Amazing Speakers in our Webinar Series; How Safe, Clean Drinking Water is Framing the Presidential, US Senate and (all) other Races this Year; and our Annual Conference
Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the May 21st edition of Three Things Thursday. I hope this message finds each and every one of you safe and healthy.
Before I dive in, and as I sit looking out at this glorious spring day, my thoughts are with our fellow Michiganders in Midland County who have not only been displaced in the midst of a global pandemic, but whose homes and neighborhoods have been devastated by the impacts of catastrophic flooding in an area of the state saddled with the burden of significant decades-long toxic contamination. The media has been covering this story from all parts of the globe, some doing an exceptional job of connecting the dots between the lack of investment in monitoring and maintenance of critical infrastructure and the increasing challenges to our water (think dams, municipal water systems, etc.); others noting the need for a deep pivot to planning and preparedness to address our changing climate (and the increasing number of severe weather events we are seeing); and still others highlighting Dow Chemical’s long legacy of discharging dioxin and other hazardous chemicals into the river, the build up of the toxins in river sediment and the resulting Superfund site, and the potential dangers this severe flooding poses to public health in the region. I encourage you to check out some of these stories in the NYT, the Guardian and the Detroit Free Press (as starting points).
We issued a quick statement as the catastrophe began to unfold, we have responded to a number of media inquiries, and we have encouraged reporters to also reach out to key organizations like the Lone Tree Council (in Midland/Bay City) and the Ecology Center, which has a long and important history of working on toxics. Please know we are monitoring the situation closely.
Now, onto this week’s Three Things…..
1) Frontline Workers Tell Their Stories in our May 19th Webinar, Featuring Special Guest U.S. Senator Gary Peters!
On Tuesday, we hosted our latest event in our People, Planet, Public Health webinar series. “Faces from the Frontlines” brought together U.S. Senator Gary Peters and two frontline health care workers for an incredibly honest and important, if sobering, conversation about the essential workers and their experience risking their health and safety for their communities and their fellow Michiganders.
Our livestream garnered more than 3,500 views on Facebook Live and over 65 viewers on Zoom. Senator Peters exuded determination and compassion as he spoke about the work he is doing to bring increased support to frontline workers across the nation. He also spoke of the work he’s done (and continues to do) to tackle the pressing public health challenges of today, like cleanup of toxic PFAS contamination and maintaining critical air, land and water safeguards that are under attack by the Trump administration.
Our other two guests, Tracie Alexander and Lakya Hannah, shared their perspectives as frontline workers in Metro Detroit. Tracie is a respiratory therapist who contracted Covid-19 while working in the ICU. Tracie is also – like so many people – balancing self-care with the care of her family. She is at home with her daughter, trying her best to help with homework, while also doing her best to keep a distance and self quarantine to prevent her daughter from getting sick.
During the webinar, Tracie said:
“When we started getting hardest hit, I was petrified. I wasn’t quite sure how I would do my best job…I’m very committed to my patients and the community I serve, but I questioned my ability to show up and do my best because I was fearful of getting sick and bringing the virus back home.”
Before COVID-19 struck, Lakya was a proud member of SEIU, working at a Metro Detroit hospital as a dietary helper. Layka courageously agreed to share her story with us, a story that includes losing her job in the midst of the pandemic, something that is becoming increasingly common as the pandemic ravages both community health and our economy.
While sharing her story on the webinar, Lakya said:
“I really want to get back to work doing the job I love: serving our patients and working in the cafeteria and the kitchen. It has been very challenging, but what I’ve been doing to stay positive and not too overwhelmed with stress is spending time with my daughter since they closed the schools…my daughter has been making it so much better for me, keeping me motivated and telling me I can do this and I’ll get called back to work soon. I try my best to say a prayer everyday.”
I am deeply grateful for the time that Senator Peters, Ms. Alexander and Ms. Hannah shared with us. Our conversation on Tuesday brought to the fore the significant challenges we are facing, ones that deserve immediate attention, legislative action, community compassion, and the understanding that the journey to healing as a nation is one we all must be a part of.
Next week, we’ll be hosting Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Sierra Club Environmental Justice Organizer Justin Onwenu, and Detroit activist Theresa Landrum to talk about the racial disparities of Covid-19 in Michigan. Lt. Governor Gilchrist is leading the Covid-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities created by Governor Whitmer to address these issues. This is the only task force of its kind in the country.
You can register for that event here.
