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Thursday, August 9, 2018
A Historic Moment: Celebrating Rashia Tlaib's Win
A message from Executive Director, Justin Schott
There are many stories from Tuesday’s primary worthy of conversation, like the 23 voters in Macomb County who tipped the election in favor of regional transit. But we would be remiss if we did not lift up the success of Rashida Tlaib.
On Tuesday, the residents of Michigan’s 13th Congressional District voted to be represented by Rashida Tlaib in our nation’s capital. Rashida has long been an ally to environmental justice organizations, including EcoWorks, and courageously stood up for Detroiters at every turn. She has been a fierce advocate for public health, public education, labor rights, homeowner protections, and keeping corporate interests in check.
Her victory is a powerful rebuke to the xenophobia that has been a central focus of the current administration in Washington. It is a rejection of white supremacy and neo-Nazism. It is a refusal to accept a border wall, inhumane deportations, and horrific separations of children from their parents.
Tuesday’s election is a powerful signal that residents of Michigan’s 13th, long a stronghold for civil rights activism, are hungry to grow new alliances of solidarity. It is an embrace of the rights of immigrants, Muslims, and women. It affirms profound support for a woman who fearlessly calls this president a bully and demands justice.
And yes, Rashida Tlaib was the first Muslim woman elected to the Michigan House and is now the first Muslim woman and Palestinian American who will serve in the U.S. Congress.
Even in the wee hours of the morning when she accepted victory, Rashida was unwavering in her convictions: “I will fight back against every racist and oppressive structure that needs to be dismantled” and “push back against everything that’s so un-American that’s coming out of this administration.” And in an email, she added:
As a State Representative, I helped elect the first Latina to the Detroit City Council and the first Asian-American woman to our State House. I promise to kick the door wide open behind me for candidates running at all levels. This is only the beginning. Our victory today is inspiring young girls, young people of all religious backgrounds, and more to think of themselves as leaders.
Rashida, we are inspired by the bold example you set and honored to be represented by you.
Thursday, June 21, 2018
The Heat is Building, We Need to Act
A message from Executive Director, Justin Schott
On Monday night I slept on an air mattress in my basement to escape the unrelenting heat. Like many Detroiters, I don’t have central air conditioning. I could use a window unit, but find I don’t sleep well with that running overtime, so I retreat below ground for the warmest 15-20 nights each summer. I’m fortunate to have a dry basement and be physically able to get up and down the steps.
But heat in Detroit is more than unpleasant – it is life-threatening. In July 1936, during the height of the Dust Bowl, Detroit’s hottest week took 364 lives. High temperatures consistently exceeded 100F and peaked above 104F. People camped on the streets and on Belle Isle but could not escape the oppressive heat. Even 60 years later, in July 1995, heat was still a deadly force and killed 739 people in Chicago. Heat waves remain a pressing threat to the region; the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that Detroit now experiences six more days of dangerous heat each summer than it did in the 1950s and that the city could face as many as 23 days above 100F by 2100 due to global warming. This is more like summer in Oklahoma than Michigan.
When, not if another heatwave of Dust Bowl magnitude bakes the city, it will claim many lives if we do not prepare.
Fortunately, there are a wealth of actions we can take to reduce the risk. The Center for Disease Control (CDC), for instance, offers guidance on effective extreme heat programs in other cities and advice for individual caregivers. Keeping close watch of people who may be especially vulnerable to heat—young children, the elderly, people with medical conditions, and the homebound--can save lives. In Detroit, the Housing, Health, and Heatwaves Partnership, a coalition of U of M researchers and community organizations, is studying how indoor temperatures of different Detroit housing types are affected by heat and what actions residents are already taking to stay cool. The City of Detroit offers 11 recreation centers and 13 library branches as cooling centers, although these are only open during daytime and early evening hours.
At a policy level, millions of dollars in utility “Energy Waste Reduction” programs, which we all pay into through monthly surcharges on our bills, could be applied to reduce the risks of extreme heat. We need the Michigan Public Service Commission to insist that these programs generate tangible benefits, particularly for low-income customers, and include air-sealing and insulation (which keep the cold out in winter and the heat out in summer), appliance upgrades and replacements.
We also need the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for spending $160 million in federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funds (LIHEAP), to follow the lead of Ohio and Indiana, which together spend more than $12.5 million annually to protect 125,000 households from extreme heat. Michigan spends $0 of its federal allocation on cooling assistance.
