Dem primary, Medicaid, COVID-19, more GOP shenanigans. Ruth Johnson on Detroit housing

March 9, 2020

Michigan Policast for Monday, March 9, 2020

  In this episode:

  • Democratic primary:  Biden, Bernie, endorsements, and more
  • Republican Medicaid ‘work requirements' struck down
  • Coronavirus (COVID-19) – based discrimination
  • Lucido found “more likely than not” to have been a pig
  • Enbridge buying up land to proceed with Line 5 tunnel
  • Republicans pass bill to prevent future local gun buyback programs
  • Work in Progress:  Affordable housing in Detroit with Ruth Johnson of Housing Trust Fund Coalition (HTFC)
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Democratic primary:  Biden, Bernie, endorsements, and more

The (insurance) industry paid $9.1b in wages last year, $1.2b in taxes, and generated direct and indirect economic contribution of $38.27b ... “It’s an improving and increasingly important sector in MI economy,” @mibiz @masanche @pscmichiganClick To Tweet

“I’m going to be a part of the strategic conversations around everything from going into the convention to being a surrogate to vetting of a running mate for @JoeBiden,” @GovWhitmer said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. - @mlive To Tweet


Republican Medicaid ‘work requirements' struck down

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – based discrimination

(MSU) will continue to welcome and support our international students, scholars, faculty, staff, and visitors. We as a #Spartan community will not tolerate bullying or discrimination. ~ @MichiganStateU #Coronavirus #COVID19Click To Tweet


Lucido found “more likely than not” to have been a pig


Enbridge buying up land to proceed with Line 5 tunnel

Republicans pass bill to prevent future local gun buyback programs

Source – House Fiscal Agency, analysis as of 3-4-2020


Shame on @annetteglennmi and @mi-republicans for #HB5479 preemptively prohibiting local #gunbuyback. Bill is opposed by @MIcounties and @michiganfop, groups that frequently support conservative positions. Only supporter is @NRA. Click To Tweet

Work in Progress:  Affordable housing in Detroit with Ruth Johnson of Housing Trust Fund Coalition (HTFC)

I don't talk about the American dream. I talk about individuals and families having opportunities, communities that are healthy, safe, and vibrant. We don't provide those opportunities for a large number of #Detroiters ~@DetroitPeoples #HTFCClick To Tweet
'affordable and accessible housing is part of a larger conversation that includes our tax foreclosures, the water shutoffs, other things that have affected the housing stock. @DetroitPeoples #WaterJustice #Detroit #HousingClick To Tweet
The inclusionary #housing ordinance passed because we fought for it. And are very thankful for the leadership shown by @MsMarySheffield, she's been very helpful to us. - Ruth Johnson #Detroit #HTFC @DetroitPeoplesClick 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 governments accountable and assists in the promotion of progressive ideas.


Gretchen Whitmer  0:14

But as we go into Michigan's election on Tuesday, I am going to be voting for child Biden.


Walt Sorg  0:19

The national spotlight moves to Michigan the big prize in the second straight week of high stakes primaries, and Joe Biden picks up a half dozen big name Michigan endorsements as ‘Joementum’ grows. This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan policy and politics and the national issues impacting our pleasant peninsula. I'm Walt Sorg.


Christine Barry  0:37

And I am Christine Barry joining Walt Sorg. While the presidential primary dominates this week's podcast. There are other stories of note including a landmark ruling blocking Republican attacks on the poor, a “me too” moment for State Senator Peter Lucido and more on Michigan getting ready for the coronavirus.


Walt Sorg  0:56

And this week's Work in Progress segment focuses on a lack of affordable, livable housing is a state's largest city. But of course we begin with the presidential primary. And what a week it has been. Presidential candidates have been dropping faster than Art Van stores in the last few days. A week ago we had six viable candidates for the Democratic nomination, plus Tulsi Gabbard. then came Super Tuesday the six became two with three of the dropouts endorsing Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren holding back any endorsement.  That triggered a wave of endorsements in Michigan. In a matter of hours almost, Joe Biden had the support of former governors Jim Blanchard and Jennifer Granholm. Congressman Elissa Slotkin, Haley Stevens and Brenda Lawrence and former Senator Carl Levin, but perhaps the most significant was the support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer.


