Oakland County Director Dave Coulter and Macomb County Director Mark Hackel join the list of heads of state skipping next week’s Mackinac political conference, albeit for official reasons different.
Coulter plans to attend the first ever Motor Bella experiential auto show in Pontiac instead of making the trip north to the Straits of Mackinac, Oakland County spokesman Bill Mullan said Thursday.
The Detroit Regional Chamber’s public policy conference begins Monday afternoon at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. The conference actually ended Wednesday evening after two days of round tables and speeches inside the Grand Hotel theater.
Motor Bella begins Tuesday with two days of press and industry days in the 87-acre M1 Hall and runs through September 26.
The new auto show, which the Detroit Auto Dealers Association has stressed will not replace the pandemic-sidelined North American International Auto Show, is also pushing Governor Gretchen away Whitmer’s official opening of the Mackinac Policy Conference at midday Tuesday, when Michigan governors have traditionally hosted the state’s business, political, philanthropic and educational leaders.
After attending Motor Bella, Whitmer is expected to attend the second half of the Mackinac Policy Conference and deliver the closing speech on Wednesday afternoon.
Hackel said Thursday he was skipping Mackinac because he was not happy with the chamber’s pandemic-focused agenda related to public health and racial equity.
“I mean infrastructure,” Hackel told Crain’s. “It’s not even on the agenda.
“They want to continue to highlight the tension over COVID as opposed to some of the other issues that are important to people here in Macomb County. I just don’t want to get involved in this,” Hackel added. “… Right now, rather than talking about things that divide us, I want to talk about something that no doubt can and will unite Macomb County – and that is repairing roads, bridges and dealing with the underground problem (infrastructure) that we know about. “
The outspoken Macomb County executive played down the Detroit chamber’s requirement that all attendees must prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19 as the reason it decided not to attend.
But Hackel, who will not say whether or not he is vaccinated, has indicated he is unwilling to comply with the warrant.
“Am I okay with that? No I’m not,” Hackel said. “That being said, they have every right to warrant it. But we’ll take a pass, thank you very much.”
Metro Detroit’s other two most prominent political leaders – Wayne County Director Warren Evans and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan – both plan to attend the chamber’s Mackinac conference.
Neither Coulter nor Hackel are sending any of their MPs to the island, adding to the shortage of policymakers attending a public policy conference being held in person for the first time since May 2019 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Attorney General Dana Nessel decided to skip the conference due to the growing number of new cases of COVID-19 that have started to plague some emergency rooms in southeast Michigan.
Members of the Michigan congressional delegation are not attending the Mackinac conference because Congress will be in session next week.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey R-Clarklake is not attending the conference due to the COVID vaccine mandate. He is not vaccinated, but plans to be on Mackinac Island mid-week for events outside the Grand Hotel.
Next Friday, the day after the Mackinac House Conference in Detroit ends, Michigan Republicans gather at the Grand Hotel for their biennial three-day leadership conference.
House Speaker Jason Wentworth R-Farwell has yet to pledge to attend the Detroit chamber conference as lawmakers may have to stay in Lansing to vote on the state budget said spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro.
“It looks like this is potentially the day we can vote on the budget,” D’Assandro said in a text message Thursday. “If this is the case, the budget will not be suspended for (the Mackinac conference).”