Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The mess in Flint

"It has been said that success has many fathers and failure is always an orphan. In Flint, Michigan, with the government involved, it is just the opposite."

My heart goes out to Michigan. It is such a beautiful state, and yet it has so many problems. It is bad enough that Detroit looks like a ghost town which had first been fire bombed. But now this mess in Flint on top of that. And the reasons for Flint having the kind of problems it has right now? Well they don't hold water (so to speak).

How in the world could this have happened? Flint, Michigan is a city with a population of almost 100,000. Not a huge city, but not a small town either. Some bureaucrat in state government decided that to save money, the city should have another source of drinking water. Keep in mind, the water source Flint had been using was working fine, thank you. 

For years, the City of Flint had been getting their water from one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world - Lake Huron. The water was good and there was plenty of it. Then a cardinal rule of repair or replace was broken - "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". And, the water system was not broken, so the state decided to tinker with it. 

Then rule # 2 was broken. "Before you dive into the pool, make sure it is deep enough". In other words, before the switch to a new water source was made, there were zero studies done to ensure the new source was as good as the existing source. And it was not. And they did not find out until the switch happened.

The new water (much cheaper) water source came from the Flint River. The water in the Flint River is very corrosive on lead pipes. And there are plenty of lead pipes in the Flint water system. The citizens were the first to notice something was wrong with their new water source. The water coming out of the tap was brown. And it had an odor. But that was not the worst of it. Subsequent testing showed it had an unsafe lead content. And the citizens (including their children) had been drinking this stuff believing it was safe to drink. 

So now this has developed into yet another hot mess that the State of Michigan did not need. A state of emergency has been declared for Flint. Bottled water by the truckloads is being delivered to the city. The people are up in arms and calling for heads to roll. To fix this mess, it will cost a heck of a lot more than the small amount which was going to be saved by switching the water source in the first place. 

Some of my big government friends get on my case when I am too critical on how government (at all levels) operates. Trust me - I have worked with the government, and for the government for years. Of this I know what I speak.

And what is the fallout going to be? First off, I think the Governor is toast. Gone. Good-bye. Next the state appointed emergency manager who flipped the switch on the water source will be canned. In fact, he should have been fired yesterday. And who is going to pick up a good part of the bill to fix this mess? Go to the mirror and take a long look.

As I may have scorn for the lousy government in Michigan which let this happen, I also have nothing but sympathy for the good people of Flint left holding the bag. There is much to learn from this, starting with accountability and oversight. The people we elect to serve us need constant accountability and oversight. And that needs to come from us. Lesson learned.  

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