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Separate and Unequal, Thinking for ourselves By Shea Howell

Thinking for ourselves
By Shea Howell

Separate and Unequal

August 14, 2016
This week the New York Times published yet another story about the reality of two separate and unequal Detroits. With the title “In Detroit’s 2-Speed Recovery, Downtown Roars and Neighborhoods Sputter,” Peter Applebome points to critical questions the Mayor and his administration would like to avoid.
After a brief sketch of downtown, Midtown and Corktown development, Applebome raises the question of what development means to neighborhoods. He says, “But what that means for the rest of the city and who is benefiting have set in motion a layered conversation about development, equity, race and class. It is playing out with particular force here in what was once the nation’s fourth-largest city and is now a place at once grappling with poverty, crime and failing schools, but also still animated by the bones of its former glory.”
This is a conversation the Mayor avoids. Yet even a transient observer like Applebome concludes, “The lack of progress is just as noticeable in the sprawl of often dilapidated neighborhoods, baking in the summer heat.”
Many are baking in that heat without water. Nowhere is the lack of progress and the denial by the Mayor and his administration clearer than in the water shut off crisis. The day before the New York Times article appeared, a group of community based researchers issued an important report. Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit: Volume 1 is the result of an 18 month study documenting water shut offs in the city.  The report demonstrates in clear and specific detail that neighborhoods are suffering from a combination of foreclosures and shut offs, diminishing the quality of life for everyone in the community. Last year 23,000 homes were shut off from water. Over the last decade the city has endured 110,000 foreclosures.
Underscoring the growing divide in our city, Monica Lewis-Patrick, a guiding force in the research collaborative, said, “There is a renaissance downtown full of newcomers, while they are shutting off water for those who stayed and paid” their bills for years.
The impact of these shut offs in a city where 40% of the people live in poverty and many are paying more than 10% of their income for water is to actively drive people out of their homes. Dr. Gloria House, Professor Emerita of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Wayne State University explained that the mapping documents that  “The incidents of shutoffs, foreclosures and school closures are not random, but intentional and specific… We believe it’s about the dismantling of neighborhoods.”
The Mayor continues to deny this reality. He refuses to consider the consequences of his policies in the lives of people in neighborhoods. Instead he chooses to pretend his water assistance plan (WRAP) is solving the problem.  No one but the Mayor and his administration believes this. No one who sees the shut off trucks moving through neighborhoods on a daily basis believes this.
The objective statistics do not support this. The WRAP is a failure.  It has a waiting list of 3,000 customers and the majority of people who have been signed up simply cannot keep up with the monthly payments.
The work of the We the People Detroit Community Research Collective documents in stark terms that our city is devolving into two separate, unequal, and unhealthy realities.
It does not have to be this way. Community activists and researchers have consistently advocated plans to make water available to all at affordable prices. They have developed programs to keep people in their homes and to stop foreclosures.  The real choice we face is about whose lives matter in our city.
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Good Friday Court Date for Nonviolent Water Justice Defendants

Good Friday Court Date for Nonviolent Water Justice Defendants

Good Friday Court Date for Nonviolent Water Justice Defendants 

Activists employ legal defense of preventing “obvious harm” to Detroit families 
DETROIT –Members of the “Homrich 9” will spend Good Friday in court facing charges from nearly two years ago when they put their bodies on the line to allow low-income Detroit families to have access to water. The defendants who blocked water shutoff trucks of the private contractor Homrich Wrecking Company have a legal defense that rest on their preventing the very obvious harm that comes when people have no access to water.
“As a Christian pastor, my heart today is in the events of Good Friday. We remember Jesus’ trial before the Governor, his sentencing and execution. He speaks the truth in freedom and exposes that all the authorities have, all they stand on, is the power of death. It’s a Good day to be in court on behalf of the people of Detroit.” said Pastor Bill Wylie-Kellermann of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and one of the Homrich 9.
The defendants have been blocked by Detroit Prosecutors at virtually every turn from using the perfectly legal “necessity defense” based on the prevention of harm from denial of access to water. Prosecutors have used strange and unprecedented means to keep the trial from going to the jury.
“This entire process, from the moment of our clients’ arrests nearly two years ago to now, has exposed the underlying political motivations of the City of Detroit and its Law Department,” saidJulie Hurwitz, attorney for members of the Homrich 9. “The prosecutors’ goal has been to block our clients from having their day in court because justice would expose the real issues of the mass water shutoffs and the public health emergency from getting a hearing in court and the public. The actions of the Law Department and the complicity of the Wayne County Circuit Court bench is evidence that our local government is willing to expend tens of thousands of taxpayer money to keep these defendants from having a fair trial.”
Ironically, the defendants are proponents of the Water Affordability Plan (WAP), an income-based water payment plan that would prevent water shutoffs and thus preclude the need to pay Homrich $6 million dollars to shut off water to Detroit families. The WAP was established by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization that includes Homrich 9 defendant Marian Kramer.
“We’re confident the jury was going to find that we were not guilty of disorderly conduct, even though City prosecutors maneuvered to prevent them from reaching a verdict. The jury heard testimony about the unconscionable conditions families in Detroit are facing, how a water affordability plan could solve these issues, and why it was not disorderly conduct to stop business as usual by using nonviolent direct action,” said Marian Kramer of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and a Homrich 9 defendant. “A verdict in our favor would have been devastating to the government’s already tarnished credibility, and a rallying cry to everyone willing to stand up for a Detroit where we all can live, not just the wealthy.”
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Video #FlintWaterCrisis Protesting Gov. Snyder’s State of the State

