Jun 282014

DWSD Shutoff notice-freep

Detroit’s emergency manager spokesperson, Bill Nowling, said the shutoff policy is a necessary part of Detroit’s restructuring.

Keep in mind that 38% of Detroiters live in poverty. That per capita income for city residents is $14,861. That the reported unemployment rate is 14.5%.

…the water department’s shutoff policy is uncompromising, making no exceptions for households with infant children, elderly or disabled residents.

Thousands of bills and shutoff notices didn’t reach customers,… the department didn’t spend a dime on advertising or outreach. – DWSD spokeperson spokesman Gregory Eno

Detroit Free Press Editorial: Why Detroit water shutoffs are not an open-and-shut case

Jun 282014

By Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, June 25, 2014

The Race to the Bottom under global, militarized capitalism creates communities of shared misery. Increasingly, it is almost as dangerous to be inside U.S. borders as on the outside. “Iraq was invaded with soldiers, guns and bombs. Detroit was invaded by the corporate ‘suits’ who made a fast buck for themselves.” Both are plundered by the same bandits.


All of former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s incompetence could not have created the ongoing occupation of Detroit by the thieves in high places.”

The ugly face of empire and disaster capitalism is visible all over the world. Detroit, Michigan, was once a thriving city but was sent into a tailspin by the deindustrialization of the United States, white flight, and institutional racism which blamed black people who were in fact the victims of catastrophe. The coup de grace was delivered by big banks like UBS, Bank of America and Barclays, which sold risky derivatives schemes to corrupt Detroit politicians. When the financial deal inevitably headed south, the banks were the creditors first in line for a payout. Continue reading »

Jun 282014

By Joseph Piette on workers.org, June 26, 2014

philly_0703A large crowd of Philadelphia Gas Works workers and their supporters rallied outside City Hall on June 19 to stop the privatization of the city-owned utility. Utility Workers Local 686 organized the demonstration, which included a number of politicians and labor leaders, including Pat Eiding, president of the Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO. Speakers emphasized that the sale of the utility would ultimately raise heating prices for residents, decrease safety for communities, and lower wages, benefits and rights of workers.

 June 28, 2014  Posted by at 12:38 am Uncategorized No Responses »
Jun 262014

In response to a “cease and desist” letter from Jones Day law firm sent to the website KevynOrr.com, the Electronic Frontier Foundation steps in to defend the right to free speech.

jdvsorr1The Electronic Frontier Foundation represents the site’s owner, who created this site for parody and political criticism directed at Detroit’s emergency manager and various corporations. In your letter, you demand that all Jones Day trademarks be removed from the site. Please be advised that our client will not comply and has no obligation to do so. Your legal threats are not supported by law and plainly seek to interfere with protected speech.  Read letter here.

By Daniel Nazer, Electronic Frontier Foundation, June 24, 2014

Big law should not be a big bully. Last week, the nation’s largest law firm, Jones Day, tried to use trademark law to censor a website critical of Detroit’s emergency manager (a former Jones Day partner). As is typical, since the website criticized the firm, it included a Jones Day trademark. The law firm responded with an ominous cease and desist letter demanding that its trademarks be removed from the site. In taking this step, the firm joins a long, long list of companies that have improperly demanded that critics stop “using” their trademarks. But we’re not talking about just any company; this is a law firm. Shouldn’t at least one of the thousands of attorneys Jones Day employs have raised a hand to point out that using trademark to refer to the trademark owner is perfectly legal? Continue reading »

 June 26, 2014  Posted by at 3:53 pm Uncategorized Tagged with:  No Responses »
Jun 262014

A right-wing state and corporate push to cut off water is economic shock therapy at its most ruthless and racist, but resistance is growing.

By Martin Lukacs, the Guardian, June 25, 2014

Children at DWSD protest

Children in Detroit attending a rally against water shut-offs in the city on June 20, 2014. Photograph: Justin Wedes

It was six in the morning when city contractors showed up unannounced at Charity Hicks’ house.

Since spring, up to 3000 Detroit households per week have been getting their water shut-off – for owing as little as $150 or two months in bills. Now it was the turn of Charity’s block – and the contractor wouldn’t stand to wait an hour for her pregnant neighbour to fill up some jugs.

“Where’s your water termination notice?” Charity demanded, after staggering to the contractor’s truck. A widely-respected African-American community leader, she has been at the forefront of campaigns to ensure Detroiters’ right to public, accessible water.

The contractor’s answer was to drive away, knocking Charity over and injuring her leg. Two white policemen soon arrived – not to take her report, but to arrest her. Mocking Charity for questioning the water shut-offs, they brought her to jail, where she spent two days before being released without charge.

