Liberals are wrongly blaming Flint’s lead poisoning crisis on austerity measures imposed on the city by a fiscally conservative Republican Governor Rick Snyder, as I wrote last week. (Snyder had appointed an emergency manager in 2011 to help the city balance its books and avoid bankruptcy.) However, I didn’t quite realize just how wrong they were. As it turns out, the debacle is the result of Snyder’s efforts to stimulate the local economy—the exact opposite of the liberal line.
The whole mess occurred because Flint decided against renewing its 30-year contract with the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) and switched instead to Karengondi Water Authority (KWA). KWA was planning to build its own hugely expensive pipeline, parallel to DWSD’s, to harness water from Lake Huron and service the Genesee County area where Flint is located. This left the city in the lurch for a few years when its contract with DWSD ended but the new facility had not yet gone online, prompting it to reopen a local mothballed facility that relied on the toxic Flint River as its source (more on the rank stupidity of this decision later).