Welcome to the March 18, 2021 edition of Three Things Thursday. This week’s edition takes a look at Michigan LCV’s strategic planning process and provides yet another update on Line 5. I also share some thoughts from a brief retreat on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Before diving into the Three Things, I must take a moment to acknowledge the horrific events that occurred near Atlanta, Georgia earlier this week. The senseless violence against Asian American women, perpetuated out of ignorance and hatred, enraged and saddened the Michigan LCV team. Asian Americans and other communities of color have long been the subject of systemic racism and unchallenged prejudice. The murders in Georgia highlight how much work needs to be done to address the problems that plague this nation. The Michigan LCV team is committed to being an ally to the Asian American community and to Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) communities everywhere. As we work to define the key elements of our 2021-2024 strategic plan, there is a deep commitment at our core to addressing the systemic racism that allows such senseless, hate-filled violence to take place.
1. An insider look at the Michigan LCV strategic planning process
This week started a little differently for the Michigan LCV team: we devoted Monday afternoon to working on the development of Michigan LCV’s 2021-2024 strategic plan. With guidance from our expert consultant, the team discussed Michigan LCV’s work over the past five years, examined our existing vision and mission statements, and collaborated to imagine what the next four years could and should look like as we continue to evolve and grow.
For some Michigan LCV staff who have been through a strategic planning process, either at Michigan LCV or elsewhere, an in-depth meeting like this was familiar territory. For many others, however, the process was new. It was amazing to witness the team in action as they listened to one another, collaborated, and proposed bold new ideas, all of which were firmly connected to the organization’s strengths, as well as the challenges and opportunities before us.
The last Michigan LCV strategic plan was developed pre-Trump, pre-broad-based disinformation campaigns, pre-George Floyd’s murder (and the murder of so many other people of color) and pre-COVID-19. It was a different era. Over the past four years, we have had to pivot and adapt in radical ways, while also staying true to a plan that was bold and ambitious. The innovation, determination, political expertise and fortitude displayed by this awesome team was essential to our impact and success. Those strengths and attributes remain critical as we imagine and plan for the years ahead of us.
This means taking on new challenges and stepping into new spaces as we work to not only protect Michigan’s air, land and water, but the health of Michigan communities. At the core of our work is an even deeper commitment to environmental justice and a fair and equitable democracy (think fairly drawn congressional/legislative districts and the full embrace of voting rights).
The next step in our planning process is a two-day (virtual) board retreat, which takes place in two weeks. Knowing the board as I do, I am certain that the end goal–our new plan–will again be bold and ambitious, with a deep, unyielding commitment to tackling the challenges of our time–the climate and water crises–and with inclusivity, justice, people-centered power, and innovation at the core of all we do.
2. Line 5 Update: The Saga Continues
This may become a weekly update as we edge closer to the May 12th deadline that the Governor gave Enbridge to shut down their decrepit, dangerous Line 5 pipeline. (If they don’t comply, which they’ve basically said they won’t, Enbridge will be breaking the law.) Last week I highlighted an article that addressed the hidden carbon emissions associated with pipelines, as well as some of the outright lies Enbridge and their allies are spreading in their effort to fight this decision. Since last week, there is even more to report.
Although the legislature has no role in the future of Line 5 (the decisions lie with the Governor, the AG and the courts), the Senate Committees on Energy & Technology and Natural Resources held a joint meeting on Tuesday to discuss the future of the pipeline. Why would they do this? To elevate the issue and attempt to throw the Governor and AG under the bus. In other words: pure partisan politics.
The two committees heard testimony from a group of Canadian officials representing Provincial Parliament, labor groups and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the hearing the falsehoods, mischaracterizations, and inaccurate assumptions from the pro-pipeline delegation, while predictable, were nonetheless flabbergasting. In response to this dog-and-pony show, Michigan LCV issued a statement reaffirming our commitment to shutting down Line 5 for good.
We also worked closely with our allies to counter this false narrative in the Canadian media. As one piece of this puzzle, the Michigan LCV team was pleased to assist with the placement of an excellent opinion editorial authored by Lana Pollack. Lana’s OpEd ran in both digital and print form in the Toronto Star this week.
As you may remember, Lana served as the U.S. Section Chair of the International Joint Commission (IJC) for nine years, a binational organization created by the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 to advise our respective governments on the health and safety of the Great Lakes. Lana’s article lays out the facts when it comes to Line 5, describing the imminent risk the pipeline poses to the world’s largest freshwater body.
While lawmakers held the hearing on Tuesday with Canadian officials, real work was happening to ensure the transition away from Line 5 is as smooth as possible. The U.P. Energy Task Force finalized its recommendations that day, which will be formally received by the governor at the end of the month. This follows the recent release of the MI Propane Security Plan, a 5-point plan unveiled last week Thursday, that provides short and long-term solutions for Michigan’s energy future post-Line 5. These recommendations have been meticulously established through a years-long process that included public meetings and input from residents. The plan charts a clear path towards affordable, safer energy and removes the risk of a catastrophic oil spill in our Great Lakes.
