Justice for Flint, impeachment for Trump, terrorist militias. Angela Witwer on food insecurity in MI

January 18, 2021

Michigan Policast for Monday, January 18, 2021

  In this episode:

  • Flint Water Crisis – updates
  • COVID-19 updates
  • Representative Angela Witwer on food insecurity
  • Trump's 2nd impeachment
  • Danger in Lansing | Boogaloos, MSP, and a weak John Truscott
  • Political notes
  • Transcript


Jump to:

Flint Water Crisis – updates



The “primary responsibility for the Flint water crisis,” according to the five-person task force, rests with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), the chief regulator for local drinking water systems.

it was a Snyder-appointed emergency manager, not local officials, who decided to switch Flint’s water supply — the move that triggered the crisis. And even once problems surfaced, the state’s treasury department effectively blocked Flint from returning to its original water source because of cost concerns. ~Source

So the Virginia Tech researchers took 30 different readings at various flow levels. What they found shocked them: The lowest reading they obtained was around 200 ppb, already ridiculously high. But more than half of the readings came in at more than 1,000 ppb. Some came in above 5,000 — the level at which EPA considers the water to be “toxic waste.” ~Source

Some 30 years later, I can’t say I was surprised when my high school best friend, Gordon Young, a chronicler of Flint’s slide in his book Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City, texted me that Flint, now in receivership and run by an apparatchik appointed by the austerity-mad GOP governor, was switching over from the Great Lakes to the Flint River for its drinking water. All to save some bucks. I thought this was preposterous. Only in Flint – a city that makes Youngstown, Ohio, look like Miami – could this be a viable solution.”


COVID-19 updates







Representative Angela Witwer on food insecurity



Trump's 2nd impeachment








Danger in Lansing | Boogaloos, MSP, and a weak John Truscott







Political notes





Walt Sorg  00:05

This is the Michigan Policast. We're all about Michigan politics and policy in the national stories impacting our pleasant peninsulas. I am Well, sure.


Kym Worthy  00:13

Our work on this case begins with the understanding that the impact of the Flint water crisis cases. And what happened in Flint was span generations and probably well beyond the way others will live our lives.


Speaker  00:28

This is case number 200046. People in the state of Michigan versus Richard Dale Snyder,


Nancy Pelosi  00:37

the eyes are 232. The nays are 197. The resolution is adopted Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.


Walt Sorg  00:49

What a week in the space of two days. Michigan's former governor is among nine criminally charged for the Flint Water fiasco. And Donald Trump makes history with the second impeachment, and this time the possibility of a first ever in US history senate conviction of a president.


Christine Barry  01:06

I'm Christine Barry. The Federal Government's year long incompetence in dealing with the pandemic continues creating nationwide frustration for those urgently seeking vaccination. At the same time, hundreds of 1000s in Michigan remain unemployed and facing loss of homes and the spectre of hunger. We'll talk with state representative Angela Witwer about the findings of the governor's Task Force on hunger. And the new speaker of the Michigan house signs on to a series of real government reforms but their future is cloudy despite bipartisan support in the house, the looming barrier to reform Michigan State Senate.


Walt Sorg  01:42

And as always, Christine, we need to start with a disclaimer we are recording on Sunday. It is by the way, the very last Sunday that we will be recording with a President Trump in the White House. So everything may have changed by the time people listen to this pod, especially four miles from where I'm sitting right now at the capital of Lansing is very quiet there on Sunday. The snow has stopped but there's nobody there. Hopefully it stays peaceful through the week.


Kym Worthy  02:08

This case has nothing whatsoever to do with partisanship. It has to do with human decency, resurrecting the complete abandonment of the people have flipped. And finally finally holding people accountable.


Walt Sorg  02:21

That's Kim worthy. She's the prosecuting attorney of Wayne County. He was assigned by the Attorney General to she was assigned by the Attorney General to pick up the criminal investigations in Flint, which had been kind of botched by the previous Attorney General. One thing that was emphasized by Dana Nessel, by the way, Christie when they announced these indictments was that the attorney general partitioned herself off from the criminal investigation completely she had no hand in it because of the appearance at least of possible political motivation behind the indictments. She said she had absolutely nothing to do with the decisions that were made on the criminal side. She focused completely on the civil lawsuits. The indictment of Governor Snyder, two of his appointed Flint, emergency managers and six others is really kind of stunning. It's the biggest criminal case in the history of official state government, the first time a governor has been indicted for official actions. We do know very little though about this story other than the defendants and the specific charges. The evidence and reasoning for the indictments are shrouded in official secrecy because of Michigan's one man grand jury law, which keeps the details confidential until now. So Christine, what do we know?


Christine Barry  03:30

So in April of 2014, Flint was under emergency management and they had an emergency manager in place when they made the decision to change their source of water from Detroit to the Flint River. This decision was supposed to save roughly $5 million over the course of two years. They did not put the corrosion control treatment in the water the way that they were required to by the federal government, and it was Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality. That said You do not have to put these corrosion control treatments in the water until after a year of monitoring. And coincidentally, corrosion control treatments cost about $140 a day. After 18 months, there have been a bunch of problems found there was indications of lead poisoning. Legionnaires disease, which you know, is a waterborne disease. There were problems with like what you saw on TV people would come into city council meetings with jugs of brown water, you know,


Walt Sorg  04:29

look like sludge?


