This year’s Mackinac Policy Conference closed out with a brand new series of fast-paced, off-the-cuff sessions featuring 21 thought leaders from across the state sharing their unbridled opinions on everything from the Michigan governor’s race to term limits in the state Legislature and President Trump’s progress on moving America forward. Morning View: Mackinac Uncensored was emceed by Dennis Archer Jr., president of Archer Corporate Services and chair of the Detroit Regional Chamber Board of Directors, and Tammy Carnrike, the Chamber’s chief operating officer.
Political experts Kelly Rossman-McKinney and John Truscott of the public relations firm Truscott Rossman engaged in an honest and poignant discussion with Michigan Public Radio Network’s Rick Pluta about the upcoming governor election. The main takeaways were that: we are in uncharted territory politically, candidates need to have legislative experience to govern effectively, and it is impossible to define the issues that will dominate the 2018 race because it is something that is externally driven. There are problems like the Flint water crisis and Detroit Public Schools that are wild cards. In closing, when major issues that impact all of Michigan arise, we need someone who can be nimble and ready to adapt and who is committed to bring jobs back to Michigan.
Michigan Term Limits
The effectiveness of state lawmakers’ ability to govern knowledgeably under term limits and a proposed part-time Legislature came under fire with Joseph Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and Randy Richardville, former majority leader in the Michigan Senate, who disagreed on how to run state government. In a session moderated by Crain’s Detroit Business’s Chad Livengood, both Richardville and Lehman agreed that term limits have not lived up to voters’ expectations. However, where Richardville argued more time is needed to accommodate a learning curve due to a constantly revolving door in Lansing, Lehman said term limits offer more opportunity for candidates with real-world experience to have a voice on laws that affect all Michiganders. Richardville also said a part-time Legislature would be a disservice to taxpayers as lawmakers serve as customer service agents to the state’s executive branch.
President Trump Report Card
Just over 100 days into his first term, Lena Epstein, candidate for U.S. Senate and general manager of Vesco Oil Corp., Michael McGee, CEO of Miller Canfield, and moderator Nolan Finley, editorial page editor of The Detroit News, joined Morning View to grade President Trump’s progress.
Finley, who in a past column gave Trump a “C,” acknowledged the president’s progress on regulatory reform, but marked him down for a larger lack of discipline and focus. Additionally, as new drama emerges from the Russia investigation, Finley stated that his grade might need to be lowered.
McGee gave a slightly harsher review – an “I” for incomplete – chastising the president for ceding global leadership to countries like Germany and China, specifically in regards to the controversial withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords.
Epstein, who was Trump’s Michigan campaign chair, gave the president an “A-.” Recognizing certain disagreements, like on funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, she said the president has done a remarkable job speaking to the hearts and minds of the American people and that media has neglected to cover major successes.
The group agreed that the president would survive the recent talks of impeachment and will run for re-election in 2020.
The 2017 Detroit mayoral and city council elections fall at a unique, yet fractured moment in the city’s history: Investment in Detroit’s core is rapidly increasing and there is a palpable sense of momentum, but large swaths of the city still face immense challenges, from blight to crime or quality schools.
To read the political tea leaves, Crossroads Consulting and Communication Group’s Sheila Cockrel and Clark Hill’s Reginald Turner joined moderator Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press for a discussion on Mayor Mike Duggan’s prospects for re-election and the most competitive city council races.
Cockrel and Turner both agreed that despite a justified anxiousness from voters who are eager to see further progress outside of the greater downtown areas, Duggan has significantly moved the needle on major issues and deserves more time to reverse the city’s decline that was decades in the making. Additionally, neither panelist saw state Sen. Coleman Young II as a credible challenge for Duggan.
Both Cockrel and Turner were also optimistic for the incumbent city council members, but expressed that races in District 5 and District 2 could be competitive.
Forecasting the 2020 Election
Whether President Trump can win a second term in office and Republicans hold onto their majority in the U.S. House and Senate will rely largely on voters’ temperament regarding the economy, job creation and national security. In a session moderated by Ron Fournier of Crain’s Detroit Business, former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer Sr. and Robert Schostak, CEO of Templar Baker Group, offered bold predictions of the political climate in Michigan and the United States in 2020. Archer said he believes Trump’s unpredictability and uninformed leadership style will mobilize Democrats to recruit candidates who connect with voters and shift the tide of power at the local, state and national level. Schostak said if President Trump continues to deliver on his campaign promises and Republicans work together, they will retain control. Both panelists said negativity cannot continue in 2020 or Americans will return to the polls angry and disheartened. Neither Archer nor Schostak offered a prediction on presidential candidates for 2020.
Millennials’ Perspective of the Conference
Future leaders Peter Ghafari, director of business development for Ghafari Associates, and Dannis Mitchell, diversity manager for Barton Malow Co. joined Ingrid Jacques, deputy editorial page editor for The Detroit News, on stage to discuss millennials’ view of the Conference. A highlight of the Conference for both was being included in conversations throughout the week centered around entrepreneurship, diversity and neighborhoods, noting that millennials’ perspective on these topics is important. Additional takeaways included: There is a stigma that baby boomers and Gen Xers cannot trust millennials and a setting like the Conference is helpful to decimate the fact that we all have the same objectives Millennials have different methods, and employers need to focus on the city and make Detroit a place younger talent wants to stay as they move onto the next stage of their lives. When returning to Detroit, Ghafari and Mitchell plan to spread the word that the Mackinac Policy Conference is where millennials who want to make a difference in Detroit and Michigan need to be.
Where was Detroit mayoral candidate Coleman Young II? Will Brian Calley throw his hat into the ring for governor? Where can you get a shawarma sandwich on the island after hours? When will the Pistons and Red Wings be playoff contenders again? Detroit’s communication professionals Marcie Brogan, partner and chair at Brogan & Partners Convergence Marketing, and Matt Friedman, partner at Tanner Friedman, spilled the beans on the buzz that lingered through the parlor and Mackinac Island during the Conference. Friedman said local and state politics dominated discussions throughout the week and will only ramp up more next year with the governor’s race, state Legislature and midterm elections around the corner. Friedman also called for more civility in discussions among business leaders across the state, to which Brogan jokingly replied, “I think there should be less civility.”