Crises happen. Yet damage caused by natural disasters, such as this weekend's snow storm on America's East Coast, can be minimized through preparation and planning, which was the case with utility crews from southern states, mobilizing as the storm started, waiting it out to get called into action.
Even crises such as the extraordinary amounts of led found in the Flint River and in Flint's (MIchigan) water system, could have been minimized if the state acted early.
The crises our country faces proves time and again that no matter how hard we work to develop a solid reputation, one mistake, one bad call or missed opportunity can change everything.
Once a Mayor, Governor, Legislator or Member of Congress looses the public's trust, they loose their ability to govern. Just as former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Congressman Aaron Schock (IL), as recent examples. Even Chicago Mayor's Rham Emanuel's controversial handling of the police shootings. Unfortunately, we can continue to find other examples of political leaders who resigned after various scandals Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, Baltiomore Mayor Sheila Dixon and others.
To help restore the public's trust, the people whom were elected to lead, must quickly take the necessary steps to make a bad decision better, and work diligently to restore the public's trust.
In Michigan, however, the government has been slow to respond. A government that once prided itself on transparency and openness is now sympathetic and apologetic but still closed and guarded, resulting in misinformation and calls for the Governor to resign.
While I understand the anger, it is important for those in government to remain focused on bringing solutions and resources to the table. The people of Flint need help, not just in the short-term, but for decades to come and the Governor must act and deliver quickly.
Resigning or a recall is a costly distraction at a time when people need immediate help. In 2003, then California Governor Grey Davis was recalled and ultimately resigned after people within his own party asked him to after comments Davis made on immigration. On the other hand, if the Governor did resign, it would help neutralize the crises from being political to a public health disaster. But I am not advocating for either a recall or resignation.
To restore the public trust, the Governor and his team, the Mayor and her team and the federal government must remain visible and present in Flint.
While appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe or CNN are important for the Governor to communicate nationally that he is in charge of the situation, it is more important for him to be in Flint, meeting with clergy and community groups, engaging the business community, consoling parents and working night and day to resolve the issues.
In addition, in any additional national media appearances, the Governor should appear with and next to Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.
The Governor and or a senior representative of his team should also hold press briefings in Flint twice a day. The Governor should be in Flint on a daily basis meeting with key stakeholders, hearing their concerns and sharing with them the progress he is making to improve a bad situation.
I will be as bold to suggest that the Governor should temporarily move to Flint and be among the people he is trying to help. Only then, will he start to re-build any trust lost as a result of how this all happened in the first place.
There are many things that are beyond our control. Crises don’t just happen, they evolve. Just like hurricanes do not suddenly appear, they are given time to gain momentum or dissipate. A forrest fire does not start out as an inferno, it starts out as a brushfire. And a terrorist attack does not just happen, the terrorists plot, plan practice and kill.
Likewise, it is rare that we all of a sudden find ourselves an overnight success or even America’s Next Idol. It can take years to build a solid reputation and just seconds to ruin it.
If you do not properly prepare for a crisis, that crises can turn your reputation inside out and create hard aches, not simply for you, but to all those affected.
The public understands to err is human, mistakes happen, but if mistakes are not corrected or you wait to long to notify the public of a problem, the problems get worse. I understand the need to be cautious but there is also a need to act quickly to address the problem before it gets worse.
Even if we do not have all the answers the public has a right to know and now the public has a right know how they are being protected, the steps the government is taking to improve the situation, a timeline for implementation and who they can turn to to ensure they are working the plan.