Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Why Abdul El-Sayed In Michigan?


The Michigan primary is late in the season, August 7. Not that he could win again, unpopular incumbent current Governor Rick Snyder is term-limited out and it's likely a Democrat is going to win in November. But which Democrat. The establishment seems to be rallying around Gretchen Whitmer, former state Senate Minority Leader. Aside from EMILY's List, she's been endorsed by most of the state's conservative-leaning unions as well as a shit-load of moderate, establishment legislators There's also a progressive in the race, Abdul El-Sayed. He's been endorsed by local Bernie Sanders groups up and down the state, by the Michigan Nurses Association, the Justice Democrats and by one congressman-- Ro Khanna.

This morning, Rep. Khanna told us that "Abdul is setting the standard when it comes to progressive ideals and progressive policies. His policies on housing rights, on water rights, on Medicare for All, on rebuilding schools in the wake of Betsy DeVos, on getting the corporate money out of politics-- they are the future of progressive state leadership, and having visited Flint, his state needs him. His background rebuilding Detroit’s Health Department as a doctor speaks for itself. And his story as the son of Egyptian Immigrants raised by his father and stepmother from Michigan’s heartland is inspiring."

The top Republicans running, sound like a roster of unindicted co-conspirators in Snyder's crimes against the state-- Lt. Governor Brian Calley, state Senator Patrick Colbeck, and the heavily favored state Attoney General, Bill Schuette.

If Abdul, very much an underdog, wins, he'll be the first Muslim-American elected governor anywhere. Michiganders I know tell me his campaign is a real breath of fresh air compared with other candidates seeking statewide office who are all running much more timid, defensive campaigns, having learned all the wrong lessons folks from first Bernie and then Trump winning the state. Bernie beat Hillary in the primaries 595,222 (49.8%) to 576,795 (48.3%). And then Trump won the state's 16 crucial electoral votes-- with a little very targeted help from Vlad-- 2,279,805 (47.6%) to 2,268,193 (47.3%).

Abdul, a 33-year-old former Detroit health commissioner, is running on, among other things, a pitch perfect example of how to run on climate change. RL Miller, head of Climate Hawks Vote flat out reffered to his Climate Change plane as "a national model." Keep in mind that he had already released an environmental justice platform that includes
completely rebuilding Michigan's water infrastructure and passing legislation mandating clean water for all
a green infrastructure bank
a progressive carbon tax
opposition to new fossil fuel infrastructure
shutting down the Lne 5 oil pipeline
a ban on fracking
increased funding for agencies cracking down on polluters
a sustainable cities initiative
Last week Alex Kaufman, reporting for HuffPo, wrote about how Abdul is forcing Climate Change as an issue into the campaign. Abdul "remembers coughing up black phlegm each night after spending the day in the smog-choked markets of Cairo and Alexandria, Egypt, during summer visits to his grandparents, who were poor vegetable sellers. It was a jolting experience for a kid born and raised in a manicured Michigan suburb. Yet when El-Sayed started working as a doctor in Detroit years later, he realized pollution wasn’t just some distant problem. In the shadow of the Motor City’s infamous trash incinerator-- where some 650,000 tons of garbage is burned annually, much of it from the surrounding suburbs-- El-Sayed saw soaring rates of asthma and lung cancer in majority-black neighborhoods. That’s part of what inspired the 33-year-old physician to enter politics, first as Detroit’s top health official and now as a Democratic candidate for Michigan governor. "When we poison our air and water, we are poisoning people," he told Kaufman. "Nowhere is that more clear than the state of Michigan now. When you talk about Flint, when you talk about asthma, when you talk about Kent County."
“He doesn’t talk like consultants say to talk,” Sean McElwee, a progressive policy analyst and researcher who hosted El-Sayed at a gathering in New York last October, told HuffPost. “He combines the sort of populist energy people are excited about with Bernie with detailed knowledge of how to implement policy.”

El-Sayed’s proposal to set aside $105 million in his first state budget to establish an infrastructure bank that would fund renewable and energy-efficient projects is the “centerpiece” of his plan to “reinvest in the capital-stock of Michigan,” according to a campaign white paper. His administration would eventually ramp up the institution’s public funding to $1.5 billion, with plans to generate at least $4.5 billion in energy and clean water infrastructure investments over 15 years. The public-private institution, dubbed the Pure Michigan Bank, could generate $3.3 billion in private investment by 2030, according to a Union of Concerned Scientists report.

