Lansing-Based Reporters Blast Officials Over Handling of Power Outage

Michigan GOP lawmakers bolted out of Lansing waaay back on December 13th, long before the dangerous ice storm struck the area. They beat a path out-of-town, after a last-minute vote which blithely ignored the will of the majority, making it nearly impossible for women of the state to receive insurance coverage for perfectly legal reproductive care. Yes, they finally succeeded in shrinking government so that it’s just small enough it can now fit into a uterus — with apparently no leftover capacity to handle a major life-threatening crisis.

Governor Snyder similarly slipped out-of-town just in the nick of time to enjoy the holiday in the bright warmth of his private gated community, far away from the official governor’s residence — where power may or may not have been affected by last week’s ice storm. (It is policy to not disclose that kind of information for security reasons, or so we are told.)

Among those residents left in the dark and cold around the Lansing area, were shivering reporters — and some of them might have been feeling the additional chill of the lack of adequate response from the elected leaders they are employed to cover. As of this writing, an estimated 16,500 customers remain without power, a number down from 663,000 households, or so, reported by major utilities at the outset of the storm.

As the state watched-on, the counties of Barry, Clinton, Eaton and Shiawassee declared local emergencies, while spokesperson for the governor, Dave Murray, explained Snyder’s inaction:

“The governor’s office is ready to respond, if needed. Right now, the assistance has not been needed because of the good job being done by the locals and by the utilities meeting the deadlines they set forward, so far. We’re willing to help, if need be.”

At Gongwer News Service in Lansing, the publisher, the editor and a staff writer all had choice words about the lack of leadership in Michigan over the crisis. And they weren’t alone in their concern.

Gongwer Publisher, John Lindstrom, wrote a December 23rd blog post titled: Okay, Here’s The Inspirational Message From Our Leaders During This Crisis…Hello?  The journalist politely commented on the tone-deaf, non-response of the governor during a time of great crisis.

One does not wish to be churlish ever, and especially at this joyous time of the year, but given that I am one of the more than 400,000 without power for some time now, one would like to give this joyous message to his leaders and wanna-be leaders: Where the hell are you?

Anyone who’s endured a cold winter day and night without power in Michigan would grant him full bitching rights, especially after two such days and nights. Lindstrom had much more to say:

There is a role here, a proper function of leadership. You have a crisis. It affects thousands of state residents. Emergency actions are underway. It behooves one as a leader to show publicly you are empathetic, that you are one with the public in this moment of concern. You can issue statements, of course, you can go to warming centers, you can meet with the utility workers, you can help assure local leaders of funding, but you have to actively do something.

Snyder holiday 2The blog post goes on to share Gov. Snyder’s heartfelt holiday wishes video — a painful to watch, pre-recorded and stiffly-delivered saccharine exercise in bad speech writing. The governor made no mention at all of the dire situation affecting approximately 5.76 percent of households in Michigan (a number derived based on most recent census figures.)

On Christmas Eve, Lansing Online News wondered where the help was. Publisher Bonnie Bucqueroux expressed her concern about the humanitarian crisis not being addressed:

Isn’t it time to consider calling in the National Guard to go door-to-door on Christmas Eve, to ensure everyone gets the mayor’s message? And what about those folks who are elderly or infirm? How do they get to the warming shelters? How do they know where to go? What about families with infants?

Next up, back at Gongwer we find staff writer Christopher Klaver with a piece titled: Governor In The Dark? dated Dec. 26th. Klaver speculated on whether the governor was personally experiencing the power outage at the official mansion.

As any good leader would, one can expect Governor Rick Snyder has been personally affected by the stories of his constituents dealing with the power outages that struck much of the middle and southeast corner of the state after last weekend’s ice storm.

But those constituents may never know if he was also shivering in the dark as he heard those stories.

Spokesperson Dave Murray told Gongwer that since no events were planned at the mansion over the holidays (i.e. the governor left town), the power status was undetermined and would not be made public.

The next day, editor Zachery Gorchow blasts the lack of state oversight of the Lansing Board of Water and Light with his post: Lansing Power Outage Crisis a Full-Fledged Fiasco. This is where it gets interesting. Gorchow cites a “high-ranking government staffer who lives in East Lansing” as saying “someone should take a look at this”.

