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Donors, Board, Staff Honor Institute’s Founder

Millikens join in salute to Schneider, MLUI

July 3, 2008 | By Jim Dulzo
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service


Keith Schneider built an organization that employs journalism, community organizing, and advocacy to push for sustainable development in Michigan.

TRAVERSE CITY—The Michigan Land Use Institute honored its founding director at its annual Milliken Awards reception, held last Friday at the Park Place Hotel, in downtown Traverse City.

Dozens of the Institute’s major donors gathered at the hotel’s Top of the Park to enjoy its birds-eye view of Grand Traverse Bay and hear heartfelt remarks about Keith Schneider from Institute Executive Director Hans Voss and two of the organization’s most prominent supporters, former Michigan Governor Bill Milliken and Michigan First Lady Helen Milliken.

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All three praised Mr. Schneider for using his tenacity and courage in 1994 to launch the Institute’s forerunner, the Michigan Communities Land Use Coalition, which successfully protected northwest Lower Michigan residents, their communities’ economies, and the region’s environment from highly aggressive, poorly regulated oil and gas drilling.

The speakers also honored Mr. Schneider for his vision—which refashioned the small, kitchen-table coalition focused on oil and gas drilling into the present-day Institute, a statewide organization that employs top-rate journalism, dogged community organizing, and well-researched advocacy to attack the state’s severe sprawl problem—something Governor Milliken calls "a plague on our land"—and align state policies and practices with the 21st century’s New Economy.

"As the visionary and courageous founder of the Michigan Land Use Institute, Keith focused his incredible talent on launching a citizen movement that has forever changed Michigan," Mr. Voss said while presenting the Milliken Distinguished Smart Growth Leadership Award to Mr. Schneider.

In accepting the award, Keith was quick to credit his initial success to those he worked with back in 1995.

"All I did was just step forward," he told the audience, "not knowing what I was doing. And I can’t tell you how quickly people closed to come and join us."

Mr. Schneider, who now serves as communications director for the Apollo Alliance, a unique, national, non-profit organization of business, union, and environmental leaders intent on solving the climate crisis, added that Americans are now starting to realize both the gravity of the global warming problem—and how it can be fixed.

"The number one thought in America today is that we can fashion out of this crisis an economy that is cleaner, greener and more efficient than ever before," he said. "We have an opportunity to change the world," Mr. Schneider said.

In his remarks, Governor Milliken said that Mr. Schneider’s work had already changed Michigan.

"This organization is not only one of the remarkable organizations in Michigan, but in the entire United States," Mr. Milliken said. "There is no other organization like this in the state of Michigan or in the country. This Institute is making major contributions to the future of our country."

Also honored that evening were two departing Institute staff members, Julie Hay and Andy Guy.

Ms. Hay coordinated a number of local electoral and policy initiatives and established the organization’s Get Farming! program for new farmers. Andy Guy helped to revive the state’s long-dormant Natural Rivers program, reported extensively on the drive to protect Michigan’s water from extractions and diversions, and worked closely with community and elected leaders in Grand Rapids to significantly expand that region’s public transportation services.

Jim Dulzo is the Michigan Land Use Institute’s managing editor. Reach him at jimdulzo@mlu.org.

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