Editor’s note: Jessica DeLoach Sabin is a frequent contributor to Talk Business & Politics. Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of Talk Business & Politics.
When major events occur that have a devastating impact on a community due to the negligence of others, I do my best to gather as much information as I can in order to understand the actions that led up to said event. I do this because it’s more productive than being angry – and there’s plenty to be angry about in this country when it comes to lapses in accountability that result in major injury to others. There’s also something to be said for setting aside anger in the name of empowerment and marrying one’s energy to knowledge in order to be an educated voice for those in need of support.
So, please understand that I’m showing major restraint when I say that everything Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said in Thursday’s congressional hearing was one big irresponsible can-kicking testimonial dumpster fire and that whoever wrote his statements should probably consider finding new employment before he is ultimately forced to resign.
For those of you who are unaware of the Flint water crisis, here goes: It was a failed attempt by the state government to save money on one of the most vital resources mankind needs to survive. The state did not require the water to be tested for corrosion before choosing to use it.
The crisis began two years ago in April 2014 after the city opted to source water from the Flint River rather than continue to use the clean and safe water they were sourcing from Lake Huron and the Detroit River. The water from this new source came with a number of problems that ultimately culminated in lead contamination because the corrosive water caused the lead from aging pipes to infiltrate the water system. Marinate on the fact that up to 8,000 children have been exposed to this water. There’s also reason to believe that this change in water sources led to an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed 10 people and harmed many others. Feel free to Google the disease as well as the effect that lead can have on the development of children and overall human health.
Now there are lawsuits pending and these suits, regardless of the outcome, will be a burden on taxpayers – even if it’s the case that the taxpayers win. You see, even if they win, winning is still losing as they are still waiting on a resolution for how they will obtain and maintain the very resource that so many of us take for granted.
Throughout the congressional hearing, Governor Snyder maintained that the blame for the failure should be spread across a wide range of government bureaucrats, the least of which being the Environmental Protection Agency. But the EPA wasn’t the entity that made the decision to switch water sources. That responsibility lies with the state alone and Governor Snyder even admitted that it was the state law that allowed for the takeover of the trouble municipality that led to such a great failure and harm.
EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, who was seated beside Snyder during his testimony, conceded that the agency should have been more aggressive in testing the water source but was quick to point out that the work of the EPA was impeded by the constant run-around for information from state environmental officials. But rather than acknowledging the facts and experiences that can be backed up by documentation, Republican congressional leaders still demanded an apology from McCarthy.
You see, Thursday’s hearing was far less about solving problems for the people of Flint so much as it was more for show where hyper-partisan interests and agendas were placed before purpose and accountability. If you think I’m being unfair in my assessment, I invite you to view the recording of the four-hour proceedings. If at that point you still disagree, then I implore you to place yourself in the shoes of a parent who has been paying a ridiculous amount of money for unclean water, whose child is sick, and whose health and well-being may forever be diminished due to politics, poor management, and overall bureaucratic incompetency that is propped up by partisanship.
If you’ve got the time, I’d like to encourage you to watch at least some of what transpired and to reflect on how such exchanges have become a regular occurrence in our government. It does very little to inspire hope in our legislative process – but please keep in mind that we each have the power to change the infrastructure that continues to fail us and to replace it with something better and new every two and four years.