2) How Safe, Clean Drinking Water is Framing the Presidential, US Senate and (all) other Races this Year
We know now that air pollution increases the risk of dying from Covid-19. Individuals already suffering from asthma and hypertension are incredibly vulnerable to the ravages of this virus. But what hasn’t been talked about as much are the dangers of toxic chemicals in Michigan’s drinking water and their impact on our immune systems, which increases our susceptibility to the virus. Frighteningly, exposure to PFAS has also been found to reduce immune response to vaccines in young children.
That is why our partners at national LCV launched a $14 million campaign this week in six key states (MI, WI, FL, AZ, PA and NC) that connects the dots between our health and widespread, toxic PFAS chemicals in our water, the very chemicals that President Trump is refusing to clean up. (Trump is also refusing to set tough, safe standards for levels of these unseen “forever chemicals” in our water.)
LCV’s high-impact campaign in these battleground states hit hard by PFAS (notably MI, WI and PA) is a collaboration with Priorities USA, and includes waves of digital advertising and several flights of mail. Here’s one quick example:
The LCV presidential effort will run through the summer. It comes on the heels of a $1 million, statewide TV ad blitz highlighting U.S. Sen. Gary Peters’ strong leadership in addressing PFAS pollution in Michigan. The ad featured one of Michigan LCV’s coalition partners, Cathy Wusterbarth from Need Our Water (NOW) in Oscoda.
And earlier this year, following a similar theme, national LCV ran a $1 million TV buy in U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin’s district around her work to pass the PFAS Action Act.
As you will remember, Michigan LCV’s work in 2018 helped shape the issue environment around the protection of our drinking water, which remains a #1 priority issue in voters minds. Our $3.4 million #OurWaterOurVote effort during the 2018 elections elevated safe drinking water, protecting our health, and holding polluters accountable as key litmus tests for Michigan voters. This work remains critical as we head to the polls in November.
We at Michigan LCV, like many others, have been shocked by President Trump’s systematic weakening of environmental protections throughout his time in office and, notably, amid the coronavirus pandemic — with direct consequences for our children, families and economy.
Beginning in 2019, Michigan LCV pulled out all the stops to inform and engage Michiganders about the detrimental impacts of the Trump administration as they’ve rolled back critical rules addressing climate change and toxins in our air and water, while also weakening landmark laws, like the Endangered Species Act. We’ve run millions of digital ads, asking citizens to make their voices heard, held media events, and elevated the issues through op-ed pieces in newspapers.
Our last digital ads, which ended in early May, connected air pollution and PFAS with increased risks for coronavirus, and connected that to the Trump administration’s rollbacks on EPA protections.
Without a doubt, the people of Michigan are more in-tune than ever to the increasing number of ways our health is being threatened at every turn. It is clear that we need leadership in local, state and national offices that makes the protection of human health and our environment a No. 1 priority. That is always the work of Michigan LCV.
3) The 24th Annual Conservation Voters Movement Conference–it’s all virtual this year
The 24th Annual Conservation Voters Movement Conference took place last week with an agenda spanning topics like “messaging in the midst of a pandemic” and “best practices on fundraising” to “the role of racial and economic injustice in the environmental movement”.
This conference is held each year to bring the 30+ state leagues and national LCV together to grow, learn, plan and enhance our already strong nationwide community. Significant adjustments had to be made this year to meet the over 400 attendees where they are: sheltering in place. In past years, we’ve convened in cities like Seattle, Denver, Grand Rapids and Santa Fe, and this spring attendees–including board and staff from Michigan–were eagerly looking forward to gathering in Miami. Instead, given COVID-19, the entire conference was transitioned to virtual webinar-style sessions, all of which were top-notch, but it’s just not the same as being together in a warm place sharing best practices and plotting the path to victory in November.
A real high point within the conference? Our very own Strategic Partnerships Director, Lauren Mallas, keynoted a session on Wednesday entitled, “Board Fundraising in the Time of Coronavirus”. Lauren did a great job, not only because she’s a true rock star, but because we have an exemplary board of directors who has stepped up during this incredibly challenging time. The Michigan LCV board/staff partnership is powerful and allows us to share best practices with others.
As you can see, much is underway within Michigan LCV. We promise to keep you updated in the days ahead. I hope this message finds you and your family safe and healthy. Thank you so much for your ongoing trust in our work. Until next week…
PS: As a reminder anyone who wishes to apply for the new redistricting commission created with the passage of Proposal 2 in 2018 must apply by June 1. The application link can be accessed here and our team can help set up a free, e-notary session for those wishing to apply. Please contact Clare Allenson [email protected] to arrange notary services.