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.
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.
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.
Thanks for your support of NPI’s work, it’s deeply appreciated.
We hope to see you — virtually! — next month.