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Michigan Governor Vows To Fix Flint's Drinking Water Emergency


An annual speech by Michigan's governor yesterday became a very public apology. Governor Rick Snyder spoke of a water contamination crisis in the city of Flint.


RICK SNYDER: To you, the people of Flint, I say tonight, as I have before, I am sorry and I will fix it.

INSKEEP: That's from Governor Snyder's State of the State address. Rick Pluta covers the state capital for Michigan Public Radio. He's back again. Rick, good morning.

RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What did the governor say besides sorry?

PLUTA: Well, you know, this is Governor Rick Snyder's most comprehensive response yet to the issue of lead contamination in much of the city's drinking water. He promised to fix these problems created as a result of decisions made while the city was under state emergency management.


SNYDER: We will not stop working for the people of Flint until every single person has clean water every single day no matter what.


PLUTA: Flint is a majority black, high-poverty city. It was only recently returned to the control of local elected officials who still have to have their decisions OK'd by a state oversight board. And this is a big change for Rick Snyder since this time last year.

INSKEEP: You mean his statements are a big change. In what way?

PLUTA: Well, you know, he was just re-elected to a second term at this time last year, winning high praise for his work on getting the city of Detroit through bankruptcy, so much so that he was considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination based on a can-do record. He juxtaposed his record against what he called Washington's broken political culture. Well, now he's on defense, and he's actually asking Washington for help to bail out Flint.

INSKEEP: What help does he want from Washington exactly, Rick Pluta?

PLUTA: Well, you know, the president gave Michigan - gave Flint an emergency declaration but not a disaster declaration. And so there are millions of dollars more in federal assistance that may be available. The governor says that he is going to appeal that decision. And so he's sort of playing defense and offense - multiple apologies, promising many millions of dollars in aid for the city, more work to rebuild water infrastructure across the state. But he's also spreading the blame, saying every level of government - local, state, federal - has failed Flint.

INSKEEP: OK. So he's saying he's not the only one who should be blamed here, but just...

PLUTA: Exactly.

INSKEEP: ...Just to be clear because you listened to the full apology - you listened to the full speech - there's so many ways to say I'm sorry. One of them is I'm sorry you were offended. I'm sorry people were bothered. But there's also I'm sorry, I take responsibility. What kind of a sorry did this feel like to you?

PLUTA: You know what? The early ones were a lot like - exactly what you were talking about. And this is one where he said - even though he spread the blame, he said there's a problem. I'm responsible, and I'm responsible for fixing it.

INSKEEP: There have been calls for Governor Snyder to resign. Is he going anywhere?

PLUTA: He says that he is going to stick it out and go - he is going to fix this problem.

INSKEEP: That's Rick Pluta, of Michigan Public Radio, reporting on an apology by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder for water conditions in Flint, Mich. Rick, thanks very much.

PLUTA: Always a pleasure, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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