‘Obscene’: Mike Pence Breaks 121-Year Ban on Driving on Michigan’s Mackinac Island
Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.
Pence, who traveled to the island for the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, was the first sitting vice president to ever visit the island, according to the Detroit Free Press. However, former presidents Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton all visited the island while respecting its 121-year prohibition on cars, according to HuffPost. Ford, the only sitting president to visit the island, rode around in a horse-drawn carriage, though the secret service did stash a car on the island in case of an emergency.
"This video of the cars driving on our beautiful #MackinacIsland makes my stomach turn," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted.
Banned for a century people, and here comes the Trump Administration trampling all over it, like they do the U.S. Constitution.— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) September 22, 2019
This video of the cars driving on our beautiful #MackinacIsland makes my stomach turn. https://t.co/D8yvHN2Xr0
Pence landed on the island by helicopter and then took the eight-car motorcade to and from the hotel where the conference was held, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Some, including the ferry service that transported the vehicles to the island, defended Pence's actions on security grounds.
"Regardless of your political views, we hope you'll understand the logistical intricacies involved in securing our leaders while visiting," Shepler's Ferry wrote on Twitter, as Michigan Live reported. "We were happy to assist."
It was our honor to transport the @VP’s emergency vehicles to Mackinac Island this weekend. Regardless of your political views, we hope you’ll understand the logistical intricacies involved in securing our leaders while visiting. We were happy to assist. ⛴🙌🏽🇺🇸 #RideSheplers pic.twitter.com/yqYrrrHhrn— Shepler's Ferry (@sheplersferry) September 22, 2019
However, former Associated Press and National Journal reporter Ron Fournier, who covered former presidents Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said the motocade was "obscene."
"It's both the existence and size," Fournier told the Detroit Free Press. "No security expert would claim it's necessary."
Mackinac Island's ban on cars dates back to the nineteenth century, as The New York Times explained:
At the dawn of the automobile era, many small communities were concerned that noisy, smelly newfangled automobiles would scare the horses that most people depended upon, and the village of Mackinac was no exception. The village council resolved on July 6, 1898, that "the running of horseless carriages be prohibited within the limits of the village." One resident was quoted as referring to cars as "mechanical monsters."
Most of the rest of the island is state parkland, and the Mackinac Island State Park Commission followed suit in 1901, imposing a ban after Earl C. Anthony, a "summer cottager" who brought a car to the island, scared and injured some horses and several carriages were damaged.
The island does allow exceptions for emergency vehicles, snowmobiles and local government service vehicles, Michigan Live explained.
For those unfamiliar with Mackinac Island, this is what it looks like every day of the year. No cars allowed. pic.twitter.com/lc0xLGEecn— Michelle K Stenzel (@MichelleStenzel) September 21, 2019
Ironically, Pence's visit took place one day before World Car-Free Day on Sept. 22. Across the Atlantic, London Mayor Sadiq Khan closed 20 kilometers (approximately 12.4 miles) of roads in the city center Sunday in the city's largest Car-Free Day effort yet, the UN Environment Programme reported.
In Washington, DC, residents were encouraged to pledge to ditch their cars for any or all days from Sept. 21 to 23.
"Car Free Day is organized in various cities throughout the world in different ways, but with the common goal of reducing the number of cars on the streets. The benefit to greater society is a day with less traffic congestion, a greener environment and reduced gasoline demand," Car Free Metro DC explained.
🌍World #CarFreeDay was celebrated yesterday!— BYCS (@BYCS_org) September 23, 2019
We have gathered some snapshots from the network and beyond; thousands of people went out onto the streets to enjoy the freedom of #CarFreeDay.
We have read many incredible stories. Let’s keep on pedaling towards a #CarFreeWorld! pic.twitter.com/a0zqtdrhov
"Ultra-low emissions zones and investments in clean public transport technology deliver large-scale public benefits like improved air quality, better health and pedestrian-friendly cities. These efforts also have fast and long-lasting benefits for the climate by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and short-lived but highly warming particulates like black carbon," Helena Molin Valdés, head of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Secretariat, told the UN Environment Programme.
"The Trump administration's wild-eyed attempts to reward polluters knows no bound." In my 1st @EcoWatch post today, @SierraClub and @NRDC respond to the #Trump #EPA's rollback of the #CleanWaterRule, which puts a third of U.S. drinking water at risk : https://t.co/nuPvPYTD1X— Olivia Rosane (@orosane) September 13, 2019
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Kevin T. Smiley
When hurricanes and other extreme storms unleash downpours like Tropical Storm Beta has been doing in the South, the floodwater doesn't always stay within the government's flood risk zones.
New research suggests that nearly twice as many properties are at risk from a 100-year flood today than the Federal Emergency Management Agency's flood maps indicate.
