Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the September 17th edition of Three Things Thursday.
In this week’s Three Things, you’ll find news surrounding the climate crisis, an update on elections related legislation, and an invitation to our annual (virtual) gala.
1. The Climate Crisis: there is no escaping the realities
Over the past several weeks we have seen the dangerous effects of the climate crisis in full force.
In California, Oregon, and Colorado, devastating wildfires have been burning uncontrollably, destroying entire towns and communities, and taking the lives and livelihoods of those who live there with them. In Colorado, temperatures recently fluctuated from almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit to freezing seemingly overnight, blanketing what was a summer landscape with snow. And, in the southern United States, we have seen two different hurricanes manifest and make landfall, with Hurricane Sally — the most recent of the two — bringing extreme rainfall and winds that ripped apart communities from Texas to Mississippi.
The impacts of climate change are becoming more and more apparent and damaging, including right here in Michigan where we have seen lakeshore erosion, toxic algae blooms, and extreme precipitation, which has flooded basements, wreaked havoc on crops and even destroyed dams in Midland earlier this year.
These events are glaring examples of how the changing climate threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans. The climate crisis is no longer a problem “for future generations”; it is the most pressing problem we have as a national and global community, threatening our health, our economy and our way of life.
The Trump administration has not only refused to acknowledge the scientific facts that surround and define the threats posed by our changing climate, but actively worked to roll back close to 100 environmental protections, which collectively “…are expected to result in an additional 1.8 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2035”.
Actions at all levels of government are important to tackling the crisis. Among the many things that Governor Whitmer has done to address climate change, she announced yesterday the establishment of the Catalyst Communities program. This comprehensive initiative is aimed at educating local officials via training, planning, and technical resources in order to prepare and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The climate crisis has and will continue to affect emergency response and public health in Michigan, along with the health of our Great Lakes and economy. The Catalyst program will make available resources and expertise that local officials and their communities can use to mitigate and adapt to climate impacts while focusing on the implementation of clean energy solutions. This is a step forward for Michigan communities as we see the effects of the climate crisis develop and worsen in real-time.
And, just today, the Whitmer administration announced the nation’s first carbon project on state forestland! The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Governor Whitmer plan to capitalize Michigan’s close to 20 million acres of forest through an innovative initiative that will take place over 100,000+ acres in the Lower Peninsula. This carbon credit program will celebrate our state’s natural resources while slowing the impacts of climate change. (You can read more about this new program here.)
These two recent announcements come on the tails of a number of strong actions her administration has taken over the past 18 months, including opening up farmland to utility scale solar power two, two clean energy friendly appointments to the Michigan Public Service Commission, the creation of an Office of Climate Change dedicated to the topic. and a number of new climate funding strategies in her FY 2020 budget.
During this tumultuous yet pivotal time, we collectively have the opportunity to work for change. The 2020 election is critical to ensuring that we have climate change leadership in offices up and down the ballot. Please know that the Michigan LCV team is working on all fronts, from candidate education and poll worker recruitment, to candidate endorsements and active work in the trenches to elect strong leaders to office. And, we all must do our part to prevent voter disenfranchisement, acknowledging fully that the voters often targeted for voter suppression are those most affected by polluted air, land and water, and our changing climate.
Please know, I understand how challenging these times are for all of us. From the extensive loss of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic to ongoing barrage of scary news in the media, 2020 has left us all reeling. I have been personally shaken this week knowing that the haze we have seen in the Michigan skies, and the raging, red sun I watched rise on Tuesday morning, are the profound results of the forest fires in the West. This stuff is frightening and very, very real…and all the more reason we must continue to stand up and fight like crazy to protect human health and the environment. Without our collective hard work, nothing will change.
Yours truly with masked hubby. Thank you, ACLU, for the awesome mural in Midtown!
2. Continuing to push for legislative action to protect our elections
On Tuesday, the Michigan Senate passed Senate Bill 757, moving it on to the State House for their consideration.
Senate Bill 757 is legislation aimed at increasing the efficiency of vote counting here in Michigan, allowing clerks and their staff to open the first, outer envelope of absentee ballots ahead of election day to allow for quicker turnaround of vote counts. As passed out of the Senate, the legislation allows clerks and poll workers to begin pre-processing ballots from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. the day before election day. While this is a small step forward, the legislation only provides an additional 10 hours of work time instead of the full 24-hour window originally proposed and much needed.
Many states already allow multiple days for pre-processing of ballots. This was important to do pre-COVID and is all the more important now to ensure safe and equitable elections.
Please know the Michigan LCV team is working with members of the state House to strengthen this legislation, including provisions that provide clerks and their staff the time they need to process absentee ballots during this challenging election year. We have released a statement on SB 757, which you can read here.
In addition, we are urging lawmakers to do everything in their power to pass legislation to ensure all voters have equal access to the ballot. This includes making sure we have secure-location drop boxes for ballots, and staffed, satellite clerk hours so people can safely cast their ballots in-person.
Without adequate elections protections in place, Michigan risks hundreds of thousands of ballots being delayed, or not counted at all. This is completely unacceptable.
3.Equity and the Environment: Join us for our 2020 Virtual Gala
This year for our annual gala, we are doing things a bit differently.
Traditionally held in the city of Detroit, COVID-19 has mandated a shift to virtual platforms, but our key focus remains the same: celebrating environmental champions and accomplishments and ensuring all Michiganders, regardless of income, race or zip code, have access to clean air and water.
I would love it if you would join us for our annual virtual gala, entitled Equity and The Environment, which is taking place on October 14 from 6 pm -7.30 pm via Zoom.
This year, we are thrilled to be honoring three amazing state and local champions for their commitment to protecting Michigan’s most treasured resources, public health, and our democracy: Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and Detroit activist Theresa Landrum.
There are a myriad of reasons for our honoree decisions, including, but not limited to:
- Governor Gretchen Whitmer established the nation’s only Racial Disparities Task Force to address the disparate impact COVID-19 has had on communities of color, with Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist leading the charge. The Whitmer/Gilchrist Administration declared racism a public health crisis, put in place the most diverse leadership team in state history, and have been leading boldly on climate change and water protections.
- Theresa Landrum, an incredible frontline leader, has spent decades working to address public health issues and racial disparities in Michigan’s most polluted zip code: 48217. For decades, Theresa has advocated for some of Detroit’s most impacted communities and is a leading voice for justice across Michigan.
Tickets to the virtual gala start at a suggested $50 donation. To RSVP or become a sponsor, click here. All ticket purchases and sponsorships will go to support Michigan LCV’s critical work to protect Michigan’s drinking water, public health, and our democracy, and tackle the existential threat of our time: the climate crisis. I would be delighted if you would join us!
We are 47 days from Election Day. It’s more than crunch time. As I always say, but say today with added emphasis, thank you SO MUCH for all your support. The entire Michigan LCV team is very grateful!