Opinion: Duggan plan for water shutoffs is a political tactic
Recently, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced a moratorium on water shutoffs that will expire in 2022. The mayor’s announcement was supported by Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, former appointee of Duggan as the director of the city of Detroit Health Department. El-Sayed claims that he influenced the mayor to permanently end water shutoffs in Detroit once and for all.
It is critical to hold those accountable that make false statements that are misleading to some of our most vulnerable communities. Duggan’s water plan does not end water shutoffs permanently, stop exorbitant water fees or help pay the unaffordable past due balances.
Duggan’s plan puts Detroiters that are in crisis on life support once again. In 2017, when Duggan was running for reelection, he addressed the drainage fee crisis, which subjected thousands of Detroit churches and residential homes to water shutoffs by implementing a suspension until the following year. Today, drainage fees are still the primary cause of unaffordable water bills for Detroiters. In 2020, Detroiters are still being sold recycled political tactics, not policy solutions.
This is why Detroit activists and leaders cannot afford to allow political opportunists to publicize false hope without holding the person(s) accountable, because Detroiters quality of life and health depends on it.
According to El-Sayed, his influence on Duggan to end water shutoffs permanently came with a price for El-Sayed to endorse Duggan for reelection, which brings into question the real purpose behind the plan. Using a moratorium on water shutoffs as a political bargaining chip in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is unconscionable and morally reprehensible.
Those who have worked on water affordability doubt that this deal will result in a water affordability plan that is sustainable and meets the needs of Detroiters.
If Detroiters have learned anything in the recent past it’s that we cannot count on politicians to save us. We must organize, build power and put forth our own solutions. One such example is the proposed water affordability plan presented to Detroit City Council years ago by former Councilwoman JoAnn Watson and recently brought forth by We the People of Detroit.
This plan has been approved as a charter revision by the Detroit City Charter Commission. Other progressive policies focused on affordable housing, transit, economic development and broadband access to name a few, have been developed by residents alongside activist but are soundly opposed by the current administration. No wonder the Duggan-El-Sayed proposal has been met with widespread skepticism.
El-Sayed claims his decision to endorse Mayor Duggan was to end water shutoffs permanently. His endorsement, supported by what he deemed, “real grassroots” activism, is a distraction often used by nonresidents seeking to take leadership in our community. We understand the value of building allies to advance our policies. However, we draw the line when it results in undermining our voice, co-opting our leadership and splintering our relationships within our community.
The Rev. Roslyn Bouier is the executive director of Brightmoor Connection. Linda Campbell directs Detroit People’s Platform. Nicole Small serves on The Peoples Slate. Beulah Walker is chief coordinator for Hydrate Detroit.