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Detroit pensioner protesting water shutoffs
What's been going on with Detroit's created water crisis? Plenty! And the entire shade of bankruptcy seems to be deteriorating.

Stepping back to last month, on July 15 in Bankruptcy Court:

One of the objectors asked the judge to halt water shutoffs that have been taking place as the city's water department -- which is responsible for a large portion of Detroit's debt -- takes a more aggressive approach to collecting on overdue bills.

Rhodes asked a city attorney to prepare an explanation of the water shutoff process, but said he isn't sure whether he has any jurisdiction in the matter --- Mlive

Detroit's Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr, acting on behalf of Governor Snyder found Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes wasn't too impressed with the Water Shutoff Program and ordered a halt to the program for 15 days from July 21 to August 4.
“We need to time to make sure our aggressive communications efforts reach customers,” the deputy director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Darryl Latimer, told Detroit’s bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, this morning in federal court. --- Detroit Free Press
In turn the Emergency Manager passed the situation to Mayor Mike Duggan, an elected official on July 29.
Emergency Manager Order 31 grants to the Mayor authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the Board of Water Commission. The order amplifies the authority given to the Mayor to manage City operations and make appointments as outlined in Order 20. --- Tell Us Detroit
As the end date for the hold on water shutoffs came around on August 4th, an extension to August 25 was announced through the Mayor's office. Additional details regarding collecting overdue water bills was provided today, as discussed further in the article.

The shut-off program is working to collect $91.7 million in residential overdue accounts (about 52%). Adding overdue commercial accounts (about 55%) to this brings the amount over $175 million.

The Detroit Water Board approved a $5.6 million, 730 day contract with Homrich Wrecking April 24, Contract No. DWS-894, “Water Shut-Off/Turn-On Project,”according to the Board’s minutes.

“The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is initiating this project to reduce DWSD’s delinquent water accounts,” DWSD Director Sue McCormick said in a letter to the Board. “As part of the overall plan to increase DWSD’s revenue collection, the Department will increase its efforts of water shut-offs for customers with a 60-day or more past-due balance. . . This project will target approximately 70,000 residential accounts throughout the City of Detroit over a period of two (2) years.” --- Voice Of Detroit

DWSD (Detroit Water & Sewerage Department) held an information session attended mostly by activists and press on July 17 at the Rosedale Park Community Center. DWSD's Charlie Fleetham indicated the Water Affordability Program drafted by MWRO (Michigan Welfare Rights Organization) in 2006 would put the department at risk of being sued.

Maureen Taylor (from MWRO) says Fleetham and those who say an affordability plan violates state law are misinterpreting a clause that states bill payment arrangements cannot be formulated so that people with money are responsible for paying for people without money.

“(An affordability plan) is a formula crafted to allow more affordable payments for people who have less money,” she said. “Every other utility provider is able to craft a payment arrangement for people with (low incomes). We cannot treat (water) as a commodity, therefore if you can’t pay for it you can’t have it.” --- Michigan Citizen

The meeting with DWSD did little to resolve tensions, answer questions, or find solutions to concerns. There was an admission that they were ill prepared with sufficient staff to handle the need for consulting with customers.

News from today - August 7
Mayor Duggan invited community activists to attend a press conference where he rolled out a 10 point plan regarding water shut-offs from now until August 25th when the project to shut-off water resumes in full effect.

The full 10 point plan can be found on the City website or at Scribd. In brief the points are:

  1. Waive Turn-On Fees and Late Payment Penalties.
  2. Cut red tape.
  3. Extend hours at DWSD Customer Care Centers.
  4. Increase staffing at the DWSD Call Center and extend hours.
  5. Cobo Water Fair August 23rd.
  6. Improve notification for customers in danger of shut-off. 
  7. Implement an Affordable Payment Plan. 
  8. Provide financial assistance for low-income Detroit customers.
  9. Build Neighborhood Partnerships.
  10. Provide a clear way to give. - This points to the Detroit Water Fund, handled through United Way of SE Michigan.

