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Report: Michigan communities, water face twin assaults from environmental budget cuts

 

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These cuts will directly reduce remediation of the toxic plume poisoning families living near Madision and Hall St. SE.

Reposted from LINC-UP June 14, 2017

 

LCV, MEC urge lawmakers to consider combined impact of state, federal proposals

LANSING — Michigan lawmakers are rushing to pass budgets that slash core environmental programs — especially ones protecting our lakes and waterways — without considering the dire impacts they will have when combined with likely cuts at the federal level, a new report from the Michigan Environmental Council and Michigan League of Conservation Voters warns.

The report, prepared by Public Sector Consultants, compiles for the first time all the known environmental programs and protections for public health that are threatened by steep budget cuts currently proposed in Lansing and Washington. At risk are essential programs for protecting the Great Lakes, ensuring safe drinking water and cleaning up toxic contamination, the analysis indicates.

“This report shows that irresponsible, sweeping cuts at the state and federal levels will have real-world impacts from Menominee to Monroe, Taylor to Traverse City,” said Lisa Wozniak, Michigan LCV executive director. “This report is a wake-up call. We urge our elected officials in Lansing to pump the brakes and stop rushing to pass a budget that will only hasten our race to the bottom when it comes to the environment.”

Both the state House and Senate have proposed significant cuts to the Department of Environmental Quality budget. At the same time, President Trump has called for cutting the Environmental Protection Agency budget by nearly a third. Combined, those cuts would fundamentally weaken the the DEQ’s ability to protect public health and natural resources, since federal funds — mostly from the EPA — make up more than a quarter of DEQ’s budget in the 2017 fiscal year.

“We want Michigan residents to understand that the drastic budget cuts lawmakers are rushing to pass before summer break will mean less enforcement of the bedrock environmental standards that hold polluters accountable and protect our families from poisoned drinking water and dangerous air pollution,” said Chris Kolb, MEC president. “Failing to fund these essential programs will only cost us more down the road and put public health at risk in the meantime.”

Most notably, the House and Senate budgets do not address the fact that Clean Michigan Initiative funds, used to clean up hazardous sites in Michigan communities over the past decade, will no longer be available next year. By not replacing those funds, lawmakers are in effect cutting $14.9 million in cleanup funds for contamination that threatens drinking water supplies, our rivers and lakes, and the health of Michigan families.

Both chambers also cut Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposed $4.9 million to address the emerging threat of vapor intrusion, which occurs when poisonous gases enter buildings built on sites where contamination wasn’t cleaned up. Buildings in Michigan have been evacuated recently because of vapor intrusion and blood tests have found high levels of toxic chemicals in the blood of some people at those sites. The state estimates there are about 4,000 sites statewide at risk for vapor intrusion.

“These cuts aren’t just line items on budget documents, they are real threats to the health and safety of Michigan residents,” said Jeremy DeRoo, co-executive director of LINC UP, a community development organization in Grand Rapids working to educate and protect local residents from toxic vapor intrusion. “Our cities are facing many environmental risks that are now being exacerbated by these proposed budget cuts — everything from worrying about whether the water coming out of their taps is safe to drink to living everyday with air laced with toxic chemicals.  Now is the time to address these problems head-on.  Ignoring them won’t make them go away.”

The report also looks at the impact on Michigan communities of major cuts to federal environmental programs proposed by President Trump. It specifically looks at key projects funded by the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, Superfund, Brownfield, and Sea Grant programs, which are at risk of losing funding under the president’s current budget proposal.

“Our analysis shows that the Legislature’s significant cuts to environmental programs will have direct impacts on the ability of local governments and organizations to protect public health and the natural resources that are vitally important for Michigan’s economy and quality of life,” said Julie Metty Bennett, senior vice president of Public Sector Consultants. “The report also serves to inform policymakers on the range of cuts proposed at the state and federal level, effectively causing a one-two punch to their ability to ensure Michigan’s environmental policy is carried out in a way that maintains their constituents’ expectations in recreation, economic activity, and public health.”

– See more at: http://lincup.org/news/reportmichigancommunitieswaterfacetwinassaultsfromenvironmentalbudgetcuts#sthash.AFsGptHJ.dpuf

2017 Equity Profile highlights potential for equity to drive shared prosperity

d4d9f39aca054e979f1356c054ec4613_175x175_croppedReleased by Partners for a Racism-free Community 

An Equity Profile of Grand Rapids, released April 28 , highlights inequities in income, employment, education, and opportunity in Grand Rapids. The report was developed by PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at USC, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Since 2011, PolicyLink and PERE have engaged in a formal partnership to amplify the message that equity—just and fair inclusion—is both a moral imperative and the key to our nation’s economic prosperity as America’s demographics shift and communities of color emerge as the new majority. An Equity Profile of Grand Rapids underscores while the city demonstrates overall strength and resilience, gaps in income, employment, education, and opportunity by race and geography place its economic future at risk. In 2014, more than 40 percent of residents were people of color, double the share (20 percent) in 1980. Diverse groups are driving growth and change in the region and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

