We’re concluding our series of interviews with the candidates running to become Michigan’s next governor. There are six people vying for the state’s highest office on November 6. Jennifer Kurland is hoping to become Michigan’s first Green Party governor. WKAR’s Kevin Lavery asked her what she thinks is the most pressing issue facing Michigan today.
I think the number one issue in the state of Michigan right now is Flint. The Flint Water Crisis is the canary in the coal mine for so many other issues in our state. When you talk about the issues of our water infrastructure crumbling, and the attempted privatization of our water resources; that’s around our entire state, it’s not just in Flint.
You talk about lead poisoning in children. When you look at the actual list of cities and municipalities that have children with lead poisoning that’s documented – and I think it’s really important when you talk about that to note that not all kids in Michigan are tested for lead poisoning; only kids who are on public assistance are tested – 43 percent of the counties in our state have children with lead poisoning.
We’re also seeing more reports of PFAS and copper in the water in various places. What would you do about that as governor?
We need to end pollution in our state. Businesses are allowed to continue to dump and pollute our waterways with no recourse. They don’t have to hold an insurance policy to cover cleanup issues, hence we still have in the Kalamazoo River and we have this issue kind of looming with Line 5 and Enbridge and what that could potentially do to our Great Lakes.
We need to start holding these businesses accountable for the true cost of doing business. That includes the health care of the people they’re making sick from their business, that means they need to be paying for the cleanup. When you actually start charging them the true cost of doing business, they’re going to stop doing that kind of business. And that’s how we can stop pollution in our state.
Let’s talk about education. More than half of our third graders are not reading proficiently at grade level. What would you do as governor to try to reverse that trend?
I currently serve on the Redford Union school board, so the issue of public education is really important to me. Number one, I think we need to do a constitutional convention and we need to completely re-vamp Proposal A. It has allowed our state to start taking general fund money that used to be earmarked towards public education and start giving it away to big corporations and tax breaks.
We need to make sure that when we look at our funding for public education, that every single child gets the same dollar amount across our entire state. We need to earmark general fund money; make sure that it’s going towards public education and it can’t be removed. So, we need to change that to also make sure that we’re funding curriculum itself.
I was speaking with some school kids from Detroit. One of the young girls told me that she’s in calculus. They have eight textbooks for calculus, and what those kids are doing is they’re taking a photo of the pages of the book on their phones and they’re sharing it with all the other students. So, they’re learning calculus off of eight books for 30 students on their phone. That should be just horrific to everybody.
What’s your vision for health care in Michigan?
It is certainly possible to do a single payer system in Michigan. The problem is that the ideas that have been out there so far are talking about ridiculous changes that are going to need constitutional changes and changes on the federal level that are really never going to happen.
But what we can do in Michigan is create a gap insurance so we don’t have to lose the federal funding that we’re getting currently from Medicare and Medicaid. We need to find out exactly how much we need to increase the funding for “MI Child” to make sure that all children are covered. Then, we need to look at how do we cover the rest of the populace? How do we remove the profit from health care and make sure state hospitals are state funded?
So, as a state, we need to create our own gap insurance. We need to cover everybody that’s not covered, and we can do so with a separate state-funded version of insurance and start removing that profit from our health care.