No Jobs, No Water: How much longer do we have to live like this?

Protest at City Hall to protest the decision to send shutoff notices to roughly 23,000 Baltimore families for overdue water bills. PHOTO/AZEEN GHORAYSHI

Protest at City Hall to protest the decision to send shutoff notices to roughly 23,000 Baltimore families for overdue water bills.


Baltimore City, whose police are under Federal investigation for outrageous cruelty, started shutting off water to 150 families a day. How would you like to wake up and find no water in your faucet? No way to flush the toilet?

If there is no water in your house, social services can take your children. Even if you have paid your rent, which includes water, the water can be shut off when the landlord does not pay his or her bill.

Baltimore City Public Works started raising water bills in 2013 and is hoping to squeeze 42% more money from the public. But they are not closing off the water for the 369 commercial accounts that owe one-third of the $40 million in outstanding bills. Instead, Public Works is concentrating on the poor and defenseless people.

One of the biggest unpaid bills is for the closed recreation center at 2601 Tally Street. Here, the Mayor and City Council owe $16,760. The other is R.G. Steel, (the old Bethlehem Steel) whose millionaire owner is hiding in bankruptcy.

Damian Henson, who was charged a $3,700 water bill for his house, led a protest outside City Hall to demand an investigation of this money grab by the Public Works. The demonstrators had a good point. Water should not be shut off. Baltimore City has a history of over-charging. The City had to repay millions after overcharging 38,000 people in 2012. Often, broken city equipment causes water bills to be much higher than what the homes actually use.

There is more to the story. Investigators from Real News reported that Baltimore City Public Works was tricked by Wall Street banks into “interest rate swaps.” They are like a payday loan. It appears to be a good deal, but soon you owe two or three times what you borrowed. Baltimore City has recently paid millions to New York banks, including $40 million to get out of these deals.

Money that was supposed to build our public water system has been shoveled off to greedy banks. Instead of investigating these shady deals, collecting from the city or from R.G. Steel, the city is attacking the grandmothers on fixed income and others who cannot pay the water increases.

Marilyn Mosby, State’s Attorney for Baltimore, should investigate the “interest rate swaps,” R.G. Steel and the Department of Public Works.Johns Hopkins, the largest non-governmental employer in Baltimore City, must use its world renowned School of Public Health to protect the health of Baltimore’s citizens. The ministers, who last week marched against violence, must march again, against the horrible violence of denying children water to drink.

How much longer do we have to endure a society that cannot take care of its children and the unemployed? How much longer can we live with cruel and ignorant city officials who try to solve every problem on the backs of those who cannot contribute to their campaigns? Last month we said “NO” to police brutality. This month we must say “NO” to water shut offs.

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