Michigan Policast for Monday, February 3, 2020In this episode:
- Segment one: SotS – Bonds and FTDR
- Segment two: SotS – K-12, higher ed and debt
- Segment three: Latest Detroit Chamber poll – Michiganders are center-left
- Segment four: GM and the Detroit-Hamtramck EV Assembly
- Segment five: UAW corruption scandal, with John Revitte of MSU
- Segment six: Quick takes
- Segment seven: Work in Progress: Monica Lewis-Patrick on the Global Water Justice Conference
- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s 2020 State of the State: Read the prepared address
- Whitmer announces $3.5-billion road bonding plan in State of the State
- Republicans bash Whitmer’s new road funding plan as short-term fix to long-term problem
- State Transportation Commission endorses Whitmer Rebuilding Michigan plan
- Michigan tax system and budget poster (pdf)
- Here’s how to solve one of Michigan’s biggest road funding puzzles
- GOP leaders: Whitmer’s road bonding plan is ‘hypocritical’
- The Michigan Infrastructure
and Transportation Association (MITA)
- Governor details bonding proposal to pay for roads, bypass Legislature
- Michigan voters: Roads stink, but don’t ask us to pay for fixes
- Rebuilding Michigan Bonding and Accelerated Program – January 30, 2020 (pdf)
- RESOLUTION OF STATE TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION
AUTHORIZING THE ISSUANCE AND SALE OF STATE OF MICHIGAN STATE TRUNK LINE FUND REFUNDING BONDS (pdf)
- Whitmer pitches Michigan road plan that leaves out GOP — and they’re OK with that
- Governor Whitmer Announces Bold Administrative Action to Fix the Damn Roads in State of the State Address
The wonkiest achievement of my life as a budget wonk. https://t.co/0vv6D6s815
— Kyle Jen (@Kyle_I_Jen) February 2, 2020
Gov Whitmer’s plan to use state transportation bonds to rebuild major roads & critical bridges isn’t perfect, but it is a big step forward. We need less talk & more action on this key issue‼️ If state lawmakers have a plan to fix local roads, pass it! https://t.co/Ct1Zrp2OmC
— Rich Studley (@rstudley) February 1, 2020
Any proposal that creates more problems than it solves is NOT a serious solution. So, it’s time for Plan B: executive action. http://bit.ly/2SdemOM h/t @Freep #MiSOTS20 @GovWhitmer #FTDRClick To Tweet “The ball is in the Legislature’s court in coming up with some long-term funding, but we’re going to get to work right now ... “what I can do alone, I’m going to.” @GovWhitmer http://bit.ly/3b76Jlq @Freep @michpoligal @paulegan4 #FTDR #MiSOTS20 Click To Tweet “Whether it’s misogyny in the workplace or threats of violence online, this is unacceptable ... our children are watching.” ~@GovWhitmer http://bit.ly/2GTn0fP @Freep @michpoligal @paulegan4 #FTDR #MiSOTS20Click To Tweet '@LeeChatfield said he appreciated @GovWhitmer ’s emphasis on auto insurance reform — the 2019 law was one of the most high-profile bipartisan victories — and her dedication to mental health and criminal justice reform.' http://bit.ly/3baxVA3 #MISOTS20Click To Tweet @SenMikeShirkey said he is excited to “roll up his sleeves” and collaborate on @GovWhitmer ’s proposals to expand resources and support for pregnant and postpartum women, which is an issue he says is “near and dear to my heart.”' http://bit.ly/3baxVA3 #MISOTS20Click To Tweet 'With a statewide election just nine months away ... (Republicans) are happy to watch from their barracks as the Democratic governor sets off, defiant and alone, on a new reconnaissance mission.' http://bit.ly/2tr6CAm @Freep @GovWhitmer @MISenate @Mi_Republicans #FTDRClick To Tweet
— Chad Livengood (@ChadLivengood) January 30, 2020
- Teachers Union Lawsuit Claims DeVos ‘Capriciously’ Repealed Borrower Protections
- AFT v Betsy DeVos lawsuit (pdf)
- Myth Busted: Turns Out Bankruptcy Can Wipe Out Student Loan Debt After All
- An Empirical Assessment of Student Loan Discharges and the Undue Hardship Standard
- Michigan schools revolt: We won’t flunk struggling third-grade readers
- 2016 – PA 306, 3rd grade reading law (pdf)
Just this month, a federal judge in New York discharged more than $220,000 in student loans for a borrower. In her ruling, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Cecelia Morris criticized the fact that even many lawyers “believe it impossible to discharge student loans.” She added, “This Court will not participate in perpetuating these myths.” Source
MI districts and schools, no 3rd grader needs to be retained if a parent or teacher does not believe retention is the best strategy for the child’s development under the new law. Period. No different than how you dealt with retention in the past.
— Nikolai Vitti (@Dr_Vitti) January 30, 2020
- GlenGariff Group – DETROIT REGIONAL CHAMBER MICHIGAN STATEWIDE POLICY SURVEY (pdf)
- Detroit Regional Chamber Releases Findings From Second Statewide Policy Poll
- Howes: Detroit morphing into hub for next-gen electrification
- Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly: GM’s first ‘fully dedicated’ EV plant
We’re kicking off 2020 by announcing one of our most anticipated vehicles, the #GMCHummerEV super truck. A true mark of progress toward a world with #ZeroEmissions. https://t.co/5Pk5UhkN32 pic.twitter.com/I5mT9zn0Tp
— General Motors (@GM) January 30, 2020
- John Revitte,Professor Emeritus, HRLR/LIR & RCAH and MSU Faculty Grievance Official Emeritus – MSU biography website
- John Revitte on LinkedIn and Facebook
- New Charge in UAW Corruption Investigation Specifies Racketeering
- Is UAW headed for federal takeover? Feds say it’s ‘on the table’
federal agents are looking into financial ties between Gamble, retired UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles — who now works for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan — and a vendor named Jason Gordon, who supplied UAW trinkets to the union, such as T-shirts and key chains.
Specifically, the sources said, the FBI is looking into whether that vendor gave cash kickbacks or bribes to UAW leaders in exchange for their help in securing trinket contracts. Source
I am a big believer that @GM assumed that @UAW was crippled by allegations of corruption and therefore didn't negotiate as they would have in the past. ~John Revitte, Prof Emeritus @MSUSHRLR #LaborClick To Tweet If it's true that top @UAW leaders were being influenced by offers from Iacobelli, they might demand such a good contract, and that clearly violates federal labor law. ~John Revitte, Prof Emeritus @MSUSHRLR #Labor Click To Tweet If you look at the last couple of election cycles, the @UAW influence on @MichiganDems has diminished in the last decade already, simply because they are so much smaller. ~John Revitte, Prof Emeritus @MSUSHRLR #Labor Click To Tweet These aren't the same companies and same unions of 20-30-40 yrs ago. It's not that they're unimportant, but there are other unions with this many members. ~John Revitte, Prof Emeritus @MSUSHRLR #Labor Click To Tweet
— Robert Snell (@robertsnellnews) January 31, 2020
- Law limiting Michigan ballot drives mostly unconstitutional, court rules
- High-speed lame duck legislative process, as demonstrated by PA 608 of 2018
- Appeals court tosses key GOP ballot measure restrictions
- Judge strikes down key provisions of ballot petition law
- Morning Digest: Dems need four seats to flip Michigan’s House. Our new data shows the top targets
- Gun-control group co-founded by Bloomberg announces $60 million spending plan for 2020 elections
- It Has Been Nearly One Month Since John James Last Appeared In Public
- It’s Been 115 Days Since John James Last Answered Questions From A Michigan Newspaper
- James Hasn’t Answered Questions From A Michigan TV Station In 223 Days
LISTEN: Conservative radio host Frank Beckmann slams John James for hiding from Michigan voters and media.
