Jul 052014
 

By David Sole, July 4, 2014

Detroit’s Freedom Friday fights for water. WW photo: Abayomi Azikiwe

Detroit’s Freedom Friday fights for water.

The shutoff of water to thousands of Detroit homes has become national and international news. An appeal to the United Nations by activists about the inhuman, profit-driven shutoffs has resulted in condemnation of these actions by U.N. officials involved in water and sanitation issues.

“Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights,” said the experts. (U.N. News Centre, June 25)

“Disconnections due to non-payment are only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying. In other words, when there is genuine inability to pay, human rights simply forbids disconnections,” explained Catarina de Albuquerque, the first U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation. She was appointed by the Human Rights Council in 2008. Continue reading »

Jul 042014
 

But cutting water to homes risks a public health crisis.

Instead, the water department should more aggressively target delinquent commercial customers who carry a large share of the unpaid bills. It should enact a comprehensive plan to fix leaking pipes; flooded streets are common here, and water customers — whether the state or ordinary residents — must pay for sewerage, not just running water, and often are billed erroneously for these leaks.

The department must also ensure that water is shut off to abandoned buildings, and eliminate errors in address transfers.

By Anna Clark, New York Times, July 3, 2014Going Without Water in Detroit

DETROIT — A FAMILY of five with no water for two weeks who were embarrassed to ask friends if they could bathe at their house. A woman excited about purchasing a home who learned she would be held responsible for the previous owner’s delinquent water bill: all $8,000 of it. A 90-year-old woman with bedsores and no water available to clean them.

These are the stories that keep Mia Cupp up at night.

Ms. Cupp is the director of development and communication for the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, a nonprofit contracted by the state of Michigan to work as a human-services agency for Detroit. In August 2013, with a $1 million allocation, Wayne Metro became the only program to assist residents with water bills. Ms. Cupp quickly learned that this was “by far the greatest need.”

In January alone, Wayne Metro received 10,000 calls for water assistance, many of them referred directly by the Detroit Department of Water and Sewerage. It supported 904 water customers over 10 months before exhausting its funding in June. Ms. Cupp said Wayne Metro still gets hundreds of calls a day from residents. But it has no way to help them, and nowhere to refer them. Continue reading »

Jul 042014
 

Illinois pensions, like Michigan’s, are constitutionally protected.

Carla K. Johnson,  Associated Press, July 3, 2014

CHICAGO • The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday sided with retired state employees who argue that health insurance coverage is a constitutionally-protected retirement benefit, a ruling that could portend trouble for landmark legislation aimed at fixing the worst funded state pension system in the nation.

The court’s 6-to-1 ruling reverses a lower court decision that effectively allowed the state government to require retirees to pay for a portion of their own health care. The justices sent the case back to the lower court, where retirees can proceed with their challenge.

The ruling centered on the strength of the constitutional protection for state worker benefits, such as health care and pensions. It was quickly parsed for the signals it sends on an even bigger case: a challenge to the state’s sweeping pension overhaul aimed at fixing a nearly $100 billion unfunded pension liability. Unions and retirees are suing over the broader overhaul plan that also reduces some benefits to retirees. Continue reading »

 July 4, 2014  Posted by at 12:15 am Uncategorized Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jul 032014
 

Dear Friends:

Yesterday in my neighborhood, I saw a house with at least six kids on the porch with their water shut off. Then I watched a pregnant woman with a toddler plead with the man doing the shut-offs to not shut off her water for her $400 bill.

It is inhumane to shut off people’s water and a threat to the health of the region. There are other ways to get the bills paid. There should be assistance for those who do not have the money to pay. I have also heard the assistance for water bills is drying up because of the high number of shut-offs across the city.

The Emergency Manager appointed by Gov. Snyder wants to clear up the balance sheet of the Detroit Water Department to prepare it for a sale the majority of people in southeastern Michigan do not want. We all know that would increase our water bills significantly. Regardless, he continues shutting off the water of thousands of occupied homes in Detroit, including those with children and seniors.

The Detroit Water Department is worth billions of dollars and serves 40 percent of Michigan. It is on the Great Lakes, a rare source of fresh water on earth. Privatization of our Water Department will result in increased water rates for all of us, robbing us of community and individual wealth for generations to come.

In this bankruptcy, the city could go after the banks for $537 million in swap payments to Chase and others on money that was supposed to go to fixing our water infrastructure. They could go after the corporations that have not paid their water bills. They could stop the water running in the empty houses owned by banks, the city itself and the county. They aren’t.

While bankers and corporate heads are golfing on well-watered courses and swimming in private pools filled to the brim, more and more children in Detroit have no water to drink and are living in unhealthy conditions.

Jean Vortkamp
Detroit activist

Jul 012014
 

BlackAgendaRadio_AlbumArt_113The water cut-offs that could soon affect 30,000 Detroit households are “an effort on the part of the Emergency Financial Manager to intimidate people, to drive even more people out of the city – but, moreover, it is aimed at privatizing and breaking up the Detroit Water and Sewage Department,” said Abayomi Azikiwe, an organizer for the Moratorium Now Coalition and editor of the Pan African News Wire. A United Nations panel of experts called the shut-offs “an affront to human rights.”

Black Agenda Radio on the Progressive Radio Network, with Glen Ford and Nellie Bailey – Week of 6/30/14

Jul 012014
 

Redactie Radio Centraal logo

Click on the image above to hear Moratorium NOW organizer Abayomi Azikiwe on Belgian radio, Redactie Radio Centraal, or click here.

