LANSING, Mich. — If last year's State of the State address was all about creating a so-called "river of opportunity" for downtrodden Michiganders, this year a real-life toxic river and fallout from a subsequent city-wide water crisis will likely be at the center of a speech expected to garner national attention.
FOX 17 will air the State of the State Address starting at 7:00pm Tuesday, right after FOX 17 News. The address will also be available online at FOX17Online.com.
Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to deliver his sixth State of the State address Tuesday, amid the backdrop of a now deadly policy decision to save money by changing Flint's water source from Detroit's system to the corrosive Flint River in 2014 while the city was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager.
President Barack Obama has since signed an emergency declaration that clears the way for federal aid for the city, while presidential candidates have called for Snyder's resignation and celebrities have called for his arrest.
Snyder's Tuesday evening address will be met by a large protest outside the Capitol, while inside he could wind up giving one of the most important speeches of his political career, said Doug Koopman, political science professor with Calvin College.
“People are going to watch and listen very carefully to see what he says," Koopman told FOX 17.
Kelly Rossman-McKinney, a veteran in Lansing politics and crisis communication with Truscott Rossman said Tuesday night's address is a perfect storm.
“I’ve worked here since 1979 and certainly governors have weathered crises, but never has the timing been such that the crisis was at its highest peak as it is right now with this address," she said.
While he's apologized publicly, Rossman-McKinney said it couldn't hurt to do it again considering she questions Snyder's sincerity on the matter.
"The one thing I have not yet seen from him is really anger, frustration and righteous indignation of what bureaucracy has wrought on the people of the city of Flint," she said. "Why he hasn't marched over to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and ripped them a new one; I'd suspend every single one until I got to the bottom of it."
The governor should also invite and acknowledge the Virginia Tech research and local Flint pediatrician who were key figures in exposing the elevated lead levels in children, Rossman-McKinney suggested if she were advising him.
If and when Snyder does address Flint, he should do so right away Tuesday night, Koopman said, adding he's likely to play to his strengths and find 'relentless positivity' in even the most awful situation.
“He's got to go right at the problem and be up front, mention it first thing and list what he has done and what he intends to do," Koopman said. "And secondly, look at the broader principle. What is the opportunity here and could that be a larger discussion about the state’s infrastructure?”
Calls continue to intensify for Snyder to remove the exemptions in place for his office under the state's public records laws. Currently the executive office is not subject to Michigan's Freedom of Information Act, prompting Common Cause in Michigan to call on Snyder to use his Tuesday night address to announce the release of all Flint water documents.
"Throughout the scandal, a dark cloud has hung over the Governor and his administration. What did the Governor's office know about the poisoning of Flint's children and when did they know it," Melanie Elroy, executive director for Common Cause Michigan, said in a news release.
"The public deserves to know why Flint's families and children were poisoned with lead."
Even the slightest appearance of resistance to be forthcoming with pertinent information can cast doubt, Rossman-McKinney suggests.
“People expect transparency and when they ask for it, and for whatever reason it does not come forth, that looks like guilt," she said.
Aside from Flint, Snyder is also expected to address reform efforts for Detroit Public Schools, and the state's energy policy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.