Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain't livin', this ain't livin'
No, no baby, this ain't livin'
No, no, no, no
--Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues"
On July 18 thousands of activists and dozens of organizations will converge on downtown Detroit to protest the privatization of the city’s assets and the disconnection of water to tens of thousands of low-income residents. The UN has called the shutoff a human rights violation. Demonstrators from around the country will rally in Hart Plaza at 1 pm, linking arms with the citizens of Detroit to protest the hostile corporate takeover by Wall Street banks and their ALEC-led political allies in the Michigan Statehouse, including Governor Rick Snyder.
July 18 marks the one-year anniversary of the announcement by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr that Detroit must file for bankruptcy—a decision that County Judge Rosemarie Aquilina immediately ruled violates the Michigan Constitution and state law and must be withdrawn. “I have some very serious concerns because there was this rush to bankruptcy court that didn’t have to occur and shouldn’t have occurred,” Aquilina stated. Orr and Snyder managed to circumvent her ruling, and the bankruptcy proceeded. The next few months will determine how successful they will be.
On July 4 the activist community of Detroit put out this call to action:
“We call on activists everywhere to come to Detroit on Friday, July 18th, for a rally and march to fight the dictatorship of emergency manager Kevyn Orr, appointed by millionaire Republican Governor Rick Snyder, and backed by Wall Street bankers and the 1 percent. Under a state-imposed bankruptcy, the City of Detroit workers face severe cuts to their pensions and tens of thousand people face water shut-offs.
"The banks, which have destroyed Detroit's neighborhoods through racist predatory sub-prime mortgages and saddled the city of Detroit with fraudulent financing, continue to loot the people of Detroit.
Detroiters have lost their democratic rights – 'elected' officials serve at the pleasure of the unelected Emergency Manager – and may be fired at any time.”
-- Detroit Moratorium Now and Freedom Fridays Coalition
Starting July 15, the Federal Bankruptcy Court in downtown Detroit will be holding hearings, and the people of Detroit will be speaking out against the emergency manager's economic "Plan of Adjustment."
The people of Detroit, 83 percent of whom are African American, know that their crisis was manipulated to force bankruptcy. In 2012, they fought to get a public initiative on the Michigan ballot, which overwhelmingly defeated Public Act 4, the anti-democratic law that granted the emergency manager complete authority over local officials, the power to nullify public rulings and bodies, and to strip unions of collective bargaining rights and health benefits.
But so intent were the right-wing legislature and Governor Rick Snyder to subvert the will of the people that in a lame duck session immediately following the referendum, the legislature issued a newer version of the law, Public Act 436, which they attached to an appropriation bill. It was a parliamentary trick that eliminated the possibility of another referendum.
Many Detroiters believe that the aggressive foreclosures and water shutoffs are a deliberate scheme to shock the population, drive longtime residents out of the city center, seize property, and gentrify downtown Detroit and the waterfront. This game-plan was played out in Benton Harbor, Michigan, also forced into emergency management, where corporate vultures grabbed a chunk of the city’s waterfront to build a golf course.
Detroit was no more “bankrupt” than many American cities suffering post-2008 loss of their real estate tax base, a crisis caused directly by Wall Street and the very same banks now promoting Detroit’s bankruptcy. Motor City was particularly devastated by the sub-prime mortgage schemes, which targeted African-Americans, whom the banks knew could not afford the loans they promoted. Detroit had the largest percentage of sub-prime victims per capita of any city in the United States. Foreclosures rates continue to be among the highest in the country.
The 2008 Ponzi scheme market collapse also led to $1.5 billion in budget-fix loans foisted on Detroit by a bank consortium led by Bank of America -- loans connected to the LIBOR interest rate manipulation crimes, for which the banks were indicted and fined. According to Bloomberg News, these faulty loans were coupled with unnecessary default insurance schemes sold by disreputable brokers to a corrupt Detroit mayor, who saddled the city with over $474 million in default swap costs. The mayor was later convicted and jailed on charges of racketeering and bribery.
