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Nancy Kaffer writes something smart about Detroit's water crisis

by: Eric B.

Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 14:00:00 PM EDT


Fried Chicken Frank's column this morning on the Detroit water thing was the awfulest thing written about it yet. It's about how the real victim in the shutoffs are suburbanites and if you had any lingering doubts that Fried Chicken Frank is something of a racist this should erase them. We can debate the merits of whether the water department should just be up and shutting off people's water, especially since there are apparently two different policies regarding residential water and water for businesses but attacking a bankruptcy judge because he didn't take the time to listen to suburbanite whining is the very essence of white privilege.

I would advise skipping the column. It adds nothing of value to this issue and will only make you think about those two minutes you'll never get back, plus the one minute thinking about those two minutes.

Go instead and read Nancy Kaffer's column, which unlike both the columns written by Nolan Finley and Fried Chicken Frank, appears to have involved research and thought.

Let’s be absolutely clear about a few things: Water isn’t free. Nor should it be. It takes money to treat and deliver water to residential and commercial customers. In Detroit, water shutoffs continue, despite international criticism, and strong words from the federal judge overseeing the city’s municipal bankruptcy case. After shutoffs, most residents pay up promptly, restoring service. Those numbers notwithstanding, it’s unavoidably true that some Detroiters can’t pay what they owe.

The only quibble I have is that water is free. If you live in Detroit, you can walk to the Detroit River and help yourself to as much water as you'd like and no one will ask you for a red cent. What costs is treating it and transporting it to your home.

But, beyond that it's an excellent column that does more than just stake out a stark position, either that poor people shouldn't have their water turned off under any circumstances or that the people who are getting their water turned off deserve it because they are terrible.

It asks this question: Should we deliver water as a fee-for-service, or do something else. These paragraphs are especially helpful.

Residential consumers are a small part of total water consumption (agriculture sucks down the most). Indoor residential use is defensible as essential, Beecher said, but not so with outdoor uses, such as watering lawns.

Fee-for-service, she said, serves a purpose apart from funding the system: Paying by volume encourages responsible water consumption.

That second is something everyone who thinks that water service should be free needs to remember. We in Michigan have a lot of water. We're blessed with it, but it also does the disservice of convincing us that water conservation isn't important.

Some media outlet ran a story pretty recently on the plight of Las Vegas that highlights this. Their main source of water is going dry and they're still talking unrestrained growth. It's idiotic. It's also admittedly not Michigan, but whether an approach to paying for something encourages wise usage or waste is important to sorting it all out.

Eric B. :: Nancy Kaffer writes something smart about Detroit's water crisis
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Charles Pierce weighs in on the water shutoffs (4.00 / 2)
He's in town for Netroots Nation, but took time out to cover this afternoon's anti-shutoff march.

His blog post contained this observation:

With the city in bankruptcy, a lot of the people in Detroit are figuring that Orr is trying to get rid of the $5.7 billion in water department debt as a prelude to privatizing the water supply for the city. And, given our experience with private prisons, doesn't that fill you with optimism.

He forgot to add a Pierce-ism you often see on his blog: "It's not about race, because it's never about race."


A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.


Oh, Charlie's here? (0.00 / 0)
Awesome! Now I'm tempted to look him up and see if I'm worth insulting.

I also participated in yesterday's march.  I allowed WXYZ to describe the march and another demonstration in Water protests in Detroit at my blog.

Greetings from Detroit, Ground Zero of the post-industrial future!


[ Parent ]
Now here's something worth reading... (4.00 / 2)
The ACLU and NAACP legal department sent a letter today to Kevin Orr, Mayor Duggan et al that, among other things, talks about how the debt, caused by bad Wall Street investments, is the problem and not a bunch of poor people who can't pay their water bills.  Worth a read:

http://www.aclumich.org/sites/...


Orr et al (0.00 / 0)
are well aware of this fact, but that won't change how they deal with the problem. There will be no accountability other than that imposed upon residential customers of the Detroit water department. I have yet to hear anything about the multitude of businesses and landlords that simply ceased paying when they figured out that there were no consequences.


[ Parent ]
Not free BUT... (0.00 / 0)
you can't live with out it. You literally can't live without it! To deprive someone of water? How's that not murder?


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