Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the May 19, 2022 edition of Three Things Thursday!
As someone who approaches everything with a sense of positivity, this week has been exceptionally challenging. Our team is mourning the deaths of ten innocent people whose lives were taken by a gunman who opened fire at a Tops Supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, NY. This premeditated act of targeted racial violence against Black Americans is the latest terrifying example of systemic racism so pervasive it has become a form of domestic terrorism.
This was the first thing we talked about at our staff meeting on Monday, acknowledging that our Black teammates were impacted most significantly by the Buffalo murders. I am deeply grateful to one of our new teammates, Shannon Rochon, who took it upon himself to share the words of Andrea Crolick-Swain, LMSW, who wrote:
If your Black employees are quiet this week, let them be.
If your Black employees are sick this week, let them be.
If your Black employees are sad this week, let them be.
If your Black employees are distracted this week, let them be.
If your Black employees are restless this week, let them be.
If your Black employees are exhausted this week, let them be.
If your Black employees are distant this week, let them be.
We’ve suffered another trauma this weekend. We’ve witnessed America’s double standard again. We’ve seen yet another white man decide that we are hated so much that he traveled hours to shoot innocent Black people, and then be taken into custody. We’ve prayed over our friends and families, asking God to make sure they come back home. We’ve wondered if the next time we choose to drive, run, go to the store, it will be our last outing. We’ve pondered with doubt whether this will be acknowledged by our employers or if Monday morning will be filled with silence and a quiet expectation that we keep pushing on.
So, when your Black employees are quiet, sad, sick, distracted, exhausted, distant, or restless this week, remember that we are grieving and let us be.
Sending light, love and prayers to the Buffalo community.
Like Ms. Crolick-Swain, the Michigan LCV family is sending light, love and prayers to the families of those killed in Buffalo last week:
Roberta A. Drury, 32, of Buffalo
Margus D. Morrison, 52, of Buffalo
Andre Mackniel, 53, of Auburn, New York
Aaron Salter, 55, of Lockport, New York
Geraldine Talley, 62, of Buffalo
Celestine Chaney, 65, of Buffalo
Heyward Patterson, 67, of Buffalo
Katherine Massey, 72, of Buffalo
Pearl Young, 77, of Buffalo
Ruth Whitfield, 86, of Buffalo
Michigan LCV condemns the continued targeted violence against the Black community, and we reaffirm our commitment to being part of the solution and fighting against racism in all forms.
This week’s Three Things:
1. Promote the Vote 2022 Day of Action
Last Saturday, the Michigan LCV team participated in the first Day of Action (with several more to come over the next month or so) for the Promote the Vote 2022 petition campaign.
With signature gathering efforts in full swing, Saturday’s Day of Action included volunteers who were out in force at more than 100 locations all across the state, talking to voters, adding signatures, and collectively working towards a threshold of the more than 340,000 signatures needed to advance this important voting rights petition.
Election Systems Manager Mark Payne gathering signatures at the Thomas Edison branch of the Detroit Public Library.
In the face of the continued attacks on our democracy by GOP lawmakers and special interest groups, Promote the Vote 2022 seeks to protect our current, longstanding voting rights in Michigan – including absentee voting – while also expanding voting options and ballot access through true early voting options before Election Day, ensuring every Michigan voter can make their voice heard and that our elections are safe, secure, fair, and accessible to all.
Please know that the Michigan LCV team will continue to play an active role in the signature gathering efforts leading up to the July deadline. Our team members have petition sheets on hand so they can collect signatures every day, and we will enthusiastically participate in the upcoming Promote the Vote 2022 Days of Action on June 4th and June 24th.
Stay tuned for more Promote the Vote 2022 updates in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I encourage you to follow Promote the Vote 2022 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on ways you can get involved to protect our democracy and freedom to vote.
2. GOP Budget Proposals include $2 billion in Cuts – Water Programs & Staff in Jeopardy!
In a concerning move last week, GOP majorities in the Michigan legislature – both House and Senate – voted to pass budget proposals for the coming fiscal year that would leave billions of dollars in available funding at the state and federal levels on the table.
Under the auspices of their favorite term “tax cuts”, the proposals would mean sweeping reductions in funding that could result in critical layoffs in state departments and a loss of state support integral to funding for water infrastructure and air quality.
Their proposal eliminates the following from Governor Whitmer’s budget recommendation:
- $250.4M Water Infrastructure Projects – grants that would go to local governments to support critical drinking and wastewater upgrades, including lead service line replacement, combined sewer system separation, and PFAS mitigation
- $48M Community Technical Support Grants – a program that would help local governments access federal funds that have been appropriated under the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan
- $20M High Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Grants – grants to local communities to redesign shorelines and floodplains to be less susceptible to high water and coastal erosion. This program would also provide grants to communities to develop Climate Action Plans to help prepare for future climate-fueled flooding events
- And much more.
When we talk about there being a drinking water crisis in Michigan, that certainly refers to lead pipes and aging infrastructure, which is felt most significantly in our older urban centers. But this also refers to the growing toxic PFAS contamination crisis that is impacting rural and suburban communities. And it refers to the challenges facing our small towns – places like Akron, Michigan where drinking water systems have been neglected for decades.
By cutting funding for the staff responsible for the implementation of critical water and air protection programs, the GOP-led legislature is undermining both small, rural Michigan towns, like Akron, and larger cities, all of which continue to suffer from crumbling water infrastructure. The Republican proposal is also an outright refusal to provide some of our poorest and most under-resourced communities essential expert and technical support to draw down much-needed federal infrastructure dollars, which have recently become available via grant application through The Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act and the American Rescue Plan.
This is completely unacceptable. Please know that the Michigan LCV team is working to push key members of the House and Senate Appropriations committee to agree on a serious budget, one that puts the health of Michigan communities first. We are doing this both in the halls of the Capitol and by working with our volunteer team to directly connect constituent voices to key lawmakers.
3. New Michigan LCV team member spotlight: Jace Bylenga
The Michigan LCV search for talented, dedicated individuals to join our team in a variety of different roles continues and our team continues to grow! This week, I am excited to welcome Jace Bylenga to the Michigan LCV family!
Jace joins Michigan LCV’s Advocacy & Outreach (A&O) team as our newest West Michigan Regional Organizer, a role that will help the organization build capacity and relationships with partner organizations, activists, and community members on the ground in West Michigan.
Prior to joining the Michigan LCV team, Jace worked in a variety of organizing positions for multiple organizations in the West and the Pacific Northwest. Starting at AmeriCorps VISTA in Spokane, WA, Jace worked to build programs that focused on the nexus of poverty and environmental degradation in partnership with Gonzaga University. Since then, Jace has worked to protect drinking water in Idaho, as an organizer with the Sierra Club in Washington to defeat fossil fuel infrastructure development and shut down coal-fired power plants in Montana, and on numerous campaigns at local, state and federal levels in Washington and Michigan.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Jace attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where he received a Bachelor of Science degree with majors in Environmental Studies and Biology and a minor in Chemistry.
We are thrilled to have Jace joining the Michigan LCV family!
As always, thank you for all you do to support our work. Please be careful given the rising COVID numbers and remember to tell your family and friends you love them. There is so much negativity and hate swirling in this world. Let’s counter it all by both working every day for justice and equity, and truly BEING the change we want to see in the world.