by Shea Howell
July 4, 2015
On Tuesday, June 30, in a vote of 6 to 2, the Detroit City Council rejected the proposed water rate hikes backed by the Duggan administration. This was the first of a series of events this week to encourage the Mayor, The Emergency Manger of Flint, the Governor, and the newly emerging Great Lakes Water Authority to live up to their responsibilities to provide, safe, affordable water to all.
Later in the evening after the Council rejection, Mayor Duggan conducted a public meeting in District 2 on the Northwest side of the city. He was confronted with questions about why he is resisting a Water Affordability Plan. Most of the meeting was taken up by the Mayor presenting facts and figures about what he calls blight and his plan to create less expensive auto insurance for the city. In sharp contrast to his carefully thought out and researched efforts to tackle the hospital, legal, and insurance industries, the Mayor seemed mystified about how to approach a water affordability plan.
Perhaps he is mystified because his figures are imprecise and his logic faulty. In the course of the question and answer period, the Mayor told the audience that people should pay their bills, ignoring the fact that people are increasingly unable to pay escalating costs. He claimed that people wanted free water, that there was an assistance plan to help. He completely ignored the fact that his last plan failed miserably and his new plan will not go into effect until January 2016 with the GLWA. He was unsympathetic to the 2000 homes a week being shut off from water. He repeated the same arguments he has been saying for over a year, lacking facts or analysis. He was clearly frustrated as speaker after speaker challenged his views.
The plain truth is the current way of financing the water system is unsustainable. Every time the rates increase, more people will be forced out of the system. Every time more people are forced out of the system, the more rates will have to be raised.
On Wednesday residents and community advocates began a 7-day, 70-mile walk from Detroit to Flint for Water Justice to call attention to the failed efforts of the Mayor and Governor. “Our journey is to help people understand what affordability means, what is the suffering that is occurring when people have water shut offs, what is happening to the health of people when the water is shut off,” said Lila Cabbil of the Peoples Water Board.
The events of this week should be an opportunity for the Mayor to step back and reconsider what is happening. Instead, the Mayor is pushing for the Council to reconsider its decision to hold the line on water rate increases. Threatening doom and gloom, in a violation of parliamentary procedures, President Pro Temp George Cushingberry is talking about asking the Council to reconsider its decision.
The people who need to “reconsider” their decisions are not the 6 members of the Detroit City Council who rejected the rate hike. The Mayor, Governor Snyder, the Emergency Manager of Flint and the emerging Great Lakes Water Authority need to reconsider their refusal to adopt the Water Affordability Plan. They have a unique opportunity to set a model for the country about what an equitable, thoughtful and responsible water system would be like. Instead, mired in myth and spreading misinformation, they are attempting to protect a failed system.
The way to a sustainable system is clear. Stop water shut offs. Restore water to the tens of thousands now struggling without it. Turn Detroit water back on for Flint. Adopt the water affordability plan so that everyone can pay a fair share.