Gretchen Whitmer  1:46

Joe knows Michigan. He was there when our back was up against the wall to support the auto industry. He worked with President Obama to expand you know, access to health care and almost 700,000 people in my state of healthcare now because of that work, and that's why I feel like this is the right time to weigh in and to tell the people of my state. I'm with Joe because I believe Joe's with Michigan.


Walt Sorg  2:10

Okay, Christine two weeks ago, Whitmer was saying she wouldn't endorse in the primary. Now, of course she has she made her announcement on MSNBC on The Morning Joe Show. What do you make of her turnaround?


Christine Barry  2:21

Well, two weeks ago, she didn't have to endorse, you know, prior to Super Tuesday, there was no reason for it, it wouldn't have made any difference to anyone outside of the state. Maybe a little bit of fundraising had she endorsed for like Elizabeth Warren, but there's no reason to endorse and now that the race is here, she has a stake in the outcome. She has to come forward just like everybody else. It would have been very notable if she hadn't,


I do want to say I do think that she is ideologically closer to Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders. But one of the things she mentions is that Joe is here for the auto industry, which is true, but philosophically so was Bernie Sanders. Sanders just wasn't willing to spend any money to buy bailout the Wall Street banks, which was part of that whole thing. And most economists have agreed that that would have caused like a depression scale collapse. And that's just one example of how very different Biden and Bernie Sanders are. And that's part of the reason why I think she was willing to jump in and support Biden because she feels that his approach is going to be her is going to be similar to her way, her approach to how she governs Michigan.


Walt Sorg  3:24

She did talk, too, about the campaign, and how she thought Joe Biden needed to go about campaigning to win Michigan, which is absolutely critical for winning the presidency.


Gretchen Whitmer  3:34

But we're staying focused on the dinner table issues, whether it is closing the skills gap, or ensuring our kids are getting the education they need or cleaning up drinking water or just fixing the damn roads. These are the fundamentals and I showed a record of having gotten accomplished, you know, important things during my time as a legislator, and I think that's what Joe is doing. And that's why I think the blueprint he's using and 2020 is very similar to what I did. In 2018, I always committed to finding common ground and building coalitions. And I think now more than ever, we need leaders who can do that.


Walt Sorg  4:10

You know, it's almost a proxy rematch of the gubernatorial primary of 2018, where you had Whitmer running against Abdul El-Sayed, who is a Bernie backer and part of the progressive wing of the party. She ended up winning with about what 50 55% of the votes out, Abdul El-Sayed got about 30% and seems to me that kind of reflects what we're likely to see Tuesday, but if I make a prediction is probably means Bernie Sanders will win. Because I've been wrong on everything else the last few weeks. I'm the one that I had been at that I thought it was going to be Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar ticket. That ain't gonna happen, although Klobuchar i think is someone play for like the presidential nomination.


And for Bernie Sanders, Michigan is the whole ball of wax if he can't win the primary here, I think he is toast. He'll keep going. But I think his campaign is over.


Christine Barry  4:56

I think when she talked about things like finding common ground and coalitions, that is where Bernie has perhaps hurt himself with his branding. And it's not because his agenda isn't helpful to people or focusing on things that matter to people, which Governor Whitmer also mentioned. But it's because his brand is so us versus them that he so easily loses that argument on building coalitions and finding common ground.


And there is, you know, a narrative out on Bernie nationally that he doesn't get anything done in the Senate. That's not true. There's a narrative that he can't compromise. That really isn't true, but his brand kind of supports that. And so in a place like Michigan, where we're in gridlock over the roads and and other things that may work against him. But another thing you know, you mentioned Abdul El-Sayed He was on CNN Super Tuesday night and he had said something about why people supported Bernie and his very eloquent and at the end of it, he said, we're just not interested in being lectured to.  That was probably the first time I actually understood where all of this anger was coming from, from these Bernie bros that people talk about. So, even though I do believe that Bernie Sanders hurts himself with his branding and so on, it does speak to that very real anger that people are feeling.


Whatever happens in this primary in Michigan, we're still going to have a huge, huge gap, really a conflict between these two groups of people who you know, we want progress and we want revolution or however you want to put that, that we have to heal and the leader is going to have to work on that and try to heal it.