Christine Barry  04:31

Yeah, yeah, it was nasty. There's no way you could think that the water was okay. Ultimately, in October of 2015, they changed back to Detroit as a source for their water. So the city of Flint had that water from the Flint River for about 18 months. What we're dealing with now with these criminal cases is why was that allowed to stay in place for 18 months and why in the very beginning did the Department of Environmental Quality say it was okay to not add those corrosion control treatments. Ultimately, a Flint Water advisory Task Force found the state to be completely culpable. That's what the task was found in 2016. Now, we're at a point where we don't know what exactly these charges are against these nine people. But if you look into the history of it, you might be able to get some indications. When we look at the nine people who are charged, let's just look at Governor Snyder's he's obviously the one that people are thinking about the most right now, two counts of willful neglect of duty, these are misdemeanors, each one has a maximum penalty of one year in jail or $1,000. Fine. The first count is failing to inquire into the performance condition and administration of the public offices and officers that he appointed and was required to supervise. So basically, he didn't do his supervisory role in that, you know, that way. And then the second one was, he did not declare a state of emergency when he had notice of a threat of a disaster and or emergency in the city of Flint. Those are his two counts for the misdemeanors. You can look into the background of this, I have just a bunch of links for all of this. And you know, Walt you know, as well as I do, this is a real rabbit hole.


Walt Sorg  06:14

The other charges are amazing because they range all the way up to multiple counts of involuntary manslaughter, which is the result of the coke contamination of the water with Legionnaires disease and people dying as a result of that. But the names of the people who are indicted in various counts. You've got the governor's former Chief of Staff, Jared agan, you've got two emergency managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley, you've got Richard Barrett, who is the transformation manager and his senior advisor to the governor, actually the governor's closest policy and political advisor. He's charged with perjury, misconduct in office obstruction of justice, which is an interesting charge, and extortion. Which will be that'll be a lot of fun to see what that's all about. The former director of the city of Flint Department of Public Works is charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, which he says he's basically being made the scapegoat of all of those he was given his orders, and he really had no choice in terms of implementing what was he was told to do. You've got the former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. He's one of those charged with involuntary manslaughter and nine counts, that of course, you could put them away for life as well as a code of willful neglect of duty. The Early Childhood health section manager, the Department of Health and Human Services, charged with official misconduct and willful neglect of duty. And the former chief medical executor of the department charged with nine counts of involuntary manslaughter, as well as official misconduct and willful neglect of duty. My question in all of this is they're going to have to prove criminal intent incompetence is not a crime, in government or anyplace else. And it's going to be, I want to see what the evidence is, obviously, as the jury will is, as well, to determine state of minds, I think that probably plays into most of these charges, state of mind is very important part of it. If you're just a screw up, it's not criminal. We're going to go through the same thing with the impeachment trial. And it was Donald Trump's state of mind, as these people were rioting in the Capitol Building was in fact, his intent to incite them to riot or was he just because he just got a big mouth and a little stupid?


Christine Barry  08:25

Well, the benefit that we the public have in kind of evaluating what's going on here is that Bill Scheutte, already had some charges out that were withdrawn by the special counsel, and we have that 115 or so page, task force report. So you, it walks you through the evidence that they have found in that report all by itself, like I said, this is a huge rabbit hole, you can go down there's, there's, you know, multiple times where you have email conversations or other documents that show Yes, we have, we see this spike in lead. But it's not that out of line with spikes that we've had in the past. So that's one of the things that, you know, Eden Wells was dealing with She's the she was the chief medical executive. She's one of the ones charged with manslaughter. And she said, No, I don't think we need to talk about this as a problem because we've had spikes in the US. You can question what her you know what her intent was there. But then you add on multiple times when this has happened. And at some point, her duty probably should have been Alright, let's treat this like it's an emergency. And there are clear cases where people said, All right, I'm not going to give this information out to you at all. The EPA was obstructed in an investigation, trying to get documents out of I think it was the Department of Health and Human Services. I don't recall but there's there's so much in that report while that if you went through the whole thing and And, you know, went down this rabbit hole I keep mentioning, you would be able to determine for yourself. Okay, I would think that person had an intent. Certainly the perjury was an intent to lie to obstruct the, you know, some of these obstruction counts. There's intent there. But involuntary manslaughter. That's tough. And I'll tell you what else is interesting when you compare this to the charges that Bill Scheutte had for some of these people like Nicolas Lyon was facing two counts of involuntary manslaughter in 2018. So this special counsel comes back with nine counts, they obviously had a different look at the evidence. I don't know if the evidence itself was a different. I think it was I think they had to collect more evidence for this one. I think that's part of what took so long was that the special counsel wanted to go back and collect more evidence and go through a more thoughtful manner.


Walt Sorg  10:54

I think it's safe to say we are going to be talking about this for a long time this year.


Christine Barry  10:58

Well, and if I can just say one more thing, I think it was Kym Worthy who said that the water crisis is going to outlive us basically. And that audio clip from when we first started talking about this topic, and that's if you look at all the little band aids, I tried to put on this, first of all, you have the Legionnaires disease, which you're not going to get, you're not going to get past that in one generation. But you also have issues like where they added chlorine treatments to try to address an issue and all it did was increase the amount of chlorine byproduct in the water, which is also linked to cancer and other diseases. So there's going to be a lot of ripple effects from this.


Walt Sorg  11:40

One thing they're very sensitive to Christine is the charges that this is just a partisan witch hunt. Something we've heard a lot of from Washington DC lately, Kym Worthy  addressed that directly at the news conference announcing the indictments, pure and


Kym Worthy  11:52

simple. This case is about justice, truth, accountability, poisoned children lost lives.


Christine Barry  12:00

So one of the things that is interesting about that I agree, it's not about partisanship, the people of Flint, everybody affected by this. You know, they call out for justice. They need justice, Governor Snyder's problem is that there is no clear information on when he found out about the problems with Flint water. He says he didn't find out about them until the end of September. And of course, it was two weeks later, that Flint switched back to Detroit. However, there's evidence that his staff was talking about the problems within a month of switching to Flint in 2014. And there was clear evidence that the staff was talking about lead in the water as early as the summer of 2015. That's the problem he's going to have. But again, these are misdemeanors. for him.


Walt Sorg  12:48

It's more about his reputation. He'll never go to jail.