The editor was quick to laud the hardworking people climbing utility poles in frigid weather working round-the-clock to restore power, but his point was that BWL is not subject to Michigan Public Service Commission regulations because it is locally controlled. The less than subtle message was that important people were inconvenienced.

There are a lot of people – many of them influential people – who are going to wonder aloud whether it is time for that to change.

While the governor and most lawmakers were apparently not among those “influential people” directly impacted, it will certainly be interesting to see what kinds of slap-dash legislation will be introduced as elected officials return to Lansing in early January.

And today, Lansing Online News posted a video of Mayor Bernero’s press conference, where he fumbled about for a coherent explanation as to why the National Guard was not brought in to help provide some auxiliary support, such as generators, traffic control and door-to-door help. The mayor sidestepped the question, missing the humanitarian aspect of the crisis altogether, explaining that bringing-in outside help wouldn’t have gotten the power back on any sooner.

In a shocking admission, Bernero said that he had not even had a conversation with the governor, but his people had talked with Snyder’s people. That fact certainly raised some eyebrows.

Let the political finger-pointing begin.

Amy Kerr Hardin


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5 Responses to Lansing-Based Reporters Blast Officials Over Handling of Power Outage

  1. Larry Gentry says:

    I live in Barry County where over 18,000 homes and other structures lost power. I don’t know the total number of people it affected, but its obviously in the thousands. I have had a gas generator for years and it seems like we are using it more and more every year with this unpredictable weather! I was out for about 4-5 days (luckily flu held off until power came back on) It was so nice to have gasoline down to around $3.00. Conveniently went up about 20 cents during these recent difficult days.

    I believe it was 2011 when the storms went through the southern area of Battle Creek. I went there with some power packs and streamlite lantern, for my daughter in the Lakeview area of Battle Crk. The GOP was having their convention on Mackinaw Island when this happened. The nerd showed up for photo op about a week later, with jason bolger in the background with his crappy grin. The nerd said something to the effect “This is terrible, I grew up just down the road”. The National Guard came in for just a few days and left, there are still some remnants of the storm today.

    I don’t care for Chris Christie, but I have to admit he was there for his State during the Sandy Storm. He was very calm, very reassuring, and gave hope to his citizens. I said then and a hundred times since, we don’t have a Leader in Lansing in the nerd. If, God forbid, a natural disaster occurred (even worse than now) there is NO WAY that squeaky voiced toad could come on the TV Stations around the State and come across in an acceptable tone to reassure the citizens that he has our backs and we can count on him for backup! NO WAY! I would imagine there are plenty of former Gateway employees that would agree. he is an empty suit with no conscience!

  2. Margaret says:

    My 85 year old mother was without electricity in the Okemos area for nearly a week. My sister who has had cancer, her husband and their 2 adult children and my younger brother had no power for days either. No one thought of my mothers welfare or anyone else s which was surprising to me. Fortunately out of 4 family homes one had power and the owner, my older brother,happened to be in Florida, so 6 of my family members moved into his place for 6 days including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
    But what if these 6 people didnt have anywhere to go? How would they get to the warming centers? The National Guard should have been called in since the outage lasted soooo long in certain areas. My family had no help whatsoever from anyone but themselves and family. I imagine many people had it far worse.

  3. Gregory Smith says:

    Wow! There’s an anti-Republican bash if I’ve ever seen one! Gee let’s string all the bad events over the last 60 days and cherry-pick our facts so it looks like the Republicans are at fault for every single one of them, including the weather!

    I’m all for intelligent discussion on how the power outage could have been better handled but this article is just stupid political BS.

    • admin says:

      Er…except Virg Bernero is a Democrat, and Gongwer News Service isn’t known for their progressivism. Snyder bungled this one big time.

    • Gary Krueger says:

      The Nerdy Toad and his GOP henchmen are responsible for anything bad that goes on. We have a squeaky voiced sneak for a governor and is the leader of group of puppets whose strings are in the hands of big business and big oil. I think it’s time for something like the Social Democrats to form a viable party, but then big money would co-op them as well. We have no choice. We are like kids in the bathtub…we splash and play in the water thinking we are doing something but we don’t control the tap or drain.

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