This was a week, with the end of it upending many plans as severe storms hit Michigan, specifically the 6th district. Over two nights, we experienced two waves of extreme weather. The first storm struck on Wednesday night, bringing heavy rainfall, area flooding, and strong wind gusts. I woke Thursday morning to news that Dingell Drive at the airport was flooded and had shut down the airport, and Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner Evan Pratt let me know we had experienced a once in 500-year storm.
Then, 24 hours later, there were supercell thunderstorms with wind gusts hitting more than 80 mph and four tornadoes in my district alone, and seven total tornadoes statewide that tore across Michigan. Sewers were already at capacity before the second storm hit, many basements flooded, and roads closed because of flooding and significant storm damage. Day two did more than double the damage. The aftermath resulted in significant flooding, property damage across our state, and fallen trees and power lines that caused power disruptions. I spent the last few days with county officials in the field, assessing the damage, fighting for help, supporting communities, yelling at DTE, evaluating the extent of the damage, and figuring out what needed to be done. Last night I was looking for woodchippers to lend to communities. This weather is deeply impacting people and is challenging and disruptive. And bluntly, this isn’t tornado season. What we are witnessing is the impact of the global climate crisis. I think I have been through once in a hundred-year storms multiple times in the last decade. We have to address this. We are going to have to do more to prepare. No community is prepared to handle seven inches of water in four hours, which two of mine did on Wednesday night- Belleville and Rockwood. We need to be addressing how to be better prepared at the federal, state, and local levels.
Before the week got disrupted, it was full. I toured farms, attended the annual Corn Growers dinner, participated in a meeting organized by Sheriff Bouchard with about 70 law enforcement agencies from different jurisdictions, joined an event supporting veteran small business owners, participated in an event supporting women veterans, and attended the last summer event for Plymouth Vietnam Veterans, met with UAW workers who are concerned about the future of their plant, held a legal aid Roundtable, participated in an EPS public meeting on PFAS and BASF, worked with EPA on Arkema, met with mayors on the possible removal of a dam downriver, attended multiple senior events, education events, and much more. Other planned meetings got canceled after the storms, but let me talk about some of the issues I addressed this week and why we need to care.
Shooting in Jacksonville, FL
The shooting in Jacksonville, Florida over the weekend was another devastating and preventable act of violence driven by hate. How many more lives must we lose before we do something to end this senseless violence? The evidence is clear: an assault weapons ban prevents mass shootings and saves lives. Thoughts and prayers are not enough, we have the power to end mass shootings, and we must take action. We will continue to fight for an assault weapons ban along with other common-sense gun safety measures, including universal background checks, improved red flag laws, and safe gun storage. And we must stand up to racism, hatred, and vitriol everywhere they exist. I am heartbroken for the families and communities torn apart by this violence and we can’t give up fighting.
Agriculture, the Farm Bill, and Local Farmers
Many of you know I love farmers and visit the farmers markets in my district throughout the year. I love them. The vendors know me, share what they think I might want to know, educate me, and I see lots of people who share what is on their mind. But I like to visit the farms to learn from the farmers, which is what I did last week.
The new sixth district includes Western Washtenaw County, a more rural area with many farms. This week, I restarted John Dingell’s tradition of an annual farm tour. Understanding their business, their concerns, and needs matters greatly to me. Farm tours allow me to hear directly from the farmers, who know they can talk to me anytime, on what really matters. I learned a lot, we had good two way discussions, and made new friends. I visited four farms: Fusilier Farms in Manchester, Horning Farms in Manchester, Tantré Farm in Chelsea, and Hilltop Greenhouse and Farms in Ann Arbor. I also attended a dinner with the Michigan Corn Growers, where I saw some of the tallest corn in recent years and discussed their needs and priorities to continue providing sustainable produce. I learned a lot, from how crops and livestock are raised and harvested, crop management, the importance of soil health and conservation practices, year-round farming, planting, seeds, harvest, chemicals, the challenges farmers face, the technologies used to assist them, and the role farms play in environmental sustainability and biodiversity.
All the farmers are very concerned about the Farm Bill, which is set to expire on September 30th. The Farm Bill is a package of legislation that establishes how the government will prioritize and allocate funding for farmers and our food system. It expires every five years, requiring Congress to review the bill, make changes based on new science and opportunities, and repass the bill by a majority vote. This bill impacts nearly every aspect of how food is produced and consumed in the US. It sets the funding amounts and requirements for programs involving support and training for farmers, agricultural and rural development, insurance and assistance in disasters, farmland conservation and stewardship, subsidies for crops, food access for lower-income families, and nutrition. One farmer over the weekend at one of the markets said to me, “Worry more about the small farmers, not the big corporations.” I also care deeply about making sure our children are not hungry and are getting a good start with a healthy diet in their early years. We have a month to get this bill done.
Ongoing Environmental Issues in the Sixth District
Last Wednesday, the EPA held a virtual public meeting on BASF North Works Site Cleanup in Wyandotte. During the session, EPA and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) provided updates on the cleanup and provided information on groundwater contamination, PFAS site sampling data, and potential impacts on the Detroit River.
Earlier this month, I sent a letter to EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore requesting a full status update on the efforts to control contaminated groundwater at the BASF site in Wyandotte. This outreach follows a letter I sent more than a year ago urging escalated enforcement and robust community outreach to protect Downriver residents from contaminated groundwater releases entering the Detroit River. While I acknowledge there is no simple solution to this issue and will take time to do right, the time it has taken to finalize a long-term remedy is frustrating and for me, too long.
