Lucido, Lansing lobbyists, primaries, bonds, w/Tim O’Brien, Sam Inglot, Shimekia Nichols

January 27, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, January 27, 2019

  In this episode:

  • More trouble for Senator Peter Lucido
  • Responding to criticism on Christine's misogyny comments
  • Reining in the Lansing lobbyists, with guest Sam Inglot of Progress Michigan
  • Michigan primary polling and Bloomberg in Michigan, with guest Tim O'Brien, Senior Advisor to Bloomberg campaign
  • Gov Whitmer to deliver Democratic response to State of the Union
  • Quick takes
  • Work in Progress: Energy democracy with Shimekia Nichols, Deputy Director of Soulardarity
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Opening audio: Adam Schiff

More trouble for Senator Peter Lucido

Responding to criticism on Christine's misogyny comments

Reining in the Lansing lobbyists, with guest Sam Inglot of Progress Michigan

Michigan primary polling and Bloomberg in Michigan, with guest Tim O'Brien, Senior Advisor to Bloomberg campaign


Gov Whitmer to deliver Democratic response to State of the Union

'Whether it's pledging to 'Fix the Damn Roads' or investing in climate solutions, @GovWhitmer's vision for the future is exactly what this country needs, @SenSchumer #SOTU Click To Tweet

Quick takes

Work in Progress: Energy democracy with Shimekia Nichols, Deputy Director of Soulardarity

'Energy democracy' speaks to a soulful concept — that a utility is not just a company selling products; it’s a tool of society that should serve society, said Shimekia Nichols, deputy director of Soulardarity. @freep #SolarClick To Tweet



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.


Adam Schiff  0:13

And you know, you can't trust this president, do what's right for this country. You can trust he will do what's right for Donald Trump. He'll do it now. He's done it before. He'll do it for the next several months. He'll do it in the election he's allowed to. This is why if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Right matters and the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.


Walt Sorg  0:43

It's been a week with two democrats getting a national stage the prosecutor who ensnared Donald Trump in a web forum, which only Mitch McConnell’s hyper partisanship can rescue him and Michigan's governor tapped to respond to Trump's post impeachment State of the Union address. This is the milk water and fidgetspinner edition of the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan policy and politics and the National stories impacting our pleasant peninsula.  I'm Walt sword.


Christine Barry  1:08

I'm Christine Barry. We've got a couple of stories about ethics and integrity and state government with more charges of sexual misconduct lodged against ham fisted Lothario senator Peter Lucido. And there is a petition drive to reform lobbying and the Capitol will talk with Sam Inglot of Progress Michigan about their citizen led constitutional amendment drive.


Amy Kerr Hardin  1:29

Amy K. harden will meet an urban David taking on Goliath a small community group challenging Detroit Edison's future plans and getting results Shimekia Nichols from Soulardarity will join the pod.


Walt Sorg  1:42

Early voting is started for Michigan's presidential primary. one candidate we know will still be in the hunt when Michigan's votes are counted. His former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg running on the slogan Mike will get it done. I'll talk with senior advisor Tim O'Brien of the Bloomberg campaign and what Mike's gonna get done for Michigan. And then our quick takes this week Tesla, fixing the damn roads with borrowed money, taxpayer handouts for GM and the latest political polling in Michigan. Let us start though with our good buddy senator Peter Lucido. When last we chatted, he was facing an investigation for piggish statements made regarding a 22 year old Capitol reporter. He implied she might want to get it on with an entire classroom of high school boys or vice versa. Amy now the republican bed was facing more formal complaints, one from one of his colleagues and one from an outside source. What's going on with our boy Peter?


Amy Kerr Hardin  2:34

Yes, I'm state senator Mallory McMorrow out of the Detroit area made a sexual harassment complaint against GOP senator and Majority Whip Peter Lucido. Oh close on the heels of a claim from a 22 year old journalist reporting on his inappropriate remarks to her made in front of a class of high school age boys. McMorrow says that Lucido made a lewd suggestion while touching her and appropriately little bit too low. On the back side, and Lucy doe categorically denies the accusation. But today, Chad Livengood of Crains Detroit broke a story that there is a third woman with a story identical to Senator McMorrow's. This kind of offensive behavior is rarely a one off. It's almost always a pattern. And we're seeing a pattern here.


Christine Barry  3:19

And you know, the reason you get those patterns and a lot of times the reason that people speak up is because they're angry that instead of owning it, you've denied it. And she's Osborne is quoted as saying he's blatantly denying something that's identical to what happened to me. That happens to a lot of women, you know, they're willing, for whatever reason to move beyond what has happened. But when you start to deny it, and that makes them angry, and then they join the sisterhood, they come out and tell their stories.


Walt Sorg  3:50

This is by no means a defense of Lucido, his behavior is apparently reprehensible. But this is predates him for an awful long time. It's been going on forever. It's sort of like those say, well, they had the casting couch in Hollywood for all those years and nobody complained. So Harvey Weinstein shouldn't be convicted. It's the same sort of thing, not as serious, certainly as Weinstein, at least as far as we know, but it is something that, you know, catch up with the times, man, this this is very yesterday behavior. It's just not tolerated anymore.


Amy Kerr Hardin  4:18

Exactly. I'm, I'm 61 years old. And I know that when I was younger, in my 20s, and 30s, and in the workforce, we could not speak up, we would get in trouble with personnel department for speaking up and calling out someone for inappropriate behavior.


