The Slatest

Rick Snyder Won a Governing Magazine Award After Flint’s Switch to Poison Water

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder at Flint City Hall on Jan. 27, 2016.

Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is not the only person responsible for the ongoing Flint water crisis, but his administration has certainly failed Flint residents on many occasions. Snyder appointed the emergency manager who was running the city when it began to use the Flint River as its drinking water source in April 2014, a move it it’s now clear the Flint treatment plant was not at all prepared to handle. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, also run by a Snyder appointee, then failed in its duty to require Flint to implement “corrosion control” safeguards that would have stopped the lead in plumbing materials from leaching into residents’ water. Perhaps most gallingly, the MDEQ appears to have helped cover up evidence of major lead problems and made misleading public statements about the situation well after it should have recognized that something very bad was happening. (News broke last night that state government offices in Flint had been using purified water because of concerns about the city’s taps for months as MDEQ officials were saying publicly that the water was fine.)

The point here is, Snyder’s administration in 2014 and 2015 was not exactly a model of honest, competent governing. Which is why it’s funny that in December 2014 Governing magazine named him one of its “Public Officials of the Year”:

When Rick Snyder came to the Michigan governor’s office from the private sector in 2011, he brought with him an entrepreneur’s tolerance for risk. “Most elected officials abhor risk. They run from it,” Snyder says. “But if everything we did worked, that means we’re not taking risks.” Good leaders, he says, must assume some risk and accept that not everything they try will be successful.

Well … I guess it’s certainly true that not everything he tried was successful.

Past recipients of Governing magazine awards include Eliot Spitzer (really!) and the Hindenburg, which was named 1936’s “Least Flammable Blimp” (not really).