Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the January 7, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday, the first edition of the New Year. Each week I try to provide you with a sense of our work at Michigan LCV, and the impact we–and our family of organizations within the broader Conservation Voters Movement–are having on the issues that matter most: the climate crisis; clean, safe, affordable drinking water; and the creation of a just and equitable society where every vote is counted and every community is treated equally.
In this week’s Three Things, I share thoughts about what happened in DC yesterday, focus on the outcome of the Georgia Senate races, and share some significant sadness in the Michigan LCV world.
1. Protestors Storm the Capitol
For those who have been appalled by Trump’s behavior since his days on the 2016 campaign trail, that feeling was catapulted to an all-time high yesterday as he not only fed the circumstances that resulted in the storming of Capitol Hill, but stood by and did nothing while violence ensued.
As Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell said in her powerful post at 3:oo a.m., “This is not the America I know.” This display of terrorism does not represent our shared values. This was a mob. This was chaos. This was sedition.
For all of us glued to our screens yesterday, it was reassuring to have President-elect Biden address the nation, emphasizing as he did that a president’s voice is very, very powerful, and pushing Trump to make an immediate statement calling for an end to the violence.
Instead, Trump released a video that simply continued to incite the mob, repeating words about a “stolen election.” While (softly) urging people to “go home,” the overall message provided the rioters with continued, false justification for their dangerous actions, a narrative that has, and continues to, degrade our democracy.
Commentator Van Jones, as always, was an important voice yesterday. In a Tweet, he said:
“We need to declare that this is the END of something. We can NEVER let this happen again. Tonight we need to hear from EVERY leader that this is unacceptable. PERIOD.”
I don’t think it was lost on any of us that the response to yesterday’s protest – during which windows were broken, the U.S. Capitol Building damaged and blood shed – looked significantly different from the response to peaceful protests over the last year against the killing of unarmed Black men and women.
Those protests were met with aggressive police and military presence. In comparison, yesterday’s storming of the Capitol Building saw a National Guard response only after multiple requests from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (President Trump was silent and the Department of Justice rejected her initial request for National Guard support).
Yesterday, protestors were allowed to run amuck in the nation’s Capitol Building, breaking into lawmakers’ offices and even breaching the Senate floor. As my fellow member on the national LCV Board of Directors/President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus, Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. tweeted yesterday, “We catch hell for protesting (peacefully) just for our lives to matter, how is this possible?”
Members of Congress came to the Capitol Building to do their jobs and certify the will of the American people. They came to do the people’s work, in “the People’s House,” knowing that there would be some challenges, but never imagining in a million years that their day would involve having to wear gas masks and evacuate to undisclosed locations fearing for their lives.
Following hours of chaos, the Capitol Building was finally secured. Lawmakers resumed their business and certified the electoral college’s votes. In the words of Congressman Dan Kildee (D-Flint), “Angry mobs cannot and will not silence the will of the people.”
I have enormous respect for members of the media who, in the midst of the mayhem, also did their jobs, informing the public and telling the story, in a detailed fashion, of what happened. Over the past four years the media has been demonized by Trump and we saw the results yesterday when protestors attacked reporters with cameras and destroyed their equipment. Telling the truth has been totally and completely absent from the White House over the past four years. The media has been, and remains, more critical than ever in relaying facts in an era of (dangerous) fiction and, as was the case yesterday, often put their personal safety on the line to do so.
Throughout the insanity yesterday, the Michigan LCV team was tracking things closely, texting with members of Congress and their staff members, making sure that our elected officials knew that their work is immensely appreciated and that we stand with them through thick and thin.
2. Georgia’s Senate runoff elections: what the results mean for the things we care about most: addressing the climate crisis and fighting for environmental/water justice
Oh, sweet Georgia! Goddesses bless Stacey Abrams and the army of people she helped organize: those who worked to ensure safe, equitable elections; those who helped mobilize the voters; and the voters, themselves, who spoke truth to power. Blessings, too, on our friends at national LCV who poured massive amounts of time, energy, talent and resources into these Senate races.