Walt Sorg  4:31

I was a big fan of watching Mad Men when that was on AMC. And that was the behavior in the 60s they've got had whole episodes built around that theme, you know, basically, women were there to please the men


Amy Kerr Hardin  4:42

We're just ornaments apparently,


Walt Sorg  4:44

on last week's pod one of our comments about the Lucido situation rubbed the listener the wrong way. In our discussion of the Lucido situation. There were comments of misogyny and some other public figures. Among those other public figures was former state senator and current political podcast Bill Ballenger. He's someone I've known and worked with sporadically for almost 50 years now. Mr. Ballenger was very upset with what we had to say he responded in an email and here's what he said. “There is not one iota of evidence in my life personal or professional that I've indulged in misogyny of any sort mainly because I'm incapable of it. Most people would describe me as uxorious rather than as someone who thinks or speaks of women disparagingly, or in a negative way. For the record, I was the prime sponsor of the Michigan legislature of the Equal Rights Amendment when Michigan was one of the first states to ratify it. My staff in the Senate was one of only two that was all female. My chief deputy, whom I appointed at the old Department of Licensing and Regulation under Milliken was a well known democratic woman and all three of my deputies were women, the only state department so structured, I recruited a record number of women for governor Milliken to appoint dozens to state boards and commissions putting an all time high number and percentage of females in those positions. My papers documented all of us are in the archives with the state of Michigan. You can check it out.” And I would just add one thing I had to look up the word uxorious. it I don't even know if I'm pronouncing it correctly. It means having or showing an excessive or submissive fondness for one's wife.


Christine Barry  6:09

Yeah. Well, I'd like to respond to that, because I'm the one who made the comment. When I was talking about the subtle misogyny that you see in reporting, Bill Ballenger was one of the people I mentioned. And to be fair, I did not give any examples. This was my opinion based on having followed his work over so many years because his writing his punditry, his commentary, that kind of thing? A couple of things. First of all, I'm glad that he wrote in, that's what we want people to do is respond if they find something that they want to challenge us on, or add to whatever. And I recognize that he did all of those things. And all of those things that he mentioned are very much appreciated. But the reason that I still say that there is some subtle misogyny at work here is that when you use a word like petulant to describe a governor, a woman governor, and you have never used that word on a man. That's misogyny. And I went back and I looked guys, I looked for comments on Virg Bernero on Andy Dillon, both men in leadership positions that could be accused of doing dumb, childish, stupid things.


Walt Sorg  7:15

Now we're going to get mail from them.


Christine Barry  7:19 people, and never did you see commentary like that, in fact, the only criticism that I really saw Virg Bernero, who could fairly be called petulant, because he was always shouting at something was that he wanted to build sidewalks in an area that Bill Ballenger didn't think they were necessary and Ballenger said that they would only be used by “power-walking women from Moore's Park.” So this isn't the first time he's been called – or that the word misogyny has been directed at him because it was directed at him back then too.  When your complaint about something Virg Bernero wants to do involves a particular kind of woman and this is why subtle sexism is so difficult to deal with, because it doesn't mean that you hate women, it doesn't mean that you're anti woman, it just means that there's a difference there that's negative. It's harder to document. It's harder to call out because people say it's being taken out of context. And I will reference the study that I cited last week, there will be more studies that I can link to in the show notes. But it's a damaging thing. And so, yes, I say that it is there. I recognize that he probably doesn't hate women. That's not at all what I meant. And I didn't mean to undermine any of the work that he did. But it is there. And I will just keep pointing to the word petulant and pointing to phrases like “power-walking women” as my evidence for that.


Walt Sorg  8:44

Having said all of that, I would recommend people start listening to this podcast is pretty darn good. You can find them on iTunes.


Christine Barry  8:55

Alright, a different kind of ethics and behavior issue at the Capitol is the relationship between lobbyists and public officials, Michigan has the worst record for public accountability of any state in the nation. It's a huge scandal waiting to happen. Part of the response is a citizen petition drive to throw some sunshine on lobbying of public officials. Progress, Michigan, which is a presenting sponsor of the podcast, is leading an effort to amend the state constitution to create some safeguards. Now, there are a handful of things in this amendment that they're proposing. The one that has come under the most criticism so far is that it bans gift giving, you know, and that includes meals or gifts of any value by lobbyists to lawmakers. But it also includes, you know, adding a cooling off periods so you can't go right from being a lawmaker to being a lobbyist. It would require that lobbyists and public officials make public record of all of their communications, the definition of lobbyists would be expanded. So there's really a number of things that are included. In this, but Rich Studley at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has already come out and said, This is too broad. It would prohibit a cup of coffee and no one abandons or principles for a cup of coffee. And it should apply to Union lobbyists as well as corporate lobbyists. I mean, it's not really substantive criticism of the proposal here because the proposal applies to everyone. And it's not banning just cups of coffee, I think it was. Michigan campaign finance network reported $540,000 of lobbyists expenses in the first seven months of 2019, and food and beverage. So we'll have more information about the proposal and I will also include some tweets that happened yesterday between Rich Studley and Lonnie Scott, which was really interesting, and we will have more links in the show notes.


Walt Sorg  10:53

And we are joined by Sam Inglot, the deputy director of Progress Michigan, Sam there a lot of political reform issues out there that you could have taken on. Why was lobbying reform at the top of the list? Why is that what you're going after?


Sam Inglot  11:06

it's twofold. One. You know, I think it's a pretty common sentiment that people don't have a lot of faith in our public institutions anymore. They think elected officials are corrupt. They think lobbyists are running the show. And we think that this type of lobbying reform to hold lawmakers accountable, bring more transparency to the lobbying process, and opening the window to some of those backroom conversations can go a long way in helping people have faith in these public institutions that are so important to everybody's daily lives. Secondly, lobbying reform is necessary because frankly, lobbyists run the show in Lansing when you combine term limits. So we have this constant revolving door of lawmakers and you combine the millions of dollars that are being spent on a regular basis by lobbyists to influence our lawmakers. We thought it was necessary to kind of rein in some of that culture and restore people's faith in government. restore some transparency to Michigan. You know, it's like our worst kept secret that we have the worst ethics and transparency rankings in the entire country, all in an effort to make a government that is more accountable to the people. And decisions are being made that are reflective of the will of the people rather than the wings of lobbyists.


