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Governor Jennifer Granholm

Smart Growth champion

March 17, 2004 |

Photo MLUI
  Institute founder Keith Schneider and Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm.

Not since William Milliken’s administration concluded in 1982 has a Michigan governor highlighted environmental and land use issues as dramatically as Governor Jennifer M. Granholm. Inaugurated on January 1, 2003, the governor has, despite the deep deficit that awaited her, largely stuck to her twin promises of trying to build Michigan’s economy by protecting its natural resources and curbing sprawl by rebuilding Michigan’s cities. When the Institute’s Keith Schneider and Charlene Crowell interviewed
Ms. Granholm this month, she began her answer to their question about protecting Michigan’s water with a compliment.

GOV. GRANHOLM: We appreciate the role that you play in journalism. We appreciated your role on the Land Use Leadership Council, the very positive role that the Institute played there. I’d love for the Institute to help play a positive role in water protection as well.


INSTITUTE: The two principles that we’re anxious to see in this proposal is one, the principle that the state’s waters are a public trust, clearly delineated, clearly stated and that it’s not a private interest. And secondly, to try to work through the idea that a regulatory scheme benefits Michigan businesses. It has to have incentives. It’s got to be flexible. It’s got to be efficient.

Let me ask you just as an intellectual matter: If in the public trust argument, if there is some sort of national interest in our water, does the public trust argument end up being dangerous?

What if the feds decided it was in the public interest to send our water to some other part of the country? I just worry about that and somehow it could be twisted against us even though I totally and fundamentally in my heart agree with you. We would have to devise a way to demonstrate very clearly that it’s in the public trust of Michigan. 


INSTITUTE: Governor, to what extent are you personally going to be involved in marketing this campaign, promoting it, getting it done?

The same way as land use was the number one issue last year. From the environmental side and the quality of life side, this is the very, very top of the list.


INSTITUTE: Will you be out personally?

GOV. GRANHOLM: You bet I will. This is something that we have been pushing for. I think this is something the citizens want. I think it is good, obviously, for our legacy. And I say our legacy. I don’t mean this administration’s legacy but Michigan’s legacy to its children and grandchildren. It’s very, very important.


INSTITUtE: We are interested in statewide land use goals. Will you be taking any action on those?

GOV. GRANHOLM: Well, that’s obviously one of the Michigan Land Use Leadership Council’s recommendations and we want to make sure that is done. We’ve talked about it a number of places. It’s on the list to begin the planning. For me right now the thing that’s at the top, frankly, is reinvigorating our older communities.


INSTITUTE: Let’s talk about other recommendations in the Land Use Leadership Council report, like the public transit recommendations. In light of the state budget stress are those achievable this year?

GOV. GRANHOLM: This year? I’m hopeful that we can get some movement on it. But there are some in the budgetary process who do not like transit, who are not in favor of transit options. So, we want to ‘sand them down’ a little bit. It is a priority of mine, which is why we intervened to try to get DARTA [Detroit Area Regional Transit Authority] off the ground in Southeast Michigan even though a court has held it up. We’re working on an agreement that addresses the court’s concerns and moves us forward. I’m not sure that all of the transit options will be met this year. But we are going to continue to work on them.


INSTITUTE: Let’s ask about cooperation and your relationship with the Republican leadership here in Lansing. How’s it going?

GOV. GRANHOLM: Great. We meet every week and we have very good meetings. I think we get along as people. We have differences over certain things. Right now, Ken Sikkema [Republican senate majority leader] and I are having a tug of war over water discharge permit fees and a desire on his part to take away enforcement from DEQ. But I think eventually we will get that resolved.


INSTITUTE: What do you think is behind that? It’s not where Sen. Sikkema has been in his career.

GOV. GRANHOLM: I just think it’s a question of a Democratic governor.


INSTITUTE: To what extent is Sen. Sikkema going to be involved in the water protection statute?

GOV. GRANHOLM: I think he can and he should be. He has exercised great leadership on it. It is something he’s been passionate about. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to work together. To me, this is a 100 percent win-win for bipartisanship and for really putting aside those kinds of issues for the betterment of Michigan.


INSTITUTE: What do you make of the fact that both Mike Cox [Republican attorney general] and Ken Sikkema publicly announced they won’t challenge you in 2006?

GOV. GRANHOLM: Mike Cox has got a great job himself. I always thought, until I became governor, that being attorney general was the greatest job around. So I don’t really know why. But I can tell you that it makes for a much better working relationship. We are working together. Mike Cox’s relationship with this office has dramatically improved. I do work well with Senator Sikkema even though we disagree on some matters.


INSTITUTE: Let’s talk about race and sprawl. What do you think you can do as governor to contribute to racial accord, harmony, and inclusion? We noticed that you have a very diverse staff. But when you get past your staff, in terms of helping other communities to see that diversity is good for everyone, what do you think you can do?

GOV. GRANHOLM: Where do we begin? Well, first of all I ran on a platform of “One Michigan”. We are not divided east versus west, or north versus south, or city versus suburb. We are made of two peninsulas but we are one Michigan.

In southeast Michigan, we are the most racially segregated community in the country. And I think that segregation does contribute to sprawl. This is why we must encourage people to invest and to stay in cities.

Chicago is such a great example of how celebrating an integrated community, celebrating different ethnicities, creates such enormous vibrancy.

To pull that all back together is really critical. I really want us to be — if we are to be a magnet state — we have to be a world class state. We live in a global world. These old biases are counterproductive to growing our cities and to growing our economy. 

So you can start on the ground level. You can walk the talk.  We have the most diverse cabinet of any administration in the history of Michigan. To me the only way to have a good product is to have different perspectives around the table.

Keith Schneider is the Institute’s deputy director. Charlene Crowell directs our transportation and Detroit projects. You can reach them at, respectively, keith@mlui.org and charlene@mlui.org.

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