The governor, a Republican, did virtually nothing to help the city until an outpouring of rage from Flint residents, city leaders, journalists and independent researchers forced him to wake up and focus on the calamity, which started more than a year ago.
He had turned a blind eye, possibly because it was a destitute city whose elected officials had little political power and were under the thumb of an emergency manager Mr. Snyder had appointed. Or possibly because he wanted to maintain state control, he failed to call on the most obvious source of assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He finally sought, and got, aid from FEMA, which this week agreed to help with a long-term recovery plan.
Because of the state’s actions, some part of the water distribution system within Flint, possibly all of it, may need to be replaced at a cost that city officials estimate could be as high as $1.5 billion. And thousands of children with potential brain damage from lead poisoning may need monitoring, nutritional support and special education to mitigate the harm caused by this man-made disaster.
Whatever fix is required, the buck clearly stops with him. This disaster occurred on his watch and he has to find the money, either within the state budget, from private sources or by begging for a handout from the federal government. Given his indifference until forced to act, outsiders will need to monitor the state’s response to make sure it protects the health of the residents of Flint now and in future years.