Reposted from Motor City Kossacks by peregrine kate
Water Wars Ramp Up in Detroit
During NN14 in Detroit last July, Detroit water activists were able to take advantage of the pressure brought to bear by the presence and awareness of politically-progressive visitors to the city to stage a successful march and rally on behalf of a more just and humane resolution to the manufactured crisis over water access in Detroit.
Those modest gains seem distant and small now that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is gearing up for yet another round of draconian shutoffs to consumers within the DWSD service area, city and suburbs alike. Latest estimates publicized via the Detroit Free Press are for approximately 25,000 households (or approximately 75,000 people, over 10% of the current population of the city of Detroit) to lose their access to water starting next week. But even more shutoffs could happen over the next several months, since [per this article from 4/18/2015]
A city report obtained by the Free Press shows more than 73,000 active residential accounts with $47 million in bills at least two months late.
The documents show the city has been unable to move many customers into good standing. As of last June, there were more than 79,000 delinquent accounts owing $42 million.
These delinquent accounts represent approximately 25% of all residential accounts in the city of Detroit, according to figures stated here.
Detroit water activists continue to challenge the city administration's plans to promote an "assistance" plan, which may be funded up to $6 million as of this summer. That amount may sound like a lot of money, and indeed it is. Yet given arrearages of up to $2,000/household (in some cases), and in comparison with the total outstanding due of almost $50 million, that pot will soon be drained--without any substantial plan in place for preventing such a predicament to arise again soon.
Reminding authorities that "assistance is not affordability," activists with the People's Water Board, Food and Water Watch, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Sierra Club and other organizations are attempting to enlist allies to back a version of the Water Affordability Plan, originally written in 2005 to address that stage of the crisis. [As one quickly realizes upon review of the water wars in Detroit, these crises relative to privatization of common resources have been unfolding for many years.]
Two long-time Detroit activists, Gloria House and Shea Howell, recently published a statement via the People's Water Board calling for adoption of the Water Affordability Plan. Some of the points they make:
The goal of the aggressive shutoffs is “changing the culture regarding the responsibility to pay for service.”
But the only way a sentence like that can make sense is if you believe there is a current culture where people are irresponsible and not willing to pay for their services.
This is the same belief that Detroiters are not paying water bills or property taxes because, as former Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said, we are “dumb, lazy, happy and rich.” Bill Nowling, then Orr’s spokesman, tried to get him out of that comment by saying he believed the comments were “about the attitude of the body politic of the city of Detroit, not Detroiters themselves.”
Such nonsensical distinctions are offered to cover the deep-seated racism that characterizes the attitude of many people toward Detroiters.
This attitude pathologizes the people of Detroit. It casts us as deficient, ignores our history, denies our humanity, and disrespects and diminishes our lives. It functions to blind the public to both the pain and the strengths of the city.
Most Detroiters know that we not only work hard, but we often do the hardest work. With the disappearance of jobs and capital, we have been struggling to create new ways of living and working together....
In fact, we have willingly voted ourselves the highest taxes in the state in order to provide for our schools, parks, community colleges, museums, zoo and art programs.
Now with jobs gone, pay cuts, pension cuts, increasing medical bills, increasing heating bills, the highest water rates in the state, predatory lending, overinflated property taxes and auto insurance more than double that of the suburbs, people are scrambling to keep home and hearth together. [3/25/15]
The problem is not going away. Water is life. What will the city of Detroit look like with potentially 1/4 of its households--adding this year's shutoffs to last year's--without access to clean, safe water and sewage treatment?
If you're interested in offering a little bit of support, please consider signing this petition on Change.org sponsored by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization: Don't Deny Detroit Families the Human Right to Water
For more information, I strongly recommend monitoring the People's Water Board blog, and tracking #WaterWednesday I'll continue to post updates, and I welcome input from other people closer to the action than I.
Please join me after the fleur-de-Kos for more.