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Buckets and balance sheets

waterThis summer, the real estate industry celebrated as Detroit neared the tipping point for real estate prices. The downtown rental market neared $2 per square foot. At $2 a square foot, financing gets a lot easier for developers and it indicates downtown and Midtown Detroit are increasingly popular markets. Available rentals are scarce, affluent professionals and 20-somethings are finding a home in Detroit.

Detroit is becoming a desirable location — for some.

For the bulk of Detroit, which is mostly African American and low income, this summer has been defined by mass water shutoffs.

The draconian shutoffs come under emergency management and bankruptcy.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, in an attempt to get bad debt off its books, is sprucing itself up for some form of reorganization, either a sale or efforts to regionalize

Proof for some, despite Gov. Rick Snyder’s promise for improved city services, emergency management means more poverty and deprivation.

In a documentary by Katy Levy about the mass water shutoffs, young professionals were interviewed in front of a water fountain spewing thousands of gallons of water in downtown Detroit.

“If I can’t pay for something, I don’t get it,” the three women, one a Quicken-employee, say — a 2014, let them eat cake.

This appears to be a common theme for locals, including a WDIV reporter who went on national news and said people who are getting shutoff would rather have cable. However, he appeared unable to answer when the national news anchor asked, “People actually said that to you?”

The ignorance and indifference reflex is in full effect. The taxpayer-paid spokespeople are spouting rhetoric and treating this as more of a public relations crisis than a humanitarian crisis.

The media environment is especially outrageous suggesting people who can’t pay are scofflaws or should just “grab a bucket” — blissfully insensitive to the fact that Detroit’s median income is just over $20,000 a year.

Even the national media and United Nations are watching, with concern, what is happening in this water crises.

Yet, locally, some are not just clueless but also silent.

Mayor Duggan has been mostly silent along with City Council about the mass shutoffs. The only thing Council has done in the last month about water is raise the rates, 8.5 percent.

This is just before both mayor and City Council received raises from Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr.

From the governor to most of the candidates doing their last minute campaigning, to the foundation leadership and the self-appointed community stakeholders — no words on the water, but vote on Aug. 5?

Emergency management has not, will not improve a city or quality of life. Cities require more than bottom line balance sheet thinkers and bankruptcy attorneys. Cities need visionaries, planners and public policy experts.

In 2005, Michigan Welfare Rights developed a Water Affordability Plan modeled after 40 different cities — a blueprint for keeping water in every home.

Affordable water is possible for all.

 

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