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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!

The bombs in Viet Nam explode at home: they destroy the hope s and possibilities for a decent America.
MLK Jr., The Casualties of the War in Vietnam, February 1967

  How did the situation in Flint deteriorate? The answer lies with the State of Michigan's infamous "Emergency Manager Law."  On the day of the mayoral election in 2011, Governor Snyder announced that the City would be placed under state control for the second time in less than a decade.  The Emergency Manager wasted no time: Within two weeks, the EM had terminated mayoral appointments, eliminated the salaries of elected officials and eliminated the office of the ombudsman. The ombudsman office had been a thorn in the side of corrupt local government for decades, preserved by the people of Flint in the face of multiple attempts to eliminate it or dilute its power.  

 The arrogance of emergency managers is limitless.  Even after the voters suspended the new law and voted it down, Flint's emergency manager used his powers to stop city council from passing a comprehensive rental housing inspection ordinance, the kind of ordinance that might have saved the residents of Glen Acre from water shutoffs and EM-ordered eviction!  Speaking at the rally, Flint's former ombudsman revealed how the office regularly investigated water rate and water shutoff abuses on behalf of residents.  But with the ombudsman out of the way and a defiant Snyder Syndicate ignoring the will of the people, the hostile takeover of Flint continues without interruption.  

  The march was organized by council member Wantwaz Davis, one of the few elected officials willing to speak out against emergency manager rule.  Eric Mays, another council member who has been ordered by the EM to ignore the concerns of his constituents and re-direct them to an unelected city clerk, was also the target of a city-sponsored shakedown prosecution that cost the taxpayers over twelve thousand dollars and resulted in an acquittal on all but the least serious charge of impaired driving, which is subject to an appeal.  This echoes similar prosecutions in Benton Harbor, a city that is essentially controlled by the Whirlpool Corporation and, under Snyder, was for a time directed by a 28 year old Emergency Manager whose only prior experience in municipal governance was serving as the social media coordinator and advisor for the disgraced Detroit city council member Charles Pugh and an advisor to his replacement.  Jenkins was ultimately replaced earlier this year by a council member skeptical of the EM law and opposed to the Detroit takeover. In Benton Harbor, a Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizer, Rev. Edward Pinkney, was convicted on alleged vote-fraud charges by an all-white jury in the extremely conservative Berrien County, and sentenced to prison after he published an article critical of the proceedings, a decision reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeals once the ACLU intervened:

In the newspaper article in question, Rev. Pinkney quoted a passage from the Bible saying that God would “curse” the judge unless he “hearkened unto the voice of the Lord thy God to observe and to do all that is right.” The minister also expressed his view that the judge was racist, dumb and corrupt.

The ACLU wrote in its Dec. 11 statement that it “argued in its motion for bond pending appeal that the statements Rev. Pinkney made in his newspaper editorial, while offensive to many, are clearly protected speech under the First Amendment. The ACLU further urged the Court of Appeals to release Rev. Pinkney on bond while it considers the appeal of his sentence.”

In the order issued on Dec. 10, the Michigan Court of Appeals not only granted the ACLU motion but also is set to decide on the merits of Rev. Pinkney’s appeal in 2009. A bond hearing was set for Dec. 18 in Berrien County with Judge Wiley presiding.

Benton Harbor was the subject of a thorough New York Times Magazine report in late 2011, which detailed the way in which the Whirlpool Corporation was using heavily capitalized "nonprofit" corporations to capture public land in order to build golf courses at public expense.  In a city where 90 percent of the residents are black and where per capita income of its residents is roughly $10,000, Whirlpool's redirection of state and federal grant money, and the usurpation of local democracy by emergency managers, was used to seize public assets and impose corporate control in one of the most naked hostile takeovers in the state. Today, Reverend Pinkney is again charged with questionable "voter fraud" charges related to a recall campaign aimed at a Whirlpool-friendly mayor who serves under the direction of "Transition Advisory Board" that is controlled by former Whirlpool management.  

  These unpopular measures have been rejected by the voters and as a recent NY Times opinion piece notes, they are simply not possible where there is meaningful electoral oversight of local government. We must demand more.  