Welcome to Detroit’s water war – in which upward of 150,000 customers, late on bills that have increased 119 percent in the last decade, are now threatened with shut-offs. Local activists estimate this could impact nearly half of Detroit’s mostly poor and black population – between 200,000 and 300,000 people. Continue reading »

Jun 262014

UN Human Rights logoGENEVA (25 June 2014) – Three UN experts* on the human rights to water and sanitation, adequate housing, and extreme poverty and human rights expressed concern Wednesday about reports of widespread water disconnections in the US city of Detroit of households unable to pay water bills. “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,” the experts said.

“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,” said Catarina de Albuquerque, the expert on the human right to water and sanitation. Continue reading »

 June 26, 2014  Posted by at 1:36 am Uncategorized Tagged with: ,  No Responses »
Jun 212014

By Abayomi Azikiwe, June 20, 2014

En route to the financial district, Detroit Freedom Friday protesters walk past 65 Cadillac Square, where hidden away on the 28th and 32nd floors is the Detroit Land Bank Authority, a quasi-governmental agency formed in 2008. For the last several years the DLBA has ostensibly concerned itself with the acquisition of tax-foreclosed properties numbering in the tens of thousands.

Despite the existence of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal monies to address the impact of the recession beginning in 2007, these funds have never been fully utilized to tackle Detroit’s home foreclosure crisis. For many years the Moratorium NOW! Coalition has consistently demanded that these funds be released to keep people in their homes. Funds in the Helping Hardest Hit Homeowners program, for example, have sat unused by homeowners who need that money.

Other programs utilizing federal funding are supposed to provide relief to the tens of thousands of households in Michigan that face foreclosure each year because they cannot pay the municipal and county property taxes. The bureaucratic and pro-banker approach by the state government in Lansing has resulted in the failure of these funds to be spent on those who need them.

As a result, approximately 84,000 structures and lots within the city are considered blighted or abandoned. A Detroit Blight Removal Authority was established last year to address the removal of these properties, which include abandoned factories, warehouses, businesses, apartment buildings and homes. This authority was headed by Bill Pulte, the 26-year-old grandson of the owner of the largest home builder in the U.S., headquartered in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., one of the wealthiest suburbs in the country. Continue reading »

 June 21, 2014  Posted by at 12:50 am Uncategorized No Responses »
Jun 202014

By David Sole, Detroit Water Department retiree and Stop Theft of Our Pensions Committee organizer

City retirees take their message to May Day march.

City retirees take their message to May Day march.
WW photo: Kris Hamel

June 18 — Retired city of Detroit workers continue to oppose deep cuts to their pensions in the face of enormous pressure from the bankruptcy court, politicians and the corporate media.

Rank-and-file committees of retirees continue to find a lot of support for their urging of a “reject” vote on ballots sent to tens of thousands of retired workers or their survivors. However, the “leaders” of retiree associations, most unions, the bankruptcy court’s handpicked “Official Retirees Committee” and both retirement systems boards of trustees have all caved in to the pressure and are urging retirees to vote acceptance of “the lesser of two evils.”

In early June, Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, gave a highly publicized speech telling retirees to accept his “Grand Bargain” as their only real choice. It involves charitable contributions from private foundations and corporations of over $450 million plus a $195 million lump sum from the state of Michigan to supposedly help avert closure of the Detroit Institute of Arts and allegedly help city retirees’ pensions. Continue reading »

 June 20, 2014  Posted by at 12:40 am Uncategorized Tagged with: , , ,  No Responses »
Jun 202014

By Kris Hamel, June 20, 2014

Detroiters protest inside Bank of America, June 13. WW photo: Kris Hamel

Detroiters protest inside Bank of America, June 13.

After picketing the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department building on June 13 to demand the end of water shutoffs to thousands of Detroit households behind in their bills, “Detroit Freedom Friday 6” participants boldly marched through downtown to Bank of America. Chanting, “Make the banks pay, not the retirees!” the protesters entered the historic Guardian Building and headed up the stairs to the mezzanine, where BOA employees grinned as a loud, boisterous picket line took place in front of the low-paid tellers. Continue reading »

Jun 142014

By Kris Hamel, June 13, 2014

Water & Sewerage headquarters, June 6.

Protest at Detroit Water & Sewerage headquarters, June 6.
WW photo: Kris Hamel

Detroit Freedom Friday 5 gathered in front of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department building on June 6. Activists opposing rule by the banks and their Emergency Manager, plus city retirees facing steep cuts to their pensions, environmental advocates and other concerned people, demanded an immediate end to mass water shutoffs that started in May. Any residential customer with an outstanding bill over $150 is subject to cutoff at any time. An estimated 1,500 to 3,000 shutoffs per week are being done by private contractors.

According to the Moratorium NOW! Coalition, businesses and other large entities are being let off the hook for their water bills. Palmer Park Golf Club owes $200,000, which is the same amount owed by the Veterans Administration Hospital. Joe Louis Arena, a professional hockey and concert arena, is $80,000 in arrears, while Ford Field, a football stadium and concert venue, owes the city $55,000. Continue reading »