And we need more progressive policies to support distributed solar power, which is a source of resilience during blackouts and provides a valuable addition to the grid during the maximum electric load of extreme heat days. Michigan’s two largest utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Energy, have been fighting successfully to reduce payments to solar energy producers and make it harder to install solar.
Finally, we can’t forget the importance of leadership on climate change, of continuing to press for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and shifting as fast as possible from our reliance on fossil fuels to clean renewable energy. Mayor Duggan is a member of the U.S. Climate Mayors and joined over 300 of his peers in stating his commitment to “uphold, honor, and adopt the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.” He created the Office of Sustainability in May 2017 to lead these initiatives and respond to pressing issues Detroiters face, including extreme heat.
Summer officially begins today - we need to ramp up our efforts to prepare for the next heat wave before it’s too late.
Monday, December 18, 2017
A Note from our Executive Director: Welcoming 2018
As the year wraps up, I find myself holding many reflections that are not always compatible. Some are inspiring and internally focused while others wrestle with the emerging realities around us and seek motivation for the year ahead. But more than anything, as we transition between seasons and between calendar years, I feel flooded with gratitude and simply want to say thank you. In whatever way you support or encourage us or are simply an EcoWorks enthusiast, the energy behind your thoughts, actions, and partnership reaches us through the cosmos and keeps us moving forward. But before moving forward into 2018, here are some EcoWorks reflections on 2017:
We remind ourselves of the steps forward and the victories we lift up. Among them:
The creation of Detroit’s Office of Sustainability
Local wins like the creation of a housing trust fund and the fugitive dust ordinance
Mayors and governors who have stepped up in the absence of federal leadership on climate
The persistence of longtime activists and grassroots organizations who shed light on injustice and continue to build community and hold the line against projects and policies that do meet the needs of the poor or people of color
The brave testimonies of women who have come forward about sexual harassment and assault
At the same time, we lament steps that have taken us backward:
The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord
A train of exceptionally devastating climate impacts including fires, floods, and hurricanes
Efforts to roll back the rights and protections of historically oppressed minorities
The resurgence of white supremacist groups
The continuation of systems which fail to provide universal access to basic needs for all people, both in our own communities and beyond
Within EcoWorks, we take stock of the year’s accomplishments, which are captured in the infographics below:
Contributing to a wealth of applied research, including studies on a scalable soil lead remediation technique, heat vulnerability among Detroit households, the impacts of water shutoffs and insecurity, and the distribution and effectiveness of utility energy efficiency programs
Advocating for policies that advance water affordability, climate resilience, deep energy solutions, and energy efficiency for affordable multi-family housing, while securing the tools, institutional structures, and financing for sustainability
Operating a highly successful workforce development program and strengthening the local deconstruction and re-use industries
Expanding leading energy and water conservation programs that combine education and efficiency upgrades and dramatically reduce costs among lower-income residents
Taking our youth programs to the next level by strengthening connections with mentors and formalizing processes of leadership development, student-led project design, community partnerships, impact tracking, and presentations at public forums
Relocating to an inspiring, historic office space, so that all of these accomplishments are finally happening under one skylit, cantilevered roof
And finally, there are the dreams that we embrace for the coming year, which include:
Supporting the development and implementation of Detroit’s sustainability framework
Advancing research, policy, and direct service programs to end utility poverty and ensure all residents have access to safe, healthy, and affordable housing
Opening space for youth to have a more significant role and voice in sustainability and social justice initiatives, from defining the issues to proposing tangible projects and solutions
Supporting neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, and municipalities in sustainable energy management and climate resilience efforts
Continuing to laugh and support each other, our partners, and the people we serve
In whatever way you have been a part of our work, we appreciate your support, your encouragement, and your partnership. There year ahead promises to bring both challenges and pockets of hope. I hope you will join us for the next phase of the journey.
If you feel moved to support our work financially and invest in the longterm financial sustainability of EcoWorks, you can donate here today.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season – see you in 2018!
Thursday, September 21, 2017
A Note from our Executive Director: The Office of Sustainability is our Office
In choosing an open-ended theme for our recent 9th Annual Breakfast, “Sustainability: a platform for….” it sets the stage for us to listen - to listen closely to the vision and wisdom that we hold collectively. By we, I mean people across the city - representatives from every sector and especially residents whose voices have been given limited attention in conversations about sustainability and development in Detroit. It started with the breakfast but we will continue listening for a long time to come. Gathering a diverse range of perspectives and sharing our own hopes and dreams are an important way that we will support Joel Howrani-Heeres in building the Office of Sustainability we need.
