Stepping back to last month, on July 15 in Bankruptcy Court:
One of the objectors asked the judge to halt water shutoffs that have been taking place as the city's water department -- which is responsible for a large portion of Detroit's debt -- takes a more aggressive approach to collecting on overdue bills.Detroit's Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr, acting on behalf of Governor Snyder found Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes wasn't too impressed with the Water Shutoff Program and ordered a halt to the program for 15 days from July 21 to August 4.
Rhodes asked a city attorney to prepare an explanation of the water shutoff process, but said he isn't sure whether he has any jurisdiction in the matter --- Mlive
“We need to time to make sure our aggressive communications efforts reach customers,” the deputy director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, Darryl Latimer, told Detroit’s bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, this morning in federal court. --- Detroit Free PressIn turn the Emergency Manager passed the situation to Mayor Mike Duggan, an elected official on July 29.
Emergency Manager Order 31 grants to the Mayor authority to manage DWSD and make appointments to the Board of Water Commission. The order amplifies the authority given to the Mayor to manage City operations and make appointments as outlined in Order 20. --- Tell Us DetroitAs the end date for the hold on water shutoffs came around on August 4th, an extension to August 25 was announced through the Mayor's office. Additional details regarding collecting overdue water bills was provided today, as discussed further in the article.
The shut-off program is working to collect $91.7 million in residential overdue accounts (about 52%). Adding overdue commercial accounts (about 55%) to this brings the amount over $175 million.
The Detroit Water Board approved a $5.6 million, 730 day contract with Homrich Wrecking April 24, Contract No. DWS-894, “Water Shut-Off/Turn-On Project,”according to the Board’s minutes.
“The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) is initiating this project to reduce DWSD’s delinquent water accounts,” DWSD Director Sue McCormick said in a letter to the Board. “As part of the overall plan to increase DWSD’s revenue collection, the Department will increase its efforts of water shut-offs for customers with a 60-day or more past-due balance. . . This project will target approximately 70,000 residential accounts throughout the City of Detroit over a period of two (2) years.” --- Voice Of Detroit
DWSD (Detroit Water & Sewerage Department) held an information session attended mostly by activists and press on July 17 at the Rosedale Park Community Center. DWSD's Charlie Fleetham indicated the Water Affordability Program drafted by MWRO (Michigan Welfare Rights Organization) in 2006 would put the department at risk of being sued.
Maureen Taylor (from MWRO) says Fleetham and those who say an affordability plan violates state law are misinterpreting a clause that states bill payment arrangements cannot be formulated so that people with money are responsible for paying for people without money.The meeting with DWSD did little to resolve tensions, answer questions, or find solutions to concerns. There was an admission that they were ill prepared with sufficient staff to handle the need for consulting with customers.
“(An affordability plan) is a formula crafted to allow more affordable payments for people who have less money,” she said. “Every other utility provider is able to craft a payment arrangement for people with (low incomes). We cannot treat (water) as a commodity, therefore if you can’t pay for it you can’t have it.” --- Michigan Citizen
News from today - August 7
Mayor Duggan invited community activists to attend a press conference where he rolled out a 10 point plan regarding water shut-offs from now until August 25th when the project to shut-off water resumes in full effect.
- Waive Turn-On Fees and Late Payment Penalties.
- Cut red tape.
- Extend hours at DWSD Customer Care Centers.
- Increase staffing at the DWSD Call Center and extend hours.
- Cobo Water Fair August 23rd.
- Improve notification for customers in danger of shut-off.
- Implement an Affordable Payment Plan.
- Provide financial assistance for low-income Detroit customers.
- Build Neighborhood Partnerships.
- Provide a clear way to give. - This points to the Detroit Water Fund, handled through United Way of SE Michigan.
When loading the Detroit Water Fund site it seemed to take a long time to load. The statement on the page saying "While many DWSD customers have the financial ability to make their monthly water payments..." is a slap in the face to those whom have had their water off for months or have acquired long overdue water bills that floated over from previous residents.
DWSD's billing practices need to be more fully explained. If a person moves away that was owing a couple thousand dollars on water, that bill comes to the new resident. This also applies to empty houses acquired for renovation, and a host of additional situations. Many empty houses have water running in the basement... go look at the Detroit Delivers map to see 179 reported leaks since July 17 when the application was announced. If more people knew about the mobile app and used it, imagine how much higher the reported locations would be. Find out more about the app on a prior entry.