When loading the Detroit Water Fund site it seemed to take a long time to load. The statement on the page saying "While many DWSD customers have the financial ability to make their monthly water payments..." is a slap in the face to those whom have had their water off for months or have acquired long overdue water bills that floated over from previous residents.

DWSD's billing practices need to be more fully explained. If a person moves away that was owing a couple thousand dollars on water, that bill comes to the new resident. This also applies to empty houses acquired for renovation, and a host of additional situations. Many empty houses have water running in the basement... go look at the Detroit Delivers map to see 179 reported leaks since July 17 when the application was announced. If more people knew about the mobile app and used it, imagine how much higher the reported locations would be. Find out more about the app on a prior entry.

A response from Michigan Welfare Rights Organization to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's 10 point plan to address water shut-offs, which he intends to continue in a modified manner. The letter calls out the interests of privatizing the water and requests a six-month trial of the Water Affordability Program MWRO proposed in 2006, and TURN THE WATER ON, especially for those who have remained without access due to hardship. --- MWRO letter on Scribd

Community activists continue to call foul of the improvement to services Mayor Duggan made in campaign promises. One of these promises was a request for six months to have the problems with the buses fixed. Thus far increased police coverage of bus routes to manage irate riders, plus the installation of cameras to watch what is going on inside the bus. Neither of these addresses the cause of irate riders - that being the buses running on time and reliably.

Mayor Duggan still is disconnected with his responsibility to create work opportunities in the neighborhoods. People will continue to have problems paying their bills when lacking these city services:
  • Mass transit that is RELIABLE - ON-TIME and doesn't BREAK-DOWN. If you want to know why the FTA has hesitated on granting M1 Rail $12.2 million - and THIS is the reason why. The RTA has not been positioned to take care of transportation needs of the people living throughout Detroit. Buses must enable everyone access to jobs.
  • Public lighting must be on throughout the neighborhoods of Detroit - no more darkened streets! It is unacceptable for major roads like Grand River and Gratiot to be in darkness. Streets such as Grand Blvd, Outer Drive and each Mile road need to have lighting. Anywhere a bus runs should have public lights working.
  • No more outsourcing and NO PRIVATIZATION - what Detroit has experienced under the Emergency Manager and his created water crisis are exactly what leads to privatization. And we know that companies are NOT listening to the public. They execute the orders and contract as written. PUBLIC SERVICES need FULL FUNDING!
  • Resident employment program must be established and enforced. No more tax abatement with a promise to do good. Corporate good is evident in the outlying neighborhoods of Detroit - this is what corporate good looks like - NO SERVICE other than what they want.
  • Work program for graduating high school seniors that ensures they are able to gain city service employment upon graduation. No more graduates without paying jobs! This city needs to employ young workers raised from within.
    --- Activist Stephen Boyle's blog
BACK TO THE BANKRUPTCY
August 6 - Municipal bankruptcy proceedings aren't going so well for the Emergency Manager. The news reports "Judge sees holes in Detroit's plan to exit bankruptcy, revitalize itself". So it seems Governor Snyder's viceroy is having a tough time at being a turnaround manager, which is what he championed with Chrysler. But corporations and municipalities are different things.
Kopacz’s 226-page report deemed the city’s strategy to exit bankruptcy feasible — a key legal criteria for the plan to be approved — but also raised significant questions about a number of the city’s assumptions about its financial future.

Rhodes listed more than a dozen such concerns on a broad range of topics in Detroit’s proposal for how it would eliminate $7 billion in debt and operate after it emerges from the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy. --- Detroit Free Press

The proceedings Wednesday made clear that Rhodes is zeroing in on issues central to whether Detroit in the long run meets the goals emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s team have established in the bankruptcy plan of adjustment.

