Video by Adam J. Taylor
Article by Sheena Marvin
MI First Election
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and several defendants are facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of residents of Flint, the city still healing from a water contamination crisis.
The lawsuit, filed April 6 in U.S District Court in Flint, is one of several against Michigan officials. Many Michigan voters blame Snyder and other state officials for how mishandling the Flint water crisis and problems in Detroit public schools.
In 2014, the city of Flint switched from using the Detroit water supply to using the Flint River. That water and the way it was treated led to Flint’s lead pipes poisoning the town. Flint returned to the Detroit system in October and while the toxicity has been reduced it has not been resolved.
The lawsuit seeks a trial by jury and payment for physical and property losses and legal fees. The suit also asks the court to declare the actions of Snyder and government officials involved unconstitutional.
Tamara Tucker, formerly of Flint resident, supports the lawsuit as well as recall efforts against Snyder.
“Residents of Flint have every right to file a lawsuit and should,” said Tucker. “These people have been paying for water all this time and so many people, especially children, have been affected. Snyder and everyone else involved need to face charges.”
Snyder’s deputy press secretary, Anna Heaton, said the governor wants to stay in office and fix the Flint crisis, despite the lawsuit and recall efforts.
Heaton said Snyder respects the right of the people to seek his recall and file suits. However, she said, he is committed to fixing Flint.
“He is a very positive guy, he is committed to fixing the problem. He is still working with the Legislature on another $165 million for Flint, and is hopeful that will get through,” Heaton said. “Additionally, he has another $165 million for statewide infrastructure because this really isn’t just a Flint problem. There are many places in other cities that have service lines and problems so that money would help them study their infrastructure and upgrade it also.”
Jackie Jones, a Flint activist and sympathizer, is in full support of a lawsuit against Snyder and wants him recalled.
“If an individual outside of government did what Snyder and his officials did, it would be called an act of terrorism.” said Jones. “It is frightening we live in a country where terrorism is talked about heavily being overseas, where we send soldiers and start wars to protect us, while the biggest threats to us and our children is right at home.”
Suleinan Sumbal, MSU criminal justice student, said Snyder should be put in jail for his lack of effort in preventing the Flint water crisis.
“Last year in the case of Board of Water and Light, The CEO was taken out of his job because he did not act promptly in regards to the power outage. When it comes to intent it is not hardly as bad as water for instance, so he got taken out of his job,” said Sumbal. “What is Gov. Snyder doing? He is still the governor. Just because you have certain power over other people doesn’t mean you can’t be held accountable.”
Sydney Cox, a Miss Michigan Collegiate America 2016, supports a lawsuit. She believes the retribution against Snyder will motivate him to fix Flint more effectively than someone new in office.
“I went and volunteered down in Flint when I first heard about the crisis. I have a lot of close friends that live there so it really hit home for me. Obviously it is awful, but it has brought the state closer together to fix not only Flint but other places in Michigan that are in need,” said Cox. “But the way Gov. Snyder has handled Flint is unfortunate. The fact that he didn’t take action earlier shows something really needs to change, I hope he learns from this and moves forward.”
Cox said he deserves to be sued and that the Flint community needs to find some sort of retribution for everything it has endured.
Heaton countered, “If they want to continue to recall him and file lawsuits against Snyder, that is full in their rights. If he resigns, that is not going to help anything in Flint. People are not going to continue to get what they need since this money is not going to come from the state, so this does not really solve anything if he just walks away.”
Jeny Lai, a second-year PhD. student in sociology, said she would give Snyder a chance to redeem himself.
“Looking at the whole issue, there are more people than just Gov. Snyder responsible,” said Lai. “It is more complicated than just identifying one person as being responsible for the Flint crisis. There were a number of things that has happened and has been happening for a number of years that are not just his responsibility. Certainly recalling him is a good satisfying short-term fix, but it won’t help us in the long run.”
Lai feels every official involved should be scrutinized for their actions to the same extent as Snyder.
“The first priority are of course the Flint residents, but we also can not set a precedence for officials to get out scot-free regardless of their actions.” said Lai.