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Detroit City Council cuts service to thousands & approves water rate increases

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As Detroit City Council approves water rate increases, local groups ask United Nations for assistance

June 19, 2014

Detroit City Council this week approved a 8.7 percent increase to water and sewerage rates for Detroiters-about a $5 increase. The timing was a bit poor.

Knowing an appeal to Detroit's emergency manager would be futile, a few local groups decided to ask the United Nations for assistance. In a report released yesterday by the Detroit People's Water Board, the Blue Planet Project, the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and Food & Water Watch, representatives of the group say they are "outraged" about DWSD's "violation of the human right to water and sanitation in the city of Detroit and call on the authorities to take immediate action to restore water and stop further cut-offs."

As we reported this week, the department will continue to cut service to roughly 3,000 delinquent customers per week who owe at least $150 to try recouping some $118 million in outstanding fees. The department has said upwards of 80,000 households are behind on their bill.

According to DWSD representatives, they cut service to 7,056 residential and commercial accounts in April and May, which is "reaping great benefits with the department"-about $400,000....

... What sort of conditions is Barlow talking about? The eight-page Submission to the Special Rapporteur has a few examples:

The Detroit People's Water Board is hearing directly from people impacted by the water cut-offs who say they were given no warning and had no time to fill buckets, sinks and tubs before losing access to water.

In some cases, the cut-offs occurred before the deadline given in notices sent by the city. Sick people have been left without running water and working toilets. People recovering from surgery cannot wash and change bandages. Children cannot bathe and parents cannot cook.

The [Michigan Welfare Rights Organization] was recently contacted by a woman who moved in to care for her ailing father, who had received a shut-off notice from the DWSD.

She offered to make the full payment, but was told the DWSD would not accept the payment because the bill was in her father's name and she did not have papers to show she was his representative. Her picture I.D. has the same address as his, but the DWSD would not accept payment...

http://blogs.metrotimes.com/news-blawg/detroit-city-council-approves-water-rate-increases-local-groups-ask-united-nations-assistance/

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I was under the impression that all decisions for the city of Detroit were being made by an Emergency Manager. Thanks for posting this.

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Interesting that they appeal to a UN group that supports the rights of indiginous people. Are city residents now considered indiginous?

Would I be indiginous to Oklahoma where I was born or am I indiginous to where I'm living now in Arizona? I'll be surprised if the UN group does anything for the residents of Detroit.

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Maybe they wanted publicity.

I don't know much about the situation, but raising water rates when so many haven't paid their bills doesn't make sense to me.

... The plan to increase rates comes as the water department faces public criticism for its efforts to shut off water service for delinquent customers.

The water department announced in March it was resuming efforts to shut off water service to more than 150,000 delinquent customers in order to collect about $118 million in outstanding bills. The department said it would target customers whose bills are more than two months late and would shut off about 3,000 customers a week.

In April, the department sent out about 44,200 shutoff notices and cut off water to 3,025 properties, including residential and commercial dwellings. The DWSD shut off 4,531 accounts in May...

... Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr is exploring privatization of the DWSD while negotiations continue with suburban county officials to create a regional water authority. Orr is reviewing bids to privatize the department, and the selection process is expected to be finished this month...

http://www.freep.com/article/20140617/NEWS01/306170107/City-Council-water-rate-hike

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Detroit is in crisis mode. They should have never let so many accounts become delinquent. I bet word on the streets was you didn't have to pay the water bill because it would be months before it was shut off. Now they are probably operating at a loss and scrambling to get back to even.

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Here is an idea: HOW ABOUT we rebuild cities like Detroit, and stop meddling trying to "rebuild" countries like Iraq?????

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It is a ridiculous situation occurring in a state where political ridiculousness has achieved new 'heights'.

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John Nichols: Against austerity: 'Water is a human right'

DETROIT-Water is a human right.

The United Nations formally "recognizes the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights."

A new European Citizens Initiative declares, "Water is a public good, not a commodity."

Former President Jimmy Carter writes, "Clean water is a basic human right. Without it, the other rights may not even matter. Human societies cannot be healthy, prosperous and just without adequate supplies of clean water. What could be a more basic right than clean water?"

So why are children in Detroit marching through that battered city's downtown with signs reminding officials that "Kids Need Water to be Healthy" and "Kids Without Water Can't Brush Their Teeth"?

Why are religious leaders being arrested when they seek to prevent the shutoff of water services to families who cannot afford to pay bloated bills?...

Under pressure from the governor's emergency manager, the DWSD has so far this year shut off the water for approximately 17,000 households and small businesses that owed on their bills. And that's just the start. In a city that has been brutalized by deindustrialization-where the official unemployment rate is 14.5 percent and where the real rate is dramatically higher, where 44 percent of residents live below the poverty line-water rates have spiked by almost 120 percent over the decade. Even as the city has gone through a bankruptcy crisis, rates have continued to rise at a dramatic rate.

Families and small-business owners have struggled to keep up, but today an estimated 138,000 accounts are past due-- including those of roughly 90,000 low-income families. Many families have paid their bills by cutting back on other necessities, but many others are struggling. At the same time, Snyder's managers are pocketing hefty checks and toying with privatization schemes that have the potential to enrich private, out-of-town interests.

The Detroit officials who have ordered the shutoffs say they are simply creating pressure to get bills paid, and argue that they are trying to do so in a responsible manner. But environmental writer Martin Lukacs counters:

"The official rationale for the water shutdowns-the Detroit Water Department's need to recoup millions-collapses on inspection. Detroit's high-end golf club, the Red Wing's hockey arena, the Ford football stadium, and more than half of the city's commercial and industrial users are also owing- a sum totaling $30 million. But no contractors have showed up on their doorstep.

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Isn't the republican leadership in this situation revealing and alarming at the same time?

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It really is sad that we have become a third world nation. Water rights, land usage, incarceration, treatment of refugees, etc.

There was a time when we were respected around the world. Now the UN practically has our country on a watch list for human rights violations.

Corporations are killing our country and so many of those people who are being crushed by them still vote GOP. (Shakes her head in sadness)

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Isn't Detroit a big Democratic voter area?

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Detroit is run by an emergency manager appointed by GOP Governor Snyder.

My comment was not limited to Detroit.

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