Flooding Outside the Zones<p>About <a href="https://furmancenter.org/files/Floodplain_PopulationBrief_12DEC2017.pdf" target="_blank">15 million</a> Americans live in FEMA's current 100-year flood zones. The designation warns them that their properties face a 1% risk of flooding in any given year. They must obtain flood insurance if they want a federally ensured loan – insurance that helps them recover from flooding.</p><p>In Greater Houston, however, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1539-6924.2012.01840.x" target="_blank">47% of claims</a> made to FEMA across three decades before Hurricane Harvey were outside of the 100-year flood zones. Harris County, recognizing that FEMA flood maps don't capture the full risk, now <a href="https://www.hcfcd.org/floodinsurance" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recommends that every household</a> in Houston and the rest of the county have flood insurance.</p><p>New risk models point to a similar conclusion: Flood risk in these areas outstrips expectations in the current FEMA flood maps.</p><p>One of those models, from the <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/2020-national-flood-risk-assessment-highlights/" target="_blank">First Street Foundation</a>, estimates that the number of properties at risk in a 100-year storm is 1.7 times higher than the FEMA maps suggest. Other <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aaac65" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">researchers</a> find an even higher margin, with 2.6 to 3.1 times more people exposed to serious flooding in a 100-year storm than FEMA estimates.</p>
What FEMA’s Flood Maps Miss<p>Understanding why areas outside the 100-year flood zones are flooding more often than the FEMA maps suggest involves larger social and environmental issues. Three reasons stand out.</p><p>First, some places rely on relatively old FEMA maps that don't account for recent urbanization.</p><p>Urbanization matters because impervious surfaces – think pavement and buildings – are not effective sponges like natural landscapes can be. Moreover, the process for updating floodplain maps is locally variable and can take years to complete. Famously, New York City was updating its maps when Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012 but hadn't finished, meaning flood maps in effect <a href="https://projects.propublica.org/nyc-flood/" target="_blank">were from 1983</a>. FEMA is required to assess whether updates are needed every five years, but the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/cis/nation.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">majority of maps</a> <a href="https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2017/OIG-17-110-Sep17.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are older</a>.</p><p>Second, binary thinking can lead people to an underaccounting of risk, and that can mean communities fail to take steps that could protect a neighborhood from flooding. The logic goes: if I'm not in the 100-year floodplain, then I'm not at risk. Risk perception <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab195a" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">research</a> backs this up. FEMA-delineated flood zones are the major factor shaping flood mitigation behaviors.</p><p>Third, the era of climate change scuttles conventional assumptions.</p><p>As the planet warms, extreme storms are becoming <a href="https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/" target="_blank">more common and severe</a>. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at a high rate, computer models suggest that the chances of a severe storm dropping 20 inches of rain on Texas in any given year will increase from about 1% at the end of the last century to 18% at the end of this one, a chance of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1716222114" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">once every 5.5 years</a>. So far, <a href="https://www.rstreet.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/195.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">FEMA hasn't taken into account the impact climate change is having</a> on extreme weather and sea level rise.</p>
Racial Disparities in Flooding Outside the Zones<p>So, who is at risk?</p><p>Years of research and evidence from storms have highlighted social inequalities in areas with a high risk of flooding. But most local governments have less understanding of the social and demographic composition of communities that experience flood impacts outside of flood zones.</p><p>In analyzing the damage from Hurricane Harvey in the Houston area, I found that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aba0fe" target="_blank">Black and Hispanic residents disproportionately experienced flooding</a> in areas beyond FEMA's 100-year flood zones.</p><p>With the majority of flooding from Hurricane Harvey occurring outside of 100-year flood zones, this meant that the overall impact of Harvey was racially unequal too.</p><p>Research into where flooding occurs in Baltimore, Chicago and Phoenix points to some of the potential causes. <a href="https://www.nap.edu/read/25381/chapter/4#16" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In Baltimore and Chicago</a>, for example, aging storm and sewer infrastructure, poor construction and insufficient efforts to mitigate flooding are part of the flooding problem in some predominantly Black neighborhoods.</p>
What Can Be Done About It<p>Better accounting for those three reasons could substantively improve risk assessments and help cities prioritize infrastructure improvements and flood mitigation projects in these at-risk neighborhoods.</p><p>For example, First Street Foundation's risk maps account for <a href="https://firststreet.org/flood-lab/research/flood-model-methodology_overview/" target="_blank">climate change</a> and present <a href="https://floodfactor.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">ratings</a> on a scale from 1 to 10. FEMA, which works with communities to update flood maps, is <a href="https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/1521054297905-ca85d066dddb84c975b165db653c9049/TMAC_2017_Annual_Report_Final508(v8)_03-12-2018.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">exploring rating systems</a>. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently <a href="https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2019/03/new-report-calls-for-different-approaches-to-predict-and-understand-urban-flooding" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">called for a new generation of flood maps</a> that takes climate change into account.</p><p>Including recent urbanization in those assessments will matter too, especially in fast-growing cities like Houston, where <a href="https://authors.elsevier.com/a/1boBRyDvMFW6W" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">386 new square miles</a> of impervious surfaces were created in the last 20 years. That's greater than the land area of New York City. New construction in one area can also <a href="https://scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/city-in-a-swamp-as-houston-booms-its-flood-problems-are-only-getting-worse/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">impact older neighborhoods downhill</a> during a flood, as some Houston communities discovered in Hurricane Harvey.</p><p>Improving risk assessments is needed not just to better prepare communities for major flood events, but also to prevent racial inequalities – in housing and beyond – from <a href="https://www.npr.org/2019/03/05/688786177/how-federal-disaster-money-favors-the-rich" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">growing</a> after the unequal impacts of disasters.</p>
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