NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

LIVE from Detroit: Turn on the water! Panel addresses city’s unconscionable shutoffs

Peter Ham­mer, a law pro­fes­sor from Wayne State Uni­ver­si­ty opens the dis­cus­sion. He began by intro­duc­ing the con­cept of the “three R’s of Detroit” which include “Race, Region­al­ism, and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.” He spoke most about “Spa­cial Racism” and demon­strat­ed by show­ing a map of Detroit areas col­or cod­ed to indi­cate vary­ing lev­el of eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties. Areas of black pop­u­la­tion is over­layed on the map show­ing that these areas lay in the low eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ty areas. Ham­mer said, “In south­east Michi­gan and so many oth­er cities, the seg­re­ga­tion of race is also the seg­re­ga­tion of wealth.”

Over half the peo­ple in Detroit could not pay their prop­er­ty tax­es. 6,000 prop­er­ties were up for fore­clo­sure due to tax­es due. Anoth­er 4,200 are in dan­ger of foreclosure.

The best you can say about Detroit Water and Sewage is there is an extreme lack of empa­thy. He stress­es, that we need empa­thy when deal­ing with these prob­lems. Work is being done to stop evic­tions and foreclosures.

Abay­o­mi Aziki­we spoke rep­re­sent­ing Mora­to­ri­um Now Coali­tion that was formed in 2008 in response to the tsuna­mi of fore­clo­sures in Detroit. Detroit has the high­est rate of home own­er­ship in the coun­try. The cri­sis real­ly began in the late 1950s because that is when the loss of jobs and the loss of pop­u­la­tion of Detroit began.

The retirees in Detroit are under attack in the restruc­tur­ing process. Preda­to­ry lend­ing and refi­nanc­ing took its toll on Detroit’s res­i­dents. Result­ing fore­clo­sures hurt Detroit’s rev­enue. There was a call to make the respon­si­ble banks pay. Aziki­we stressed “We need a sus­tain­able recov­ery plan in Detroit. It’s not going to be done through pri­va­ti­za­tion… We can’t allow any­one to tell us that we don’t own the water.”

A sus­tain­able recov­ery plan is need­ed in Detroit, not forced bank­rupt­cy and “Emer­gency Man­agers”. Aziki­we: “We need real jobs. There­fore, we need a real jobs program.”

Mon­i­ca Lewis-Patrick spoke on behalf of a coali­tion “We the Peo­ple of Detroit” that was formed in 2008 to fight may­oral con­trol of the edu­ca­tion sys­tem. They are fight­ing against the dra­con­ian, rep­til­ian law called “Emer­gency Man­age­ment”.  Lewis-Patrick: “We need to work and re-invent our­selves in this moment because we are find­ing that we are fight­ing the same bat­tles again that were fought 50 years ago… We need to become a com­mu­ni­ty that sup­ports each oth­er through these hard times”.

Mered­ith Begin is with Food and Water Watch. They believe water is a human right and it is a vio­la­tion of that right to be shut­ting off water to Detroit res­i­dents. Begin assert­ed that “Cor­po­ra­tions across the globe see water as the next oil.” Begin: “Lack of access to water and san­i­ta­tion pos­es a huge health cri­sis. We’ve called on Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to declare a pub­lic health emer­gency here in Detroit and turn the water back on. We all need water for sur­vival.” Lack of water is a real health cri­sis. Not only is water essen­tial for life, lack of water is the source of disease.

Joan Ross from Nation­al Nurs­es Unit­ed also spoke: “Look at where you are in the coun­try right now. 21% of the world’s fresh water is here: in the Great Lakes region. We can’t afford to waste that and not give it to peo­ple who need it.”

The pan­el ses­sion closed with Mau­reen Tay­lor from Michi­gan Wel­fare Rights. She referred to the peo­ple in Detroit who are suf­fer­ing with­out water. Some have been with­out water for a year. “We can’t keep look­ing at these moth­ers who are cry­ing… This is insane.”

Refer­ring to the audi­ence, Tay­lor said: “You got­ta leave here changed. You got­ta leave here dif­fer­ent.… I want to leave you with this mes­sage: You can’t stay like you were two or three hours ago.… What­ev­er it is that got you here at 9:30 this morn­ing, you can’t go on the same.”

Tay­lor con­clud­ed the ses­sion with a ref­er­ence to Spock from Star Trek: “I’m so proud to be in a room full of activists and vision­ar­ies… We can’t just think about this. Water is a human right. The needs of the many must always out­weigh the needs of the few.”

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  1. Had no idea that there was such a thing as Net­roots Nation. What you’re doing sounds great. I am going to have to con­sid­er going to the next one. When and where will it be? 

    # by Rufus Kinard :: July 19th, 2014 at 9:23 PM
  2. Woohoo! Kudos for tak­ing the mes­sage to the streets.

    # by Lela Kuntz :: July 24th, 2014 at 12:35 AM
  3. It’s real­ly embar­rass­ing and shame­ful that author­i­ties in a major city would cut res­i­dents off from drink­ing water. There’s a dou­ble stan­dard going on here — busi­ness­es that are behind aren’t hav­ing their water shut off, but poor peo­ple are get­ting the shaft. 

    # by Merlina Gore :: July 31st, 2014 at 7:52 AM
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