On February 2018, The PuLSE’s Bankole Thompson hosted a Gubernatorial Town Hall on Poverty between the Democratic candidates for governor of the State of Michigan. The first of its kind event drew an audience of more than 400, who passionately interacted with the candidates: Abdul El-Sayed, Gretchen Whitmer, Bill Cobbs, and Shri Thanedar.
Held at Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, the District Superintendent, Dr. Nikolai Vitti attended and gave an opening address acknowledging the devastating link between poverty and education. Furthermore, several high school students were in the audience and able to interact with candidates as well as engage in the democratic process firsthand.
The exchange amongst candidates was tense at times, and key controversial talking points emerged. Notably, El-Sayed, a doctor and former lead official at the City of Detroit health department, stated his former boss, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, failed to take heed to warnings of the quality of the water in the city. This is in light of the current water shutoff crisis, in which 17,000 families are facing the threat of water shut off, while critics say commercial customers with overdue bills are hardly placed in similar predicaments.
Finally, the leading candidate Gretchen Whitmer declared she would appoint a poverty liaison to her cabinet should she win the race. This has never been done before, but the declaration further demonstrated the seriousness of the effects of poverty and the need to place poverty as a priority in government affairs.