Politicians don’t have it easy these days. But sitting office holders who upset the populace usually face impeachment [see, Governor of Maine, Clinton, Bill] or a well-financed opponent in the next election.
In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder is in a class by himself. Residents of the hard-bitten city want him arrested.
In case you’ve missed this mess, and according to mlive.com, Snyder declared a state of emergency in Flint earlier this month because of the city’s lead in water crisis, apologizing for the state’s role in rising lead levels in Flint water and in the blood of young children.
The city changed its water source from Detroit’s source to the Flint River in April 2014. Following the switch, residents began complaining about discoloration and the water’s taste and smell. The city initially struggled with bacteria levels and the presence of a disinfectant byproduct, TTHM, in the water. The city eventually switched back to receiving water via the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, which gets its water from Lake Huron. Those developments all occurred while the city was being run by an emergency manager appointed by the governor, mlive.com reported.
Earlier this week, Snyder called out the National Guard to help distribute bottled water to residents. Now comes word that 87 cases, 10 fatal, of Legionella bacteria were found in the Flint area, though any connection to the water crisis is unclear.
When government fails to meet its base obligations — chief among them maintaining public safety — residents will be furious. And they will be emotional, especially when their children are at risk.
This won’t be an easy crisis to solve. The governor can’t blame others; he can’t feign ignorance; and he can’t pretend the problem is exaggerated. Apologizing, which he did, is a good start.
But unless he finds a quick and lasting solution, his best move may be to resign.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs and Crisis and Reputation Management at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with eight offices in the East. Learn more about EMA at mowerpr.com/crisisready. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.