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Flint water likely to take center stage at Gov. Snyder’s State of the State

It’s practically a political certainty that Governor Rick Snyder will announce a plan for cleaning up the Flint water crisis tomorrow evening when he delivers his sixth State of the State address.

Flint water takes front seat

State of the State speeches tend to be laundry lists of accomplishments and ambitions, but it’s what the Governor says about Flint, and how the state is going to tackle the water crisis it helped to create, that will command the most attention.

Looking to DC

Just last week President Obama approved Governor Snyder’s request for an emergency declaration; a request that many said was too long in coming.

Interestingly enough, it was this time last year that Governor Snyder was pondering and plotting, based on his record of getting things done (particularly the Detroit bankruptcy), a campaign for president.

Through early 2015 Snyder won plaudits from the national media as he was traveling the state and the country delivering the message that Washington’s political culture was broken and that D.C. could learn a lesson or two from how things are done in Michigan.

And now, a year later, here he is, going hat in hand to D.C., that land - by his definition - of dysfunction and failure, to ask for a bail out for a city confronting a crisis under his watch.

A (political) partnership in the making

Governor Snyder’s State of the State address last year was dubbed “the River of Opportunity” and it’s hard to imagine that he had any idea that that message would be eviscerated by the decision by state-appointed emergency managers to use the corrosive Flint River for drinking water.

Rick Snyder is a governor who could use some friends right now. And an unlikely ally may just be sitting in the audience tomorrow night as he delivers his address: Flint’s new mayor Karen Weaver.

Weaver was swept into office by voter outrage at the mishandling of the Flint water situation. She was the anti-establishment candidate but she’s no bomb-thrower. She has a PhD in clinical psychology and serves on a host of nonprofit boards. She is plenty establishment in her own right.

In fact, she’s making very nice with perhaps the most-hated person in Flint right now.

“We’re doing this together. This is a partnership. We’re going to be looking at how we move Flint forward,” Weaver told reporters after meeting with the governor earlier this month.

The reality is that Governor Snyder and Mayor Weaver’s fates are entwined.

That may be one reason why Governor Snyder called on a state oversight board - which, in reality, he pretty much controls - to restore to Mayor Weaver some or all of the authority of the office that was seized previously by the state.

Because the reality is, now, they both have to deliver and they really can’t do it without each other.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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