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"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."  -Paul Romer, University of Chicago-trained Economist with the Marron Institute and Charter Cities proponent.    

  Shortly after taking power,  Porfirio Lobo, then president of Honduras, and prompted by a young aide Octavio Rubén Sánchez Barrientos, sought out the assistance of Paul Romer, son of former Colorado Governor Roy Romer and a proponent of endogenous growth theory, which holds that economic growth is primarily the result internal institutions and processes within a given nation state.  According to Barrientos, the Charter City or "special development region" (SDR) was initially proposed during the presidency of Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero, who had restructured Honduras' economy along neoliberal lines in the early 1990s.  According to Barrientos, a charter city would be free from the restrictions of the central government, like democracy and self-rule:

Journal: Who will control the charter city, and how will it insulate its economy from the political pitfalls that have plagued Honduras in the past?

Sanchez: It has a lot to do with the government structure of the SDR. It is designed so that the central government has no power to intervene in this region. You may have all kinds of political crises outside of the region, but the region can make long-term plans without getting bogged down by national problems.

The city will be led by a governor, who will be accountable to a body called the Transparency Commission that functions like a board of trustees. Nine independent experts will be appointed to the commission and will be charged with the hiring and firing of the city's governor. The commission can include anyone from anywhere in the world. It can include Hondurans expatriates, foreigners or well-respected Hondurans who reside in the country. The commission can also be reformed so that it can grow and incorporate other members beyond the initial nine.

 The key to the success of the city is granting it a very high degree of autonomy. Once we finish deciding which areas of the country will be affected by this project and we set up the governance structure, it can run on its own--forever.

Journal: Is there another body, like a legislature, to which the Transparency Commission will be accountable?

 Sanchez: At this point there is no other institution or governing body besides the Transparency Commission. Eventually there will be a legislature, which is required once the city population reaches a certain level.

 At that point, if a member of the Transparency Commission is not acting appropriately, the people of the city can decide to amend the basic law--the constitutional statute--and create a different structure. But initially there will be very few people in the city.

If you think this sounds familiar, you may recall a crisis regime imposed on New York City with a similar governance model.  And it should perhaps come as no surprise that Romer's employer, the Marron Institute, was also commissioned by Detroit's Emergency Manager to study alternative governance models for Detroit, post-bankruptcy.  
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   The quote is a call to global solidarity by a Flint-based community activist and reflects a growing consensus that the emerging conflicts over water are a global concern.  The United States Government considers water shortages to be a looming security threat, and the fight against water privatization has raged across the globe, from Colombia to California, fromDetroit and Flint to Gaza and the West Bank.  In Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State (formerly ISIS) has effectively used denial of water access as a method of extermination and ethnic cleansing, and now controls the Mosul Dam according to the most recent reports.

  In the City of Flint, Michigan, the water rates are the highest in the country.  As the New York Times reported earlier this year, Detroit lost its second largest customer when Flint's Emergency Manager pushed through a "63-mile pipeline parallel to an existing one to bring water directly from Lake Huron, cutting out Detroit."  What the NY Times did not reveal is that the Michigan Department of Treasury had commissioned an independent audit of the proposal, which concluded that the pipeline was a "major risk" and that the treasury's independent estimate projected a significantly higher cost than several alternatives. Yet the sale of the bonds to finance the project represented the largest muni bond deal since the Detroit bankruptcy, and the bonds sold by Genesee County are payable from the water supply contracts as well as general obligation pledges of Flint and Genesee County.

 Yet as Wall Street monetizes the Flint water supply, residents increasingly find themselves cut off.  Last Thursday, an investigative report from the local ABC affiliate revealed that paying mobile home residents had been living without water for 19 months.  This week, Flint's Emergency Manager ordered paying residents to vacate their apartments within 24 hours after the City shut off their water because the corporate accounts were delinquent.  

 Today, Flint's residents took to the streets and rallied in front of City Hall, demanding that the city's emergency manager turn the water back on!

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The Detroit water crisis has dominated the headlines for the last few months, sparking protests , direct action  and other signs of resistance to austerity imposed under Emergency Manager Rule, a new form of dictatorial government  that sacrifices democratic self-rule in the name of economic efficiency.  But as Detroit dominates the headlines, a recent local investigative report  found that eight families in Flint had gone without water for over a year and a half. Today, Flint ordered lower income apartment residents to vacate their property after it shut off water.  In both cases, the residents paid their bills, but absentee corporate landlords and property managers did not hold up their end of the bargain.  

All residents at Glen Acre woke up Tuesday, Aug. 5, to find condemnation notices on their doors, ordering them to vacate the property because it is unfit for human occupancy, with open and vacant buildings, broken windows and doors, and no running water.

But tenants in two of the buildings at Glen Acre will be allowed to stay because water remains on, Flint spokesman Jason Lorenz said, while residents in two other buildings in which there is no water must leave.

Although city property records show Glen Acre is owned by USALAND LLC, the complex actually has two separate addresses and two separate water accounts.

Lorenz said water was shut off to 1718 W. Pierson Road in November and found in June to have been turned back on by someone other than the city.

Apartment residents, some of whom have been here for years, said they don't know what they will do next.

Who mourns for the forgotten in Flint? Why is the city so hell bent on punishing the poor and rewarding corporate malfeasance?
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From the union-busting headlines of Detroit's "liberal" press:

Pro-Israel ralliers waved Israeli and American flags and chanted “No More Human Shields.” The pro-Israel rally was in response to the anti-Israel rally, which drew a range of people and groups: Arab-Americans, Pakistani-Americans, Communists and leftists.
Let us dissect...

 

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