Video from the Building Movement YouTube Channel:

Last night’s State of the State Protest:
https://youtu.be/ejujdMGBlZA – Approaching the Capital – East Entrance
https://youtu.be/WaS_QPq-naY – West Entrance
https://youtu.be/vSEC1ld1Wv0 – North Entrance
https://youtu.be/l5wZnOIn1OE – #FlintLivesMatter
https://youtu.be/cX1eY-PP4po – #SnyderMustGoToJail

Democracy Now (clip) http://www.democracynow.org/
https://youtu.be/rpa5iFqPTYE – Thank you Kate Levy!

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Disrupting Denial by Shea Howell

Thinking for ourselves
By Shea Howell
Disrupting Denial
December 12, 2015
This week the corporate elite celebration of the Detroit bankruptcy was brought to an abrupt halt. Gathered on the campus of Wayne State University, the Governor, Mayor, bankruptcy judge, and members of the mainstream media left the stage in the face of protests. Governor Snyder, who was greeted by boos from the audience, left in a huff. Judge Rhodes was drowned out. Mayor Duggan never appeared. Host Stephen Henderson admonished the audience saying, “This is not Detroit behavior.”
The Detroit Journalism Cooperative, a media collaborative that provided coverage of the bankruptcy and its aftermath, sponsored the event.  The gathering was billed as a public meeting to assess the city in the wake of bankruptcy.  
“Detroit Bankruptcy: One Year Later,” however, was put together without any consideration of those who objected to the process or who are being harmed by it. Only one viewpoint was allowed from the stage. If you weren’t willing to say the bankruptcy was a success and everything in the city is better than ever, you were not invited to speak.
That is not a true assessment of the state of our city, which is becoming increasingly divided by race and class, and increasingly impoverished in most neighborhoods.
This event was little more than a public relations stunt, marked by soft questioning from interviewers, canned responses by politicians, and efforts to reduce citizen perspectives to twitter feeds. No one should be surprised that the audience decided to challenge these constraints.
The organizers did not invite anyone who has challenged the bankruptcy, emergency management, the decisions to pursue aggressive water shut offs, the give away of revenue streams and assets, and the decision to use federal money to tear down houses rather than fix up homes.
Henderson defended this decision by resorting to name-calling. In a twitter exchange he said, “Protesters were not on program cuz it’s not the Springer show. They don’t want to discuss; they want to shout down.”
Of course, when people are not on the program, when the destruction of lives are rendered invisible, there is little left to do but to shout. In fact, our humanity requires it.
This defensive response by Henderson and the corporate elite to the disruption of their little show reflects how out of touch they are with the most of the people in the city.
The reality is that the direction set by this bankruptcy has resulted in a boom for a few neighborhoods. It has increased the number of young whites in midtown at the expense of elder African Americans and opened a kind of land rush in neighborhoods as foreclosures force out long-term residents. These contradictions of race and class are increasing tensions all over the city. The Mayor, Governor, and the Judge refuse to talk about them. But they are real.
According to U.S. Census Bureau between 2009 and 2014, median household income in Detroit fell by 20 percent from $32,493 to $26,095. The poverty rate increased from 33.2 percent to 39.8 percent. On any given day almost half the city is behind on water bills that are not affordable. Nearly 3,000 customers were threatened with water shutoffs last month alone.
We should applaud all those who raised their voices to disrupt the denial and evasion of the real questions facing our city. Pretending that our future is measured by bond ratings and buildings, rather than the quality of life of all our people and the care we show for one another, will lead to disruptions far beyond those of a simple meeting.
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Water Vote this Morning! Immediate Calls to Council

July 7th, 2015


Council Member George Cushingberry, Jr has entered a motion to reconsider the Water Rate increase that Council voted down 6-2 last week. This motion will be voted on at THIS MORNING’S 10am Council Meeting.

