First elected in 2010, Governor Rick Snyder is nearing the end of his tenure in office; the Yemeni American News sat down recently with him for an interview and asked him various questions on Michigan’s economy, drug issues, education, and sports.
We asked him about his major accomplishments as a governor and he responded “I think we’ve made a huge comeback, if you look at where we were, a broken state and in my view, fixing Michigan wasn’t good enough, it’s how do we reinvent things? If you look at where we’ve come in terms of Detroit’s come back and exciting things going on in Hamtramck, Dearborn, that whole region is exciting. In terms of job creation we’re #1 in the Great Lakes States, #6 in the nation for job creation” .
By Stephen Coats & Rasheed Alnozili
The Yemeni American News
With regards to income rise, he said Michigan is the #1 among the Great Lakes States “In terms of watching people‘s income rise we’re #1 in the Great Lakes States and #7 in the nation.” he adds.
Governor Snyder said that there are great things that his administration should be very proud of and the state’s growing again. He said that the State’s population is growing again and that the State is keeping its young people. He then said that New Americans coming to the State is critically important and that’s why he’s always been a big advocate. He explains “We’re one of the very few states that has an office for New Americans and I’m very proud of that because that’s one of the things that made America so great were people coming to our country bringing innovation, bringing diversity, bringing exciting ideas.”
When asked about supporting English language programs on the state level since the federal government is downsizing funds in this area, Governor Snyder said “When you have people come to our country it’s a huge challenge for them. I mean it’s daunting if you think about it. It’s difficult enough when you move somewhere in this country let alone saying you’re coming from a totally different culture and background in many ways. We want to make people feel welcome and one of the challenges you have is in many cases English is not their language. So I thought it was important, particularly leveraging our office for New Americans, to give out grants to people to really establish more programs to make English a language that people can learn, make it easier for people because if you can learn English then you can interact with people easier.”
He adds that everyone should be proud of their culture and not walk away from it but also embrace the new language in order to communicate with so many other people and be more successful. He mentioned that learning the language speeds up that ability to be a proud American, start a business and hire some people, have your kids go to school and do well.
The Yemeni American News then asked various questions and these were the Governor’s answers:
YAN: Some time ago you were ambitious to have refugees come to Michigan and you were the one governor who was saying, “How come they are going to the South?” Why didn’t we have them here in the first place? We were shocked for the Arab American community when we found out you were the first person to then change and say, “No we got to hold off on the refugees right now.” Do you still have the same perspective on this issue?
Governor Snyder: “I’ve always been pro immigration and I continue to be. I think there was one point where there’s a question about how well the federal practices were by our federal government. It wasn’t a question of the refugees themselves. But I’m not sure we were doing all the vetting and screening the most appropriate way at the federal government level and I thought it appropriate to say if that’s the case isn’t it a fair question to say they should temporarily pause and look at their practices to say, “Are there improvements that you can make and are there things that are missing that they should be doing to make sure we’re doing a better job?” Because it is important to address national security and at the same time we want to recognize that we’re a place where we were built based on immigrants.”
YAN: Flint was a huge problem, can you tell us what you learned from the situation?
Governor Snyder: We had a case there where the change in water supply, some people made some mistakes, in terms of the experts. People at the city, the state, the federal government in terms of looking at the right requirements that should take place to switch to a new water supply and some of those people work for me. So if they work for you, you should take responsibility for that and my focus has been not on who to blame but we recognize there’s a problem, let’s solve the problem.
We’ve done a lot of efforts to improve Flint, I was just there recently. It was really exciting. They were opening the Ferris Wheel building to essentially create an entrepreneurial environment to get new businesses started in Flint. Because in the long term, let’s grow Flint. I also signed some legislation that will allow them to have a Promise Zone where they can hopefully provide free community college education to many of the young people coming out of Flint.”
YAN: Public schools and charter schools are now fighting and competing, what’s your position on this issue?
Governor Snyder: There are many people that are in favor of public schools and there are many in favor of charter schools and charter schools are a form of public schools. What I would say is my interest is having a high bar for performance and results for all schools. It’s not just about being on one side or the other and there shouldn’t be a different bar. We need to expect more out of our educational institutions. We have wonderful teachers and educators in many respects but we need to do a better job of helping give our young people the tools they need to be successful. I think we need a high bar for performance.
The other thing is we need to encourage more young people to go into the professional trades. It’s not just about getting a university degree. We have over 100,000 open jobs in Michigan today. Many of these are great well-paying jobs and let’s get the word out. It’s not just about getting a University degree but you can be a welder, plumber, auto mechanic these are great careers for people to go into and I encourage young people and their parents to look at those options.”
YAN: Do you still believe in the need for an emergency manager in some cities in Michigan?
Governor Snyder: The emergency manager was there to deal with emergencies where there was a crisis in those communities and they did their job and they’re gone. We haven’t had an emergency manager in a community in Michigan in some time. Their work got done so we had them leave. We’re in fact turning full control over cities back to them even after the review boards. We only have a couple situations with a couple school districts that have sort of wound down. The good part is it was important to have at the time, it did it’s role, people worked hard to do things together and now let’s grow Michigan, let’s grow our cities and communities.”
YAN: What’s your position on the Arab American community?
Governor Snyder: It’s an important community which contributes a lot. So I want to encourage more immigration from all around the world and one of the great things were the inaugural Immigrant Awards we gave out, American awards, they were fabulous because and I think we need to do more of that. Quite often we have people in this country that have become more anti-immigrant or anti-immigration. The more we can celebrate successes and show great cases of people from Yemen and other places coming to our country, starting businesses, being great community members, having people work for them, employing Americans. That’s a great message. That’s the best way to respond to criticism is show success.
YAN: What’s your position on the Muslim Ban?
Governor Snyder: I don’t get into all the federal issues that way and again there’s all the legal issues. I’m going to continue to encourage Immigration from the Middle East in every part of our country and how do we make people welcome here because they’re going to make us a better country.
YAN: You’re almost finished with your second term as governor, where will you be going in your next steps from here?
Governor Snyder: I’m busy working this step so I tell people the first thing is I’ve got another year to go and there are a lot of great things I plan on doing and it’s been an honor being governor. How often do you get a chance to help 10 million people that I care about? Beyond that, first I owe some obligations to my wife to catch up for some of the sacrifices we made so that’s the next priority, longer-term though I hope to have a voice on policy. Because some of these issues we talk about I think we need people that can talk about them in a civil fashion. We have too much fighting in this country in the political world and I don’t think that’s a good answer so I think we need more people that can have a voice. That’s not necessarily running for office it’s a way to communicate though to say, ‘Here are important issues and can’t we talk about it where we can sit down and have a real discussion?’ So people can understand there are different views and have people look for a common sense answer not a political answer.”
I always emphasize to people, whatever you’re doing, you need to put a priority on your family because that’s the strength that you get to do many other things in life. So this has been a great honor. I’ll get a chance to catch up with my family and they have earned that and then we’ll go from there.
YAN: What is your final message to the Arab American community here in Michigan?
Governor Snyder: We should be proud of the Arab American community, the Muslim community in Michigan. We have the largest community in the country and we need to get a message out to people that, what a great contribution to our country in terms of wonderful people making a difference, in terms of not just the community but our whole society. They’re job creators, they’re people giving back to the community, it’s adding cultural value. It’s creating a path for young people and to better understand one another and to learn from one another and to grow together. So let’s keep Michigan‘s progress going and I think we’re a role model for the rest of the country.