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Michigan Emergency Manager Law Considered Ineffective In Wake Of Flint Water Crisis

Apr 14, 2016

Flint Water Treatment Plant
Credit Wikipedia Media Commons / wikipedia.org

Leaders of a task force that looked into the causes of the Flint water crisis told a panel of state lawmakers they should consider changes to Michigan’s emergency manager law.  


Members of a task force on the Flint water crisis told legislators they should reign in the sweeping authority of state-appointed emergency managers.  They said it might avert future disasters like the city’s lead-contamination disaster.  “The emergency managers bring nothing and leave less because they’re primary function is financial,” said Flint pediatrician Lawrence Reynolds, who served on the task force.  He said emergency managers act with unquestioned authority, their main job is to cut spending, and not ensure the public’s health and safety.

Task force members said it might be a good idea for the state to set up a bank of experts on municipal operations for future emergency managers.  Co-chair Ken Sikkema, a former House and Senate Republican leader, said one problem is that the state Treasury is running the show.  “The emergency manager structure does a tremendous job on providing support and help on the financial piece,” said co-chair Ken Sikkema, “and it’s sort of loosy-goosy on everything else.” 

Task force members told a panel of legislators looking into the water crisis they should restore some of the checks and balances sidestepped by emergency managers.  They said that might stop future bad decisions from going forward.  “I think you have an opportunity to take a look at that law and say, 'Is it producing the results that we want, or not?'” he said.  “Or is Flint pointing out some deficiencies that we need to address?” 

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org