Walt Sorg  12:26

One of the key reforms within your proposal is ending the revolving door between lobbying and legislating something with term limits is a real problem, because you've got people that come to Lansing, and they're almost immediately auditioning for a job as a lobbyist.


Sam Inglot  12:40

There are four real kind of main points to our proposal and there are kind of finer details under each one but I'll hit on those because I think they all build on each other nicely and are really have kind of equal weight. So hitting on that first one ending the revolving door. We are proposing a two year cooling off period from the time When public officials leave office and when they can become lobbyists, like you said, Well, I mean, I think that there are quite a few elected officials who are auditioning for new jobs as lobbyists in the waning days of their terms. A great example of that would be Brian Calley with what we saw with the ballot initiatives around earn paid sick time and minimum wage. The Snyder administration did exactly what the business lobby including the Small Business Association wanted them to do by going forward with this adopt and amend gutting type strategy. And then Brian Calley wound up working for  SBAM as the president literally days after the new year. So that's one two year cooling off period, ending the revolving door. The second thing is requiring more transparency and public disclosure in public communications that's aimed at influencing elected officials. So that's, you know, radio ads, billboards, TV commercials, ads on Facebook that say call your senator Your state representative tell them to vote no on this, tell them to do XY and Z. And this is something that even would affect Progress Michigan. But we think that there should be a public disclaimer on all those types of materials and reports made to the Secretary of State as well so that people can know who it is that's trying to push them to contact their lawmaker. The third thing is something that's enacted in a few states already, but that's a total gift ban between lobbyists to clients, lawmakers and their families. Right now. We have situations where lobbyists are spending thousands of dollars on individual lawmakers over the course of the year wining and dining them, to influence them on public policy. Frankly, it's legal bribery. And you know, it's not just limited to food and drinks. There are concert tickets, there are trips, junkets, things like that. And we just think it's better to end that type of practice. So again, lawmakers are doing what's best for their constituents, not basing their decisions off of who got the best perks from which lobbyists. And the last piece of this, the fourth one is really kind of an original concept that I think will actually help improve some of the abysmal transparency rankings we have here in the state. Obviously, we need to get FOIA reform done. But we think that this could be a good complement to that effort as well. And that's a lobbying log. So right now, lobbyists are required to file I believe, two times a year and it's there's not much information there. What we're proposing is a system where both lobbyists as well as lawmakers will have to report their interactions with each other when they met, which client the lobbyist is working on behalf of the general broad area of topic discussion. And what having lobbyists and lawmakers will allow us to do is to have two records to compare and contrast. That way we can spot check these things and look for holes in any of the reporting. So those are kind of the main four pieces of this and we think that they would go a long way in improving the transparency and accountability in Lansing and across the State.


Walt Sorg  16:00

Okay, let's just talk the logistics of this just a little bit, you and I have both been involved in statewide ballot campaigns before had to collect a lot of signatures. Right now you've got because of the various parts of state law, you have to collect about 500 or 550,000 signatures, and you've got about four months to do it. That either takes one, a lot of volunteers in the thousands or to a lot of money in the millions, how are you going to do it?


Sam Inglot  16:25

We think we can do it with both ways. I mean, we're not leaving anything off the table, paying a signature firm is definitely an option. We knew that this was going to be a popular proposal, but the amount of phone calls and emails and you know, even the comments sections, which are notably a toxic place on the internet had been overwhelmingly positive. So we think that there could be a very strong volunteer effort associated with this campaign. But we've also been talking to some of our partners in the progressive space as far as organizations go, we're getting a lot of support there as well. This will obviously be you know, we're thinking this could be a Over a million dollar campaign we know groups like the Chamber of Commerce will probably fight us tooth and nail. But we're working on building the infrastructure around this campaign. And we think despite the tall hill that we have to climb, we're convinced that we're going to have enough friends and support within the coalition to get that done.


Walt Sorg  17:18

If people want to help out, how did they get in touch with you


Sam Inglot  17:20

so they can go to, and they can join our email list. We're still working out some of the behind the scenes infrastructure to start building a volunteer base within the coalition. But that's something that we're working hard to do right now. And like I said, I've already got a handful folks that I got to put in there who called our office today out of the blue Close Lansing loopholes calm and you can sign up there.


Walt Sorg  17:46

When the citizens group takes on the lobbying Corps in Lansing. It is definitely David versus Goliath. Sam The Best of luck to you. Thank you so much. They've got to collect more than 4000 signatures a day once they hit the streets and the petition hasn't even been Formally approved it, but the State Board of canvassers and they're going to be doing a lot of it in the dead of winter, it's going to be a very, very big challenge, because they have to come up with really about 550,000 signatures to make sure they've got the 425,000 signatures that are valid.


Christine Barry  18:13

Well, and all of these things that they want to do could be done legislatively. But they won't be.


Walt Sorg  18:19

Don't hold your breath for that.


Amy Kerr Hardin  18:26

Early voting starts this week in Michigan's presidential primaries, absentee ballots start showing up in mailboxes. New polling from Baldwin Wallace college shows that Michigan's delegates are very much up for grabs, and also shows a lot of very bad news for Donald Trump. The poll focused on Midwestern states including Michigan which swung for Trump in 2016, but it doesn't bode well for him this time, only 27% of Michigan women would consider voting for him. And 53% of the respondents said they will vote for whoever is the Democratic nominee which may include that viral meme of his opponent being a broken Roomba going around in circles. Also, I found this very interesting that 10% of Trump voters will dump him depending on who the Democratic nominee is. So that's I don't know, whether they're talking about Bernie or or whatever. So that just remains to be seen,


