The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Highland Park Water Crisis—The Latest Attack on Its Working Class

May 29, 2023

For the residents of Highland Park, Michigan, it has been one crisis after another for the past 30 years or so. The latest crisis is over their water system. The city is facing possible bankruptcy over unpaid water bills, that could also lead to much higher bills for residents.

Highland Park is a small city of less than 10,000 residents. It is surrounded by the city of Detroit. It is one of the poorest communities in Michigan.

At one time, however, it was much different. Chrysler had its world headquarters in Highland Park until it moved to the suburbs in the early 1990s, costing the city about 5,000 jobs and lots of tax income. Prior to that, Ford Motor Company had plants in Highland Park: Henry Ford built his first assembly line there. When these companies left, they took the wealth that those workers had produced with them.

Beginning in 2001, the state of Michigan took over the city government with an Emergency Financial Manager and ran the city for almost 10 years. This was done to a number of poor cities in Michigan, such as Detroit and Flint. These un-elected Emergency Financial Managers, appointed by the governor, acted with no accountability—that led, for example, to the Flint Water Crisis.

Highland Park has been left without a school system. The only public high school in the city, Highland Park High School, was closed in 2015, and the students now have to go to schools in Detroit, or to charter schools. About 10 years ago, most of the street lights were turned off and then completely removed due to money owed to DTE, the local electric company. There is no public library anymore.

Now the issue is the water system—it is old and has not been properly maintained for years. The water is supplied by the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA), which supplies water to most Detroit area cities.

Most residents pay their water bills, but this money has not been used to maintain the system, a water system so old it still has wooden pipes! The leaks throughout the system are very costly.

The city owes about 24 million dollars in back water bills. It is mostly the absentee landlords that do not pay their bills. And yet, the residents are the ones who could be faced with the shut off of their water.

Michigan is surrounded by the Great Lakes, some of the biggest freshwater lakes in the world. Michigan should be one of the last places in the world where there are water crises. Yet from Flint to Highland Park and in multiple other parts of the state, there continue to be problems.