The Spark

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

Detroit:
Using Water Shutoffs to Drive People Out

Jul 21, 2014

More than a thousand people marched from Cobo Hall to Hart Plaza in Detroit against the city water department’s campaign to shut off water to homeowners who cannot pay their water bills. Others carried out a second demonstration and blocked the driveway of a contractor to prevent trucks going out to carry out more shutoffs. Detroit police responded by arresting nine of the protesters.

The Cobo Hall demonstration was largely organized by “liberal” Democratic Party politicians, who happen to be holding a convention there. For them – many of whom are responsible for cutbacks in funds to cities – the water shutoffs are simply a handy elections issue. For the people of Detroit and many of the demonstrators, it’s a real public health problem.

The water department has shut off water to 42,000 customers in the last year, and 15,000 in just the last three months. This in a city where 40 per cent of the population lives below the poverty level.

The biggest “deadbeats,” as officials refer to customers delinquent on their water bills, are big companies like Chrysler, but they are not the ones being targeted. Instead the city is going after poor people who cannot pay.

The city didn’t make repairs or bill customers correctly for years. Now people are being hit with huge bills they cannot pay and the city is using it as a pretext to deny people access to a basic necessity of life.

It’s taking the city back a couple of centuries. Shutting off access to clean water can create enormous epidemics.

Not so long ago, the New York Times was running horrible pictures of Detroit’s ruins. But suddenly, its Sunday magazine is carrying an article about all the wonderful things being done to “bring the city back.” They want investors to see it’s the next great place to invest.

The city, under the dictates of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, appointed by Michigan governor Rick Snyder, has made the decision to drive poor people out. Water shutoffs are just part of the campaign.

We’re not the people the politicians and wealthy investors want to remain in the city. But guess what! It’s not their city – those wealthy investors and their political flunkies. That’s what many of the demonstrators were saying. And that fact needs to be drummed into the heads of all those who seek to profit off our distress.