The Issues: top 5 and determination to win
When you are running for elected office, people will often ask “what are your top issues?” While there are many important issues facing our cities, state, and country, here are my top five for this campaign, and in this moment:
- Every child in Michigan deserves the right receive to a quality public education
- Youth and adult workforce development, in Detroit, for Detroiters
- The elimination of redlining (rate discrimination), for all insurance
- Increased training and a four-year apprenticeship for all new law enforcement officers
- Real accountability for polluters and my pledge never to accept contributions from Marathon or Matty Moroun
Here are more details on each point.
Our work has evolved, and so must our education system. We must provide every young person in this state a high-quality public education. Full stop.
Our priorities have been manipulated by wealthy individuals who have a grudge against public education and the teachers who instruct our children. The people of Michigan have suffered dearly for in the decades long struggle for quality education.
I invested over five years working to write grants, and directly supported training programs because employers across all sectors struggled to find qualified people for well-paying careers. These opportunities are in skilled trades, IT, manufacturing, health care, design, automation, and more. Entry level wages ranged annually from $30,000 to $70,000. Thousands have been trained and earned well-paying jobs with the work they put into improving their skills.
A person only gets one shot at an education during their youth. Every missed opportunity yields challenges that impact quality of life, life expectancy, and the next generation. Let us have a real discussion about how to create a life-long education system that measures outcomes and efficacy. A system where completing K-12 is not just a checkbox, but a transfer ticket to the next stage of career training- be that trade school, entrepreneurship, college, or university.
The lack of a quality K-12 education for hundreds of thousands of Michigan adults on the front end of their life means they will likely struggle for the rest of their lives to make ends meet. This is proven out in the data. It is not a Democratic or Republican opinion, it just is.
The State of Michigan seems not to value, nor invest in, adult workforce training. The legislature has not invested significant state funds in decades. In fact, the vast majority of workforce training investments made in this state for unemployed workers come from federal spending. These federal dollars are utilized and spent by the Michigan Works system with some success, but the funding is not complete, nor available at scale. Incomplete funding frustrates adults trying to improve their skills for better paying jobs, and leaves employers consistently without the skilled workforce they need.
Incomplete funding can mean the individual wants to work, but their vehicle is not reliable for a 30 minute commute every day and there is no way to fix it, or to get a new car. It could mean that the individual cannot find quality affordable day care. Perhaps an untimely medical emergency for a family member requires a more flexible schedule than the employer will allow.
If individuals returning to the workforce do not have access to a runway for a successful take-off into a career, then everyone gets frustrated, and things do not always work out. If we are to promote engagement in the skilled workforce, then we need reasonable investments to fill the gaps between federal funding and the realities that pull motivated people away from that opportunity.
Before the pandemic, the Detroit region had among the lowest rates of labor force participation in the U.S. In plain English, fewer adults are employed here than in many other major regions in the country. Nobody in Michigan is getting rich on state public assistance – in fact, you are disqualified from getting it after using a four-year maximum life benefit. Cash assistance (welfare payments) are rare. Neighbors in Detroit, Ecorse and River Rouge know that feeding yourself, let alone a family, is no easy task, especially when shopping for fresh foods and recent spikes in the cost of meat and produce. In fact, by design, our leaders have created a population in the hundreds of thousands in Michigan that have limited employment options and subsist without means to break even, let alone get ahead.
Adult workforce programming is necessary to improve math and reading skills so that adults can make a better life for their families. Once the basics are set, then new skills can be layered that will help land a well-paying occupation.
Landlords and utilities will not take an IOU on the bill so someone can join a workforce training program. A promise of a $40,000/year job in 16 weeks does not pay the bills, nor make sure the kids have food to eat. We need flexibility to rapidly train motivated adults to take high-demand jobs that will improve their lives and our overall economy.
End Insurance Rate Discrimination
Auto insurance “reform” that started on July 1st, has already failed.
We need to eliminate redlining for auto and home insurance and make the system so transparent that rates must roll back to reasonable. How is it possible that, with a straight face, an insurance agent can tell you that it costs over $10,000 a year to fully insure two vehicles?
The median income of a Detroit resident is about $29,000 before taxes. How can auto insurance cost 37% of a median Detroiter’s income?
I am convinced that insurance companies charge these rates because they can, not because they have to. These companies know there is no meaningful oversight or transparency. No sunlight means Detroiters get used, abused, jailed, and isolated from opportunity… over insurance.
I say take down this system and replace it with one that works. Every other state has better rates than Michigan. If legislators have not been able to fix this problem in the last three decades, then perhaps we need an independent commission to design a system for us that takes best practices from other states and applies them to a new system here. Companies like State Farm, Allstate, AAA, and Progressive are in the business of making money, not friends. Treat these organizations as the service providers, and even as the predators that they are- Michigan has the power to redefine the rules and bring sanity to auto, home and other critical insurance services.