Walt Sorg  19:21

I'd like really like to go through this whole poll, because some of the things I found are absolutely fascinating. We hear that the Midwest is really up for grabs and was closed last time. It'll be close to this time. But these numbers from a very large sample that wasn't online polls, we have to be a little careful. There was only people that had internet access that participated, but they swear on this stack of academic Bibles that the sample is good. For example, in Michigan, it shows that 46.8% said they would vote for the Democratic Party candidate 33.9% overall for Trump and you've got a large never Trump component as well. The never Trump component in Michigan. I'm almost certain to vote against Donald Trump don't matter Who the Democratic nominee is for President 49.1% in Michigan? That is a huge hurdle for him. Very, very big number. When you get into issues and motivation, again, it's all numbers that favorite the Democrats. The number one issue in Michigan, according to the poll, really there's three issues that matter. The number one in the polling by slim margin was economic issues, which they always are. That works to the President's advantage to a point. But even in Michigan, you've got the situation where a lot of people are underemployed or working two jobs. Number two is health care. And this is amongst all people, all voters who was 26%. So that was the number one issue for them. And number three was security issues terrorism, foreign policy and border security. And right now, I don't know if that works for against Trump, but certainly the healthcare works for the Democrats. Economics, who knows it's really hard to read depends on where you are at in the spectrum economically. The other thing that was really interesting as of this point, the favorite in Michigan and this surprises me in the in the Primary where we are now voting is Joe Biden with 27%. Then you had Bernie Sanders at 21.6. And Elizabeth Warren 13.6. On sure it's 10.6. The reason this is significant now you see a Sanders surge nationally. He's got a great organization in Michigan, but because of early voting, people are voting. Now this is about a primary where the votes won't be counted for another month, actually about another five weeks. But a lot of people are voting right now. I know I'm not going to and my ballot shows up in the mail. I've waited until the last second, but the fact that Joe Biden starts out in front is a big advantage for because of early voting.


Amy Kerr Hardin  21:36

And Bloomberg, not in those numbers,


Walt Sorg  21:38

Bloomberg in the numbers, but he is deep down. He's at 9%.


Christine Barry  21:42

I think Bloomberg does better though. In those general election polls.


Walt Sorg  21:46

You're right. Christine Bloomberg had the largest margin barely for a head to head with Trump. But the thing you can't take into account because it hasn't happened yet. Is what happens in those first four contests where Bernie Sanders right now apparently is leading in bold Iowa, New Hampshire if you believe the polling, Joe Biden is leading in South Carolina, who knows what's going on in Nevada, and then you've got super tuesday, a week before our primary, all of those will certainly have a I think big influence on what happens in Michigan. But for now, it's it's a Biden looking state.


Christine Barry  22:15

Everything is really confusing when you put these polls together, like I'm looking at this one poll from Des Moines Register cnn survey two weeks ago, 55% of the democrats want someone who is more moderate than most Democrats. Seriously. Then why is Sanders surging? It's it's bizarre, you know, and now, like I said, you have different poles at work here, but it's just hard to if so many different choices. You can have like a radical, someone who is going to radically change things or you could have a you know, a Joe Biden, who's just kind of going to


Walt Sorg  22:52

return to normalcy. Yeah, that's his campaign or you can have the combination. I think you'll when we talk with Mike Bloomberg people in just a few helmets. I think you'll hear that Bloomberg believes he's kind of the combination of somebody who's going to shake up things a little bit, but at the same time, he has a record of getting things done. The other number in this poll, I think, is really significant as United States Senate right now. Gary Peters, 41.9, john James 32.2, but a huge 25% undecided. That is a challenge for Gary Peters.


Amy Kerr Hardin  23:22

That definitely is one of the things that I saw. It was a separate poll from this one, that Biden supporters are more likely to go with a second or third choice. Whereas like Andrew Yang, that with it, what's really surprised me was that his supporters are Yang or no one pretty much whereas Biden, it's flexible, so that's a good thing for Michigan that if they don't get their first choice, they'll go with the second choice.


Christine Barry  23:47

If you watch TV, even occasionally, you have seen ads for one of the candidates. Michael Bloomberg has already dropped nearly $7 million in Michigan TV ads and his ads take direct aim at Donald Trump.


Michael Bloomberg  24:00

I am running to defeat Donald Trump.  In 2016, I warned that Donald Trump was a dangerous demagogue when the republican congress wouldn't hold him accountable. I went to work helping run winning campaigns and 21 house seats. It's time for the Senate to act and remove Trump from office. And if they won't do their jobs this November, you and I will.  I'm Mike Bloomberg, and I approve this message.


Walt Sorg  24:30

It always helps to have $55 billion. If you want to be President of the United States. I was looking at the numbers from acronyms, some folks that track spending on social media. And in the last week that they reported Mike Bloomberg spent in one week on Facebook and Google $7.7 million. Tom styer, the other billionaire 1.6 million, Trump spent 800,000 and Bernie Sanders was the leading democrat at $591,000. In other words, about 8% of what Mike Bloomberg said and that Is it showing up in the numbers is he's just inundating the world it's full employment for TV stations and political consultants. And one of those people who's a political consultant with the campaign, a senior advisor, Tim O'Brien, in New York, and he joins us on how Mike Bloomberg clients to close the gap and Michigan.


Tim O'Brien, as you know, the key to winning the presidency is goes right through the Midwest goes right through Michigan, Donald Trump carried the state by 10,000 plus votes in the 2016 election. What changes? How does Mike Bloomberg win Pennsylvania win Michigan win Wisconsin so you can win the White House?


