“…too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows…” – MLK Jr.
By Shea Howell
September 25, 2016
This week a parade of preachers swept into the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners. They were protesting drainage charges about to be levied across the city. Preachers called for a “moratorium on drainage charges.” They were “appalled” at the “ungodly” charges. They said they were “called to be here by God” to demand an answer to the question of “why should we have to pay for what comes from God?”
This was a sad display of what has become of our many of our local churches.
The obvious question is simply “Where have you been?” For more than two years, community organizations have been demanding a city-wide conversation to develop policies reflecting the basic understanding that water is a human right. All human beings should have access to safe, affordable water.
As the city zeroes in on graffiti, two Detroit artists face possible prison time
By Aaron Robertson
September 21, 2016
Cosme describes their case as “political theater.”
“There are all these rape kits that go untested in the city of Detroit, yet there’s money to chase graffiti artists,” he says. Cosme’s view of political theater is fundamental to what he calls “the new urbanism movement.” He sees similarities among cities like Detroit, New Orleans, Washington D.C., and Baltimore.
“They wouldn’t invest in Detroit and fix it up until black people lost control of it … Detroit was starved for capital very intentionally.”
By Sharmila L. Murphy
“A Constitutive Commitment to Water,” Boston College Journal of Law & Social Justice 36(2): 159-233.
Abstract: Cass Sunstein coined the term “constitutive commitment” to refer to an idea that falls short of a constitutional right but that has attained near-constitutional significance. This Article argues that access to safe and affordable water for drinking, hygiene, and sanitation has attained this status and that national legislation is needed to realize this new constitutive commitment. Following the termination of water to thousands of households in Detroit, residents and community organizations filed an adversary complaint in Detroit’s bankruptcy proceedings seeking a six-month moratorium on the disconnections. The bankruptcy court dismissed the case, accurately finding that “there is no constitutional or fundamental right either to affordable water service or to an affordable payment plan for account arrearages.” The widespread protests and outrage at the Detroit water shutoffs suggest, however, that people perceive access to water as a right. Although affordable access to water for essential needs falls short of a constitutional right, it could implicate substantive due process, which reflects its near-constitutional status. An analysis of American history, culture, and law demonstrates how access to water for drinking, hygiene, and sanitation could be protected under the right to life. This Article argues that legislation is needed to implement a new constitutive commitment to water and proposes numerous policy options that would not only make moral and economic sense, but also would ensure that all Americans have affordable access to safe water for drinking, hygiene, and sanitation.
See below for full paper:
Download (PDF, 629KB)
This event, held Sunday August 14th at theDamon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, was the celebration of a culmination of a body of work that has been in progress for over a year. We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective (WTP CRC) launched the first of three planned publications (“Mapping the Water Crisis”) to provide factual and visual information concerning the water system, education, and land use.
Detroiters looking for help with water bills out of luck, for now
By Sarah Cwiek
August 15, 2016
“The Water Residential Assistance Program (WRAP) just launched in March. It was touted as a comprehensive solution to Detroit’s chronic problem with delinquent water bills, and the subsequent service shutoffs that have hit tens of thousands of households over the past three years.
But it’s already committed the $1.2 million allocated to the city of Detroit for the program’s first year, and is not accepting new applicants right now.
By Shea Howell
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.”
Lead in Your Water: Are Federal Tests Missing Poison in the Pipes?
By Lisa Riordan Seville et al.
August 3, 2016
“The disaster in Flint brought national attention to lead in water just as the EPA finalizes new regulations, due out in 2017. But it’s unclear if the revisions will include more rigorous testing of drinking water…
…federally mandated tests used across the country to ensure water systems are safe may significantly underestimate lead levels in drinking water. By some estimates, up to 90 million Americans could be drinking from water systems that, if tested more rigorously, would not pass federal muster.
“The flaws in our sampling program have created a false sense of confidence both with the utilities, and the EPA, and consumers in this country that lead in water is a problem of the past,” said Dr. Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech researcher who helped expose widespread lead contamination in the water in Flint, Michigan. “This is a problem of the present.””