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.
The 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