Monday, July 14, 2014

Detroit, Poverty and Water Shutoffs

The way news media in Detroit have portrayed thousands of water shutoffs by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department in recent months for non-payment of water bills, you would think the problem just suddenly sprang up.  Not so.

Excerpts from “The Plight of the Waterless in Detroit” by Lara Zielin, LSA Magazine, adapted in The Cutting Edge, September 28, 2011:

“The questions deepen as the shutoffs continue. Water bills are also on the rise, even though one in six Detroit workers is unemployed and more than 30 percent of Detroiters live below federal poverty levels. In 2005, more than 40,000 Detroit residents had their water turned off.”

“In 2005, [Dr. Ann Rall] and workers with Michigan Welfare Rights drafted and submitted the Water Affordability Plan (WAP) to the Detroit City Council. WAP proposed that city funds, supplemented by charitable donations, would help ensure at-risk Detroit residents would never be in danger of a shutoff again.”

“The Detroit City Council passed the WAP resolution in 2005, and even allocated seed funding of $2.5 million to support the program. WAP was gaining ground until DWSD put forth its own plan to ease shutoffs: The Detroit Residential Water Assistance Program (DRWAP). DWSD’s director at the time, Victor Mercado, spearheaded the program’s effort, which had much the same structure as WAP: seed funding, and charitable giving (Detroit residents voluntarily agree to a donation every month on their water bill) providing a pool of money to help Detroit residents pay their bills.”

“DRWAP was instituted in 2007, and claims that 3,000 people have enrolled in the program since its inception.”

Does any of this sound familiar?  “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
(Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, Les Guêpes, January 1849)

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