This is a crucial point: the Office of Sustainability, like all of our City-owned assets, is our Office, it belongs to us. I know Joel can move mountains and bike 100 miles through brutal winter weather with his beard encased in icicles, but we have to acknowledge that even Joel is human. Joel is an individual trying to instill sustainability in something like 10,000 employees, across 28 departments and 23 agencies and initiatives, let alone trying to represent and do right by almost 700,000 residents. Even when the Office is fully staffed with its small and mighty team, this is an impossibly tall order. We need to think of Joel and his team not as superheroes, but as torch-bearers and the stewards of an office that belongs to all of us.
Creating Detroit’s Office of Sustainability has always been a collective undertaking. Much of this work happened before I was engaged in it, but Joel was an integral part of that work. Before an office existed there was the Detroit City Council’s Green Task Force, and more recently, in 2013, the formation of the Detroit Environmental Agenda, which produced the Detroit Voter’s Guide to press our elected officials to commit to more and hold them accountable and is in the process of releasing a new 2017 version of the guide before the general election. In his response before the 2013 election, Mayor Duggan said: “In my administration I would at the very least appoint an executive level point person to address environmental concerns and am open to exploring the creation of an office of Sustainability.” Dozens of organizations signed a letter a month after the election outlining the value of an office. It took another 3½ years of sustained efforts to make that happen, but having that commitment on the record mattered.
My list of all who have advocated tirelessly from even before the mayor took office I’m sure falls short, but here are a few to recognize – Sandra Turner-Handy (Michigan Environmental Council), Margaret Webber (Zero Waste Detroit), Guy Williams (Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice), Melissa Damaschke (Sierra Club), Kathryn Underwood, Ashley Atkinson (Keep Growing Detroit), Rashida Tlaib, Chris Dorle (Detroit Future City), Khalil Ligon (Great Lakes Alliance), Nick Leonard (Great Lakes Environmental Law Center), Donelle Williams (Green Door Initiative, and government advocates including Ken Cockrel, Kathryn Underwood, and Rashida Tlaib. Our current partners working within the city, especially Kendal Kuneman, Betsy Palazzola, and Jon Grosshans from the EPA, have been tremendous in setting the Office up for success. In celebrating the Office and Joel’s appointment, we stand on the shoulders of many.
But the Office, still in its infancy, is not a mission accomplished. It is a platform, our first step forward. The Office will need continuous investment and contributions from all of us to fulfill its potential. The questions of for what and for whom sustainability is for will be answered over the course of several years.
Even the best policies, once passed into law, are only as good as their implementation. The same is true for buildings and vehicles – you can incorporate the most energy-efficient features into their design, but they only perform efficiently in future years if you invest in their care and maintenance.
We have an on-going job to do – and that is to support Joel and his team with all of our might. We need to do that with our voices, expertise, connections, pro-bono services and for those in the funding community, with our dollars. Detroit’s Office of Sustainability means we have more responsibility, not less.
At EcoWorks, we have been working closely with the Municipal Energy Working Group, supporting energy benchmarking across city facilities, the development of municipal energy goals, the creation of a dedicated energy manager position, and hopefully, a revolving energy loan fund. The Michigan Energy Office has stepped up and made a major commitment to partner with EcoWorks and the city in doing this work. We all have our roles to play in making the platform a reality.
Speaking of platforms, don’t forget to join us for our Office Warming party on Friday, October 13th! It’s fall-themed, festive, and free!
Thursday, September 13, 2017
EcoWorks’ Breakfast to Showcase Detroit’s New Sustainability Office
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Detroit, Mich. – September 13, 2017 – EcoWorks, a Detroit non-profit and leader in local and regional sustainability initiatives, will host its 9th Annual Breakfast at the Charles H. Wright Museum on Friday, September 15th from 7:30-10:00am. More than 155 professionals from the energy industry, businesses, government, non-profits, financial firms, and grassroots community organizations are registered to attend.
The event will showcase the recent creation of the City of Detroit’s Office of Sustainability. Joel Howrani-Heeres, recently appointed as the first director of the Office, will provide the keynote address. The Office is a major milestone in Detroit’s journey “to strengthen the economic, social and environmental well-being of the city's residents, neighborhoods and businesses."
