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Governor Elect Whitmer’s Transition Team: Who’s In, Who’s not

November 15, 2018

The day after Gretchen Whitmer was announced the winner of the Governor’s race in Michigan, the Governor-Elect released the names of the people who will be part of her transition team.

One person on that transition team has received a great deal of attention, the CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield (BCBS), Daniel J. Loepp. Loepp’s appointment to Whitmer’s transition team not only was reported in news outlets around the state, it garnered an article on the independent news site, The Intercept

One of the reasons why Loepp’s appoint is so controversial, is that BCBS contributed $144,000 to her election campaign. In addition, having BCBS on Whitmer’s transition team, will certainly be the end of any possibility of a statewide single-payer health care system being introduced in Michigan. Whitmer has already gone from talking about a more progressive health care system to now using the term affordable, which essentially means that single-payer or Medicare for All will not be what the Governor Elect will advocate for.

Who else is on the Transition Team?

Besides the CEO of BCBS, there are 10 other members of Whitmer’s Transition Team. Let’s take a look at who they are.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha – An associate professor at MSU and director of the MSU and Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, a model program mitigating the impact of the Flint water crisis.

Barbara McQuade – A professor at University of Michigan School of Law, Professor McQuade served as the U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan from 2010-2017.

Dennis Archer – Mayor of Detroit from 1994-2001. While Archer was Mayor of Detroit he oversaw major downtown development projects, projects which initiated a great deal of the gentrification of Detroit and opened the door for business owners like Dan Gilbert to buy up lots of property in the city, which has lead to a widening of the gap between those living in poverty and the 1 percent.

Kate Pew Wolters – Chair of the Steelcase Foundation and a Grand Valley State University Trustee, Ms. Wolters is also president family’s foundation and is involved with the Progressive Women’s Alliance of West Michigan. Wolters is part of the power structure in Grand Rapids; was involved with the now defunct One Kent Coalition – which sought to restructure and consolidate the government for the Greater Grand Rapids area; and while she was board chair at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, she was tasked with telling Dennis Komac, then the Director of the Art Museum that he had to stop being involved with the LGBT book store Son’s & Daughters or he would be fired from his job at the Art Museum. Komac refused to disassociate himself with the bookstore and was fired – as is documented in the film, A People’s History of the Grand Rapids LGBTQ Community.

Mike Prusi – Former Michigan Senate Minority Leader, who also served three terms in the House of Representatives. Prusi is from the UP and served as president of USW Local 4950.

Joe Schwarz, M.D. – Former Republican Congressman for Michigan’s 7th District and a practicing physician. Dr. Schwarz also serves on the board of directors of “Voters Not Politicians.”

Allan Gilmour – Retired Vice Chairman of Ford Motor Company.

Dug Song – Co-Founder of Ann Arbor-based internet security provider Duo Security.

Gary Torgow – Chairman of Chemical Financial Corporation, the holding company of the largest bank headquartered in Michigan,

Portia Roberson – CEO of Focus: HOPE, a non-profit community organization that was one response to the 1967 riot in Detroit. The Board of Directors and Advisors of Focus: HOPE is made up primarily of representatives of corporations.

Thus, it seems that there are 5 members of Whitmer’s Transition Team that come from the corporate world, 3 former politicians, 2 lawyers, 1 doctor and 1 non-profit director.

Who’s Not on Whitmer’s Transition Team?

One glaring omission from Whitmer’s Transition Team is organized labor. This is significant in many ways, especially since organized labor contributed to her election campaign. Organized labor contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars, yet they don’t have a seat on the Governor-Elect’s Transition Team. Organized labor should be there to fight to restore pensions for public sector employees and teachers, remove Michigan’s Right to Work policy, fight to get a livable wage for Michigan’s workers and reduced the power that corporations like Nestle has over State government. Organized labor has to stop supporting Democrats, unless there are clear benefits for working class people, as we noted in Part II of our Labor Day articles

There is no overt representation of anyone from the Environmental Justice movement that is part of Whitmer’s Transition Team. Having someone from the Environmental Justice Movement could lead to reversing the state’s water give-away to Nestle, lead to an end to Line 5, bring about some immediate outcomes to the Flint & Detroit water crisis and the development of clean and efficient mass transit.

There is no one on Whitmer’s Transit Team that is part of the racial justice movement. Having someone from the racial justice movement would send a strong message to the state that police violence against black and brown communities would no longer be tolerated, that funding for communities of color would increase dramatically, that ICE violence against the immigrant community would no longer have the support of the Governor’s office and that the newly proposed private immigrant detention facility in Ionia would be canceled.

There is no overt representation on the Governor-Elect’s Transition Team from the LGBTQ community. Having LGBTQ representation would send a strong message to the people of Michigan that unlike Schuette’s anti-LGBTQ stance, the new Governor would take the offensive in promoting LGBTQ policies like adding LGBTQ protections to the Elliot-Larson anti-discrimination laws and provide greater protections for members of the trans and gender non-conforming community.

There is no representation from the Housing Justice or anti-gentrification organizations across the state. Having someone from this sector on the Transition Team would send a strong message to developers, landlords and property management companies that rental costs should be reduced to a truly affordable level. Someone from this sector would also mean that there could be an end to Emergency Management policies and give greater control to neighborhoods and communities that are constantly be taken over by or threatened with gentrification.

There is no representation from the Public Education community on Whitmer’s Transition Team. Having a strong public education advocate could lead to Lansing defending public school teachers, challenging Charter School expansion, not allowing public money to support Charter or private schools and a commitment to greater funding opportunities of public education, especially if it levels the playing field for school districts that are primarily made up of students of color.

This brief list of who is not on the Governor-Elect’s Transition Team is meant to get us all to stop just being happy that there isn’t a Republican Governor and to get us to engage in radical imagination about what could happen and what needs to happen if we want social justice to be achieved. Having said all this, I am not surprised that Whitmer’s Transition Team does not include people from social movements. Elections rarely include the vision of social movements, which is why social movements should always be autonomous from electoral politics, allowing them to challenge governments to adopt policies that promote greater economic, social and racial justice.

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