Leaders must claim environmental accountability

Benroy Chan

Here in Austin, I can drink milk, tea, kale juice and over a hundred different soda flavors. But for a year and half, residents of Flint, Michigan could not even drink water from their taps.

Due to a change in water supply, tap water in homes for a city of almost 100,000 was found to contain dangerous levels of lead, leaving the water brown and unsuitable for bathing or drinking. State officials switched the city’s water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River as a money saving measure in April 2014. After authorities failed to treat the water with anti-corroding agents, lead in deteriorating pipes made its way to the people.

Gov. Rick Snyder should have tackled this tragedy more quickly. The public elects governors they think can best lead them, but to say Snyder has failed them is an understatement. This failure involves a number of government officials, but ultimate responsibility falls on the governor. No matter the reasons, his handling of the crisis shows a failure to give adequate attention to an evident problem. In the face of such disconnect between elected officials and the public good, accountability is paramount. If leaders walk away with impunity, a harmful precedent is set for future leaders to follow.

Unfortunately, this type of abuse is not rare. Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley recently ignited controversy regarding use of grant money from British Petroleum’s infamous Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Bentley plans to use up to $1.8 million renovating a governor’s mansion on the Gulf Coast, a building the average citizen has no use for.

Bentley defended his decision by saying the money isn’t from tax dollars, and that the grant money is simply leftover funding. However, this claim is illogical because the Gulf Coast remains far from full recovery.

In both situations governors acted in ways that compromise the safety and trust of the people who elected them. Gov. Snyder operated under not-so-blissful ignorance and as a result, thousands of Flint children may develop health complications. For Gov. Bentley, a conscious decision for mostly personal gain was passed as a business endeavor, but as the Gulf’s ecosystem still suffers, his decision should be seen as it is — irresponsible management.

“No citizen of this great state should endure this kind of catastrophe,” Snyder said in his State of the State address last week. Snyder is correct — no citizen should endure the catastrophic effects of corrupt leaders.

Chan is a journalism freshman from Sugar Land. Chan is a Senior Columnist. Follow him on Twitter @BenroyChan.