Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the January 14, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday. This week I sustain a focus on the violent mob that attacked “the people’s house” on January 6th given the enormous implications past, present and future; provide a few clear examples of why elected leadership matters so very much to the health and well-being of the Great Lakes and safe, clean drinking water (among other things!); and take a look at Michigan LCV’s top 2021 Lansing-based priorities.
1. The U.S. Capitol riot
Last week’s events in Washington, D.C. continue to be at the forefront of state, national and international news as we try to understand and make sense of what happened at the U.S. Capitol. The security breaches were many and enormous questions remain about how much the FBI and national security knew in advance of the attack and why they didn’t act to protect “the people’s house” and the public servants who work there.
Michigan is, of course, at the center of much of the national conversation, not only because busloads of Michiganders responded to Trump’s call and trekked to D.C. to participate in the insurrection, but because armed MAGA supporters and threats to our elected officials surfaced first right here at home. Indeed, the New York Times ran an article last weekend, entitled In Michigan, a Dress Rehearsal for the Chaos at the Capitol on Wednesday, featuring this photograph…
A militia group stands in front of the governor’s office after armed protesters occupied the State Capitol building during a vote to approve the extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order in Lansing, Mich., in April. Credit…Seth Herald/Reuters
…and reference to the kidnapping plot targeting Governor Gretchen Whitmer (which included two of the men in this photo). While the men responsible for the plot to leave our Governor in the middle of Lake Michigan were indicted, this terrifying instance of radical right-wing activity, perpetuated and incited by President Trump, should have been a much louder wake up call to the nation.
As we scour the landscape for good news, it’s important to note that just this week the Michigan Capitol Commission voted unanimously to ban open carry firearms at the State Capitol. After witnessing the relentless presence of guns in Lansing, and the horror of what happened last week on Capitol Hill, voices grew larger in number and louder, demanding change from the body responsible for managing, maintaining and restoring the Michigan State Capitol Building and its grounds. The leading voice was that of Rep. Sarah Anthony (H.D. 68) who represents Ingham County and is a former Michigan LCV Board member. Over the past many months, Rep. Anthony has advocated powerfully and relentlessly for a total ban of guns in the capitol. As Rep. Anthony told the New York Times,
“The reality is that whether a gun is openly carried, or it’s concealed in a pocket or an oversized coat, it is still a deadly weapon…And I am still unsure if the men and women who work in this building every day feel any safer because of this action. I am excited that there’s a little momentum, but the work is not done.”
Rep. Anthony is a real hero.
The bad news is, of course, that the challenges and threats to our state and federal governments persist. What we saw last week in Washington is the product of a growing movement promoting “freedom,” “liberty,” and “American values”, fueled by the racist rhetoric streaming from Trump’s twitter feed (which has fortunately been curtailed). This was so incredibly evident on January 6th when…
- Individuals storming the U.S. Capitol replaced American flags flying on the building with TRUMP 2020 flags
- Trump supporters acted aggressively and violently, incited by the President’s words and lies about election fraud, dragging a Capitol Police officer down steps and beating him with an American flag and killing another USCP officer, Brian D. Sicknick.
And yet, again, I know that there were many heroes last Wednesday, people who stepped up to help others as chaos broke loose. There is one story, however, that has stayed with me: that of Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman. As one of my teammates shared with me:
The riots at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. were horrifying, but turned out to be tame in comparison to what was intended by Trump’s supporters last week, or what could have happened if not for the heroic actions of specific individuals that day. The mob of insurrectionists were highly organized, with many wearing tactical military gear and some carrying zip ties used to handcuff people. There was an immediate push once they were inside to seek out the office of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer. Had it not been for the actions of one law enforcement officer, these American traitors might have inflicted incredible violence. Officer Eugene Goodman, while being chased by a mob of angry white men, saw that the doors of the Senate had been left unguarded, and bravely led the mob away from the unnoticed doors, saving the Senate and those on the Senate floor.
That’s certainly the message that was carried by CNN as they shared video of Mr. Goodman’s actions, footage that was widely broadcasted on Twitter as well.
