When the going gets tough

…emergency managers run for the hills.

Or at least that’s what Kevyn Orr, Detroit’s unelected emergency manager, did yesterday when he returned control of the city’s Water and Sewage Department to Mayor Mike Duggan.

Orr didn’t hand the mayor this hot mess because he was concerned about the health and well being of the thousands of children, mothers, fathers, elders, and families in Detroit whose water he shut off. He dumped the responsibility of the Detroit Water and Sewage Department on Duggan because thousands of people have embarrassed him and Governor Snyder by standing with the people of Detroit, by protesting in the streets and rallying with Canadians who brought water across the border for families in need.

“This is what democracy looks like.” That’s what was chanted by massive crowds in Detroit two weeks ago that put the spotlight on inhumane water shutoffs and garnered media attention from all over the world, and that’s what put power back into the hands of Detroiters.

Now, it’s up to Mayor Duggan to do what’s right. The Detroit City Council adopted The Water Affordability Plan (WAP) in 2005. The plan allows low-income residents to pay based on their income and does away with inhumane water shutoffs. Given that Detroit’s water rates have risen 119 percent in the past decade while poverty and unemployment are still at record levels, the plan is needed now more than ever.

The Mayor also said, “When some Detroit residents don’t pay their bills, those bills have to be paid by other Detroiters. There is no outside funding from the suburbs, from the state, or from the feds. These unpaid water bills are Detroit’s alone.”

So, along with making sure that residents pay their bills, corporations in Detroit that have been off the hook while families have suffered should be held to the same standard. Like Michigan’s premier political blog Eclectablog said, “Perhaps if the Detroit Lions had to cancel some practices or even a game, they’d see their way clear to paying what they owe.” Corporations are not people and corporations don’t need water to survive. It’s time to start holding them accountable, too.

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