Governor knew about it early, failed to react

Scandal-tainted politicians like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder come and go.

But one thing remains constant with practically all political officeholders facing demands for their resignations.

It’s the question famously asked in 1973 by Sen. Howard Baker, the ranking Republican on the committee that investigated the Watergate scandal: What did the president know and when did he know it?

Today, with regard to Flint’s lead-contaminated water crisis, the question is just as germane.

It turns out Snyder, a Republican, knew plenty about Flint’s problem months before the city’s water was deemed unsafe by environmental and public health officials.

In April 2014, Flint, under the dictates of an unelected and Snyder-appointed emergency manager, decided to switch its water source from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which draws water from Lake Huron, to the Flint River.

Chemicals in the Flint River caused lead to leach from the water pipes, turning the city’s water into a poisonous brew that caused skin rashes and internal health problems, especially for pregnant women and those with poor immune systems.

Cases of Legionnaires’ disease increased in Flint. Brain damage in newly born infants was another plague brought on by the tainted water.

The reason for the switch was money. The water from Detroit was too expensive for the cost-cutting Flint emergency manager.

Snyder, who was well-aware and in total support of the austerity measures being taken by his appointee, tried to weasel his way out of responsibility for the crisis by stating he was not aware of the water problem until January of this year.

Emails later released by Snyder, however, showed that he and his senior staff were well-aware of the problem in spring 2015.

Throughout that summer, Flint residents were getting sick even though many avoided the putrid water. It was not until October that Snyder urged Flint residents to avoid unfiltered tap water. It took Snyder another three months to declare a state of emergency in Flint.

It was also discovered that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality failed to require Flint’s rather substandard water treatment plant to add corrosion-control chemicals to the water, which would have prevented the leaching of lead.

Like those of many Republicans, Snyder’s policies mirror the preferences of the Koch brothers, the deep-pocketed GOP donors who would, in the interest of their Koch Industries’ profit margin, do away with all environmental control agencies, if they had their chance.

In Snyder, the Kochs and their ilk had their best shot. Snyder’s austerity measures took a toll on environmental standards in Michigan, and the people of Flint paid dearly for the governor’s decisions.

Snyder’s emergency manager for Flint issued 8,000 orders for the city, most of them dealing with cutting costs and slashing public services.

Not one of the orders dealt with Flint’s water problem. In 2012, Michigan voters rejected the emergency manager state law, but it was reauthorized by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

Snyder then appointed ax-wielding, budget-cutting emergency managers to Flint and a host of other cities.

What did Snyder know about Flint’s public health water crisis? He knew plenty. When did Snyder know about the crisis? Early enough to take action. What should the consequences be? Snyder should tender his immediate resignation.

Wayne Madsen, the president of the Tampa Press Club, is a progressive commentator whose articles have appeared in leading newspapers throughout the U.S. and Europe. Readers may write him at 414 Choo Choo Lane, Valrico, FL 33594.