For so many of us, the horror of what we witnessed last week stood in distinct contrast to how crowds all across the country have been treated over the past many months in response to Black Lives Matter protests and–very starkly–the outrageous incident on June 1, 2020 when a crowd nonviolently protesting police brutality were tear gassed in Lafayette Park so that Trump could cross the park and clutch a bible for a photo op.
As we move forward in time, the January 6th insurrection provides a clear sense of what could be on the horizon on and around Inauguration Day. Those who took part in the U.S. Capitol riot were from all parts of the country, with at least six people from Michigan already arrested on various charges. On Monday of this week, it was reported by the Detroit Free Press that Governor Whitmer and members of her staff received death threats via mail in mid-December, demanding the transfer of $2 million in Bitcoin cryptocurrency by January 25th and threatening violence if the demand was not met. While the Michigan State police have said the threats are not credible, the recurring theme of violence in response to political and ideological differences is both frightening and worrisome in terms of what the future might hold in this country.
As an organization that works at the heart of policy and politics, that advocates for clean air, land and water and bold action to address the climate crisis, and that executes all our work based upon a set of values that include justice, equity, respect, integrity, honesty and fairness, we issued a statement in response to the insurrection on January 6th. Please know that in the midst of the madness, the Michigan LCV team keeps working every single day to make the state of Michigan a better place to live for each and every one of us.
2. What leadership looks like
Given the issues dominating the news — violent mobs, impeachment, the coronavirus and the economy — a few things happened over the past many weeks that have gone virtually unnoticed. I want to put a spotlight on two that have enormous implications for our Great Lakes, but in advance of that I must highlight today’s announcement on the Flint Water Crisis.
- As part of a new investigation into the Flint Water Crisis, former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, along with his health director and other ex-officials, have been charged in connection to their involvement with the crisis, which crippled the community and is still ongoing.
At a press conference this morning, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that Governor Rick Snyder has been charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty, which are misdemeanors and punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1000.
The water crisis upended thousands of Michiganders and their families, posing serious health issues and altering the trajectory of people’s lives. Melissa Mays, a mother turned activist in Flint, was quoted in today’s New York Times.
“….one of the first people to draw attention to the problems with the city’s water, (Melissa) said that given the silence from the attorney general’s office for more than 18 months, she was apprehensive that charges would go far enough.
“We in Flint have been living in prison for the past almost 7 years and being forced to pay for water that’s still being piped through corroded and damaged infrastructure in the streets and in our homes while the people responsible have been walking free…We in Flint deserve REAL justice and that means wealthy, white politicians and agency heads going to jail for their actions and inaction that’s caused so much harm and loss to us.”
Michigan LCV released a statement today in response, noting that accountability for those involved in the Flint water crisis is long overdue.
- Last week, in partnership with Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, Governor Whitmer announced an intergovernmental agreement between the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to support a critical Great Lakes protection project: the long advocated for and anticipated Brandon Lock and Dam.
This agreement between Illinois and Michigan is a really big deal in keeping carp out the Great Lakes and has enormous implications for our economy and ecosystem. Michigan LCV issued a statement celebrating Governor Whitmer and Governor Pritzker’s actions, and we intend to continue to raise awareness around this issue in order to protect the health of our Great Lakes.
The agreement allows Illinois to use up to $8 million in funds appropriated in 2018 by the Michigan Legislature to support the pre-construction engineering and design phase of the Brandon Road Ecosystem Project. The State of Illinois has also partnered with the Army Corps of Engineers and will serve as the non-federal sponsor for the project. As many of you know, the Brandon Road Ecosystem project is a critical component of Great Lakes protection as the Brandon Road Lock and Dam sits at the convergence of watersheds between the tributaries of the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes. It is at this point that invasive species are able to enter the Great Lakes via Lake Michigan, wreaking havoc on the Lakes’ ecosystems and food chains. This agreement will allow the long-awaited project to progress, installing layered technologies, including an electric barrier, underwater sound, an air bubble curtain and a flushing lock in a newly engineered channel designed to prevent invasive carp movement.
As you know, invasive species are extremely harmful to the health of the Great Lakes. Asian carp are the most well-known invasive species given their size and their ability to jump into boats, at times literally knocking people out.
