By Diane Bukowski
The Michigan Citizen
February 5, 2003
DETROIT — To a continuous chorus of car horns from passersby, especially those in city vehicles, protesters swamped Detroit water department headquarters downtown for the third week in a row.
“No Compromise!” read one sign, demanding that water for thousands of city homes be turned back on for whatever the occupants can pay.
The leader of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Maureen Taylor, said her group had broken off negotiations with the department.
“They were not negotiating in good faith,” Taylor told protesters.
She also told the crowd that her organization has put out advertisements calling on Detroiters, whose water has been shut off, to bring their unpaid bills to the water department’s headquarters on Feb. 10, along with whatever they can pay.
“We are going to escort them inside to demand that their water be turned back on,” she said.
The shut-offs have been carried out in waves across city neighborhoods, ever since suburban dwellers claimed city residents’ delinquencies caused water rate increases.
Water department spokesman George Ellenwood said the city’s Law Department had advised the department that the water could not be automatically turned back on for those in shut-off status, due to provisions in water bond convenants.
He said of the 40,000 homes whose water had been turned off last year, 32,000 had service restored after delinquencies were reversed.
Of the remainder, he said, 7,867 are residential accounts for either single family dwellings or buildings with less than four units.
“But I don’t want to diminish the fact that that numbers of households are going without legally supplied water,” he added, noting that some may have “illegally” turned the water back on.
Residents, however, have reported that water department workers cement up the valves to prevent such restoration of service.
Ellenwood said progress was being made in ongoing meetings between the department and the city council on finding ways to accommodate low-income households.
This song was sung at the rally reported on in this article.
WHAT IS HE THINKING?
By the Raging Grannies
Tune: On Top of Old Smokey
Dedicated to Victor Mercado
Oh what is he thinking
The water board chief
When he signs the papers
And makes like a thief.
He steals peoples’ water
And lets them run dry
In cold winter weather
These people might die.
They’re children and old folks
Disabled and ill
Who suffer the most
From this bureaucrat’s will.
We call on the city
To stop this abuse
And give all our people
Good water to use.
The Water Board’s treatment
Of folks who are poor
We see in an instant
Is undeclared war.
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