Among the other concerns Rhodes raised based on the Kopacz report:

  • Whether Detroit’s bankruptcy plan assumes the city will receive a level of state revenue sharing that isn’t guaranteed by the state, especially given long-term declines in such funding for Detroit and other cities.
  • Why city budgets in the plan of adjustment leave only 1% contingency (money set aside in case revenues come in lower than expected) when the bankruptcy grand bargain legislation the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder approved — giving $195 million from the state to the deal to reduce Detroit pension cuts and prevent asset sales at the Detroit Institute of Arts — requires a 5% contingency.
  • Why, when Detroit admits its bookkeeping is deficient, the plan budgets no money for its financial consultant, Ernst & Young, to continue its financial analysis work for the city.
  • Why the plan of adjustment says little about the operations of the state financial oversight commission that will have strong authority over Detroit’s fiscal affairs. Rhodes said he was concerned about the funding and staffing the commission will need but said the question may best be directed at state officials.
    --- Detroit Free Press
The trial, in which Rhodes will seek to determine whether the city's debt adjustment plan is fair, legal and feasible, begins Aug. 14.

"Your input is extremely important in this process," Rhodes told the crowd of objectors Tuesday (July 15). --- Mlive

The time has passed for the Emergency Manager or the Mayor to appear they have things under control. Residents, pensioners, and activists are screaming loudly that we know this city has been plundered by the privileged and continues to be at this time. As a number of speakers at rallies have said "I DON'T LIVE IN A BANKRUPT CITY, WE HAVE A BANKRUPT GOVERNMENT". Sadly about 5% of Detroit voters came to the polls and voted on August 5th primary election. Its time for the city to mobilize voter registration and organized resistance.

In the research for this story I saw Municipal Water Bonds were ordered by the Emergency Manager on January 30 - Order 22. There was a 45 day window for 15,000 signatures to be collected that would have moved the request to a vote of the people. We must increase our vigilance and train new eyes on how to watch, discover, and report into our community.

Originally posted to Fuzzytek on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 02:16 AM PDT.

Also republished by Motor City Kossacks, Michigan, My Michigan, Hunger in America, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for this report n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    2thanks, onionjim, gmats

    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

    by cfk on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 02:38:46 AM PDT

  •  What do you do when there is only a 5% (12+ / 0-)

    turnout for an election? Especially in the middle of these crisis.
    If only 5% turnout to vote and the voter rolls are purged, then something endemic is the problem and it should be corrected.
    It's feasible these, "Emergency Managers", showed how thin the layer of Democracy is. Something goes bad, your elected officials are thrown out the door and a dictator replaces an entire city government. So why vote? It doesn't mean anything in the long run while holding the shit end of the stick.
    What the hell is this about inheriting a water bill? I have never heard of anything close to this. What about title insurance? When a property is purchased and you get title insurance, it should show how much is owed via water and if it doesn't, the insurance company should pay the debt.
    If the law encompasses renters, who have no idea if money is owed and no equity in the property, then a lien should be filed against the sale of the property and the renter be paid back with interest if the property sells..
    In other cities, the collection of debts like this are packaged and sold off much like a derivative or bond and the city doesn't pay for collections. This is truly disgusting; as many of these collectors immediately attach legal fees to the debt, so if you owed the city $200.00 and they sell off your debt, now you owe $2000.00.
    This 'recession' has shown how nasty government can be and how easily Democracy can be set aside and Tyranny put in its place.

    "If you tell the truth, you won't have to remember anything", Mark Twain

    by Cruzankenny on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 05:07:14 AM PDT

    •  And Rick Snyder said.... (15+ / 0-)

      His Emergency Manager Plan was the BEST PLAN EVER to solve all issues in minority populated cities across Michigan.

      In REALITY, the Emergency Manager concept was ALL about taking public assets to sell for privatized corporate bidders. EVERY PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT that has a Emergency Manager is STILL FAILING.

      Every City that has an Emergency Manager is STILL facing fiscal issues. Nothing has been fixed.

      Rick Snyder does not deserve to be Governor of Michigan and if folks will get out to the polls, he won't be again January 1, 2015.

      Check out Independent Underground News & Talk at http://www.rojsnews.com and/or Michigan's Top Politico Podcast, Independent Underground Radio LIVE at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rojsradio.

      by IUNewsTalk on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 06:34:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lincoln Park - Allen Park - Michigan (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ladybug53, DuzT, Notreadytobenice

        I liven in Lincoln Park Michigan and we are under an EM too.  So is the city of, Allen Park, that is right next to me.  There are others in the state too.  Lincoln Park and Allen Park are diverse cities.  When you cut the money in DC so that less flows to the states then the counties, townships, villages and cities all get less too.  That is what is going on here in Michigan and the rest of the country.

