2023 Ideas Summit

Detroit, MI | May 15-16

The 2023 Ideas Summit in Detroit was an action-packed exploration of the most pressing policy issues facing state and local officials, with NewDEALers joined by non-profit and private sector thought leaders. We move forward with a call to action to not only continue crafting and implementing pragmatic policy agendas but also to share successes widely. As NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan told attendees, “we can make a huge difference with state and local leaders leading the way and changing people’s lives.” But it’s on all of us to make the nation aware of the initiatives that are making government work for everyday Americans.

If you weren’t able to join us in Detroit, be sure to watch the video recordings from each of the plenary sessions. You can also browse the press coverage of the 2023 Ideas Summit below. We encourage all Leaders to stay on the lookout for information regarding the 2023 Ideas Challenge. In the meantime, you can submit any percolating policy ideas through this form. Winners will be featured in Governing. We will reach out soon with detailed submission information.

Check out our Summit highlights below and we look forward to seeing you this fall in Washington, D.C. for the NewDEAL Leaders Conference, November 15-17.

Welcoming Remarks from NewDEAL Leader Debbie Cox Bultan

NewDEAL CEO Debbie Cox Bultan welcomed participants  and shared the results of a recent poll conducted by the NewDEAL in partnership with Mercury Analytics. Among other findings, the poll underscores the growing concern of Americans across party lines about the state of our democracy. A plurality of 44% of respondents from across parties consider the state of democracy to be “terrible” or “poor” with only 25% rating it good or better. The positive news is that solutions like harsher penalties for threatening election workers and same-day registration, along with others proposed in the NewDEAL Forum’s Democracy Playbook, are popular. For more poll results and commentary, click here.

Lessons from Michigan’s New Majority

Journalist Laura Berman led an inspiring conversation with NewDEAL Leaders Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Senate Majority Whip Mallory McMorrow about the triumphs of Michigan’s recently-earned Democratic trifecta. Gilchrist and McMorrow emphasized that pragmatism has been the secret recipe to Michigan Democrats’ 2023 accomplishments. “What people should take away from Michigan is not that we need to counter crazy with crazy; it’s that people have had enough of the chaos,” McMorrow urged. The pair also encouraged state and local leaders to be enthusiastic and persistent  about sharing their own policy successes. “The responsibility to tell the story rests with the storyteller,” Gilchrist said, calling on NewDEALers to be vocal about the ways that Democrats are delivering on kitchen table issues.

Remarks from Hon. Hillary Scholten (MI-03)

We were honored to hear from one of the many strong voices representing Michiganders in the Congress. Rep. Hillary Scholten (MI-03) briefed Summit attendees on the linchpin issues currently rapturing Congress and worrying Americans. She spoke at length about the debt ceiling debate, echoing the call of dozens of NewDEAL Leaders last month to raise the debt limit, asserting that in order to champion federal fiscal responsibility, America must pay its bills on time. She also discussed the importance of centrist, bipartisan policymaking in making strides on pressing issues such as immigration, and she praised the NewDEAL for its leadership in this realm. “Summits like these,” she said, gesturing to the packed ballroom, “are where we break through.”

Making the Most of Federal Resources

In a series of conversations, policymakers and experts discussed how elected leaders can measure the impacts of their investments, craft effective methods for utilizing funding for housing programs, and the growing role of state- and city-wide youth service programs in workforce development and education. We also  announced the release of three bite-sized reports on NewDEAL Leaders’ American Rescue Plan Act-funded initiatives in housing, childcare, and jobs and the economy.

Oakland County, MI, Executive Dave Coulter joined Results For America’s Chelsea Powell for the first portion, and, together, they encouraged Leaders to collaborate and share successful models for measuring results. “You do not have to come up with everything on your own,” Powell said. “There are models out there.” Those models include Coulter’s effort to have 80% of county residents earn a post-secondary degree or certified training certificate by 2030.