Walt Sorg  6:37

Well. It's also a contrast in styles you have Bernie Sanders is very pugnacious. He's constantly railing against the greed of the insurance industry and the billionaires and the oil companies. And Joe Biden while he's still progressive on the issues. He doesn't go as far as Bernie Sanders, certainly, but also his style is much more soothing. He's more from the Barack Obama wing of the party, which you remind yourself about every 10 seconds. He exudes an aura of bringing people together whether that's gonna happen or not, I doubt it, especially if Mitch McConnell remains the majority leader of the Senate will still have the same sorts of fights in Washington. But Biden at least gives you a sense that there's a possibility of reconciliation and bringing the country together. Whereas with Bernie Sanders versus Donald Trump that is pugnacious against pugnacious. And it would be probably the nastiest campaign in our lifetime.


Christine Barry  7:25

I don't even want to that would be awful.


Walt Sorg  7:28

And the other part of it is, of course, we're not going to know the results probably until Thursday, because the absentee voter list is just immense. A majority of Michiganders will have voted by absentee ballot. I did some checking with some local clerks and the numbers there are running 65-70-75% absentee ballots, and because the legislature refused to change state law, the republicans said screw you, you can't open the ballots until eight o'clock on Tuesday night, which means that's when they begin to process the AVs. We're not going to know until sometime Wednesday or Thursday how all of that came about, because we've got to open the envelopes, they gotta throw them through the machines, and that just takes time, and with three quarters of your votes, you can't even start counting them until 830 at night, nine o'clock at night, that's gonna be a long process.


Christine Barry  8:13

Well, and I think people would respond by saying, well, that's how we normally do it. Anyway, that's really not entirely true, but the absentee ballot just takes longer to count.


Walt Sorg  8:22

Yeah, it's just because of the way the law is set up. They can't prepare the ballots for counting even until the polls closed. Whereas in some states, they can begin opening the ballots that morning or they can even open them ahead of time so that they know they've started the process and it's not all dumped on them at once.


A couple of other things about the voting process. Because of the rapid rate of decline in the number of candidates and Michigan law allow you to retrieve your absentee ballot until Election Day so you can re vote the number of people who are spoiling their ballots is just going through the roof. The Detroit News reported last week 8000 plus ballots had been spoiled already. I checked with some local clerks on this as well. And they were saying they're getting record numbers of spoiled ballots. One friend of mine who's a former legislator, he founded a think tank in Lansing. So he's a really knowledgeable voter. He has spoiled his ballot three times because he his candidates kept dropping out. He's gonna vote a fourth time now. And that's, he was laughing at himself. He says, I must be the kiss of death.


Christine Barry  9:27

I think he just makes predictions as well as you do. That's all he just had enough sense to hold on to your absentee ballot until he couldn't wait and see. You know, and and I just will acknowledge here that Tulsi Gabbard is still in the race as far as I know.


Walt Sorg  9:43

yeah, so am I


Christine Barry  9:46

But obviously no clear path to nomination. You know, she I saw her on social media. She's probably on other media, but I don't see here there


Walt Sorg  9:55

remember American Samoa


Christine Barry  9:57

and it's like, that doesn't even matter.


Anyway, yeah, she wanted to debate and and she's been, you know, excluded from the debates. And so she was out there arguing for that. Part of me says philosophically, if you're a candidate, and you can qualify, you know, without the goalposts being moved and all that, then you should be able to and the other part of me is like, just go away. There's no clear path to the nomination, and you don't have any ideas we're talking about.


Walt Sorg  10:25

Before we leave the Michigan part of this discussion, what we're talking about some endorsements that I think are actually more significant than the one that came from the governor and lieutenant governor. And those are the endorsements of Haley Stevens and Alyssa Slotkin, to members of Congress, new new members of Congress who flipped republican districts and who are obviously concerned about their own reelection in districts that went for Donald Trump in 2016. The fact that they both went for Joe Biden, I think really speaks to why the party is coming together behind Joe Biden, at least, the establishment of the party is coming together behind Joe Biden, because I want to keep Nancy Pelosi as Speaker They see Him as their best chance to do that.


Christine Barry  11:02

Yeah, I think that's true. I think they know there's more of a risk in those districts where Alyssa and Haley are and other districts that have flipped. There's more of a risk with Bernie at the top of the ticket because he'll drive more Republicans to the polls. But I also think that, you know, again, Hailey, and Alyssa are both, much more in line with the Joe Biden style of governing. They're thoughtful, they're reflective, they're calm, they don't shout at people. But on top of that, they do things in incremental ways. And again, it goes back to Bernie's brand, or what the way that Bernie presents himself is very fiery, obviously, but again, his brand says I'm not going to compromise period.


