Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II speaking
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II speaking

As of today, we’re just two weeks out from NPI’s thir­teenth Spring Fundrais­ing Gala, which will be held vir­tu­al­ly instead of in-per­son for the sec­ond time due to the nov­el coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic. Although we won’t be able to gath­er in per­son in Ren­ton for our tra­di­tion­al ban­quet, we will still have an infor­ma­tive and inspir­ing pro­gram that you can watch from the com­fort of your couch at home.

Our team is hon­ored and delight­ed to announce this morn­ing that our 2021 Vir­tu­al Gala fea­tured speak­er will be Michi­gan’s Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Gar­lin Gilchrist II, an NPI staff alum who also worked for Barack Oba­ma’s cam­paign, MoveOn, and the Cen­ter For Com­mu­ni­ty Change pri­or to join­ing Gov­er­nor Gretchen Whit­mer’s tick­et in the 2018 midterm elections.

“Born and raised on the east side of Detroit, Gar­lin Gilchrist II start­ed his life with a love for com­put­ers and tech­nol­o­gy when his grand­moth­er bought him his first com­put­er when he was five years old,” Detroit’s CW50 explained in a pro­file of the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor that aired last month.

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II
Michi­gan Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Gar­lin Gilchrist II, one of NPI’s alumni

The pro­file goes on to say:

Gilchrist’s moth­er spent thir­ty-two years at Gen­er­al Motors, while his father had a thir­ty-two-year career at the Depart­ment of Defense. Both of ​his par­ents were involved in their com­mu­ni­ty, as the Pres­i­dent and Vice Pres­i­dent of the neighborhood’s block club.

They sur­round­ed Gilchrist with activism, along with con­stant­ly watch­ing C‑SPAN or CNN. Gilchrist may have tak­en sev­er­al years of a dif­fer­ent career path before end­ing up in pol­i­tics, but he was raised in a fam­i­ly where com­mu­ni­ty involve­ment and car­ing about what was hap­pen­ing in the world was important.

While earn­ing a degree in engi­neer­ing from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, Gilchrist had been offered to intern with Microsoft three times. Even­tu­al­ly he accept­ed a posi­tion with­in the tech com­pa­ny for four years. Dur­ing his time at Microsoft, he was part of the soft­ware engi­neer­ing team that devel­oped the pop­u­lar Microsoft ser­vice SharePoint.

It was while Gar­lin was work­ing at Microsoft and liv­ing here in the Pacif­ic North­west that he joined the North­west Pro­gres­sive Institute.

Gar­lin was part of the NPI team from 2007 to 2009. While on staff, he helped launch the series In Brief, which lat­er was spun off as NPI’s microblog, and cham­pi­oned caus­es like net neu­tral­i­ty and uni­ver­sal broad­band. He also par­tic­i­pat­ed in NPI’s 2007 NWroots Con­fer­ence in Olympia as a speaker.

In a Feb­ru­ary 2008 blog post here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate, Gar­lin laid out the case for mak­ing invest­ments to improve Wash­ing­ton State’s Inter­net speeds:

Con­sid­er­ing Washington’s rep­u­ta­tion as high tech state with so a sig­nif­i­cant ecom­merce pres­ence, it’s easy to assume that we’re at the fore­front of high-speed Inter­net availability.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, that’s not the case: only half of Wash­ing­ton res­i­dents have access to broad­band Internet.

Our broad­band isn’t the fastest around, either.

We’re 18th in down­load speeds and a mere 38th upload speeds com­pared to oth­er states.

Improved avail­abil­i­ty of broad­band is impor­tant for num­ber of rea­sons. The Wash­ing­ton Alliance of Tech­nol­o­gy Work­ers and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­i­ca (Washtech/CWA) point out that wide­spread high speed Inter­net access results in a stronger econ­o­my, bet­ter health & safe­ty ser­vices, and increased edu­ca­tion­al opportunities.

What is need­ed to increase the avail­abil­i­ty of broad­band Inter­net access is a firm com­mit­ment at the state and local lev­els to require equal access, which would ensure a robust tech­nol­o­gy sec­tor and cre­ate new oppor­tu­ni­ties for growth.

Those words ring just as true today as they did then.

Inci­den­tal­ly, things are look­ing up for broad­band in Wash­ing­ton State right now.

Fron­tier Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, which acquired Ver­i­zon’s assets in the North­west over a decade ago and then failed to con­tin­ue Ver­i­zon’s fiber build-out, is no longer one of the region’s ISPs. Fron­tier depart­ed the North­west last year after sell­ing its infra­struc­ture to new local own­er­ship, Ziply Fiber. Ziply, which is well cap­i­tal­ized, has resumed efforts to expand high speed Inter­net access in the Northwest.

And State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Drew Hansen has been work­ing on a bill to lift the restric­tions in state law that pre­vent pub­lic util­i­ties and local gov­ern­ments from offer­ing broad­band ser­vices to Wash­ing­to­ni­ans themselves.

House Bill 1336 won House approval last month and advanced to the Sen­ate Rules Com­mit­tee yes­ter­day. It now awaits a floor vote in the Senate.

“We have learned a lot dur­ing the pan­dem­ic and one of the biggest lessons is that access to high-speed inter­net is essen­tial in the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, but not every­one has that access. Tele­coms have had decades to build out fiber net­works but there are still regions in our state that are inter­net deserts or have very poor access. That’s inequitable and unac­cept­able,” Hansen said in Jan­u­ary.

“Let’s give our local pub­lic util­i­ties a chance to pro­vide this essen­tial ser­vice to peo­ple who need it to work, go to school, or attend a telemed­i­cine appointment.”

It can take years to lay the ground­work for leg­is­la­tion like HB 1336.

As a vet­er­an orga­niz­er and pro­gres­sive leader, Gar­lin Gilchrist II under­stands the impor­tance of per­se­ver­ance and per­sis­tence. Set­backs and loss­es are inevitable in the elec­toral and leg­isla­tive are­nas. But when we learn from our set­backs and loss­es — and build on those expe­ri­ences — we can set the stage for big wins.

Gar­lin’s own sto­ry shows us this.

After mov­ing back to Michi­gan a few years ago, Gar­lin ran for Detroit City Clark. He did­n’t win, but his cam­paign paved the way for his selec­tion as Gretchen Whit­mer’s run­ning mate in the 2018 midterms.

Today, he’s the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor of Michigan.

We are proud of all that he’s accom­plished, and delight­ed to wel­come him to the vir­tu­al stage at our Spring Fundrais­ing Gala next month as our fea­tured speaker.

We hope you can join us on April 10th to hear from Garlin.

Get tick­ets for NPI’s 2021 Vir­tu­al Spring Gala

As in past years, we have three types of tick­ets avail­able: Indi­vid­ual, House­hold, and Liv­ing Light­ly. Indi­vid­ual admits one per­son, house­hold admits a fam­i­ly, and Liv­ing Light­ly admits a stu­dent or activist on a lim­it­ed income.

Please note that the Vir­tu­al Gala will not be pub­licly livestreamed. To par­tic­i­pate, you must have a gala tick­et. Pro­ceeds from tick­et sales will be invest­ed into NPI’s research polling, so when you secure your spot at the event, you’re help­ing to ensure NPI can con­tin­ue mea­sur­ing sup­port for pro­gres­sive ideas like just cause evic­tion or a cap­i­tal gains tax on the wealthy.

If you have ques­tions, please use our con­tact form to get in touch.

Thanks for your sup­port of NPI’s work, it’s deeply appreciated.

We hope to see you — vir­tu­al­ly! — next month.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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