— John James Revealed (@JohnJamesReveal) January 28, 2020
John James is fundraising in Minnesota right now.
— John James Revealed (@JohnJamesReveal) January 28, 2020
- PFAS IN MICHIGAN: WHAT WE KNOW AND WHAT WE NEED
- GLOBAL WATER JUSTICE SUMMIT
- Monica Lewis-Patrick, Co-Founder, President, and CEO, We the People – Detroit
- PFAS in Michigan: What to know about contaminant, exposure risk, drinking water concerns
- Michigan PFAS Action Response Team
Walt Sorg 0:00
The presenting underwriter of the Michigan Policast is progress Michigan providing a strong, credible voice that holds public officials and government accountable and assist in the promotion of progressive ideas.
Richard Nixon 0:20
When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal by definition, exactly.
Republicans in the United States Senate channel their inner Richard Nixon and vote to cover up the dirt. Well, Michigan’s governor says it’s time to move some dirt. This is the Michigan Policast. We’re all about Michigan policy and politics and the National stories impacting our pleasant peninsulas. I’m Walt sorg.
Christine Barry 0:38
I’m Christine Barry. And this week is all about governor Gretchen Whitmer, her state of the state address where she told the legislature in effect, you’ve had a year to deal with the roads and you’ve done nothing. So now I’m going it alone. Republican leaders aren’t very happy with that.
Amy Kerr Hardin 0:53
I’m Amy Kerr Hardin. In addition to roads Whitmer talked education. We’ll take a look at how the student debt situation is getting worse thanks to Betsy DeVos, as well as a teacher rebellion against a republican reading requirement.
Walt Sorg 1:06
Later I’ll be talking with that MSU Professor of labor, John Rivette about the UAW corruption scandal and how that could impact Michigan’s politics and economy. And we’ll talk water with one of the organizers of an international conference in Detroit, and the most basic requirement for sustaining life. The story of the week in Michigan Governor Whitmer’s bold in your face, state of the state speech to the legislature. But before we dive into that thoughts on two colliding national stories, the not really a trial trial of Donald Trump and Monday’s Iowa caucuses. We should point out that we’re recording on a Sunday afternoon everything may have changed by Monday morning, the way things were going lately.
First of all, the Senate. We knew from the beginning it was sort of like watching that sports event on TV that you’d recorded. And somebody already told you the final score, but we’re still interested in watching the game even though the suspense was gone. Same thing with the Senate, although they really kind of copped out. John Bolton was ready to tell everything. And they finally rationalize the thing we say, Well, so what you know, like Nixon said, if the president does it .. ,
Amy Kerr Hardin 2:08
it’s just going to empower Trump even more, and that’s very scary.
Christine Barry 2:11
I don’t know, it’s hard for me to read because I think that the base for the Republican senators and for Trump are more enthused than ever. And they felt that that was the right thing to do, because they didn’t ever feel that there was a crime, even though the information is there for them to look at and understand. But overall, you know, I think 75% of Americans supported witnesses, and we didn’t even get witnesses. It was a sham in the most obvious way. So that has to hurt their credibility with everyone who is not in the strong base for them. Right.
Walt Sorg 2:48
One of the things that struck me is as hard as they tried, and they’ve started, they’ve tried over months. I don’t see this impacting Joe Biden. It’s always said in public relations. If you’ve got something in your record that’s going to be a problem in the campaign get it over with early. And you know, what more can they do on Twitter by them they’ve already done. It seems to me that that’s that has now hit ancient history as far as the Biden campaign is concerned, and it gets it out of the way for him.
Amy Kerr Hardin 3:14
And I think there will be a political price to pay for certain senators, Republican senators over on what has happened here, they may not lose their seat, but it’s, you know, their their base will narrow.
Walt Sorg 3:26
I know, indivisible is starting to run full-page ads in the states of the vulnerable senators, I saw one that they’re going to run against Cory Gardner in Colorado, which basically says senator Gardner voted to cover up the crime or something along those lines. And that’s the sort of thing that can hurt him. And after all, Mitch McConnell from the beginning, his goal wasn’t so much as was to keep Trump happy. It was more important to him to keep his majority so he can continue to be the dictator of America.
Let’s take a look at Iowa and of course, this is going to be out of date by the times many people hear the podcast and we’re going to look really foolish. My Thought on Iowa isn’t so much, who wins because you’ve got the top four there that have been running neck and neck unless one of them surprises everybody and runs away with it, or Amy Klobuchar comes out of nowhere and finishes in the top three. Those are the only two stories I think that could upset things to meet. The more important story is that combined vote of the two far-left candidates Warren and Bernie, as opposed to the moderate candidates. And if the cumulative vote for Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar, and Yang is substantially more than the progressives, that to me is a real clue that the party as a whole will be rejecting the Bernie Sanders burn it up approach.
Christine Barry 4:38
Well, think about that poll we looked at last week where I think we had 55% of the people wanted the party to to be more moderate. If we want the party to be more moderate. How is Bernie surging like he is I mean, it told two different stories last week as well.
Walt Sorg 4:46
But even if he finishes first and Iowa means he got 25 to 30% of the vote. Which is not nearly close to 50%. And that’s something people have to remember, this is a multiple primary where probably eight 910 candidates will get votes in the first go round. And it’s possible that four of them will come out with delegates using the 15% requirement. So there’s not going to be an overwhelming winner. There will be a first, second, third and fourth, but I’m not sure that first place and fourth place or all that much different.
Christine Barry 5:26
It depends on how they leverage it right, if they have a really good machine that can leverage these first couple of wins into, you know, a snowball effect type of thing to get more support in the future. I’m far more interested in the moderates right now. I just don’t see Bernie winning a national campaign. And I’m disappointed but I don’t think Warren would either. So to me, the interesting race is between the moderates and that really comes down to Joe Biden and maybe Mike Bloomberg.
Walt Sorg 5:55
Okay, sidebar on that Rashida Tlaib, I think stuck around. foot in her mouth over the weekend by basically leading the booing of Hillary Clinton at a Bernie rally in Iowa the day the next day, she walked it back a little bit and said I was getting a little overexcited. But still, to me, that is a aside, the 2016 still hasn’t ended. I see it in the Twitter verse all the time on social media. Some not all of the Bernie people are still angry at Hillary and are still Bernie or busters. And that worries me more than anything else.
Amy Kerr Hardin 6:29
It is very frightening. I hope that Iowa windows that feel down a little bit and give some of the candidates a clue that they really don’t have a chance. But like you said, it could be split fairly evenly across the entire board.
Walt Sorg 6:43
And maybe Jill Stein is warming up her campaign bus again. Who knows? Oh, no. Okay, let’s go to the State of the State address.
Gretchen Whitmer 6:51
The people of Michigan are on the move, and it’s time for Lansing to catch up. It’s time for action. Let’s get to work and let’s move some dirt. Thank you.
