Detroit — August 4, 2014 at 2:45 pm

Detroit Mayor Duggan extends water shutoff moratorium an additional 20 days, Detroit Water Brigade faces city opposition


Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has extended the moratorium on shutting off water to the homes of Detroiters with unpaid bills for another 20 days, until August 25th. City officials are working on an improved process for collecting unpaid bills and plans to announce the new plan later this week:

Detroit’s moratorium on residential water shutoffs over unpaid water bills will be extended until Aug. 25 as the city prepares to release details of a plan to better handle collections of overdue bills.

Mayor Mike Duggan’s office said teams from his administration and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department worked through the weekend to redesign bill collections and will announce details of a new plan on Thursday.

The city, meanwhile, will continue its pause in shutting off residential water service amid international attention to Detroit’s aggressive campaign to collect on delinquent water accounts in the nation’s poorest big city.

It’s a step in the right direction and we should all hope that Mayor Duggan and his team come up with a plan that allows Detroit’s most vulnerable citizens to stay in their homes with the water on.

This whole process shows that locally-elected officials who are answerable to their residents are more responsive and attentive to the needs of their consituents than a state-appointed overseer will ever be.

Which is, of course, what most of us who have decried Emergency Managers in Michigan have been saying all along.

One other item is worth noting. Last Saturday, the City of Detroit held a “Water Affordability Fair” for residents who are unable to pay their bills and face shutoff. Detroit Water Brigade volunteers helped get people to the Fair but encountered unexpected opposition from city officials.

The following is a statement released by the Detroit Water Brigade regarding the incident:

We are glad to see that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department have decided to extend the moratorium on residential water shutoffs 3 more weeks, until August 25th This past Saturday, over 30 volunteer Water Advocates from the Detroit Water Brigade took part in the city’s first-ever Water Affordability Fair from 8:30am-5pm at 13303 E McNichols Rd on the East Side. Our trained volunteers – clearly identified by their orange safety vests – transported residents to and from the event, assisted residents in understanding their water bills, and provided refreshments and music outside of the Customer Service Center. In total, over 400 Detroiters attended the event and many left reporting positive experiences.

While the Brigade acknowledges these important first steps towards ending the shutoffs and revitalizing the Water Department, we must also report that several of our Water Advocates were routinely denied entry into the Customer Service Center, threatened with arrest, and even ejected from the center. The specific incidents where our Advocates – and the residents they accompanied – faced intimidation are documented here. It is essential that our Water Advocates are allowed unimpaired access to residents to ensure that this shutoff moratorium will be honored by the Water Department in full.

The Brigade calls on the Mayor’s Office and the DWSD to revise their procedures moving forward to ensure that Water Advocates may accompany residents into Customer Service centers at their request. We also call on the Mayor’s Office to cease the use of intimidation tactics such as over-policing, coercive contract negotiations, and threats of shut-off that only work to further erode trust in the overwhelmingly good faith efforts of the Department to work with families to keep their water on. We pledge to work with all interested parties to ensure that Detroiters have access to clean water and can get on legitimate, affordable payment plans.

If you’d like to help the Detroit Water Brigade in their heroic efforts to help Detroit residents facing the shutoff of their water, visit their website and scroll to the bottom for things you can do to help.

[Photo credit: Chris Savage | Eclectablog]