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

Detroit Gives Away Its Lighting System

Apr 30, 2012

Detroit’s mayor has cut a secret deal to hand over the Public Lighting Department (PLD) and the city’s electrical utility to DTE Energy, one of the most profitable energy companies in the country. Just like every privatization scheme, it will cost the city and its residents far more. But it WILL make DTE a lot of money!

Right now, Detroit supplies a lot of its own power. After this plan, that electrical grid will be transferred to DTE. Right now, Detroit city agencies pay for their power, to the PLD, at a very low wholesale rate. (And, that payment stays within city government.) After the transfer, they will pay DTE–at a much higher retail rate, 50% higher than the current rate.

The city claims this will save money because DTE will be paying to renovate the system. But their plan calls for the CITY to take on 160 million dollars of debt in order to renovate the system–BEFORE giving it to DTE! By the time the city finishes paying off this debt twenty years later, the cost will be twice that much–320 million. The city will be paying, so that DTE can reap the profits from a renovated system.

Detroit politicians are lying through their teeth if they say this deal will save the city money.

And, this plan will leave many residents even more in the dark. The plan calls for the number of lights in the city to go DOWN by the end of the renovation, almost by half.

But it won’t be happening everywhere equally. The new plan rates neighborhoods from “steady” to “transitional” to “distressed” to justify leaving poorer neighborhoods without lights while giving richer neighborhoods 100% lighting. So much for helping residents!

And the city says 20,000 lights will be removed from alleyways. Darkened alleyways behind people’s houses will surely make those homes and streets even more dangerous for the residents than they already are. But the city acts as if those lights are completely unnecessary. Sure–because the politicians aren’t living in those neighborhoods!

But don’t worry–citizens will have the ability to “purchase and fund additional lights if they desire more lighting than their allotment.” So–the neighborhoods with the LEAST ability to pay will have to pay MORE if they want the full lighting that the wealthier neighborhoods will enjoy automatically!

For decades, one city administration after another let Detroit’s electrical grid and lighting system fall apart. It shut down its power plants, letting DTE take over. It reduced maintenance, and let its substations rot. Now the current crop of politicians says it’s too far gone for them to be able to afford to fix it. So they propose to hand it to DTE for nothing–AFTER they go into debt to fix it.

This has been nothing but a protracted campaign of malicious, contrived neglect.

The deal on Public Lighting is only the first of many to come under the new “consent agreement.” This is NOT “fixing” the city. It’s not a bailout by the state. It’s gutting the city even further–to “fix” and bail out private industry!