 Democracy is a human right.  Water is a human right.  Stand up for democracy. From Flint to Detroit to Gaza, in solidarity we must demand: Turn the water back on, and restore democratic control.  


Originally posted to Detroit Denizen on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 05:04 PM PDT.

Also republished by Hunger in America.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Updates and Action Items (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DoReMI, blueoasis

    In Detroit, activists are celebrating a partial victory as Mayor Duggan, given some control over the water department when the issue became too hot for the EM, announced a moratorium plan.  Local corporatized media has also covered today's Flint protests  with minimal distortion, and activists with the Flint-based Democracy Defense League have asked residents to come forward with their own shutoff and hardship testimony, in hopes of putting pressure on the Emergency Manager and elected officials.  

     Meanwhile, the Emergency Manager hates being questioned, and has refused to call a city council meeting to debate the recommendations, presumably concerned that the local officials and residents, tired of EM misrule, will try to use a provision of PA 436 to push him out before he tries to force through the recommendations of the secretive and controversial "Blue Ribbon Committee on Governance."  The report and recommendations came under fire, particularly after local activists revealed that prominent businessmen were apparently invited to sit in on committee discussions and deliberations while ordinary citizens were forbidden from attending.    

    •  DD - what does it mean? (0+ / 0-)

      Water is as human right?  Does everyone get water for free? Who pays to source,  purify and distribute it?

      "let's talk about that" uid 92953

      by VClib on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 06:59:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You die without water (0+ / 0-)

        Because you die without water that means it is a basic necessity. So there is that. Water is also held in public trust and is part of the Commons. You also have the right to an attorney if you are charged with a crime even if you don't have the ability to pay. You have the right to education at public expense even if you do not have the ability to pay. This is no different. And all rights are worthless without public support to enforce them.

        •  I don't think there is any city in the US (0+ / 0-)

          where water is delivered through pipes into your home for free. In many communities there is a place where you can go to obtain water, but you have to transport it to your home.

          Free water might have been an option at some point, but after paying for expensive infrastructure with bonds it really isn''t a viable option today.

          "let's talk about that" uid 92953

          by VClib on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 05:37:48 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Who said free? (0+ / 0-)

            No right is free.  But all rights are collective to varying degrees.  We talk about different things; you see "free water" in right to water, but do you see that with every right? Because the water is secured by collective action.  I give you an example of counsel and education and you ignore it.

            •  DD - Who pays? (0+ / 0-)

              We have different schemes for paying for counsel (although only for criminal cases) and schools. Who would pay for the water and who determines how much water each resident receives?

              "let's talk about that" uid 92953

              by VClib on Sat Aug 09, 2014 at 05:45:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  I've heard Kevin Orr and Mayor Dugan are (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Detroit Denizen

      either college or law school acquaintances.   How much of this concession by Kevin Orr to Dugan is a staged kabucki show for outside consumption..    

  •  The prosecution of Rev. Edward Pinkney (0+ / 0-)

    If there were ever political prisoners in Michigan and politically-related prosecutions then the Rev. Edward Pinkney matter is certainly an example.

    However, if my memory is correct, that politically-based prosecution was already well underway during the Granholm Administration....another reason that President Obama should NOT put Governor Granholm on the U.S. Supreme Court.

    •  In fairness, her real error was not the prosecu... (0+ / 0-)

      In fairness, her real error was not the prosecution, which was handled at county level, but the failure to pardon and appointment of the EM in the first place. Still, her failures in managing the municipal financial crisis are self-evident

  •  and here in the desert, (0+ / 0-)

    the Chihuahuan Desert in west Texas, where our tiny Marathon Basin aquifer is recharged at 1/8 inch per year, and we get only 12 inches a year, fracking companies are already buying land to drill water wells on.
    This is going to become a world wide crisis, and no Americans are immune.

    I buy and sell well trained riding mules and American Mammoth Jack Stock.

    by old mule on Fri Aug 08, 2014 at 08:42:59 PM PDT

  •  America can drop water to refugees in Iraq (0+ / 0-)

    Only help with dropping bombs in Palestine,Gaza and the West Bank should get their own statehood ,no way can two pieces of land be united ,they tried this in India ,by having   Pakistan and  East Pakistan separate from India,it did not work and East Pakistan became Bangladesh

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