FLINT, MI — After months of demonstrations, public forums and court challenges, residents of Flint, Michigan, are emboldened by a court decision in their quest for quality, affordable water. Water shut offs, coupled with over 13,000 property liens caused by exorbitant water rates, have become too common in a city known for its labor legacy.
Now a decision lawsuit filed by ordinary citizens, with an extraordinary local attorney, Val Washington, gives residents hope. The suit charged the city with illegally raising water rates 35% in 2011 under the auspices of the then Emergency Manager regime. Relying on a recent Court of Appeals decision, which found that Emergency Manager’s do not have the authority to violate or neglect local ordinances, despite their dictatorial powers. (This could have implications for other municipalities and school districts trapped in the mire of dictatorship.) The suit also charged that the city raided water and sewer funds in 2007 to pay off a lawsuit.
Judge Archie Haymon’s decision was bold and decisive. The temporary injunction highlights:
Suspend All Water Shutoffs
Suspend All Property Liens
Suspend Water Service Fee (Average $60.00 per household)
Reduce Water Rate 35% to satisfy illegal rate hike in 2011
Return $15 million to Water and Sewer illegally taken in 2007
With the dismantling of Democracy taking place all over the state of Michigan, with the end game to totally expropriate public assets, particularly water, citizens have been forced to turn to the courts for relief. Unfortunately, there has not been much success in this arena. The Federal courts have made it clear that we have no Constitutional right to water (including the bankruptcy judge in the Detroit case.) Yet, the struggle continues and it’s no surprise that Flint found that needle in the haystack even for this partial victory.
Due to the flurry of appeals, and with the city playing the “bankruptcy card,” the victory may be short lived, but inspires us to fight on, recognizing water is a human right.