Immediate Action: Please take a moment to call your District Council Member, and at large Council President Jones and Council Member Ayers. Contact info below. Please attend the meeting on the 13th floor of CAYMC if possible.


Brenda Jones, Council President, At Large
Janeé L Ayers, At Large
George Cushingberry, Jr., District 2
Scott Benson, District 3
Andre Spivey, District 4
Mary Sheffield, District 5
Raquel Castañeda-López, District 6
Gabe Leland, District 7

Please NOTE that Mayor Duggan will host the District 4 Community Meeting on July 9th at 7PM. The meeting will take place at the Salem Memorial Lutheran Church, 21230 Moross Road, Detroit, MI 48236

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Update: Gov. Snyder signs HB4052, Water Detroit to Flint, Duggan D4 Meeting Next Week


July 2, 2015
HB4052 Update

On Tuesday, June Governor Snyder did in fact sign HB 4052.


Detroit Peoples Platform will continue to raise the issue of the value of the CBA ordinance in advancing both racial and economic justice here in Detroit, particularly as it relates to investment of public dollars in private development. We believe that we must centralize the issue of race and advance more coherent policy recommendations that address racial equity across all aspects of our lives as residents in this community.  We believe that the CBA ordinance is one such policy.

Please NOTE that Mayor Duggan’s District 4 Community Meeting has been RESCHEDULED – The meeting will take place on July 9th at 7PM. The meeting will take place at the Salem Memorial Lutheran Church, 21230 Moross Road, Detroit, MI 48236

Detroit to Flint, Water Justice Journey July 3- 10, 2015

Join us as we walk from Detroit to Flint demanding clean, affordable water for all.

Friday July 3
8:00am: WATER CEREMONY @ Memorial to the Underground Railroad, Hart Plaza, Detroit
9:30am: MEET-UP @ Central United Methodist Church, 23 E. Adams Ave, Detroit
10:00am: SEND-OFF RALLY @ Spirit of Detroit, Corner of Woodward & Jefferson, Detroit
2:30pm: CULTURAL CELEBRATION @ Nandi’s Knowledge Café, 12511 Woodward Ave, Highland Park
4:00pm: TOWN HALL & RALLY TO KEEP OUR WATER PUBLIC @ St. Luke’s AME, 363 Labelle St, Highland Park
9:00pm: DETROIT LIGHT BRIGADE @ Corner of 9 Mile & Woodward, Ferndale

Sunday July 5
7:00pm: CROSS-COUNTY SPEAK-OUT! @ Baldwin Center,
212 Baldwin Ave, Pontiac

Friday July 10  
10:00am: RALLY FOR CLEAN & AFFORDABLE WATER @ City Hall, 1101 South Saginaw St, Flint
11:00am: DELEGATION TO LANSING post-rally, details TBA

Sponsored by:
People’s Water Board Coalition*
Highland Park Human Rights Coalition**
Flint Coalition for Clean Water***
*Michigan Coalition for Human Rights

For daily walk times and updates, go to
www.peopleswaterboard.org or call (313) 579-9071

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TONIGHT! International Dialog on Housing and Water and Riverside Park Public Hearing

Just Announced! International Dialog on Housing and Water. We the People of Detroit and Detroit People’s Platform are honored to receive Ambassador Carlos Ron from the Venezuelan Embassy on behalf of the People of Detroit. Please come and be a part of a discussion of the best practices regarding Detroit’s housing and water issues and those of our friends and neighbors in Venezuela.

Reception at 5PM, discussion 6pm.
Tonight! Monday June 29, 2015 at
St. Peters Episcopal Church
1950 Trumbull at Michigan Ave.

venezuela housing and water

Also TONIGHT, the Detroit City Council Planning and Economic Development Committee will hold a public hearing regarding the proposed Riverside Park Land Exchange Agreement. This deal will have a significant impact on our community, District 6 and our city.

TONIGHT! Monday, June 29, 6 p.m.
Western International High School
1500 Scotten Ave.

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Make Water Affordability Plan Available for Detroit Families


