Newsflash:
Rep. Barbara Lee Economic and Social Justice Racist Detroit Policies Lead to Lawsuit Against Water Shut-Offs
Thursday, 28 August 2014 14:59

Racist Detroit Policies Lead to Lawsuit Against Water Shut-Offs

Written by  Ben Ptashnik, Victoria Collier | DemocracyMovements.Us - The National Election Integrity Coalition
Racism does not only come in the form of bullets fired by a police officer. Detroit’s socio-political problems are furthered by blatantly racist, ALEC sponsored, Koch brothers–backed Tea Party candidates and legislation, which have lead to gentrification and cutting off of water to minority residents in predominantly African American communities.
Since May, tens of thousands of Detroit’s African American residents have been subjected to their water being shut off without notice as part of the hostile takeover and privatization of Detroit by the right-wing State Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder, who suspended democratic government and forced the city into bankruptcy.

In place of elected government, a state-appointed corporate Emergency Management regime is engaged in a plan to raid city workers pensions, and to sell off city assets, including the city Water Department. Aggressively shutting off water is part of this racist privatization effort. Local activists point out that, although 55% of the Water Department ’s commercial customers were behind on their bills, none of these customers were targeted for shut offs. Millions of dollars owed by sports stadiums, golf courses, bank-owned and state-owned properties were allowed to slide, while Detroit’s 83% African American residential customers were forced to bear the brunt of the cities attempt to collect overdue bills.

In July over two thousand demonstrators protested in downtown Detroit demanding the end to the water shut-offs. Nine activists, including clergy, were arrested for civil disobedience for blocking the private company trucks commissioned to carry out the shut-offs, which the UN decried as a human rights violation and public health crisis. The international publicity forced the city to place a moratorium on the shut-offs until August 25th.

Lawyers representing minority residents are filing a lawsuit to prevent the ending of the moratorium. New protests are planned for Sept 2nd, when the bankruptcy trial of Detroit begins.

The following Press release was issued Monday August 25th by the activist legal team in Detroit:

“DETROIT – In an effort to preserve a moratorium on water shut-offs, a group of Detroit residents and civil rights attorneys filed court documents over the weekend asking a judge to immediately block the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) from terminating water service to any occupied residence, and to require the restoration of service to occupied residences without water.

The moratorium is currently scheduled to end today. The ACLU of Michigan and NAACP Legal Defense fund are serving as expert consultants in the ongoing litigation.

“Without a continued moratorium on water shutoffs, thousands more Detroiters, mostly low income children, seniors, and disabled, will immediately be at risk for shutoff,” says Alice Jennings of Edwards & Jennings, P.C., counsel in the lawsuit, “A comprehensive water affordability plan, a viable bill dispute process, specific polices for landlord-tenant bills and a sustainable mechanism for evaluating the number of families in shutoff status or at risk for shutoff, is necessary prior to lifting the DWSD water shutoff moratorium.”

The motion for a temporary restraining order filed yesterday is part of a class action lawsuit, Lyda et.al v. City of Detroit, on behalf of Detroit residents affected by the mass shut-off campaign of DWSD, as well as organizations active in the fight for the restoration of and affordable access to water including Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, People’s Water Board, National Action Network-Michigan Chapter and Moratorium Now!. This suit is currently in bankruptcy court before Judge Stephen Rhodes as part of the city’s bankruptcy proceedings.

The lawsuit argues that that the DWSD began water shutoffs without adequate notice and against the most vulnerable residents, while commercial entities with delinquent accounts were left alone. The suit also argues that this violates the plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection rights.

“More than 17,000 homes have had their water cut off and water bills in Detroit are among the highest in the country and unaffordable to many Detroit residents,” says Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “The rush to resume shut offs when there are serious questions about the affordability plan, accuracy of bills, and issues with the water department's ability to process disputes, means that the City of Detroit should get its house in order before turning off anyone else's water.”

In March, DWSD began dispatching private contractors to begin shutting off water service to residents who are more than 60 days delinquent, or owe more than $150. Despite the fact that 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the shut-offs began without a plan to help those who cannot pay.

After public outcry and this lawsuit, the city implemented a moratorium and announced a 10-point plan to address the dysfunctions raised by the lawsuit and civil rights groups.

"The mayor's plan only consists of proposals and temporary fixes,” said Rev. Charles Williams of the National Action Network-Michigan Chapter. “Until actual policies are in place to ensure that residents have access to affordable water, the water shut-offs cannot be resumed. The current proposal for residents to enter into non-negotiable payment plans is only a short-term solution."