Christine Barry  12:51

Yeah, yeah. And prosecuting a governor for what some will say, was just a policy decision. And what what does that mean, for people like governor Whitmer, who has been issuing order after order after order to deal with the pandemic,


Walt Sorg  13:07

and she said she didn't she hasn't been perfect along the way, by any means. There were some bad decisions made regarding nursing homes, everybody admits it. Same bad decisions were made nationwide, by governors and by the federal government in the early days of the pandemic, but the fact remains, she is vulnerable if they want to apply a really hyper standard to official misconduct. And what's going into this case, and as long as we're at that transition point, let's go over to COVID-19. What's going on?


Christine Barry  13:34

Well, Michigan's COVID numbers continue to trend in the right direction even as the pace of vaccination picks up. And as a result, we're easing towards ending some restrictions


Gretchen Whitmer  13:44

starting January 16. until January 31, indoor group fitness and exercise class may resume with masks, and indoor non contact sports may resume. If numbers continue to head in the right direction. Our hope is that we will be able to resume indoor dining with strong safety measures in place on February 1, we're working on a path to allow indoor dining at restaurants with safety measures such as mass requirements, capacity limits, and a curfew starting on February one,


Walt Sorg  14:16

as I look at the numbers that are compiled on a daily basis, updated daily by bridge magazine, they continue to be pretty stable to slightly improving in Michigan, in large part because the governor continues to maintain a a tight rein on what we can do in this state, we still have some we have limitations on can eat indoors and restaurants still, and their mass gatherings are very, very restricted. But the numbers aren't great by any means. We're still way above where we were. In last June, for example, we're now looking at a couple 1000 cases per day. Whereas in the beginning of the pandemic, we're in the double digits.


Christine Barry  14:58

Well, things are definitely Improving according to those metrics, on the other hand, you have an entire sector of the economy that's really having a tough time restaurants have that tentative date for indoor dining February 1. Many of them are, are they're just not going to make it if that if we can't open them by that date. I don't think that they're going to make it. I mean, obviously, some are going to be able to stay alive. But there are a lot of people who are already saying it has to open February 1, I can't do anything else other than open for indoor dining


Walt Sorg  15:32

a lot depends on what the Congress decides to do with the $1.9 trillion emergency relief plan that President Elect Joe Biden laid out on Thursday. And it's going to be really an early test for him Can he put together the bipartisan coalition in the Senate to get something like that passed, he only needs 50 votes to do it. And it is possible that he can get the 50 votes just out of the Democratic Caucus, but it's not a given. Couple of the more conservative members of the Democratic caucus may not like the idea, but the package does include some significant relief to truly small businesses and to their employees. And that is desperately desperately needed. There's some additional state assistance coming down to as well for restaurants. And if the governor is able to stick to her plan now to reopen restaurants, February 1, a lot of them will survive. But you're right, a lot of them are simply not gonna be able to survive. They've already closed the doors never to reopen again. It's it's horrible in so many ways, but part of the problem is we're getting immune to this. It's sort of like what happened over the last four years with Donald Trump. We got so used to him lying and doing outrageous things that pretty soon we are numb to the next outrage. And the same things happening now with the numbers on the deaths from Coronavirus, 4000 deaths a day nationwide. That is a third more than 911 Day after day after day after day. I was watching on the Sunday shows this morning. And the incoming chief of staff to the president was saying that by the end of February we're going to be at a half million deaths nationwide 100,000 deaths between Inauguration Day and five weeks later at the end of February. That is stunning. 100,000 people is roughly the population of Lansing, Michigan, the equivalent of the entire population of our city killed in one month nationwide, in part because too many people won't wear a mask. And in part because the rollout of a vaccine is being bungled and additional deaths that could be prevented will probably happen because people aren't getting the vaccine fast enough. Find it absolutely horrific. It's just so many ways. The one positive for me on this is I'm getting my shot on first sec scene shot on Wednesday. Hallelujah.


Christine Barry  17:45

Yeah, you're lucky enough to be really high risk Walt,


Walt Sorg  17:48

so yeah, I'm high risk. I'm old and decrepit. Part of the problem is that the supplies are very limited for Ingham County, which has a population of a quarter million people. We're only getting 2000 doses a week right now.


Christine Barry  18:01

Yeah, I called up to the hospital in Owosso. So I called up their scheduling department because I had to schedule something and they start with a recording. We are not scheduling COVID vaccines. We don't have any.


Walt Sorg  18:13

So okay, I want to pick a bone I got I got a gripe right now. Michigan State basketball teams had two games postponed in the last week games with Indiana and Iowa. Tom is always one of the people who appeared in that public service announcement with Gretchen Whitmer and other coaches to promote the use of masks yet every time I see Tom and just about every other coach too, but it really bugs me with Tom because he knows better every time he wants to talk to anybody at a basketball game that's being televised, he takes his mask off, which is the exact time especially if you're yelling, when you want to have a mask on because that's when you are the most likely to spread the contagion now it's gonna be coming home to him. He's already had the infection and recovered from and he had a pretty bad run with it. But now his son who's on the basketball team also has it and his other favorite member of the team has it and it's got to be hitting him yet he continues to lower that mask every time he wants to talk. He said a horrible example. I don't think he knows he's doing it. But dammit Stop it, Tom.


Christine Barry  19:16

Well, I don't think Tom Izzo really listens to anybody when it comes down to what what he should be doing when he's talking and I'm just telling you when it comes if he wants to shout at somebody he's gonna take that mask off and shout


Walt Sorg  19:31

you can shout through the mask. I've my wife will testify to that. She knows it could read off.


