Erica Bloom of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters is the newest member of the staff as the Program Director..
Could you describe the people of your organization?
Everyone I work with is really enthusiastic and motivated. We're a mix of ages. Our executive director, Lisa Wozniak, has been doing this a long time and she really knows what's going on in Michigan policy. She was actually invited by Governor Rick Snyder to a transition team meeting that involved other organizations like our own. I'd say most of our staff is under 40 and we even have college students that work part time for us.
For those who don't know, who exactly are the Michigan LCV and what are their main goals and missions?
It's The Michigan League of Conservation Voters and it's a state organization, but there is actually a National League of Conservation Voters and then there are other state organizations as well, but we run pretty independently. We work on state policy issues in Michigan. The League really tries to influence state policies and has a few different goals. One is to elect conservation champions into the legislature and the administration; it congratulates those people and legislators who are environmental champions and makes that public, and also holds lawmakers and decision makers accountable for making the right conservation decisions. They do that a couple different ways. The League is actually broke into two organizations, C3 and C4 nonprofits. The C4 part of the organization can lobby and endorse candidates. The C3 side, my side, is mostly education and legally we are not allowed to endorse candidates or specifically talk about candidates and how they voted. It is more general information. That's kind of the basics.
Because you are a part of the C3 side of the organization are you familiar with the Final 8 Questions that the Michigan LCV presented to both Snyder and Bernero in the gubernatorial race?
I'm not as familiar with that, but our policy director was in charge of submitting those. Those were actually submitted before I was working. I do know that neither candidate responded to the questions. This was news in itself because part of the frustration with the elections was that neither candidate for governor was talking enough, or what we thought was enough, about the environment, conservation, and energy. So we wanted to hear more.
How do you spread awareness about environmental issues?
The project that I'm working on right now is called the Environmental Briefing Book. (http://www.michiganlcvedfund.org/our-work/publications to view the document). The purpose of this is to act as a resource for legislators mostly, but is also for the general public and other environmental organizations. This is really a way for the environmental community to come together and leverage their collective power by coming to what we call a common agenda for the environmental community in Michigan. This common agenda shows the top three priorities that we've decided legislators should be most concerned about in the next two years. We use this also to educate new candidates coming in and to educate legislators. It's also a great tool for the public to see what issues the environmental community is working on currently.
So generally your group works more with government and legislators versus youth and the community? It still affects the community, but you're looking more toward educating people in government?
Well that's part of it. We also try to get people to vote so with the elections we were really involved in the C3 side of things just trying to tell people to get out there and vote. With the website we try to educate the general public about who these candidates are and what they stand for and what issues in the state of Michigan are. We also have a blog, a news section, and we also have a scorecard area. If you go online you can access the scorecard (http://www.michiganlcv.org/sites/default/files/2009-2010%20Scorecard_final.pdf). This shows how candidates have voted on bills. So, we really try to bridge the gap between what's going on in Lansing with what the legislators are deciding and how the public is able to participate and see what's going on and making it more accessible for people to understand. Personally, I know that before I started working, I was very intimidated by what was going on in government and I didn't really understand how things worked. So we try hard to inform people and make it accessible for them to be involved.
Currently, what's the biggest problem or priority that the Michigan LCV is trying to cover or make aware to everyone?
We're actually in the process of writing this briefing book for the next session. We just had a meeting with West Michigan organizations and were constantly talking with people in Lansing such as, the Michigan Environmental Council. We work very closely with them and the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor, along with organizations in Detroit. With all of that said I think there are a lot of issues that groups are working on, but some issues that have come to the forefront since we started having these meetings are water issues, making sure there is enough funding for cleaning up our lakes, making sure our lakes are not polluted, making sure there is proper infrastructure with storm water and sewers, so water is definitely a big one. Clean energy jobs coming to the forefront during the next legislative session. We are really an advocate for showing that the environment and the economy are not separate. It is possible to create jobs and go forward in a clean energy future at the same time. I think there are a lot of groups trying to get more clean energy industry in Michigan. That's everything from offshore wind legislation, to solar panels, and the auto industry trying to get electric vehicles ready to go. There is a lot going on right now and so many different issues come across us everyday.
Have you found that with the recent elections being dominated by the Republican Party that there is now a problem for passing environmental legislation?
First of all, we are a nonpartisan organization so we don't stress democrat or republican. I think in the elections we were a bit disappointed with the outcomes because everyone we endorsed were environmental champions, with the exception of endorsing Snyder in the primaries, and all of these legislators, who happened to be democrats, lost in their elections. Some we endorsed won, but a lot of really great environmental champions were defeated, but at the same time in the press release that we put out after the elections we said that we are cautiously optimistic about this next legislative session. We're saying that because we feel that Snyder did talk about urban renewal in Detroit and he is interested in conservation. Because he's a business man he is also interested in new emerging entrepreneurships and technology. There are some things that we are concerned about to because he is pushing for more coal plants and we don't really see how more coal plants coincide with clean energy. You can't really do both. I think it's a mix, we've positioned ourselves to work really well with the new republicans and they respect us as an organization so we have our foot in the door to work with that and we will definitely hold them accountable. Overall, we are definitely optimistic, but again cautiously.
On a more personal note, what are your interests involving energy and environmental issues and what brought you to the Michigan LCV?
My personal background is that my interests are in environmental health issues so we've been really involved in trying to pass a bill called the Children's Safe Products Act. I recently went to Lansing, on behalf of the LCV, to try to pass this bill, but it didn't go through so we're going to try to reintroduce it next year. That act is trying to disclose harmful chemicals in children's products, like cadmium and mercury. My background is in community organizing, that's what I was working on in grad school, and I also worked with a group called Climate Action Plan with my grad school. It's basically getting a lot of different people together on campus to write solutions on how we're going to reduce our green house gas emissions. So I worked on that project all last year and it was a lot of organizing different groups of people and so this job that I do now with the LCV, specifically the briefing booklet, is a very similar process. I have to set up lots of different meetings and trying to see what ideas they have to put into this book. I really just wanted to be a part of the Michigan environmental community and be a part of a movement hear and learn a lot about what's going on.
For more information regarding the Michigan LCV and to learn more about the Michigan environmental community please visit: http://www.michiganlcv.org/