But the banks were given a free ride, and now demand full payment. Many cities with almost the same financial red ink as Detroit, including Chicago, renegotiated bad loans with help from their state capitols, but Detroit is being held hostage. After the right-wing takeover of Michigan’s legislature in 2010, and the election of Governor Snyder, the Tea Party-led Republicans repealed the business tax so that the state lost over a billion dollars in revenue in 2013 alone, replacing it with $1.8 billion in cuts to schools. The legislature then backed out of previously allocated revenue-sharing funds to the city.
The same right-wing politicians and business interests then deliberately confused long-term solvency of the city pension obligations with short-term cash flow to accentuate the appearance of a financial crisis, according to Tom Barrow, mayoral candidate, CPA, and former head of the Michigan Licensing Board of Accountancy.
Jones Day, a Wall Street-connected law firm, which stood to gain $100 million in fees for the bankruptcy, issued a report on behalf of the state that was rife with subjective, editorializing subheads such as UNSUSTAINABLE RETIREE BENEFITS and HIGH LABOR COSTS AND RESTRICTIVE EMPLOYMENT TERMS. Bond market expert Kate Long indicated that the Detroit pension fund was actually "reasonably well funded according to national standards.”
Emergency Manager Orr, coincidentally also a former Jones Day partner, claimed he only made the “tough decision to file bankruptcy reluctantly after thorough negotiations with creditors, pension trustees and public sector unions.” In fact, Orr, Snyder, Detroit’s Democratic mayor, and the powerful financial interests behind them had conspired for months to use federal bankruptcy laws to circumvent legal obstacles regarding pensions, according to the leaked emails dating back to January 2013, provided by Robert Davis, a local political figure associated with AFCSME.
Tom Barrow described how Orr and Snyder surreptitiously rushed to preempt an injunction filed by pension trustees and public-sector unions who were seeking to block bankruptcy on the grounds that it would lead to unconstitutional pension cuts. While in court, attorneys for Snyder asked for a courtesy five-minute delay, during which Orr’s attorneys surreptitiously filed the bankruptcy petition, preempting the injunction.
The bankruptcy continues to slog through the courts, even though it became evident that Detroit's financial “emergency” was as blatant a fabrication as the WMDs -- the weapons of mass “distraction” contrived as the rationale for the privatized invasion and occupation of Iraq. Detroiters are witnessing the same "shock" strategy used internationally by right-wing ideologues who employ corrupt political, military and police power to advance the so-called free market reform. This long-term agenda of the Milton Friedman Chicago School of Economics is actually a formula for aggressive public asset seizure.
In her seminal book, Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein explains how historically a "softening up" process of collective shocks have been employed by the Chicago School internationally to stun the populace, paralyze their democratic process, and force austerity and mass-privatization down their throats through Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP)--see Detroit's Emergency "Plan of Adjustment"--that literally sap the lifeblood and wealth of nations.
Such vulture capitalism attacks were perpetrated in Chile and Argentina with the aid of corrupt dictators. In Russia and China, political suppression “shocks” preceded a privatization of public assets by Russian oligarchs and Chinese Communist Party “Princelings." After the austerity and privatizations, average citizens inevitably found themselves poorer as excessive debt was serviced off their backs, and lacking in basic public services and education.
Now "shock doctrine" has come home to the United States. Detroit has become Ground Zero for a massive new wave of asset seizures, repression, and corporate exploitation that is beginning to sweep U.S. communities and states, privatizing our schools, water assets and government services. With the end of the Iraq war, and as Latin American democracies reject bank-iinduced debt and austerity, these parasites who prey on civil society have turned their attention from neo-colonialist exploitation to cannibalism at home.
Many in Michigan believe the city could have managed its financial troubles on its own, but Motown was defamed and derided by repeated newspaper editorials, the outstate right wing, and the controlling majority in the legislature as profligate and promiscuous financially. Detroit's citizens were stripped of their right to local political control by democratically elected representatives.
