On Mackinac Island, leaders champion working together


MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The first full day of the Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island highlighted the idea of working together.

Officials are hoping Michigan is in a new era in divided government that produces results for the state. There was some evidence of that when Republican leadership and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer agreed to a deal to reform the state’s auto insurance law last week. 

“When we meet our obligations as Michiganders, every one of us benefits. We have a historic agreement. We’ve done more in five months than anyone’s been able to accomplish on that in five years,” Whitmer said Wednesday. “I think this bodes well for where we are headed in our state and fixing roads and education.”

However, that big compromise did not sit well with all stakeholders. Several providers of long-term and critical care health services worry about the impact the law will have going forward.

But that bipartisan deal did seem to set the tone for other big endeavors. For example, Whitmer rolled out an ambitious plan to have multiple autonomous vehicles built and operating in just over a year.

That will fall to developers, universities and manufacturers already working on the technology, which will be featured at the 2020 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“As we work to fix today’s potholes, we must also keep our eye on the future to make sure we are building the smart infrastructure that will be able to support and advance the future of mobility here in the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said. “The reality is the future is nearer than we think.” 

Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the North American International Auto Show are also partners in the initiative.


Michigan’s U.S. senators and representatives echoed the sentiment of working together for the state — not east of west, Republican or Democrat, but the whole state.

“We’re here again as the Michigan delegation on a bipartisan basis to talk about a set of issues we are working on together,” Democrat Debbie Stabenow, the state’s senior senator, said during a press conference.

The bipartisan group has previously worked together touring and inspecting the state’s military installations, and touring the Soo Locks to get funding started for a second critical large lock. Now they are turning their attention to water contaminants and invasive species.

“We’re going to focus on another very important challenge for us, which is Asian carp,” Stabenow said.

In July, the delegation will travel to Chicago to see firsthand what is being done to keep those fish out of the Great Lakes, where they pose an potential environmental and economic risk.

“The Asian carp (threaten) almost an $8 billion annual fishing industry. We all know what the perils of this thing are and as a member of the Great Lakes caucus, bipartisan caucus with lots of different members, we are committed to trying to make sure that there is the funding’s there to stop this menace,” said U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, one of at least eight members of the delegation who attended.

The delegation is also pushing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for stricter rules regarding PFAS and other water contaminants sooner rather than later. 


While business leaders, decision-makers and politicians were meeting to talk about Michigan, the state’s challenges and the future, it was impossible to ignore the ongoing controversies in Washington, D.C.

As Michigan’s congressional delegation was available to talk to the media about cooperating despite a divided Washington, special counsel Robert Mueller took to the microphone in D.C. to talk about his report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election and President Donald Trump’s actions during that investigation.

“I don’t that (Mueller’s) going to come out with any more, so I think many of us are thinking it is time to move forward, time to turn the page. It doesn’t look that there is going to be any further conclusion,” Upton said.

U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, disagreed.

“Here’s the deal: History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme. This is May 1973. In May 1973, the public was not for impeaching President (Richard) Nixon and Republicans in Congress were not for impeaching their president but the select committee, Watergate Committee as we called it, was formed. Over the next year, they had public testimony and other legal shoes dropped as they will drop again now, he said.

Others on the island concede the ongoing contention is making it harder to get things done.

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