One of the central tenets of my mayoral campaign is transparency of government. It is vital that residents of Detroit have a clear understanding of how government operates. This affects what activities and goals government chooses to engage. Ultimately transparency shapes the character of the government and sets the tone of the entire city. Clear knowledge of what is happening, how it’s happening, and why it’s happening empowers the community, and with that knowledge comes the ability to transform government as needed so that it actually serves its citizens. Servicing citizens means to me that, at every turn, city government must revolve around the health and well-being of each resident.
Currently, in parts of Detroit, the water is contaminated because of low pressure in the pipes which allowed for bacteria to infiltrate the water system. I have to admit when I saw there were no leafy vegetables or seafood or meat available at the local Whole Foods because those items would require water, a feeling of dread came over me. What if what happened in Flint happened in Detroit? We boast about our water as being the best in the world. What happens if it is no longer consumable because of a faulty water system? Unfortunately, this is currently happening as well as the lack of access to water.
Water shut-offs are still happening at an alarming rate in Detroit. Children, many I've taught, are still going to school without the ability to drink or wash with water. This is in addition to their schools closing. The instability the youth of Detroit face is inconceivable. And yet we expect them to craft and lead Detroit’s future.
Water is life, period. As a human being, to be able to live on this planet water is necessary, so taking away water is like taking away someone's air supply. It is ridiculous that our city government has allowed money to trump this basic human need. The recent emergency management has been blamed for these shut-offs. But honestly, I want a mayor who would say, “Over my dead body would I allow any citizen in my city to live without water.” As we witnessed at Whole Foods, without water there is no food. It's all linked together. Disease as well. I’m still waiting for our health department to protect the public. The reports need to be released about the spike in certain communicable diseases in Detroit because people are living without water, in some cases for years. This is where transparency is imperative. Our government needs to disclose the full truth and dynamics of what is happening so that we can, as a city, properly resolve the issue.
If your heart strings were not pulled when imagining people living without water in your neighborhood, perhaps your sense of survival was triggered at the thought of diseases spiking in your city. So it doesn't matter if you live in an ivory tower and pay your water bill on time, you will be affected; possibly infected as a result of your neighbor being unable to afford the water bill.
Why are the water bills unaffordable? The actual cost of water is low, however, the sewage is ridiculously high. The processing of the sewage is what makes the bills unaffordable. What is the resolution? Two-fold. When nearly 40% of Detroit citizens live in poverty, an income-based water affordability plan where the water bill does not exceed 2% of one’s income makes common sense. Access to clean water could help with the high infant mortality rates we face in Detroit.
In tandem, we have to address the infrastructure. Changing the old pipes is crucial. When I learned at the last Detroit Public School Community District board meeting that there are schools with lead in the water, like Flint, because of old pipes, I was horrified. How is this possible? How are we addressing this issue? So now we have children who may have limited access to water at home and at school. Someone explain to me how this is caring for the citizens of Detroit? Completely unacceptable.
Detroit deserves more.
When Detroit is surrounded by 20% of the world’s fresh water supply, our water issues sound absurd. The old way of governing has only produced more poverty and allowed for unhealthy, unsustainable living for Detroiters. This must stop now. The cycles must stop. The apathy must stop. The callous disregard for even our youngest citizens must stop. Together let’s re-imagine the way city government and city life should work in unity so that humanity and dignity are central to every citizen’s life. Our children deserve the future, and it’s up to us to build the new Detroit for them. Right now.