The sordid tale of Flint’s water contamination crisis continues to unfold, with each development spelling worse and worse news for Michigan’s embattled Republican governor, Rick Snyder. The people of Flint have filed a seventeen-count federal racketeering case against the governor’s office, on the grounds that Snyder and his appointed emergency managers perpetrated an “intentional scheme” to balance the city of Flint’s budget at the expense of the money and health of her citizens.
The furious citizens of Flint were exposed to deadly levels of lead and other toxins in contaminated water from Flint River after the emergency manager switched the city’s water sources in a cost-cutting gamble. Up to 8,000 children in the poor and mostly-African American city were poisoned by the deadly metal in their drinking and bathing water. To add insult to injury, the state charged the people of Flint some of the highest water rates in the country in order to balance the budget and save Snyder the humiliation of having to declare municipal bankruptcy.
The lawsuit names some 400 plaintiffs, including Governor Snyder, for extorting their citizens to save political face. The lawsuit states that “the intent and purpose of balancing the Flint City budget through a pattern of racketeering activity. This association … misrepresented the suitability of the toxic Flint River water to Flint’s residents for approximately a two-year period, and billed Flint’s residents at rates that were the highest in the nation for toxic water that was unsuitable for use.”
Examination of Snyder’s internal emails reveals that the administration was well aware that the water treatment plant for Flint wasn’t yet ready to fully cleanse the polluted waters of Flint River, but pushed through the switch anyway against the warnings of water quality supervisor Michael Glasgow, who is recorded saying in April 2014 that “if water is distributed from this plant in the next couple of weeks, it will be against my direction.I need time to adequately train additional staff and to update our monitoring plans before I will feel we are ready. I will reiterate this to management above me, but they seem to have their own agenda.”
This is only the latest of a slew of class-action lawsuits filed against the governor. Compensation payments for the people of Flint could potentially cost the state billions of dollars, and criminal charges may be – should be – handed down against Snyder. This is one of the most egregious abuses of power by a Republican governor who ruled his state like a dictator, crippling the state budget with his senseless tax cuts and then poisoning his own people to try to make up for it. There isn’t any amount of money or years in jail that can undo what Snyder has done to his state, but indictments would be a gratifying start. Justice must be served.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.