The Water Warrior: Monica Lewis-Patrick

Photo by Jacob Lewkow

This article about WPD co-founder Monica Lewis-Patrick originally appeared in the Detroit Metro Times

Ever hear of a societal problem, shake your head, and then say, “Man, something must be done about that,” only to get lost binge-watching some TV show on Netflix? The first part happens to 49-year-old Monica Lewis-Patrick, but unlike the rest of us, not the second part.

Lewis-Patrick was born into a family that believes deeply in service. She grew up in Kingsport, Tenn., but spent a lot of time visiting the Detroit area in her youth, where her grandparents had moved in 1952. Her mother was a nurse, a combat veteran, a union organizer, and simply a “one-woman social service entity; in our community she was the big mama. As a young kid I remember her taking me to organizing meetings around issues for mothers living in low-income housing,” she says.

In 1994, Lewis-Patrick and her family (including husband Sherman Patrick) started a nonprofit that provided school supplies to needy children. It was named Grandslam, in part because her grandfather is Willie Horton’s brother. It grew from a small fundraising event to a large organization that dispersed tens of thousands of dollars to low-income youth each year. Read More

E&E News: Water subsidies cost the world $456B in 2012, harm the world’s poor

article originally posted at http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060019864

Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter

Reforming the price of water in both developing and advanced nations is essential to maintaining a healthy global economy, the International Monetary Fund concluded in a new report.

Additionally, the IMF report posits that as supplies become scarcer due to stressors like increasing global populations and climate change, careful water pricing reform could be a boon to the world’s poorest communities.

The international financial organization’s analysis, released yesterday, estimated that in 2012, water subsidies provided by public utilities added up to $456 billion — 0.6 percent of global gross domestic product at the time.

Such subsidies “benefit mostly upper-income groups in developing economies, as the poor often have limited or no access to piped water and improved sanitation,” the report states. “Even when the poor have access to piped water, lower levels of use mean they capture a smaller share of the benefits compared with other groups.” Read More

Laura Gottesdiener: A Magical Mystery Tour of American Austerity Politics

Article re-posted here from TomDispatch.com

“One State’s Attempt to Destroy Democracy and the Environment”
By Laura Gottesdiener, with photos and reporting by Eduardo García

“Something is rotten in the state of Michigan.

One city neglected to inform its residents that its water supply was laced with cancerous chemicals. Another dissolved its public school district and replaced it with a charter school system, only to witness the for-profit management company it hired flee the scene after determining it couldn’t turn a profit. Numerous cities and school districts in the state are now run by single, state-appointed technocrats, as permitted under an emergency financial manager law pushed through by Rick Snyder, Michigan’s austerity-promoting governor. This legislation not only strips residents of their local voting rights, but gives Snyder’s appointee the power to do just about anything, including dissolving the city itself — all (no matter how disastrous) in the name of “fiscal responsibility.”

If you’re thinking, “Who cares?” since what happens in Michigan stays in Michigan, think again. The state’s aggressive balance-the-books style of governance has already spread beyond its borders. In January, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appointed bankruptcy lawyer and former Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr to be a “legal adviser” to Atlantic City. The Detroit Free Pressdescribed the move as “a state takeover similar to Gov. Rick Snyder’s state intervention in the Motor City.” Read More

Thinking for Ourselves: Duggan’s Curfew

By Shea Howell

While much of the country is proclaiming “Black Lives Matter,” the Mayor of the city of Detroit is acting as though Black Lives Threaten. He is certainly threatening the lives and liberties of many of youth of our city. This week his administration proposed an unprecedented lock down of youth for four days during the River Days Festival from June 19 to June 22.

For several years the City has imposed a curfew on youth during the annual Freedom Festival fireworks. This curfew has been highly controversial. Last year 150 children were taken by busloads to a Southwest Precinct. Many spent the night in jail and some parents were forced to come up with $500 in fines.