Detroit: straks honderdduizenden zonder water

140628_detroitVerschillende organisaties en burgerinitiatieven in Detroit ageren momenteel heftig tegen een minstens even heftige evolutie: zo’n 300.000 gezinnen worden, aan het tempo van een paar duizend per week, droogweg van de waterleiding afgesloten. Kunt u zich voorstellen: niks meer uit de keuken- of badkamerkraan, de wc niet kunnen doorspoelen? De beslissing om iedereen die meer dan $ 150 schuld had geen afbetalingsschema meer toe te staan, maar zonder voorafgaande verwittiging af te sluiten, werd niet genomen door de Detroit Water and Sewage Department zelf, maar door de emergency manager die de staat Michigan in maart vorig jaar aan de stad Detroit oplegde. Diezelfde man verklaarde om te beginnen de hele stad prompt failliet, en trekt vol de kaart van de privatisering van publieke diensten. Het zijn dan ook geen stadswerknemers die de afsluitingen ter plekke komen uitvoeren, maar lui van privéfirma’s. De prijs van het water is sinds de start van de financiële crisis al meer dan verdubbeld, doordat de DWSD hierbij veel geld verloor. Mogelijk had ook de gigantische leegloop, waarbij dezelfde infrastructuur wel onderhouden moet blijven, er iets mee te maken. Detroit kent verder een zeer hoge werkloosheid en verlagende lonen, dus ook veel mensen met onbetaalde rekeningen. Op VN-niveau werd de situatie in Detroit al als een schending van de mensenrechten beschreven, en er wordt geijverd voor sancties tegen de VS omdat ze er niet in slagen de minimum-levensstandaard van bevolking in ere te houden.

We belden met Abayomi Azikiwe van de Moratorium Now Coalition. Zij organiseren al maanden elke vrijdag een protestmars tegen het van buitenaf opgelegde extreme bezuinigingsbeleid, en volgen ook dit dossier goed op.

– See more at: http://redactie.radiocentraal.be/Home/?p=6601#sthash.lgOfhEAn.dpuf

Jun 302014
 

An interview with Cecily McClellan, City of Detroit retiree and activist.

By Darrell Dawsey, Deadline Detroit, June 29, 2014

Retiree Cecily McClellan

Retiree Cecily McClellan. Photo: Deadline Detroit

CECILY MCCLELLAN says she’s seen the fight brewing for years, decades even.

A union diehard, Detroit loyalist and city pensioner, McClellan, 61, says the intensifying battle over the fate of the pensions of retired city workers is the culmination of a long corporate effort to plunder local assets and turn over ever more public wealth to private interests.

From the takeover of Detroit’s schools in 1999 to now, McClellan says, efforts to strip-mine, privatize and exploit the city’s infrastructure have now dovetailed into what she sees as the battle of a lifetime: The struggle over the fate of billions in pensions owed by a city that says it is too broke to pay up.

As part of what’s being hailed as a “Grand Bargain” in the effort to re-order Detroit’s finances, emergency manager Kevyn Orr is offering the pensioners a deal that calls for a 4.5 percent base cut for general retirees and the elimination of all cost-of-living increases. He has warned that the cuts could swell to 27 percent or even more if the pensioners reject the deal. Meanwhile, cops and firefighters would see no base cuts but would have their COLA raises cut to 1 percent.

Further, corporations, foundations and the city’s mainstream media have all campaigned heavily to get seniors to vote for the deal, while promising doomsday scenarios filled with delinquent bills and empty cat food tins should retirees reject the deal.

Pensioners, though, aren’t scaring quite so easily. A number of them remain either undecided or vocally opposed to the deal. And no “no” vote has rung as loudly and as persistently as McClellan’s.

McLlellan was laid off from the city’s human services department in 2012, and then she ended up retiring.  She belongs to the group, the Detroit Concerned Citizens and Retirees, and is vice-president of the city union , the Association of Professional and Technical Employees (APTE) 

Deadline Detroit sat down with McClellan for a question-and-answer session last week to get a detailed sense of why, to her and so many other pensioners, the “grand bargain” amounts to little more than grand theft.

DD: THE “GRAND BARGAIN” HAS BEEN PUT ON THE TABLE. WHY ARE YOU SAYING NO AND URGING OTHERS TO SAY NO TO ORR’S OFFER TO PENSIONERS?

MCCLELLAN: You refer to it as the grand bargain. But that’s part of the propaganda. We see it as grand larceny, grand theft. We need that out front. We need to change the agenda, change the talking points. We see it as the total opposite. Continue reading »

 June 30, 2014  Posted by at 3:46 pm Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 302014
 

oenearthlogoInterview with Tom Stephens, a lawyer, a lifelong metro Detroit resident and an activist by Joan Braunwasser of OpEdNews.com.

My guest today is Thomas Stephens, a lawyer and lifelong metro Detroit resident. Welcome to OpEdNews, Tom.

Joan: The Institute for Public Policy recently sent out an email blast about the situation in Detroit [June 26, 2014] entitled “Condemned by UN, Is Detroit’s Water Shutoff About Privatization?” Most of us don’t live in Detroit and may not be familiar with its troubled recent history. Can you fill us in?

Read more

Jun 302014
 

Institute for Public Accuracy News Release, June 26, 2014

Freedom Friday-IPA photoAP is reporting: “U.N. experts say water shutoffs at Detroit homes due to overdue bills violate international human rights.

“Right to water and sanitation expert Catarina de Albuquerque says Wednesday that disconnections due to non-payment are ‘only permissible if it can be shown that the resident is able to pay but is not paying.’

“The statement follows a letter sent this week to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights by welfare rights groups who complain that mass shutoffs by Detroit’s water department are leaving poor people at risk.” See the complaint to the U.N. and the U.N.’s response. Also see from the Detroit Free Press: “U.S. Rep. John Conyers calls Detroit water shutoffs inhumane.” Continue reading »