Tim O'Brien  25:37

Well, I think there's an awful lot of voters in all three of those states, but specifically in Michigan who feel at sea right now they they want to get rid of Donald Trump, but they don't feel like they've got a candidate in the democratic party that they can fully get behind. And I think for pragmatic progressive, who wants someone who's already governed to complexity, who's had a lot of accomplishments as a philanthropist and a business person, and who cares for progressive issues and is actually delivered solutions on a wide variety of fronts, whether it's job creation, health care, infrastructure or education, they have that person in Mike Bloomberg and they have a person who can actually beat Trump in the general election. And for people who don't want to wake up next November with Donald Trump stolen the White House, Mike Bloomberg is there man. And we've got a very robust ground operation in Michigan and in across the whole country already, frankly, to help make voters aware of Mike Bloomberg full story. His history as a self made man. As somebody who got through high school and college bootstrapping himself relied on loans to get through college while he was working as a parking lot attendant and then went on to very successful careers obviously, as a businessman, philanthropist and Mayor, that he's someone they can safely and reliably back in this year in the most crucial election in our lives to beat Donald Trump


Walt Sorg  26:58

in the campaign. You've probably The most aggressive of any of the candidates in taking on Trump directly on a variety of issues. tactically, why did you decide to focus specifically on the president? And that really kind of ignored the the opposition in the primaries?


Tim O'Brien  27:13

Well, because I think first and foremost, Mike Bloomberg sees this election is a referendum on the competence and the character of Donald Trump. We want to ask voters in Michigan, if they feel better off now than they felt three years ago, then if they don't, why we have a good idea why they may not feel that way, and what kind of problems they want solved. We want to focus on meeting the needs of voters addressing the problems that they're concerned about and taking the battle directly to Donald Trump, because we can both at the primary level and at the general election level simultaneously.  I think Mike admires all of the other Democrats who are contending right now. He just isn't confident that they have the wherewithal and artillery and backgrounds needed to take Trump and beat him. So he doesn't feel he wants to do anything to divide the party, he really would really like to unite people. And he's a person, I think, who's a good bridge between both the progressive and moderate wings of the party. I think if democrats are going to win, they can't focus on beating up each other. They gotta focus on Trump. And that's what Mike decided to do right out of the gates.


Walt Sorg  28:21

You mentioned in your first comments, infrastructure, among other things. Michigan has become sort of the poster child for bad infrastructure thanks to the water crisis in Flint, but also our governor campaigned on fixing the damn roads, which are the worst in the nation. And he's got nowhere with her Republican legislature so far. We've got PFAS contamination. Why should Michigan voters believe that Mike Bloomberg is the person is going to respond to infrastructure? we've just gone through three years with a president who keeps promising a trillion dollar or $2 trillion infrastructure program. And so far, he's come up about a trillion or $2 trillion short


Tim O'Brien  28:57

that's yet another broken Trump promise. You know, I don't know You saw this week, but Mike rolled out a new infrastructure plan. That is a trillion dollar plan that includes rapid transit, through vilification of roads, and bridges and tunnels, and build on his experience of having already delivered around things like this as the mayor of New York. And the infrastructure problem. By the way, it is obviously bleak in Michigan, but I've been in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and North Carolina. As part of this, the most recent trips, I'm about to go to Texas and Florida. And in all of those states, well, infrastructure is a mess. And one common thread uniting those problems in every state or Republican legislators who have decided to make the delivery of what we want to consider to be commonly value public goods, whether its infrastructure, health care, quality education, to be the sort of ideological ping pong balls, that they can have fun tossing back and forth, while clearing the democrats out of any say in action. delivering these services and underserving voters. So there's a real problem at the legislative level with, I think, a Republican chokehold on the legislative process. And one of the things that Mike has been doing as a candidate is supporting get out the vote campaigns in every state, and also down ballot races in every state as part of this presidential bid. All of that is part and parcel of of his desire to build a machine that will benefit the party to build a machine that will be able to put at the foot of whoever the Democratic nominee is. So we can beat Donald Trump. And we can also read to the side the party. So we can also have a meaningful role in states that need to make sure that the legislators there still don't deprive voters of things they really need, like infrastructure. The only way to do this is to get back to just good old brass tacks. Democratic policies, like having a thoughtful but robust federal government that knows how to reasonably Use the regulatory and financial heft of the federal government in partnerships with the best members of the private sector to deliver these things to to to voters and residents, because it's things they need. They're they're not. They're not placed up playthings.


Walt Sorg  31:15

another issue on jobs. It's been fortunately outlined, I think more so by Andrew Yang than anybody else in the campaign. But people just talked about it a lot as well for the Midwest, isn't increasingly manufacturing is becoming much more capital intensive, and much less labor intensive, which means fewer jobs producing with the same output. How How does the Bloomberg administration address this transition in our economy?


Tim O'Brien  31:39

Well, that's a great question because like your infrastructure question, you noted that the President Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure plan. He also promised when he ran back in 2016, that he was going to bring manufacturing jobs back to states like Michigan He was going to also bring back farming jobs and and lead this broader rebound in in what were once great middle class jobs. And of course that hasn't happened. And instead, he's appealed to people's racism by blaming it on immigration and Mexican brown Mexican immigrants coming over the southern border, or the yellow peril coming out of China when the real reason a lot of this has happened is that we have innovation and an economy in motion that has left some folks by the wayside. And a responsible society focuses on meeting those actual realities, through things like job training, social safety nets, and other tools we can use to help people transition to new, well paying jobs and and be realistic about the jobs. We're not going to get back. Donald Trump has not been realistic about that he's lied to his constituents, and he's essentially run one of the most successful cons in modern times by promising his voter that he cares about their problems in the workplace, but he really doesn't. That's been every I think throughout his entire presidency,


Walt Sorg  33:02

one thing I find really intriguing I hear you hear a lot of grumbling, of course about billionaires trying to buy the presidency and all that. But one thing that I find really different between Bloomberg and President Trump, it seems President Trump is using the White House to line his own pockets. And my quite honestly, he's got so much money that he probably does better than the United States Anyway, there's really no point in him trying to light his pocket through the garbage because he's already ranked the ninth richest man in the world. How much more is there?