        •  Please spare me the Allen Park example (0+ / 0-)

          The city of Allen Park was scammed by a Hollywood syndicate. The city of 28,000 sold $31 million of bonds about three years ago for the Unity Studios venture, the brainchild of California film executive Jimmy Lifton. Instead of his Unity Studios, the city is stuck with partially leased buildings that aren’t meeting costs, and $2.6 million in annual bond payments from a $16 million general budget. He was going to relocate Hollywood to Allen Park, a dpwmriver suburb next to Dearborn. This bankruptcy could have been avoided with competent city managers.  Allen Park put itself in the shitter. I don't like Snyder or the EM law, but the Allen park case is a self inflicted wound.

          •  You don't thinks the Republican legislature's r... (0+ / 0-)

            You don't thinks the Republican legislature's reversal of the film industry tax incentives might have contributed to Allen Park's situation? You might want to look a little deeper into the situation

      •  You are spot on. The EMF screams fascist. nt (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DuzT

        Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

        by k9disc on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 02:42:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  privatization and selling off assets at pennies on (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        DuzT, dfarrah

        the dollar was the grand plan all along.    I have no idea what in the hell is the matter with Michigan.   Everything sucks, yet few vote, and the stupid people of MI just voted yes on another tax cut for business.   No money for schools, cities, roads, or anything else of benefit to the people, and they approve another tax cut for business.

        Got to move the hell out of this state.  

        I will not vote for Hillary..... #38067

        by dkmich on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 04:10:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Has nothing to do with Water Bills (0+ / 0-)

      The emergency manager plan,along with most of the insane things that have happened in the last 20 years, is another part of the plan to purchase the country. As long as people think voting or polls or calls and letters matter they don't get up and start marching. We have 10,000 people march and they face 1000 military style troops. We NEED 300,000 day after day after day. But we won't get to that until another 15-20 years of this insanity. It took a LONG time to decide to overthrow the King. It will take as long again.

  •  Fine piece of reporting, thanks. (7+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onionjim, gmats, Lily O Lady, bumbi, dkmich, DuzT, kurt

    Your diligence speaks well for the citizen activist community in Detroit. (Your efforts didn't arise in a vacuum :)

    I'm impressed by the official reprieve in the water shut-off for delinquent bills. Hey, it's a start. You KNOW the shut-offs have only been stayed, that the officials have lost total confidence in their plan to screw poor people, ONLY because of all the attention, nationally, on this scandal. You KNOW that attention hasn't resulted because commercial media has magically started doing its job :) 'Nuff said.

    Again, great work.  

    Supple and turbulent, a ring of men/ Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn...

    by karmsy on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 06:36:12 AM PDT

  •  Thank your for this update! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onionjim, gmats, bumbi, ShoshannaD, DuzT

    A lot of us who were in Detroit remember the issues and of course we stay interested in what we can do to help.  It's good to know that there is a movement there to do something about these problems and writers who keep us in the loop!

    Gandhi's Seven Sins: Wealth without work; Pleasure without conscience; Knowledge without character; Commerce without morality; Science without humanity; Worship without sacrifice; Politics without principle
    >Follow @tmservo433

    by Chris Reeves on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 10:02:13 AM PDT

    •  Downtown (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bumbi, howabout, DuzT

      As many of you know who went to Net Roots Nation, Downtown Detroit is really rocking.  If were young and single I'd be living Downtown.  I work Downtown and when you step outside it's one bit party with bands, food trucks, games etc.  

      •  "New Detroit" is not affected (0+ / 0-)

        The love affair with downtown is in full bloom. That's why so many large corporate delinquent water bills remain outstanding.

        There's more than segregation... the privileged area of downtown siphons off assistance Detroit receives and prevents it from being spread throughout the city. If you'd like to know why there is resentment by long-term Detroiters to New Detroiters this is what you need to get a grip on.