The centerpiece of River Days is the annual fireworks display. Detroit and Windsor jointly celebrate the freedom of our countries from colonial domination with what is billed as one of the largest fireworks displays in the world. Increasingly this celebration of freedom and liberty has become a rationale to imprison black youth.

The proposed ordinance essentially locks down the entire city. Anyone under age 18 and away from home would need to be with an adult. A 16 year old who decides to walk her dog after dinner, in her neighborhood miles from the river, would be subject to arrest. Read More

Read: WPD Water Op-Ed

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/2015/04/18/detroit-water-shutoffs-duggan/25991563/

In a Sunday, April 19 article entitled “Despite City Efforts to Help, Water Cutoffs Loom” the Detroit Free Press raised some important issues at this moment of the city’s historic water crisis. Here are 8 points that we would like to highlight & clarify, based on our ongoing work with victims of water shutoff in Detroit.

1. We are grateful that The Detroit Free Press is covering city-imposed water shutoffs and has made a decision to place it on the front page and to devote a considerable amount of space in the Sunday edition. Obviously, we think this is an issue that deserves the attention of Metro Detroiters and the rest of the world. This is why we joined other Detroit leaders to invite a United Nations delegation to investigate the crisis last Fall and this is why we are eagerly awaiting their return next month.

2. The Free Press reported that “the city is back in frustrating, familiar territory again,” alluding to 73,000 active residential accounts who remain at least two months behind in their water payments. We want to flip the script on who bears the ultimate frustration in this process: Detroit residents who have had their water shut-off, many of whom we have met over the past year. Time and time again, we discover that they are victims of unfulfilled promises from landlords, water leakage, legitimate billing disputes and inadequate financial aid.

3. We are pleased that you report that Mayor Mike Duggan has admitted that his payment-plan system is not working for thousands of Detroiters, almost all of them black and long-time residents who have stayed and paid and refused to walk away from the city even during its most intense tribulations.

4. We are pleased to read that the Mayor, this week, will be announcing some adjustments to the help provided to victims of water shut-off. A 50% reduction in back due amounts and a 25% reduction on monthly payments is a small step, but it is in the right direction.

5. We believe, however, that tweaks and adjustments will not solve this crisis for many of the residents we’ve worked with. All along, we’ve joined many concerned Detroiters in calling for the implementation of the water affordability plan based on federal Environmental Protection Agency standards and passed by city council in 2006: no Detroiter or Metro Detroiter ought to pay more than 2.5% of their annual income. Unfortunately, it was reported that the Mayor has ruled out income-based payment plans saying that it is not possible to delineate an income associated with a water account because addresses are billed, not residents. Yet, the residents we are working with, in order to apply for any financial assistance, are required to show proof of income, the bill and the lease/deed agreement connected to the house and water bill. In addition, as the Free Press rightfully points out, other municipalities have paved the way with their success in this area: in Philadelphia, water payment plans take into account a ratepayers disposable income. If they can do it in Pennsylvania, we can certainly do it in Michigan!

6. We continue to be concerned when the Mayor makes claims about the availability of financial resources for those behind on their water bills. As the Free Press rightly noted, the funds coming from Wayne County Metro and the Detroit Water Fund are scarce (when compared to the millions of dollars that victims of water shut-off cannot afford). In addition, there are many requirements for access to these funds that are not being reported. Time and time again we talk with residents who have not been able to get help from these sources because their water was shut off either too long ago or not long enough, who owe either too much in back dues to DWSD or not enough! And if a resident is fortunate enough to receive funds from these sources, it automatically disqualifies her from receiving funds in the future.