Walt Sorg 7:04
The real throw down I thought but from the governor she told the legislature off she basically said in nice polite terms. You ain’t done jack squat jack and I’m going to do it. And I’m going to do with an executive order and she followed through the next day. The State Transportation Commission approved her bonding plan, which is only a halfway measure which she said in the speech, but still it’s it is three and a half billion dollars that wasn’t there the day before. It’s true.
Amy Kerr Hardin 7:32
Rural roads won’t be fixed and I’ve been hearing some grumbling up and around here that’s, you know, what are we gonna do about our giant potholes that could swallow a Mini Cooper?
Gretchen Whitmer 7:42
When I introduced my proposal, I said, I was happy to consider alternative solutions. But no one came up with any at least not serious ones. Diverting money from teacher pension system to fill some potholes? Come on. Selling bridges? Not serious. And letting roads turn back into gravel? I don’t think so. Any proposal that creates more problems than it solves is not a serious solution. And so it’s time for Plan B, executive action. Tomorrow, I will ask the State Transportation Commission to issue State Road bonds. So we can start fixing the roads. Now. My rebuilding Michigan plan is financed without an increase at the gas pump, and it will do three things, save time, save money and save lives.
Walt Sorg 8:37
As I was watching this on TV, I thought the cutaways are really interesting because when she started talking about this program, the democrats were giving her a standing ovation and the republicans were sitting on their hands. But what can you expect given that in that soundbite the idea of letting roads turned back to gravel that was the Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and the idea of issuing by that are guaranteed against the Teacher Retirement Fund. I came from Lee Chatfield, the Speaker of the House. She basically said to both of them, come on guys get serious.
Christine Barry 9:09
In this particular state of the state. She was basically telling the legislature to own their behavior. Not only did they not do anything, but they ridiculed her plan and bragged about not doing anything. They brag about not doing it Shirkey comes right out and says, I feel no timeline on roads. I’m in no hurry to work on the budget. They brag about it. I think she was a little bit sharp with them at times in the speech, but I think it was totally deserved.
The commission that voted to authorize this the next day, the majority of them appointed were by Snyder, Rich Studley and or the Michigan Chamber of Commerce support it. To be honest, I can’t tell sometimes when read just talking for the chamber or just individually, Michigan Infrastructure and Transportation Association support it. I’m going to link to that podcast we did back in June of last Last year where we had Lance on as a guest to talk about the roads and how all this works, Ken Sikkema, you know, said he didn’t like it but couldn’t be critical because it was the republicans that quote, “really sat on their hands.” So, Shirkey and Chatfield can complain about it all they want now that this proposal is out there, but they didn’t do anything. And reasonable people are seeing that
Amy Kerr Hardin 10:23
55% of Michigan residents believe that there is enough money in the state budget for roads already. And so they’re under an illusion there that gives political cover to these republicans.
Walt Sorg 10:36
Now, Amy, you mentioned there was a lot of complaining from local road groups and from local governments, County Road Association, etc. that this proposal from the governor which is going into effect does nothing for local roads. She was the first to admit that she said so in the speech, and she hung up right on the legislature.
Gretchen Whitmer 10:53
But let me be clear, these new projects will only address the worst of our most highly traveled state roads. We still need the legislature to come up with a real long-term solution to fix the roads. So the next time you’re driving down your local street and hit a pothole or see a bridge, close, call up the leadership in this building and encourage them to act.
Walt Sorg 11:17
Now what was interesting about that segment was in the prepared version of the speech, which is on her website and was released, she says, Call your republican legislator to complain. She changed it at the podium to call your leader that was a some a little bit of a concession, at least to bipartisanship. She didn’t totally lay it in their laps, you just gave them like 90% of the turd.
Christine Barry 11:39
Well, you have to understand the Democratic leadership didn’t get behind her tax proposal either. But they at least were trying to work on something. And you know, I can understand people did not like 45 cents per gallon is a big number, but that doesn’t mean you do nothing and Chatfields proposal and he was really critical of the governor. called her a hypocrite said it was it was difficult to take her seriously take well, difficult to take this administration seriously, because she did not want to redirect the 6% sales tax on gas that exists right now to road repairs. But the problem is if you do that you leave these holes and other places and one of those holes by the way, Amy to your point is $85 million less to local governments
Walt Sorg 12:28
and $600 million taken out of the schools.
Christine Barry 12:31
I mean, they have to look at revenues. It isn’t just a matter of like she, I think everybody would agree. Okay, take that 6% and put it to roads, but we still have to have a revenue source.
Walt Sorg 12:40
Amy, you mentioned the poll that was taken was commissioned by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce done by GlenGariff Group Richard Czuba’s organization, and yes, it did find 53% of the voters believe the state’s already got enough money to fix the roads. And that just isn’t true. There’s an education issue and part of the problem There is people like the Republican leaders saying we can do it without raising taxes. They’ve been saying this for years. And of course we ride on the roads. And we know it’s not getting done. And people say, Well, what happened to our gas tax money from two years ago, and what happens to this and what happens to that, and the marijuana money is going to take care of all of that. That is all a crock. They need a couple billion dollars a year, if they really want to fix the local roads. I’m on the Lansing city of Lansing public service board. We’re responsible for the roads just here in town. We just in the city of Lansing, about $200 million to get our roads up to snuff. That’s just one city in one relatively small city.
Christine Barry 13:38
One of the things that was mentioned was that we were losing on the PR game because everybody agreed that the roads needed to be fixed, but most agreed that we had enough money to do that. The problem that I see with that conclusion that we’re losing on the PR game is that it assumes that we’re actually in it and I don’t think that whether it’s the Doesn’t have to be the Democratic Party. But there’s is there just isn’t a big enough voice explaining to people where their money is going and why. And I don’t know whose job it is to do that. But clearly the Republicans are spanking us on communications with the public, both on volume and on strategy in terms of getting their elected officials out in op-eds, as well as, like, look at the language they use. They, when they’re talking about their achievements, they talk about the economy is great. Everybody’s doing better. Everything is wonderful. But if you talk about a tax, it’s struggling families, Michiganders can’t afford it. We have to step up our game here.
Walt Sorg 14:40
And I drive down to Fort Wayne, Indiana fairly regularly. I have family there. And as soon as I hit the Michigan Indiana border, I know that I’ve hit the border without seeing the signs. It’s so obvious right away, and Indiana is a low tax state but they do have that toll road that pays for an awful lot of their transportation program. The fact remains Michigan spends less on its roads per capita than any state in the Midwest and by far, and it’s just one of those situations where if you don’t spend the money, it ain’t going to get fixed. And if you haven’t got the money, you’ve got to find it.
Amy Kerr Hardin 15:12
I know that there’s a study being launched on toll roads in Michigan, public private partnerships like that can be very problematic if they’re not structured properly, if you think of like the parking meters in Chicago, that they wrote a 99 year contract with this group and, and now they’re stuck with it, and they can’t do anything about it. So we should be very, very careful about the public-private partnerships.
Walt Sorg 15:36
It’s also a very inefficient way to raise money, you’ve got a lot of overhead with toll roads, you get to collect the money. For starters, I’m not a big fan of the gas tax or the sales tax. But the overhead for collecting those taxes is a lot lower. They’re much more efficient. They’re also spread brought more broadly to the impact on our tourism, for example of toll roads, what would that be? Are people less likely to travel up north If they’re going to pay an extra four or $5 to ride up I 69 or to ride up a US 31. Those are the kinds of things that have taken to account as well.
