Detroit Stops Water Shutoffs For 15 Days
Though officials say they aren’t backing down to pressure from protesters and other activists, Detroit announced Monday morning that it will suspend its water shutoffs for 15 days.
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) turned off water service on about 17,000 customers since March, according to The Detroit News.
“This is a pause. This is not a moratorium,” department spokesman Bill Johnson told the publication. “We are pausing to give an opportunity to customers who have trouble paying their bills to come in and make arrangements with us. We want to make sure we haven’t missed any truly needy people.”
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A mini victory... However, saying they are allowing this time for people to pay and to make arrangements as to not miss any "truly needy people" is a PR move. If they really cared about truly needy people they wouldn't have turned it off in the first place. If people now do not go to them and try to work this out it will make them look good and give them credence in saying people just do not want to pay. It also does not address the obvious plan to privatize the water in Detroit and the poverty/unemployment there nor the increases in rates and in two weeks they will be back at it again more than likely regarding any who can't pay again. What assurance will there be going forward? This action is only meant (for them) to shut people up for two weeks so people will forget, though I do think they did not expect the response they got and that in and of itself is great. However, if they bowed to pressure they would turn it back on and then seek to work with the truly needy for payment and give assurance that would be their procedure from this point on stating they had no intention of privatizing Detroit's water supply. And what of the higher end customers like the stadiums that owe thousands? Are they giving them time or are they just special and don't have to pay at all? Good to see people get their water back if true, but be wary...and keep the pressure on.
All water needs to be back on soon. Plastic waste is also not good. I'm sure the bottled water companies are also loving this.
Detroit Water Protests
As Americans we need to stand with the people who are having their water shut off in a blatant human rights violation by the City of Detroit, the state of Michigan and the US government. How can the US claim to care about human rights when we do not even respect them in our own country?
There are other videos at the link above.
I stand with the people of Detroit Michigan.
TURN ON THE TAPS.
Going Without Water in Detroit
By ANNA CLARK JULY 3, 2014
DETROIT — A FAMILY of five with no water for two weeks who were embarrassed to ask friends if they could bathe at their house. A woman excited about purchasing a home who learned she would be held responsible for the previous owner’s delinquent water bill: all $8,000 of it. A 90-year-old woman with bedsores and no water available to clean them.End of excerpt
These are the stories that keep Mia Cupp up at night.
Ms. Cupp is the director of development and communication for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, a nonprofit contracted by the state of Michigan to work as a human-services agency for Detroit. In August 2013, with a $1 million allocation, Wayne Metro became the only program to assist residents with water bills. Ms. Cupp quickly learned that this was “by far the greatest need.”
In January alone, Wayne Metro received 10,000 calls for water assistance, many of them referred directly by the Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage. It supported 904 water customers over 10 months before exhausting its funding in June. Ms. Cupp said Wayne Metro still gets hundreds of calls a day from residents. But it has no way to help them, and nowhere to refer them.
Detroit borders the Great Lakes system, containing 21 percent of the world’s surface freshwater. The lakes are the source of the city’s water supply, but a growing number of residents can’t turn on the tap. Over the past three months, the water department has conducted an aggressive shut-off campaign to get more than 90,000 customers to pay $90.3 million in past-due bills. Between March 25 and June 14, 12,500 Detroit customers had their water shut off.
The average monthly water bill in Detroit is $75 for a family of four — nearly twice the United States average — and the department is increasing rates this month by 8.7 percent. Over the past decade, sales have decreased by 20 to 30 percent, while the water department’s fixed costs and debt have remained high. Nonpayment of bills is also common. The increasing strain on the department’s resources is then passed on to customers.
But residents aren’t the only ones with delinquent accounts. Darryl Latimer, the department’s deputy director, told me that the State of Michigan holds its biggest bill: $5 million for water at state fairgrounds. (The state disputes the bill, arguing that it’s not responsible for the costs of infrastructure leaks.)
A local news investigation revealed that Joe Louis Arena, home of the Detroit Red Wings, owed $82,255 as of April. Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play, owed more than $55,000. City-owned golf courses owed more than $400,000. As of July 2, none had paid. Mr. Latimer said the Department of Water and Sewerage would post notice, giving these commercial customers 10 days to pay before cutting service. But he did not say when.
