In preparation for the November elections, Stateside has been sitting down with the candidates for Michigan governor.
Michigan's Lt. Governor Brian Calley is one of those candidates.
He's served as Governor Snyder's second in command since 2011, and he was a representative in the Michigan House from 2007 to 2011.
Calley sat down with Stateside’s Lester Graham to discuss education, school safety, and environmental concerns.
Listen to the full interview above, or read highlights below.
Let’s start with, education. Average student test scores keep going down in Michigan. We’re losing ground. What’s the solution to that problem?
“This is literally my top priority. If you want to have a good outcome, you have to have a good beginning. I would start with the pre-K part of it, making sure that kids are starting school ready to learn. We have a lot of programs — we need more of a system where they are working together, particularly for kids that are growing up in poverty. But then its all hands on deck for reading, and it's more than just reading coaches.”
“Then it’s bringing back skilled trades and hands-on learning and getting away from this one size fits all approach, and recognizing there are a lot of different pathways to being successful”
The debate on guns is always at the top of hot political issues. What’s the best approach to stop mass shootings at schools and other places?
“The most logical place to start is with security in our schools. If you think about the type of security that exists in buildings where you have precious people and things inside — why wouldn’t they do those things at our schools? So hardening of the schools is a logical first step. The budget that is in the works right now has very significant resources to help schools cover the cost of not just secure entry, but it includes secure entry, it's also campus-wide monitoring, and fail-safe communications systems, and even things like having the resource officers on hand. And we also need to help our schools with guidance counselors and those who can identify problems before they become a crisis —good proactive measures we can take in order to prevent this.”
What would you do as governor to make affordable health care insurance available to the greatest number of Michigan citizens?
“We’ve made a lot of progress here in our state, but there's a really great opportunity in front of us right now with this strong economy. We are up 540,000 new jobs in our state. We have a 17-year low in unemployment. We are the number six fastest income growth state in the nation as well. I mean all these things are really great demand drivers in our state and its created a huge demand for people.
“The biggest challenge that we are faced with today in terms of economic growth is not enough people to fills these jobs that are being created. At the same time, there are people who need opportunity. The most important thing that we can do in order to help people get more independent lives and better health insurance coverage is to get them a great job or get them prepared to take one of these great jobs that have been created. That should be the focus when we come to the social service reform, it's connecting people with the skills they need to get out there and compete and win in a 21st-century global economy and not need so much help from the state in the first place.”
Water contamination issues are being revealed across the state. What can Michigan do about better safeguarding our water?
“One of the things that our state can be proud of is how proactive we are being — particularly compared to other states around the nation — with PFAS. This contamination that has shown up in a few places around our state. This is absolutely a nationwide problem. You only see a couple of states, maybe two or three states, that are being as proactive as Michigan and literally setting the standards on this.
“I can’t say enough about being proactive. Here in Michigan, we have a special responsibility. We are stewards of the largest deposit of surface fresh water you’ll find anywhere in the world, and with that comes a great responsibility. And being proactive and setting that standard, being good stewards, it's a responsibility that we have bigger than anyone else.”
You stress you spent a lot of time in Flint in the aftermath of the lead contamination issue. Many Flint residents still don’t have confidence in the safety of the water. The state urges residents to use filters. Given that, why did the Snyder administration stop delivering bottled water to Flint?
“Now that it’s been almost two years that the Flint water system has met the same standards that every other water system in the state has to meet, it was time. It was always going to be controversial when you stop. The idea of bottled water was something that people felt more comfortable with, but the Flint water system is the most tested water system in the history of the United States of America by far, nobody’s even close. So the level and the degree of confidence in exactly what the condition of that water supply system is is far beyond most other places.
“By the way, I don’t blame someone for not having confidence in it, but it is independently validated. It has been almost two years now that the water system has met the same standards, so it was time to make that transition. When it comes to the recommendations for filters, it's just a matter of when there is construction happening in their neighborhood — it doesn’t matter if you're in Grand Rapids or Detroit or Jackson or Traverse City or Alpena or Flint — if there is construction in your neighborhood and you’re on a public water system, you ought to use a filter. That's just a good practice for anybody that is on a public system where there is a lot of vibration and construction happening in your area. But I want to stress that Flint is meeting the same water quality standards that everybody has to meet, and has been for almost two years.”
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Sophie Sherry.