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View Diary: Water Wars: A prologue (53 comments)

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  •  Detroit is complicated. (7+ / 0-)

    Listen, the City of Detroit is in trouble for so many reasons.  There isn't a way to know if the unpaid water bill is because the house is abandoned.  To make matters worse, scrappers go in and steal the metal water pipes which means the house can be flooded in no time.

    If it is true that someone cannot pay their bill due to financial hardship, say on welfare, then that person needs to be responsible and ask for help.  That person should never just stop paying their bill.  That person should go to the city and claim hardship and ask for help.  NOT just stop paying the bills.  There has to be responsible communication.

    Detroit has been so lax in any type of government structure for so many years and the truth is that the city really don't know what is going on at any one location where the bill isn't paid.  

    In addition, the conversation about aid needs to be at the state level.  Who pays for those who cannot afford to live with the basics?  Should it be a statewide system of help or should it be local?  Should each local water system have to shoulder all water bills to those on state aid or should that cost be spread out statewide?

    Like I said, it is complicated.

    1. What does it mean? 2. And then what?

    by alwaysquestion on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 09:37:02 AM PDT

    •  "scrappers" (copper thieves) are also causing... (12+ / 0-)

      ... breakdown of civilization by degrading the water system (and electrical and telecoms when they steal wire), and they need to be dealt with swiftly and severely.

      Meanwhile, Detroit has to be compelled, or the fed gov needs to do this, to ascertain the status of each building and not cut off water to inhabited buildings.   Otherwise there will be epidemic disease outbreaks equivalent to bioterrorism.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 11:03:35 AM PDT

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      •  How do you tell if a building is (0+ / 0-)

        inhabited or not?  There are SO MANY abandoned houses in Detroit.  I would suggest that if someone's water is shut off, they can contact the water dept about how to get that turned back on.  And then the water dept knows it is dealing with an inhabited house.  People will scream when their water is shut off and will not go long before they go to the water dept to work out a plan of assistance or payment.  These are people who should have called the dept. right away when they knew they couldn't pay the bill.  

        The scrappers are a huge problem.  We now have laws on the books that say a scrapper can't get paid (anything over $20) by anything other than a mailed check to a legitimate address.  That forces those scrappers to give name and location in the hopes that they curtail illegal activities.  You know you have a problem when someone walks in with a Detroit Water Dept. manhole cover and wants to walk out with cash for that chuck of metal.

        1. What does it mean? 2. And then what?

        by alwaysquestion on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 12:19:56 PM PDT

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    •  Sure, but turning off water without knowing (3+ / 0-)

      the situation seems to be a very stupid decision.  Given that, as you say, the city has been so lax in any type of government structure for so many years (due to the great recession or has it been longer?) it's no surprise that people who may want to ask for help (cause I guess going to the UN isn't asking for help) don't know how or where to go (except that again, they went to the UN).  Or could it be that the Snyder admin actually wants this to happen?

      Each is probable and not mutually exclusive.

      America, where a rising tide lifts all boats! Unless you don't have a boat...uh...then it lifts all who can swim! Er, if you can't swim? SHAME ON YOU!

      by Back In Blue on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 11:07:14 AM PDT

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      •  I don't think the first thing (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Yoshimi, FG

        that happened was to cut the water as a response for nonpayment.  I may be wrong, but I recall that notices were sent out first.

        The water dept. has been lax in collecting for years and years...nothing to do with Gov. Snyder or recession.  But the citizens do know where to go for things like paying electric and water and gas.  In fact, many in Detroit still pay with cash at the counter at some of these places.  

        Going to the UN is a political stunt.  It should come as no surprise to ANYONE not paying their bills that they are responsible for communicating their needs and to work out a payment plan.  As I understand things, the water dept. is very good about working out payment plans.  So no excuse there.

        The water dept. does not have the man power to check on every building in Detroit.  They way they understand there is a problem is like any other dept. which is that someone either communicates with them that is there a problem or that the bill isn't paid.  I don't think there is a dept. in any city that pays a visit to every building, commercial or residential, to see if people there are experiencing a problem or not.

        The water dept. is now in the process of elimination regarding who and what.  Shutting off the water forces people to come and see them about what to do next.  They assume if they shut off the water to a building or house that it is abandoned, which should be shut off.  If someone is in need, they can show their predicament with proof of welfare or other needed assistance.  If someone can pay, but was just gaming the system, then they can pay

        The city of Detroit is in the process of changing and some things will be done differently and the residents of Detroit will need to understand that they have to work with some of those changes.

        I am not advocating for the Emergency Manager.  But there are some pretty basic ways of doing business that is well understood all over this nation.  Detroit should be no exception.

        I am somewhat irked at this happening now, with an election coming up.  What the hell would people have the democratic candidate do?  What would your response be?  Obviously the situtions would have to be sorted out and the sorting process is happening right now by the  Water Dept..  Both Snyder and Schauer would have the same response.  By the way, the UN would have to also determine ability to pay.  The UN is aware that water systems cost money and have to be maintained, which wasn't done properly in Detroit for years and years.  So this embarassment will only come back to Detroit when it is all sorted out.

