Governor Gretchen Whitmers 4th State of the State Address has been recorded. Now, she is shifting her attention to the new budget and her reelection campaign. What are the future environmental priorities? This is the topic of this month’s “1stFriday Focus on the Environment” conversation. David Fair, WEMU, and Lisa Wozniak, 1st Fridays host, from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, invited Dianne Byrum, a former state lawmaker, to discuss the past and look to the future.
1st Friday Focus On the Environment: 02/04/22
DIANNE BYRUM –
Dianne Byrum is well-respected as a top political strategist, both nationally and locally. She is a consultant to many of Michigan’s top industries and helps them position themselves for the 21st-century economy. She is a partner at Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communications and has extensive experience in directing multi-layered complex projects that span multiple industries. Byrum and Fisk are a strategic communications company that specializes in media relations and crisis management.
Dianne has over 24 years of experience as an Ingham County Commissioner and in the Michigan Legislature. She was the first woman to head a caucus at the state Capitol. Her signature tactic was to use repetitive, creative communications to systematically support or weaken legislators, depending on the target.
Dianne has been involved in many presidential campaigns. She has also served on the boards for EMILYS List and other national political organizations. She speaks often on politics and government, and is frequently sought out by news media for analysis on the most recent issues.
With nearly 2.2 million votes statewide, Dianne was elected to Michigan State University Board of Trustees in 2008. She continues to be a trustee and serves today as its Chair.
ABOUT LISA WOZNIAK
Lisa’s career spans over twenty years of environmental and conservation advocacy within thepolitical arena. She is a nationally recognized expert in non-profit management and growth, and a leader in Great Lakes protections. Lisa graduated from the University of Michigan three times, holding a Bachelors Degree in Social Work and Education and two Masters Degrees in Education and Social Work.
Lisa is a cohost and content partner on 89.1 WEMU’s “1st Friday Focus on Environment”.
David Fair: This is Episode 89 of the WEMU. I’m David Fair and this is our first episode of First Friday Focus on the Environment. We missed that episode because I was on medical leave in January. I am glad to be back, however, for the February edition. My co-host Lisa Wozniak, the Michigan League of Conservation Voters executive Director, is our content partner for First Fridays. Lisa, it’s so nice to be back after so many months away.
Lisa Wozniak: David, we miss you so much in the WEMU family. It’s so great to have you back. I can’t believe we haven’t been in the same place together since March 2020.
David Fair: It is my greatest hope that we can do so for the March issue. That would be fantastic.
Lisa Wozniak: Yes, me too. I’m thrilled to have a wonderful guest for our post-State of the State Speech conversation. Dianne Byrum, a former state representative and a state senator, is currently a member of the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. She is also a partner at Byrum and Fisk Advocacy Communications. They are a strategic communications company that specializes in media relations and crisis management. Dianne, welcome to WEMU.
Dianne Byrum: We are grateful.
David Fair: Dianne, it’s a pleasure to be here. Well, Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave her fourth State of the State speech last Wednesday. This was the second such address that had been done virtually due to the ongoing pandemic. So, she had a shorter time frame to deliver her message, highlight her accomplishments, then set the stage for her reelection campaign in November. Your opinion: Did Dianne use the limited time she had effectively?
Dianne Byrum:I believe she did. It started with the tone and optimism of her speech. She then gave a brief overview of her achievements and then moved on to the priorities for next year. The important thing is that she stressed the importance of working together. We can accomplish anything. Michigan has a bright future. So, even though it takes 25 minutes, I believe that sometimes less is more. And I believe she did a great job in the State of the State speech, with the backdrop of Detroit Diesel and the importance of electric vehicles for Michigan’s future.
Lisa Wozniak: First Fridays are all about environment, Dianne. I’d like to address an environmental issue you just mentioned, which the governor did have the time to address. We’ve seen significant investment and growth in electric vehicles over the past few years. More cars are being on the road, and more charging stations are being installed to accommodate the increased demand. GM announced a $7B investment in a new EV manufacturing facility the day before the governor’s speech. What does this mean for Michigan? And what does it say about Governor Whitmer’s vision to make Michigan a leader in electric vehicles?
Dianne Byrum: Sure. It was certainly an exciting week, as it was the week leading up to her State of the State address. With General Motors’ announcement, their massive investment in electric vehicles and making Michigan the epicenter of these vehicles, I believe that that was the statement that GM was making. This was made possible by Governor Whitmer, her administration and her legislative partners. This is exciting news, as seven billion dollars will be largely invested in two manufacturing facilities in the state. Orion Township is the one that will get the largest share of the investment with $4 billion. The other is the new Delta Township battery plant, just outside Lansing. This will bring in almost $3 billion. This will create 4,000 jobs but Michigan is at the center of the new technology that will drive the future. It’s exciting because Michigan is the auto capital of this world. And this will ensure that Michigan is a major player in the future.