Walt Sorg  11:45

Also, his brand is not representative of the majority of the party. At least that's the way the voting has shown so far. I went through the states one by one for every participant voted so far, actually. And with just a couple of exceptions. Bernie Sanders has Got more than 36% of the vote anywhere. Now in Vermont, his home state he got 51%, which is actually kind of a poor showing in your home state where you've been elected forever on a statewide basis and he got in the Nevada caucuses he got 47%. But other than that his high point was Colorado 36%. And Utah 35%. Just everyplace else, he was in the low 30s or high 20s. Even in Alabama got 17%.


Bernie Sanders has a very large base, very loyal base, a very energetic base, and I respect the hell out of him for building that base. But his problem is right now he hasn't expanded that base, his ceiling is almost at the same level as his base. And it hasn't changed much. In fact, it's gone down in some states since the 2016 cycle. That's the bottom line he does not represent the majority of the Democratic Party and the Bernie bros are not going to be happy when I say that, but the numbers pretty much make that very clear.


Christine Barry  12:56

Let's be real. Let's bring it back to Michigan. Let's be real for a minute. Why would everybody coalesce around Joe Biden? Now first of all, he blew away Super Tuesday. He's clearly strong right now. If he's the likely candidate, and we're all getting behind him, we all want something from him when he gets there. And like you said, We want Nancy Pelosi in charge when he gets there, Michigan needs help. We need a lot of help for our water clean up, we need help for our infrastructure. You know, we want to be on the side of the person who wins and if we think Joe Biden's going to be that guy, we've worked with him before we want to work with him again. Now Bernie, as President surely wouldn't turn his back on us, but he's got bigger goals. You know, he's got a bigger fight.


Walt Sorg  13:40

also with Biden as the nominee or the potential nominee. It made a big change in the fight for the Senate to Rahm Emanuel pointed this out and one of the Sunday shows and Rahm's one of the great political minds in this country. He pointed out that Steve Bullock running for the Senate, Montana is the only chance the democrats have to win that heavily republican seat And the only reason he's running is because he thinks Joe Biden is going to be the nominee. If it was Bernie Sanders, Bullock was going to take a pass. Bullock won the governorship there despite a Trump landslide in the last cycle, and he is the most popular democrat by far in Montana, given the tightness of the race for control the United States Senate. That could be the whole enchilada right there.


Christine Barry  14:22

That's interesting, you know, I didn't know that I do have one more point though, on Michigan and Biden Sanders. It's kind of an obvious one Biden wants to expand the Affordable Care Act, Sanders wants to scrap it and replace it with a better version of Medicare for all, and that leaves no room for private insurance. I did a little digging and no matter what you think about private insurers, this is an increasingly important economic contributor to the Michigan the block of insurers and public sector consultants did a study last year, and has the industry making direct and indirect contributions of 40 billion in 2018. The insurance industry's economic footprint In Michigan is over 2% larger than it is the national average. And that's not all health insurance. And it's not all insurance agents or insurance reps. And that includes direct and indirect contributions. But these people are looked at like a block. And I think that there could be a real factor. If if you're talking about Bernie who wants to do away with private insurance, and you look at insurance as a bloc that could really make a difference in Michigan


Walt Sorg  15:25

and add to it, the UAW members that have over the years negotiated tremendous health care coverage from the automakers. Are they willing to risk giving up what they've negotiated for for a still unfunded federal program? And that is something Amy Klobuchar pointed out a lot during the campaign. Pete Buttigieg mentioned a lot during the campaign, but I think that is something that's probably going to hurt Bernie Sanders in his efforts to reach out to blue collar workers.


We should point out there are other primaries on Tuesday there in Idaho, Mississippi, Missouri, Washington and North Dakota, but Michigan is by far, the largest delegate haul and Michigan really is kind of critical to the campaign.


next week, there's four big ones as well, which could, in theory, at least revive the Sanders campaign if he comes out of Michigan with a victory. Those are in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio. Probably of those states, though, I'm not sure which one of those is could even be strong for Bernie Sanders, given the demographics of those states. Florida is a very old state, a lot of retirees and he does very poorly amongst older voters. Ohio possibility, but again, you've got a heavy union contingent there with the health care issue. Arizona, a lot of retirees as well, Illinois, Obama's home state. So it's a it's a rough go right now for Bernie Sanders. I'm wondering if at this point, if it's stuck, could it be all over by the end of next week?