Howrani-Heeres started working with the city in 2015, serving as Director of Open Data and Analysis for the Department of Innovation and Technology. Prior to that he worked for DTE Energy Co., served as Managing Director for the Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office and as Sustainable Communities Coordinator at EcoWorks.
Past speakers have included former Governor Jennifer Granholm, former Mayor of Pittsburgh Thom Murphy, and last year’s keynote, Winona LaDuke, a renowned Native American activist and former vice presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2000.
The theme of this year’s event, “Sustainability: A platform for….” is intentionally open-ended and invites attendees to contribute ideas, aspirations and questions for the new Office of Sustainability. The conversation will tie together a range of themes, from the unprecedented impacts of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, climate change impacts around the globe, the events of Charlottesville and the 50th anniversary of the Detroit’s ‘67 Uprising.
Justin Schott, Executive Director of EcoWorks, explains that a goal of the breakfast is to encourage more holistic thinking and dialogue around sustainability and social justice: “Our climates – both racial and geophysical – will become increasingly perilous if we do not change course. We cannot keep thinking of these storms in isolation; they are inextricably connected, just as Detroit and its suburbs are one intertwined region with a shared future.”
Honored at the event will be the 2017 Sustainable Community Champions. These awards celebrate individuals and organizations who have shown leadership in sustainable practices in Southeast Michigan communities. This year’s awardees are:
● Cass Community Social Services
● Danielle Conroyd - Executive Director, River Raisin Institute
● Maria Thomas - leader with PowerUP and Soulardarity
● Sandra Turner-Handy - co-leader, Denby Neighborhood Alliance and Community Engagement Director,
Michigan Environmental Council
The breakfast is sponsored by MASCO Corporation Foundation, O’Brien Construction Company, CLEAResult, VTC Insurance Group, Advance Plumbing & Heating, Benkari Facilities Management, Glen Olivache, CPA, P.C., Mannik Smith Group, MSHDA, Henry Ford Health System, O’Connor Real Estate, Plunkett & Cooney, Walker-Miller Energy Services, Wheel House Detroit, WDET 101.9 FM, and GreeningDetroit.com.
Monday, April 10, 2017
A State of Adaptation
What would you do if the Pacific Ocean was slowly submerging your island nation?
In October 2009, President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives held a meeting with his cabinet in scuba gear six meters below the surface of the Pacific Ocean. It was a stark warning that the Maldives—with an average elevation of just 2.1m above sea level and 80% of the country less than 1m above sea level—would need an evacuation plan unless the world mobilized to cut carbon at a furious pace. That has not happened; increased exposure to storms, salinification, and ultimately inundation are imminent.
Two months later, with the climate negotiations in Copenhagen on the verge of failure in December 2009, President Nasheed passionately pressed all delegates to take action, rich and poor and alike. He urged rapidly developing countries like China to see opportunity and join the “developed” countries in curbing greenhouse gas emissions for their common future. While rich countries were responsible for the overwhelming majority of emissions since industrialization, he was clear that the current path, regardless of who was responsible for getting us here, would end in catastrophe. Nasheed communicated the science and pledged that the Maldives would become carbon neutral by 2020. It was a pragmatic call for “a planet-saving deal” that was, for him and his people, “a matter of life and death”.
He managed to strike a tone that was neither accusatory nor conciliatory, but one that set an ambitious and necessary course for all to follow. I remember listening to his speeches and interviews, astounded by his leadership and his complete focus on an outcome that would benefit his people, even when demanding justice and reparations would certainly have been justified.
The 2009 talks ultimately failed.
Last month, former President Nasheed—now in exile after being ousted, imprisoned, and tortured by a government regarded by the UN and human rights groups as corrupt--participated on a panel at the U of M-Ann Arbor. I was again struck by his optimism, his willingness to continue to bang on doors that have long seemed impenetrable, and his fearlessness at being arrested or worse.
What does this have to do with our situation in Detroit today? If we continue the course until 2100, Detroit would experience heat waves like Chicago’s of 1995 that took over 700 lives--twice every year. Globally, 2016 easily passed 2015 as the hottest year on a record; the warmest months of the year flirted with 1.5C above historical averages, which is the “safe” limit of warming scientists have said we should not exceed.