Sharon Wilson Géno from the National Multifamily Housing Council joined Donald Rencher from the City of Detroit and Grand Rapids Mayor and NewDEAL Leader Rosalynn Bliss to discuss how cities and towns can utilize federal funds to spur affordable housing solutions. “Out of great challenge and obstacle comes great opportunity,” Mayor Bliss noted, sharing how post-pandemic recovery funds have allowed her and her colleagues to establish the Homelessness Outreach Team. Her unique and successful initiative has already connected with over 7,000 unhoused neighbors and assisted them with key resources.

California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday joined NewDEAL Leader Hartford, CT, Mayor Luke Bronin for an impassioned conversation on state and local youth service opportunities. Fryday, who has overseen the creation of California’s Climate Action Corps and College Corps, underscored the importance of creating well-paying, meaningful pathways to service for young people, urging that “it’s not just about a job: it’s about a job with dignity, a job with meaning, a job with purpose.” Bronin echoed this sentiment as he shared the popularity of the Hartford Youth Service Corps.

Remarks from Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks

After breakout sessions, NewDEAL Leader and Michigan Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks briefed participants on what’s next on Michigan Democrats’ legislative agenda. Among her many touch points, she prefaced the Summit’s upcoming panel on climate solutions by emphasizing the importance of clean energy initiatives. “Michigan has so much to gain from clean energy investments over the next decade,” she said. “And so much to lose to inaction.”

Leveraging Federal Funding to Advance Climate Solutions

New Hampshire Senator Rebecca Perkins Kwoka led a conversation with Michigan House Majority Whip Ranjeev Puri, the Clean Air Task Force’s Jeremy Tarr, Consumer Energy’s Brandon Hofmeister, and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Arnab Pal on climate solutions. Each of the speakers emphasized the significant role that federal funding from the Biden Administration has played in not only building climate solutions but also in expanding green jobs nationwide. Speaking on the Inflation Reduction Act, Tarr urged NewDEALers that “federal agencies need input from you all to help them design the program better and fine-tune it” and that “as we’re building stuff that makes peoples’ lives better, it’s really important to tell people what just happened. We need to win the win.”

Dinner at Michigan Central

Ideas Summit attendees were treated to a tour of the Newlab at Michigan Central, a mobility innovation ecosystem in Detroit’s recently refurbished central train station. Michigan Central Innovation District CEO Josh Sirefman answered questions from Leaders about how they can utilize public-private partnerships for innovative investments in their own cities and the keys to the vision for Michigan Central’s role in revitalizing Detroit.

The Innovation Economy

Our second day of programming kicked off with an exciting panel discussion on the innovation economy led by Jonathan Smith from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and including speakers NewDEAL Leader Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, The Mill’s John Fernandez, and the Chicago Urban League’s Karen Freeman-Wilson. The panel underscored the key role that localities play in utilizing federal funding to support local businesses, startups, and entrepreneurs. 

Speakers also acknowledged the role that emerging tech plays in workforce development. “Technology is not going to replace us,” John Fernandez said. “But the people who can adapt are going to be in a much stronger position.” Also of particular importance to the panel was establishing career pathways that do not require a college degree with Mayor Johnson urging, “we have to work to make sure that not only are we attracting college educated talent, but that we’re also providing opportunities for those who do not attend college.”

Defending Democracy

Ideas Summit 2023 wrapped up with an inspirational conversation on defending democracy led by NewDEAL Leader and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Joining Benson were the DNC’s Reyna Walters-Morgan, Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey, and Liberty Temple Baptist Church’s Rev. Dr. Steve Bland Jr., the latter two of whom have worked closely with Benson to expand voting access throughout Detroit. The panel chronicled many of the challenges they have faced in safeguarding democracy, including threats of violence, the proliferation of misinformation by right-wing extremists, and racially-targeted initiatives to limit voting access.

Each of the panelists shared that, in the heat of 2020 election denialism, they experienced moments of despair but were able to find hope. Winfrey shared that, when she was moved to quit her work on elections, Secretary Benson said to her, “if you quit, they win.” The panel reminded the room that although conspiracy theorists and nefarious actors continue to threaten American democracy, election officials and voters have given us many reasons for hope if we remain clear-eyed about the challenges ahead.