Christine Barry  16:47

The only thing that I would add was that while you were speaking, I was sitting here nodding thoughtfully in agreement. Nobody could hear that.


Walt Sorg  16:56

Makes for good radio.


In other news, Governor Whitmer and Attorney General Nessel when a key battle in the courts over the last week stopping a republican effort to take away Medicaid coverage from thousands of Michiganders. Christine, you've been following this issue from start to finish?


Christine Barry  17:17

Yes, this is another one of those that eggs from lame duck, the republicans put in some work requirements. If you are poor and on Medicaid and you're relatively healthy, you have to prove that you're working 80 hours a week or you're trying to get work or you going to school and there's a reason you're not. They just put in some requirements for you to keep getting Medicaid. And if you fail to meet these requirements, you fail to report on these requirements your Medicaid gets taken away.


This is a pretty simple issue for the courts. The Medicaid act is meant to provide health care coverage to the poor. That's it. It's not there to put poor people to work. It's not there to make poor people report to the government a reason for deserving it. It's there to provide health coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services has started implementing this this leftover lame duck bill. They've spent $30 million already. But the work requirement had been challenged in the courts, not just in Michigan, but in other states as well. And in other states it had been overruled, struck down. And it was just struck down in Michigan, which is a good thing, but there will be appeals. And while there are appeals ongoing, we will probably still be implementing it. And, you know, continuing to take these reporting requirements.


This is good that it was struck down. But this is a significant example of how Democrats and Republicans look at things because I think Democrats look at this and we say, look, the Medicaid act is here to give poor people health care, and that's it, and Republicans look at it like if you want to benefit you have to get out there and get it and the problem is right Now we have a potential pandemic, we have a potential outbreak coming. And they aren't even talking about suspending those work requirements for that. They don't care about that. You know, they only care about making people either work or go out and try to work or go to school or something, because they think they're empowering them. Fortunately, it was struck down, it was a good ruling. It'll probably get appealed until it gets to the Supreme Court where, who knows what would happen?


Walt Sorg  19:29

Well, the timing of this is really pretty amazing too, because healthcare is rather important when you have a pandemic disease going around the country. And right now we're getting ready. We fortunately we haven't had any cases yet of coronavirus in Michigan. But it's just a matter of time. You know, it's going to happen here. It's happening everyplace else. I don't know why we would be exempt, especially when we got one of the busiest airports in the country at Detroit Metro airport, which is sort of an incubator for international diseases. And that's having all sorts of impacts especially It places like the major universities which have large international student bodies.


There's a great story in The Lansing State Journal the last few days about Asian students at Michigan State basically saying they're getting all sorts of crap. Because just because they're Asian and people are afraid to touch them or be near them or have them breathe on them. One is quoted as saying, if you look Asian, you're seen as carrying the virus. And I'm not quite sure what you could do about it other than educate people. I mentioned on the pod last week, I've had a friend who owns a Chinese restaurant and it's hurting his business because people don't want to eat Chinese food. Apparently, they think egg foo Yung carries the virus, or something along those lines. Maybe it's in the fortune cookies. But there's a lot of irrationality right now going along with all of this for disease, which for most people, is not especially serious, other than the economic impact that has on them because they can't go to work and it does impact our economic infrastructure. But from a medical standpoint, it's only serious for people like me who are old or who are Who have preexisting conditions?


Christine Barry  21:02

I'm sure it's not just MSU where that's happening. It's probably happening on campuses all across the country. I'm disappointed though, because campuses like MSU, U of M, a university like that is such a mix of, you know, I mean, there's just such wonderful diversity there. And I am surprised that people would have this kind of concern about Asian students, many of whom have been here for a long time. Now, admittedly, there are people who travel You know, there are international students who maybe have gone home over Christmas break or something and come back. I understand being concerned about that. But the incubation period isn't that long, so I'm kind of disappointed that people would feel that way. I had heard about the restaurants and I wasn't surprised about that. But I guess I expect more from universities where people are used to living with so many different people from all over the country.


Walt Sorg  22:01

Yeah, and it's a problem right now at Michigan State because one, they have more than 2000 Chinese students in their student body in two spring break is just ending. And the students are coming back after being gone. So I think it's probably going to escalate a little bit on the campus. And if you are Asian or look Asian, and you sneeze, God help you.


