Grand Traverse Democrats met with Rep. Gretchen Whitmer Friday afternoon at the Michigan Grille. Rep. Whitmer spoke to a full house of 70 or more people about her hopes and aspirations for becoming the next Democratic Governor of Michigan. A lifelong resident of Michigan who was raised in a political family, she is on a mission to meet with voters in every county in the state. Rep. Whitmer reported that she has been received by enthusiastic crowds who are incredibly energized. “People are angry,” she said, “over our water, schools and jobs.”
Michigan’s water is an especially critical issue for her. Remembering that Michigan’s schools used to be the best in the nation, with great roads and good paying jobs, she stressed that “all that has changed. We can’t just assume people will vote for us. Democratic candidates have to show up, assure the people here in Michigan that we know they deserve better, and are willing to work to achieve that goal.” Declaring the session open for discussion, Rep. Whitmer listened and answered questions.
In response to a question regarding Line 5 closure, the Representative declared her support for shutting it down, stressing that it also a great concern to her that Nestles Corporation is being allowed to draw huge amounts of water from the Great Lakes without payment or penalty. If elected she would advocate for setting up a Michigan Department of Water to monitor and assure that our water remains clean and protected. The issue of septic system drainage was brought up and the fact that unregulated septic systems are adding to the growth of e coli build up in Michigan lakes and streams.
Regarding clean energy, she feels that Michigan must invest in renewable energy technologies which will take us away from dependence on fossil fuels and create new, good paying jobs. As governor, she would join the Governor’s Climate Alliance, something Gov. Snyder has refused to do. She would also seek a partnership with Canada to bolster her bid to create clean energy jobs in Michigan and address climate change. She also stated her support for infrastructure projects like bringing high speed, business broadband to the First District to encourage companies to invest here. How this gets funded is the main issue in her view.
On the issue of the defunding of mental health services, Whitmer feels that the current opioid addiction crisis will draw attention to that fact that Michigan has fallen far behind in this field. That it needs to be addressed as a public health issue that would cover a full range of mental health treatments, not just for addiction.
Rep. Whitmer addressed the problem facing our public education system where 81% of our Michigan charter schools are for-profit. An average in other states runs about 16%. She stressed that when education becomes profit oriented, the quality of education is sure to be degraded. While some charter schools are successful, over all they do not out preform our public schools. She would insist that private and charter schools be subject to the same government oversight and transparency that public schools must meet, and serve the same populations and service levels. She believes our teachers must be paid on the level of professionals elsewhere.
In closing, Rep. Whitmer said she is concerned about the divide between the Hillary and Bernie supporters within the Democratic party, but feels that as we move further into the campaign season, that differences with the opposition and their agenda, will be a unifying force. To that end, she put forward a call for volunteers to work for her campaign on all levels as she will need manpower as well as monetary support to win in 2018.