“We want to put Michigan on the path to 100 percent renewable energies,” El-Sayed said. “What we’d be able to do is empower innovative financing that addresses the insecurity of those kinds of big-picture infrastructure projects and empowers individuals to use those mechanisms.”

The bank would provide low-risk seven-year loans at 5 percent interest for energy-efficiency projects and similar 10-year loans for renewable-energy plans. It would also offer credits to low- and middle-income homeowners to invest in efficiency upgrades, small-scale solar installations and other clean energy projects.

 “We can’t just count on the free market to do it all by itself,” said William Lawrence, Michigan organizer for the climate campaign group Sunrise Movement. “We have to put public money behind this kind of infrastructure build-out and also create smart institutions like this infrastructure bank to get some of the private money flowing in the right direction.” (Sunrise endorsed El-Sayed for governor last month.)

The bank would operate independently of any state agency, reducing its vulnerability to funding cuts under a future administration. To help pay for it, El-Sayed has proposed instituting a carbon tax and diverting some of that revenue to the bank. Another option is to follow the model of Connecticut’s green infrastructure bank and impose a small ratepayer fee.

“The idea of creating an institution, capitalizing it and being designed in such a way that it’s likely to survive even if you have Rick Snyder 2.0 as governor, that’s appealing,” said Jeff Hauser, a veteran progressive Democratic operative, who was referring to the current Republican governor’s history of austerity cuts. “It’s intriguing to me that someone is thinking about how to create change that can entrench and build upon itself. That’s really key.”

It should be a popular platform among primary voters. Democratic voters in Michigan overwhelmingly support new rules raising fuel efficiency standards, giving the Environmental Protection Agency power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions and requiring a minimum amount of renewable energy in electricity generation even if that means a small price increase, according to 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Studies data provided by McElwee.

El-Sayed also wants a major public investment in clean drinking water. Michigan became the poster child for unsafe tap water four years ago when lead contamination in Flint turned into a long-running crisis and a national disgrace.

As a first step, El-Sayed said he would merge the state’s Department of Environmental Quality with its Department of Natural Resources and raise the combined agency’s budget to as much as $950 million a year. That would include restoring funds for the Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance to their 2006 levels of about $16 million a year. El-Sayed has suggested raising money for that budget by closing the state’s corporate tax exemptions and loopholes.

He has proposed spending at least $690 million annually to replace aging water pipes, which would create 13,800 jobs each year, his campaign has calculated based on data from the BlueGreen Alliance. To raise the money, he suggested issuing $600 million in bonds and passing a ballot proposal to expand the state’s Drinking Water Revolving Fund, which offers low-interest loans for up to 30 years to water suppliers. The ballot proposal would increase the fund’s available money from $36 million to $50 million by reallocating $14 million from the Department of Corrections budget. He also vowed to push the federal government for more funding.

El-Sayed distinguished himself on the issue of lead toxicity during his 2015-2017 tenure as Detroit’s Health Department chief, during which he tested all schools and child care facilities for lead contamination. His gubernatorial housing policy would expand on that, by using lead-abatement funds to help renters pay their legal defense in related landlord disputes and to perform full inspections and mitigation on all housing stock, and by fining building owners who don’t comply, as The Nation reported in January.

But it’s his plans for dealing with lead in drinking water supplies that have drawn the most local attention. El-Sayed has vowed to set stricter water quality standards by reducing the “action level” for lead, the threshold for government intervention, from 15 parts per billion to 5 parts per billion and pushing for legislation that bars public projects to replace pipes from only partially replacing lead pipes. Outside of urban areas, where wells for drinking water are more common, he has promised to crack down on agricultural pollution. The Detroit Metro Times called his proposal “the most comprehensive water plan of the gubernatorial race.”

Another key part of that plan is to protect universal access to water. In Detroit last year, the city began the controversial practice of shutting off water to nearly 18,000 residents who hadn’t paid their bills. El-Sayed has suggested a new tiered pricing system, which would force households that use more water to pay higher rates but would ensure that everyone in the state has basic access to clean water.