Christine Barry  22:23

Well, if if you've gone home to then come back,


Walt Sorg  22:27

doesn't doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. When somebody sees you sneeze. Unfortunately, they're going to think the worst right away.


Christine Barry  22:34

Well I totally get that, but I'm just saying if you've gone home and you come back and sneeze on me, I'd probably going to be a little concerned. I mean, yeah, that seems reasonable to me. But But if you've gone home to say, Indiana, where you're from, and you come back in, you know, it's just, it's just emotional.


Walt Sorg  22:57

If you've been to Indiana on spring break, you've got all sorts of different problems as well.


We can't leave the segment though without a salute to our chief medical officer in the United States, the President of the United States, the man with a natural instinct for all these things, because his uncle or his father or his stepson, or something or other was a scientist or something like that, but Trump just once again makes a total fool of himself.


Donald Trump  23:22

I like this stuff. I really get it, getting a surprise that I understand every one of these options that have you know so much about this. Maybe I have a natural ability, maybe I should have done that instead of running for president.


Walt Sorg  23:34

Well, actually, I wish he would have done this instead of running for president. But there's one other issue completely.


Christine Barry  23:38

Well, he just came out and said he didn't ever hear of anybody dying from the flu and his grandfather died from the flu related illnesses. So he's all over the place.


Walt Sorg  23:47

There's no cure for stupid.


Christine Barry  23:53

Okay, so the hammer dropped on the Michigan Senate's most openly chauvinist pig member, Senator Peter Lucido.  He has been stripped of the chairmanship of a committee that functions as governor Whitmer, his biggest irritant in the Senate. As you remember, Lucido was investigated by the Senate Business Office for things that he said to Alison Donahue as well as some bad touch moments with other women. The investigation found that due to the number and similarity of the incidents, they were more likely than not to have occurred and these things were inappropriate. So that's the good news. They found the women credible and believe that these things happened.


So Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey issued a lengthy statement on the importance of a safe work environment. He stripped Lucido of his chairmanship of the advice and consent committee, Lucido get some free training on how to be a human, I guess. But he does get to keep his chair, his seat, his Chair on the Judiciary and he's on another committee, which I actually am not sure what that is. And then Lucido came out and said that he had been cleared. And let's move on


Walt Sorg  25:08

Trump said the same thing when the issue the Mueller Report too.  No, no collusion, no obstruction, when of course there was collusion and there was obstruction. I think, because it's the new operating standard. You are clear, no matter what the report says. Props Allison Donahue, it takes a lot of guts to come forward when you are what is she 22 years old or something like that? And do come out against a powerful member of the Michigan Legislature and basically say, hey, the guy did wrong, and I just don't like it. She ultimately won. And it I've been listening to Ronan Farrow's podcast, Catch and Kill podcast talking about the Harvey Weinstein case and the subsequent developments about that. And it's the same sort of thing without courageous women coming forward to say something this crap just keeps happening.


Christine Barry  25:56

Yeah, and you know, today, like you said, we're recording on Sunday. It's International National Women's Day. I'm hyper aware of this because we did a thing about it at work but I just wanted to tell you you know, guys like you get it. Guys like Ronan Farrow, get it. There are a lot of men who get it. But there are also a lot of people, including women who don't understand why Allison was such a badass for coming forward. Because it is risky. It is scary to come out and say, Look, this guy just said something that's really inappropriate, and she would have no idea whether when she said that, people would agree that it was inappropriate. And not say, well, you're just being insecure or Well, it was just a joke, when I'll just sit down


Walt Sorg  26:40

locker room talk.


Christine Barry  26:42

Yeah, that was a badass moment for her good for her good for the other senators who was Senator McMorrow, who is the other one who came out


Walt Sorg  26:50

That Melissa Osborne from the Michigan credit union legal lobbyists.


Christine Barry  26:54

Oh, thank you, not a Senator.  Yes, thank you. Good for them for standing up.


Walt Sorg  27:01

A couple of quick takes first in the ongoing battle over the Enbridge pipeline. The fossil fuel giant is speaking softly but carrying a big big checkbook. It has been reported by bridge magazine that Enbridge is quietly buying up land in the neighborhood of the Straits of Mackinac offer a new pipeline, according to local property records and Enbridge subsidiary has scooped up 16 residential parcels since November of 2018. In a township west of the Mackinac Bridge, apparently betting that the tunnel plan will survive legal challenges. And for the landowners and for the township. It is an absolute Bonanza, because they are paying many multiples of the value of the assessed value of this land.


