Thursday, October 23, 2014

U.N. ‘Turn The Water Back On In Detroit’ | Black America Web

United Nations: ‘Turn The Water Back On In Detroit’

  • DETROIT (AP) — United Nations human rights experts described Detroit’s mass water shut-offs as “a man-made perfect storm” Monday and called on city officials to restore water to those unable to pay, including those with disabilities or chronic illnesses.
    Meanwhile, Detroit’s officials said the two lawyers’ actions and conclusions were agenda-driven and not based on “facts” about the city’s progress in helping residents keep or regain service.
    Leilani Farha and Catarina de Albuquerque, who were in town to observe the effect of water service shut-offs, said they affect the poorest and most vulnerable — and particularly discriminate against Detroit’s majority black population.
    The representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner made the trip after activists appealed to the U.N. for assistance. They visited residents who have lost water service or have struggled to keep it, and they met with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and water department officials for about two hours Monday morning.
    The city, the nation’s largest municipality to file for bankruptcy, said it made about 27,000 shut-offs between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. Most shut-offs were halted for several weeks during the summer to give residents a chance to enter payment plans but they resumed and topped 5,100 in September.
    The U.N. officials cited falling population, rising unemployment and a utility passing on higher costs associated with an aging system. De Albuquerque said she has seen shut-offs in other U.S. cities and developed nations, but nothing like Detroit.
    “Our conclusion is that you have here in Detroit a man-made perfect storm,” de Albuquerque said. “The scale of the disconnections in the city is unprecedented.”
    The mayor’s top aide, Alexis Wiley, said the city is “very disappointed” with the U.N. visit. She said Detroit is helping residents by beefing up customer service, getting 33,000 people in payment plans — up 15,000 since August — and logging a more than 50 percent drop in residential calls for water assistance.