Did Detroit Mayor’s Office Suppress Damaging Water Shutoffs Study?

Matthew Kovac of the Great Lakes Beacon interviewed Monica of We the People of Detroit for a story on the potential that the Detroit mayor’s office has been effectually silencing communications of the results of the recent research study conducted by Henry Ford Health System’s Global Health Initiative and We the People of Detroit.

Excerpt below – read the full article here:

“‘All we know is that we were told by representatives of Henry Ford Health Systems and the Global Health Initiative that they could not speak to the issues because it would jeopardize some of their negotiations for contracts with the city of Detroit,’ Lewis-Patrick said. ‘They were not allowing anyone to speak to these issues because of fear of reprisal from the mayor of Detroit. So it goes back to the mayor.’

Lewis-Patrick noted the positive impact of some of Henry Ford’s city contracts, like their health centers in Detroit schools, but said they must not come at the expense of informing Detroiters about the dangers of the city’s shutoff policy.

‘The health and welfare of Detroiters should be the first concern and priority of both the mayor and Henry Ford Health Systems,’ Lewis-Patrick said.”

Bridge Magazine | Are Detroit water shutoffs and illnesses related?

Bridge Magazine has published an article on the Detroit water crisis and We the People of Detroit’s co-research project with the Henry Ford Global Health Initiative.


“The records showed that patients who lived on a block with shutoffs were 1.55 times more likely to have a water-associated illness, even when other socioeconomic situations are taken into consideration.

Water activists used the findings to renew their call for a moratorium on the shutoffs, and planned to begin a robo-call campaign this week bringing the issue to the attention of city residents.

‘Common sense tells us that you can’t deprive tens of thousands of people of water and not suffer serious public health consequences,’ said Monica Lewis-Patrick of the We the People group.”

We Are The Opportunity In Our Crises

We the People of Detroit was mentioned in an article entitled “We Are the Opportunity in Our Crises” by Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty in the Spring 2017 issue of Riverwise.

Read the full article here.

Close-up of three men unloading packs of bottled water from a truck

“Because of the innovation and forward thinking of We the People of Detroit (WTP www.wethepeopleofdetroit.com), an organization that has responded consistently to the water shutoff crisis in Detroit, many residents were able to access clean water during the boil water advisory that left most of Detroit without water. In 2014, during the height of the water crisis, WTP set up water stations and began door-to-door campaigns to assess the needs of Detroiters. They also started an emergency phone line in order to provide rapid response support to disabled and elderly residents, advocated at City Council meetings and elsewhere for the Water Affordability Plan first proposed by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the People’s Water Board Coalition many years ago. We the People Research Collective has published Mapping the Water Crisis, a book which documents the targeting of Black neighborhoods with the conflated assaults of water shut-offs and home foreclosures. The book is a powerful asset in the struggle for water as a human right.”

Let’s Meet Up By the Water: A Reportback from ASLE 2017

WPD took part in the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE) at Wayne State University and are featured in a Deceleration reportback.

“Monica Lewis-Patrick discussed how the work of We the People of Detroit started around the effects of emergency management on public education, but shifted to water access after Charity Hicks, a community leader and water protector who passed in 2014, was arrested for speaking out against the shut offs in her neighborhood. Via the People’s Water Board, Lewis-Patrick, Taylor, and numerous others organized a hotline for reporting shut offs, emergency water stations, and community research efforts to document the extent of the crisis, even publishing a book last year on the basis of this research, entitled ‘Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit.’ Lewis-Patrick spoke powerfully about how, out of 126 municipalities in the region, Detroit and Flint, communities with large Black populations, were the only two with a water shut-off policy for delinquency. ‘This is not conspiracy,’ she said. ‘This is a highly orchestrated system of evil to determinate who can drink and who cannot.'”

WPD Featured in “An Equitable Water Future: A National Briefing Paper”

A report has been released by the US Water Alliance that highlights the work of the WPD Community Research Collective.

View/Download the full report — An Equitable Water Future: A National Briefing Paper
Visit report page on the US Water Alliance website

“Data can also empower communities to understand and analyze affordability challenges, as well as present their findings to decision-makers. We the People of Detroit, a community organization which engages in participatory research, took a data-driven approach to the water affordability crisis faced by low-income Detroit communities in 2014. We the People saw the impact of water shutoffs on quality of life, but they also saw the need to quantify the scope and impact of the problem. They partnered with the University of Michigan and the Detroit Public Health Department to lead community-based research on the public health impacts of unaffordable water. We the People conducted surveys, gathered government data, and created maps, all showing the health effects of the shutoffs. This project leveraged institutional resources to involve the community in data collection and analysis around affordability and water quality, promoting a clearer understanding of the challenges and illuminating potential solutions.”

Detroiters’ Fight for Affordable Water Access Has Lessons for America’s Future

An article entitled “Detroiters’ Fight for Affordable Water Access Has Lessons for America’s Future” by our own Monica Lewis Patrick has been published in the April 2017 issue of River Voices: Water Equity and Civic Engagement. Read our article and download the full issue of River Voices here. The article begins on page 7.