Well, the governor devoted a large portion of her speech to fixing the damn roads. She also touched on Michigan’s beleaguered public education, but didn’t really provide a lot of specifics on new reforms. She did not discuss a couple of highly contentious issues, student debt and a new state law on reading proficiency. Amy, you’ve been looking at both of those things.
Amy Kerr Hardin 16:34
Yes, the American Federation of Teachers is suing the Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos over a repeal of an Obama-era rule meant to protect students from excessive debt from a substandard education. These are the types of supposedly college education degrees that employers look at and they just know they’re not worth the paper they’re written on. The rule was in place as a warning to institutions that they cannot receive federal funds if they are leaving students high and dry and unemployable, but DeVos prefers a buyer beware approach, which is a pretty tall order task of a 17 and 18 year old when they’re making a decision about where they’re going to school.
Another interesting thing I saw this week, we’ve always been told that student debt cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. NPR reported last week that there may be remedies to be found in that legal Avenue in the form of a full report partial relief of debt burdens. Lawyers certainly do cost a lot. Anyone that’s hired a lawyer knows they don’t come cheap. But the principal and interest on like one or $200,000 in student debt could cost much, much more over a lifetime. I’m not recommending welshing on financial applications. But it’s good to know that despite Betsy DeVos’ efforts, students have a possible out.
And then let’s talk about the third-grade reader flunk law, a number of prominent Michigan School districts are planning to exercise a loophole in the soon to be administered law requires them to hold back third-graders who can’t pass a reading level threshold test. Educators have hated on this GOP requirements since it was passed. I believe it was back in 2016. But it doesn’t go into effect until this spring. And now upon implementation, they intend to flout it by advancing students who missed the benchmark and for good reason, reading among other skills are developmentally variable, but social damage from being held back that’s a permanent loss.
I don’t want to sound sexist here, but little boys develop their reading skills at different rates. And some of them may not start reading until fourth or fifth grade, but by the time they do start reading, they’re usually very proficient. They really should be saying with their classmates and their friends and that feel like they’re like a loser basically.
Walt Sorg 18:44
First, let’s start with the student loans. One of the things I find really repugnant about them is that you can’t refinance them and some people are paying loans at six 7%. Right now you can buy a car I think a two and a half 3% interest mortgage is around three percent. And that extra interest, it’s not going to help anybody but the financial institutions. And yet the losses to the people who took out the loans, you’re screwed.
Amy Kerr Hardin 19:11
It doesn’t Betsy DeVos have a share and an interest in collection agency for student loan debt.
Walt Sorg 19:18
Of course she does. Of course she does. That’s the model of the Trump administration. If you can’t make money out of it privately, why bother, I just pulled up real quickly the typical rates for student loan interest rates, and even at 2017-18, the subsidized rate was four and a half percent 6%. for graduate students. In 16-17. It was a little lower. But right now it’s still over 4% and get some probably in two and a half 3%. But whatever it is, it’s ridiculous. And it’s being held up there artificially, at a minimum, students should be able to refinance it.
Amy Kerr Hardin 19:53
My brother who he’s he’s in his mid-60s now. I think he was in his late 50s when he finally paid off his medical school debt. So it does take a long, long time.
Walt Sorg 20:04
One advantage of us old folks is we could pay our way through school and cash flow, because tuition was so low because back then, Michigan State government paid about 75% of the cost of education for student Michigan State University in the University of Michigan and the student through tuition was paying about 25% that is completely flipped. It’s now 25%, state 75%, tuition grants, etc. And that’s simply stupid.
Amy Kerr Hardin 20:29
Back in the late 70s, when I went to MSU, I kept a ledger of all my expenses, including, you know, my meals and books and everything came to a little over $3,000 a year.
Christine Barry 20:43
Well, that’s a product of that anti-tax revolution that Reagan rode all the way to the White House.
Walt Sorg 20:49
Reagan started in California, they used to have free tuition at the California University system and Ronald Reagan into that.
Christine Barry 21:01
There are always new polls. Most of them horse race polls matching candidates but some new research from GlenGariff, underwritten by the greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce provides some real insights into how Michigan voters feel on the policy issues. So let’s take a look at that. Walt, I thought this was an amazing, interesting poll.
Walt Sorg 21:20
It is and we will publish the entire poll on the website will have a link to it so people can take a look at it.
By a two to one better than two to one margin almost three to one Michigan voters believe the national economy is on the right track. 51% said it’s better 28% said it’s the same 16.2% said it was worse. I think that in part is due to what is going on right now in the auto industry. And it’s also a very fragile number. If the economy starts to slow down, we all know that if there’s any slowdown in the national economy, Michigan takes it between the eyebrows because it is we were the first ones to feel it because it hurts the auto industry so hard. And that is a huge concern.
But there’s also a differentiation between views of families that have retirement accounts for one K’s, and those who do not. If you’ve got retirement funds about 58% feel the economy is better. But if you don’t only about a third say that it is better, and that is the differentiation, that I think Democrats can really play off of that this is a very uneven economy, even though the unemployment rate is low. And it would seem that the stock market is doing very well. Stock Market doing well is only good for you if you’re in the stock market.
Christine Barry 22:36
Yeah, it’s just a matter of people understanding the indicators of the economy doing well. I think I took away some different things and I don’t want to derail the what you brought up here. But the top issue among African American voters at 23.1% was the possibility of war. Voters aged 18 to 29 said it was also the most pressing issue in the nation. I thought that was really Like it’s not surprising, you do know that war has, you know, an uneven effect among amongst people. But war actually has already slipped to the back of my mind in the last couple of weeks because there’s so much stuff going on.
Walt Sorg 23:16
And of course, Democrats won a lot of elections in 2018 on the issue of health care, and the numbers on health care, very striking. It kind of reinforces what I felt were the numbers all along. Basically, the people of Michigan do not like the idea of Medicare for all.
The findings just among Democrats 51.4% like Medicare for all that wanted the Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar position. 23% want Medicare for all, which is Sanders, and Warren. I think that is really going to be a critical issue. Maybe not so much in the primary as it is going to be in the general because in the general it’s even more pronounced as Republicans way in the overwhelming majority of Americans want to have either improvements to the Affordable Care Act Medicare for all, some tweaks to the Affordable Care Act, those two categories that’s 55% 20% overall for Medicare for all, and eight and a half percent to say leave the system alone, it’s working fine. There’s really nothing wrong with it.
Amy Kerr Hardin 24:18
I was surprised at how many people were happy with their employer-based health care. I personally, my family had an experience where you find out pretty damn quick, once you have a major illness in the household. And the person that is providing that health care, the employee can’t work anymore, how quickly even with long term disability, every dime of that is going to go to paying your Cobra or to buying on the open market. So it’s you lose your money pretty darn quick. So that employer health care is really based on you staying employed there. So just make sure all your injuries and illnesses are very minor.
Walt Sorg 24:55
Another thing just really good news for Democrats in this polling and they can hammer Trump on it. by a margin of 95 to 4%. Michigan voters agree that health insurance companies should be required to cover people with preexisting conditions. 80% of that is strong support. Trump is currently suing through his justice department to end that requirement for health insurance companies. And the voters need to be reminded of it constantly. That is, is a much of an Achilles heel for him as his moral turpitude,
Amy Kerr Hardin 25:25
And regulatory rollback like that some industries don’t necessarily like that because they tool up so to speak, even insurance agencies, they tool up for the regulations that are in place, and they don’t like that fluctuation and change and political, you know, wins buffeting them.