A pair of parcels in Wildwood Tam township sold for more than a million dollars according to township records. Local records show their market value at roughly $280,000 Enbridge apparently believes they've got their case, one are making it putting up a pretty big bet. In terms of like, of course, they can always just put up a really nice resort if they lose the court battles, I suppose.


Christine Barry  28:07

I don't even know what to say to that, you know, I understand wanting the tunnel if you could put the tunnel in tomorrow and be done with it. I would even understand doing that. But having that those lines there for that long with no alternative and no, you know, with their record of safety, just there should be no support for this tunnel. It's ridiculous.


Walt Sorg  28:28

Okay, another issue that the legislature is dealing with, which has absolutely no meaning other than symbolism, and that is a bill that is being pushed by gun advocates, which basically says you can't even buy the guns back.


Christine Barry  28:42

Right. This is House Bill 5479. It's sponsored by state rep. Annette Glenn, she's from Midland. The bill would make it illegal for any local units of government to use tax dollars to purchase firearms from individuals and organizations. So your city police county You know, your county, your your sheriff's department or your Board of Commissioners or none of these people could purchase guns, they can only purchase firearms for law enforcement purposes, and they must be acquired from a licensed dealer.


So what this is doing is just sort of trying to stop a gun buyback program, which is kind of silly. And it's, you know, it's kind of harmful as well. I mean, there are a lot of people just in my County alone who have inherited firearms over the years who maybe don't want them and don't know what to do with them, and wouldn't be able to go and sell them back through a program like this, which, you know, it works if the county wants to do it, they should do it. By the way, this bill does nothing to stop a local efforts to create sanctuary counties for guns. So it's obviously not about a local issue or local control of anything.


Walt Sorg  29:59

No, and I'm pretty sure I'm pretty sure the governor would veto it any way if it got to her desk. So it is basically symbolic as I see it. But for me, the more important issue is it's a continuation of a trend of the legislature to take away the power of local governments and local electorates to control their own communities. They keep passing more and more preemption laws that say basically a local community can't do this and can't do that. And it goes totally counter to the long-standing republican philosophy of more local control unless state control. All of a sudden the idea of big state government appeals to them, at least when it comes to making decisions on policy.


Christine Barry  30:35

that's been true for many years now. They really have gone for big state or big federal control of everything, and taking away local control as as long as they had control of state and federal government.


This week's work in progress report focuses on a growing housing crisis in Detroit. The issue is the availability affordable housing for the city's most vulnerable residents, low income families and persons with disabilities. Walt talked with Ruth Johnson of the Detroit People's Platform, one of the activists who formed the Housing Trust Fund coalition. That's the HTFC. They're a group of advocates and nonprofit organizations.


Walt Sorg  31:19

Ruth Johnson, at the core of any city is housing. You've got to have affordable housing, you've got to have quality housing or a city's going to die. And in Detroit and many other of our urban areas throughout Michigan. It's a real crisis. What is the Housing Trust Fund coalition all about?


Ruth Johnson – Detroit People's Platform  31:35

The Housing Trust Fund Coalition was formed by advocates, Detroit residents and nonprofit organization to fight for an advocate for not just affordable housing but affordable for Detroit, Detroiter's housing that is accessible, safe and decent.


Walt Sorg  31:52

how short is the supply of housing that fits that definition?


Ruth Johnson – Detroit People's Platform  31:55

Whoa, that's another story. But briefly, I'd like to say When we're talking about affordable and accessible housing, it is part of a larger conversation that includes about our tax foreclosures, the water shut offs, other things that has affected the housing stock. Detroit has always been known as the city of houses, but now we're more than 50% renters. And some of the rental housing really is not decent, safe or affordable. And that is a problem even with the landlord registration ordinance that they're finally enforcing. So we have a lot of people in Detroit either cannot find suitable housing or paying too much for it, or it's not up to code.


Walt Sorg  32:41

Do you see the solution to this problem as being primarily a local issue something that is city responsibility for city council's for example?


