By Shea Howell - It has been widely reported that the successful exiting from bankruptcy will depend on the leadership abilities of Mayor Mike Duggan. The court appointed expert selected to give an opinion on the feasibility of the plan, Martha Kopacz, testified that it depends on the skill of the mayor. She said, “I have a great deal of faith in Mayor Duggan and the city council that they are going to work diligently to implement this plan.” This conclusion was based on her observations and private conversations. These observations took place while Kevyn Orr was in charge.
Now that we have seen the Mayor in action, Ms. Kopacz might want to revise her judgment. In a few weeks time Mayor Duggan has shown himself to be a man given to gimmicks rather than substantial problem solving. He has a selective view of “reality.” This view is substantially distorted because he only looks to the corporate elite for his cues. He rejects thoughtful, imaginative solutions because they come from committed community activists rather than well paid lawyers, foundation appointed leaders, or corporate interests.
In the name of understanding reality, Mayor Duggan is moving further and further away from the reality of most people in the city. His knee jerk responses are taking us in the wrong direction and will undermine any ability to emerge from bankruptcy. In fact, his reactions are creating conditions that continue a downward economic spiral.
This lack of leadership is especially clear in the Water crisis. Now that the UN has come and gone, the Mayor apparently thinks his superficial, donation based 10 point plan will solve a profound structural crisis. Even Kevyn Orr recognized that we face a systemic issue. In the Plan of Adjustment he presented, Orr and company noted, “The city may seek to implement a rate stability program for City residents, which program may, among other things (a) provide a source of funds to mitigate against rate increases, (b) enhance affordability and (c) provide a buffer against delinquent payments.”
The People’s Water Affordability Plan, adopted by the Council in 2006 needs to be implemented. It sets in place a rate structure that supports the ability of all people to contribute to the water system, honors water as a human right by providing a sliding pay scale tied to income, and guarantees a steady flow of cash into the Water and Sewerage Department.
In his presentation to the City Council on the virtues of a Great Lakes Water Authority, Mayor Duggan went to great lengths to say the city of Detroit retains control over its own system. The Mayor needs to act on this authority. He needs to restore water to all those shut off. He needs to declare a moratorium on shut offs so we can have a real water affordability plan. The Mayor needs to stop pretending this is some utopian idea and acknowledge that such efforts are becoming common practice in other major cities around the country. Anything short of this is an evasion of reality.
This reality is becoming more inhuman every day. The human rights crisis brought on by the water shut offs will be compounded as cold weather arrives. Last year DTE shut off over 80,000 homes. Now, with the pension cuts, medical costs, tax increases, and the necessity of prioritizing water, we can expect that many people will face harder choices and cold homes.
And that will be for the people who keep their homes. We are facing another massive housing crisis in the city with one in five properties subject to foreclosure.
We are facing what the UN has called “a man-made perfect storm.” Glen Ford describes this combined shut off policy and foreclosure crisis as the “coordinated prongs of a hyper-aggressive gentrification pincer movement” designed to clear “the land of unwanted populations.”
The reality of the Mayor’s policies is to push out as many poor, African Americans as he can. This will not be tolerated.