Sign the petition to your representative: Support the WATER Act!

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Clean drinking water is a human right, and people should not have to worry about whether their water is safe to drink.

But U.S. pipes are getting old — some are as old as Ford’s first Model T car. And too many are still made of lead. These aging pipes are putting the health of entire communities in danger – especially children’s health.

And to make matters worse, private water corporations like Veolia and Suez are taking advantage of this crisis to push for the privatization of water systems across the U.S.

This is especially a problem for low-income communities and communities of color, including Flint, Michigan. The government must protect people from this environmental injustice and ensure safe, affordable drinking water.

The WATER Act — Water Affordability, Transparency, Equity and Reliability — (H.R. 5313) will provide dedicated funding by closing corporate tax loopholes to keep our water and sewer systems up to date and protect our drinking water for generations to come.

Tell your representative to support the WATER Act and fix our aging water systems!

Click here to sign the petition

Read: Peter Hammer’s testimony, “The Flint Water Crisis, KWA and Strategic-Structural Racism”

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Economist and Wayne State University Law School professor Peter J. Hammer recently submitted written testimony to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission as part of their hearings on the Flint Water Crisis titled, “The Flint Water Crisis, KWA and Strategic-Structural Racism”. Click here to download the report, or read coverage by Curt Guyette and the ACLU of Michigan: Democracy Watch: Law Professor Peter J. Hammer Likens Flint Water Crisis to ‘Tuskegee Experiment’.

Please find an introduction and summary to the document below by people’s lawyer, D-REM and PWB member Thomas Stephens:

This testimony provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of 1) the decision to approve Flint’s participation in the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) pipeline and 2) the financially driven decision to use the Flint River as an interim source of drinking water. 

Racialized austerity so extreme it can kill, exposed:

“… Flint found itself in a position where it could not legally stop using the Flint River, or return to the safe water of DWSD, or decrease its water rates, or terminate its involvement in KWA, all because the City was bound to finance its participation in a pipeline that better served the interests of others. …

Nothing about what happened in Flint was accidental. Flint needs to be understood as a morality play illustrating the dangers of Emergency Management and fiscal austerity. Flint needs to stand as a profound multi-generational testimony to the dangers of strategic-structural racism in the same manner as the Tuskegee tragedy forever shames medical science. …

The problem is not a lack of knowledge. The people of the State of Michigan viscerally understood the dangers of Emergency Management and collectively opposed it. The people in Flint understood the insanity of using the Flint River as a source of drinking water and had immediate, firsthand knowledge of how dangerous and inappropriate the water was for human consumption when it began flowing in April 2014. Engineers understand the basic chemistry of corrosion control and the relatively simple measures that can be taken to mitigate its ruinous effects. Physicians understand the permanent debilitating effects of lead on the human brain, especially for children. The problem is not a lack of knowledge.

The problem is the often willful blindness of people in positions of privilege and authority (Knowledge-&-Power) to the needs, perspectives and interests of others, particularly when the “other” is from a community that differs from their own in terms of race or class or ethnicity. The problem is that the information and beliefs held by people in authority often reinforce that blindness and permit the unquestioned projection of policies and programs on others, even when it is clear that those policies are inappropriate or have harmful consequences. The problem is that vulnerable populations are often subject to exploitation that strategically manipulates the very vulnerability created by express racism, structural racism and unconscious bias, and yet this exploitation finds ready shelter in the very forces it exploits.”  Continue reading Read: Peter Hammer’s testimony, “The Flint Water Crisis, KWA and Strategic-Structural Racism”

Truthful Choices by Shea Howell

Thinking for ourselves
By
Shea Howell

Truthful choices
July 17, 2016

shea25The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile deeply saddened many of us. Michelle Alexander captured these feelings when she wrote of her own struggle “to find word to express what I thought and felt,” wanting “to say something that hasn’t been said a hundred times before.” Then she concluded, “It finally dawned on me that there is nothing to say that hasn’t been said before.” Then, after hearing of the shootings of 11 more people in Dallas, she said, “I could not bring myself to recycle old truths. Something more is required. But what?”

In thinking about this question I find my thoughts turning to Ida B. Wells. Wells was an African American teacher, writer, activist, and organizer. She was born into slavery in Mississippi 154 years ago this week. After the death of her parents, Wells became a teacher to keep her family together. Following her parents example, she became an activist, journalist and co owner of Free Speech and Headlight. There she began to document lynching.

In 1892 she wrote an editorial after eight men were lynched in one week. She attacked the idea that these lynchings were justified as white revenge for the charge of rape. Instead she argued lynchings were a cruel and vicious tool of social control.

Her editorial caused the “leading citizens” of Memphis to organize an effort to lynch her and her co-owner. She comments, “Threats of lynching were freely indulged, not by the lawless element upon with the deviltry of the South is usually saddled—but by the leading businessmen, in their leading business centre.”

Forced out of the South, she published Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases in 1892. In her preface she explains her efforts are “a contribution to truth, a array of facts, the perusal of which it is hoped will stimulate this great American Republic to demand that justice be done though the heavens fall.” Continue reading Truthful Choices by Shea Howell

Compromised Confusion by Shea Howell

Thinking for ourselves
By
Shea Howell

Compromised Confusion
July 10, 2016

shea25The battle over a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for Detroit is intensifying. Within a few hours after the Department of Elections ruled the CBA could go forward as a ballot question in November, City Councilman Scott Benson jumped in to try yet another desperate strategy to confuse voters and block meaningful legislation. He said he is offering a compromise.

People have been fighting for a CBA strategy for nearly a decade. The purpose of a CBA is to ensure that when public money is used to support private development, communities receive some direct benefit. The ordinance gives community residents a say in how developments impact their neighborhoods and their daily lives. As City Council President Brenda Jones wrote in a recent letter to the Detroit Free Press supporting CBA’s,

“We need to raise our standards of what we deserve when we invest our land or tax dollars. We deserve better than trinkets that don’t hold up after the development is complete.”

The ordinance requires developers who receive at least $300,000 in public subsidies for projects of $15 million or more to meet with community members and agree upon the benefits for the community t in exchange for public dollars.

While jobs for both construction and operations are a key concerns, communities are also concerned about quality of life issues. Neighbors want to ensure support for local businesses, consideration for environmental impacts, and support for neighborhood activities. Rashida Tlaib of the Sugar Law Center has supported the idea since she was a state legislator. Nearly a decade ago she heard from residents of the Delray area where major expansion of the new international bridge was unfolding. They worry that the increased truck traffic would further damage their already stressed neighborhood.

She said, “Every time I think about a community benefits agreement for the bridge specifically, I think about it being a model bridge that is going to have an air quality program or a volunteer program to get trucks retrofitted. One of the things I heard residents ask is, “Rashida, for the money that they’re getting for the land, could they get bus covers?” Those are the kinds of basic needs that a community who is going to have large transportation pressures are thinking about.” Continue reading Compromised Confusion by Shea Howell