Todd Flood got started on the wrong foot almost immediately.
As Michigan's Republican attorney general announced the former county prosecutor would be leading the state's investigation into the Flint water crisis, local media and state government watchdog groups immediately began raising concerns about his political donations to Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other Republicans.
Flood noted that he's donated to Democrats, too. But even if his political donations total had been $0, the man in charge of investigating what went wrong for Flint residents is going to have a nearly impossible job proving to Flint residents he can be trusted, for one simple reason: He's got the backing of the government machine in which many Flint residents's trust has been shattered and doesn't appear to be getting better.
Snyder's recent efforts to repair that relationship -- apologizing twice, releasing 274 pages of his emails related to Flint and asking the Republican state legislature a $28 million package for emergency funds -- hasn't been enough to regain the trust of a city that was poisoned by lead in its drinking water for 18 long months while their government told them it was safe to drink and use.
Let's take a look at the latest news -- none of it good for Snyder and his administration:
- On Monday, the governor's emails, texts and other messages related to Flint were subpoenaed for a lawsuit on the crisis. Flint communications from Snyder's staff and members the state's environmental department have also been subpoenaed.
- A national expert in Legionnaire's disease told the Detroit Free Press that she thinks -- but can't prove for sure -- the deadly spike in the disease in and around Flint is related to the water switch from Detroit to Flint's river. (Researchers have since concluded, and the state has confirmed, that the river water wasn't treated properly and corroded lead pipes, spiking the level of lead in Flint children's blood and leading to possibly irreversible brain damage in some.)
- A city of nearly 100,000, most poor, mostly minority people forced to work with poisoned water is one of the worst environmental justice disasters some experts have ever seen, according to The Post's Lenny Bernstein and Brady Dennis, who lay out nicely the entire 30,000-foot view of how this happened.
As those developments unfold in research laboratories, court rooms and newsrooms, the scene in Flint would suggest that residents' relationship with their government is deteriorating further:
- On an unceremonious block of concrete in Flint that The Post's Colby Itkowitz reports has served as an old-school messaging board for decades, residents have written this:
("PSI," Itkowitz reports, stands for Professional Service Industries Inc., the independent business the city hired to test its water for contamination. The man the authors of this message want to help them out instead is Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech researcher who helped uncover the unhealthy lead levels in Flint's children.)
- On Monday, as city council members convened a meeting to hear how city's water utility could be out of money by the end of the year, up to 100 protesters stood outside and tore up and even burned their water bills. "They should be paying our water bills, not us," Flint resident Angela Hickmon told the Flint Journal's Gary Ridley.
- Members of a Flint-area volunteer militia showed up to the city to help pass out bottled water and hosted a rally Sunday attended by some Flint residents, where about 30 militia members decked out in camouflage hoisted "Don't Tread on Me" flags and decried the government. With a handgun on his hip, Genesee Volunteer County Militia leader Matthew Krol told the Free Press "If it means having to take up arms in defense ... we will do that as well."
We could go on, but you get the picture. Government, at all levels, systematically failed Flint residents. And despite government's efforts to repair that relationship now, Flint residents are increasingly hostile to anyone with ties to the institution that let them down. The flap over Flood's political donations proves unhappy residents and their advocates are looking for ways to discredit the government before it's investigation even begins.
We're doubtful a former county prosecutor who was appointed by a member of the Snyder administration and who has donated money to the campaigns of the very people he's investigating is going to get any kind of benefit of the doubt.