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August, 2006

Call 'em Out! -- An Organization that Holds Elected Officials Accountable

By People's Tribune Staff
 
Call em Out photo
Call ’em Out! protests at the homes of Detroit elected officials who refuse to serve the interests of the poor.
PHOTOS/COURTESY OF CALL ’EM OUT!
 

Call 'em-Out!!! holds the elected officials in the city of Detroit accountable. Agnes Hitchcock, steward of the organization, says, "Insincere people call themselves grassroots to manipulate the poor in order to benefit themselves. In our community, we ostracize the gatekeepers who aren't serving our interests." Agnes says privatization and give-aways to the corporations are part of an effort to make it too expensive for the poor to live in the City of Detroit, but that people are waking up.

The group's key battle has been the state's takeover of the Detroit school system and the dismantling of the city by elected officials. She says, "When the state took over the school system, the people had only recently elected a new school board. A community plan designed to improve education called Cornerstone was in place. Graduation rates were rising and absentee and drop out rates were decreasing. MEAP test scores showed great improvement. Then, after the take-over, we were flooded with charter schools where teachers didn't have to be accredited. The school system started to plummet."

"The state take over was after the $1.5 million capital improvement funds the taxpayers had voted in to update Detroit schools. No-bid contracts were let out. Aramark was installed as the food service provider (which knocked out the Detroit union people.)" The company served spoiled milk, moldy bread, and green hot dogs, sickening the children, said Agnes. "The state and corporations were also after land. They intended to start a land bank authority on the state level to take land from Detroit. Call'em-Out!! protested at the homes of elected officials who conspired with people outside the city to take over the school system and the land."
 
Call em Out photo
 

"When the grassroots elected Kwame Kenyatta to City Council, a person who was supposed to be for the downtrodden, his first resolution was to take power from the people in a rule that the Council, rather than the voters, would replace vacant members. Then, when it came to privatization of the city's resources, Kenyatta's vote helped to turn control of the Detroit Zoo over to the people who don't have the people's interest. Then came a water increase. The issue was to install a water affordability program before a water rate increase was granted because 45,000 households received shut off notices over a period of one year. City Council voted to use a different formulation for those who live inside and outside Detroit. Kenyatta's vote was one, which approved the water rate increase on low-income people who were already unable to pay water bills. We went to Kwame Kenyatta's house and protested. We put a spotlight on people who sell the people out."

Call'em-Out! Is now protesting a new garbage fee of $300 where the poor will subsidize the rich. The City stopped bulk pickup. "The city is getting dirtier and people have no way to rid themselves of the trash," Agnes says, "Detroit is the poorest big city in nation. Median income is $27,000 -- City Council members make $80,000. There's 45,000 water shuts offs and 30,000 at any given time have no gas or electricity." Agnes said the former mayor Dennis Archer gave the Compuware Corporation land in downtown Detroit with tax breaks for years, supposedly to bring jobs. Yet no jobs have been created. They brought their personnel from outside Detroit. "Now a private charter school that we funded is being set up inside the company so people can bring their children to work with them, " she said.

Agnes has no political aspirations. "I simply refuse to have people mistreat me and accept it in silence. I speak out to let them know mistreatment will be done with some opposition. We can't continue to take this." Agnes says her vision is a society where especially the poor have basic needs met-- food clothing shelter, medical care, and an opportunity for employment to take care of a family.

Call'em-Out! Is on the Web at http://hometown.aol.com/callemout/CallemOutUpdate.html or call 313-874-2792.


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