Tim O'Brien  33:29

Yeah, I mean, you know, in so many ways, you know, Mike Bloomberg is everything Donald Trump claims to be but isn't Mike isn't authentically successful businessman. He is an authentically successful multi billionaire. He's a philanthropist who actually has donated billions to society and hasn't looted his own charity like Trump has. He's been a successful public servant and his interest in public servant service. Trump's just use the oval office as a personal Walmart. You know, Mike sees this election as the culmination of his life's work. I think you can buy exposure with the kind of wealth Mike has, but you can't buy an election. If you could simply by an election Tom Steyer wouldn't be pulling in the single digits. As you know, Mike Bloomberg is already pulling extremely well in Michigan. And that's because voters know what his real story is. He's not just a rich guy on a vanity run. He's someone who cares about solving people's problems and getting it done. And a lot of the issues that he cares about doubling the minimum wage, improving education, addressing immigration flaws, better K through 12 education, more affordable Community College, accessible, high quality healthcare aren't typical rich guy issues. These are bread and butter issues for working class people and middle class people and he cares deeply about those Trump has never cared about those things at all. The other thing is Mike Bloomberg has actually created jobs. You know, he's created 10s of thousands of jobs at Bloomberg LP, he's created over 500,000 jobs as the mayor of New York, and he did that A mix of innovation. He brought new industries into the city. And he also put a safety net among under other people who are struggling. And I think he wants to nationalize those things as president


Walt Sorg  35:10

Tim O'Brien, thank you so much for taking time to join us.


Tim O'Brien  35:12

Thank you. Well, this real pleasure.


Walt Sorg  35:14

One thing that's intriguing about this campaign so far in Michigan, only two candidates have state offices. Elizabeth Warren opened one up a long time ago and Bloomberg opened one up and of course, Bloomberg spending all the money in Michigan right now. Everybody else is just kind of treading water. The Sanders people, the grassroots campaign for Sanders is probably the best organized but when it comes to formal structure, Mike Bloomberg is way ahead of the rest of them. I think you're going to see the numbers really shift a whole lot between now and the middle of


Christine Barry  35:42

the really interesting thing for me about that interview and he was when Tim was talking about pragmatic progressives who wants someone who has delivered and they kind of referred to Bloomberg as the safest man to vote for and away. I really thought that that was like a spot on message for them. You know? He talked about Mike not wanting to be a divider and the Democratic primary and so on. But Mike Bloomberg could win a general I think, but he would never win a Democratic primary. That just wouldn't work for him. So it makes sense that he jumps right into the general. Now, what he brings to the general, I'm just not sure, I think I might have said this last week. But if you're a voter who wants that pragmatic person and you, you know, you want somebody who who has what you think is business acumen, who can be a really practical governing type person, he's attractive in that way.


Walt Sorg  36:37

He's also doesn't have to worry about going dollar for dollar with Donald Trump. And I personally think he's the one who scares Trump the most, because he's Donald Trump strong points in his mind, at least are his business background and his his ability to raise money. Bloomberg can double up on him on both of those things. Bloomberg is a much more successful businessman and Bloomberg richer than God.


Christine Barry  37:00

I think he peels away that middle, that group, would you say the 10% in the middle, who maybe went with Trump because they wanted an outsider. They wanted a strong man to go in. Who would do some things that weren't typical politics. Those people who are now feeling let down or feeling like they could do better. Bloomberg would be attractive to them. I they've never so far I don't think anyone has seen him, stammer or make the gaffes that Joe Biden has made over his his career. So you know, that guy's just a gaffe machine anyway.


Walt Sorg  37:34

But he's and he's overcoming it. It's sort of like Reagan with the Teflon, Reagan shovel, all sorts of crazy things that it didn't really matter.


Christine Barry  37:46

Governor Whitmer has long been whispered as a potential national political star ever since her election in 2018. That chatter was elevated this week by an announcement from speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and She's been tapped to give the democrats nationally televised response to Donald Trump State of the Union oration next month, and I think this is awesome. And I'm going to tell you why Michigan being the battleground state that it is who is better to go up there and make the case for how Donald Trump has harmed Michigan, Donald Trump's going to talk in his State of the Union about what he you know, well about himself and about probably pencil neck, Adam Schiff. And he'll say all kinds of silly, irrelevant things, but he will talk about the economy and he's bringing jobs back and everything. Gretchen Whitmer is a great person to put up there representing Michigan representing the people who have been hurt by him and all of his his buffoonery.


Amy Kerr Hardin  38:45

I can't help but wonder if Stephen Miller whoever's going to be writing Trump's State of the Union speech will preemptively strike at Gretchen Whitmer, you know, take a jab at her and and the Michigan economy or something to that effect. So it makes it look as though she She is responding to that.


Walt Sorg  39:01

One thing that says for sure is that the Democratic Party sees her as a future star because both parties have typically used the State of the Union response as a sounding board for somebody who was an up and coming star in their party, or at least they thought was last year. For example, it was Stacy Abrams from Georgia who no question is one of the national stars. Before that representative Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts. I've heard that name Kennedy before for Massachusetts. I'm not sure where Governor Nikki Haley did it for the republicans. Joni Ernst before that when she was running for the Senate. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers did it for the republicans and 14 She is now one of the top leaders in the House of Representatives for the republicans. Marco Rubio famously with the water bottle, did it in both English and Spanish, which was interesting. Governor Daniels of Indiana, and it goes back Paul Ryan, before he was Speaker of the House, the one that really cracks me up as Governor Bob McDonald, Virginia who ultimately was convicted taking bribes.


Christine Barry  40:01

And some Republicans in Michigan aren't taking this well. And Walt brought us some examples.


