A thriving city: Gilchrist makes stops at NMU for Thriving Cities tour

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II speaks at the Northern Center on the campus of Northern Michigan University as part of the state’s Thriving Cities tour on Wednesday. Marquette was one of 24 stops on the tour, which, according to its webiste, “brings together grassroots and grass-tops individuals for an open and honest conversation about how the state can better meet the needs of cities in five key areas.” (Journal photo by Ryan Spitza)

MARQUETTE — Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II is visiting the Upper Peninsula this week, which included stops at Northern Michigan University on Wednesday.

Gilchrist first met with Highline Internet officials at NMU’s Cohodas Hall in the morning before touring NMU’s U.P. Cybersecurity Institute.

Later in the afternoon, Gilchrist met with community members and leaders at NMU’s Northern Center as part of the state of Michigan’s Thriving Cities tour. Marquette is one of 24 stops on the tour, which “brings together grassroots and grass-tops individuals for an open and honest conversation about how the state can better meet the needs of cities in five key areas,” according to the state website.

“The Thriving Cities tour is all about improving the quality of life for people who live in cities,” Gilchrist told The Mining Journal.

“In 2019, we did the first iteration of this. We went to 19 cities including Marquette. Now, coming back here in 2021 for the second iteration, we’ve expanded. We’re going to 24 cities across the state. Marquette was the only city we did in the U.P. in ’19, now we’re doing one here, we’re going to do one in Houghton on Friday, so we’re doing two cities in the U.P. this time.

“The conversation is all about improving quality of life across five areas: affordable housing, creating generational economic opportunity, improving quality of life for kids in cities, increasing environmental quality and justice, and including access to transportation and mobility services. We really think that if we can make progress on all of those areas, that the floor will be raised for life for people in Michigan.”

Gilchrist said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has made progress in those specific areas, but community input is the most critical part of the initiative being successful.

“We’ve made progress in this administration on all of those areas,” he said. “But the most important part of it is hearing from the people who are attending these meetings about what we need to do to move forward, so that’s what this tour is about.”

Gilchrist said affordable housing is a topic that continues to be brought up during his visit to the U.P.

“In my time in the U.P. thus far, I have heard a lot about affordable housing being a continuing challenge,” he said. “We actually saw issues with affordable housing exacerbated during the pandemic. Access to housing is very important. We saw issues related to access to child care being made more visible and felt by more people, so we have a big piece talking about child care or talking about kids in cities.

“So I think that the policies and programs we put in place, the budget that we’ve signed at the state level, is directly responsible for a lot of the things that we’ve heard on the tour.”

Gilchrist finished by saying access to higher education opportunities and criminal record expungement are topics he heard about in every city during the last tour.

“There’s two things that we heard a lot about during almost every meeting, including in Marquette,” he said. “One was about continued access to higher education and skills. In our state budget, increased funding for universities like Northern Michigan, it also fully funds our Reconnect Michigan program, the Futures for Frontliners job training program, we’re very excited about tuition-free pathways to higher education.

“We also heard about the importance of criminal record expungement for people being able to have full access to make an economic life.

“I heard about that in actually all 19 cities (in 2019), and we passed that into law in October 2020 during the pandemic, we made progress on this important legislation that’s really going to help people be their best selves in cities across Michigan.”

Gilchrist will take the Thriving Cities tour to Houghton as well.

Ryan Spitza can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. His email address is rspitza@miningjournal.net.


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