Christine Barry  19:37

But I'm just saying shouting is kind of an Izzo thing. Yeah, well,


Walt Sorg  19:41

you can't you don't need to take a mask off to shout. That's the whole point. And that's the reason you wear the damn things is when you're most likely to spew out little droplets is when you need a


Christine Barry  19:52

I am in 100% agreement. You know I don't he was talking in an article I read he was talking about how proud he was. have everybody following the protocol and just doing the best they can. So it's kind of funny that you brought that up. But to be honest with you, I think the only time I've ever seen Tom Izzo not shouting at somebody was in the PSA, where he said you should wear a mask. So you know, the whole world is backwards for me right now. It's crazy.


Walt Sorg  20:19

Well, one thing that's going backwards in a good way, is the state's revenue collections that that were tanking as a result of the pandemic, get the latest budget estimating conference, which is basically a whole bunch of government bean counters sitting in a room and figuring out how much money is going to come in in taxes. It's actually not as bad as worse as they had predicted. They're still predicting a $500 million loss in state tax collections next year. But the other officials agreed to increase state tax revenue projections for 2021 by $1.2 billion, and for 2022, by about $875 million. So the news is still bad, but it's not as bad as it was. But the needs go up. Anytime you've got a crisis, you have more needs for government services of all kinds, whether it's health services, in this case, they've got a just dump the state capitol today, I don't know how much state and local money's being spent on police protection. For the last time I looked on Facebook Live 50 people that showed up for this demonstration in support of overturning the election. But all of those things, they start adding up after Well, the emergency fencing that was put up around the Capitol. Yeah, it's a rounding error in the state budget. But still, it's money that hadn't planned on spending, those sorts of things combined with lowering revenues mean, Something's got to give somewhere, because Michigan, of course, can have deficit spending, whether or not President Biden is able to get some help for the states and local governments through the Congress remains to be seen.


Christine Barry  21:47

Well, one other thing I'll mention is that the governor has encouraged schools in general to get back into session by March 1. So that is great. She has a handful of protocols that she put out that we should have in place to make sure that everybody's going to be safe, that'll be good, too. And, you know, this whole thing has been a balancing act. By March 1, the kids will have been out, or as in a hybrid mode anyway, for a year. That's a lot of time for a little person. And it's it's tough for the older kids to but that is a lot of face time education loss for little people. And I think that if we were being honest about it, we would put a number on how much time or how much money that time has cost. And we would get more people involved to help them catch back up. I don't think we can do that. But I mean, these kids are just behind, and there are, a lot of them will stay behind for a long time. But the teachers are up there in the essential workers column. So they'll get the vaccinations. That's one of the reasons why March 1 might be doable. So we'll see. We'll see how that goes.


Walt Sorg  22:59

A couple of more impacts real quickly. First of all, the final number on state payroll employment, down 9.5%, during the year 2020. That was the sharpest declines in 1758, Michigan is still down 435,000 jobs from where we were before the pandemic hit last February. The other impact, of course, is on the school that you're just talking about. Not only do we have the problem of reopening the schools and getting the kids back up to speed, but we've got the added expense of keeping those schools safe. And that is going to be a significant expense that somebody is going to have to pay whether it comes out of the local school budgets, which are very difficult to to expand out of state money or out of federal money. And right now, nobody's stepping up to the plate to figure out how they're going to pay for that. No, and


Christine Barry  23:45

if I could just take one more minute on schools, Detroit Public Schools are going to be in a real bind. They've had 10 to 20% absenteeism since this started, that's bad. I mean, that's, that's really bad for the kids who have not been able to maintain a consistent learning schedule, either online or hybrid. So it's gonna be really tough on Detroit education. I just I think, to heal us and to make us whole there have has to be a lot more investments over time. And I don't know that they're politically popular or that they would be forthcoming. So, something to think about anyway. But let's move on. President Elect Biden made two speeches to the nation recently outlining something sorely missing in the last 10 months. These are plans to respond to both the public health and the economic crisis. It came even as the latest jobs report shows the higher unemployment numbers with the jobs market still reeling from the spring losses. As Donald Trump leaves office total employment is down a staggering 9.9 million from last spring.


Joe Biden  24:52

And in many ways, the jobs report is a pandemic report with the pandemic raging, people are Losing work and losing hope. The hospital industry, restaurant bars lost more than 372,000 jobs. state and local governments are slashing jobs. 20,000 local educators lost their jobs just last month. In the midst of this pandemic, there are millions of people out of work, unable to pay their rent or their mortgage. They're waiting in line for hours to get food from a food bank. Think of this the United States of America, people are lined up for miles of their automobiles waiting to get a meal put on the table the feed their family,


Walt Sorg  25:37

Michigan is like many other states facing a hunger crisis. Earlier this year, Governor Whitmer named a task force to make recommendations on the challenges one of the members of state representative Angela Witwer from Grand Lodge, I talked with her about the task force and what they found what needs to be done, Representative Witwer we think about hunger, we think about the long lines in Texas and California and all of that we don't see those here in Michigan. But that doesn't mean we don't have a lot of hunger going on through this pandemic. What were your findings on the task force?


Angela Witwer  26:10

I actually I interviewed yesterday with Gleaners, the director, the top guy, Gleaners, Jerry Bressan, and Dr. Phil Knight, who heads up the food bank Council. And Jerry was saying they're almost a million people, 800,000 people right now, we were seeing around I think he said 650,000. And when COVID hit, you were very well aware of all the people that were without food, they didn't know when the next meal would come. So in Eaton County, if you're familiar with this area, I just didn't really realize I didn't think there were that many people that were hungry, and I got my hunger report. And we have about 14,000 people here in Eaton county that don't know where their next meal is. And if you get toward Detroit, Southeast Michigan, there's about 35% of their population that is hungry, that doesn't know where their next meal is coming from. With kids that go to school, what when they were going to school, they would get two meals a day. And their last meal would be at lunch on Friday, and they wouldn't get another meal until they came back to school to have breakfast on Monday. It's criminal, that in a state where we have the second most diverse agriculture business. This is a huge agriculture state, that we have people that go without food. And many seniors, many kids, many of these populations that people would never want to go without food, they're going without food. So the governor put together this task force is a 24 member Food Security Council and covered 10 subject, things like the food supply chain, making sure that there was panic buying and repackaging for challenges that we have in the state need for emergency food, it totally intensified during COVID-19. And we wanted to make sure that people had adequate amounts of food and reaching existing food distribution points and the need for a different kind of infrastructure to look at how to distribute food. I know I volunteered a lot in our district, not just in food banks, but at schools. The schools were able to hand out meals, like when school was meeting face to face, and the lines were huge, and that and sometimes Waverly and at Sherlock, we would get more than 600 families through the line every day. I know Dr. Phil and Jerry's goal is to solve hunger in Michigan. And I think this is a great step forward to solving it


