Detroit water shutoffs continue after judge says poor have no right to water
September 29, 2014
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes on Monday refused to block the city from shutting off water to delinquent customers for six months, saying there is no right to free water and Detroit can’t afford to lose the revenue.
Rhodes’s order served as a stinging rejection of arguments made by thousands of protesters who staged rallies last summer fighting shutoffs and argued that there is a fundamental right to water service.
"There is no such right or law," Rhodes said.
A six-month ban on water shut-offs would boost the rate of customer defaults and threaten Detroit’s revenue, the judge added.
"The last thing (Detroit) needs is this hit to its revenues," the judge said.
Rhodes issued his ruling after two days of hearings last week and said he lacked the power to issue a water shut-off moratorium. Regardless, a lawyer for 10 residents failed to convince him there was justification for such a drastic step, he said.
Rhodes said residents do not have a right to receive water service “let alone service based on an ability to pay.”
Alice Jennings, an attorney representing the 10 residents fighting water shutoffs, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the judge’s ruling. Rhodes, she said, missed the issue of safety and underscored the irreparable harm that comes with the shutoffs.
"We will be looking at an appeal," Jennings said. "We believe there is a right to water and there is a right to affordable water."
The city’s policy of shutting off water to residents in one of the nation’s poorest cities briefly overshadowed the city’s historic bankruptcy case and debt-cutting plan, which hinges on spinning off the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to suburban counties.
The city started a more vigorous shut-off campaign in the spring compared to other years in an effort to get more people to pay their outstanding bills or get on a payment plan. Rhodes on Monday called the efforts a “bold, commendable and necessarily aggressive plan.”
About 24,000 city water accounts have been shut off this year. A month-long moratorium halting shutoffs ended in August and crews are now back to shutting off water to up to 400 accounts a day, DWSD officials said last week.
Residents, civic groups, and “The Avengers” actor Mark Ruffalo participated in mass protests in recent months fighting the city’s treatment of delinquent water customers. A pocket of protesters lined West Lafayette Boulevard outside federal court Monday.
Ten residents requested the moratorium, saying it would give the city time to establish a plan to better help those who can’t afford to pay their water bills. Lawyers for Detroit say such an order would encourage further delinquency, cause the department to lose revenues and lead to higher rates.
During closing arguments, Jennings argued the “hodgepodge” of programs designed to aid a limited group of residents facing water shut-offs isn’t good enough for the city plagued by widespread poverty.
Jennings told the judge that a “very brief” stop to shut-offs would give the city more time to craft a cohesive program.
Tom O’Brien, an attorney for the water department, has countered that a 10-point plan to educate and assist low-income residents wasn’t constructed overnight.
"It was developed," he said, and "was intended to be practical."
O’Brien also played up a fund outlined in the plan, and a separate pot of annual aid money called for in a proposed Great Lakes Water Authority.
"That’s significant money, it goes a long way," he said.
Detroit’s bankruptcy trial, meanwhile, resumes Monday, five days after City Council members reclaimed power over city government while agreeing to keep Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr in place for bankruptcy-related duties.
The deal means council will resume control over city departments, contracts and other day-to-day matters. Orr’s official removal will be effective if the city’s debt-cutting bankruptcy plan is confirmed.
Orr is expected to testify soon about the debt-cutting plan.
Remembering Injured/Killed African-American Victims of Police Brutality
Dymond Milburn, 20-Year-Old African-American Teenager Assaulted By Police Officers When She Was 12, Then Charged With Assault By The Cops That Assaulted Her, & Police Alleged She Was A Prostitute
Three police officers in Texas accused a 12-year-old black girl of being a prostitute, beat and kidnapped her, and none of them ever faced any consequences for their actions.
On August 22, 2006, 12-year-old Dymond Milburn was outside her home flipping a breaker switch to help her family after the electricity went out, when a blue van pulled up and three men exited the vehicle without identifying themselves. The men were cops in plain clothes with the Galveston police and they accused Dymond, who is black, of being a prostitute.
“You’re a prostitute,” an officer declared. “You’re coming with me.”
They then tried to drag Milburn into their van while she scratched and clawed in her struggle to stop them from taking her. She screamed for her father to come to her rescue while the angry officers began beating her in an effort to force her into the van. One of the officers, David Roark, muzzled the girl’s mouth with his hand to silence her.