Last month, the ACLU of Michigan and NAACP LDF wrote a letter to city officials arguing that that the poorly implemented and uneven DWSD shut-off policy violates the civil and human rights, as well as the due process rights of residents because it often fails to provide them with adequate notice and a hearing that takes into account whether they actually have the ability to pay.

“DWSD must immediately restore water to all its customers,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “In addition, they should create a reasonable timetable for a hearing and appeals process, pending resolution of these issues."

Attorneys for residents are calling on Judge Rhodes to order DWSD to extend the moratorium to ensure that the most vulnerable Detroiters are not left without water. The moratorium on shut offs should be extended until DWSD has policies in place to ensure that collections are done in a way that doesn’t violate residents constitutional rights.

Tawana Petty, an activist with the People’s Water Board Coalition, echoed these sentiments. "We are asking the Governor, Mayor, Emergency Manager and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to stop their assault on the citizens of Detroit and restore all water to residents. Water is life and without it, we perish.”

Read 1442 times

ERA Legislation in your State

Unratified states Gold - Ratified States Purple

Latest News from the Lee Campaign

Latest News from the Grayson Campaign

Latest News from the Schapira Campaign

  • Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race
    Standard-Bearer in Pivotal Arizona Congressional Race

    With early ballots in the mail, and only three weeks from the August 28th primary, State Senator David Schapira has emerged as the Democratic standard-bearer in a closely watched and increasingly nasty three-way congressional race in Arizona that many observers see as a litmus test for national Democratic chances to pick up critical seats in Congress.

    Written on Thursday, 09 August 2012 01:45 Read more...
  • Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Harry Mitchell Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    “The primary in Congressional District 9 has pitted three of the brightest members of the Democratic Party in Arizona against each other. All three candidates are leaders in our state and I am honored to call them friends.

    Written on Thursday, 26 July 2012 12:14 Read more...
  • A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira
    A Guest Post From Arizona Progressive State Senator David Schapira

    Endorsements are a funny thing. Most of them aren't worth anything at all. I have two friends running in the Democratic primary in Arizona's brand new 9th CD, Kyrsten Sinema and Andrei Cherny. Kyrsten is a progressive and Andrei is somewhere in his own world ideologically. But the third guy... well, he's the one who's been endorsed by Raúl-- and by PDA. Whomever wins the August 28th primary is, likelier than not, headed to Congress. That third guy is David Schapira, the Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Saturday, 30 June 2012 13:38 Read more...
  • David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement
    David Schapira Receives PDA Endorsement

    On the May Inside the Party call, David Schapira (AZ-9) received the PDA National endorsement. Currently David Schapira is the Arizona State Senate Democratic Leader.

    Written on Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress
    Arizona Communications Workers of America State Council Endorses David Schapira for Congress

    The Arizona Communications Workers of America (CWA) State Council announced today their endorsement of Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in the race for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. The state council is comprised of the Arizona Correctional Peace Officers Association (AZCPOA), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and multiple CWA local affiliates.

    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2012 19:55 Read more...
  • Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira
    Congressman Raúl Grijalva Endorses David Schapira

    Congressman Raúl Grijalva, AZ-07, today announced his endorsement of Arizona Senate Democratic Leader David Schapira, D-Tempe, in his campaign for Arizona’s Ninth Congressional District. “Voters are looking for candidates who stand up for what they believe in and can win, not by hiding their values, but by sharing them with voters. David is that candidate,” said Rep. Grijalva.

    Written on Monday, 30 April 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • Arizona Union Rights Stripped

    Arizona Governor Jan Brewer pushes the country's most anti-union agenda yet. David Shapira, Democratic leader of the Arizona state senate, slams his Republican colleagues. Welcome back to "The Ed Show." Jan Brewer and the Arizona Republicans are on a tear. they are on the offensive. they are on a mission to completely destroy public employee unions. have you heard the story before?

    Written on Thursday, 02 February 2012 00:00 Read more...
  • State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race
    State Senator David Schapira Jumps Into District 9 Congressional Race

    As predicted, former state Senator Kyrsten Sinema's not the only Democrat with her eye on Arizona's new Congressional seat -- this morning, state Senate Minority Leader David Schapira announced that he, too, will run in Arizona's newly formed 9th Congressional district.

    Written on Tuesday, 17 January 2012 00:00 Read more...

Sign the ERA Petition

ERADemandButton

On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

Button-SignERAPetition

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Like Rep. Barbara Lee

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of