Just as President Nasheed was fearless in confronting powerful nations and threats from his own government, we, too, need to muster strength in today’s political climate. The proposed policies of the current administration threaten actual survival for some, like refugees who may no longer be admitted within our borders to escape horrific violence or millions who could lose health insurance. But for others, particularly agencies and organizations like EcoWorks that work in “discretionary” sectors like education, public health, community development, and environmental protection; threats to our existence are real as well. EcoWorks is a direct recipient of federal AmeriCorps funding for the Youth Energy Squad and intimately linked to funding from community development block grants, low-income home energy assistance, and funds from EPA and the Departments of Energy, Labor, and Housing and Urban Development to name a few.
I look at this photo of the Maldivian cabinet from time to time in the hope of gleaning some of President Nasheed’s heart, wisdom, and audacity. Like Nasheed, we find ourselves in the undesirable place of forced adaptation, regardless of how we got here or who is responsible. Sadly, it is a place many in our community, particularly in Detroit, have faced for decades, with insufficient support and resources to turn the tide. Going forward, we face policies, budgets, and the continuing impacts of climate change that could ratchet up local struggles and injustices if we fail to adapt.
Countering and adapting to these will require more creativity, more courage, and more solidarity than ever. To me, this means reaching out to partners who are struggling or face oppression and upholding a commitment to ensure no one is left behind. It means asserting a vision of what we seek–housing that is universally affordable, healthy, and green, for instance–before compromising to what we believe is politically possible. And it means committing to affirm and lift up the full humanity in every person, providing support when we lose the battle and encouragement to press on. There will be sacrifices and losses, and the seas are indeed rising—our future depends on how we adapt to these new times together.
EcoWorks Executive Director
Photo courtesy of
Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Our Response to the Immigration Executive Order
EcoWorks condemns yesterday’s revised Executive Order that amounts to an unfounded attack on Muslim Americans and refugees. There is no evidence that people from the six countries listed pose any threat to national security. The Order amounts to the same thinly veiled religious test that was initially struck down by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and we hope is struck down again.
The real underlying threats are fear-mongering, perpetuating stereotypes, and barring people who are fleeing war and persecution in their homelands from finding refuge on American soil. The real threats are the disproportionate investigation, raids, and hate crimes that Muslims face every day. The Order is a violation of human rights; it points toward the stains of persecution and oppression in American history rather than ideals of justice, freedom, and equality.
We are deeply grateful for the flourishing Muslim community in Southeast Michigan and for the many refugees who have found sanctuary. They are vital to the fabric of our region and we are fortunate that they have chosen to make their homes and livelihoods here. In response to the Order, we call on our partners and peers—organizations, businesses, elected leaders, people of faith—to affirm their support for those targeted by the Order.
We believe that voicing our solidarity is a starting point that must be backed by concrete actions. We are eager to build bridges with the Muslim community and to direct our services that advance energy and water efficiency, job training, community development and education for residents and organizations within the Muslim community.
To that end, we thank ACCESS staff for meeting with us yesterday and helping us begin this work. We explored much shared interest around environmental health and discussed developing programs to support workforce development and green and healthy housing for refugees. We have much to learn and look forward to future partnership.
If you are looking to do something tangible in response, an excellent starting point is the Take On Hate campaign, which ACCESS is a partner in: www.takeonhate.org
EcoWorks Executive Director
Friday, December 16, 2016
Beyond the Election Reflections
Three days before the election, we celebrated our 35th anniversary at EcoWorks. It was an emotional moment for me, thinking both about our accomplishments and our evolution but also about the present moment. I was inspired by the courageous work our keynote speaker Winona LaDuke had done to rebuff multi-billion dollar pipelines through native lands in Minnesota and the current fight she was supporting at Standing Rock, North Dakota.
Now a month after the election, our 35th anniversary celebration feels bittersweet. During the last thirty-five years of our work, and the work of hundreds of partners in Detroit and across the state, and the entire social sector trying to end a host of problems, few issues have seen improvement and many situations have become worse. Energy poverty, substandard housing, climate change, and unemployment (to name a few) are all still with us. Of the organizations like EcoWorks that have been hard at work since 1981 or longer, five administrations and myriad funding cycles later, we are still, sadly, very much needed.
If our ultimate mission is to put ourselves out of work, and if we share a vision that there will be minimal need for the on-going services of EcoWorks or any other mission-driven organization, we remain a long way—perhaps further—from that objective than we were in 1981.
