Tag Archive: Detroit

Jun 26 2014

Water, Water Everywhere But Not A Drop to Drink for Detroit’s Poor

Also posted at Docudharma and Humanitarian Left

Most Americans take water for granted. We get up in the morning shower, brush teeth, flush the toilet, run water to drink, clean and on and on. What would you do if you couldn’t do those things? How would it effect you daily life? You ability to work? Support yourself and your family? How would it effect you health?

Those questions are all being faces right now by hundreds of thousands men, women and children, not in some third world country, but Detroit, Michigan.

In March, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is resuming efforts to shut off water service to thousands of delinquent customers.

Crews will be targeting those who have received a shutoff notice and whose bills are more than two months late. Customers with late bills can avoid a shutoff by entering into a payment plan. Typically, it takes a payment of 30% to 50% of the amount owed to start such a plan. [..]

There are 323,900 DWSD accounts in Detroit. Of those, 150,806 are delinquent. Some of those delinquencies are low-income customers who are struggling to keep their utilities on, said some who work in providing assistance to those in need.

But agencies aiding the mostly low income families currently without water are short on cash

“The need is huge,” said Mia Cupp, director of development and communications for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency. “There are families that have gone months and months without water.”

The group is among a handful of local agencies that provide assistance to those who need help with their water bills. The Water Access Volunteer Effort, a Detroit-based nonprofit, is another. [..]

The organization has very limited resources. Cupp said the group raised about $148,000 during a charity walk; that money could go to helping people pay water bills. [..]

Mayor Mike Duggan’s spokesman John Roach referred to the Water and Sewerage Department questions about how the city handles community outreach to inform residents about programs to help with water bills. Detroit’s Human Services Department used to perform outreach but no longer does, Latimer said. So the water department is finalizing an agreement with The Heat And Warmth Fund, or THAW, to do so, he said. THAW provides low-income Michigan residents with emergency energy assistance.

Jill Brunett, vice president for marketing and communication for THAW, confirmed that the group is in talks with the water department. She said the extreme weather this winter increased heating bills, putting a strain on finances.

Al Jazeera reported that the average Detroit water bill is nearly double the national average of $40 per month (pdf). Tho add insult to injury, DWSD said it would again raise rates, this time by 8.7 percent.

A coalition of groups including the Detroit People’s Water Board, Food and Water Watch, Blue Planet Project and Michigan Welfare Rights Organization have appealed to the United Nations for assistance (pdf)

“We are asking the UN special rapporteur to make clear to the U.S. government that it has violated the human right to water,” said Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and a key member of the coalition that put the report together. In addition to creating international pressure to stop the Detroit shutoffs, Barlow said, the UN’s intervention could lead to formal consequences for the United States. “If the US government does not respond appropriately this will also impact their Universal Periodic Review,” she said, “when they stand before the Human Rights Council to have their [human rights] record evaluated.”

Two of those activists, Maureen Taylor, state chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Meera Karunananthan, international water campaigner for the Blue Planet Project, spoke with Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman about Detroit’s water crisis.



Trancript can be read here

The US may be the wealthiest country in the world but it is rapidly turning it’s cities into third world slums, endangering thousands of lives.

Jul 26 2013

Detroit a Capitalist Failure

Detroit’s decline is a distinctively capitalist failure

by Richard Wolff, The Guardian

The auto industry Big Three were loyal only to shareholders, not the people of Detroit. The city was gutted by that social choice

Capitalism as a system ought to be judged by its failures as well as its successes.

The automobile-driven economic growth of the 1950s and 1960s made Detroit a globally recognized symbol of successful capitalist renewal after the great depression and the war (1929-1945). High-wage auto industry jobs with real security and exemplary benefits were said to prove capitalism’s ability to generate and sustain a large “middle class”, one that could include African Americans, too. Auto-industry jobs became inspirations and models for what workers across America might seek and acquire – those middle-class components of a modern “American Dream”.