Walt Sorg 25:41
Another important series of findings related to our roads problem, and the people of Michigan got the message from Gretchen Whitmer in 2018. roads and bridges our number one challenge facing this nation. That was the number one issue by a large margin 30% roads and bridges 18% of jobs and economy 7% Education and education spending 6.3% water and sewer infrastructure. Fix the damn roads is a pretty darn good message. I’ll be interested to see if Gretchen Whitmer emphasizes that in her state of the union response on Tuesday.
Christine Barry 26:14
One of the things that I thought was interesting about all of these results is that it seemed to reinforce that moderate position that the majority of people, according to that one poll, really want. Another thing that I thought was interesting was that on almost all of these issues, the Democrats should be winning at the more progressive position is favored by the majority, you see that strong support for preexisting conditions being covered, strong support for something being done with insurance, Medicare for all, or, you know, expanding ACA, whatever. Liberals are really winning on all of those issues, except for when it comes to rubber meets the road, so to speak of getting something done.
Walt Sorg 27:04
Yeah. When the rubber meets the road, most voters want that money handled at the local level. Republicans like the counties to basically spend the road money. Democrats wants state government to do it about a third of them independence, they’ll like it to go to the local government to spend the money. Overall, it is pretty well divided between who should spend the money I found when I was just doing doors during a county commission campaign last year, that people were very supportive of paying more money for roads, if they knew for sure that one it was going to be their roads into it was going to be the rose It was not going to be diverted off into something else and wasted, as they say, by government on some other program that’s got nothing to do with transportation.
Christine Barry 27:45
Yeah, yeah. local leadership is generally more accessible to you. Not to mention that if you look at you know, township boards and City Council’s and county boards, I mean, those people are just your neighbors anyway, and you already knew them and You are a long term resident there. So that doesn’t surprise me there was that civility piece in this poll too, that local governments had the highest ranking on civility. So I for what it’s worth, I think that people just generally like the elected officials closest to them.
Walt Sorg 28:21
A few other bullet points from the survey and again, we will have a link to it on our website. The support for extending the Elliot Larson civil rights act to LGBTQ Michiganders huge support 77 to 16 in favor of that 88% support requiring hands-free driving devices, no more holding on to your cell phone at your ear, either Bluetooth or something to talk on the phone, and 77% strongly support hands-free legislation. That was a few years ago that was like the third rail of politics. You didn’t want to tell people they couldn’t use their phones and their cars and now they are very special. Part of it, I think people will see what it means on the road. It scares the hell out of me all the time I see people on their phone. And you know, if they do something weird ahead of you, if you look hard, you’ll see they’re talking on their phone.
Christine Barry 29:10
It’s just like the seatbelt law, or I remember there was a lot of resistance to the seatbelt law. And when people finally understood the difference that it made in savings is saving lives now. People are used to it now but it’s just, you know, it’s something I wouldn’t even consider because of the actual safety piece of it. You know, now I understand it better.
Walt Sorg 29:32
One other series of numbers that I think is really interesting, they ask people to give grades on a one to 10 scale on civility for various types of public officials, the most civil with a score of 6.7 local city and township government and the mayor or township supervisor, followed by the governor of Michigan she came in third, then the state legislature, followed by the US House of Representatives and Senate, followed by President of the United States. Gee, Donald Trump, not civil can’t believe that. And then right at the bottom social media, which is exactly where it belongs. But what’s amazing is republicans voted the president the most civil of the entities, an average score of 7.6. Wow. You talk about delusional. That is crazy.
Christine Barry 30:24
I don’t know where they could get that unless they just are looking at everybody other than the president. You know, looking at how much people hate him.
Walt Sorg 30:37
Michigan got some really good news of the last few days General Motors announcing its retooling the Detroit Hamtramck assembly plant to become the hub for GMOs and burgeoning electric car business.
Gretchen Whitmer 30:49
GM has committed investing $3.5 billion in Michigan over the next decade, including today’s $2.2 billion investment at D-Ham. This investment comes on the heels of a series of big auto announcements here in Southeast Michigan that have created thousands of jobs for the people of our state.
Walt Sorg 31:09
I think this is huge in light of the fact that Ford and Fiat Chrysler are doing the same thing. They’re centering their electric vehicle research and development and manufacturing. In Michigan. They’re not taking it overseas. They’re not taking it to Mexico. I think in part because the state really is we’ve got the research base at the University of Michigan and Michigan State, especially to support the r&d that needs to be done on this. And because of the workforce, they can trust the workforce here. So they’re real. They’re pouring literally billions of dollars into our economy in what’s going to be the trend in manufacturing. The thing that’s really going to hold it back I think, is Donald Trump.
Amy Kerr Hardin 31:47
Yes, um, isn’t she trying to push initiatives to not have electric cars, just gas vehicles.
Walt Sorg 31:55
He’s been trying to protect the oil industry by lowering the fuel efficiency standards. He’s also been opposed to maintaining or extending the incentives to purchasers of electric vehicles, which are still substantially more expensive than their counterparts with gasoline engines, although that gap is continuing to decline, but he is certainly no friend of electric cars. He is a friend of the oil industry and electric cars are in pathetical to what the oil industry needs.
Christine Barry 32:23
But let me ask this, just as a counterpoint has anything that he has done help get GM to come here for this work as he as any of his now I gotta tell you, I find it hard to keep up with what he’s doing policy-wise, because he’s just such a freak. And the things that he says doesn’t make sense. And it’s difficult for me to do that. But is there anything he’s done, trade wise or policy-wise to help GM come here?
Walt Sorg 32:54
Not really. Not really. He’s helped General Motors and other large corporations through some of the Tax programs, but it hasn’t been Michigan specific. He’ll take credit for it. No question about that. But he refuses to take credit also a responsibility for things like the Warren truck plan closing now.
Amy Kerr Hardin 33:11
It’ll be interesting to see whether he mentioned this in his State of the Union address because I have a feeling he’s going to go after governor Whitmer. Because he knows that she’s doing the response to it. So he might try to take credit for it and say that she had nothing to do with it.
Walt Sorg 33:26
I hope he does go after governor Whitmer, so I think it’ll backfire on him. She’s likable he’s not. It’ll work with to work with his base. I’ll tell you the stuff I read on social media relating to Gretchen Whitmer is just vile. We talked about some of it last week, but it continues on a whole bunch of things. For some reason. She just infuriates the right wing. I think they just get infuriated by any woman who is in a position of power, but especially her but so be it if he goes after her. I think ultimately it hurts him, but it is his nature to attack anybody who might say something negative on him.
Lurking in the background of all the strong news from GM Ford and Fiat Chrysler is a growing scandal and the leadership of the United Auto Workers. So far there have been 11 convictions of auto officials or union leaders in this scandal. And now there’s the possibility of a racketeering charge involving the UAW.
To find out more about what the scandal could mean for Michigan’s economy and Michigan’s politics. I call Professor John Rivette. He’s a Professor Emeritus of Human Resources and Labor Relations at Michigan State University.