News from the Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition: http://www.peopleswaterboard.org/
Monday, May 18, 2015
Contact: Sylvia Orduño 734.846.9465 smorduno@gmail.com
Make Water Affordability Plan Available for Detroit Families 
Keep the water flowing and Water Department working
DETROIT – Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López joined the Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition today for a press conference aimed at stopping water shut offs for thousands of Detroit families. The statewide group and the Council Member want residents to be allowed to use the Water Affordability Plan to keep their water on and keep the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) operating.
“When many families try in good faith to pay but find it nearly impossible, when those who later enter into payment assistance plans again find themselves falling behind, it’s clear the issue is not residents’ refusal to pay; the problem lies in our rate system,” said Detroit City Council Member Raquel Castañeda-López. “We need an approach that helps prevent residents from falling behind, rather than waiting to react until they’re in danger of shut-off. A true water-affordability plan would consider an individual’s income and their ability to pay, not just rates.”
Until last Wednesday, members of the Coalition had been working for several weeks with the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) working group. Their goal was to get the regional water authority to understand the reality of families facing shut offs and the household and public health consequences that result from this. But they left the GLWA frustrated with the Authority’s staunch refusal to implement a long-term solution through the Water Affordability Plan instead of another meager assistance program. Nor would the WRAP working group allow Coalition members to remain active participants unless they signed the assistance agreement along with the direct service provider organizations.
“What the GLWA and the Mayor propose is more short-term assistance to families in danger of having their water shutoff. If assistance worked the DWSD wouldn’t be handing out water shut off notices to tens of thousands across Detroit,” said Sylvia Orduño of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition. “The solution to the crisis can’t be to once again start cutting tens of thousands of families off from the water they need to live. The solution can’t be to increase the water shutoff contract to Homrich Wrecking by $1 million so they can shut off more than 800 families per day. People with low incomes need to be able to pay based on income. They could use the Water Affordability Plan to do that. It’s a win-win. Families have the water they need to survive, and revenue continues to flow to the water system.”
People’s Water Board members distributed a one-page summary of the Water Affordability Plan approved by Detroit City Council in 2006. The People’s Water Board also announced at the press conference that State Representatives Stephanie Chang, Detroit and Sheldon Neely, Flint, are sponsoring a legislative hearing on water affordability and safety. The hearing is scheduled for June 3, 10:00 a.m. in Lansing at the Capitol.
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UN experts condemn Detroit water shutoffs

Posted date: October 22, 2014

Mayor’s office says UN is wrong, ‘everybody’s gotta pay’

By Curt Guyette
Special to the Michigan Citizen

During the three days she spent in Detroit investigating the water shutoff crisis, there were a number of times when Catarina de Albuquerque’s jaw literally dropped.

A United Nations human rights expert on issues involving water and sanitation, Albuquerque would sit, mouth agape, astonished by what she was hearing from residents and their advocates.

UN Special Rapporteurs

“I heard testimonies from poor, African American residents of Detroit who were forced to make impossible choices — to pay the water bills or to pay their rent,” Albuquerque said Oct. 20 during a press conference to announce what she and fellow U.N. Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha had learned while in Detroit.

“A woman whose water had been cut off explained that her teenage daughters had to wash themselves with a bottle of water during menstruation, and had to refrain from flushing the toilet to save water,” Albuquerque said.

From the woman who said she stopped cooking rice because of the amount of water it takes, to the parents who expressed fear the state would take custody of their children if it was discovered they lived in a home with no running water, Albuquerque and Farha heard testimony and, during a tour, saw firsthand the effects water shutoffs are having on Detroit’s poorest residents and their neighborhoods.

But what struck her most, Albuquerque said, is the sheer scope of the problem. Through September, according to the Detroit’s Department of Water and Sewerage, service has been cut to more than 27,000 households so far this year. Of that number, about 12,000 remain without water. READ MORE AT THE MICHIGAN CITIZEN

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Detroit People’s Platform Action Alert – WATER


Detroit People’s Platform Action Alert – WATER
In response to the crisis of mass water shutoffs in the city of Detroit, the People’s Platform took the following actions:

People’s Platform sent a letter to the Detroit City Health Officer demanding a moratorium on the water shutoffs and an assessment on how shutoffs are impacting the physical and mental health of Detroiters living without water.  There has been no response.

Secondly, People’s Platform filed a petition with the city clerk calling for City Council to convene a public hearing on the water shut offs.  City Council has not responded.

The People’s Platform is issuing the following call to action:
Members and supporters of the Detroit People’s Platform are encouraged to attend the City Council Health and Welfare Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 29th at 10 am at the Coleman A Young Municipal Center and support the work of the broad-based coalitions.

Prepare public comments for the meeting that call for accountability on the part of our elected and appointed officials for the health and welfare of Detroiters by demanding that council support the following:

    •    Call for immediate restoration of water to the thousands of Detroiters who are without water service
    •    Beyond the 15 day moratorium call for the end to water shut offs for all Detroit residents
    •    Call for the Public Health Officer to assess the impact of mass shut offs on the health and mental health status of those impacted by the shut offs
    •    Support the water affordability plan  
    •    Stop the privatization of Detroit Water and Sewage Department

Please plan to arrive early so that you can get on line and have your say. Let them know you are with the People’s Platform. We need as many Platform members and allies there as possible to stand with our coalition partners and fellow residents.

We hope to see you there!

For more information on the water crisis:
Detroit People’s Water Board Coalition