Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Coalition Delivers over 158,000 Signatures to Gov. Snyder and Detroit City Council Calling for an End to the Water Shut-offs in Detroit

Detroit, Mich. – Today the People’s Water Board Coalition delivered more than 158,000 petition signatures to Governor Snyder and the Detroit City Council in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center in Detroit. The petitions call for an immediate and permanent stop to the water shut-offs in Detroit, restoration of household water service where it has been shut off, and implementation of the Water Affordability Plan passed by Detroit's City Council in 2005.

"Water is essential to all life," said Dorthea Thomas of Environmental Action. "We're here to deliver these signatures not only on behalf of Detroit's people, but our entire ecosystem. Without a just, equitable and public water system, every plant, animal and person is at risk."

People around the globe have signed the petitions being delivered today. “This issue has reached people all over the world,” said Lynna Kaucheck of Food & Water Watch and the People’s Water Board. “All eyes are on us. How the Governor’s office handles this situation will show whether or not he thinks people and their basic human rights are more important than profit.”

Today’s petition delivery is the next step in an ongoing series of events spearheaded by the People’s Water Board to stop the water shut-offs in Detroit and to implement the Water Affordability Plan. In June, the group and allies reached out to the United Nations, which then filed a complaint against the U.S. Government and the State of Michigan for violating the human right to water and sanitation. In August, the group partnered with 54 other organizations to call on the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to declare a public health emergency in Detroit because of the lack of water and sanitation. Most recently, an injunction was filed in the ongoing bankruptcy trial requesting a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on water shut-offs in Detroit. The request was sent to mediation and a decision is expected tomorrow.

“It is reprehensible that children and families in Detroit are being put at risk of disease because they cannot afford their water bills,” said Sister Mary Ellen Howard, Registered Nurse from Cabrini Clinic. “To maintain public health, water must not only be clean; it must be available and affordable. Our lives depend on it.”

The City of Detroit is in crisis. When 45 percent of the city struggles to pay their water bills, it becomes clear that this is not just a problem with delinquent payment. It is indicative of broader, systemic issues resulting from decades of policies that put profits before people.

“By denying drinking water and sanitation to thousands of Detroiters, the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is violating one of their basic human rights,” said Lila Cabbil of Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute and People’s Water Board. “Without water, how are people expected to bathe, flush a toilet or prepare healthy food for their families? We are calling on our elected officials today to put an end to this injustice and turn the water back on.”

Copies of the petitions are also being delivered to the judges overseeing the bankruptcy trial and mediation.

The petition was sponsored by ColorOfChange.org, Daily Kos, Demand Progress / Watchdog.net, Democracy for America, Environmental Action, Food & Water Watch, the People’s Water Board, RH Reality Check and Working Families Organization.

The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water, and promotes awareness of the interconnectedness of all people and resources. 

The People’s Water Board includes: AFSCME Local 207, Baxter’s Beat Back the Bullies Brigade, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Green Party, Detroit People’s Platform, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Food & Water Watch, FLOW, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Matrix Theater, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, Sierra Club, Sisters of Mercy, Voices for Earth Justice and We the People of Detroit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

People's Water Board Statement on Creation of Regional Water Authority

People’s Water Board Coalition Calls Regional Water Authority an Assault Against Democracy and the Human Right to Water


Community calls for protection and representation for all region’s residents

Detroit, Mich. – The People’s Water Board decried Mayor Mike Duggan’s plan to create a regional water authority as undemocratic and a threat to the human right to water for many in the region. We have access to the largest body of surface freshwater in the world, so it would seem abundance and access should not be an issue. However the manner of governing this valuable resource as responsible environmental stewards for the world has left many communities without trust.

The deal was negotiated behind closed doors without any input from the public and is the next step on the pathway to privatization. It takes away the rights of both the Detroit City Council and the citizens of Detroit to have input on big decisions impacting the system.

“Suburban customers should not be fooled into thinking that this deal gives them more control or influence over the water system,” said Lynna Kaucheck of the People’s Water Board. “The new authority will be made up of unelected officials who are accountable to no one. People need to know that this deal doesn’t take privatization off the table.”

Veolia Water North America, the largest private water company operating in the United States, has been hired to evaluate the management of the system and clearly has a vested interest in privatization. Privatization typically results in skyrocketing rates, decreased service quality and the loss of jobs. In fact, corporate profits, dividends and income taxes can add 20 to 30 percent to operation and maintenance costs, and a lack of competition and poor negotiation skills can leave local governments with expensive contracts. In the Great Lakes region, large private water companies charge more than twice as much as cities charge for household water service. This is not the solution for Detroit or the region.