Walt Sorg  28:45

couple of things that you raised in your answer questions. First of all, you point out that it is a problem not just in metropolitan areas, but your district is a combination of suburban and rural, rural rural districts are having the same issues as urban districts that the numbers might be quite as bad, but they're still pretty bad.


Angela Witwer  29:03

When I got my report, and they are really good about giving every legislator a report of their district. And I think I got it within the first two months of me serving in 18. And when I got my report, I was stunned at the amount of people in Eaton County. I've lived here my majority of my life and you don't know what you don't know. And so when I walked I mean, I think I walked 42,000 doors The first time I ran and 52,000 this time, and you know, you know some people aren't probably getting the right amount of food but when you think of 14% or 15% of Eaton county is food insecure. It's pretty shocking. And then I talked to great representatives like Joe Tate out of Detroit. His district had I think 34% of his district is food insecure.


Walt Sorg  29:56

You mentioned also the importance of schools in providing nutrition for kids with the schools reopening, how much will that alleviate this problem? What's the estimate on the number of kids will no longer be in danger of chronic malnutrition?


Walt Sorg  30:13

I don't have that number. But I do know that during all of the pandemic, the schools were not just handing them out. But I know because I worked really closely with all the districts that, you know, the districts are go way above and beyond they, they were delivering food to people, they were sending bus drivers out with packages of food to families. And they were getting, I mean, I was handing out three, four gallons of milk for every car that came up, and then packages, packages of food for every car that came out. And there were numbers of two to 16 people that that some cars were feeding. So I think the food distribution throughout the schools was really well done. And really healthy foods were given out. But I know getting back to school, will the kids that didn't come the parents that didn't come to the school and pick it up, those kids will be well fed again, so I'm sure I'm sure getting kids back in school are going it will definitely help the numbers of hunger,


Walt Sorg  31:20

the easier part of any task forces to identify a problem, the tougher part is coming up with solutions. What could the state do, especially given the very dire straits that you face with the state budget? What are the options open to


Walt Sorg  31:33

they actually have done really well at getting dollars from the federal government through first snap, and increasing all people that had any snap benefits at all, we're getting a full so if you were only getting 20% of what a family could get off your snap benefits because of the calculation of your income. During COVID, they have actually raised every single person that's on snap to full benefits. And that is through uh, through the dollars received from the federal government. And in looking at the future presidents dollars that are coming in, we're really excited to know that his plan is to get more money, more safety net money, more money for our local governments, more dollars into each of the states to help them get past this severe pandemic that we've been in.


Walt Sorg  32:24

One of your constituents in Eaton county is the Incoming Chair of the US Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Debbie Stabenow. Have you had an opportunity to talk with her about this,


Angela Witwer  32:34

I haven't had an opportunity to talk to her about this particular issue, Debbie, and I have a long standing relationship. And, you know, I stand in awe, I'm on the state Ag committee. So I actually can talk to her a lot about agriculture, but she is the ranking member. And she is so knowledgeable. So when I bounce ideas off of her, but she fights every day. It's one of those things that people talk about not having people in there a long time. But when you when you have complex issues like hunger, get food distribution, it's good to have someone like a Debbie who fights every day for dollars back to our state and for help for the farmers who actually work so hard to get the food from the fields to the people.


Walt Sorg  33:26

Our food banks play a critical role in filling this gap, of course, and I've been told by our local food bank leaders that they can utilize, they love donations, but what they really love is cash because they can use it more efficiently.


Angela Witwer  33:40

It really feels good to go to Meijer, I did it like to go to Meijer and buy the 10 for $1 vegetable sales, and you could get 10 cans of vegetables and, and donate them it's a really good feeling to tangible feeling to donate cans of food and, and no one's going to say don't give us food, they need it. So, you know, I go to St. George church, they do food drives there, but $1 feeds three meals to people. So $1 will give it a complete meal to three people. And that is an amazing thing when you think about so if you spent if you get donate just $10 to a food bank, you're feeding 30 people a meal, which is much more than 30 cans of vegetables. So I highly recommend people if they're thinking about donating and because we really do have a severe hunger problem in Michigan. If they're thinking about donating donate to a food bank.


Walt Sorg  34:41

And for those of us who are hibernating thanks to the virus, it's a whole lot easier to just click on a button that says donate then go to a store and pick up some canned goods to


Angela Witwer  34:49

Right. and I really appreciate anybody that wants to do that. It's a it's a thing that you can do to help your neighbor help seniors. I was telling them this morning that we have that President of the Michigan AARP in our district, Paula Cunningham. And we have a real problem with senior citizens and the population of Michigan and 2025. We'll have more people above the age of 60, then we will have in the other levels of population, which has its own issue, but they they're hungry, they don't have food. So this is really going to be we need we really could use people to think about donating.


Walt Sorg  35:30

Representative Angela, we're thank you so much for joining us on the pod.


Angela Witwer  35:34

Thank you. Thanks. Well, thanks for having me. And it's good to see you.


Nancy Pelosi  35:41

The eyes are 232 in Asia 197. The resolution is adopted Without objection, the motion to reconsider is laid upon the table.