“Emergency Management” in Detroit just another term for “hostile corporate takeover” whose major targets are:
• The tens of billions of dollars in value represented by the city’s huge water systems infrastructure, which supplies 40 percent of Michigan, and sits on 21 percent of the surface fresh water supply of the world.
• The billions of dollars in Detroit property that could be gentrified and developed once the cronies of the real estate vultures have pushed out its African-American residents.
• An art museum with a collection valued at billions of dollars.
• The hundreds of billions of invested capital that are promised to the city pension plans.
The clear attack on pensions is why many Detroit pensioners are voting no to the insidious “grand bargain” being offered right now in the enforced bankruptcy. Pensioners and current employees are being threatened with deeper cuts, if they don’t vote to accept a set of long-term reduction in payments and health benefits, and sign away their right to sue later.
Pensioner Cecily McClellan sees the struggle for pensions as the battle of a lifetime. 'Detroit is the template," she says. "If they are successful here, then they’re going to use it. They have 90,000 municipalities with pensions in the United States. And they’re going after every one. I think that the pension is going to be a form of new wealth for some people. It’s a new market. Just like we had the mortgage bubble and the dotcom bubble, we’re going to have them exploiting pensions.”
The pawns in this crisis, the impoverished residents of Detroit, have already suffered the globalization of this rust belt region, as corporations took their production south, and then abroad. Motor City’s population has been reduced from 1.5 million at its apex in the fifties, to just over 700,000. Half the housing stock is abandoned or set on fire and looted, while city services operate at a fraction of past accommodations—crippling citizen's ability to work and care for their children. The last thing they need is to be viciously set upon by the governor and his “Manager” who now threaten their health by shutting off the water, often without notice, of any resident who is overdue sixty days, on as little as $150 dollars.
Millions of dollars are still owed to the city water department by golf courses, sports arenas and other businesses, and by thousands of homes foreclosed and now owned by banks or corporations, but these have not been subjected to water shut off, even with bills months or years overdue.
As we write this story, on the 4th of July, we believe the people of Detroit have the right to refuse their "consent" to be governed by a vicious regime foisted on them by an imperialist governor. They would be well within the bounds of justice to demand their “unalienable rights," starting with water for their families, and to keep their pensions, which are protected by the Constitution of the State of Michigan.
Detroit is part of the heart and soul of America. Its path should be decided by the people of Detroit themselves, who deserve basic respect, human dignity, and enough water to plant and grow the seeds of their future.
All of you out there in the American heartland, in Michigan and the Midwest, in Chicago, Madison, Toledo, we implore you to “do the right thing” -- get in your cars, on buses and trains, and come to Detroit on July 18, 2014.
For more info on the demonstration go to:
Ben Ptashnik is a former state senator from Vermont, and a lifelong human rights and democracy activist. He and Victoria Collier are co-directors of the National Election Integrity Coalition- www.democracymovement.us
Original article on The Progressive
Page 6 of 59
After initially stating he would rule on an emergency appeal to stop water shutoffs at the end of Tuesday’s court session, US federal bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes announced Wednesday he would issue no decision until at least September 17. This means the city, which has shut off water service to nearly 1,000 households since resuming this brutal policy last week, will continue for at least the next two weeks.
Rhodes appointed a mediator from the US bankruptcy court, US chief judge Phillip Shefferly, to hold “confidential” mediations between the Detroit Water...
Lawrence Porter | World Socialist Web Site 04 Sep 2014 Hits:355 Michigan
While they carry signs “Thirsty For Justice” nearly 45% of Detroit’s 173,000 water accounts are considered past due, with 420 customers due to be denied service Tuesday.
The bankrupt Detroit lifted the month-long suspension of shutting off water to people who have not paid bills. Some 25,000 customers have reached payment plans with the city.
The new system seems to be working very well,” said John Roach, spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan. The biggest changed to the payment plan program was to require only 10% of past-due balances to enter a payment...
Kaye Wonderhouse | The Global Dispatch 28 Aug 2014 Hits:315 Michigan
DETROIT, Mich. (WJLA/AP) -- Detroit's massive municipal water department, which has been widely criticized for widespread service shutoffs to thousands of customers, drew nationwide attention Thursday on Capitol Hill.
