Among the pathetic efforts by Gov. Rick Snyder to confront the horrific revelations about his administration’s inability to deal with the Flint water crisis – including the hiring of two outside PR firms and the shakeup within his internal communications team – the announcement by Snyder earlier today may be the most tone-deaf response yet.
Snyder tried to put lipstick on a pig by trumpeting plans to hire 81 Flint residents for temporary jobs distributing bottled water to city residents.
According to a press release, the Snyder administration decided to replace Michigan National Guard troops with Flint residents as the water distribution efforts continue. Once hired, the governor’s PR team declared, “participants will fill leadership and general team member roles.”
“Members of the Flint community continue to support each other and there is no better group to assist in this effort. The partnership with Michigan Works! is another step toward ensuring Flint residents benefit from relief efforts in multiple ways.”
Beyond that, Snyder declared that Michigan Works! (an agency title with such irony that it seems to be lost on the governor) will provide the water distributors with “future careers by working closely with our staff, who will help them build skills for the job market.”
Perhaps that assumes that clean-water distribution is an occupation with a long-term future in Flint.
One big problem: Thousands of Flint residents – not just 81 people – remain unemployed. The beleaguered city can claim that its unemployment rate has finally dipped slightly below 10 percent. But that compares to a Flint jobless rate of about 5 percent in 2000, when the domestic auto industry was prospering like gangbusters, and 2010, when the Great Recession brought Flint to its knees with an unemployment rate of 28 percent.