        • M1 Rail - robbed the city by pulling $25 million in FTA funding and additional state funding for a private-public system that services 10% of the city.
        • Water shutoffs are more prevalent in the outlying neighborhoods because many can't get to work reliably.
        • Too many corporate tax abatements have left the city with little commercial tax revenue. It has starved off the public services (by design). Some corporate "patrons" enlist private bus services and bicycle service for their employees only. This does nothing beneficial for the city at large. We have seen our public parks being turned over to private-public management. This unfortunately places private security forces in public parks as a growing police-state evolves.

        Clearly "Opportunity Detroit" is for outsiders coming in, not many long-term Detroiters are gleefully accepted as contributors. No - rather speculative investing goes through the Quicken Loans / Bedrock process trumpeted by the Picket Report letting New Detroiters know what neighborhoods are adequate for their needs. Dan Gilbert is far from the "savior" of Detroit that far too many mainstream media sources paint him to be.

        Stephen Boyle 2014 Green Party candidate US Congress MI-14

        by Fuzzytek on Sun Aug 10, 2014 at 03:33:07 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Question: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bumbi

    I had read that the water rates in Detroit were so high that people literally couldn't afford it. Is this still the case, or have the rates been lowered?

    If there's no jobs, how can they pay these big bills?

    A true craftsman will meticulously construct the apparatus of his own demise.

    by onionjim on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 10:03:25 AM PDT

  •  I notice (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bumbi, k9disc, DuzT, ItsaMathJoke

    a glaring omission in the "plan" of what to do about businesses that owe millions in water fees. And the businesses that owe for taxes... Looks like they want to ignore all of that and put it on the backs of the common man.

    Does anyone recall the original Robocop? I think that plot line about a city that deteriorated and people kicked out of their houses to make room for "progress", all in the name of letting big businesses have their way, fits Detroit to a T.

    "Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government" T. Jefferson

    by azureblue on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 11:01:06 AM PDT

    •  I noticed this too (0+ / 0-)

      There seems to be a load of "instructions" and "penalties" talk about poor people, but the hefty bills owed by Cobo Hall and the sports stadium and the golf courses are just swept under the rug. Their bills are many many times what those "delinquent" residential customers owe.

      When are the similarly-sized reams of instructions and threats and penalties for the deadbeat corporate customers going to be published?

      Meanwhile, we (yes, WE) can donate payment of somebody's water bill in Detroit, direct to the water company. I did, and I hope you will too.

      I'll go look up the website.

      Reality has a well-known liberal bias -- Stephen Colbert

      by ItsaMathJoke on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 09:38:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent post reporting facts not emotion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bumbi, DuzT

    The water crisis is far from over, but turning it over to the elected mayor rather than leaving it with the emergency manager is a step in the right direction.

    The heart of the crisis is unchanged, though. The problem is the system has to collect money wherever it can because it is in need of massive repairs to keep operating. This is going to be true whether or not the city is in bankruptcy.

    Several things have to happen.

    1. The city needs to identify and cut off water to all unoccupied buildings.

    2. The system needs to be separated from the city's bankruptcy so that it can float bonds to pay for the repairs needed.

    3. The system needs to improve its billing process to make sure nobody builds up an unpayable debt because they don't know they owe.

    4. Residents who legitimately can't afford to pay a water bill need assistance and an amnesty for large back bills.

    5. Residents and landlords who can pay but haven't because the system made it easy to get away with it need to be compelled to pay.

    Point two could have been achieved before the bankruptcy with a regional water authority. Tensions between the city and suburbs made that impossible. It's going to be difficult to do now, because of the bankruptcy. I would propose a regional coalition to buy the system now and take it out of the bankruptcy case. Not to privatize it, but to operate it as a public regional authority. That's going to be expensive, but any solution at this point is going to be expensive.

    Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

    by elsaf on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 11:09:24 AM PDT

  •  alternative to contingency percentages (0+ / 0-)

    I really think what's needed is a federal-level independent establishment that cities, counties, and states could have the option of paying into for situations like this -- call it the "Municipal Services Guarantee Corporation" or something.

  •  Idea! - Shut off or collect the fees from (0+ / 0-)

    CORPORATE debtors FIRST. and no residential shut offs until the corporate sector is completely current.

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