Protecting the Great Lakes
Cuts to Michigan's environmental programs, along with cuts at the federal level, and lax oversight are reducing protection of the Great Lakes.
Lead-contaminated drinking water in Flint has caused sickness and miscarriages; an algae-fouled Lake Erie threatens the area’s economy; a malfunctioning oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac puts water quality at risk; precious pure drinking water is up for sale for cheap by the bottle water industry; no strategy is in place for protecting Great Lakes dunes in our state; and Michigan ranks near the bottom of states in protecting lakes and rivers from pollution from aging septic systems. All putting our Great Lakes and our health and livelihood at risk.
A healthy Great Lakes is essential for public health, a healthy economy, and quality of life. Michigan sits in the middle of the Great Lakes, with about 90% of the country’s surface freshwater, and one-fifth of the earth’s surface freshwater. Almost 40 million rely on the Great Lakes for drinking water. Strong environmental protections for the Great Lakes protect public health and support a healthy economy. We have a responsibility to protect this globally significant freshwater resource.
We know well in Muskegon County the value of strong environmental protections, and what happens when they are weak. In 1985, both White and Muskegon Lakes were placed on a list of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern, or toxic hotspots, for pollution caused in years ago. I was part of a group of people in the White Lake area who worked for 22 years to clean up White Lake, and it was removed from the toxic hotspot list in 2014. Muskegon Lake is one of 12 toxic hotspots left in Michigan still being cleaned up, and it will need millions more to finish the massive restoration effort currently underway.
I will use what I learned from working effectively for decades with state and federal environmental agencies and communities to ensure that citizens can participate meaningfully in decision-making processes and that the Great Lakes are protected.
I will work to restore protection of the Great Lakes.
Good Paying Jobs
Many working-class citizens in Michigan are struggling to afford the basics of a good life, due in part to wages that have not kept up with the cost of living. I grew up in a middle-class family. My parents were both teachers. We were not rich, but we had enough food to eat, good health and dental insurance, and were able to take occasional vacations. I brought my kids up in the 90s, as a single mom working at a nonprofit job. It wasn’t easy at all. But I was able to provide adequately for them, along with some extras like sports camps. My friends and family members were doing fine too.
Fast forward to today. Many people I know are living very close to the margins, and have two and three jobs just to make ends meet. Others are putting retirement off into the far future. Young parents are struggling to pay for even just the basics – food and housing - let alone any extras. My budget is tighter than ever, so I understand what people are going through. We need to turn this around and help working people afford a good quality of life.
We need to fund skilled trades and also retraining programs, and invest in new jobs, such as in the renewable energy sector. We must increase the minimum wage. Allowing people to earn a livable wage gives them more money to spend at local businesses and this will create jobs as demand for products and services increases. Henry Ford knew this well and increased his wages so that his workers could afford to buy the cars his company made!
We do need to ensure that increases in wages do not result in a loss of jobs or the shuttering of businesses. This sort of reform hasn't happened yet because it isn't easy, but I'm looking forward to doing the hard work necessary and finding the path to a living wage for all working Michiganders.
I will work to restore good paying jobs in Michigan.
We have to empower students to succeed - no matter where they are coming from and where they are going. Michigan schools are in crisis right now. Not only are our students ranked low compared to students in other states in recent national studies, the profession is attracting far fewer candidates, putting our schools at future risk. This harms our children, limits their potential, and hurts the economic future of Michigan.
There is no one cause, but many factors, including an overemphasis on testing and paperwork, and overall cuts to public school funding, resulting in lower pay for teachers, pay freezes, and salary reductions. This is made worse by changes to the pension system, cutting overall benefits.
With parents as teachers, and as a trained teacher and substitute teacher, I have been in classrooms from kindergarten to high school, recently and going back to over 30 years ago. I know firsthand that our students depend on keeping great teachers, and our ability to continue to attract competent professionals to this very important job.
Well-educated students are a basic building block of our great state. Public education serves all and is a responsibility we all share. It is the foundation for economic prosperity and a good quality of life for Michigan citizens. We need to work together to make it top notch.
We need to put the best people possible into the classrooms with the skills and support that allows students to prosper. We do this by providing excellent teacher training, providing adequate pay and benefits, and giving teachers autonomy – the ability to use their training and experience to best educate their students.
I will work to restore support for public education in Michigan.
The high cost of healthcare for our citizens is hurting families and the economy. We need to restore affordable healthcare.
Healthcare costs have skyrocketed. The median average family income in Michigan grew just less than a half a percent between 2008 and 2013, while the cost of the average family insurance premium rose nearly 35 percent and the employee’s share increased 57 percent (according to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality). This means people are often going without critical care, putting them at risk for illness and death, and incurring huge costs and creating financial problems, such as bankruptcy. For employers, rising health insurance costs results in fewer jobs. It also impacts our economy, as families decrease consumer spending, impacting entertainment and retail businesses.
I know this firsthand. As a self-employed consultant for over 10 years, getting health insurance on the private market has been a continual challenge. No sooner would I get a new plan, than the premiums would go up. Every other year, it would get so expensive that I would shop around and switch. Eventually, to afford the premiums, I ended up with a $10,000 deductible. As the years passed, I worried about getting sick and having health expenses that could bankrupt me, and I worried about getting a pre-existing condition that would make my insurance even more expensive and possibly unaffordable.
I am relieved now to have affordable and comprehensive insurance on the Michigan health exchange and I’ve helped several friends who did not have health insurance get insurance there also. One was able to have cataract surgery on both eyes. Another finally had a preventative exam and discovered she had a pre-cancerous condition that needed immediate attention. Even so, healthcare costs continue to increase, and there are efforts underway to remove protections from existing healthcare plans. Affordable healthcare should not a privilege for the few who can afford it. It should be for all.
We need to protect people with pre-existing conditions, protect seniors and older people who are not eligible for Medicare, prevent huge rate hikes and reduce prescription costs, protect essential benefits, such as preventive and wellness care and mental health services, and prevent annual and lifetime caps on coverage.
I will work to restore affordable healthcare in Michigan.