Walt Sorg  40:07

Yeah, I follow a Facebook group that is promoting john James for US Senate. And these are some of the comments. They actually posted. The Nancy Pelosi press release right on their site. And these are some of the comments. Pretty amazing one person Ron Kubits writes, her and Soros are probably bedtime partners. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Debra Adams, we need to get rid of all the dead people on Wayne County's voting list. All dead people vote for Democrats. Dennis Nemio wrote fix the roads bitch. Julian McGuire. She's a useless POS piece of shit. Scott Wyler, who said the plan was in California in New York than Michigan. I hear the new democratic plan is to give all illegals driver's licenses so they could participate in voter fraud and keep the workers paying for them. Carry hook writes. It's Witchmer not Whitmer get on your broom and fly back to oz. Carry sooner shorts. Like I do. waste my time listening to this bimbo Michael polinski writes can't trust a thing the so called woman says perfect person to deliver a liberal response. Steve Larson writes her next job will be working straight down the street in front of the Capitol in Lansing in a place called Omar's. Now for those who don't know Lansing Omars is a topless bar and Jeddah cake rights fix the damn roads you lying bitch recall her traitor to our state. No more refugees deport illegals it's not rocket science, exclamation point all caps of course. And Robin Brian Scott writes twitterverse fuse nothing but loose fecal matter every time she speaks. I love a good political discussion.


Christine Barry  41:41

Now these people are just knocking it out of the park. That's That's some high quality stuff right there.


Amy Kerr Hardin  41:48

Wow goodness, social media they hide behind it and and either so low information to begin with. Talk about misogyny.  I mean woman and woman massage and he


Christine Barry  41:59

That's good stuff, you know. And anyway, so So yeah, so let's do some quick takes while Are you ready?


Walt Sorg  42:06

Yeah. A couple of quick tips. First of all, fix the damn roads. Chapter 17. Christine,


Christine Barry  42:10

Governor Whitmer a state of the state is this Wednesday, January 29 7pm, where she is expected to talk about proposing a bond to get some infrastructure underway. And of course, a bond would involve the state taking on some debt. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has already expressed some support it you know that under the right conditions, this would be a good idea. And because it sounds like it might be a good idea, the GOP and the legislature have already expressed their opposition. Senator Roger victory from Hudson bill. He's working on a bill that would require the legislature's agreement for road focused bond sales that exceed $100 million. And this would not get governor Whitmer signature of course, but Roger victory says the bill is to raise awareness and spur conversation because he wants to quote unquote mature conversation on the issue and I'm just going to say hashtag massage it again. Shirkey says this kind of thing is one of the last things he would want to consider. Chatfield says first before he's going to consider anything like this. He wants all of the gas taxes to be put into the roads, which of course with take money from education, if we have a minute, and I know these are quick takes, but if we have a minute, let me compare this to the pension obligation bond, which was proposed by Western West Michigan policy forum at the behest of the GOP leadership last year. It was a $10 billion pension obligation but very risky, riskier than a general obligation bond and Chatfield said I'm glad to have these different options and Shirkey said we're considering every option. It's just opposition to anything Gretchen was going to do. Period.


Walt Sorg  43:51

Okay, next issue. Michigan still owes GM more than $2 billion. Amy How does that happen?


Amy Kerr Hardin  43:58

It called mega tax credits for a reason the acronym stands for Michigan Economic growth authority, but in practical terms, they often spell the fleecing of state taxpayers. In the past, the GM hid behind confidentiality agreements on their tax deals with the state. But this public disclosure of 2.27 billion and tax giveaways is something new. What I find interesting is that good jobs first where they talk about subsidy tracker, GM is usually at the top that those are piecing together, different communities giving tax credits, so apparently it's much much more than this been disclosed in the past. The terms require that retention of about 35,000 employees. GM currently has about 48,000 on the books so they could potentially pink slip 13,000 workers and keep their tax bonus and the new deal that state struck with GM will require the investment of 3.5 billion over the next decade to create new job opportunities. Michigan is known for their mega deals some they came in third in the nation behind California and I can't recall a southern state.


Walt Sorg  45:02

Our final quick take it this is for people who love expensive high tech toys, you will finally be able to buy and service a Tesla in the state of Michigan. Now Michigan's got a very strange law that was passed under the Snyder administration that basically says that you have to buy a car from a certified dealer that is franchised by the manufacturer. This was pushed through by the Michigan auto Dealers Association because they are a very, very powerful lobby group. They have been for decades and they certainly didn't want the competition from Tesla which was selling direct to the consumer. It also says finally that Tesla owners will be able to get their cars fixed in Michigan because until now, Tesla was prohibited from having company owned repair facilities in the state and Tesla owners had to take their cars to Ohio or Chicago to get their cars fixed. Realistically, you couldn't take it to the repair shop down the street because the cars are just so different. I've written in their top of the line Tesla I think it costs about 80 grand. It is The coolest car I've ever been, it was so much fun to drive. Of course, I can't afford it. It almost drives itself. You've probably seen the videos on YouTube of people literally napping while their car drives down the freeway, which is very unsafe. Yet there haven't been any accidents as a result of that. If the technology is just amazing, I've ridden in and watch the car actually pull out onto a freeway, pass other traffic and then get off at the exit where we wanted to get off without the driver doing a thing. It is an amazing piece of engineering. And finally my friends who own Tesla's in Michigan, we'll get them fixed here. And if they want to upgrade and get a new one here,


Amy Kerr Hardin  46:33

if you recall, about 10 – 12 years ago, the auto industry was I'm talking about the Toyota Prius and how it was going to be way too expensive and they couldn't create electric cars and so forth. They were saying oh cost 60 $70,000 and it's come way down in price. So I imagine the Tesla will to as they increase the market share, the price will come down


Walt Sorg  46:52

one of the challenges that the industry's gonna have to deal with and I've run into it myself. I've got 125,000 miles on my Chevy Volt And I really need to put a new drive battery into it. It's going to cost me $7,000. To do that


Christine Barry  47:05

this is definitely a step in the right direction I think for this kind of technology, although I remain a Chevy girl.


Walt Sorg  47:12

It reminds me of the movie Tucker man and his dream, which is about a I think his name was Preston Tucker, who had the very innovative automobile right after World War Two. And he was basically crushed by the Big Three automakers didn't want the competition.