Due to public pressure, the department has temporarily suspended shutoffs for customers who were 60 days or more behind on bills for 15 days.
But with the prospect of shutoffs resuming in a week, some members of Congress are now asking the Obama administration and the Department of Health and Human Services to intervene in what they contend is a humanitarian crisis facing...
Scott Thurman | AP | ABC 7 News 01 Aug 2014 Hits:496 Michigan
Maude Barlow, Canadian author and national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, with a delegation of water rights advocates brought 260 gallons of water to Detroiters July 24.
Of the 15,000 homes that have had water shut off by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, it is estimated that only 48 percent are back in service.
“We came to pay tribute to the people of Detroit,” Barlow said in remarks made at St. Peter’s Church, Michigan and Trumbull, where the water was delivered.
“Fresh water and sanitation are human rights guaranteed by the United Nations,”...
The Michigan Citizen 30 Jul 2014 Hits:451 Michigan
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department is suspending its water shutoffs for 15 days starting today to give residents another chance to prove they are unable to pay their bills.
“In case we have missed someone who has legitimate affordability problems this will allow them to come to us to see if they can work out payments,” department spokesman Bill Johnson said. “We’ve always maintained that what we were doing was a collection effort — not a shutoff effort.”
The decision comes after the city has put into national spotlight for a...
Brent Snavely, Matt Helms | Detroit Free Press 21 Jul 2014 Hits:384 Michigan
Oh, make you wanna holler
The way they do my life
This ain't livin', this ain't livin'
No, no baby, this ain't livin'
No, no, no, no
--Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues"
On July 18 thousands of activists and dozens of organizations will converge on downtown Detroit to protest the privatization of the city’s assets and the disconnection of water to tens of thousands of low-income residents. The UN has called the shutoff a human rights violation. Demonstrators from around the country will rally in Hart Plaza at 1 pm, linking arms with the citizens of...
Ben Ptashnik and Victoria Collier | The Progressive 09 Jul 2014 Hits:493 Michigan
Detroit made international news this month when its municipal water board resumed cutting off water to residents with unpaid bills. With thousands of community members struggling in homes with no running water, local groups reached out (PDF) to the United Nations special rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation to intervene. On Wednesday, U.N. officials responded, calling the water department’s actions a “violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.”
The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department’s decision to cut off residents with unpaid...
Anna Lappé | Al Jazeera English 02 Jul 2014 Hits:912 Michigan
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) won't appear on the Democratic primary ballot after failing to submit enough valid signatures, Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett said on Tuesday.
"It is my determination that in accordance with the current laws and statutes of the State of Michigan, the nominating petitions filed by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. are insufficient to allow his name to appear on the August 5, 2014 Primary Ballot," Garrett said in a statement.
The decision means Conyers may have to run as a write-in candidate if he wants to keep a seat he's held...
Cameron Joseph | The Hill 14 May 2014 Hits:702 Michigan
Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) will retire at the end of his current term, capping a historic career as the longest-serving member of Congress in history.
In prepared remarks for his annual "State of the District" speech distributed by his office Monday afternoon, Dingell described his decision as personal and rooted in the standards he had set for himself as a lawmaker.
"Around this time every two years, my wife Deborah and I confer on the question of whether I will seek reelection. My standards are high for this job. I put...
Sean Sullivan | Washington Post 24 Feb 2014 Hits:596 Michigan
On December 3, United States Bankruptcy Judge Stephen A. Rhodes—to the surprise of no one—formally ruled that Detroit is “eligible” for bankruptcy. In other words, creditors will now wrangle over Detroit’s government assets with Rhodes as the referee.
It is important to understand that at no point has Detroit declared or requested bankruptcy. Indeed Detroiters and others in Michigan have resisted as best they could, only to be overpowered at every turn. As Judge Rhodes explains below, bankruptcy has been orchestrated from Lansing (the state capitol) with a lot of help...