And in the meantime the city is going after any customers who are more than 60 days late and owe at least $150.
Detroit Water Wars: A Shut Off That Could Impact 300,000 People
It was six in the morning when city contractors showed up unannounced at Charity Hicks' house.End of excerpt
Since spring, up to 3000 Detroit households per week have been getting their water shut-off – for owing as little as $150 or two months in bills. Now it was the turn of Charity's block – and the contractor wouldn't stand to wait an hour for her pregnant neighbour to fill up some jugs.
"Where's your water termination notice?" Charity demanded, after staggering to the contractor's truck. A widely-respected African-American community leader, she has been at the forefront of campaigns to ensure Detroiters' right to public, accessible water.
The contractor's answer was to drive away, knocking Charity over and injuring her leg. Two white policemen soon arrived – not to take her report, but to arrest her. Mocking Charity for questioning the water shut-offs, they brought her to jail, where she spent two days before being released without charge.
Welcome to Detroit's water war – in which upward of 150,000 customers, late on bills that have increased 119 percent in the last decade, are now threatened with shut-offs. Local activists estimate this could impact nearly half of Detroit's mostly poor and black population – between 200,000 and 300,000 people.
"There are people who can't cook, can't clean, people coming off surgery who can't wash. This is an affront to human dignity," Charity said in an interview with Kate Levy. To make matters worse, children risk being taken by welfare authorities from any home without running water.
Denying water to thousands, as a sweltering summer approaches, might be bad enough in itself. But these shut-offs are no mere exercise in cost-recovery.
The official rationale for the water shut-downs – the Detroit Water Department's need to recoup millions – collapses on inspection. Detroit's high-end golf club, the Red Wing's hockey arena, the Ford football stadium, and more than half of the city's commercial and industrial users are also owing – a sum totalling $30 million. But no contractors have showed up on their doorstep.
The targetting of Detroit families is about something else. It is a ruthless case of the shock doctrine – the exploitation of natural or unnatural shocks of crisis to push through pro-corporate policies that couldn't happen in any other circumstance.
The first shock was the slow disaster that struck Detroit over the last four decades: the flight of corporations toward cheaper, overseas labour; the movement of white, wealthier Detroiters to the suburbs, draining the city's tax base; a Wall Street-driven financial crisis that left many homeless or jobless; and the deliberate starving of the city of funds owed them by the Republican state legislature.
On its heels has come a round of economic shock therapy. Taking advantage of the severe decline in revenue from Detroit's first shock, the media, corporations and right-wing politicians drummed up a crisis of fear about financial debt. This has become the pretext for a swift assault on Detroit's public resources: an attempt to dismantle its schools, to slash its pensions, and to transfer its parks and art and land into the hands of private corporations.
Now you know damn well that these rich people who owe hundreds of THOUSANDS in water bills (which considering their huge profits and bank accounts is more questionable than the situation of a poor person who is UNEMPLOYED) will not have the water shut off to their stadiums because they will claim it will lose them PROFITS. However, there are no qualms about shutting off the water of a 90 year old woman with bed sores who may only owe 150.00?! Where is the justice here? And this is happening in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Make no mistake as well, this is just the beginning of the ASSAULT on Americans to privatize this entire country and its resources. My city sold us out last year with the same percentage in increases over a TWENTY YEAR period.
I also think it is obvious in Detroit that this is not only a water war but a race war for some. Did you really think Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would eliminate racism in this country? This is their way of clandestinely showing that they have neither morality nor humanity, which unfortunately for all of the bills on paper that can be signed cannot legislate either. Yet, the president and once again the AMERICAN MEDIA are silent. SHAME.
What if these two girls were your daughters, President Obama? Would you want them to have water then? Well, they are SOMEONE'S daughters and they deserve it just as much as your children do.
Detroit Water Brigade
We can help at this link.
Tepid Progress on Detroit Water Crisis, But Where Are the Big Nonprofit Players?
In the wake of both the water turnoffs and the notice from the City of Detroit that it is cancelling every possible nonprofit human service and safety net program delivered by nonprofits on city contracts, the state government’s Department of Human Services announced that it is trying to help families who might be losing running water, in part because state law includes a family’s inability to provide running water as potentially indicative of child neglect.End of excerpt
Give credit to Representative Conyers and an array of nonprofits including Food & Water Watch, the Detroit People’s Water Board, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, and the Canadian-based Blue Planet Project for bringing this human rights crisis to the attention of the public.