Christine Barry  35:53

The moment when Donald Trump became the only president in history to be impeached twice, and the vote was the most bipartisan of any presidential impeachment vote with 10 Republicans voting with all of the democrats and among them, freshmen, Republican Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids on ABCs. This week program earlier today, Meijer was asked about his thoughts on his first week in office.


Peter Meijer  36:18

Absolutely gut wrenching impeaching the president, especially president of my own party was nothing that we ever hoped to do. Many of us deliberated deeply, this was not as easy as just saying what is in our best political interest. But frankly, looking at the evidence, looking at the facts of the case, reading the article, and asking, Is this true by our own experience by our lived experience, and it was, you know, I think this is a time for for reflection, but it's also a time for accountability. And that's something that I am deeply committed to, you know, I'm calling on my party to restore trust, to restore the trust of the voting public, and to ensure that we never allow the actions that led up to January 6, and what happened on January 6, we never allow that outbursts of political violence to occur in our name again,


Walt Sorg  37:03

Meijer has been all over TV in the last week, which is his first week in office. And at one point, he recounted how he's going out and buying body armor to wear to work. He is a he was he's a war veteran. He was he served overseas, but he was in a non combat role overseas. And he says, quite honestly, he believes that there are people out there who want to kill him. And I was doing some looking online before we started recording. And there are some very, very angry people over there in West Michigan. They're also angry at Fred Upton, who was another one of the 10 Republicans to vote with all the democrats to impeach the president, the Southwest Michigan corner of the state, not beloved right now by a lot of Trump loving people. One other thing I think this brings up, Christine, and maybe we should talk about it a little bit later, but I you know, speculating last week that Peter Meijer may have bigger things on his agenda than just being a member of Congress that he very well could be running for statewide office in Michigan, down the road, maybe running for governor in 2026. I don't think this hurts him at all. I mean, he as he pointed out on this week, he represents the district that was represented by Jerry Ford. And I think that's the vibe that he is trying to maintain as a member of Congress.


Christine Barry  38:11

Yeah, I think anything statewide for him is going to probably be riding the wave of how many voters get out to vote. If we have a big turnout, whenever he wants to do that. He's going to be fine. But if the Republican Party stays in this mode of saying it's Trump's party, and frankly, I'm talking about Michigan's Republican Party, because of people like Meshawn Maddock, running around and saying that the Republican Party's belongs to Trump. That's the kind of thing that would hurt him. And depending on voter turnout, that's where his fortunes would be, I think, but look, I kind of respect this guy. so far. I didn't know much about him.


Walt Sorg  38:49

That's a pretty gutsy vote for your first week in Congress.


Christine Barry  38:51

It It really is. And you know what, there are a lot of people on the left saying, you know, you did Republicans, you did not redeem yourselves with this vote, the 10 of you, you know, you've been enabling him all along. And, you know, look, this was Peter Meijer in his first week. I mean, I'm not even sure it might have been, what was it his third day, his second day in office? I don't even know. But you can't be too hard on the guy who starts out in office saying, look, this was wrong of this member of my party. reasonable people can see republican or democrat that, look, this is a guy who stands up for what he believed to be right. Even if you disagree with him, which a lot of people did with Justin Amash. They didn't really agree with them, but they respected him a lot for just facing people and explaining what he was doing.


Walt Sorg  39:37

Now, this also gets to the whole issue of violence is becoming a political weapon, and threats of violence and severe threats of violence. It's getting worse and worse and worse and worse. A totally different perspective from Meijer who's just like we say only been there for a week. It comes from Debbie Dingell who has been there forever first as the wife of john Dingell, who is the longest serving A member of Congress in history. And then when he retired, she took over his spot in Congress. And she talked about the escalation of threats in very personal and very serious violence, by some seeking to change political decisions. She spoke with the letter the recount.


Debbie Dingell  40:15

I've had the Michigan militia in front of my house with assault weapons. I've had the death threats, I know, their hatred. And I've had a very personally focused on me. If you had been to what I've seen in Michigan, I think people don't know what this kind of hatred is. I want America to wake up and understand. There is this kind of picture and we got to step up to it. I try not to talk about it, because I think will give me people attention. I'm pretty blunt about what I think I obviously became more of a target after the president targeted me last December.


Donald Trump  40:52

You know, Dingell from Michigan


Debbie Dingell  40:58

I'm lucky to have local law enforcement that works very hard to It was shocking that they took over the building, we should have been prepared. I'll tell you a different story. Ann Arbor is one of the cities in my district, people that are business people academic editions that you know, people that you don't think of as being threatened or hysterical, came to me in October, very afraid that the city was going to be taken over on election day by Michigan militia. There was that afraid of it? I mean, really rational people. And I ended up pulling together meetings of mayors and law enforcement. And we addressed it in many ways, you know, how do you step up to it? How do you talk about the problems, and thats a city like Ann Arbor, we know what these people are capable of. I've seen it.


Walt Sorg  41:48

I've got a lot of friends down at the state capitol, a few members, as well as staff, people that work at the Capitol have, you know, it's been a part of my life, my entire life. And they are truly afraid right now to go to work. A lot of them are working virtually. But to this point, you know, the members of the legislature and the support staff that has to be there, when they're in session, have to go to the Capitol because the Republican leaders refused to move sessions. They don't have to meet in the Capitol Building, they could move down the street to the Lansing Center, which could be made much more secure just because of the way this convention center is set up. Plus, it's a much bigger facility, so they could do a lot more social distancing. But the leaders of the legislature on the Republican side refused to do that. And of course, today, as I said, we're recording on Sunday, we've got the display of firearms and unmask people down at the Capitol in support of President Trump. I've been kind of watching it on and off as we record on Facebook Live. As we record right now, it is 255 in the afternoon, and quite honestly, I think I had more people show up at one of my birthday parties than showed up for this rally. There's virtually nobody there. It looks like there may be more media and security than there are demonstrators, a few of them wearing gas mask and wearing combat gear, a few of them flashing their weapons because they get to show what big boys they are. But generally pretty peaceful and quieter kind of a dud of a demonstration. The one that cracked me up was there are a few vendors. They're trying to sell the various flags and posters that go with demonstrations of the sort. And they're going to be going home with all their inventory intact. I don't think they're going to show on. Too bad.


