A Better Apology from Gov Snyder

Governor Snyder apologized (again) for the Flint water crisis this week. This time, I think it truly was an apology.

In his State of the State message Tuesday, as well as in interviews, he has taken responsibility for the disaster.

He began his annual State of the State address Tuesday by addressing the residents of Flint, saying, “I’m sorry and I will fix it. You did not create this crisis, and you do not deserve this…. You deserve accountability (and) to know that the buck stops here, with me… Government failed you at the federal, state and local level. We need to make sure this never happens again in any Michigan city.”

In an interview the next day, he complained of the staff in the DEQ’s Department of Water Quality, “They were too technical. They followed literally the rules. They didn’t use enough common sense to say in a situation like this, there should be more measures. There should be more concern. And it has led to this terrible tragedy that I’m sorry for, but I’m going to fix. I have to take responsibility for the state’s role in this. These folks work for me. That was a failure.”

Up until now, it didn’t seem like Governor Snyder saw the connection between the DEQ’s errors and his own responsibility, but now he does. He still hasn’t completely “Admitted specifically” what he did wrong–e.g., no mention of the fact that he appointed the city managers who kept opting to use the Flint River despite warnings it wasn’t safe–, but he recognizes that “the buck stops here.”

Another measure of a good apology is a willingness to “Accept the consequences.” Some believe that the consequence should be his resignation. He isn’t willing to do that, but he does seem to realize that another consequence is loss of trust by Flint residents—and others– in their state government.

Many recipients of apologies complain that they want action, not just words. They want to see “Altered behavior.” Governor Snyder sincerely seems to want to alter government procedures as well as the situation in Flint. Let’s hope he succeeds at both.