Thinking for ourselves
By Shea Howell
Mayor’s Balancing Act
July 10 2015
Mayor Duggan revamped his story on the water shut offs. Last week he was frustrated as advocates for a Water Affordability Plan confronted him about his disastrous shut off policies. This week, as hundreds of people walked and rallied between Detroit and Flint as part of a Water Justice Journey, the Mayor tried to strike a different note. It still rings false.
On Thursday, July 9th, the Mayor spoke to a crowd on the lower East Side. This time, when a question was raised about the 2000 homes being shut off every week, the Mayor said, “Let’s talk about this,” and launched into a defense of his actions. He offered the audience bad figures and outright lies. He demonstrated sloppy analysis that should embarrass anyone who has followed what is happening in our city. He cobbled together a story that portrays him as the guy making the tough decisions to protect the pocket books of those who are paying their bills and the guy keeping us from another Emergency Manager.
The Mayor started out saying he is taking the difficult road. “The easiest thing for any politician to do is tell you, yeah, we’ll do that, that was a method in this town that got us bankruptcy.”
The only way that sentence makes sense is if someone believes the reason we faced bankruptcy is because Detroit gave away all kinds of money to undeserving people. More plainly, the logic of the sentence depends on the white supremacist view that Detroit’s financial woes were caused by giving away money to lazy people who did nothing for it.
The Mayor continues this logic saying, “Everyone in this room is paying $150 this year to pay for the cost of other people who aren’t paying…When somebody in Detroit doesn’t pay their bill, other people pay it.”
The reality is when people are shut off, we all pay more for water because less money flows into the system.
Later in the monologue the Mayor conceded, “Most people in this city are willing to pay a little more for people who are truly in need, right, and that’s what we need to do, but most people are not willing to pay more for people who are just avoiding the bill…and so we are doing our best to strike the balance.” This balance is not based on any facts and figures about how many people are “avoiding” their water bills.
Does the Mayor think the United Nations cited Detroit for human rights violations because people were avoiding their bills? Does he think people walked from Detroit to Flint though storms because they want to defend the right of people to avoid their bills? Does he believe that most Detroiters don’t want to pay their bills?
This is utter nonsense, based on the most racist views of our city and its people. It is completely unsupported by fact. The point of a Water Affordability Plan is that everyone pays something. In most cases that means more money flows into the system and water keeps flowing into homes.
The Mayor concluded with the expansive comments that “protesters” had been invited to be part of the “review team.” Perhaps the Mayor missed the fact that Water Affordability Advocates left the review team last month because his own representatives refused to even discuss affordability.
Mayor Duggan said he hopes “to do the right thing.” He has a long way to go. He needs to stop defending himself with false stories and listen to the people who have studied this issue for years. He is striking a dangerous balance between water and fire if he continues to distort the harsh realities we are facing today.