“The City of Grand Rapids believes in equity-informed decision making which is why we are committed to creating and implementing an equity dashboard and scorecard,” said Stacy Stout, Assistant to the City Manager, City of Grand Rapids. “We don’t want data paralysis, we want action; if you have analysis without the action it often results in managerial racism and that hurts the community. Tools like the PolicyLink Equity Profile help us better visualize that work.”

“Robust data about the state of equity in Grand Rapids is essential for crafting strategies to improve outcomes for vulnerable children,“ said Huilan Krenn, Director of Learning and Impact at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. “Our foundation is committed to enabling communities to take data-driven actions using the powerful data contained in the Equity Profile.”

“There has been growing consensus amongst economists that more equitable cities and regions experience more sustainable growth,” said Jessica Pizarek, Associate at PolicyLink. “This is also true for Grand Rapids.  If racial gaps in income were closed, its economy would be $4 billion stronger. We call this the ‘racial equity dividend.’”

Other key findings in the report include:

• Since 1980, communities of color have driven the city’s population growth.  While Grand Rapids’s population has not grown much overall (only a net increase of about 9,000 people), its demographic makeup has changed significantly.  All of the city’s population growth since 1980 has come from communities of color, which has countered steady decline in the number of residents who are White.
• Young people are leading this demographic shift.  Three in fiveyouth under the age of 18 in the city are non-White.  Looking to the future, Grand Rapids will become a majority people-of-color city around 2050, just behind the nation, which will become majority people-of-color in 2044.
• In 2014, 12 percent of all residents who could work and were employed full time but still lived below 200 percent of the poverty line.  Latinos have the highest rate of working poverty, at more than 26 percent.
• Median hourly wages have dropped for all residents since 2000, but Black workers saw the largest decrease of nearly $3 per hour from 2000 to 2014. Latino workers continue to earn the lowest median wage of all groups at $12.30 an hour.

“I am glad PolicyLink is elevating data about racial inequities, particularly at a time when we are being presented with new studies locally showing disparate interaction with law enforcement in Grand Rapids communities of color,” said Faye Richardson-Green, Executive Director of Partners for a Racism-Free Community.

The equity profile and potential solutions included therein will serve as a unique resource for local advocates and residents seeking to address disinvestment in communities of color. To this end,PolicyLink and Partners for a Racism-Free Community are holding a panel discussion and community forum around equity in Grand Rapids this morning at DeVos Place (303 Monroe Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). To download a copy of the report, click here:

http://nationalequityatlas.org/sites/default/files/GrandRapids_final_profile.pdf

About PolicyLink
PolicyLink is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by Lifting Up What Works®. For more information, visit PolicyLink.org.

Urgent Community Meeting – Tuesday, May 23

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This and following meetings in other parts of the city are a chance to gather resident feedback on the city’s implementation of the 12-point plan and community/police relations. Join the NAACP, Micah Center, LINC, and other community organizations in holding our city and police accountable. Come speak up and have a say in our city’s recommendations! Join the event on facebook.

Farm Bill Field Hearing in Michigan

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Senators Stabenow, Roberts Announce Farm Bill Field Hearing in Michigan

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) today announced the Committee will hold its second Farm Bill field hearing of the 115th Congress in Frankenmuth, Mich. on Saturday, May 6 to begin work on the 2018 Farm Bill. Congress passes a Farm Bill only once every five years. The current Farm Bill was passed with strong bipartisan support in 2014 and expires in September 2018.

“The Farm Bill is critical to Michigan agriculture, which supports one in four jobs across our state,” said Stabenow. “Thanks to input from our farmers and stakeholders, the 2014 Farm Bill has Michigan on every page, and was signed into law here at Michigan State University. We made historic investments to support our small towns, protect our land and water, help our farmers export and sell more products locally, and end unnecessary subsidies and programs – saving taxpayers $80 billion more than we first expected. As we begin our work on the 2018 Farm Bill, I’m committed to making sure Michigan’s voice is heard again so we can continue to support our state’s farmers and families and create new jobs.”

“Listening to producer perspectives from across the country is a critical step in writing the next Farm Bill,” said Roberts. “We had a successful first field hearing in Kansas, and I look forward to continuing the tradition of listening to farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders with Senator Stabenow in Michigan.”

