Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the February 17, 2022 edition of Three Things Thursday! Before we get into this week’s Three Things, I want to highlight Michigan LCV Education Fund board member Julia Cole who was on CNN yesterday. Julia is a climate scientist at the University of Michigan and was invited to talk with John King about two alarming new climate reports that came out earlier this week: a federal report, which was elevated by POLITICO, that shows sea levels could rise up to a foot by 2050; and a report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that says the “megadrought” affecting the south and western United States and Canada is the worst in 1,200 years.
You can watch Julia’s full interview here.
In talking about the new reports and the climate crisis, Julia said:
It’s just beyond alarming. I think people who are saying we are overhyping or exaggerating climate change have their head in the sand. In terms of the record breaking anomalies and the damage done, it’s really clear – and virtually 100% of climate scientists agree – this is a major problem and is getting worse very rapidly. Anyone who experienced some of the big storms of the past year are starting to get a feeling for what that looks like.”
We are so fortunate to have Julia on the Education Fund board, leading the charge and bringing attention to the rapidly accelerating climate crisis!
For analysis on the megadrought and how water scarcity might affect Michigan and the Great Lakes moving forward, I encourage you to check out this week’s edition of the Washington Weekly, our federally-focused newsletter. You can read this week’s edition here.
Now onto this week’s edition of Three Things, which spotlights a recently-elected Detroit city councilwoman and discusses the importance of local elections, shares a story about Michigan LCV’s work to protect our water, and introduces another new Michigan LCV Education Fund board member. Let’s dive in!
1. Leadership at all levels of government matters a lot!
Whether encouraging voters to simply and importantly exercise their right to vote or actively working to address the climate, water and democracy crises facing our beautiful state, the Michigan LCV message is clear: those in elected office–from city council and the state legislature to the US Congress and White House–make decisions every day that impact our daily lives. So, don’t stop at the top!
In 2022, there will be important elections up and down the ballot, especially considering Michigan’s new State House and Senate districts, which go into effect this spring. We understand the imperative to elect strong leaders to our state’s top positions, and we recognize, time and again, the brilliant leadership that is percolating at the local level all across the state.
One of these local leaders is Gabriela Santiago-Romero, the newly elected city councilwoman for Detroit’s District 6. Last year, prior to being elected, Gabriela’s Southwest Detroit community was devastated by severe storms and catastrophic flooding. Gabriela saw and experienced the impacts of climate change and the lack of investment in infrastructure that is disproportionately impacting minority communities like hers. Since taking office, she has carried those experiences with her, bringing attention to the threats her community faces and catalyzing climate action on the local level to build much-needed resiliency to address accelerating impacts.
As part of Michigan LCV’s climate action storytelling initiative, our team met with Councilwoman Santiago-Romero. Like many, Gabriela’s family came to the United States from Mexico in search of a better life. Their new home in Southwest Detroit, however, put them in Michigan’s most polluted zip code, which stands in stark contrast to the American Dream.
Throughout the conversation, Councilwoman Santiago-Romero spoke about the importance of taking action to address climate change and rebuild Detroit’s outdated infrastructure. In her newly elected position, Gabriela is determined to protect her constituents’ health and well-being, and ensure that every resident has a voice in the process.
Gabriela’s story and her commitment and determination to bring climate and water justice to her community is inspiring. And leaders like Councilwoman Santiago-Romero are stepping up all over the state. We’ve got to be there to support and celebrate their work. Think about it this way: where do the Infrastructure Investments and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds flow? Answer: from the federal government to the state governments and then onto the local units of government. We need smart, committed decision makers, like Gabriela, in municipal positions all over the state!
I encourage you to check out Gabriela’s story here.
Although most of Michigan’s 2022 elections will take place later this year, there are several upcoming special elections on March 1st, including primary state legislative elections being held in Wayne County’s 15th State House district, Macomb County’s 36th State House district, Oakland County’s 43rd State House district, and Kent County’s 74th State House district. For more information on upcoming special elections, please visit the Secretary of State’s voting website.
Whether your next election is in two weeks or in August, please make a plan to vote, and help your family and friends do so as well. Thanks to Promote the Vote’s 2018 Proposal 3, voters in Michigan have a variety of voting options. A healthy democracy demands participation. Let’s all make our voices heard!
2. Clean, safe, affordable water
Public opinion research in Michigan over the past 48-72 months clearly illustrates growing concern about drinking water. As I wrote about in my recent opinion-editorial for the Detroit Free Press, water is one of the single most pressing issues in Michigan right now due to widespread lead and PFAS contamination, failing septic systems, and increasing threats from toxic algae. With pressure put on our municipal water systems and our aging, failing infrastructure, the costs of these water challenges are often passed on to the consumers, creating water access and affordability issues.
It should not be a surprise that water is – and always has been – at the core of our work and at a top of Michigan LCV priority.
I’m proud to highlight an awesome interview that Bentley Johnson, our Federal Government Affairs Director, did recently with the River Network. NOE: The River Network is an organization that works to empower and unite people and communities in accordance with their mission to protect and restore rivers, as well as ensure everyone has access to clean, safe, affordable water and rivers.
I encourage you to check out Bentley’s interview, which includes video and provides a compelling case for our work at Michigan LCV. As Bentley says:
When you can’t trust the water that you have coming out of your tap or you have your water shut off or you are getting sick because of your water, that becomes more important than pretty much everything else”
I also encourage you to take a moment to send a message to your lawmaker urging them to pass Senate Bill 565, which will invest in the protection of Michigan’s drinking water and water resources. As it currently sits in the State House, the bipartisan bill includes $3.3 billion in water-related funding, but it can be made stronger. You can contact your lawmaker using our one-step advocacy tool here and urge them to strengthen Senate Bill 565 with available budget surpluses and help ensure Michiganders everywhere have access to clean, safe, affordable drinking water.
3. New Michigan LCV Education Fund board member: Erica Peresman
Every year, the Michigan LCV and Michigan LCV Education Fund boards of directors invite in a few new members. In December, board elections brought three new members to the Michigan LCV Education Fund board and two new members to the Michigan LCV board. Over the course of the next few weeks, I am going to share a little bit about each of them.
This week, I’d like to introduce you to Erica Peresman!
As a lawyer and voting rights advocate with a deep commitment to fighting voter suppression in Michigan over the last two decades, Erica is an incredible addition to the Michigan LCV Education Fund board. With experience from her time as a member of Promote the Vote’s Executive Committee while helping pass Proposal 3 in 2018, Erica’s work to expand voting rights and options for Michiganders will bolster and support Michigan LCV’s democracy-based work moving forward.
In addition to her time practicing business law at Pettit & Martin in San Francisco and Pepper Hamilton in Detroit, Erica’s work has focused on addressing food insecurity, college readiness and success, and faith leadership, fostering unique perspectives on community-based work. Erica is also a board member for Promote the Vote, Impact100 Metro Detroit, and the Detroit Jewish Community Relations Council. Erica received her bachelor’s degree in humanities for the University of Chicago and her law degree from Stanford Law School.
The Michigan LCV family of organizations is thrilled to have such an esteemed voting rights and legal expert join our Education Fund board! Welcome, Erica!
Thank you, as always, for all you do to support our work. Until next week…