“The regionalization plan is unacceptable. We need a system that is accountable and transparent and that works for all its customers,” said Tawana Petty of the People’s Water Board. “We want an elected board of water commissioners. We want to reduce costs for the region through bulk purchasing and resource sharing. And we want to implement the Affordability Plan as passed by Detroit City Council in 2005. Detroit and suburban leaders need to protect residents and democratize the system.”


The People’s Water Board advocates for access, protection, and conservation of water, and promotes awareness of the interconnectedness of all people and resources.

The People’s Water Board includes: AFSCME Local 207, Baxter’s Beat Back the Bullies Brigade, Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Detroit Green Party, Detroit People’s Platform, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Food & Water Watch, FLOW, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, Matrix Theater, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute, Sierra Club, Sisters of Mercy, Voices for Earth Justice  and We the People of Detroit.

September 10, 2014

Contact:
Lynna Kaucheck, Food & Water Watch, (586) 556-8805
Tawana Petty, People’s Water Board, (313) 433-9882

Monday, August 25, 2014

Residents, Civil Rights Attorneys Urge Judge to Restore Water Services Until Litigation is Resolved

DETROIT – In an effort to preserve a moratorium on water shut-offs, a group of Detroit residents and civil rights attorneys filed court documents over the weekend asking a judge to immediately block the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) from terminating water service to any occupied residence, and to require the restoration of service to occupied residences without water. 

The moratorium is currently scheduled to end today. The ACLU of Michigan and NAACP Legal Defense fund are serving as expert consultants in the ongoing litigation.

“Without a continued moratorium on water shutoffs, thousands more Detroiters, mostly low income children, seniors, and disabled, will immediately be at risk for shutoff,” says Alice Jennings of Edwards & Jennings, P.C., counsel in the lawsuit, “A comprehensive water affordability plan, a viable bill dispute process, specific polices for landlord-tenant bills and a sustainable mechanism for evaluating the number of families in shutoff status or at risk for shutoff, is necessary prior to lifting the DWSD water shutoff moratorium.”

The motion for a temporary restraining order filed yesterday is part of a class action lawsuit, Lyda et.al v. City of Detroit, on behalf of Detroit residents affected by the mass shut-off campaign of DWSD, as well as organizations active in the fight for the restoration of and affordable access to water including Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, People’s Water Board, National Action Network-Michigan Chapter and Moratorium Now!. This suit is currently in bankruptcy court before Judge Stephen Rhodes as part of the city’s bankruptcy proceedings.

The lawsuit argues that the DWSD began water shutoffs without adequate notice and against the most vulnerable residents, while commercial entities with delinquent accounts were left alone. The suit also argues that this violates the plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection rights. 

“More than 17,000 homes have had their water cut off and water bills in Detroit are among the highest in the country and unaffordable to many Detroit residents,” says Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “The rush to resume shut offs when there are serious questions about the affordability plan, accuracy of bills, and issues with the water department's ability to process disputes, means that the City of Detroit should get its house in order before turning off anyone else's water.”

In March, DWSD began dispatching private contractors to begin shutting off water service to residents who are more than 60 days delinquent, or owe more than $150. Despite the fact that 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the shut-offs began without a plan to help those who cannot pay. 

After public outcry and this lawsuit, the city implemented a moratorium and announced a 10-point plan to address the dysfunctions raised by the lawsuit and civil rights groups.

"The mayor's plan only consists of proposals and temporary fixes,” said Rev. Charles Williams of the National Action Network-Michigan Chapter. “Until actual policies are in place to ensure that residents have access to affordable water, the water shut-offs cannot be resumed. The current proposal for residents to enter into non-negotiable payment plans is only a short-term solution."

Last month, the ACLU of Michigan and NAACP LDF wrote a letter to city officials arguing that that the poorly implemented and uneven DWSD shut-off policy violates the civil and human rights, as well as the due process rights of residents because it often fails to provide them with adequate notice and a hearing that takes into account whether they actually have the ability to pay.

“DWSD must immediately restore water to all its customers,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “In addition, they should create a reasonable timetable for a hearing and appeals process, pending resolution of these issues." 