Ruth Johnson – Detroit People's Platform  32:48

Not at all Walt.   this is a federal, state, regional as well as a city issue. There are problems and solutions on every level. One of the things that the Detroit affordable housing Task Force and Housing Trust Fund Coalition, though, is focused on the City of Detroit, because unlike other communities in the region, the average median income for Detroit is much lower than in the surrounding area, that HUD, the Housing and Urban Development, federal agency, the State of Michigan, and even the city, the current uses, like $68,000 as the AMI, the annual median income, whereas in Detroit, similar household, the income level is more like 23 to $24,000. So there's a big difference between Detroit and other areas.


Walt Sorg  33:41

How would the trust work?


Unknown Speaker  33:43

So I'm very glad to say this was a big win for housing advocates in Detroit resonance. Through the Housing Trust bond coalition we fought and won to get an inclusionary housing ordinance. There's several parts to it.


Ruth Johnson – Detroit People's Platform  33:58

First, it creates Affordable Housing Trust Fund. So 20% of commercial property sales go into the fund. And last year because of residents and advocates, an additional $2 million was appropriated or given into the fun from the city to get us started. What that means is, so a lot of these developments and sales a property, we'll get 20% of those.


But the second part, I think, is also exciting is that it forms by the ordinance an Affordable Housing Task Force. So that's residents of the city of Detroit, who can advise the city on how these funds that go into the fund will be used, and it's targeting extremely-low to low income households. So that is 30 to 50% of the again, it's the region's average median income. Yeah, that's still not good, but it's better than what we had before. It created a fund, it created the task force.


And then the third thing is that developers who are receiving certain levels of city subsidies have to submit out affordable housing plan with their project plan that would look at creating affordable housing units, and 10% of those units must be accessible.


Walt Sorg  35:26

In addition to being the American dream to be a homeowner, I've read several articles indicating that higher levels of homeownership translate into better communities, that people take better care of their property. They take more pride in their neighborhoods, and that it has a ripple effect. It impacts crime, it impacts economic activity, it impacts the overall quality of life. Is that something that you're seeing?


Ruth Johnson – Detroit People's Platform  35:50

Well, I don't talk about the American dream. I talk about individuals and families having opportunities and options, support and services to live communities that are healthy, safe and vibrant, whether that's rental or whether that's home ownership. I think it's also many ways that people can live well. And right now we don't provide those opportunities for a large number of Detroiters, but especially our most vulnerable residents, again, people with very low incomes, seniors and people with disabilities.


Walt Sorg  36:25

For the skeptics hearing this. I think it's important for them to understand something you told me and that is that the Housing Trust Fund coalition concept has been tried and has worked in other cities. Where's it been successful?


Unknown Speaker  36:38

Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, there's at least 14 to 15 communities that have some sort of Housing Trust Fund or funds are put into a pool and used for low income housing. How that's used is different with different jurisdictions. I think an important thing to differentiate Mayor Duggan talks about his affordable housing AHLF. It's a whole nother thing because his private donors, foundations giving money, and it's not targeting the most vulnerable or the most needful residents, but instead, it's incentivizing more of luxury and high end apartments and housing units with a very few that's truly affordable and suitable, because if it's a one bedroom apartment or a studio apartment, how's a family of three or four going to manage that.


Walt Sorg  37:35

Good question. Good question. What do you see as the immediate future for the proposal for the Housing Trust Fund coalition? Do you see a sense on the part of city councils make this happen?


Ruth Johnson – Detroit People's Platform  37:46

We're very thankful for the support of the Detroit City Council in passing the inclusionary housing ordinance. That was a big win, but that was only because of advocates, nonprofits and residents fighting for it. We are very thankful For the leadership shown by President Pro Tem, Mary Sheffield and in discussions with her, she's been very helpful for us to work out how do we implement ordinates such as identifying how much money is in the fund, and making sure that this taskforce has the information they need so they can give good recommendations and advice to the city.


Walt Sorg  38:20

For people that are interested in more information on this issue, where can they go?


Ruth Johnson – Detroit People's Platform  38:24

They can visit the Detroit people's platform website and get more information.


Walt Sorg  38:30

Ruth Johnson, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. Have a great day.


And that's it for this week's Polly cache. We'll be back in a week. Hopefully we'll still have a couple of presidential candidates in a week. For background information on this week's topics head on over to our website, Michigan Policast. Calm


Christine Barry  38:48

Yeah, feel free to give us your thoughts, questions, comments, you can insult us there or on Twitter if you want. The email is And thank you for listening name we will talk to you in another week.


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