Crisis management demands action, not politics

March 18, 2016
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Gov. Rick Snyder sat for a grilling by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week regarding state government failures over the Flint water crisis and the impact of Michigan’s “emergency manager” law on the crisis.

The legislators who should be held accountable sat back from the nationwide repudiations, though it was the legislators who overrode voter repeal of emergency manager laws one month after the vote in 2012 with “alternate” legislation, which came to include school districts, including Muskegon (and the cities of Muskegon Heights and Benton Harbor were already under an emergency manager).

The new law, sponsored by Sen. Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, and Republican legislators also was passed with a provision making it immune to public referendum.

When asked whether the emergency manager law failed to prevent the Flint water crisis, Snyder told his inquisitors, “In this particular case, with respect to the water issue, that would be a fair conclusion,” according to the Associated Press.

It is not only the governor and his cabinet staff who are accountable; responsibility also rests with the full-time legislature surely being informed by their colleagues. The ineffectuality of Michigan legislators, however, has been painfully clear — most recently in its inability (indeed, its disregard) to deal with Michigan’s crumbling highways and bridges or to update energy legislation.

Since January, state leaders have only provided new evidence of governmental CYA — from the time when Flint’s lead-contaminated water first was recognized as a life-threatening problem. Discussion was first and foremost political and second, blameful. Not helpful.

Over and over the legislative majority, especially, prayed and obeyed the gods of the party politic. Legislators no longer represent constituents but those who fund the political races, assuring power without “risk” of accountability or residence. It is no mystery as to the impact of such decisions, not only in long-term financial penalties to Michigan taxpayers but also to the political parties that continue to turn a blind eye. Michigan voters on March 8 nominated presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders amidst the backdrop of Flint’s painful drama and pending legacy costs.

Legislative leaders need to act to repeal the concocted voter subversion of the emergency manager law before Michigan becomes the nation’s centerpiece for political party destruction and establishment revolt.

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