It’s been a very long few weeks since November 3rd. People all across this nation, exhausted from the 2020 presidential election, picked themselves back up, dusted themselves off, and stepped up to do everything they could to elect Reverend Raphael Warnock and investigative journalist Jon Ossoff to the U.S. Senate. As you know, Warnock was declared the victor in his race against Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler on Tuesday night. Yesterday afternoon, amidst the chaos that ensued on Capitol Hill, Ossoff was finally determined the winner against Republican incumbent Perdue.
This is an enormous reason for celebration! Not only is this the first time Georgia has elected a Black Senator, but Warnock will also be the first Black Democratic Senator from a Southern state, and the state will now also be represented by the youngest U.S. Senator in the nation: 33-year-old Ossoff.
With President Joe Biden taking office later this month, the results of Georgia’s runoff election have far-reaching implications for the work we do in the Conservation Voters Movement and offer opportunities to achieve real change in the battles to address the climate crisis, as well as environmental and water justice/equality.
In fact, the Biden Administration has a mandate for action from the voters and the President-elect has made clear that action on climate change, environmental injustice and economic inequality are all top priorities and central to his vision for economic recovery. The incoming administration has committed to using all the levers of the federal government — regulations, investments, purchasing power, and their convening role — to address the problems facing this nation and the globe. This “all of government” plan runs across and throughout the Biden/Harris domestic, economic and foreign policy agenda. Our job is to stand with them, push them, and encourage them every step of the way.
While there is a multi-year plan for real action to “build back better,” from our perspective there is a list of immediate things that can, should and will be done with the newly elected President and U.S. Congress in place:
- Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, reassert our leadership on the world stage & mobilize other nations to make deeper cuts in their own carbon emissions
- Restrict oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters
- Propose ambitious new clean cars standards and affirm CA’s authority to set their own clean cars standards
- Move forward energy efficiency appliance standards, methane standards
- Block pipelines that transport fossil fuels across the country
- Provide federal incentives to develop clean energy
- Restore the dozens of environmental safeguards Trump rolled back
NOTE: So much of this has enormous implications for environmental and water justice. A simple Congressional majority can rescind or reinstate policies that the Trump administration has put in place or stripped during the last four years, especially policy and regulatory changes pertaining to environmental protection, clean energy, and environmental justice.
In addition, with Mitch McConnell out of the way, there is not only the opportunity to restore safeguards, but to take truly bold action on a large portion of the Biden/Harris platform, such as:
- Passing more economic stimulus and aid packages to help struggling Americans, accelerate the vaccination process, and start implementing Biden’s climate plan to tackle the climate crisis by investing in clean energy and curbing carbon emissions
- Taking immediate steps to implement the Biden/Harris climate plan. (Here are two articles on the Biden Protect 30×30 pledge: New York Times on Biden’s Protect 30×30 pledge and National Resources Defense Council on Biden’s climate agenda)
Yesterday was certainly a mix of emotions: horror and rage at what took place on Capitol Hill combined with elation and celebration related to the outcomes of the Georgia elections. In an attempt to remain positive, we are focused on the latter knowing that the time has come for us to take action on a set of core values — fairness, equity, safety, health — all of which lie at the heart of the Conservation Voters Movement’s work on climate and water justice.
3. The loss of a remarkable board member: Mark Stranahan
Last year was one that so many of us want to put firmly and forever in the rearview mirror. On top of a global pandemic, racial violence, and enormously contentious elections, the Michigan LCV family sustained a terrible blow when, on December 30, 2020, we lost one of our beloved board members. Following a short, intense illness, our dear Mark Stranahan passed away.
Mark joined the Michigan LCV board 10 years ago, when the organization was much smaller. Over time, Mark befriended each and every member of the board and staff, drawing people in with his inquisitive nature, wry sense of humor and seemingly endless array of information, often about people, places and subjects we had never heard of before. And, along the way, he was an essential part of helping our organization become stronger and more effective.
Mark grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Oregon (undergrad) and the UM Taubman School of Architecture. Over his many years in Ann Arbor, Mark was active in an array of important community organizations. He served as a member of the Neutral Zone board of directors; he was part of the Campaign for The Ark Committee (to raise funds for major renovation); and he actively supported Habitat for Humanity, SOS Community Services, Growing Hope and Summers Knoll. Mark was also a long-serving Trustee at the Stranahan Foundation, a family foundation founded in 1944 and based in Toledo, OH, which focused on education, physical and mental health, ecological well-being, arts and culture, and human resources.
