Letter: Protect the human right to water


Re: Daniel Howes’ October 6 column “Regional water wars ebb to spirit of cooperation”: Howes distorts critical questions facing everyone in Michigan.

The column’s focus was the upcoming sale of $1.4 billion in bonds by Wall Street for the new Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). Wall Street has upgraded the bond ratings. Howes claims that the new regional authority, forced by the bankruptcy process, is responsible for this good fortune.

Howes uses the bond rating to celebrate the kind of incompetent, bottom line ideology that led to the poisoning of Flint all the while ignoring the human cost borne by Flint families to this day.

The tunnel vision of this argument is ironically shown in a quote from Moody’s that Howes mistakenly uses to bolster his argument: “Key financial metrics will remain sound despite economic weaknesses in the service area and significant capital needs.” It is these “weaknesses in the service area” and “significant capital needs” that should be getting our attention. The primary lesson of Flint is that the desire to save money results in decisions that save pennies and poison people.

Weakness in service areas and infrastructure improvements are phrases evading the harsh fact that thousands of people are denied access to a basic necessity of life, and everyone is placed at greater risk of a serious health crisis.

Howes rightly notes that ensuring safe water is an “essential role of government “and “critical to public health.” Yet he refuses to ask the hard questions: How do our elected officials ensure safe, affordable water to all people? How do we create sustained investment in infrastructure? How do we not only provide water, but insure public health and public responsibility?

Howes, like Gov. Rick Snyder and his emergency managers, writes of water wars, but talks only of banks and bonds. There are no people in his article, and certainly not those whose livelihoods are decimated, pensions cut back, or water shut off. Until we face these questions, the spirit of cooperation Howes celebrates is nothing more than a twisted tale of a city unable to meet its most basic responsibilities.

Howes’ ideological fixation on Wall Street’s leadership is at the source of the problem. Protecting the human right to water and sanitation is the solution.

Shea Howell, Detroit