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Morning View: Mackinac Uncensored Engages State’s Hot-Button Issues

For the third year, more than 20 statewide thought leaders offered their unbridled opinion on eight hot-button issues during Morning View: Mackinac Uncensored on Friday, May 31, closing the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Panelists tackled everything from Michigan women in Congress and the roads, to the gerrymandering debate, cannabis industry, and business imperative of diversity and economic inclusion. Read what panelists said.

When and How: Fix the Damn Roads

“The longer we wait, the more expensive it’s going to get,” said Michigan Department of Transportation’s Paul Ajegba. “Our pavement conditions are at 78% [roads in good and fair conditions]. In two years, that will be down to 65%.”

Guests, including Ajegba and HNTB Michigan Inc.’s Regine Beauboeuf, discussed the road ahead for Michigan’s infrastructure and offered perspectives on road funding initiatives.

“Investing in our roads provides us a platform for rapid economic growth,” said Beauboeuf on the business case for moving forward with road funding initiatives and infrastructural improvements.

She continued to state that while the governor’s proposed 45-cent gas tax seems like a lot, most people are spending more than that fixing their vehicles.

Both Ajegba and Beauboeuf are hopeful that the full funding needed for substantial road improvements will be raised.

The session was moderated by Bridge Magazine’s Lindsay Van Hulle.

Influence and Impact: Michigan’s Women in Congress

“Michigan is looked at as one of the few states left that puts person over party,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI 8). “We have a lot to teach Washington about how it’s still possible to work together.”

Slotkin discussed her experiences in her first Congressional term. She came to Congress from the Pentagon, where she worked as acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs. She has a strong passion for bolstering Michigan’s defense industry and brings a mission-focused spirit to Congress that she developed from her years working with the military.

As one of the 101 freshman members of Michigan’s Congress, Slotkin admits that she and her classmates have had to adjust to a cultural change. Her class is the youngest — and most highly female — ever elected in Michigan. These individuals are making Congress more transparent, “lifting the curtain” on Congress through social media, publishing their weekly schedule, and “actively listening” to their constituents.

Slotkin and her counterparts were elected with a mandate to “get things done” and are eager to work across the aisle to do so.

The session was moderated by Acuitas’ Sarah Hubbard.

Finding Michigan’s Future Political Leaders

“Politicians need to go out and find individuals who can identify with them, then train those individuals to run. We need to go out, find these engaged young people, and take them under our wing,” said Sen. Marshall Bullock II (D-MI 4). “Everyone is capable of running for office, as long as they are willing to put the work in.”

He was joined by Public Sector Consultants Inc.’s Selma Tucker to discuss the increasingly rise of a new wave of political leaders across the state.

Both speakers attributed this wave of young political involvement to a feeling of being “fed up.” Young people are looking at what is happening nationally and are not satisfied. They want to see their groups represented, and they want issues talked about that are not typically discussed.

When asked about the barriers standing in the way of young people running for office, Bullock mentioned the important of mentorship.

“When looking for the next political class, we are looking at people who are groundbreaking in their areas…people who are fed up with the system and never looked at themselves as doing this before, but now are,” Tucker said.

The session was moderated by Michigan Radio’s Zoe Clark.

Redrawing the Lines: The Gerrymandering Debate

“When the will of the people speaks through the voting process, it’s important to take care of it,” said Focus: Hope’s Portia Roberson, “Fair, transparent, impartial elections are what people want to see. Compromise happens across the aisle this week. We have a better chance of seeing this as a norm and not an oddity.

Roberson was joined on stage with Harbor Strategic Public Affairs’ John Sellek to discuss redrawing district lines in Michigan. Guests offered their insight on Michigan’s Proposal 2 — approved last year — which places the power to draw legislative district lines in the hands of an independent citizen-led redistricting commission.

The current system is set up for each party, Selleck said. There are possibilities with the new approach to redistricting along with certain challenges, Roberson said.

However, the bipartisan compromise demonstrated by the historic auto reform bill signing yesterday is promising for the redistricting conversation, demonstrated by a government willing to cooperate across the aisle for the good of Michiganders and the state.

“We’re at a fortunate time,” Shelleck said, citing the relationship between the governor and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield (R-107).

The session was moderated by Crain’s Detroit Business’ Chad Livengood.

Diversity and Economic Inclusion: A Business Imperative

“We need to look both at the data and hiring processes to really change the trajectory,” said Detroit Future City’s Anika Foster-Goss.

She was joined by Murphy Consulting Inc’s Leslie Murphy to discuss the business community’s work toward more diverse and inclusive workplaces is ongoing.

Murphy cited active surveys and intention statistics as helpful tools for benchmarking diversity and inclusion initiatives, with sponsorships, mentorships, and training leading efforts as emerging best practices. Constant awareness and evaluation are key to ensure that diversity and inclusion is top of mind in all facets of an organization, especially to prevent the pitfalls of things like unconscious bias. Inclusive practices are about more than meeting diversity quotas. Effective action is about placing the proper value on employees’ talent and humanity.

“It is about creating culture that values the differences and benefits diversity can bring,” Murphy said.

The session was moderated by the Detroit Free Press’ Nancy Kaffer.

Growing Michigan’s Cannabis Business

“[The cannabis industry] is one of the most expensive startups in the history of mankind,” said Michigan Pure Med’s Michael Elias, “It’s going to require quality improvement.”

Guests Elias and Robin Schneider, CEO of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association discussed the needs of the growing cannabis industry in Michigan.

Provisioning centers are running out of product, said Elias, noting that the industry is far away from having adequate supply to provide to patients who rely on medicinal marijuana. Regulating cannabis products, similar to the process food and drugs undergo, will be a step in ensuring quality control and safety for users.

However, Schneider predicts that in 5 years, Michigan’s cannabis industry will be well regulated and even have enough product to supply to other states. From recreational to cosmetic and medicinal use, “we will see the acceleration of the normalization of cannabis,” Elias said.

This session was hosted by Crain’s Detroit Business’s Michael Lee.