LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the creation of a special commission on population last month. The 16 appointments were announced Friday, and no one appointed to it is from the Upper Peninsula.
“This is not the first time the governor has neglected to have U.P. representation,” said Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “A few months ago, she failed to maintain an appointment on the Agriculture Commission for a U.P. citizen for the first time in any history I could find.”
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has had a substantial decline in population for decades, especially with the loss or reduction of various natural resource industries.
“The state of Michigan continues to make it harder and harder to live here, then they choose to ignore us on items like this,” said Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock. “They hinder mining opportunities, buy up our land, restrict what we can do on our land, make it harder to get affordable energy, and then fail to give us a voice on the issues behind our population loss — that is simply unfair.”
“No area of the state has a longer history and deeper understanding of the crushing blow of population loss,” McBroom said. “We know it well and have already produced data and reviewed research. Numerous nonpartisan experts offered to serve on this panel, and none were appointed. It is hard to see this and not take it as a personal affront to the U.P.”
“The U.P. legislative team needs to pull together and speak with a united voice that we will not stop advocating for our citizens,” said Rep. Dave Prestin, R-Cedar River. “There is simply no reasonable excuse for such an oversight. A commission of this size on a topic that is so incredibly relevant to this third of the state landmass loses legitimacy by having no one chosen.”
The upper peninsula of Michigan was given to the state as a compromise over the fight for the Toledo Strip during the pursuit of statehood from 1837-1839. Panned as a worthless patch of wilderness that no one would ever want, the U.P. became a powerhouse of natural resource wealth and hard-working, Native American and immigrant labor that pulled the state through many very hard and destitute times for its first 150 years. Even as it has declined in population over the last 50 years, it has the nation’s only operating nickel mine — vital to many industries, including batteries and its forests and iron mines continue to play an oversized role in the forest products industry and steel and auto-production respectively.
“Gov. Whitmer always talks about wanting to be bi-partisan and representative of all Michigan residents,” said Rep. Neil Friske, R-Charlevoix. “Why is she excluding an entire region and people that have been so important to this state for so long?”
McBroom closed by saying, “While deeply disappointed in the oversight, we represent resilient, passionate people that motivate us to stand at the ready to work with the governor and this council to offer solutions that address the foundational challenges that underlie the loss and aging of our population in the U.P.”