Members of the Michigan LCV team have so many special memories of Mark. My memories include the many lunches and coffees I was lucky enough to have with Mark where we talked about everything from politics and philosophy to clean water/climate change, psychology and architecture. Mark had a way of making me think in more expansive ways and he brought levity to tough topics. Among his greatest gifts to the organization was the enormous amount of time and talent he put into helping with our office move in 2014. Working closely with an architect he recommended, Mark helped us envision a space that was innovative, open, inviting, and classy; a space that represented the organization we were becoming as we grew and changed. The result is our beautiful Ann Arbor office (which I invite you all to visit once we are on the other side of this pandemic).
Moved by the tragedy of Mark’s death, a number of Michigan LCV board members shared remembrances with me. Here are just two from Janis Bobrin and Bruce Wallace:
I met Mark when I was Water Resource Commissioner, and he was working on an environmental project. Because he was so smart, and also so much fun to work with, I was delighted to see he was on the Board when I joined.
Mark was one of the brightest and most inquisitive people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. I was continually impressed with the sheer breadth of his knowledge, and, of course, I loved his quirky, dry, and often unexpected wit.
The last time we sat down together was to discuss his reappointment to the Michigan LCV Board. He wanted to talk, and to know whether he really contributed anything of value to the organization. That gave me the opportunity to tell him all the reasons why he was truly valuable; emphasizing that he so often brought an important and unique perspective to discussions and issues.
When we shared conversations at committee meetings or offline, I so often came away thinking, “Wow! I never looked at it (fill in the issue) quite that way.” Also, he had a charming, non-confrontational and collegial way of disagreeing; he prompted and encouraged discussion rather than shutting it down. That’s a special talent.
Life is so fragile. Since Mark and I were fellow board members, but not close personal friends, I did not expect to be quite so affected as I am. Losing Mark will leave a void that can’t really be filled.
I first got to know Mark when I was on the board of the Neutral Zone and Mark was helping the organization with the very challenging real estate and architectural issues involved in their move to the wonderful building they have occupied ever since. We quickly became friends and in the course of our friendship I learned that, in addition to his interest in the well-being of children and teenagers, he also had a broader interest in protecting the natural resources of Michigan. When Lisa enthusiastically endorsed the idea of inviting Mark on to the Michigan LCV board and I discussed it with him, he was delighted and we were most fortunate to have him join our ranks.
Mark and I frequently sat together at meetings, and I was the beneficiary of his great and unique insights on a huge spectrum of issues. I think we worked most closely together on Michigan LCV’s move to the current space, a project on which Mark provided countless hours of his architectural expertise to achieve a beautiful buildout of the space.
My most memorable experience with Mark, and my favorite, came on an occasion a few years ago when we decided to drive together to a board meeting in Lansing. Mark was to be the driver and my only responsibility was confirming the time and place of the meeting. For some reason, I convinced myself that the meeting was to begin at 9 AM on Friday, rather than noon or 1 o’clock as was usual, and we promptly arrived at 8:45 a.m. in the empty parking lot of the MEC building. The result kind of felt like Ferris Bueller’s Day off. We turned off our cell phones and headed out for a relaxed and protracted coffee, we “shopped“ together, including, as I recall, browsing at a fabulous guitar store, and we enjoyed a long walk and extended conversation on all manner of things, with Mark’s extraordinary intellect and depth of interests on full display. Mark complemented his scholarly bent with a dry sense of humor and kind eye for the world about us. I wish I could’ve played hooky with him more often. Along with everybody at Michigan LCV, I will sorely miss him.
The Michigan LCV board and staff extend our deepest sympathies to Mark’s family, especially his four children. We feel very fortunate to have gotten to know and work with Mark over these past 10 years. He was truly a remarkable man.
Thank you for all you do and for your trust in our work. It’s been a truly tumultuous first week of the year. Please remember to take care of yourself, both physically by wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, and also psychologically, energetically and spiritually. Walking your dog, snuggling with your cat, singing a song you love…these things are more important than ever for our souls.