Increased Training for Law Enforcement Officers
It takes 8,000 hours of training, about four years, before an apprentice can become a journeyman electrician. Their entry level wage is about $46,000 a year.
The Michigan State Police academy is 20 weeks, or 800 hours. Their entry level wage is about $44,000 a year.
An electrician is a highly skilled professional and is trained as such because faulty electrical systems can kill people.
By comparison, new Michigan State Police Troopers are modestly trained professionals who are given a badge, a gun, and qualified immunity from prosecution. Their actions can kill people as well.
We march and recite the names of the dead to seek reform and an end to the killing. As a State Representative, I will stand with reformers.
Even after an extra 17 weeks of probationary training and on-boarding, an MSP Trooper does not even receive 25% of the training of an electrician. For context, there are over 1,400 misdemeanors and over 1,200 felonies on the books in Michigan. There is more technology in a police cruiser than in many homes, and an officer makes life and death decisions in real time with no opportunities to get a do-over.
I believe a new police officer, or an MSP Trooper, should be required to test into a 4 year apprenticeship that is certified with the U.S. Department of Labor. Once someone earns an apprenticeship certificate, they have earned a nationally portable post-secondary credential, akin to a four-year degree from a university. The primary difference between an apprenticeship certificate and a four-year degree is that an apprentice knows how to do the job they were trained for, a university graduate knows how to think about the steps needed to work in the occupation they were trained for.
We should reflect on reasonable criminal justice system reforms so that our law enforcement professionals better reflect the needs of our communities. Remembers, an apprenticeship is simply a measurable framework for training. If we, as a society, want to shift spending away from prisons into schools, workforce training, roads, etc., then we need to better prepare law enforcement to understand how to triage traumatic situations and provide solutions that include more than a jail cell. Perhaps a cadet should spend six months embedded with social workers, another six months learning restorative justice methods, maybe six months on the history of segregation and discrimination, and so forth. Four years is a reasonable investment of time to dive deep into topics and training that will help change the culture of law enforcement in Michigan.
Hold Polluters Accountable
District 6 includes the ZIP code 48217, which is among the top five most air polluted regions in the United States. To blame are an enormous Marathon petroleum refinery and a wide range of large industrial product materials and processing from steel to chemical processing. You can smell it in the air when you drive I-75 south through the City of Detroit into downriver communities. The experience is momentarily inconvenient for passing drivers, but my neighbors and I in Detroit and River Rouge live next to these polluters. We have higher rates of asthma and cancer and live shorter lives than those who do not live in 48217. Our home values are negatively affected because of this refinery and many of us simply can’t sell and afford to buy somewhere else with the proceeds.
For all of the data, for all of the pain, for all of the death, there is little or no accountability for corporate polluters. There is no home purchase program that will help create a green belt around these industrial zones to buffer a school playground from tens of thousands of tons of annual toxic emissions. In fact, the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy is hamstrung by lack of staff, funding and enforcement powers to do much about it, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in similar straights.
The impact of Michigan policy is that giant multinational corporate polluters need not be responsible for the health impacts of their work on neighbors. This is wrong and either we need to enforce meaningful clean air, water, and land rules for these companies, or we need to help everyone who wants to move to relocate a safe distance from this industrial zone.
Just in the last year we have seen a toxic site collapse into the Detroit River, a manufacturing facility leak toxic green ooze onto I-696, and dams collapse that put several communities in mid-Michigan under water. Further, we can never forget that the ineptitude of an emergency manager and the criminal negligence of a former Governor Snyder, when his administration poisoned Flint with lead and covered it up. Lack of enforcement and tax breaks for corporations do not yield clean air, water and land. It is up to the people to define how corporations impact our lives, not for us to be held hostage to dirty air, toxic water, and shortened lifespans.
These are but five of many issues that I am passionate about and which led me to take on the responsibility to become the next State Representative in District 6. The incumbent that I am running against accepts blood money from corporate polluters, does not follow-up with his constituents, and frankly is not doing the work I expect of my State Representative. That he supports the transport of toxic materials across the Ambassador Bridge is just one example of being disconnected from the priorities of our community.
I intend to serve and work every day for District 6, just as Steve Tobocman, Rashida Tlaib, and Stephanie Chang did for nearly 20 years previously.
I will honor your voices by listening with respect and doing everything reasonable and necessary to answer your questions and get you results. I will be accessible, available, and responsive. You will know where I stand on both the easy and the incredibly complicated issues.
I look forward to your questions and suggestions.
Book a time to speak with me at www.votedavidpalmer.org/contact