To what extent are you taking climate adaptation and mitigation into account in city planning?
Extremely. Every time we have a developer coming forward with a proposal, we’re asking how many parking spaces do they actually need versus how many would they like. We’ve had some negotiations already where developers have come forward and we’ve given signoff on their projects with the caveat that they will convert acres of their parking lots into green spaces to help with the absorption. We require 100 percent of retention on your parcel to make sure it doesn’t impact our water and sewer system.
Last year we actually authorized the first-ever two-year study of our water and sewer system for us to understand the impacts of climate change and what that means for the resiliency of our infrastructure in the long term. Our results come back in 2024, and that’s going to help us devise our 10-year investment plan for water and sewer infrastructure to ensure flood mitigation is taken care of taking into account the impacts of climate change in the long run.
Michigan is at the center of the political world this year. How should the party utilize this renewed energy in the Midwest?
We need stronger communication around the successes that we’re delivering. … We have to be talking about these wins in a much more tangible way for people to actually see.
Let’s go city to city and say, “Hey, that highway you constructed, that sinkhole you had fixed, this new water or sewer infrastructure that came in to help prevent water coming into your basement, that was funded because of Democratic leadership and their priorities putting you first above politics.” We have to be bolder in our messaging.
We have to speak in terms that our residents understand. My residents, if I say, “Hey, I’m doing a two-year climate resiliency climate change study,” they would tell me, “What the heck is that?” But if I tell them, “Hey I’m doing a two-year study to understand our water and sewer infrastructure, to stop flooding in your basements,” they get that. So sometimes we also have to make sure we’re speaking to residents and not speaking above them to the researchers and the people on Twitter but moreso to the average, everyday family.
If you’re the DNC chair, what’s the strategy for winning the Midwest in 2024?
It’s organizing now. Don’t wait ’til 2024. We should have been knocking on doors 3-4 months ago. We should have been organizing within communities 3-4 months ago. We should be making sure we have diverse recruitment to understand the unique demographics that are within the Democratic party. Knocking on doors is everything. That’s been my pathway to success, whether in the state Legislature or as mayor, and having those conversations at the doorsteps. People will remember that forever.