I encourage you to check out this news clip from 9&10 News that features Michigan LCV Senior Partnerships Manager Bentley Johnson talking about Gov. Whitmer’s propane plan and the path forward for Michigan.
3. A short respite on the shores of Lake Michigan
We all need time to step out of our routines, both for rest and rejuvenation, but also for perspective. The reality and gravity of COVID-19 has made doing so really difficult for so many people. That’s certainly been true for me and members of the Michigan LCV team as we’ve worked through intensity of the 2020 candidate elections; battled the (deeply racist and continued) attacks on our democracy; stood side-by-side with communities that have been poisoned by the contamination of their air, their land and their water; and consistently defended the Governor, AG and Sec of State as they have used their positions of power to protect Michiganders (from toxic pollution, from the disproportionate impact of this deadly virus, from a dangerous, damaged oil pipeline, from egregious water shut-offs, from the looming threats brought on by the climate crisis, and much more). Add to this the work to hold our state legislature accountable for their actions (see our Capital Catch-Up for the latest on what’s happening in Lansing), and our team has been in a full sprint for months and months.
That’s why the very short break I took this week was so important. I didn’t take full days off or travel very far. I simply took a drive to Lake Michigan and spent a couple of days working from a different location and hiking for hours along the lakeshore. Yesterday, my husband, our adolescent pup and I literally spent four hours (at two different intervals) exploring Saugatuck Dunes State Park and the Patty Birkholz Natural Area. Some of this was familiar landscape for us; some wasn’t. And, everything is new in each season…and every day, really.
As many of you know, former state Senator Patty Birkholz (R) — who also served as the director of the Office of the Great Lakes — was part of the Michigan LCV staff towards the end of her life. Patty was a remarkable woman who battled deeply entrenched misogyny to win well-deserved positions in elected office, from Saugatuck Township trustee to state representative (where she was the first woman to represent the 24th State House District between 1996-2002) and state senator (2002-2010). Patty’s work to protect Michigan’s natural resources resulted in the passage of the Great Lakes Inter-Basin Compact, ballast water standards, Michigan’s first renewable energy standards, and the Michigan State Parks Passport (among other things).
In 2010, a 291-acre portion of the 1,000-acre Saugatuck Dunes State Park was renamed the “Patricia Birkholz Natural Area” by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
I hiked this area for the first time yesterday. It’s spectacular. A perfect tribute to Patty and a place to reconnect with what’s most important. It’s also a deep reminder that there was once a time when members of the Republican Party proudly embraced their Teddy Roosevelt heritage around the protection of our land and our water, working in a bipartisan fashion to get things done. To Patty, there was nothing more sacred, from a political and religious perspective, than taking care of the things that we love and sustain us. Quite the opposite of what we are currently confronting in both Lansing and DC (see my PS).
While the light at the end of this terrible COVID tunnel appears to be brighter with the active and well-organized dissemination of vaccines, we still have a long journey ahead of us. My brief stay in Saugatuck was a reminder of how important it is to take respites, care for ourselves as we care for others, and celebrate the incredible beauty of this state. My wish for all of you is that you can do just that. Together, well-rested and well-fortified (spiritually, emotionally, physically), we can continue the critical work in both Lansing and DC to tackle the existential threats of our time–the climate crisis, the drinking water crisis–and the attacks on our democracy.
Thanks, as always, for all you do to support our work. Until next week, stay safe and healthy…
PS The crazy in Lansing
This week, the Lansing newsletter, MIRS, published an article entitled Gov’s Liaison Still Not Allowed On House Floor.
The first lines of the article read, “How bad is the relationship between the Governor and the Republican-led legislature?…Nearly a year since the House put in strict regulations on movement within the House chamber to control the COVID-19 spread, the Governor’s legislative liaison is still not being given floor access, a highly unusual move in the last 50 years of state government.”
That legislative liaison? Michigan LCV’s own Joe Fedewa who recently departed our shop to work for the Governor!
The article then proceeds… “Joe Fedewa, the deputy director of the governor’s legislative affairs team, does have the same access to the Thatcher Room with all the other department liaisons…..The point of the liaison is to be available to answer questions, work out issues with bills or clarify the Governor’s position on certain issues.”
Bill Kandler, who worked as Governor Blanchard’s legislative liaison for three years in the 1980s is quoted in the article, saying, “I have to believe it’d be pretty cumbersome to do business if you can’t get on the floor. It could slow down the process,” he said. “It’s certainly not a good environment right now. From the outside, it seems worse than anything I experienced in my 20 years in the process and my 40 years working around the process.”
Former Senate Majority Leader and House Majority Floor Leader Randy Richardville is also quoted in the article, saying that keeping the legislative liaison off the floor “speaks to the contentious times we’re living in….It’s beyond what I can even describe….We’re a better government and a better people if we can get along with the people we disagree with. This my-side-versus-your-side stuff . . . There shouldn’t be any sides. It doesn’t make any sense.”