Detroit Citizens Vigorously Protest Water Shutoffs
In response to widespread protest, including an appeal from the United Nations, the city of Detroit has granted a two-week reprieve to residents who are more than two months past-due on their municipal water bills.
In response to widespread protest, including an appeal from the United Nations, the city of Detroit has granted a two-week reprieve to residents who are more than two months past-due on their municipal water bills. Until the reprieve, more than 16,000 residents had their water turned off–meaning no showering, drinking, cooking, or flushing–by the private contractor Homrich, a demolition company that is being paid up to $6 million in public funds. During these two weeks, residents who cannot afford to pay their bills are expected to come forward to demonstrate their poverty. Meanwhile, the city will use the two weeks to identify homes who have had their water turned illegally back on.
What’s the Big Idea?
In no place more than Detroit are America’s precarious priorities on display. The city says it aims to collect all the $43 million owed by those past-due on their water bills, citing an $18 billion debt the city listed when it declared bankruptcy a year ago. “About half of $1.16bn in bonds issued by the city for the water and sewer department in 2011-12 – $547 million – was used to pay for termination fees to major Wall Street banks after the contractual cancellation of financial deals because of a downgrade in the city’s credit rating.” Many residents must choose between paying for their cell phone, an essential tool in the modern economy, and their water bill. The city of Detroit is literally fighting for survival.