Governor Rick Snyder, recently voted one of the WORST U.S. leaders in history, used his corporate experience, and Michigan’s Emergency Financial Manager Law, to boot Flint’s elected officials out of office and place his financial “expert” in control…of everything.
Flint was in financial trouble. Among the highest expenses was the public water source, supplied through a contract with Detroit. The city was defaulting on the contract, which was coming close to renewal, and Detroit had already shut down services as a warning measure. Forced to restart under public outcry, they sent a renegotiated contract for Flint’s review.
Snyder’s installed Emergency Financial Manager (EM), was in full control of Flint by that time. He had stripped local elected officials from their duties, and personally decided not to renew the costly Detroit contract. Instead, he overrode prior vetoes by the city to switch sources to the Flint River, and gained the Governor’s approval. Although it was well-known by residents that the river had been polluted for years, the Governor approved the change without further concern.
Chemicals from the river caused corrosion through the city’s aging pipes. Failing to follow Federal Law, which mandates the use of anti-corrosive counter-agents in all water supplies, the EM’s decision caused grave consequences. The acidic water flushed extraordinary levels of lead into the taps of homes and businesses, turning the public water source into poison. Complaints by residents were met with assurance that “everything was fine.” The EM was heralded by his cohorts for improving the bottom line with a single stroke.
At this time, neither Snyder nor his EM claims responsibility for the results of this decision.
Dictatorial control and sweeping changes that negatively affect the lives of people are nothing new to Snyder, a seasoned CEO and Venture Capitalist. As with Gateway’s out-sourcing of U.S. jobs under Snyder’s temporary leadership, his decisions were driven by his goal to prompt massive growth and profits as quickly as possible. To his glory, the company made money, for a while. Then things changed. The company quickly hit the red due to over-growth and quality degradation. Gateway eventually sold out to Taiwan, leaving even more Americans jobless and vendors on the lurch.
Amazingly, Snyder is proud of the results of his service to the company.
This style of profit-based leadership is dangerous where the public’s well-being is of concern. Many Michigan cities that improved profitability under Snyder’s Emergency Managers have fallen back into distress due to lack of long-term rehabilitative measures that would have negatively affected the short-term budget goals.
The CEO mentality was highlighted in a New York Times interview by Jonathan Maher. Maher discussed the EM role with Joseph Harris, Snyder’s appointee to troubled Benton Harbor.
“Blissfully free of the checks and balances of democratic governments, he is living the dream of every frustrated city administrator. ‘I believed I could fix Detroit,’ Harris told me. ‘But almost every time I made a recommendation to the mayor, politics got in the way. Here, I don’t have to worry about whether the politicians or union leaders like what I’m doing. I have to worry about whether it’s the right thing to do. That’s the only thing that should matter. I love this job.”
Politics didn’t get in the way of Flint’s EM either. But “politics” are the often voice of the people, or their representatives, and with good purpose. While saving the state from bailing out Flint, Snyder’s EM trimmed the budget, but handed the state a massive clean-up bill, long-term expenses far beyond the State’s budget; and caused disastrous lifelong consequences to its residents.
The bottom line: CEOs make bad political leaders. Looking toward November, we should remember Snyder’s failing reign, as well as the poor track records of several CEOs in public office in recent years. Can we afford to elect a candidate whose sweeping actions have consistently turned a blind eye to the welfare of others?
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