        1. What does it mean? 2. And then what?

        by alwaysquestion on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 12:10:33 PM PDT

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        •  Re working out a payment plan (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          peptabysmal, NoMoreLies

          ...Sounds like what homeowners whose mortgages were underwater were told to do when they fell too far in arrears: Arrange a payment plan. Except so many needed to do it, so lenders simply started taking the short cut of foreclosing early. We can assume that many people behind on utility bills might also be behind on property taxes, mortgages and credit card balances. In an economic system where you might work two jobs for 60 or 70 hours a week and not actually take home enough money to pay for all the above plus food, insurance, health care and more, "arranging a payment plan" is a Band-Aid that covers the wound but will heal little. Don't get me wrong; I'm sure there are scofflaws taking advantage of this breakdown. But there surely are innocent victims, too. It's true of many cities. The permanent underclass is growing, the social safety net is mostly shrinking.

          •  I agree. (0+ / 0-)

            There are people that truly can't pay.  But they have to do the basic responsible thing and go and talk to the water dept and show hardship.  They can't just assume because they can't pay means they shouldn't have communication about what to do.  At the very least, we expect adults to behave as adults and face the facts and work out a plan, not hope the problem will just go away.  The problem is that for years, the problem did appear to just seem to go away due to poor city administration.

            The issue of having basic needs met needs to be a larger discussion on a national or at least state level.

            Having said all of that, I will say again that I do not support the Snyder administration and they have handled so many EM situation so poorly, and in the case of Benton Harbor, criminally (selling for pennies the shoreline park to republican business friend of republican congressman) but this Water and other issues in Detroit had to be worked out whether or not there was an EM due at least to all of  the abandoned houses.

            1. What does it mean? 2. And then what?

            by alwaysquestion on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 07:07:23 PM PDT

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            •  Fair enough. However: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              alwaysquestion, millwood

              With respect to trying to work with the water department: If I were the resident of a city that provided poor service, and calling a department official or my local elected rep resulted in no or little action, and little or no relief, at some point I'd give up that approach. Of course Detroit city government had problems of its own, but dysfunctionality tends to breed more of the same and set a tone for individual citizens. I would look at the plea to the UN as a political stunt, but one designed to suggest that state and local officials have dropped the ball too many times.

              By the way, Detroit may be an especially troubled case, but it's apparent more and more US cities have begun to face  similar problems: A hollowed out core, populated increasingly by under- or unemployed residents, many with health or physical problems, which in turn leads to more crime and the further decay of infrastructure. My own city, Milwaukee, has had continuing success in many respects, but thanks to the 2008 economic meltdown is now struggling with a huge (not by Detroit's standards but its own history) backlog of vacant, foreclosed homes. And when the feds came up with a nationwide settlement with one of the larger mortgage lenders, Wisconsin state government grabbed tens of millions of dollars intended as Milwaukee's share to rehab and recover, and stuffed most of that cash into the state's general fund instead, leaving the city uncompensated. In short: Snyder-style politics. It doesn't matter that most Americans now live metropolitan areas and that our cities are now the main respository of economic opportunity. Certain forces are all for letting urban centers and urban residents rot away.

              Also, the often hidden problem of decaying infrastructure has begun producing unusually large numbers of water main breaks in my city. Past mayors and councils deferred on much vital maintenance to keep property taxes low -- and to look good at election time -- but now we're looking at double-digit rate increases for water service in a too-late effort to start catching up on pipe replacement. Should only take a century or so. The whole country faces a similar problem with bridges, roads, rails, dams and more. Who ends up paying, both out of pocket and in terms of lousy service? The little guy.

    •  It's true that there's no system in place (7+ / 0-)

      to determine who was in residence when the water bill accumulated. It also appears to be true that the industrial and commercial and business consumers who are behind with their water bills are not having their supply shut off.

      There's more to this than meets the eye, for sure. None of it good for ordinary folks residing in Detroit.

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      by peregrine kate on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 11:43:13 AM PDT

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      •  I think some of this boils down to (0+ / 0-)

        communication.  Businesses behind in payments usually do the communication necessary to keep their business going, which is to work out a payment plan.  They usually do not just sit tight and hope they keep getting water or electricity or whatever.  I don't think there is anything fishy going on there.

        This may lead to the discussion of what the citizens of the state of MI want to see run at what level.  In addition, what do people on assistance, like Welfare, get for assistance.  Does  that include housing, electric, water, gas, food, etc.?  When someone is on assistance, do we give them the money and hope the pay the water bill or do we, as a state, pay the bill?  This brings up a lot of discussion.

        1. What does it mean? 2. And then what?

        by alwaysquestion on Wed Jun 25, 2014 at 12:29:53 PM PDT

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    •  Thanks for that context (4+ / 0-)

      Most systems in this large, technologically complex society are complicated. What isn't complicated is that a civilization without dignity and compassion won't remain civilized for long. And our elected leaders and influential elites need to pay attention and not just go through the motions of caring, if they even do that.

    •  It also seems that a large number..... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      of those who get shut off suddenly find the money to pay their bill and get their water restored. It seems than in many neighborhoods you were deemed foolish for paying because no one else did and there was no downside.

      Those in difficulty should be directed to where they can receive assistance, but they should be asking and not just ignoring.

      •  Coming up with the money does not mean (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Back In Blue

        that they can afford it. They will probably stop paying another utility in panic trying to choose the lesser of two evils.

        At one time I was forced to choose between gas and electricity because electricity was more crucial to me. And I went down to weighing 85 pounds because I didn't want to become homeless.

        A million Arcosantis.

        by Villabolo on Thu Jun 26, 2014 at 12:58:37 PM PDT

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