But the Asian carp are not alone. It is projected that the arrival of live bighead, silver or black carp in the Great Lakes could have drastic effects on the region’s $7 billion fishery, $16 billion boating industry and other tourism-based industries, not to mention recreation and waterfront property
This agreement between Illinois and Michigan is a really big deal. Michigan LCV issued a statement celebrating Governor Whitmer and Governor Pritzker’s actions, and we intend to continue to raise awareness around this issue in order to protect the health of our Great Lakes.
- Last week a bill sponsored by Senator Gary Peters that helps protect Michigan communities from the impacts of climate change-driven shoreline erosion was signed into law
We issued a statement applauding Senator Peters for his leadership in moving this bipartisan legislation, protecting the health and safety of Michigan communities from the accelerating impacts of climate change.
As climate change continues to hit Michigan, one of the most noticeable and harmful impacts has been rising water levels in the Great Lakes and accelerating erosion of coastline, sometimes sending entire homes into Lake Michigan
The STORM Act establishes loans that local governments can access to help mitigate the impact of rising water levels, coastal erosion and other damage caused by natural disasters. This loan program will be an enormous help for local governments, as FEMA programs are currently unable to provide assistance for projects related to sustained high water levels and long-term shoreline erosion
We issued a statement applauding Senator Peters for his leadership in moving this bipartisan legislation, protecting the health and safety of Michigan communities from the accelerating impacts of climate change
3. Michigan LCV’s top priorities as we navigate these uncertain times
While it’s hard to concentrate on anything else except what’s happening in DC, there is a lot to attend to in Lansing. On the good news front, due to stellar leadership in the Governor’s office, the COVID numbers in Michigan have been dropping (while other parts of the country are being ravaged by the virus), which has big implications for both human health and our economy. Just yesterday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its epidemic order, allowing for the reopening of additional activities where Michiganders can remain masked and socially distanced. This includes indoor group exercise and non-contact sports.
In addition to health and safety issues surrounding COVID-19, the Michigan LCV team has our eyes on a few other things as we enter into this New Year. First and foremost is the state budget. As we all know, a budget is a clear illustration of values. We want to make sure that clean air, affordable water and healthy communities are at the heart of our state expenditures.
Our team is also focused on:
1. Governor Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan, an aggressive climate reform plan that will put Michigan on track for key carbon neutrality/carbon emissions reductions goals over the next 30 years. The plan includes a commitment to:
- Economy-wide carbon neutrality for Michigan by 2050
- 40% reduction in carbon emissions for state facilities by 2040 and
- Carbon neutrality in all new construction and renovation projects to state facilities by 2030…
The Michigan LCV team is committed to working alongside the Governor and her team to ensure the right steps are taken in 2021, which includes the necessary funding and resources from our state government to be effective and successful.
2. Governor Whitmer’s MI Clean Water Plan, which includes a $500 million investment in Michigan’s water infrastructure and overhauls to our network of water pipelines and roads. The plan, if allocated the necessary funding, will help with accessible and clean, safe, affordable drinking water. With charges brought against state officials responsible for the ongoing Flint water crisis pending, the MI Clean Water Plan serves as a beacon of hope in fixing a myriad of critical challenges facing our state’s aging and outdated water infrastructure, both in rural and urban areas.
3. Shutting down Line 5 for good!
As you know, this team has been and remains strongly opposed to Line 5. We celebrated the Governor’s decision to shut this antiquated, dangerous pipeline down, but news this week indicates that Enbridge is, once again, acting as if they are above the law, actively refusing to adhere to Governor Whitmer’s authority in revoking the easement agreement. Rest assured that Michigan LCV will continue the fight to make sure the pipeline is shut down permanently and in accordance with state authority.
We issued a strong statement condemning Enbridge’s blatant refusal to adhere to the revocation of the easement, which you can read here. Over the last 10+ years, dating back to the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil disaster, the company has repeatedly shown that they have no interest in protecting the people of Michigan and cannot be trusted to run a pipeline through the most valuable freshwater resource in the country.
For more information on all three of these issues, please visit www.CleanWaterHealthyClimate.com
As always, thank you for all you do. These are tough and turbulent times. The Michigan LCV community provides me with great comfort. I hope the same is true for you.
Be safe. Be well.