FLINT, MI — While the Detroit water shutoffs drew international condemnation from the United Nations and shamed the city’s unelected Emergency Manager into allowing a temporary moratorium on shutoffs, another water crisis has been boiling in nearby Flint, Michigan. Like Detroit, Flint’s mayor and city council are powerless to address this crisis, which has been unfolding since the city’s first Emergency Manager took office in 2011.
According to an analysis by the Flint Journal, the city now has the highest water rates in the country. Flint charges $35 more per month in water and sewer rates than the next-highest municipality in the county, and $90 more than the lowest.
Many low income residents without the ability to pay have had their water turned off, but in Flint the Emergency Manager has also targeted paying residents. Instead of going after absentee corporate landlords who fail to make their payments, the city is targeting low income residents who have paid their bills on time!
A recent local investigative report found that eight families in a Flint mobile home community, Ambassador East, had gone without water for over a year and a half. Many of these residents have lived here for decades, and paid for water in lot rent. The corporate landlord pocketed the money and absconded, leaving the residents dry when the city turned the water off.
The residents say the money was given to the city water department but services were not restored, even though they offered to pay for water directly, bypassing the absentee lot owners. The Emergency Manager refused to turn the water back on unless residents paid tens of thousands in unpaid water fees. Those who had the means to move fled, but the remaining families have resorted to buying bottled water, collecting rain water and pumping water from a nearby cemetery.
Just a week after this report broke, the Emergency Manager cut water for the residents of Glen Acre and ordered them to vacate within 24 hours! The Glen Acre residents paid for the water as part of the monthly rent, but the corporate landlord had pocketed the money and refused to pay the city. Rather than going after the corporations that caused this mess, the city’s Emergency Manager decided to drive women and children from their homes.
Flint’s low-income residents are denied water even when they pay, while corporate slumlords are given a pass by the unelected Emergency Manager dictatorship. In response, community organizers have held three demonstrations against water rates and shutoffs, and more are planned. Those interested in helping are encouraged to contact the Democracy Defense League for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org