The hearing, entitled “Growing Jobs and Economic Opportunity: Perspectives on the 2018 Farm Bill from Michigan,” will feature testimony from a wide variety of agricultural producers and Farm Bill stakeholders, examining agriculture, as well as conservation, rural economic development, research, forestry, energy, and nutrition policies that affect Michigan. Witnesses will be announced shortly.  All stakeholders and the general public are invited to submit testimony or comments in writing for the official Committee record (see below).

What: U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Field Hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill

Date:  Saturday, May 6, 2017

Time:  10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EDT

Place:  Saginaw Valley Research & Extension Center – Michigan State University, 3775 S Reese Rd, Frankenmuth, MI

RSVP: To attend, email your name and organization (if representing a group) to MIRSVP@ag.senate.gov

Testimony: You are invited to submit testimony or comments for the official record for this field hearing in advance, but no later than May 12, 2017, either online at www.agriculture.senate.gov/farm-bill-input or by mailing it to the Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry, 328A Russell Senate Office Bldg, Washington, D.C. 20510.

Live Broadcast: The hearing will be webcast live on ag.senate.gov.

Food Justice Primer April 17

635920484324449544-906593044_FoodJustice1April 17, 6—8 p.m. at Garfield Park Lodge, 334 Burton St SE 49507

The idea of eating healthier foods in many ways has become mainstream. However, for people experiencing income challenges or living in neighborhoods of color, access to these healthier foods is not a reality. A true food apartheid exists in our community—and that’s where the work of food justice begins.

This food justice class will define what food justice is, explore the roots of the industrial food system and investigate the many facets of food justice. If you want to know more about food justice—or become involved in it yourself—please join us for this free, brief introduction to food justice. OKT will conclude the informal dialogue with group input on how we can practice food justice locally.

LINC UP, NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch and Micah Center: Police incident with youth must lead to change

unnamed (1).pngReposted from LINC UP

Take action! Click here to send an email to Chief Rahinsky of the Grand Rapids Police Department and Greg Sundstrom, City Manager of Grand Rapids to voice your concern.

On Friday, March 24th, Grand Rapids Police detained 5 innocent and unarmed children at gunpoint. Having viewed the body camera footage with the Grand Rapids Police Department, LINC, NAACP and the Micah Center feel the actions of the police officers involved demonstrate a practice of policing that perpetuates mistrust, instills fear and causes harm to residents that are supposed to be protected and served. Collectively, we are calling for a change in Grand Rapids policing practices to ensure that no other children will unnecessarily go through the traumatic experience that these children did, and that our community as a whole is not subjected to this type of racism. We call on the police to work with the parents to ensure that the issues that are raised about this particular incident are addressed to the families’ satisfaction.

In 2015 the community pushed the city to adopt a 12 point plan to begin improving community and police relations. One key component of the plan was to ensure body cameras were used by every police officer. These cameras have revealed the work of GR police officers in action. Although the tactical use of force deployed by officers was consistent with training and aligned with the policies of the department, it also reveals that such training and policies are not consistent with what the community is stating are acceptable policing practices. In essence, the historically strained relations between community and law enforcement are being perpetuated, and further action is needed to prevent a continuing decline in such relations.

We encourage all community members to attend the April 11 city commission meeting to support these 5 young boys and their families as they seek to get answers from GRPD and to express any other concerns for policing practices in Grand Rapids, particularly as they relate to interaction with the youth of our community.

We also ask the police department to update the community on the implementation of the 12-point plan and other efforts to improve relationships with the community. Specifically, the plan called for the adjustments to the structure of the police department to increase community interactions. We are asking the GRPD to outline how they have implemented those changes and how they are tracking the success of their community relations building efforts. The plan also called for the implementation of implicit bias testing; we are asking GRPD to update the community on the results of such testing, how they are tracking the results of the training and future plans to ensure its effectiveness.

Having viewed the body camera videos, it is the belief of LINC UP, the NAACP and Micah Center that this incident is an example of the systemic problems that contribute to racial disparities in Grand Rapids. The problems do not stem from any moral flaws of the officers involved but from systemic processes that perpetuate mistrust and fear between communities of color and institutions within Grand Rapids. As such we encourage all people to pay attention to this incident, learn from it and above all, change how we are acting to ensure that we can break that cycle of mistrust.

Sincerely,

LINC UP                 NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch               Micah Center

Neighborhood meeting to address dangerous chemicals contaminating Hall/Madison neighborhood

Come to the LINC Gallery, 341 Hall St. SE, for a community meeting Thursday, April 20 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to learn about the investigation and clean up of dangerous chemicals in the Hall St. and Madison Ave. area.

epa-se-gr-updated-mapRepresentatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) along with a doctor and fellow residents will take questions from the community.

Bring your neighbors and your questions! Contact us at 616.451.9140 with any questions.