Walt Sorg 34:33
It used to be that the Teamsters under Jimmy Hoffa, the first was considered sort of the poster child for union corruption, they got that straightened out, and all of a sudden this huge scandal breaks out in the UAW. 11 convictions so far of union officials, former executives at Fiat Chrysler, how damaging is this to the long-term viability of the UAW?
John Rivette 34:54
Tough question. I would start off by saying the Teamsters aren’t entirely free of all problems. But there’s certainly nothing like they were part of what makes Michigan unique is most unions are headquartered in Washington, DC. But there are a couple that aren’t. And two of America’s most influential from the 1950s for 20-30 years where the Teamsters and the auto workers and they were both headquartered in Detroit, and many people always thought that the Teamsters had some corruption or non-union democracy issues or whatever, and that the auto workers were this squeaky clean, noble union. And so for most people now, it’s kind of hard to believe that the Teamsters has a lot of honest scrupulously, well run local unions, and probably the UAW does also. But at the top leadership levels, there’s been all of this flurry of problems over the last few years and that’s really shocking because they had such a different image.
In terms of impact, I am a believer that part of the reason why in this last round of the negotiations between General Motors and the UAW Ford and the UAW and the Chrysler division to see that these allegations about corruption at the top of the UAW played a role. Some people suggest that it played a role in that it encouraged the union leadership to go on strike or take longer strike because they were trying to show that they were still a tough militant member driven union. That might have been part of it. But I thought least in the GM case, that part of the issue was the General Motors assumed that the UAW was crippled by the allegations of corruption. And I think they therefore didn’t negotiate maybe as they would have in the past. And they you know, one of the things the UAW leadership at the time of just before the GM strike started was to say, you could have given us this information and your proposals much earlier. And we might have been able to settle and never started to strike. So, you know, it may be that it had an impact. But going forward. It’s hard to guess at this point how much of a continuing problem it’s going to be.
Walt Sorg 37:19
Well, the latest charges now they’re talking about racketeering investigation into the union, which would be a lot more widespread than what we’ve had so far. Up to now, it’s been individuals who have been convicted of corruption. And this racketeering investigation would seem to indicate that there is suspicion of a widespread plot, basically conspiracy being put together to take money away from the union take money away from the workers.
John Rivette 37:43
Part of what happened with the Teamsters, and some think the Trump Organization may eventually also face This is that we have the statue right Rico, R-I-C-O, the statute that talks about those kind of issues, and when things get to a really serious level, and for a while the Teamsters union was sort of taken over put in receivership of sorts by the federal government because of those allegations. So that’s part of the reason why it’s not clear to me anymore, that the UAW, today’s UAW is going to be able to do it internally that they’ll be allowed to even do that.
But how how deep the self-dealing is, isn’t clear in labor law, and I’ll try to make this brief. And this was one of the big charges. And you may recall that there is a controversy between the Chrysler division of Fiat in General Motors over whether or not the one company was impacted by the other in terms of the negotiators at the table were faking. They were agreeing to contracts that were less than they could have won in exchange for the few leaders were doing self-dealing and getting rings and property and trips and all that kind of stuff.
If it’s true that in fact top leaders were being influenced by offers from Iacobelli, I think that’s how you say his name who worked for Chrysler and GM at different times, and others. That didn’t exchange for us giving bosses of the unionists, they might say, you’re going to not demand such a good contract, and that clearly violate Federal Labor Law and would lead to other serious charges in addition to racketeering.
Walt Sorg 39:33
One thing that has changed in Michigan since the time of the Teamsters corruption battles, and actually the last decade is the legislature push the right to work law so auto workers no longer have to be members of the UAW. Could this be the start of the demise of the UAW because as members look at this in disgust?
Before this scandal, corruption broken the news, the UAW and the remnants of the Three, what I call them the Detroit two and a quarter. There was already a lot of discussion on some of these kinds of topics, and it still could play out. And I’m trying to say, I don’t know, back there before all the corruption allegations, you already had changes. The UAW said million and a half members 77,000 in the Genesee County alone in the late 70s. And today, maybe seven thousand in Genesee County. And it used to be hundreds of thousands of members in what was then the big three and today, each of them has about 50,000. It’s all different because these aren’t big unions, and they aren’t a lot of employees, but within Michigan psyche. It’s a big deal.
Walt Sorg 40:46
You’ve got the democratic state convention coming up in early March, and it’s a relatively tame convention. But generally at those conventions the UAW has substantial influence on the decisions that are made is this whole scandal Likely to diminish the UAW his clout within the Democratic Party.
John Rivette. 41:04
I suppose some people will say that i i would say if you look at the last couple of election cycle follow this the UAW’s influence has diminished in the last decade already, simply because there’s so much smaller if you represent 50,000 people at these three companies and a few and parts supplier, that isn’t the same influence you had when when you had half a million.
Walt Sorg 41:28
It was pretty evident in the battle for the nomination for attorney general.
John Rivette 41:32
And it was also evident in terms of why right to work passed in Michigan. And it’s not to say something mean, it’s just to say, these are the same companies and they aren’t the same unions of two decades ago, four decades ago, etc. It’s not that they’re unimportant, but they’re, you know, there are other unions with with this many members. I think if you follow the press recently, in terms of the discussion about the negotiations and Chrysler and General Motors and Ford. The UAW did a pretty darn good job. They really did try to protect their current membership for the future, which quite frankly, if we go very far into electric vehicles, it’s going to be a lot less employees anyway. And these companies have nowhere the kind of influence they used to have either.
Walt Sorg 42:25
And they were successful just in the last week in getting the announcement from General Motors to center, at least for GM, the electric vehicle production in the state of Michigan.
John Rivette 42:34
Absolutely. And there also was very good news for Chrysler and good news for Ford. I think many people following labor relations as I do would say, the UAW did a pretty good job trying to represent its members in a tough time when things are going to be different. When you and I made the first came to this community, you had car factories with seven to 10,000 employees. Now you have some Several hundred on the shift.
Walt Sorg. 43:01
As you look at what has happened so far in this scandal, is it a problem with the structure of the UAW and perhaps the bylaws of the operations of the UAW? Or is it more just a matter of some bad apples?
John Rivette. 43:14
So my experience studying this old UAW, AFL and AIW. And even somewhat in the Teamsters union, I go with a bad apple, still, some critic from the last, especially those around labor notes, and some other started dissident groups, New Directions within the UAW, which say the real problem was getting too deeply into bed with the companies in these joint labor management programs. It clearly did influence some of the people who have been seen to be self-dealing, just promoting their future their money. I don’t know that that means joint programming has no role or can’t be good, but that critique is going to be heard. I’m sure
Walt Sorg 44:01
John Rivette, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. It was my pleasure wall.
Walt Sorg 44:12
Time for some quick takes. Number one good news for people that circulate petitions in hopes of changing Michigan’s constitution or Michigan’s law. Christine rave on.
Christine Barry 44:22
Yes, yes, the 2018 lame duck session, the GOP passed a bunch of bills as they do to get them in place before the democrats are in office. One of these bills was meant to make it more difficult for initiatives like voters, not politicians.
In short, what it did was it required that no more than 15% of ballot initiative signatures could come from any one congressional district. petitioners had to sign affidavits regarding whether they are paid or unpaid. And three, they had to display that designation on their petitions. The appeals court ruled that these imposed unconstitutional burdens on the Signing and circulating ballot initiatives and that no real governmental interests were asserted or served by these things.