Christine Barry  43:27

There were a lot of pictures that went out of all the security downtown Lansing, and I don't know if that helped deter some of the demonstrators coming in.


Walt Sorg  43:36

We'll see what happens the rest of this week though, because that yeah, that could be pretty frightening. In fact, Dana Nessel, when she was talking about this, that she wasn't really concerned about the Sunday demonstration. But more what comes later in the week.


Dana Nessel  43:48

At this point, as far as I know, the legislature remains scheduled to meet pursuant to our open meetings that it has to be open to the public. And yet you don't even have metal detectors. And you're going to allow people to walk in, they'll be wearing a coat under which they conceal multiple weapons, they can be carrying bags, they can be carrying explosive devices. That's not a safe set of circumstances, we have to do better to protect the seat of government here in the state of Michigan.


Walt Sorg  44:17

I should point out that Dana Nessel was supposed to be our guest this week on the pod but she's been so busy. We didn't have time to get together. She will be with us one week from today. And I look forward to talking with her about the rather eventful few weeks that she's had an office actually her whole two years have been eventful. But the last two weeks, got to wear out. It's really been something you had mentioned earlier. Meshawn Maddock, tell people again remind people of who she is she and her husband are kind of in a whole lot of heat right now for their little field trip to Washington.


Christine Barry  44:48

Yeah, so she is the I mean, it looks like she's the presumptive heir to was a co chair position with Ron Weiser, the Michigan republican party and of course She had arranged the I call it the Michigan sedition presidential insurrection bus to go take people to Washington, so that they could be at the rally for Trump. And, you know, I don't know how many of those people she bused in actually went to, you know, to storm the capital or whatever. But, man, she's radical. She's, this is a great example of what she does. She goes on talk shows, and she complains about how it's still legal to get an abortion, but it's not legal to get a flag under COVID rules. It's so ridiculous. And she's so ridiculous. And she hasn't stopped being ridiculous or even tried to look less ridiculous since the assault on the Capitol, which you would think would tone her down a bit, but it didn't. It didn't.


Walt Sorg  45:47

a resolution to censure both her and her husband, State Representative Matt Maddock, who's newly elected to the House of Representatives will be introduced by House Democrats in Lansing it will go nowhere, of course, but it is going to be introduced and there will be a little bit of a flurry on the floor about that. But in addition, the two of them have joined a Facebook group, whose members have discussed the possibility of a civil war, decried the ban on open carry inside the state capitol and hope for a big cleanup of state elected leaders. Doesn't sound like exactly a peace loving group that's going to be distributing a daisies and flowers in the middle of the street.


Christine Barry  46:27

Yeah. And that's, that kind of is what I was thinking of when I was talking about Peter Meijer earlier and where his fortunes may lie if Meshawn and her freaky husband represent the heart and soul of the Michigan Republican Party. And I don't know if they do because even conservative activists like Dennis Lennox has have said, me, Sean should step back away from the party leadership position. But if they do, then Peter Meijer is not going to represent the Republican Party. He might represent a lot of people, but not necessarily in terms of what they want to see in a in an elected leader. I mean, but not necessarily the Republican Party, which means you know, primaries are a challenge. She could be a real problem for the Michigan Republican Party. On the other hand, Michigan is home to eighteen different militias. We have this open carry group that is kind of, they're not militia like, but they are passionate. We have a lot of passionate, right wing activist groups, I guess. And so if that's what she's playing, to, and she wants to keep saying, This is Trump's party, then that's what the Republican Party is going to continue to be. And I think Shirkey the the current senate majority leader is right there next to her right alongside her.


Walt Sorg  47:43

Let's move on to policy. You know, what the heck, let's get away from the controversy a little bit. And this kind of surprised me, actually, the drive for reforms in Michigan government took a big step forward over the last week, with the new republican state House Speaker coming out in favor of a seven point package that actually represents a major step forward. For more ethical and open government. These are things like making the legislature and the governor's subject to the Freedom of Information Act, so that they no longer can hide away all of their documents and things like that. A companion proposal would limit runaway partisanship and the so called lame duck sessions. Those are the sessions that are held right after an election. So and that's typically where the majority party is rammed through all sorts of legislation that they didn't have the guts to vote on before the election. It's when the right to work legislation was passed in the early days of the Snyder administration. And when a couple of referenda were overturned by the legislature, the people pass these referenda, and then the legislature amended them to basically cut them and then included a raise in Michigan's minimum wage. And that's been a long standing abuse. The question is whether they can get through the Senate. They've gotten through the house before, with bipartisan support, but the Senate has been the graveyard. And nothing much has changed there. You still got Mike shirkey running the show. And as far as I know, he's still skeptical about all of this.


Christine Barry  49:05

I don't know why it would change. I mean, there's no reason for this kind of legislation to get through the Senate. It's good. I think, from what I've seen of it, it's good legislation, certainly the desired outcome of the legislation is what probably everybody can agree on. And we have examples after examples on the abuse of our dark money situation here. So, you know, I think you have to start somewhere, and this is a good start to it. And there would have to be some refinements. I mean, one of the articles I read on this talked about how it could be hard to define what benefits a legislator and what that legislator could vote on. So I mean, there's things that have to be fixed. But if it just goes to the Senate and dies in a committee, then you know, we're gonna wait until there's new senators


Walt Sorg  49:56

At least we know we're gonna have a good debate on it in the house. So props to Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, for making this the first priority he announced for the new session.


