By now, any Michigan resident has heard at least a half dozen different reasons how the Flint water crisis began.
Not only the origin, but how several mistakes have been made along the way to the public realization that there was even a crisis in the first place. Warnings were ignored, people became sick, and some agencies were somehow prepared for the problem, yet strangely without alerting the residents who also shared the same resources.
Our shared responsibility was compromised. One of the very important operations for which government exists, has failed. And failed not only miserably, but potentially with political fallout, and with health consequences that may continue for years..
Imagine that, we have dirty water.
To be clear, it was not the governor’s fault alone that it happened. And it was not simply a mistake by a couple individuals within the ruling class in Flint either. However, the events leading up to and surrounding the fiasco have one common component; they all could not have happened without the monopoly hold that government has on such important infrastructure.
The plumbing in Flint and other older Michigan communities is a legacy that bears intense scrutiny. Scaling in pipes has over time shielded residents from the danger from the adverse affects of lead used to hold it together. Proper chemistry was an absolute prerequisite to mitigating the hazard, and keeping the flow of the precious fluid we take for granted all too often.
If any privately held enterprise would have allowed the same issue to arise when under contract, it is likely that heads would roll, and liability would have to be assumed at a corporate level. As it is however, Michigan taxpayers will be paying for the mistakes made in Flint and elsewhere (new reports will show up soon enough) until the end of the century.
The why and how we arrived here is historically and anecdotally diverse. But all roads eventually lead to the layered bureaucracy, sought power, greed, and lack of responsibility often accompanying those components.
The how we depart from such a place however, cannot be solely launched on blame alone, but rather with an understanding that if government is still managing our infrastructure, it must do so with transparency and accountability never seen before. Our public servants must be absolutely open and honest, and ultimately be held liable for their actions.
Without this, we are likely to find ourselves repeating this discussion ad infinitum.