Monica Lewis-Patrick and other water warriors and volunteers, wearing bright yellow reflective vests and surrounding a table full of clipboards, canvassing on the streets of Detroit.

About this River Voices issue:
“We believe that access to affordable clean water and healthy rivers is a fundamental human right. Like other human rights, we must be prepared to assert and defend this right. By listening, we can hear the concerns of the communities we are part of; and by working together, we can influence elected officials and resource managers to address these disparities. The articles in this issue of River Voices provide examples of places where access to affordable clean water is not equal, and how civic engagement is making a difference. These articles underscore the variety of ways to become involved, including seeking public office. We hope that this issue sparks your curiosity and encourages you to continue exploring. Water is life.”

Quests for Justice and Mechanisms of Suppression in Flint, Michigan

Rebecca L. Rutt and Jevgeniy Bluwstein have published a research paper entitled “Quests for Justice and Mechanisms of Suppression in Flint, Michigan”. The abstract is below. READ FULL PAPER

“There is widespread acknowledgment of the crisis nature and injustices around water quality and access in Flint since mid-2014. This crisis led to different forms of grassroots activism demanding political accountability, transparency, and redress. However, residents’ experiences and their needs and demands in response to the crisis have been largely ignored. This article explores the mechanisms of suppression at work in obscuring these needs and demands. Specifically, it sheds light on the role of the public sector, the media, and the academic institutions in reproducing these mechanisms of suppression. The article situates the struggles over political accountability within the neoliberalization of public administration and government through emergency management. Capital accumulation can continue and intensifies, whereas emergency management further contributes to suppressing public dissent in the times of crisis via the erosion of political accountability. By illuminating institutionalized mechanisms of suppression of residents’ needs and demands, we argue that the Flint water crisis should also be seen as a crisis of government, journalism, and academia.”

Water Testing Project with MSU

Flyer with an illustration of four children at a lemonade stand with no water and a banner saying "what happened to the water". Details about the water testing project, including a $100 stipend, promise of confidentiality, and number to call to see if you qualify: 313-451-2171

“We the People of Detroit’s work has four focus areas: water testing, story-telling and videography, door-to-door research, and mapping. The MSU team is collaborating with the collective to implement the water testing piece, looking at it from two angles: (1) How does water affordability affect water quality? and (2) How do communities use data and research to promote their own public health or political objectives?

The two-year project has two phases. The first phase involved creating a Community Advisory Board, made up of residents of Detroit, including members of We the People of Detroit. Then the MSU team worked with the Community Advisory Board to design the project, sampling strategy, and survey.

The next phase will involve sampling residents’ water for substances such as heavy metals, microorganisms, and disinfection by-products. To preserve anonymity, the MSU team does not go into the homes themselves to take the samples. “We’re working with the Community Advisory Board to train field workers to help the residents take their own samples and do some preliminary analysis in their households,” said Mitchell. This process also works towards a true citizen science approach. “Community members, via the Community Advisory Board, are engaged in the entire process. So even with developing the training protocols and what things we’re going to sample with, all of that is being developed with our community partners.””


Water Access and Public Health

Esperanza Cantu writes for authorityhealth.org on why water access in Detroit matters for public health:

As officials continue to grapple with how to receive payments from water customers, the Population Health Council continues to advocate for a water affordability plan as a long-term solution, and a moratorium to the populations listed above as exceptions based on public health.

To read more click here.

Detroit Parents with Special Needs Students

The following article was originally posted on We the People of Detroit co-founder Aurora Harris’ Detroit Parents with Special Needs blog.

