On Monday, The Ring of Fire posted a story on actor and environmental activist Matt Damon’s call for a criminal investigation of Michigan governor Rick Snyder over the ongoing water crisis in the largely African-American community of Flint. Today, the Wolverine State’s Attorney General, William Schuette, announced that he is appointing a special counsel for the purpose of an investigation in order to determine whether or not any laws were violated and if those violations contributed to the crisis. At this point, it is not certain if the investigation would lead to criminal charges. However, class-action lawsuits against the State of Michigan, the City of Flint and its “emergency managers” have been filed on behalf of those affected by the tainted water.
Arguably, Flint’s water crisis can be attributed to Michigan’s “Emergency Manager Law,” which was a naked attempt to dismantle local Democracy and hand the reins of power over to non-elected cronies. Significantly, most city governments that have been handed over to emergency managers are largely African-American. Hubert Yopp is the mayor of one such community. Highland Park’s population is well over 90 percent black, and has been under the control of an emergency manager in the recent past. Yopp points out that
“It would be one thing if the emergency managers worked with the local governments to make things better. But it’s about having dictator power in the city…locals have no say.”
Marcus Muhammad, mayor of Benton Harbor (also 90 percent African-American) agrees, calling Michigan’s Emergency Manager law “a horrific experiment” that has solved few problems, but has certainly created an abundance of new ones. State senator Jim Ananich, whose constituents live in Flint, places the blame for Flint’s water crisis squarely on the shoulders of Governor Snyder’s appointed cronies.
“They’ve chosen this policy, and this is the outcome…we have poisonous water flowing through people’s faucets. In the Detroit Public Schools, they have overcrowded classrooms and rats. Unfortunately, the emergency managers in these communities have been failing.”
Already, information confirming Ananich’s conclusions are surfacing. According to court records discovered by the Michigan chapter of the ACLU, Flint’s current emergency manager, Darnell Earley, arranged to switch the city’s water supply from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) to the heavily polluted Flint River as a cost-cutting measure in April of 2014. This flies in the face of Governor Snyder’s claim that the DWSD had terminated its service contract with the City of Flint, forcing the switch to river water.
It gets even better. Like Mel Brooks’ Governor LePetomaine in the 1975 film Blazing Saddles, Governor Snyder started “harrumphing” around his office as citizens began demanding action. That “action” came in the form of Snyder’s appointment of attorney Todd Flood, whose job it was to investigate whether or not any state laws had been violated in dealing with Flint’s water situation. What Snyder failed to tell citizens is that Flood was a contributor to his 2014 campaign for the governor’s seat. Last week, NBC News did a story on 274 pages of emails in which Governor Snyder had been warned about the impending crisis – warnings that had been disregarded. True to form, Governor Snyder is passing the buck, blaming the state Department of Environmental Quality for its failure to treat the river water after emergency manager Earley authorized the switch from DWSD supplies.
Now, it may be taken out of the state’s hands. Democrats in the U.S. Congress are demanding that Snyder come to Washington D.C. in order to appear before a committee. The crisis has sparked investigations by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the EPA, and the state Auditor General. The crisis has even drawn the attention of the United Nations, which has sent representatives to monitor the situation.
The tragedy of Flint, Michigan, should send a clear message to libertarians and others who continue to claim that “government is the problem” as they continue to labor under the delusion that cities, counties, states, and even the nation would be better off if they were run like businesses.