Dear Michigan LCV Family,
Welcome to the October 6, 2022 edition of Three Things Thursday! This week our focus is the success of our lovely Detroit gala, a look at citizen leadership in tackling the PFAS crisis, and what Michigan LCV is doing to support Ann Arbor’s community climate millage campaign. Let’s jump in!
1. Michigan LCV’s 2022 Detroit Gala: People-Centered Power
Last Thursday, the Michigan LCV team hosted our 2022 annual gala at the historic Gem Theatre in downtown Detroit. This year – which was also the ten year anniversary of the event – marked the first time since 2019 that we were able to gather in person (in 2020 and 2021 we held the event virtually due to COVID). The event was entitled “people-centered power”, a theme that came to life in vivid ways throughout the evening as we celebrated outstanding individuals and organizations making a significant difference in the protection of our land, air, water, climate, public health, and democracy.
Opening the event was none other than Natasha Miller, an amazing spoken word poet who has graced us with her talents many times over the course of the years. Natasha’s poem this year was a tribute to her grandmother, whom Natasha calls her superhero, as well as all the other individuals out there who are working tirelessly to make this world a better place. I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the house when Natasha finished.
Natasha Miller, spoken word poet.
This year, we honored two important pillars in the media – MLive reporter Garret Ellison and the online newsletter, Planet Detroit – as well as the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, and Congresswoman Debbie Dingell. Each honoree, in their own way, has harnessed their power and position to bring attention to threats facing our environment, give impacted communities a voice, and protect the natural resources we are so lucky to have in this beautiful Great Lakes state. Although Congresswoman Dingell was unable to attend due to critical committee meetings and votes in Congress, she addressed the crowd via video expressing her deep gratitude for the Michigan LCV honor and speaking in glowing terms about our work.
The Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice receiving their award.
MLive reporter Garret Ellison addressing the crowd.
A portion of the Planet Detroit team with their award.
For the second year in a row, we partnered with the Glass Academy, an amazing Dearborn-based small business that not only created our awards, but provided several stunning glass pieces that were featured in our silent auction. We are very grateful for this continued partnership!
Each honoree was presented with a custom, hand-blown glass water droplet.
In addition to our 2022 honorees, renowned environmental justice advocate and water warrior Catherine Coleman Flowers delivered the keynote address. Flowers has dedicated her career to fighting for environmental justice, with a deep focus on improving sanitation and water infrastructure in Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and poor rural communities in the United States. Catherine’s professional accomplishments are many, including (but certainly not limited to) serving as Vice Chair of the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council and as a member of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force on Climate Change. She is also a 2020 MacArther Fellow for Environmental Health Advocacy. We were thrilled to have Catherine play an essential role in our event.
Thank you to all who attended last week, it was wonderful to see so many members of the Michigan LCV family! Our team is already looking forward to next year’s gala!
2. Recognizing the incredible Michiganders fighting toxic PFAS
As you know, the Michigan LCV team has doubled-down over the past few years to bring awareness and catalyze action to address the toxic PFAS crisis. This is a crisis impacting not only the state of Michigan, but the nation as a whole; and due to the work of a small group of incredible Michiganders, these “forever chemicals” have become more widely recognized, both here in Michigan and in Washington, DC.
Last year, Michigan LCV – in partnership with the Ecology Center and the National Wildlife Federation – helped launch the Great Lakes PFAS Action Network (GLPAN), a coalition that brings impacted individuals and communities together to educate and advocate for action on this incredibly important issue. The individuals who spearheaded and lead GLPAN include Tony Spaniola (Oscoda), Sandy Wynn-Stelt (Belmont), Cathy Wusterbarth(Oscoda), Robb Kerr (Ann Arbor) and Salah Ali (Dearborn).
On October 4th, GLPAN co-chair Tony Spaniola was featured in an important Rollcall article highlighting the years-long battle with the Department of Defense to address toxic PFAS contamination stemming from the Wurtsmith Air Force base near Oscoda, MI.
The article focuses on Tony’s experience as an impacted community member in Oscoda and how he first learned about PFAS chemicals and the dangers they pose to our water, land, health and wildlife. As a homeowner in Oscoda, Tony has been part of this battle with the Air Force for over 10 years. Tony helped form Need Our Water (NOW) Oscoda and is a member of the National PFAS Contamination Coalition. Through his work and advocacy, Tony has become a national expert on PFAS and is frequently called upon by government officials, reporters, and lawmakers for comment and testimony.
Tony speaking with Michigan LCV deputy director Bob Allison at last week’s gala.
Tony (left) and Cathy Wusterbath of GLPAN and Need Our Water (NOW) Oscoda with Lt. Gov. Garland Gilchrist this week.
From left to right: Kim Spaniola, Pam McCann, Tony, myself, Lt. Gov. Gilchrist, Robb Kerr, and Michigan LCV’s Suzanne Van Dam.
While there is much more to be done, Tony’s work to raise awareness about the toxic PFAS crisis and bring impacted communities together has been instrumental in moving the needle in ensuring the safety of our drinking water and health of our communities. He is truly one of the everyday heroes Natasha Miller highlighted in her amazing poem!
3. The A2 Community Climate Action millage
This year is a monumental election year in Michigan. At all levels of government, issues that impact the health of our communities and our democracy are on the ballot. On the local level, one of the cities that is of particular interest to our electoral efforts is Ann Arbor.
The A2 Community Climate Action millage is on the ballot this year, giving Ann Arbor voters an opportunity to pass a proposal that would help the city achieve its bold emissions reductions goals after declaring a climate emergency in 2019. The proposal would fund critical climate and environmental programs by increasing city property taxes by $1 million over the next 20 years. This means that the owner of a $300,000 home would pay an additional $3 per week in property taxes. A coffee at Starbucks costs more than that. .
Michigan LCV has endorsed the ballot measure and is working with the campaign coalition to get it across the finish line. We have leaned in to help, in particular, with voter education and mobilization, which includes digital ads, a robust direct mail effort, and certainly information on our website.. Our first mail piece hit mailboxes last week and we are simultaneously executing a hearty digital ad campaign to urge Ann Arbor voters to vote “Yes.”
Check out our A2 Community Climate Action millage webpage here.
Passage of the A2 Community Climate Action millage will allow for the implementation of Ann Arbor’s climate action plan – the groundbreaking A2 Zero Action Plan – which outlines a just and equitable transition to carbon neutrality by 2030 and creates an opportunity for Ann Arbor to lead the way on climate action with effective, long-term solutions. This is a real chance to make Ann Arbor one of the most sustainable and equitable cities in the country.
At a time when climate action at all levels of government is of paramount importance, the A2 Community Climate Action millage is a perfect example of what climate action in our own backyard can and should look like.
As always, thank you for all you do to make our work possible. Next week, I’ll bring you a detailed description of our expansive and impactful candidate election work. You will be amazed–I promise!