7. We continue to be baffled and frustrated when city officials, including the Mayor, make references to demands for “free water.” In fact, we do not know anyone calling for free water for Detroiters. We’ve always made our request very clear: we believe that every resident of this watershed deserves to have access to affordable

8. Lastly, we are concerned about the report of language used for a media campaign documented in the minutes of the March 9 meeting of the new Great Lakes Water Authority. It read: “The goal is to change the culture regarding responsibility to pay for service.” We simply ask that city leaders cease this kind of victim-blaming. It has been our experience—through our door-to-door canvassing efforts, from calls to our water hotline and our emergency water deliveries—that the inability to pay water bills in the city of Detroit has very little to do with a lack of personal responsibility. This crisis has everything to do with unjust social and economic policies from the State of Michigan and the city of Detroit. More than 40% of Detroiters live below the poverty level and water rates are twice the national average (and climbing!). This doesn’t add up.

As we head into the Spring and another round of vicious water shut-offs, we want to make sure that the truth on the ground is clear. Too often, the Mayor and other city officials have been able paint over questions with vague insinuations. We desperately need leaders and media outlets to say what they mean and mean what they say. We would like to invite anyone and everyone to join us in our efforts, in the words of the prophet Amos, “to let justice roll like water.” Water is a human right for every precious Detroiter. Now, more than ever, we are faced with a sense of urgency. Now is the time for all Detroiters of faith and conscience to stand up and fight back.

Take Action: Send a message to keep the water on in Detroit!

Please see the following action from Food & Water Watch to send a message to Mayor Mike Duggan, Detroit City Council, DWSD and Governor Rick Snyder and ask them to make water affordable in Detroit:

Aggressive Water Shutoffs Will Begin Again in Detroit This Week!

Tell Mayor Duggan, City Council and DWSD to put in place an affordability plan before resuming shutoffs.

What’s at risk here is human health. We need water to keep ourselves and our families clean and healthy. When your water is shut off, you no longer have the ability to use the toilet, bathe, clean your clothes, cook food, clean your house and use life-saving medical equipment like nebulizers that help asthmatics breathe. The social stigma that comes along with the inability to pay for water is damaging to the families trying to provide for their loved ones and the children who attend school without having bathed and wearing dirty clothes. Take action today to make sure clean water is affordable for all communities. Read More

Thinking for Ourselves: Gathering Waters

By  Shea Howell

May 31, 2015

While the Michigan corporate elite gathered on Mackinac Island to congratulate themselves for getting though the Detroit bankruptcy without an uprising, the hope of the city was unfolding at the International Legal and Legislative Summit on Water Affordability, Sanitation and Housing. Held in conjunction with the International Gathering of Social Movements, 350 people from 47 states and 10 countries came together to strategize concrete ways to move toward a more progressive future based on values that respect life and the gifts of the earth.

The gathering was organized by a broad coalition of organizations pressuring the city to adopt a Water Affordability Plan and moratorium on housing foreclosures.  Local organizers Alice Jennings and Maureen Taylor provided the framework for the conference. You can view selected sessions at the link below.

Activist Valerie Jean said, “We all recognize we are at a moment when we have to make a choice. Are we going to protect our communities and make sure everyone is ok, or are we going to turn into the future city planned for us? That is the future city where they want my neighborhood, but they don’t want me in it.” Read More

A Correspondence with Judge Rhodes

Below is an exchange between a member of Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes (most recent correspondence is listed first, followed by the original exchange):

May 28, 2015

Judge Rhodes, when I contacted you last week regarding Kate Levy’s film interview, and specifically contextualizing your statement that “The thing about bankruptcy that’s so beautiful is that we don’t ask why”, you responded almost immediately. (The entire exchange, with a link to Kate’s interview, is preserved below.)

Responding directly to my question, you further stated “Bankruptcy courts are neither equipped nor authorized to fix the societal problems that may have caused the need for our help.”  

A few minutes ago, sitting right beside you on the stage at the regional Chamber of Commerce Mackinac conference “Architects of Prosperity” panel, Chief Judge Rosen analogized the Detroit bankruptcy and the “grand bargain” to the famous story about Benjamin Franklin, supposedly stating that the U.S. constitutional convention wrought “a republic, if you can keep it.”  He then stated that in the bankruptcy & “grand bargain” you collectively “wrought a city.” (see video below) Read More