But I do want to take a moment as I do during the quick takes to make the quick takes longer. And tell you the story of this bill. It was this lame duck bill was introduced and read for the first time on December 6. On December 12. It was reported out of committee read a second time a third time past with immediate effect. And this is in the house. That all happened on one day. And then on December 21. It went to the Senate. The Senate suspended the rules read the bill a third time passed it with immediate effect, returned the bill to the house where the house suspended the rules again to avoid the one-day delay that they’re supposed to have. They then voted on a senate amendment passed it again and the bill was ordered enroll all that happened on one day. On December 28. It was signed into law by Snyder filed with the Secretary of State went into immediate effect. That is how fast the legislature can work if they want.
Jocelyn Benson asked for an opinion in January, Dana Nessel declared parts of it unconstitutional in May, so they appealed than the appeals court issued their ruling.
Walt Sorg 46:11
Okay, issue number two, Michael Bloomberg. He isn’t just spending a fortune almost $300 million by now on his presidential campaign. He’s continuing to pump money into a targeted gun safety campaign. Amy.
Amy Kerr Hardin 46:23
Yes, Bloomberg. He picked up this issue and I find that rather interesting. It’s, um, he’s an unconventional candidate with unconventional tactics. He’s leveraging the numbers on gun control, possibly to his favor. Well, that remains to be seen. He’s partnered with the group every town gun safety, who intend to drop 60 million on ads this year about sensible gun regulations. These groups are becoming more popular than the gun lobby, particularly the NRA who is struggling with leadership issues, much like the UAW, and then I believe tonight during the Superbowl, Bloomberg is going to run an ad About gun safety. And that’ll cost a small fortune to and you know most people watching the Superbowl are probably not going to be interested in gun safety ads.
Christine Barry 47:08
This one will be good though it’s on Facebook already. Obviously we’re talking on Sunday before the Super Bowl, but it’s on Facebook already and it features a football player. So I think it’s actually going to be a really good ad for him.
Walt Sorg 47:21
Our next issue, can democrats flip the Michigan House of Representatives? new data provided from the daily Kos says Absolutely. In their morning digest they actually broke out the vote district by district in Michigan. New data shows that Gretchen Whitmer actually defeated Bill Schuette 53-44 to become governor in the districts. She carried 56 of the 110 house seats. So if the democrats can flip the for house seats that went for Whitmer, but also went republican thanks to the gerrymander, they can make the difference in who controls the House of Representatives.
Now the Senate is not up for election this year so it’ll remain a Republican Senate, but a democratic house would have a huge impact. And we’ll have a link to the entire article in our show notes, talking about the the seats. One of them is over in West Michigan, in the Grand Rapids area, and the others I think, are Oakland County seats, but they’re all very close. They’re all carried by both Whitmer and Stabenow in 2018. Of course, turnout will be the big issue there. And finally, our quick takes the magical disappearing candidate, john James. Amy, tell us about it.
Amy Kerr Hardin 48:33
Yeah, alleged Republican Senate candidate john James is so invisible. Even right wing talk show host, Frank Beckman and Paul W. Smith, on who are in Detroit are criticizing as absences. And the Michigan Democratic Party is running an internet ad highlighting their comments.
Rush Limbaugh & guests 48:51
Let me read the headline here. conservative radio host slams john James for hiding. Quote. He doesn’t want to do interviews right now. Now and I don’t know why it makes no sense to me. He’d have a better chance of getting that message out if he actually talked about it. Yeah, why would he did interviews like crazy last time that he ran? Why wouldn’t he now maybe because he launched?
Is he using any medium like social?
I really don’t know. We really haven’t thought about him very much because he’s not out there. I have not spoken with john James. He doesn’t want to do interviews right now. And I don’t know why.
Christine Barry 49:29
Well, for starters, because there’s all these pictures of him with all these bad people.
Walt Sorg 49:34
Yeah, Rudy Giuliani Lev Pardas Donald Trump, who is now all of a sudden Donald Trump’s best friend.
Christine Barry 49:41
I gotta tell you, Amy, alleged candidate, my best moment of the day so far. Thank you. Thank you for that.
Walt Sorg 49:50
According to the kind of the Democratic Party, he hasn’t attended a rally in over a month and the last time he showed up in public at a rally was with Donald Trump over in Battle Creek or Trump and salted the Dingle family. And he hasn’t responded yet to that insult. And it’s been more than three months since he spoke to a Michigan newspaper. And 240 days since he spoke to a Michigan TV station. Yeah, that’s an alleged candidate.
Christine Barry 50:16
And you know, he’s not bad in public speaking. He’s not bad with people, but I think he’s just boxed in at this point.
Walt Sorg 50:24
You know, for the record, john James is welcome to join us on the podcast anytime he wants. Its Water.
Johnny Cash 50:37
It’s Water. Cool clear water. Cool clear water.
Christine Barry 50:45
Well, anytime scientists talk about signs of life on other planets, the first thing they check for is water. It is the first requirement for life and 20% of this planet’s entire surface water is all around us and the Great Lakes So what better location for an international conference on water, an issue that has different parameters and different parts of the planet. One of the organizers of the Global Water Justice Conference was Detroit’s Monica Lewis–Patrick. Walt talked with her about what they learned and what comes next.
Walt Sorg 51:17
Monica Lewis-Patrick, the water warrior. Why was it necessary? Why was it advisable to gather water experts and water advocates from across the world to Detroit? What was it you’re trying to accomplish?
Monica Lewis-Patrick 51:30
Well, I actually was invited to come to the steering committee that was headed up by Reverend Alex Plum, who is a senior program officer with Henry Ford health systems Global Health Initiative. And also Reverend john Reynolds, who has a leadership role with the United Methodist Church and Reverend pastor Peter Perez, who is also in a leadership role with the state of Michigan and United Methodist Church. And so with the three of those gentlemen, they were already discussing convening a water discussion in Michigan, that was bringing me to the other representatives of global water issues, especially from the continent of Africa, from South America. And what they found is that they had no real representation for what was happening here in America. And so they brought me to the table to at least raise the voices of those most impacted communities around the Great Lakes so that they could at least look at not only from a global scale, but also what’s happening at a local and regional scale around water inequities, water quality, water accessibility, water affordability.
Walt Sorg 52:45
It’s pretty frightening when you think that we sit right in the middle of the best freshwater supply in the world by far, yet even we managed to screw it up whether it’s PFAS or it’s led in the water in Flint and other cities and you look at the rest of the world they would be grateful even have our bad water.
Monica Lewis-Patrick 53:03
Yes. And that’s what we heard over and over is in countries where especially women and young girls and children are having to walk 45 minutes to an hour just to be able to retrieve a small container or a bucket of water to take care of their basic hygiene and cooking. But then we were able to see some parallels and communities like Flint and Detroit, where we’ve seen in Detroit over 143,000 houses shut off on water and very little response in terms of how to restore those households and provide them a water rate that’s affordable.
And so we have families that we’ve been providing water, it started out with an appeal to do it for three weeks. And now while we found ourselves committed to this work now for about six years, and we also do the same work in Flint, we provide a semi-truck of water that is delivered to Flint based on donations that we raise here in Detroit throughout our network to ensure that they can distribute bottled water there is a form of relief.