Frank Joyce | AlterNet 17 Dec 2013 Hits:552 Michigan
Michigan lawmakers passed a controversial measure on Wednesday that will ban all insurance plans in the state from covering abortion unless the woman's life is in danger. The law, which takes effect in March, will force women and employers to purchase a separate abortion rider if they would like the procedure covered, even in cases of rape and incest.
Supporters of the "Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act" argue that it allows people who are opposed to abortion to avoid paying into a plan that covers it. Opponents have nicknamed it the "rape...
Laura Bassett | Huffington Post 11 Dec 2013 Hits:1740 Michigan
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes ruled Tuesday that the city of Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy after a long court battle between city appointed 'emergency manager' Kevyn Orr and union and labor activists who say the decision paves the way for workers' pensions to be cut.
Rhodes ruled that Detroit is insolvent, a legal criteria for bankruptcy, meaning it can cut public pensions for the bankruptcy filing.
Critics say the city bankruptcy filing, the first of its kind, is an attack on pensions and future livelihoods for workers in the city of...
Common Dreams Staff 03 Dec 2013 Hits:445 Michigan
Contradicting what the corporate media editorial boards have promoted in chorus with the multi-millionaire Governor Rick Snyder and his appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, 110 people filed objections to the forced bankruptcy of the City of Detroit. The hearing took place on September 19 and was widely covered in the local, national and international press.
This extraordinary hearing had provided only a small window of time for legal action. Many of the people that testified were retirees, city workers, community organizers and professionals who met the deadline set by the Judge...
Abayomi Azikiwe | Global Research 24 Sep 2013 Hits:835 Michigan
Much has been justifiably made about the damage the Roberts Supreme Court has done to voting rights in their recent decision, Shelby County v. Holder. However, a potentially more insidious plot denying the precious right to vote is occurring in my own state of Michigan, where Republican Governor Rick Snyder has appointed an emergency manager to run Detroit in place of the duly elected mayor and City Council. Even more troubling, the governor did so after Michigan voters had rejected the emergency manager law at the ballot box, when late...
Rep. John Conyers, Jr | Huffington Post 16 Sep 2013 Hits:779 Michigan
Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation’s history Thursday afternoon, capping a long decline that left the nation’s automaking capital bleeding residents and revenue, while rendering city services a mess.
The nation’s fourth-largest city in the 1950s with nearly 2 million residents, the city has seen its populaton plummet to 700,000 as residents fled increasing crime and deteriorating sevices, taking their tax dollars with them.
The five-decade slide has left the city owing creditors some $19 billion and under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The manager has been...
Michael A. Fletcher | The Washington Post 18 Jul 2013 Hits:457 Michigan
In November, Michiganders voted the state's undemocratic Emergency Financial Manager law out of existence. But that didn't keep Snyder and legislators from claiming control of Motor City.
As of today, Detroit…
On Thursday an emergency manager was named for Detroit, Kevyn Orr, a partner in the Jones Day law firm.
MICHAEL STAMPFLER, [email] Available for a limited number of interviews with major…
Teachers in Grand Rapids, Michigan, say that new paycheck cuts are leaving them with so little pay they qualify for food stamps. The teachers, working without a contract, have been…
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared the city of Detroit in a state of "fiscal emergency" on Friday afternoon and announced he would appoint a emergency financial manager (EFM)…
On the heels of a lawsuit filed recently in the Ingham County District Court challenging the constitutionality of Michigan’s new Right to Work law, a coalition of unions has filed a…
Michigan’s so-called lame duck legislature passed a remarkable 232 bills in its last week of business. Only one bill, SB 0116 (2011), the so-called Right to Work Bill, passed on…
LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature approved sweeping legislation on Tuesday that vastly reduces the power of organized labor in a state that has been a symbol of…
Newly elected Rep. Dave Curson moved into his spacious, sun-drenched Capitol Hill office three weeks ago, eager to savor every minute of his congressional career.
And relish it he…
Lansing, MI – Many concerned worker gathered in Lansing today as Republican legislators scrambled to move forward two bills that had been dormant in their committees for most of the…
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