… began in May 2014 to gather voices against various oppressing forces happening around Detroit. The causes are many, but one which has been in focus for several months have been the water shutoffs of residents owing $150 or more.
I’ve attended these rallies – with the role of providing live video broadcast of the activities. Live broadcasts is something I’ve provided since Occupy Detroit began in October 2011.
Freedom Fridays #9 on Independence Day
At some point the connections become much clearer, although they are typically not explicitly revealed.
More Freedom Friday videos can be found [ here ].
Freedom Fridays – May 30
What Happened to Charity Hicks?
Charity Mahouna Hicks had her water shutoff when a Homrich contractor operating on behalf of DWSD (Detroit Water & Sewage Department) came to her home. It was several days before the termination date she’d recently received by mail. The contractor was shutting off water to the homes on the block around 7am. This includes a neighbor of hers who is a single mother with several young children. Charity pleaded a delay of an hour such that the family could draw water for later use. She also called police. The contractor wouldn’t hear of it and backed away quickly, knocking Charity down in the process, scraping her ankle in the fall. When the police arrived rather than help Charity, she found herself being charged and taken into custody. She wasn’t brought to the jail, they took her to Mound Road Correctional Facility (a prison complex). There she found herself improperly dressed and injured for the unsanitary conditions. She was kept confined for two days before being released with charges dropped.
On May 25th I had a chance to talk with Charity and heard the above from her. I should have recorded, but there was no way to know what lay ahead.
Charity was scheduled to speak at a conference in New York City the weekend of May 30. That’s why she wasn’t at the rally outside the Detroit Water Board for Freedom Fridays. She was standing at a bus stop and a car jumped over the curb hitting the bus stop sign which came down on her head and shoulders, severely injuring her. She was rushed to ICU where they’ve said she’s suffered brain damage and extensive injury. She has been in an induced coma since being brought to the hospital. The community here in Detroit continues prayer and sending love to her daily.
I dedicated this to Charity and the Water Warriors assembling in Detroit.
Press Coverage Abounds But Does It Tell Enough?
More telling is this documentary by Kate Levy and Shanna Merola. Which I’ve previously posted.
Connections in the Shutoff Situation
This list will hopefully offer some information that will give more background about what is happening.
Detroit Future City
Detroit Future City plan has indicated the city could change zoning classes, opening up dozens of new classes to enable the handling of water, industry and agriculture around the city easier. The work was done a few years back and former councilman Ken Cockrel Jr is now in charge of DFC.
The City’s policies and regulations need to acknowledge a smaller population, prepare for a larger economy, and incorporate new, innovative land uses. — DFC Master Plan Update Process
DFC is also connected with “dendro-remediation” with the explicit selection of Greening of Detroit as the organization it is working through. This is an example of how closed-loop work opportunities are in Detroit.
Dendro-remediation is the process by which trees are used to reduce and eliminate toxic substances in the soil over time. It is a low cost, long-term means for treating the soil and preparing it for future use. The DFC Implementation Office will coordinate with the Greening of Detroit to identify sites for dendro- remediation implementation by developing a comprehensive map of contaminated sites in the City, using data from Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DFC will provide Greening of Detroit with an initial list of sites, and then engage the City of Detroit and the Michigan Land Bank about securing permission to conduct dendro- remediation. — DFC Priorities – Land, Buildings, Resources
This caught media attention when Greening of Detroit staff showed up in hazmat suits to plant at Bridgeview Park without notifying residents of plans. The effort to plant trees was throwing toxic dirt in the air, blowing in the neighborhood.  The land at this park has been measured at 5000 ppm in lead, accepted max is 300 ppm.
Chief Operating Officer Gary Brown
Appointed by the viceroy of Governor Rick Snyder, Kevyn Orr and brought from a position as City Council Pro Tem. On September 12, 2013 Gary Brown shut down the electric on a very hot day – stopping elevators and causing health problems in downtown Detroit.
Detroit Water Board
The Water Master Plan (WMP) Update of May 14, 2014 brings in a map showing much like DFC those areas where population density has declined (WMP page 12). The plan is to cut and then restructure the system.
Retire water mains on vacant streets – WMP page 6
Reduce non-revenue water, retire distribution mains in low density areas of Detroit – WMP page 21
District metering and system consolidation planned for 2015 to 2020 – WMP page 24
District metering will allow for low infrastructure areas to be charged more for access to water. This could be seen as a benefit for administering and the infrastructure needs – however it does displace people from their homes as services needed for life are minimized and made more difficult to get access to and afford.
It does violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as set by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, co-authored by Eleanor Roosevelt. The United States hasn’t signed on to all provisions as yet – believing our laws within the country are enough to prevent human rights violations. Perhaps its time for the US to sign on with those articles its been dragging its feet on for over 60 years.
On June 25, 2014 a press release from 3 experts the United Nations issued a warning to Detroit, the State of Michigan and the United States requesting those whom have had their water disconnected turned back on.
- Leilani Farha is the UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context.
- Philip Alston is the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
- Catarina de Albuquerque is the first UN Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
The Water Board is asking the very poor who can’t afford to come to the office at 735 Randolph.
Being Very Poor in Detroit
The very poor may not have access to reach the Water Board Building. They also may have compromised clothing and health status resulting from lack of water and finances. The very poor sometimes can’t afford that $1.50 or $1.75 (times 2 for return trip) to get on the bus closest to their home and make the journey downtown (sadly with the likelihood of being turned down for assistance). Then they’ve put a half day or more into traveling downtown just to be told to figure out how to pay the bill.
Consider the state of Detroit Department Of Transportation’s service in these areas being shutoff. As a bus rider I can tell you every bus going east to west in the city never runs on schedule. If you want to make a connection and the bus isn’t on schedule you can end up waiting 45 minutes or more to get the next bus. This can lead to travel situations of 2-3 hours one-way.
If these persons have employment it is at risk due to the schedule of the bus being erratic. Taking a day off from work means no pay coming in that day, and a day can make a difference especially when access to water is compromised.
The Water Board doesn’t seem to understand what “very poor” entails. They are operating mechanically through contracted labor assigned accounts delinquent (with no case analysis). The labor is typically demolition or construction contractors (with little understanding of the system and more than willing to compromise the system when shutting off service – it just front-loads more work to get service on again). For the contractor it’s about making as much profit from the contract as possible, even if the system is compromised.
Privatization of Water
The water shutoffs is to cut infrastructure – to minimize water mains in these declining population zones of Detroit. It’s about profit, it’s about breaking the system then pointing it out as needing privatization.
- Privatization vs Public Water - Food and Water Watch
- Top 10 reasons to Oppose Privatization of Water – Public Citizen
- World Bank wants water privatized, despite risks – Al Jazeera
- The Privatization of Water: Nestlé Denies that Water is a Fundamental Human Right – Global Research
Considering the failing transparency provided in our government this statement from Governing’s article seems to say we need to stay away from privatization. It’s not just the government monitoring… the people governed must be actively monitoring and given public forum. This is completely missing from the Emergency Management Law, as we are subjected to this government with voice muffled.
For governments that forgo due diligence, choose ill-equipped contractors and fail to monitor progress, however, outsourcing deals can turn into costly disasters. — The Pros and Cons of Privatizing Government Functions, Governing