From the Sep-Oct 2008 issue of Critical Moment
Water is a right!
By Fred Vitale (MWRO Volunteer Coordinator)
The June 22 resignation of Victor Mercado as head of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), coupled with the recent resignation of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick who had appointed him, provides an opportunity to re-launch the fight for the Water Affordability Program (WAP), passed by Detroit City Council in 2006 but never implemented.
The WAP was initiated by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) in response to the cutoff of water to tens of thousands of Detroit residents. Those most affected were seniors, people with disabilities, the unemployed, and people receiving state assistance. Those most in need were cutoff from water by a publicly-owned and operated utility! It was, and remains, a scandal.
After many demonstrations, hearings, thousands of phone calls and meetings, City Council passed the program. Within certain limits, it guarantees that every Detroiter will have water. Even though City Council required DWSD to implement the program, it did not. Instead, the Kilpatrick regime passed a vastly underfunded water assistance program that still kept tens of thousands of people without water; it was able to help less than 1,500 people before the money ran out. Money pledged and collected has not been accounted for. While Victor Mercado and Kwame Kilpatrick were in office, City Council did not have the courage or the will to force the department to implement this critical human rights program or request a full accounting of the money spent.
Winning the full implementation of the program in Detroit can help build the struggle to stop shutoffs in all 286 communities serviced by the DWSD. The complete WAP is available from Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, 23 E. Adams, fourth floor, Detroit, MI 48226, for copying and postage costs. To join or support this struggle, please contact MWRO at the address above, phone 313-964-0618 or on the web at MWRO.org