A response from Michigan Welfare Rights Organization to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's 10 point plan to address water shut-offs, which he intends to continue in a modified manner. The letter calls out the interests of privatizing the water and requests a six-month trial of the Water Affordability Program MWRO proposed in 2006, and TURN THE WATER ON, especially for those who have remained without access due to hardship. --- MWRO letter on Scribd
Community activists continue to call foul of the improvement to services Mayor Duggan made in campaign promises. One of these promises was a request for six months to have the problems with the buses fixed. Thus far increased police coverage of bus routes to manage irate riders, plus the installation of cameras to watch what is going on inside the bus. Neither of these addresses the cause of irate riders - that being the buses running on time and reliably.
Mayor Duggan still is disconnected with his responsibility to create work opportunities in the neighborhoods. People will continue to have problems paying their bills when lacking these city services:BACK TO THE BANKRUPTCY
- Mass transit that is RELIABLE - ON-TIME and doesn't BREAK-DOWN. If you want to know why the FTA has hesitated on granting M1 Rail $12.2 million - and THIS is the reason why. The RTA has not been positioned to take care of transportation needs of the people living throughout Detroit. Buses must enable everyone access to jobs.
- Public lighting must be on throughout the neighborhoods of Detroit - no more darkened streets! It is unacceptable for major roads like Grand River and Gratiot to be in darkness. Streets such as Grand Blvd, Outer Drive and each Mile road need to have lighting. Anywhere a bus runs should have public lights working.
- No more outsourcing and NO PRIVATIZATION - what Detroit has experienced under the Emergency Manager and his created water crisis are exactly what leads to privatization. And we know that companies are NOT listening to the public. They execute the orders and contract as written. PUBLIC SERVICES need FULL FUNDING!
- Resident employment program must be established and enforced. No more tax abatement with a promise to do good. Corporate good is evident in the outlying neighborhoods of Detroit - this is what corporate good looks like - NO SERVICE other than what they want.
- Work program for graduating high school seniors that ensures they are able to gain city service employment upon graduation. No more graduates without paying jobs! This city needs to employ young workers raised from within.
--- Activist Stephen Boyle's blog
August 6 - Municipal bankruptcy proceedings aren't going so well for the Emergency Manager. The news reports "Judge sees holes in Detroit's plan to exit bankruptcy, revitalize itself". So it seems Governor Snyder's viceroy is having a tough time at being a turnaround manager, which is what he championed with Chrysler. But corporations and municipalities are different things.
Kopacz’s 226-page report deemed the city’s strategy to exit bankruptcy feasible — a key legal criteria for the plan to be approved — but also raised significant questions about a number of the city’s assumptions about its financial future.
Rhodes listed more than a dozen such concerns on a broad range of topics in Detroit’s proposal for how it would eliminate $7 billion in debt and operate after it emerges from the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy. --- Detroit Free Press
The proceedings Wednesday made clear that Rhodes is zeroing in on issues central to whether Detroit in the long run meets the goals emergency manager Kevyn Orr’s team have established in the bankruptcy plan of adjustment.
Among the other concerns Rhodes raised based on the Kopacz report:
- Whether Detroit’s bankruptcy plan assumes the city will receive a level of state revenue sharing that isn’t guaranteed by the state, especially given long-term declines in such funding for Detroit and other cities.
- Why city budgets in the plan of adjustment leave only 1% contingency (money set aside in case revenues come in lower than expected) when the bankruptcy grand bargain legislation the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder approved — giving $195 million from the state to the deal to reduce Detroit pension cuts and prevent asset sales at the Detroit Institute of Arts — requires a 5% contingency.
- Why, when Detroit admits its bookkeeping is deficient, the plan budgets no money for its financial consultant, Ernst & Young, to continue its financial analysis work for the city.
- Why the plan of adjustment says little about the operations of the state financial oversight commission that will have strong authority over Detroit’s fiscal affairs. Rhodes said he was concerned about the funding and staffing the commission will need but said the question may best be directed at state officials.
--- Detroit Free Press
The trial, in which Rhodes will seek to determine whether the city's debt adjustment plan is fair, legal and feasible, begins Aug. 14.The time has passed for the Emergency Manager or the Mayor to appear they have things under control. Residents, pensioners, and activists are screaming loudly that we know this city has been plundered by the privileged and continues to be at this time. As a number of speakers at rallies have said "I DON'T LIVE IN A BANKRUPT CITY, WE HAVE A BANKRUPT GOVERNMENT". Sadly about 5% of Detroit voters came to the polls and voted on August 5th primary election. Its time for the city to mobilize voter registration and organized resistance.
"Your input is extremely important in this process," Rhodes told the crowd of objectors Tuesday (July 15). --- Mlive
In the research for this story I saw Municipal Water Bonds were ordered by the Emergency Manager on January 30 - Order 22. There was a 45 day window for 15,000 signatures to be collected that would have moved the request to a vote of the people. We must increase our vigilance and train new eyes on how to watch, discover, and report into our community.