Democratic presidential candidates Jay Inslee and Elizabeth Warren both visited Detroit on Tuesday. Inslee has been governor of the state of Washington since 2013 and has focused his campaign on environmental issues. Warren, a Massachusetts senator, has created a progressive campaign focused on rebuilding the middle class and fighting corruption. According to Real Clear Politics averages, Warren and Inslee currently poll at 8.3 and 0.5 percent, respectively.
Jay Inslee visits Detroit to speak with residents about environmental justice
On Tuesday morning, Jay Inslee spoke with three environmental justice leaders in the 48217 zip code of Detroit, which has been referred to as “most polluted zip code in Michigan.” The event was composed of a walking tour around the Kemeny Recreation Center and the neighboring Marathon Petroleum refinery.
Inslee’s campaign has been focused on combating climate change and he highlighted the progress Washington has made under his leadership in combating climate change. When asked about why he was visiting Detroit, Inslee emphasized the environmental impact of the fossil fuel industry on the communities they operate in.
“I’m in Detroit to see the problems that the fossil fuel industry, specifically the oil and gas industry, causes the residents of this area,” Inslee said. “I have proposed a plan to wean us off of fossil fuels so that these families don’t have to breathe these fumes and their children don’t have to be exposed to asthma and cancer, which appears to be a higher rate here.”
Theresa Landrum, a Detroit resident who has been working since the 1980s to clean up pollution, lead most of the walk. She said she has lived in the area her whole life and remembers what the community center looked like before the refinery moved in.
“Marathon and I-75 have taken up wetlands; we had possum, the fox, the raccoons, the gardener snake, the turtles. We used to play there as children,” Landrum said. “Every home had a garden, every home had five to six fruit trees. They have all died out, and I contribute that to the emissions in the air. If the vegetation dies out, what is that doing to human life?”
Landrum talked about the impact the Marathon plant has had on the surrounding community, which she said has been widely felt.
“We need doctors to be to be trained to be able to identify more environmentally-related diseases,” Landrum said. “We know that we are a vulnerable community. We should not be compared to a healthy community when it comes to national standards. You have to compare a vulnerable community with a vulnerable community.”
Landrum also spoke about the impact the DTE Energy plant has had on the community. She talked about the recent flare leak due to the polar vortex this past February which, according to Landrum, emitted sulfur dioxide and negatively affected the community.
“The air quality was so strong and heavy and ambient that people were having nausea, they were having dizziness, they were having vomiting, ear, nose and eye irritation,” said Landrum.
Inslee pointed out that the polar vortex was because of climate change and the negative effects on health a changing environment can have. He also spoke more about his plan regarding fossil fuels and climate change, discussing details such as minimizing negative health effects on surrounding communities.
Michelle Martinez, an environmental justice activist and coordinator Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition], spoke about what she hopes to see coming in the upcoming presidential election.
“Michigan is at the top of the ticket for every single presidential candidate and this is the first candidate that has come to our community to talk about environmental justice,” Martinez said. “A robust plan for a robust transition is what we’re looking for, and I hope some of the promises the candidates are making happen on day one.”
Elizabeth Warren proposes new green jobs and structural change to help America
At 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, about five hundred people came to the Focus: HOPE building in Detroit to hear Elizabeth Warren speak. Warren spoke against a backdrop of the American flag and two machine arms, a nod to Focus: HOPE’s mission in community education and job training and the manufacturing history of Detroit.
Warren began her speech by talking about America’s current economic plan, which she said doesn’t suit the average American or America itself.
“America’s had an economic plan for a long time, and it’s been, ‘Do whatever giant corporations want,’” Warren said. “Those giant corporations, they do not care about American workers; but I do, and I’m going to fight for them.”
Warren has been campaigning to hold big companies accountable and focused heavily on this throughout her speech. She also focused on the “climate crisis,” which she highlighted as a problem, not only for the earth, but also for the economy. She proposed the creation of new jobs for Americans as a way to combat climate change.
“What is it going to take to save our planet?” Warren said. “The answer is it’s going to take a whole lot of new science, a whole lot of (research and development) and a whole lot of manufacturing — technological manufacturing. My plan is to do all that right all in America.”
She stated, as president, she would invest $2 trillion into green technology research and development, creating an estimated 1.2 million new jobs across America. She also proposed selling these new technologies across the world as she said the climate crisis is a worldwide problem. When talking about how to pay for this proposal, she mentioned ensuring large corporations pay the taxes they owe.
“How to pay for it? I always have a plan,” Warren said. “By cutting the subsidies from the oil and gas industry, and by making sure every big corporation — I’m looking at you Amazon, who paid zero in taxes last year — pays its fair share in taxes.”
Her proposal for “aggressive intervention” on behalf of American workers is rooted in a plan focused on fighting corruption, making structural changes to the economy and altering certain political rules in order to “protect democracy.” Much of her speech focused on this three-part plan, as well as her reputation of “having a plan for that,” which has become a center point of her campaign.
Fighting corruption, she said, means making sure the government is working for the American people instead of corporations and lobbyists.
“When you see government that works great for the rich and not for everyone else, that is corruption pure and simple,” Warren said. “Whatever issue brought you here today; whatever issue gets you up early in the morning and keeps you up late at night; if there’s a decision to be made in Washington, it has been touched by money, influenced by money, by the lobbyist, by the think-tanks, by dark money.”
When talking about structural changes, Warren focused on strengthening unions and instituting a “wealth tax” on the top one-tenth of the top one percent.
“Anyone who is a homeowner pays a wealth tax. It’s called property tax,” Warren said. “All we’re saying is, when I’m saying when you make it really, really big, the top one-tenth of one percent put in two cents, so everybody else in this country gets a chance to build some security.”
Warren proposed using the tax to pay for universal childcare and pre-kindergarten, along with pay increases for those working in those industries. She also proposed using it to help fund public colleges and technical schools along with investing in more resources for historically black colleges and cancelling student loan debt.
The section of the plan focused on changes to protect democracy were centered around protecting a citizen’s right to vote by dealing with voter suppression laws and gerrymandering, while also overturning Citizens United.
“We’ve got to change the rules to protect our democracy,” Warren said. “I want to see a constitutional amendment to protect the right of every American citizen to vote and to get that vote counted.”
Warren’s proposals were applauded and there was a line wrapping around the room to get a selfie with her afterwards.
Rackham student Nocona Sanders said she was glad Warren spoke out against corruption and how its relation to climate change.
“I think that that’s touching everything, and especially as it relates to science,” Sanders said. “I know that a lot of my peers and I are worried that our work could be ignored or even suppressed, and so I was glad to hear that she has a lot to say going against corruption.”
Judy Robinson, a community member who attended the event with the group Fems for Dems, was there to hear more about Elizabeth Warren’s plans.
“Well, I’m with the Fems for Dems organization, and we’re looking at all the candidates,” Robinson said. “I happen to have my son and his girlfriend from out of town, so we’re giving Elizabeth Warren a hard look to see if she might be our candidate.”