Tuesday, I sent a letter to EPA Region 5 Administrator Debra Shore requesting an update on the status of cleanup efforts at the Arkema Inc. property in Wyandotte and Riverview. This site has long been a project I have been tracking closely and for the Downriver communities in Southeast Michigan, the prolonged cleanup effort at this site, and others, is raising growing concerns about what is going to be done, when it will be cleaned up, as well as safety to the public and to the environment. To be very blunt, it is unacceptable that it has been over three decades, and this site still has not been fully cleaned up. Someday, these communities would like to see it developed or have alternative uses.
Protection of the quality of our air, water, and land is a shared priority. I will continue to work with EGLE and EPA jointly to ensure the public is fully informed and protected. To submit a drinking water concern to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, click here. To report an environmental emergency, click here. And as always, please let my office know as well.
Supporting Auto Workers
Michigan put the world on wheels, and auto workers remain the backbone of both the Michigan economy and the American economy. Throughout the summer, I have been meeting with UAW workers, auto companies, dealers, and suppliers on many issues facing this industry. I have attended multiple UAW meetings and rallies to stand in solidarity with our workers. These are very complicated times. We are transitioning to new technologies, competing with foreign automakers, including China, and workers are worried about both their jobs and their wages during this transition from the internal combustion engine to electric vehicles, as well the development of autonomous vehicles. Domestic supply chains still face many issues, and we need to remain focused on bringing the auto supply chain home, including the sourcing and building of batteries. I am listening, connecting, strategizing, and know this is, without fail, one of the most serious issues I am working on.
Congressional Law Enforcement Meeting
On Monday, Rep. Lisa McClain and I participated in a meeting organized by Oakland County Sheriff Bouchard with Law Enforcement to listen to many of their concerns and have a very open, honest, and frank conversation. More than 70 people were there representing departments and agencies from Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne County as well as various federal agencies. It’s critical that we stay in touch with local law enforcement, as they’re on the front lines protecting us every day.
Legal Services Roundtable with Michigan Advocacy Program
On Wednesday, I hosted a legal services roundtable in partnership with Legal Services of South-Central Michigan (LSSCM) and Michigan Advocacy Program (MAP). We discussed the civil legal resources available to Southeast Michigan residents, shared stories of community members who have received support from MAP, and helped educate residents about their options for legal aid in areas including housing, family law, public benefits, consumer matters, and others. A colleague and friend of mine, Rep. Jamie Raskin, joined us for this discussion as well.
The Michigan Advocacy Program and Legal Services of South-Central Michigan do incredible work in our communities by providing civil legal aid to those who most need it, ensuring everyone has access to quality assistance and services, often in some of the most challenging and difficult situations. They have a frontline role in providing aid to those most in need. These services often go hand in hand with the casework that my office does – we hear many of the same needs on housing, healthcare, accessing public benefits including unemployment, disability, and food assistance, to name just few. Unfortunately, many people in Michigan and across our country don’t always have the resources to ensure their rights are recognized and protected. Everyone, regardless of zip code, race, religion, gender, or income, deserves access to legal aid to help navigate challenges and bureaucracies that can be difficult, or nearly impossible, to manage alone – and we have a responsibility to remove barriers to this kind of vital assistance.
My office has been busy this year assisting constituents in obtaining their passports in advance of their travel. It is critical if you are planning a trip, you think ahead about whether your passport needs to be renewed. Current processing times are 10-13 weeks for routine service and 7-9 weeks for expedited service. The State Department has issued more than 9 million passports to date this year. If you need assistance with your passport, my office can help. More information can be found at www.travel.state.gov
Back to School
It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over, and most schools in the district are starting this week. The last few years have been some of the most challenging for our students and educators, and we can’t thank our teachers and all school staff enough for the energy and support they give every day to our young people. I think we all want to put COVID in the rear-view mirror; unfortunately, it is still here, and we are likely to still be dealing with it again this year. I am filled with optimism and excitement for the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming year because I know how hard the last few years have been.
We all know that education is the foundation on which our children’s futures are built. Our educators and administrators are crucial in providing a nurturing and stimulating environment that fosters a love for learning during what is the most difficult environment I have seen in my lifetime. The importance of education in shaping future generations cannot be overstated. The quality and accessibility of education shapes our society so much, as education acts as the cornerstone for the development and progress of individuals. Educators’ work equips our young people with knowledge, skills, and critical thinking abilities that enable them to navigate the complexities of the world. By nurturing young minds and fostering a love for learning, we are investing in a brighter world for all of us. I will always do everything I can to support our schools, teachers, and students, especially during these most challenging times. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if there’s anything you think I should know, or anything I can help with. We are looking forward to another great year.
Photos of the Week
While some events were canceled at the end of the week, there were still many important meetings, CIYC events, regular stops at the farmers markets, Female Veterans Night Out, several VFW dinners, community fairs, parades, picnics, and barbecues. Move-in at the University of Michigan and Football season is underway – in other words, it’s the end of summer and beginning of fall. Cleanup continues after the storms, and it is important to keep up with flood resources and safety. If your basement flooded or if you have other damage, your city needs to know. So, as we begin the last week of August, and see what it brings, we can hope it will be calmer than last week.
As always, I want to hear from you. What do you want me to know? What are you thinking about? Please contact me with any questions, ideas, and concerns. Share them with me at this link, or by calling one of my offices in Ann Arbor, Woodhaven, or DC:
Ann Arbor: (734) 481-1100
Woodhaven: (313) 278-2936
Washington, DC: (202) 225-4071