Representative from 1977 until 2013. The elder Kildee was known as a strong advocate of labor unions, regularly receiving support from the United Auto Workers.