DETROIT, MI – First an acknowledgement needs to be made that there are many poverty level individuals and families that reside in Detroit. 38% of Detroiters live in poverty is the most current figure. The unemployment rate in June was 14.5%. They are the ones that need to be lifted up and assisted with help.
There has to be a bigger underlying issue in Detroit with what has played out for weeks concerning water shutoffs.
The scene played out coast to coast in the media of more than 1,000 people from across the nation who rallied in Detroit against the city’s ramped-up effort to collect from delinquent water customers by shutting off service to thousands of residents each month. The chant being that “Water is a Human Right”.
Banner-carrying and flag-waving marchers shouted slogans blaming Wall Street banks and predatory mortgage lenders for causing the poverty that, they say, had left thousands of Detroiters facing water shutoffs.
Emergency Manager, Kevyn Orr, handed the problem over to Mayor Mike Duggan. Duggan, his team and advisers came up with a 10 point plan. The first thing they did was to stop all water shutoffs. Mayor Duggan is getting high marks and praise for his handling of this crisis.
Almost $1.7 million was put into a fund, by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, designed to help people avoid service shutoffs by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department once the moratorium ended as of today.
But this week at Cobo Center and water department offices throughout the City of Detroit, we saw not hundreds but thousands come out to get on payment plans to get caught up so their water does not get shut off.
As images of the thousands flashed across television screens and in print media that turned out to finally do something about the bills that they are responsible for, the anger boiled up in the emails that MIHeadlines received.
The general belief in the emails is that Detroiters knew they could get away with not paying their water bills. And they have for a long long time.
The first requirement was to show up and get the process headed in the right direction. The second requirement was that those delinquent only needed to come in with 10% of what they owed on their outstanding bills to get on payment plans and to possibly get help from the $1.7 million available fund.
There has been the chatter that it is not just poverty that had thousands not paying their water bills.
The first of this complex issue is that residents got fed up with the water rates continuing to skyrocket.
Detroit City Council recently approved an 8% rate increase, in part because of unpaid accounts. The water department stated in June that about 90,000 delinquent customers owed about $90 million for water. No other major city in America had let accounts go delinquent for so long. Obviously mismanagement at its finest.
Then there is the poverty issue. One must remember that for decades the graduation rate and drop out rates for education have had wide gaps in Detroit. That alone leads to multiples of issues.
But the one piece to this puzzle that only some will whisper and then there are those that will scream it to the roof tops – Entitlement. It is a factor that cannot and should not be ignored. It can be attributed directly and indirectly to poverty issues, not just a black vs. white issues. It is not an Obama issue. It is not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It is a mindset crisis that is only just now being addressed. This is an everybody issue.
The definition of entitlement is as follows:
- : the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something
- : the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges)
- : a type of financial help provided by the government for members of a particular group. (Referenced from Merriam-Webster Dictionary)
With just Detroit alone as the example, the mindset of entitlement (I am owed) has been allowed to flourish and perpetuate for decades from, in this case, the local, then the state and last the federal government levels and in that order.
Entitlement is also directly tied to the public welfare system. Until President Clinton enacted ‘From Welfare to Work’ programs, many were just happy sitting and collecting benefits month after month, year after year. Generations of families had made, and some still do, living off of the public welfare system their job in life. Reform was needed then on a national level but further reform is needed on a state and local level in Michigan.
No one caught up in it wants to think or believe that they could be or are part of the problem and not the solution.
The water shut off crisis in Detroit has magnified the need for reforms and the way residents think or see governmental services. The beliefs and attitudes need to drastically change because they are inherently flawed.
Life is not free. Someone has to pay for it. The able bodied need to able their bodies and apply for the jobs that are out there. Not everyone is going to be paid $20 plus dollars an hour. Some may need to work two or even three jobs to make ends meet. We do what we have to do.
No one starts out at the top. Success is working your way to the top.
We all need water to live and survive. No two ways about it.
Water in this sense is not a right. It is a service that is piped directly to businesses and homes. Anyone using the service must pay for the continuation of that utility. If you are not willing to pay the rates, then move to an area where you can have a well drilled.
There are those that will do everything they can to keep up with their payment plans. Then there are those that will let the bills slide to the brink again and the cycle starts all over again. What plans are in place for those that continue to not pay their bills on time if at all?
Let’s all hope that Mayor Duggan’s efforts to quell this crisis was not just a bandaid for those who believe the system in one form or another owes them.