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Comm'r Coffia Line 5 Comments

Editor's Notes:

This blog is Commissioner Betsy Coffia's remarks on the Line 5 resolution discussed at the August 21 Meeting. You can see the whole meeting, including over 2 1/2 hours of public comment at:

Betsy Coffia's comments begin at 2hr 54min into the video. You can use a slider to get to any part of the video you wish.

Mr. Chairman,

We are meant to be a deliberative body. I think the public should be able to reasonably assume that we take the time as a body to deliberate carefully before we vote, and especially before we vote on controversial issues. They should be able to trust us to do so. But since, as you all are aware, we have had zero business meetings, study sessions or any other deliberations by this body on the matter of the tunnel pro or con, our constituents have had to respond with alarm trying to educate us instead of going to their workplace or being with their families….

Since we have done none of the deliberation as a public body, I believe before we take this vote, we owe it to the community we serve and represent to deliberate the context and the bigger picture of how we arrived at where we are today.

Enbridge is a foreign oil giant that is bad at transparency and bad at keeping their pipelines from leaking and exploding and even killing people. But they are good at politics.

Even before we took office, I have seen firsthand how Enbridge has been hard at work currying favor with new county commissioners. They were THE one and only featured sponsor at our commissioner training in Gaylord in December 2018, their big logo prominently displayed at the training. They even sent a staffer to Gaylord in the middle of winter to give a speech about what a great community partner they are. Shrewd move. Shrewd investment.

I would love to know what they spent to get that exclusive exposure to newly elected boards of commissioners. There was certainly a reason for it. They want something from us.

Since new commissioner school, I have regularly attended Michigan Association of Counties functions. Enbridge is a prominent, major sponsor and presence at every one.

This foreign oil giant is hard at work trying to protect its bottom line by suing our state to try to get their way. Simultaneously they’re working hard and spending big bucks to sell us on something. This is a shrewd chess move, and they are looking for pawns.

So, how did we get to the tunnel? The reality is, it was foisted upon the people of Michigan in one of the worst, most irresponsible and chaotic Lame Duck legislative sessions in Michigan history. The outgoing state legislature was in a frenzy ramming bills thru with sometimes barely time for the ink to dry. They passed just under 400 bills in the 3 weeks before Christmas, which was more bills than they passed in the entire previous year! Citizens might understandably want to believe these lawmakers did their due diligence and thoughtfully approved laws that were in the public interest… like this tunnel bill for example. But let’s be real. How could they have thoughtfully approved laws in the public interest? There wasn’t even time to read the bills as they barreled thru in days and sometimes hours, with no hearings. Media couldn’t even keep up with how fast these nearly 400 bills were moving. Even the legislators’ own staff didn’t know what was in these bills - I know, I was calling almost daily on hundreds of nightmare bills that were a grab bag for special interests.

After the dust of Lame Duck settled, I hope that my colleagues are aware that the attorney general declared the tunnel law unconstitutional and the entire process by which it was passed, illegitimate and in violation of state law.

So when I deliberate all these things, I really keep asking myself,

Why is this before us?

Why is it the job of the Grand Traverse County Board of commissioners to wade into a fight between the AG and governor and a huge foreign corporation? I could see if we were standing up for the public interest here and calling to finally end the risk of an oil spill in our Great Lakes as a past county board did. Instead, we are being asked in this resolution, to look out for Enbridge’s bottom line as they pump oil thru our Great Lakes from Canada to Canada. Public risk, private profit.

So here we are today, with a resolution that seems to have appeared out of nowhere after this county commission has spent not one hour, one minute, one meeting considering the pros and cons of the tunnel. This has never been on a meeting agenda, not once since the start of the term. We’ve had no deliberation, yet now we are asked to vote blessing on protecting a private foreign company’s profits.

So I have to ask.

Why is this our business?

Why are we carrying water for a foreign oil company and looking out for their bottom line? They have huge amounts of cash to spend on lawyers and lobbyists to do that for them. I don’t work for Enbridge. I work for the people of my district and for my county.

Why is it the job of an elected county commission who took an oath to serve the public, to do the dirty work of a massive corporation that isn’t even an American company?

Enbridge is a giant foreign corporate bully trying to get its way, and the people of Michigan and our Great Lakes need public servants with the courage to stand up to a bully. Enbridge spending big to turn county commissions into its pawns.

I don’t believe any of my colleagues are being paid by Enbridge.

Rather, I think we are being asked to be their pawns for FREE.

I urge my colleagues, do not fall for it. We were elected to be public servants for the people of Grand Traverse, not pawns for Enbridge’s profits.

Vote no on this resolution.

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