In 2010, Michigan elected a Republican Governor, Rick Snyder, who had no experience in government. Rick Snyder had been a corporate executive for Gateway Inc., a computer company, then founded a venture capital firm. He came into office preaching a philosophy of running the State of Michigan like a business. The problem with that philosophy, of course, is that a state government is not a business. The main purpose of a business is to make profits. The main purpose of a government is to serve the people. This misplaced mission of Rick Snyder manifested itself perhaps most prominently with what happened in Flint, Michigan.
One of the first actions taken by Rick Snyder as Governor of Michigan was to sign a bill that took away power from locally elected politicians if their municipality was running a deficit, and placed governance in the hands of state appointed “emergency managers”. Remember, that this was just a little over a year after the Great Recession, which had hit Michigan especially hard. As a result, many municipalities were running deficits. This included Flint, Michigan, which was soon after placed under the control of emergency managers who quickly made the fateful decision to switch the source of the city’s drinking water from Detroit and Lake Huron to the Flint River. The rest, as they say, was history, and not good history. Flint’s water supply quickly showed signs that it was unhealthy. For two years, attempts were made by local politicians to reconnect the water supply to its previous source, but these attempts were blocked by the emergency managers appointed by the State and by the Republican administration, citing cost concerns each time. Tests results started to leak to the press of elevated lead levels in the city’s drinking water. The State’s Republican administration and emergency managers tried to cover up the test results. Under public pressure, Governor Rick Snyder finally approved of the drinking water source being switched back to Detroit and Lake Huron. But, the damage had already been done. Flint’s pipes had been leeched, and were beyond repair. Court cases began, while residents started to be supplied with bottled water. The cost saving measures that had led to the disaster would now require millions more dollars to fix, as all of the city’s pipes would need to be replaced. The pipes still have not been replaced, despite a court case deciding in favor of the city’s residents, yet the Republican Governor stopped funding the supply of bottled water to city residents anyway, still citing cost concerns as if to rub salt in the wounds of the residents whose lives had been turned upside down by the Republican administration’s track record of putting cost concerns before the welfare of the State’s residents. More details about this shameful episode in Republican governance can be found here: CNN: Flint Water Crisis Fast Facts
The residents of Michigan decided to switch gears in this year’s election for Governor, and elected Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, an experienced politician instead of corporate executive, by a comfortable margin. In a statement to the press that illustrated what kind of change has come to the State of Michigan, the incoming Governor described her top priority once she steps into her new role:
The morning after winning the race for governor, Gretchen Whitmer said she wanted to focus her energy first on Michigan’s drinking water.
“When we think about the quality of our drinking water is something that is absolutely essential, you cannot live without clean drinking water,” Whitmer said when asked about her first legislative priority.
“We are home to 21 percent of the world’s fresh water and we’ve got a lot of communities that can’t drink the water coming out of their tap. So, working on infrastructure in Michigan is at the top of the list,” Whitmer said.
This is why you vote for politicians who prioritize people, not business people who prioritize profits. This is why you vote for Democrats.