Michigan Contractors Return to Basics
A political grassroots movement among the MDPMCA has catapulted politicians into seats that support the views of the group.
“We’re trying to get more people elected who are better for the industry,” said Tom Storey, vice president and director of governmental affairs and community relations for the plumbing and heating industry. “We’re unusual because we’re both pro-union and pro-business.”
According to Storey, his organization became motivated for change in 1992, when the Mechanical Contractors Association (MCA) abolished their Political Action Committee (PAC). The MDPMCA decided it was time to take matters into their own hands.
“Our members became individually involved with the year long process,” Storey said. “They became involved with different candidates around the state. People no longer have to give money through PACs — they can now give money individually to politicians.”
The MDPMCA now works closely with top local, state and national officials. The organization also has 13 members appointed to commissions.
“I look at the appointment as an opportunity to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state of Michigan — not a political appointment,” said Ray Brunett, chairman of the state’s Mechanical Code Commission and member of the state’s Construction Code Commission.
Brunett, who is also the Vice President of the John E. Green Company, started working on the grassroots campaign in 1991–92 for none other than Representative Joseph Knollenberg (R-MI). Knollenberg represents Michigan’s 11th District in Washington D.C.
Knollenberg is the congressman who initiated the bill that could revoke 1.6 gpf toilets. The Plumbing Standards Improvement Act of 1997 will restore water flow rates back to levels above the current 1.6 gpf toilets and 2.5 gpm shower heads.
Brunett has served on both boards for two consecutive terms. He will leave office in October, but can be reappointed after a one year hiatus.
However, Knollenberg still gets help from MDPMCA members. Last month Tony D’Ascenzo, president of the Southeastern Michigan PHCC, opened his house up for a fundraiser for the politician.
Plumbing. “We need to educate different people, from local to national congressional levels.”
D’Ascenzo hosted 30 people to a sit down dinner with Knollenberg.
“I think people are seeing the success we’re having in Southern Michigan,” D’Ascenzo said. “How many people get to sit down and eat dinner with their congressman?”
The grassroots campaign is already benefiting plumbing groups.
The Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Council (PHCC) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) asked D’Ascenzo to reach out to Knollenberg to open discussions regarding the bill.
“The PHCC and ASME wanted a meeting set up to discuss Knollenberg’s bill,” said D’Ascenzo. “Nothing may come out of it, but just having the opportunity to do it made the past four years worth it.”
Other politicians receiving help include Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer (D) and Michigan Governor John Engler (R).
Storey is pleased that the process has made his organization closer to the top Democrat in the state, Archer, and top Republican, Engler.
“Archer is reaching out to reconstruction,” Storey said. “We currently have $11 billion worth of reconstruction coming, including two stadiums, three casinos and a lot of industrial work. We need to arrive at the proper balance of Detroit workers, minorities and women.”
And it all comes back to the local level.
“It gives me pleasure knowing I am directly involved in the political process,” said D’Ascenzo. “It may be a small difference, but it is a difference. I think it is very foolish of our industry not to get more involved.”