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Water warriors say Orr’s hand off to Duggan is a victory

Michigan Welfare Rights Organization founder Marian Kramer welcomed the caravan of Canadians bringing water to Detroit July 24. A caravan of coal miners from West Virgina delivered more water July 29. STAFF PHOTO

Michigan Welfare Rights Organization founder Marian Kramer welcomed the caravan of Canadians bringing water to Detroit July 24. A caravan of coal miners from West Virgina delivered more water July 29. STAFF PHOTO

Staff report

Gov. Rick Snyder’s appointed emergency manager for the city of Detroit, Kevyn Orr, granted Mayor Mike Duggan the authority to manage the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, July 29 after international outrage over DWSD’s mass water shutoff program.

Maureen Taylor, head of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, called Orr’s decision a “pretty good victory.”

With all the international attention to this controversy, Taylor said, the emergency manager “dropped the water issue like a hot potato. It was a smart move.”

In a statement, Duggan said, “We need to change a number of things in the way we have approached the delinquent payment issues and I expect us to have a new plan shortly.  There are funds available to support those who cannot afford their bills — we need to do a much better job in community outreach to tell our residents how to access those funds.

Duggan also pledged to address long payment lines at DWSD offices and long telephone waits for residents attempting to pay their bills.

Still, Duggan says, “… it is important to remember that in the water system, each city is its own separate legal fund.  When some Detroit residents don’t pay their bills, those bills have to be paid by other Detroiters… So all bills that remain uncollected this year must be paid for by higher rates on all Detroiters next year.

Some activists fear that Duggan, who advised Gov. Snyder on the appointment of the emergency manager and was himself appointed by the governor to serve on the board of the EAA, will continue the emergency manager’s policy of indiscriminate shut offs.

Taylor notes before being empowered to manage DWSD, Duggan said nothing about the water crisis other than “he would have handled it differently.”

Water warriors must remain vigilant, Taylor says, and continue the message: “Turn the water on. The water must remain in the public trust.”

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