Hearing her screams, Dymond’s parents arrived on the scene and told officers, “That’s our daughter. She’s twelve.” But Roark didn’t give a damn. “I don’t care if she’s twenty-two, thirty-two, or forty-six,” Roark responded.
Along with Roark, the other officers included Sean Stewart and their Sergeant, Gilbert Gomez. They believed they had the right to take Dymond Milburn away without consulting her parents. Horrified, Dymond’s parents were devastated and powerless as the officers literally kidnapped their daughter before their eyes.
The officers decided to bring Dymond to the hospital for medical attention, and the level of her injuries was devastating. As a result of the brutal beating by police, the little girl suffered a head injury, a throat injury, abrasions on her arms, a sprained wrist, two black eyes, and lacerations as well as spinal injuries. On top of all these physical wounds, Dymond also suffered nightmares and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. In all, her injuries resulted in a hospital bill totaling $8,000.
But police still weren’t done putting Dymond through hell. When she finally returned to school following her release from the hospital, police embarrassed her further by showing up at her school. They arrested her in front of her classmates at Austin Middle School in revenge for putting up a fight. The charges? Assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.
You read that right. Cops beat the hell out of this girl and they charge HER with assault. Plus she resisted the officers because that’s what we tell our children to do when strangers try to force them into a vehicle against their will.
Milburn and her family had to deal with two mistrials over a period of three years before the District Attorney agreed to stop pursuing the charges. By then, Dymond was 15-years-old and a huge chunk of her childhood was stolen from her. In retaliation, the Milburns filed a civil lawsuit against the officers who changed her life three year earlier. But none of them have been punished and a settlement hasn’t occurred. Basically, all three officers complicit in the kidnapping and beating of the then-12-year-old girl got away with it. Sean Stewart was actually named “Officer of the Year” sometime later and Gomez went on to be promoted prior to becoming a private detective.
Dymond Milburn is 20-years-old now and still hasn’t received justice for what these police officers did to her. She was just a black 12-year-old girl in front of her own home at night, and yet, police accused her of being a prostitute even though she didn’t do anything wrong and officers had no cause to accuse her of anything. In fact, the only reason the officers were around is because they were responding to a call about three white prostitutes allegedly soliciting in the area. However, they attacked a black child who obviously didn’t fit the description instead and accused her of being the prostitute. Remember, we’re talking about a 12-year-old girl who was at her house with her parents. She was an honors student helping around the house. She wasn’t out on the street hooking.
Police brutality against people of color is not just an epidemic today. It’s been around for a long time. And even children aren’t immune from illegal police behavior. If this can happen to one child, it can happen to any child in America. For too long, police have been able to do what they want to the citizens they are supposed to serve and protect with little or no consequences. That needs to change or police behavior never will. [PoliticusUSA]
Happy National Voter Registration Day, Tumblr.
The number one way of celebrating it? Registering to vote.
Every year, millions of eligible Americans neglect to register, which means that millions of important voices are utterly silent on Election Day. Don’t be one of them. There’s basically a 100% chance that something you care about is on the ballot, something you don’t want to be quiet about.
So be one of the loud ones. Register already. It’s an easy form that you already know all the answers to. No excuses.
Meet the Reykjavík Metropolitan Police, serving the capital of Iceland. By the looks of their incredible Instagram account, a normal day includes holding kittens, eating candy and wearing false mustaches.
For the record the Icelandic police are probably the best police force in the world, There has only been one instance where an officer shot and killed a civilian in the entire history of the country (which is nearly a hundred years) and everyone was completely devastated by it, the police especially — because, as made clear in their statements after the incident, they understand their function is to protect the people. Not to mention that their general police go unarmed except for special squads.
Let’s run through some more facts while we’re on the subject: Compared to 31,000+ shooting deaths in the US in 2009, Iceland had… 4, because they have very rigorous screening processes for gun permits. There is very little economic disparity between upper, middle and lower classes, and social welfare programs take care of their people. Drug use affects less than 1% of the population between 15 and 65 years old, and 90% of drug-related court cases are settled with a fine rather than jail time. Violent crime is virtually non-existent. [x]
Iceland is like if you took the entire idea of chill and personified it as an country, and this exemplifies that.
I want to move to Iceland
While there is a lot of appropriate rage about Ferguson right now, the killing of John Crawford, III is getting less attention than it deserves. I put Shaun King’s tweets and history lesson on the matter in chronological order for easier consumption.
You really should be following Shaun King on Twitter.