Dianne Byrum: Continued by 89 WEMU First Friday Focus on the Environment. David Fair is my co-host with Lisa Wozniak, from the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. We’re speaking with Dianne Byrum who is a partner at Byrum and Fisk Advocacy Communications.
Lisa Wozniak: Dianne, we were thrilled to see Governor Whitmer’s draft MI Healthy Climate Plan, which was announced last month. It’s the Climate Council working with EGLE. It aims to provide a path for a carbon free economy which is vital to address the climate crisis. How do you think the announcement at the State of the State regarding electric vehicles fits into this overall climate plan.
Dianne Byrum: Emissions are what, and reducing greenhouse gas emission is the core of a healthy climate plan. We know that the transportation sector is responsible for a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Michigan can switch to electric vehicles quickly and do it quickly after the General Motors announcement. This will allow us to reach our emission goals of 100 percent by 2050. There is certainly some interest to be more aggressive, but it is clearly the right path. The Michigan Healthy Climate Plan is being supported and promoted by the General Motors announcement and the Governor’s State of the State announcement. That’s some exciting news.
David Fair: Because she had such a short time, there were many things that she didn’t address in her State of the State speech. Congress passed a massive bipartisan bill to improve infrastructure in late last year. It includes billions of dollars for states like Michigan. Many are calling for the money to be used to directly address water contamination issues that continue to plague Michigan. How do you envision the Legislature appropriating these funds in relation to water issues?
Dianne Byrum: I do hope that the Legislature will appropriate more federal money. Water infrastructure is essential to the success of the water system. It must address lead-copper issues, replacement of lines in homes, and PFAS, which are forever chemicals, that we have in the food system. It is clear that there are infrastructure needs around water and accessing clean drinking water. These funds are available federally and should be spent in Michigan for that purpose.
Lisa Wozniak: Dianne, it’s common to say, “Show Me Your Budget, and I’ll Show You Your Priorities.” And now, the governor is getting ready to present her next budget proposal. How do you see the administration’s environmental priorities positioned within that budget?
Dianne Byrum: Water must be paramount. The governor has led water issues. There will also be a call to build roads and bridges, and invest in this kind of infrastructure. But, I think water infrastructure, the Great Lakes health, and dealing PFAS–the forever chemical–will be front and center.
David Fair: This is 89th WEMU’s First Friday Focus On the Environment. We’re speaking with Lisa Wozniak & Dianne Byrum. Dianne, it’s more than a phone call or a budget proposal to get things accomplished. In her State of the State address, Governor Whitmer urged unity between her administrations and the majority Republican legislature. After the address, GOP leaders said they were willing and able to work with her. Now, we have found that there is some increasing willingness to work together on environmental initiatives. And we certainly hope that that will continue to grow. Is cooperation being hindered by the fact that it is a midterm year?
Dianne Byrum: I hope not. We know that water in Michigan is a unifying topic. The governor took great measures to discuss bipartisanship and working together. So, I hope the Governor and the Legislature will come up with strong budget recommendations and funding that directly address the issue of water quality for everyone in Michigan and access to safe drinking water.
Lisa Wozniak: Finally, Dianne. As of today, 13 candidates have been declared for the Republican nomination for Governor. We are still months away the August primary and November general elections. Is the GOP in position to win back governor’s mansion again? What’s your view?
Dianne Byrum: My view is that Governor Whitmer has an extremely strong position. I believe she is well-positioned to be reelected. She is talking about issues that unify people. They are “kitchen table issues”, she says. It’s more than safe drinking water. It’s also about education for our children, investment in mental well-being, lowering insulin costs, tax cuts and repealing the pension taxes. These are the issues people care about, the issues at the table. I don’t think the Republicans will field a candidate, at least not from the current group of candidates. The governor clearly talks about issues that resonate with Michiganans.
David Fair: Dianne, I want to thank you for your insight and time today.
Dianne Byrum: Thank you. Have a great day.
David Fair: Dianne Byrum, a former state representative, state senator, is currently a member of Michigan State University Board of Trustees and a partner at Byrum Advocacy Communications. We’ll be back in March, Lisa Wozniak
Lisa Wozniak: David, I always look forward and enjoy our time together. We are grateful.
David Fair: Lisa Wozniak, executive Director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, is co-host of WEMU’s First Friday Focus on the Environment. Visit our WEMU dot.org web page for more information about today’s feature as well as our archive. This is David Fair, and it’s 89 one WEMU FM.
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David Fair is the WEMU’s News Director and host for Morning Edition on WEMU. David can be reached at 734.87.3363 or via twitter@DavidFairWEMUYou can email him email@example.com