But you find in this country where we have an infrastructure where we should be able to provide clean, safe and affordable water, that we have not done the proper investment at the federal, local and state level to maintain that infrastructure.
Walt Sorg 54:19
Yeah, most of the infrastructure even here in the advanced country of the United States is 40 5060 years old. And that’s actually passed the useful life cycle of a lot of it, the sewers and the water pipes especially.
Monica Lewis-Patrick 54:32
Well, we’re finding to and communities like Detroit and Flint, places like Toledo, where you’re just now seeing over the past couple of months, their water rates have doubled. In Chicago, you’re seeing water rates triple. And that’s not even dealing with the fact that in Michigan, we’ve got an unfunded mandate to get lead pipes out of the ground. And we know for communities like Detroit and Flint, but also for those smaller communities like Oscoda that’s experiencing PFAS contamination. For some of those smaller rural communities where they’re dealing with nutrient runoff, that we’ve got to reinvest or reinvigorate our communities to make this investment in order to ensure that we’re providing clean, safe and affordable access to water for the American public.
Walt Sorg 55:17
When you have a conference like this is the first step really, that ultimately hopefully leads to an action plan, just gathering information, combining resources, combining it connect your knowledge of the issue, where do you take it from here?
Monica Lewis-Patrick 55:30
Well, there’s a 30-60-90 day plan that was put on the table. And each person was committed to one of the five buckets and those buckets were raised, based on what community said and those experts at the table raises the most important water concerns in Michigan and also from the other surrounding Great Lakes. And then also what was a concern on a national scale. And so what we heard was that there’s a major concern around investing in not only in our infrastructure, in its totality, but really drilling down into those most impacted communities that are dealing with wells and subtank replacement, those smaller communities that may not have the bonding capacity to commit to that, but they definitely need the infusion.
Also looking at those communities where we are having issues around lead pipe replacement. It’s not only important that we’re investing in replacing the pipes that are in the ground, but we’ve got to figure out a way to be able to infuse support to those struggling families that need to restore the pipe in the infrastructure within their homes, because there’s just not enough to fix the pipes in the ground. We’ve got to do a thorough, complete restoration program.
And then for those in the city of Detroit, we know that about 10% of our overall budget is going to subsidize an 83-17 split around CO2 feeds. And so if there’s a way to create a more equitable and just way in terms of balancing the cost, the legacy cost of these huge infrastructures that now what we find are landing on the backs of a fraction of the tax base that we once had, those are not sustainable systems. And they’re going to drive the cost of water costs for the entire region to a greater scale. And so we’ve got to figure out a way to stop the bleeding and especially knowing that by the year 2022, according to research from Dr. Elizabeth Mack, at Michigan State University, we’re looking at about 35.6% of the American public struggling to maintain access to water and sanitation.
Walt Sorg 57:34
With climate change. We’ve got areas of the world and even areas of our country where drought is endemic. Now, you’ve got California which is drying up, there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on our water, not just from our region, but from the whole country. They’re going to look at those huge overflowing Great Lakes and say, Hey, we want some of that for us. Where ultimately, is this going to be handled at the federal level? Is this something we can handle with the state or local level?
Monica Lewis-Patrick 57:57
I think there’s got to be a coordination of efforts because What we just saw happened this past week, with the rolling back of the certain protections within the Clean Water Act is that there seems to not be the desire by the federal government, at least not by this administration, to ensure that we are providing and protecting our wetlands and our waterways and all of the tributaries that feed into our drinking water system. And so I would caution us to be very much on alert, that we’ve got a mobilized at every level of government to make sure that this doesn’t get caught up in bureaucracy, that this is treated with the level of the emergency that it deserves.
Walt, I’ll tell you my mother is a retired Master Sergeant, she served combat veteran served for 24 years in the US Army. She retired as a nurse from the Veterans Administration, and she still at 75 years old can be called up by her government to set up a military hospital in a war zone. That’s her her expertise and she told me in 2014 she said shutting off water is an act of war. And she began to explain that we cannot deny our enemy access to water in a time of war. But then to be able to rationalize and justify shutting off our neighbors and our friends and our colleagues and our fellow residents, then that has to be something that we’re prepared to reassess. And so I call it something that really goes to the heart of national security. It doesn’t have it doesn’t matter what our international threats are. If we cannot ensure that every American resident is able to access clean, safe and affordable water, then we are already past that point of no return. And so I’m just cautioning folks, that some of what we seen play out in California and the Great Lakes, a lot of these things are deeply steeped in not only what is happening with climate impacts, but it’s also deeply steeped in privatization and the extraction of water and quality waterful mouth buffers, so as more and more water Is privatized, then what we’re seeing is the cost are driven up. We’re also seeing the quality of that water diminished. And so it’s not just one thing is the connectivity of all of these things.
Walt Sorg 1:00:11
If somebody wants to get more involved in this issue, get more information, or become an activist, where should they start?
Monica Lewis-Patrick 1:00:17
Start with their own tap. It’s almost just like when you get on an airplane, they tell you, you put your mask on first before you assist someone with their mask. So we always encourage people to get their own water tested, see what’s coming out of your own tap. That’s a good place to start. And then if you want to find out more about what we do here at We the People of Detroit, we definitely welcome you to follow us on show social media. At @ WeThePeopleDet. And then also email@example.com is a way to email us and wethepeopleofdetroit.com is our website, but you have an awesome I mean just an amazing list of activists and groups around the state, the region and the country. Healing our waters is a great place. To start freshwater futures, Flint rising, the people’s Water Board, Michigan water unity table, Michigan water table, American rivers. I mean, the list is just unlimited in terms of people that have decided that in this right now moment, we’ve got to deputize ourselves, just like I know you’ve done Walt, and make sure that everybody has a pathway to clean, safe and affordable water.
Walt Sorg 1:01:23
And I might add to that to another place to go is your County Drain Commissioner? Nobody knows. Nobody knows what a drink Commissioner does. But basically they do water.
Monica Lewis-Patrick 1:01:32
Yes, sir. You’re like the firemen and the policemen. We want a good one when we need it. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Walt Sorg 1:01:39
Monica Lewis-Patrick, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.
Monica Lewis-Patrick 1:01:42
Thank you so much, sir, for having me. I appreciate you Walt.
Amy Kerr Hardin 1:01:45
That’s going to do it for this week’s podcast. We’d love to hear from you. We’re on Facebook, Twitter and you can email us at MiPolicast@gmail.com
Christine Barry. 1:01:54
We have got a plethora of links videos tweets. Sadly, no excerpts of john Bolton’s book yet on our website, Michigan podcast com.
Walt Sorg 1:02:04
Hey, how about getting on my space? We need to do that as well.
Christine Barry 1:02:07
I think Amy is still on myspace.
Walt Sorg 1:02:11
Could be could be.
Amy Kerr-Hardin 1:02:12
Oh, you guys will leave you with an exhortation from Governor Whitmer understood that the state address time and delay is our enemy.
Gretchen Whitmer 1:02:20
IMpatience is a virtue. Sure, it’s good to be patient when you’re waiting in the line at the grocery store, or when you’re on the phone with customer service, or when you’re Lions fan. But not now, not when people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake. Not here in a state that faces challenges from pocketbooks to potholes, where our road conditions proved that waiting to act only makes things worse. In 2020 in Michigan, we can afford to be a little impatient. We need to be a little impatient.