Midwest Regional Intergovernmental and External Affairs Specialist, U.S. Department of Energy

Rose Dady

College and Career Readiness

Ensuring access to high-quality career pathways for all students

As the economy continues its strong growth emerging from the pandemic, there remains a growing concern about labor shortages, particularly in manufacturing and other skills-based sectors. To meet the growing demand, state and local elected officials are collaborating with non-governmental partners to create innovative pathways to support students to be ready for career and postsecondary opportunities after graduation. Our partners at All4Ed, a national organization committed to educational equity, will co-lead a discussion with NewDEAL Leaders Michigan Senator Darrin Camilleri, Oakland County, MI Executive Dave Coulter, and Georgia Senator Elena Parent, and Caroline Altman Smith, Kresge Foundation’s Education Program, as they will consider policies, initiatives, and best practices to develop and bolster effective post-secondary pathway programs in their communities.

Transit-Oriented Development

Achieving affordable housing and equitable transportation

Using new federal funding allocated under the American Rescue Plan Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to respond to growing housing needs, state and local officials have opportunities to rethink affordability and accessibility in their communities, especially long-standing challenges with ensuring people can easily travel to access jobs and services. NewDEAL Leader Washington State Senator Marko Liias will join Abigail Seldin, Co-Founder of the Civic Mapping Initiative, and Michal Lexton, Managing Director at UBS Finance, for a conversation at the intersection of affordable housing and transportation while considering the factors developers and elected officials must balance in building smart and sustainable communities.

Broadband Access

Preparing communities to leverage new funding to advance digital equity

States and local governments have made substantial investments in increasing broadband access over the past several years. Yet barriers remain to achieving true digital equity. Poor digital skills and a lack of access to electronic devices are among the many issues that perpetuate digital inequity, even amid historic investments in broadband infrastructure and internet affordability. NewDEAL Leader Trey Mendez, Mayor of Brownsville, TX, will join Erick Fredericks, Paul Garnett, Vernonburg Group, and Jen Jamboor and Shawn Daughtery with Human-I-T, to address what state and local officials need to know as broadband funding from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is about to be released. They will also discuss how to use public-private partnerships to ensure everyone can access and take full advantage of high-speed internet connections.

Climate Solutions Policy Group

Launching the next phase of NewDEAL Forum’s work to develop and share climate solutions

The Biden Administration’s climate change initiatives go beyond lowering emissions and funding clean energy initiatives. The Inflation Reduction Act provides funding to state and local officials to advance various programs and initiatives to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiencies, and explore new technologies. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Director of Third Way’s Climate and Energy Program, will co-lead a discussion with NewDEAL Leaders Colorado State Senator Chris Hansen, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, and Arizona Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar talk about what state and local leaders need to know to maximize the new federal investments and the implications for their climate priorities going forward.

Public Safety

Identifying approaches that lead to safer communities and a fairer justice system

In response to the national conversation surrounding policing and public safety, many state and local elected officials are implementing community-centered strategies to both increase trust in first responders and ensure community safety. NewDEAL Leaders Lansing, Michigan Mayor Andy Schor, and Maryland State Senator Will Smith will lead a discussion with Detroit Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison on strategies for investing in law enforcement and other aspects of a community’s safety, including unarmed community response teams and crisis support programs that prioritize de-escalation and mental health crisis intervention. The discussion will also explore the importance of civilian-led partnerships in providing oversight and accountability to improve the public’s trust in law enforcement institutions. 

One Year after Dobbs

Protecting Reproductive Healthcare in the States

Following the 2022 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, state, local, and community leaders face new challenges in connecting people with the reproductive healthcare they need. Community leaders are looking to partner with outside organizations and pursue new strategies to ensure access for their residents and women in nearby states who are facing  restrictive local laws. NewDEAL Leader Bexar County, TX District Judge Monique Diaz, Paula Thornton Greear, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, and Joanna Suder, Senior Staff Attorney at the Network for Public Health Law, will co-lead a discussion on the barriers and options for policymakers in red and blue states.

Leader Attendees

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