Christine Barry  47:24

That was a great movie. I remember that movie.


Walt Sorg  47:26

Yeah, find it wherever it is. I don't know if it's on Netflix or where it is, but I'll make a point of watching is it's a wonderful movie, and it's a very interesting piece of history.


We inaugurate a new segment this week we call Work in Progress. stories about our world where there's a challenge to the political or social status quo. We begin with a classic David versus Goliath story. A tiny community group in Highland Park, Michigan over by Detroit is going head to head with giant DTE Energy and winning the organization is called social Solidarity. It's a combination of solar and solidarity. The fight with DTE began over street lights in Highland Park and then grew from there. I talked with Shimekia Nichols of solidarity about how her group is taking on the powerful Michigan utility should make a thanks for joining us on the Policast. I love David versus Goliath stories. If you've got a two person organization, you're taking out DTE Energy, and you're winning. What is it exactly that spurred this whole battle,


Shimekia Nichols  48:27

I can go into the creation story of solidarity, but I'll jump fast forward into the work from a DC campaign, which is galvanizing a lot of community folks and ej, organizers, partners, and even solidarity members to join in our fight to make sure that Highland Park has some justice in terms of the repossession of their street lights back in 2011. And to make sure that energy is safe, affordable and healthy for all of DTE's consumers,


Walt Sorg  48:59

there's always a lot of talk about environmental justice, and how environmental injustice really impacts communities of color, low income communities. And the story of Highland Park is really kind of a classic when it comes to that. It's something as simple as streetlights.


Shimekia Nichols  49:13

Yeah. So it's as simple, simple and tangible as street lights. But the streetlights represent a much bigger picture. And a much stronger need to have some democracy and participation in the decision making process and the way that communities are able to have input and practice self determination and where they get their energy from.  Soulardarity began with three folks and down in the basement trying to figure out how they were going to address the situation of the city making a decision to allow DTE to come in and repossess all of the streetlights that were on the residential streets with some leeway with the debt that was owed to DTE Energy.


Walt Sorg  49:54

Highland Park is a very poor city, and you couldn't afford to keep the lights on literally.


Shimekia Nichols  49:58

It's a small city and it's in a Heart of Detroit. And the street lights are repossessed not just due to either mismanagement of funds or through not having a community input process. But it also was, I think, a symbol for other folks and surrounding areas to kind of know their place. So Detroit, Hamtramck, even rural areas, and so the residents of Highland Park felt very left out of the conversation. And Soulardarity was offspring of that lack of accountability and ability to have input in the decision making process.


Walt Sorg  50:34

And we're talking about street lights. We're not just talking about aesthetics in your community. It's also about your your basic safety on the streets. And you as the mother of two children are especially sensitive to having safe streets and street lights are a part of that.


Shimekia Nichols  50:47

Yeah, it is. It is, but then also my son's being very young, having the ability to see democracy really realized is also just as important. So having that voice in the decision making process Having a safe streetlights is also very important as well.


Walt Sorg  51:04

What are you trying to accomplish as you get in front of the public service commission with your organization as DTE is seeking to get approval for its future plans from the state.


Shimekia Nichols  51:13

What we're asking DTE to do is to go back to the drawing board and to make sure that community solar and wind is included in their plan. At this point, there's more of a focus on the plants and the timeline in which they'll have those shut down, which is not enough.


Walt Sorg  51:29

Even though you're dealing with basically an urban issue. The response is something that goes far beyond urban energy.


Shimekia Nichols  51:36

Definitely, as we are having our community meetings and we're trying to connect with organizations like We The People Michigan, we're finding that a lot of the issues in terms of affordability and health and safety are across the entire state, not just in urban areas.


Walt Sorg  51:51

But you sure you're very, very small organization. And as I mentioned at the beginning of our chat, you're taking on one of the largest utilities in the Midwest. getting results are they kind of a little bit in shock?


Shimekia Nichols  52:03

I haven't spoke directly to a DTE representative. But I would imagine that they are. But again, it's the two of us working in the organization. But there's tons of folks that have signed on to the do gooder page that we put up. There's a lot of ej organizations that are backing our work for me DTE campaign and are a part of our leadership team.


Walt Sorg  52:22

If people are interested in finding out more about your organization, maybe helping out themselves, regardless of where they are in the state of Michigan, and how can they get in touch with you.


Shimekia Nichols  52:30

So there's a couple ways they can go to Soulardarity, the beginning of solidarity solidarities s o Ul innisfil, just like solidarity, and you can also go to Michigan environmental justice Coalition's page. But what I want to push people to do is to go to our do gooder page.


Walt Sorg  52:50

We'll put links to all of your websites and how people can connect with you on our website, Michigan Policast. com so people can get in touch with you. Is this your first effort as a community organizer, somebody to work with your community to try to make something good happen.


Shimekia Nichols  53:05

I know this isn't my first experience organizing, but I will, I would say that is definitely my first experience tackling such a big monopoly utility company. I've been with solidarity for about three years. And before that I did organizing under social and racial justice.


Walt Sorg  53:22

kind of fun isn't.


Shimekia Nichols  53:23

It is it is, is good to be able to say what you want into and to make it a reality


Walt Sorg  53:29

Shimekia Nichols thank you so much for your time. We will have those links on our website so people can get in touch with you and keep up the good fight.


Shimekia Nichols  53:37

Alright, thank you so much for your time.


Amy Kerr Hardin  53:39

And that's it for this week's podcast. You can find out more about everything we discussed by heading over to Michigan Policast calm we absolutely


Christine Barry  53:47

welcome your feedback. You can hit us up on Facebook or Twitter or you can send an email to mipolicast.


Walt Sorg  53:54

We'll have the state of the state analysis next week, along with an exclusive look at the impact of UAW corruption. States politics and economy. Until then, see ya.



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