“Freshwater is going to become, and it’s quickly becoming, the most important resource in the world,” El-Sayed told HuffPost. “The fact that, as a state that’s surrounded by more freshwater than any place in the country, we can’t figure out how to allocate freshwater to folks in places like Flint and Detroit and protect that freshwater from being poisoned-- that’s a political failure.”

El-Sayed’s other major plan to protect water rests on decommissioning Line 5, a nearly 65-year-old pipeline that carries 23 million gallons of oil per day through the Straits of Mackinac, where lakes Huron and Michigan connect. The pipeline is operated by Enbridge, the Canadian company responsible for the second-largest inland oil spill in U.S. history, in the Kalamazoo River in 2010. A 2014 University of Michigan study concluded that the Straits of Mackinac are the “worst possible place for an oil spill in the Great Lakes.” A single spill there could pollute more than 700 miles of shoreline, according to a 2016 University of Michigan study.

Environmentalists have campaigned for years to shut down Line 5, but Enbridge has cultivated key allies in Snyder and Heidi Grether, director of the Department of Environmental Quality-- who is herself a former oil industry lobbyist. In November, the governor struck an agreement with Enbridge to replace one section of the pipeline. In January, Snyder rejected a recommendation from Michigan’s Pipeline Safety Advisory Board to close the pipeline immediately. Enbridge spent nearly $2.4 million on U.S. congressional lobbying in 2017, more than double its 2016 total. That included lobbying on a federal bill affecting Line 5.

Because he swore off all donations from fossil fuel companies, El-Sayed’s supporters argue that as governor, he would be insulated from the influence of Enbridge and its industry advocates. El-Sayed is one of the first major Democratic candidates to take the pledge against accepting fossil fuel money that’s being pushed by Sanders and progressive groups such as 350.org.

The pledge is “not as material as the other proposals we’re talking about on the table, but ... it’s a very clear way to show where he stands,” said Lawrence, the Sunrise organizer. “He’ll actually follow through on his proposals on Election Day.”
Goal ThermometerAnd, of course, it certainly isn't just climate he's good on, and better than any of his opponents. He started his campaign running on a strong pro-immigrant platform and connecting with working families on the bread and butter issues that dominate the race. He has a simple, straight forward 20-point program on his website for Michigan voters to use to make a decision on whether or not they want to move their state forward. No need to vote for a pig in a poke in this race!
Fight inequality in all forms
Raise the minimum wage to $15/hour
Implement state-level single-payer healthcare
Protect a woman’s right to choose and eliminate the gender pay gap
Never accept a dime of corporate money and get the money out of politics
Rebuild our crumbling roads and bridges
Make college tuition free for families earning under $150K & Reinvest in public education
End the profit motive in public education
Reform auto insurance to reduce costs while protecting people
Fund and implement universal Pre-Kindergarten
Amend civil rights legislation to enumerate protections from LGBTQ+ Michiganders
Reform our criminal justice system & tackle mass incarceration and police violence
Aggressive action on climate, environmental justice, and no new fossil fuel infrastructure
Legalize marijuana
Fight for clean water for all and shut down Enbridge’s Line 5
Tackle the opioid epidemic through comprehensive mental health reform
Stand with labor to end Right to Work and protect Prevailing Wage
Provide high-speed broadband internet to every community in Michigan and protect net neutrality
Support child and elderly care for Michiganders
End gerrymandering and legislative term limits and reinstate FOIA for public officials
It sure isn't a Trump agenda-- or a consultant-driven careerist agenda. If you want to see it implemented, please consider tapping on the thermometer above and contribute what you can.

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At 8:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, all those good Christian Nazis and democraps have well and thoroughly fucked Michigan for fun and profit.

A muslim certainly couldn't do any worse.

At 3:50 AM, Blogger DocP said...

This guy is almost too good to be true. I cannot help be suspicious that he is being supported by some right wing group to win the primary, and then, of course, to lose the general election because we've been thoroughly trained to despise anyone with a Middle East, "Islamic" name.

At 5:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

El-Sayed is a very brave man to be campaigning in a state where Michael Moore got the local militia to admit that they hated "democrats" for abandoning them. I honestly wish El-Sayed success, and I hope he watches his back.


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