It’s “Katrina II,” and he says he’ll fix it.
Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder is taking (some of) the blame for the lead-contaminated drinking water that has led to brain damage and other health risks in children in parts of the urban community.
CNN reported that attorneys will meet Tuesday to discuss two new class-action lawsuits filed by Flint residents that target, among others:
Eric Hood, a spokesman for the plaintiffs, said the suits will detail government officials' culpability. The legal action will also provide a more in-depth timeline than the previously filed federal lawsuit, Hood said.
Snyder’s spokesman takes a hit
In an interview published Monday in the National Journal, Snyder said he knew last summer about top aides’ concerns that Flint residents were “getting blown off” by Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality.
“Both MDEQ’s director and chief spokesman were forced to resign, and Snyder has taken several steps —albeit belatedly—to help Flint identify the extent of the contamination and to respond to it,” wrote Ron Fournier.
At this moment, Snyder’s State of the State speech is probably being reworked for the umpteenth time. The Republican governor is scheduled to address the issue and map out his 2016 agenda to the Michigan Congress on Tuesday evening.
Mixed messages, and then some
The tail end of the Democratic presidential debate on Sunday touched on the Flint crisis. Candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both voiced outrage over Snyder’s inaction. Sanders issued a press release calling for Snyder to step down:
Because of the conduct by Gov. Snyder’s administration and his refusal to take responsibility, families will suffer from lead poisoning for the rest of their lives. Children in Flint will be plagued with brain damage and other health problems. The people of Flint deserve more than an apology.
At an event Monday that honored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Clinton refreshed her take on the crisis in Flint and called it a civil rights issue. “We would be outraged if this happened to white kids, and we should be outraged that it’s happening right now to black kids,” she said.
Snyder voiced his own concerns about “politicizing” the matter on Twitter, using his handle @OneToughNerd. The tactic may have backfired. Actor Mark Ruffalo mocked the Twitter handle, posting: “He’s going to get a lot tougher if he ends up in prison.”
Others were quite blunt:
Republican presidential candidates didn’t have much to say about the unfolding story. One said he hadn’t been briefed on the water contamination issue.
RELATED: Keep your cool in a crisis with these 13 tips.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration on Saturday declared a federal emergency in the Flint area. Although the emergency declaration will provide $5 million in aid, the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Snyder’s request to declare a major disaster and provide $96 million in assistance.
For now, the Detroit News reports that nearly 100 members of the Michigan National Guard are in Flint to help residents obtain clean, safe water. Response teams have visited more than 16,000 homes and have distributed:
More than 26,500 cases of water
Some 50,000 filters
About 4,700 water testing kits
All eyes will be on Snyder on Tuesday evening. His speech will be a field day for pundits, politicians, attorneys and PR pros alike.
Despite the class-action lawsuit, an alleged EPA cover-up and a beleaguered governor, the primary focus should stay on the children with brain damage resulting from this public health crisis.
We’ll update the story as it unfolds.