How can that be? I believe much of this answer can be found in the 2016 election refrain: “It’s rigged.” Whatever you make of the election results, the systems that determine the boundaries of our organization’s impacts, the resources available, the incentives and disincentives for actually addressing the root causes of societal problems—all of these systems are rigged. Rigged in that the agency that failed to protect an entire city from lead poisoned water was taken over by a former BP Oil executive; and that former oil executives have at least been on the short list to head the EPA and Departments of Energy and State. Rigged, in that lands acknowledged by Congressional treaty to belong to Native Americans can be exploited for fossil fuel extraction and transport. It would not be hard to fill a chapter of statements that start with “Rigged …”
I don’t say this to pour salt in wounds or out of grief or hopelessness. I believe in facing the reality that is descending on us and the potential for productive outrage. I’m talking about the waging of love that Charity Hicks taught us when refusing to have her water turned off and her confident affirmation of water as a universal human right. I don’t know how many of you have ever been arrested or put yourself at physical risk for a cause you believe in. Personally, I have marched and lobbied and been part of direct actions, but I have never feared nor sacrificed in that way.
I’m not insisting that we all line up to be tear-gassed, but the same urgency that propels our allies to launch these actions should also cause us to pause and rethink our work, even if there are risks and consequences associated with that. For us at EcoWorks, I believe this means a much greater portion of our time needs to be spent working to advance policies and institutionalize practices that are sustainable and just. We need to remember that our ultimate goal is not to provide better or more direct service, but to end the need for direct service altogether.
And if you don’t work at a non-profit? You might work at a bank that is funding the Dakota Access Pipeline or be a program officer at a foundation that holds investments in that bank or work for a city that still allows energy-inefficient new construction. How can you press change within your own sphere of influence? What risks are you willing to take to communicate the truth and seek ethical behavior?
Determining how far we are each willing to stand up for justice and push for systemic change is an intense question to explore, but I know that many of us, myself included, could stretch further toward the edges of our comfort zones.
There is a parable you may be familiar with about a man saving a starfish, proud of the one life he saves by throwing it back into the ocean. Saving the one while not worrying about the whole is a perilous track, particularly under the new administration. Let’s push the envelope in 2017, boldly, and together.
EcoWorks Executive Director
Friday, March 25, 2016
EcoWorks' Water Smart program begins WRAP support
We are pleased to announce that we are "wrapping up" our first month of community support following the launch of the Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) by the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). The WRAP dedicates residential water services to customers served by the GLWA: the city of Detroit, Wayne, Macomb, and Oakland Counties. Services extend beyond bill payment assistance to also include educational workshops, in-home water audits, and funding for minor plumbing repairs.
The EcoWorks Water Smart team is one of five community action associations providing WRAP support services in the program’s service area. Our team is focused on helping families save water and money on their water bill, while improving the Comfort, Health, Energy+Water Savings, and Safety (CHESS) of the home, a mission of our entire Residential Education program.
Read the full press release HERE.
To learn more about the program and to see if you qualify, please visit Wayne Metro’s WRAP website or check out the program flyers below.
Water Smart team (from left to right): Patrick Gubry, Andrea Fleming, Nonie Peterson, B. Anthony Holley, Maria Mercado, and George Highgate
Friday, March 4, 2016
EcoWorks meets with Congress, spots POTUS departing White House
On Wednesday, Justin Schott, Executive Director of EcoWorks, joined eleven other representatives from the Coalition to Keep Michigan Warm to lobby Michigan's members of Congress to support funding for LIHEAP - the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Michigan receives about $160 million annually to help over 600,000 people who cannot afford their energy bills. EcoWorks is instrumental in promoting energy efficiency and leading energy education workshops that create paths to self sufficiency and empower people to break the cycle of unaffordable bills and shutoffs. Our coalition met with more than a dozen representatives and their staffers on the Hill and were glad that responses to sustaining or expanding LIHEAP funding were generally positive. We had an excellent conversation with Rep. Brenda Lawrence about the Flint Water Crisis and the connections between energy and water issues. EcoWorks continues to grow its advocacy efforts, recognizing that sound policies, structures, and financing must be in place to support our work on the ground.
Later, Justin got a tour of the East Wing at that White House, joined by his good friend Ken Gillingham, Yale professor and senior economist in the Council of Economic Advisers on climate and energy policy. They were delighted to watch President Obama stroll across the South Lawn to his ride on Marine 1 - quite an experience! Leaving the White House, I was moved to see a whole throng of kindergartners reveling in the occasion, too. It is their house as much or more than us adults, and we will need their hope and leadership to make our visions of a just and sustainable society a reality.
Justin at the White House
Marine 1 taking off
Kindergarten students on the White House grounds