Michigan — May 21, 2011 at 10:44 am

Liveblogging the Michigan Summit


Today I am attending the Michigan Summit in East Lansing, Michigan. Several hundred progressive leaders from around the state, convened to talk about our State’s future. You can watch the live stream HERE.

The main focus of the Summit is on cities. In fact, the title this year is “Cities as Leaders”.

I won’t have a lot of photos but I thought it would be useful to share some of the ideas that are being expressed.

Things started off with Hillary Doe, the National Director of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network and Kevin Dean from the Michigan State University chapter. They talked about their “Think 2040” initiative. You can learn more from this video:

Roosevelt Campus Network: “Think 2040” from Roosevelt Institute on Vimeo.

Two very dynamic young leaders, people to give you hope for our future.

The first panel is called “Visions for Michigan’s Legacy Cities: Where are we Heading?” it is moderated by Dayne Walling, the Mayor of the City of Flint.

Cindy Estrada (VP UAW) – We have an opportunity to grow our souls. We don’t have a budget problem, we have a corporation problem. Republicans and corporations want us to be fighting among ourselves. Labor is moving back to it’s roots — being about communities. We need to send a message to the citizens of Michigan that we can solve our problems. We must listen to what people’s fears are and lead from love, not fear. It takes time.

Saunteel Jenkins (Detroit City Councilwoman) – State has reneged on an agreement with municipalities not to reduce revenue sharing in exchange from them not raising taxes on themselves. The State of Michigan meets the criteria to be taken over by an EFM spelled out in P.A. 4. The elimination of the Brownfield Redevelopment Tax credits has a serious negative impact on urban cities because much of the development that takes place is in Brownfield areas. This will affect the statewide economy, not just the cities themselves. The EFM law is incentivizing cities to make cuts themselves because they know best where they can best tolerate them. We will get through this period and we’ll come a better, stronger, more ACTIVE. Stay encouraged!

Alan Mallach (Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute) – Cities matter. They are important to the present and future of Michigan. If they sink, the state will sink. The future of our cities will rely on civic engagement and community organizing.

Tracy Sturdivant (Executive Director, State Voices) – Bringing together civic groups, nonprofits and other community-based organizations to help solve problems.

State Voices is a national network—built from the states up—that helps grassroots organizations win shared policy and civic engagement victories and build long-term power.

Over 600 diverse and talented organizations come together in our 16 state networks to work for change.

In Michigan, Michigan Voice (Director, Amanda Stitt) has been training people to become more active, increase voter turnout, and helping organizations be effective.

The common thread running through all of these panelists’ comments is two-fold. First, change will come from civic engagement, citizen action and harnessing the power of networks that can be formed from various interested groups to create change. It’s their commitment to the cities that unites them and, as Alan Mallach pointed out, this may mean teaming up with groups that aren’t necessarily seen as “progressive”.

The lunchtime keynote speaker is Mary Kay Henry, President of SEIU International. Ms. Henry is a native Michigander and a fellow MSU Spartan, I might add.

Highlights of her speech:

It’s not possible for us to move forward with the progress that has already been made without groups working together.

Michiganders can be best characterized by their work ethic, even more than by our geography. Michigan IS the USA.

It’s astonishing to see a small number of people stealing from Americans and disrespecting our hard work. They aren’t just taking advantage of our work, they are disrespecting it.

The students led in Wisconsin and labor followed. Other groups joined forces to make their story a success.

Our common goal is to move our state and our country forward, not just stop what’s happening now.

The unions are realizing that they cannot be successful in achieving their vision if the rest of the country isn’t keeping up, as well. They must build a community that is bigger than themselves. It must be a shared agenda with a broader purpose. We must move beyond our historical divisions.

SEIU and their Good Jobs Now coalition have knocked on over 45,000 doors in Detroit getting people to sign onto their group. Coalitions like We Are The People are essential in fighting back against corporations that are taking advantage of our state’s situation.

The heart of our work is collective action at the ballot box, the bargaining table and the legislature.

We are standing up for a vision rooted in American values, in Michigan values.

We cannot move Michigan forward unless we all decide to stand with and for each other. This our calling. This is our moment.

More exhortations for advocacy groups to leave their siloes and to work together toward a common goal.

Now it’s time for the Organizer of the Year Award. The nominees are:

Rachid Elabed, Minsu Longiaru, Yusef Bunchy Shakur, Kym Spring and Racheal Tanner. Details on these organizers’ work can be found HERE.

The winner is… RACHID ELABED!!!

3:15 – Last panel of the day, “Michigan’ Community-Based Opportunity Agenda.

Simone Sagovac (Program Manager for Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision) – Talking about the advantages of Community-Benefits Agreements (CBAs) in the Detroit area. These agreements ensure that communities are provided with essential amenities when development takes place and that the needs of the community are considered.

Minsu Longiaru (Coordinator for the Restaurant Opportunities Center, ROC) – ROC is working hard to ensure that workers in the Nation’s largest “industry” are treated with respect & dignity and are treated fairly while receiving a fair wage. ROC was first started by restaurant workers who lost their jobs in New York City after 9/11. Their workplace justice campaigns have resulted sweeping changes that benefit people who work in this industry. Their group will be opening a worker-owned and worker-run restaurant in Detroit later this summer called “Colors”. They are involved at the individual restaurant level as well as working to by help shape public policy that impacts these workers. Their current effort is geared toward insuring that worker justice issues are considered in the issuance of liquor licenses in Detroit.

Rick Carter (Executive Director for Flint Area Congregations Together, FACT) – FACT brings together religious groups in the Flint area to work empower residents to effect change.

Molly Sweeney (Community Organizer for the Harriet Tubman Center for Community Organizing) – She is in charge of two separate groups including the Detroit Action Commonwealth (DAC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan community organization for indigent and homeless people. They are working to help homeless folks back into the workforce and to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect in the shelters and on the streets. DAC operates out of the Capuchin and St. Leo’s soup kitchens. The Tubman Center also is working toward creating a tenants’ union to ensure renters are treated fairly.