As a concerned parent of a loved on with Autism; a Special Education Advocate for parents in Detroit, Michigan; and a co-founder of We The People of Detroit, I have been concerned with the quality of education special needs students have been receiving. Since Detroit Public Schools were placed under Emergency Managers, beginning with Robert Bobb, I have continued independently researching and writing about special education (or the lack of) in the DPS, EAA (Education Achievement Authority, a State system for low performing schools) and Charter Schools.
There are several questions I am attempting to answer: What will happen to Detroit’s students with special needs in general ed, EAA, and charter schools that are closing? What schools will they be transferred to when their school closes? Will they receive the FAPE ( Free and Appropriate Public Education) they need as mandated by IEP’s, IDEA, and Section 504 or will they continue to suffer from cutbacks in resources, accommodations, and lack of qualified teachers? How many parents will experience discrimination when attempting to enroll a child with special needs in charters? Which schools are students with special needs experiencing overcrowding in? What exactly is funding to educate students with special needs in general ed, charter, and center based schools being spent on? When a child transfers or drops out, does the Emergency Manager and administration ensure the funds follow the student, and in the case of drop out, do they misappropriate the funding (spend it on other things) instead of returning it to the Feds or State? Where does the special education funding go when a school is permanently closed down? Finally, how many special needs students are and will be affected by school closures, water shut off and foreclosure in the city of Detroit? Some of my questions come from the inability to find detailed spending reports concerning special education in Detroit while under Emergency Managers from Robert Bobb to Judge Rhodes, and the refusal of majority legislators in Lansing refusing requests by Detroit legislators to have a forensic audit done for DPS while it was under emergency managers. The final question is related to a recent water shut off mapping study called Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit” by the We The People of Detroit Community Research Collective. We The People of Detroit is a local non-profit, that I am a co-founder of.
Last week, I received an eight page report on proposed school closings in the Detroit Public Schools District beginning in September 2016 (in two weeks). As some of you may have learned from my last blog entry, the Detroit Public Schools website changed and much of the information pertaining to the “old” district cannot be found. As usual, I have been continuing my research on the number of Special Education students in the Detroit School District (DPS and the new Community Schools District) that may be affected by school closures, the type of education and resources they will receive, and funding sources for Special Education in Detroit. As an advocate, parents asked me if they can enroll their child with special needs in a charter school or they have told me that charter schools in Detroit have told them they “are full” when the parent attempts to enroll their child. In response to those parents, I have told them that in the State of Michigan, according to federal law, all schools, including charters, must provide Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) and charters cannot deny enrollment because the student has a disability. When parents told me that a charter school told them they are “full,” meaning they are at full enrollment capacity and cannot accept the student with a disability, it reminds me of the discrimination by charter schools that took place in New Orleans, where complaints were filed and the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the parents when they found the charters were discriminating against the students. See an article by the Southern Poverty Law Center here.
In connecting the dots between New Orleans and Detroit, news sources in the past compared the closing of schools in Detroit to New Orleans, where New Orleans’ schools were destroyed and closed down by Hurricane Katrina (a natural disaster). The truth is the City of Detroit and Detroit Public Schools has not experienced a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. Detroit Public Schools were and still are being destroyed and closed down by Emergency Managers continually creating economic disaster by increasing the school district’s debt, and upholding polices and mandates that allowed for more charters schools to open. An article by the Metro Times covered the increase in debt after six years of Emergency Managers.
Today I discovered two reports by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. The first report supports what I have told parents. The first report dated March 30, 2012 is “Special Education Enrollment: Traditional Public Schools vs Charter Schools” discusses the mistaken belief that charter schools can have a selective enrollment process and explains why they “cannot categorically deny enrollment.” The second report, “Public School Enrollment Trends in Detroit Memo 1141, June 2016” provides details on the trends in enrollment from 2009 through 2016, and, enrollment of Special Education students. This report shows an <b>increase</b> in the number of students enrolled in the schools, from 13% to 18%, from the early 2000’s to present. It also states that students with special needs are moving slower out of the district when compared with general education students. “Table 4” shows there were almost 4500 students receiving special education from 2011-13. The report also shows differences between Detroit’s Special Education enrollment and other districts: “Another difference in DPS’s special education population is that roughly one-half of the disabled students (2,269 FTE of 4,499 FTE) attend one of the six centerbased programs operated by the district. For all other districts and charter schools in Wayne RESA, 44 percent of the disabled student body attend center-based programs located across the ISD.Another part of the report states: “Special education students account for 12.7 percent of Michigan’s (excluding DPS) total public school enrollment in 2015-16, compared to 18.2 percent for DPS. Relative to total enrollment, DPS’s special education population is almost one-third larger than the statewide average.13 While DPS’s special education share has been trending up over the 10-plus years, the opposite has been occurring statewide.” The full reports may be downloaded in PDF from the Citizens of Michigan Research Council website at the links indicated above.
Regarding special education students, school closure, water shut off and foreclosure, the questions previously stated remain, and, based on the reports I read today, if Detroit Public Schools’ total enrollment of special education students is increasing, and half of those students are in 6 centerbased schools (see DPS website map):
1. Banks, Diann Williamson Center 5020 Cadieux Detroit, MI 48224 (313) 347-7280
2. Drew Transition Center 9600 Wyoming Street Detroit, MI 48204-4669 (313) 873-6880
3. Field, Moses 1100 Sheridan Detroit, MI 48214-4220 (313) 866-5790
4. Keidan Special Education Center 4441 Collingwood Detroit, MI 48204 (313) 873-9400
5. Turning Point Academy 12300 Linnhurst St. Detroit, MI 48205-2627 (313) 866-2200
6. White, Jerry L. Center 14804 W. McNichols Detroit, MI 48235 (313) 416-4200
are special education students residing and/or attending schools in areas heaviest hit with water shut off or foreclosure? I believe we can find an approximate number of special needs students affected by looking at the location of school closures, existing schools, and the maps provided by the We The People of Detroit Community Research Collective. A sample of the maps are found here.
The Fox 2 Detroit News Report on the press conference concerning the community report “Mapping the Water Crisis” can be found here.
A second publication by We The People of Detroit on education is forthcoming. Whether you are a parent, student, activist, or researcher, I hope you have found this information helpful.