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water protest

Water Protest, Highland Park, Michigan.
Editor’s Note: The once thriving industrial city of Highland Park, Michigan,  has been under state control for some years because of financial problems resulting from the closing of auto plants.

By Marian Kramer

I attended the Highland Park City Council meeting on Monday, April 20.  A new Emergency Financial Manager for Highland Park was introduced. He spoke and then they gave time to the former Emergency Financial Manager, Arthur Blackwell, who was fired recently by the Governor for writing himself checks amounting to $264,000.  When he was hired, he said he would do the job for $1 per year because he was raised in Highland Park, attended school here and part of his family still lives here. If you remember, his notorious father, the past Robert Blackwell, was the Highland Park mayor for several years.

The Council opened up the meeting for the public to speak and no one raised their hand, so I raised my mine.  I asked if there was going to be an investigation.  Will people be put in jail this time or will they walk free like in the past? Poor people of Highland Park always have to suffer for the problems in Highland Park and pay the cost for the wrongdoing of the people who enjoy our money. Well, I found out that the people there were mobilized to support Blackwell. Each one got up to support him.

Arthur Blackwell is just the latest on the list of Gov. Granholm-appointed overseers. Former Emergency Financial Manager, Ramona Pearson, and her cronies, Jan Lazar and Steve Egan, were forced out of Highland Park, but not before they took $4 Million of our money. Our documentary, The Water Front ( captures the story.

What Blackwell did is wrong but we should not get distracted. The bigger issue is how the State and corporate interests are trying to take over Highland Park. The City owns a valuable resource: its own water department near the Detroit River and Great Lakes. While we have been fighting water shut-offs and the highest water and sewage bills in the country, Coca Cola decided to come in and set up a bottling facility, with the help of Arthur Blackwell. Coca Cola is one of the greediest and worst violators of fresh water tapping in the world. Many companies who bottle and sell water have been wanting to take control of this resource at the people’s expense. Like the others, Arthur Blackwell greased his fingers while allowing Highland Parkers to go without water and other city services.

These problems reached another level on Tuesday, April 21. Every Tuesday, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) broadcasts a television and radio program called “Ask Welfare Rights” on WHPR from 7-8 PM. MWRO pays a weekly fee for our show. When we arrived to do our program, we were told that we could not say anything about Arthur Blackwell because he has investments in the station.  I told them I will not submit to that demand. They said if we did not then we would be turned off. So, I told them I was leaving and would not do the program. They should not be able to get away with this action!  Now we are clear about who is running the station: the Blackwells, the Wheelers, and other partners in crime .

I will be looking into the question of free speech and censorship with one of our attorneys. We are also considering community actions, including a picket of WHPR. If you are interested in helping us wage these battles, please contact me.  Please call 313-964-0618 and leave a message if I am not there or email:

Ann Patterson

Ann Patterson and daughter.
By Ann Patterson

My name is Ann Patterson I wrote a story a while back about my 17 years at Abbott Hospital in Minneapolis and about the health care crisis we are facing. In a job I always thought would be secure because there is never a lack of sick or dying — hundred upon hundreds of people were being laid of every Christmas because of the ever improving technology and decreased need for human labor.

Well this Christmas we had another frightening experience. They laid off 500 people again but this time the reason was all together different. It was because of the two words we are all to familiar with — “economic crisis.”
Abbott’s CEO Jeff Peterson held a public meeting to let every one know his hands were tied. I am sure he wanted to explain why we were operating with half of the Hospital, double the patients and still being asked to not have any over time, etc. He went on to explain that the government has passed a law that we (hospitals) are to freeze all capital funds for 2008 with the exception of regulatory and safety expenditures, commitments to bond holders. And, they are to have one day’s operating budget set aside at all times (One Billion Dollars). The reason is so that we will have money for the bare minimum so the hospital can continue to operate during a recession and or a depression.

Now I not only have to fear losing my job but the third world healthcare we are going to start offering to our loved ones and children — as if it there was not enough suffering already. The mood in the hospital is so sad.  The current upset has hit closer to home for more people.  We have all become at our worst — stepping on each other — just hoping we can keep afloat and keep our job and, in turn,  keep our house.

I used to walk down the halls and say Hi to all my housekeeping, transport and kitchen friends. You see, you make a lot of friends after almost 18 years. It was a fun place to work and good money too. Now everyone is gone and the few long timers that remain have tremendous stress and far too much work to say Hi to anyone. It is a very sad place to work but in these times, work is better then none.



This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551,
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