Christine Barry  50:07

Well, Republican Congressman bill Huizenga has a different reform in mind. He basically wants to gerrymander the Electoral College. So he wants to get rid of the winner take all system in Michigan, where the winner of the popular vote in Michigan for the president gets all the electoral votes. He wants to get rid of that and assign one vote per congressional district.


Walt Sorg  50:27

Let me give you an example of how this could distort the outcome. Now, admittedly, with the Independent Redistricting that is going on now this could change, but Michigan was gerrymandered. Back when Barack Obama was reelected, it seems like 100 years ago, but he beat Mitt Romney by 10 points in Michigan. Despite that Romney carried nine of Michigan's 14 congressional districts, he would have gotten the nine congressional district votes, and Obama would have gotten the five votes from the congressional districts plus the two that represent our United States senators. So it would have been a nine seven romney victory, even though we lost the election in Michigan, and that's how it can distort the vote in any state that gerrymandered. Right now there are only two states in the nation where the electoral vote is divvied up that way. And there are states that have to members of Congress each, so you're only talking about a difference of possibly one electoral vote, one of them is Maine. The other one is Nebraska.


Christine Barry  51:20

And this came up a few years ago as well. And fortunately, it didn't go anywhere. But you know, you don't see these guys proposing this in red states. Only in traditionally blue states, do they want to divvy up the electoral college by congressional district? Really, the answer is to get rid of the Electoral College.


Walt Sorg  51:41

If you want to get rid of the Electoral College, it's easy enough to do there's the national Electoral College compact, in which states pass legislation saying that we will go with the winner of the national popular vote for president regardless of how our state votes. But this will only take effect once we have enough states that have signed on to definitely elect the president. In other words, enough states that represent 270 electoral votes. And right now there are about 60 or 70 electoral votes short, Michigan is one of the states where they're short, if democrats flip the government in 2022 election, which could happen with fair maps for the first time for in forever in Michigan, if it becomes a democratic state in 2023. That could very well add Michigan's 15 electoral votes to that compact. Hey, before we wrap up, but let's get into a couple of political notes here, Christine, we've just got two of them. First of all, one that I found very surprising in a way and unsurprising another, Joe Biden announced his slate for the leadership of the Democratic National Committee. And to nobody's surprised he went with Jamie Harrison, South Carolina, for Chair of the Democratic Party, Jamie Harrison is a first class organizer, the only other person who would be considered as Stacey Abrams, and she is going to be tied up running for governor of Georgia. So as Jamie Harrison, who ran a great campaign against Lindsey Graham, and more importantly, showed that he could raise tons of money will be the new democratic national chair. But that one of the vice chairs, there's four vice chairs, one of them is Gretchen Whitmer. And I didn't see that one coming.


Christine Barry  53:19

Well, you did predict, though, that she was on her way to bigger national profile. So that's one step closer, maybe


Walt Sorg  53:28

now that definitely will give her a national stage, it gives her a ready made excuse to give a speech at any stage, she wants to go to Iowa or New Hampshire, or South Carolina or Nevada.


Christine Barry  53:42

I'm glad for her, I just really want her hyper focused on Michigan, we still have the issues with the state legislature, you know, not wanting to hand out federal pandemic aid, unless she agrees to their demands. And there's going to be a lot of work for her to do. So. You know, I'm glad for her, but I just want her to keep really focused and keep her energy on these republicans as she has to get out of her way.


Walt Sorg  54:06

One last thing and that is, what are the odds on the next game? It's going to become more important beginning this week, we are going to be able to bet on games online in Michigan. I am not sure that's a really good thing. But it's gonna raise money for government. That's for darn sure. The question is, will it be abused? It's so much easier than just going to the casinos. Now all of these online betting sites have to be aligned with one of the casinos in Michigan either one of the Native American owned casinos or the three casinos in Detroit. But the reality is it's now just like the Michigan lottery, you can do it from your living room, which I got to admit I did over the weekend given that there's like a billion and a half dollars at stake into huge jackpots this week. Of course, I know I'm not gonna win but couldn't resist the temptation. , I


Christine Barry  54:55

Well this is kind of nice. Not everybody can get to Detroit. And you know There are small gaming places. So not everybody can get out to a casino. And this is, you know,


Walt Sorg  55:07

my concern is that the people who will overdo this are the people who can afford it the least. It's not going to be the people spending discretionary money, but it's going to be more homes being lost and people not being able to feed their families because they get a gambling addiction. It makes it to me, it just it opens the door for that I'm not one of those who's a moralist on this, I just am concerned about the unintended effects and the need to be very vigilant.


Christine Barry  55:34

Well, same people who have other addictions that aren't gambling. I say people who spend their money on lottery tickets or half pint of liquor at the convenience store every day that they go out. So to me, it's not I don't think about it that way. I can see it being a legitimate concern for some folks, but I'm glad about it. And I don't know maybe the people who get addicted to this won't be able to afford broadband and won't be able to do it for long anyway.


Walt Sorg  56:01

Okay, so usually we call it a day.


Christine Barry  56:04

I think it's probably for the best. That's it for this week's podcast. Somehow democracy has survived into the new week with a new president taking the oath of office on Wednesday, and the current president, possibly going on trial Thursday, but definitely leaving on Wednesday. And that's the really important thing. If you'd like to learn more about today's topics, or just be good at fun tweets and means and you know, take a take a deep dive into the Flint water crisis, you can head on over to show notes at  Michiganpolicast.com


Walt Sorg  56:37

and we welcome your feedback of course, email us at EMI polycast@gmail.com or troll us on our Facebook page or Twitter. A quick shout out to Daniel Ignacio for his generous donation to help us pay the bills. You of course could do the same send us money. Just click on the donate link on our web page. That's it. We're done hit the republic survives another week we'll be back to Michigan policast is a production of Michigan citizens for a better tomorrow.

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