True, quality jobs in Detroit were forced from the automobile capitalists by long and hard union struggles, especially across the 1930s. Once defeated in those struggles, auto capitalists quickly arranged to rewrite the history so that good wages and working conditions became something they “gave” to their workers. In any case, Detroit became a vibrant, world-class city in the 1950s and 1960s; its distinctive culture and sound shaped the world’s music much as its cars shaped the world’s industries.

Over the past 40 years, capitalism turned that success into the abject failure culminating now in the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history.

Richard Wolff: Detroit a “Spectacular Failure” of System that Redistributes Pay from Bottom to Top

Kicking off a series of speeches about the economy, President Obama told a crowd in Illinois on Wednesday that reversing growing inequality and rejuvenating the middle class “has to be Washington’s highest priority.” During his remarks, Obama failed to mention the bankruptcy filing by Detroit, where thousands of public workers are now fighting to protect their pensions and medical benefits as the city threatens massive cuts to overcome an estimated $18 billion in debt. Detroit’s bankruptcy “is an example of a failed economic system,” says economist Richard Wolff, professor emeritus of economics at University of Massachusetts



Transcript can be read here.

Don’t buy the right-wing myth about Detroit

by David Sirota, Salon

Conservatives want you to think high taxes drove people away. The real truth is much worse for their radical agenda

In the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may be wondering: How could anyone be surprised that a city so tied to manufacturing faces crippling problems in an era that has seen such an intense public policy assault on domestic American manufacturing? You may also be wondering: How could Michigan officials possibly talk about cutting the average $19,000-a-year pension benefit for municipal workers while reaffirming their pledge of $283 million in taxpayer money to a professional hockey stadium?

These are fair questions – and the answers to them can be found in the political mythology that distorts America’s economic policymaking.

As mythology goes, the specific story being crafted about Detroit’s bankruptcy is truly biblical – more specifically, just like the fact-free mythology around the Greek financial collapse, it is copied right from the chapter in the conservative movement’s bible about how to distort crises for maximum political effect.

 

Jun 16 2013

A-C Meetup: From Detroit to Honduras and Back: Capitalists Immigrate To Usurp Rights by Justina

From This in Michigan…

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To This in Honduras….

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In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder has appointed an “emergency manager” to  take over the city of Detroit,  with the powers to over-ride the votes of local citizens and the decisions and contracts made by their locally elected mayor and city council. The manager has the power to abrogate previously signed union contracts with city workers and sell city assets to pay off the city’s creditors.  The new emergency manager has ordered the appraisal of the Detroit Art Institute’s world class art collection with a view to its sale.  

In Honduras, its post-coup president and legislature has signed a law allowing the government to sell or lease vast tracks of lands in habited by Honduran’s indigenous tribes, to private owners to establish “charter cities”, feudal-like city states which are to establish their own laws and form of government, free of pre-existing state laws and regulations.  

As a part of Honduras’s “public-private partnership”, law, capitalist business have been invited to create new business cities in the wilderness, profit paradises to be totally controlled by the businesses which own them. Thus the ese corporate vandals are pillaging the world, its land, art and culture by liquidating previously sovereign states in their favor.

Honduras will now allow consortia of private corporations to set up their own city-states, free of virtually all pre-existing law and regulation by the country’s government.  The “public”  component of this “public-private partnership”, the putatively democratically elected Honduran government (post the 2009 Zelaya-coup) have voted to sell (or long term lease) large tracks of their country to private corporations and their agents.  Hondurans living in these feudal city-states will have no democratic control of their environment.  

The rules will be set by private charters, written by the corporate agents who shall decide who shall live in their states and who shall be excluded and where they  will live and work if they allowed in.  (Never mind that the likely territories involved long have belonged to indigenous tribes, who have not been consulted in this massive give-away of their land, but actively oppose it.)

It’s really not much different in Michigan.