Attorneys for residents are calling on Judge Rhodes to order DWSD to extend the moratorium to ensure that the most vulnerable Detroiters are not left without water. The moratorium on shut offs should be extended until DWSD has policies in place to ensure that collections are done in a way that doesn’t violate residents constitutional rights. 

Tawana Petty, an activist with the People’s Water Board Coalition, echoed these sentiments. "We are asking the Governor, Mayor, Emergency Manager and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to stop their assault on the citizens of Detroit and restore all water to residents. Water is life and without it, we perish.”

Brief in support of Temporary Restraining Order 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

UAW/LOCAL 551 WATER WARRIORS CARAVAN TO DETROIT

UAW/LOCAL 551 WATER WARRIORS
CARAVAN TO DETROIT TO BRING
WATER TO THOSE WITHOUT!

August 23rd, 2:00 p.m.
DWSD payment center, 15600 Grand River
(at Greenfield)


SOLIDARITY UNION WORKERS ARE TRAVELING FROM CHICAGO, ILLINOIS TO DETROIT, SAT, AUGUST 23RD 2014 TO HELP DETROIT RESIDENTS WHO ARE WITHOUT WATER .

THIS SPECIAL MOMENT OF SOLIDARITY COMES IN LIGHT OF THE MASS WATER SHUTOFFS BEING IMPOSED BY THE CITY OF DETROIT DESPITE EVIDENCE THAT RESIDENTS CAN’T PAY THESE RISING UTILITY COSTS.

THEY WILL BE GREETED AT RALLY AT 2PM, AT THE WATER PAYMENT CENTER, 15600 GRAND RIVER. UAW LOCAL 600, THE UNITED STEEL WORKERS, THE DETROIT FEDERATION OF TEACHERS, AND OTHER ORGANIZED AND UNORGANIZED WORKERS WILL BE THERE TO SAY, “THANK YOU”!!

WE WILL BE PASSING OUT
GALLON JUGS OF WATER
AT THE RALLY.

COME CELEBRATE THIS
SOLIDARITY MOMENT!

People’s Water Board Coalition

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Orr Dumps ‘Hot Mess’ of Water Shut-offs in Duggan’s Lap

For Immediate Release

News from The People’s Water Board

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Contact: Tawana Petty, 313-433-9882

Orr Dumps ‘Hot Mess’ of Water Shut-offs in Duggan’s Lap

People’s Water Board still calls for Water Affordability Program to keep water and revenue flowing 

DETROIT – With the glare of the international media focused on his inhumane water shut-off policy, Governor Rick Snyder’s appointed Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, today handed Detroit’s water department back to the Mayor of Detroit, Mike Duggan. Kevyn Orr released a statement announcing that the Mayor would now run the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD). While this is small victory for the rule of law and local control, Mayor Duggan’s reaction didn’t do justice to the hazard or the inhumanity of depriving thousands of children, elders, families and individuals of water.

“We know the Mayor’s been handed a hot mess,” said Tawana Petty of the People’s Water Board. “Orr didn’t relinquish his power over Detroit’s bus system or land management. He dumped DWSD on Duggan because thousands of people have embarrassed him and Governor Snyder by standing with the people of Detroit, protesting in the streets and rallying with Canadians who brought water for families in need. Regardless, it’s now up to the Mayor to implement the Water Affordability Program.”

At the behest of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, the Detroit City Council adopted The Water Affordability Program (WAP) in 2005 after the City’s law department vetted the plan. The WAP creates a safety net to allow low-income residents to pay based on their income. It does away with inefficient, inhumane shut-offs and keeps the system solvent. The plan is needed now more than ever given that Detroit’s water rates have risen 119 percent in the past decade while poverty and unemployment are still at record levels.

 “The crowds that brought media from all over the world were not chanting for ‘more advanced warnings of shut-offs’ as the Mayor said he would have given,” said Shea Howell of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management. “If you can’t pay the hundreds or sometimes even the thousands of dollars demanded by DWSD, more warning is useless. We’ve received news that 40 people in a Palmer Park apartment have been shut-off. Has Mike Ilitch paid his overdue water bill? Has DWSD moved in to shut off the golf course? No. Corporations can get by while families are deprived. Is this what Mayor Duggan meant when, this morning, he referred to some Detroiters have to pay for the bills of others?”

The Water Affordability Plan can be found online at http://michiganwro.blogspot.com/p/water-affordability-program.html