Treading lightly, however, we do have to wonder what happened to the voices of major nonprofits in Detroit or the big foundations that have been so industrious in saving the Detroit Institute of Arts. Maybe they figure that their plates are more than full with continuing their ongoing roles in Detroit’s revitalization plus putting in over $370 million for the DIA/pensions Grand Bargain. Maybe they view the public sector as responsible for the water issue, though the Grand Bargain itself, while using the conversion of the DIA from city-owned to nonprofit, is really a mechanism for helping and capitalizing the pension funds, a public sector role that is unprecedented for a foundation collaborative anywhere.
There’s plenty of room for further action by foundations and nonprofits that may have been sitting on the sidelines so far in the water crisis. Fully half of Detroit Water’s 323,000 accounts are delinquent. The notices to Detroit Water’s industrial and commercial customers are just that—notices, not actions. The $1 million fund to help lower income residential customers, paid for by customers who are paying their bills, is far below the level of residential delinquency. This crisis is hardly over.
The backdrop behind the get-tough position of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department toward delinquent customers has been the talk of privatizing—meaning selling—the city’s water system. Suddenly enforcing bills on residential customers while letting commercial and industrial customers slide looks like a strategy of making the department more attractive to potential private purchasers, who might see latent profitability in the department’s market of water services to Detroit and 127 other Southeastern Michigan communities and wastewater services to Detroit and 76 other communities in the region. The campaign of Rep. Conyers and the advocacy nonprofits could well use a boost from the region’s and the nation’s foundations and nonprofits.—Rick Cohen
I agree. However, we need to face a reality: the prejudices and selfishness of some will always take precedence.
Windsor To Carry Water Across The Border
Jul 09, 2014 - 8:35 PM EDT
Last Updated: Jul 10, 2014 - 7:04 AM EDT
Bringing water from Canada to Detroit may be a largely symbolic gesture, but volunteers in Detroit are doing similar work every day to help their fellow residents.
Members of the Detroit Water Brigade have been collecting and delivering water to residents in several city districts. Sixteen volunteers have brought more than 8,000 bottles of potable water to 55 homes so far. Co-ordinator Demeeko Williams says the group is getting “more and more calls every day from residents in new areas who no longer have water.
“We’re just covering a fraction of what we need to,” he said. “That’s why we’re calling for more volunteers, we’re calling for more water. People need help.”
About 1,000 litres of Windsor tap water will be shipped to Detroit later this month in a bid to raise awareness for what one Canadian group calls a blatant contravention of international human rights.
Members of the Council of Canadians are rounding up a posse and heading across the border on July 24 to protest the Motor City’s bold cost-saving measure that has disconnected water services to thousands of impoverished residents in the past few months.
To recoup massive overdue water bills, the bankrupt U.S. city announced in March that staff would aggressively target delinquent accounts and shut off water to anyone who did not pay. Activists have pushed back by drawing international attention to the issue, including public scrutiny from the United Nations.
Canadian protestors will take a convoy of about 12 cars to Detroit, carrying 50 five-gallon containers of water, which is the equivalent of about 2,800 personal water bottles. Bringing potable water on July 24 is not a solution to the problem, but by joining the scheduled rally that day, activists hope to send a strong message, said Doug Hayes, chairman of the Windsor-Essex chapter of the Council of Canadians.
“We’re hoping it will sort of embarrass the City of Detroit into realizing this is not the right thing to do,” he said.
Maude Barlow, chairwoman of the Council of Canadians, has been leading the charge against Detroit’s disconnection strategy, which is an issue she raised with the UN earlier this year. Since then, three UN experts produced a report that found the city’s plan violates people’s right to water and sewer services.
Their report states Detroit ramped up water shut-offs in early June with an estimated 3,000 customers losing services each week. But city officials argue far fewer people are actually disconnected. Spokesman Gregory Eno said up to 60 per cent of residents who received notices, or had their water turned off, paid their bills within 24 to 48 hours and have had their water restored.
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Shaming people into doing the moral thing is sometimes the only thing that works.