Action Alert: Detroit Residents Cut-off from Heat, Water, Lights!

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Detroit Residents Cut-off from Heat, Water and Lights!

DTE Energy and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) show greed — no holiday spirit.

Please call or fax the Chief Executive Officer of DTE Energy, and the Mayor of Detroit to demand a moratorium on the cut-offs. (See contact information below)

Background: In the last several months thousands of Detroit residents have had their utilities cut! Hundreds have marched in front of the DTE Energy building demanding a moratorium on the cut-offs. More marches are planned in January.

Seniors, those with disabilities, women with young children, ex-welfare recipients and many others struggling for their livelihoods face the lack of heat, water and lights. The average salary is less than $7.50 an hour,” said MaureenTaylor of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization. You can be working fulltime and you’re still poor. I get 20 to 30 calls a day from seniors, women and single men, and from those disabled physically and emotionally [whose utilities are being shut off].”

While many Detroit residents are facing the holidays without adequate heat or water, the CEO of DTE Energy, Anthony F. Earley, Jr., sits warm and cozy having earned more than $3.3 million in salary, cash bonus, cash stock awards, stock inventory payouts and other cash compensation in the last year alone.

The new director of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD), Victor Mercado, introduced an aggressive plan of debt collection with subsequent disconnection of services if residents are unable to pay the charges. Michigan Citizen News Service reported that DWSD workers cemented the areas around the shut-off valves to prevent residents from turning their water back on.

In November, the same month that DWSD decided to cement shut the water valves, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted a new amendment on water stating that: The human right to drinking water is fundamental for life and health. Sufficient and safe drinking water is a precondition for the realization of all human rights.” The new aggressive” debt collection policies of DWSD defy United Nations standards. Detroit water rates rose 15 percent in 2002.

Making matters worse, the Family Independence Agency recently discontinued a program where a small percentage of grants were paid directly to recipients’ utility charges. This has increased the vulnerability of low-income families who rely on such grants. And, former welfare recipients are receiving bills from the utilities demanding payment in full for arrears due to DTE Energy that accumulated during the time the client’s bills should have been covered by the Welfare Department.

President Bush stands poised to exacerbate the crisis with his refusal to release $300 million in emergency federal funds to assist low-income consumers to pay their heating bills.

Figures cited by the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization state that 9,800 Detroit residents lacked gas and electricity (as of August 1, 2002). 20,000 residents were on probation and threatened with cut-offs. According to DWSD, between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2002 there have been 40,752 water cut-offs in the Detroit area. The DWSD reported they have cut-off the water of 4,523 residences during the last 79 business days.

Call the CEO of DTE Energy and the Mayor of Detroit today and demand a moratorium NOW on the heat, water, and electricity cut-offs. STOP THE CUT-OFFS. Restore heat and water to everyone! Access to heat and water is a human right! Demand more state, federal and city funds to provide relief to low-income families.

DTE Energy, Chief Executive Officer

Anthony F. Earley, Jr. 

Phone: 313 235-4000 (stay on the line through the recording and then you will get a real person. Ask for Mr. Anthony F. Earley. It is likely that you will then be directed to his assistant, Bernadette Wilson.)

Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick

Coleman A. Young Municipal Center

2 Woodward Ave, Ste 1126

Detroit, MI 48226

Phone: 313 224-3450

Fax: 313 224-4128

Also, Michigan residents call your U.S. Congressional representatives and demand increased funds for energy assistance to low-income people. Demand funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Bush has failed to release $300 million in emergency funds for LIHEAP.

U.S. Senator Carl Levin

477 Michigan Avenue, Suite 1860

Detroit, MI 48226-2594

  1. 226-6020

U.S. Senator Debbie A. Stabenow

243 W.Congress, Suite 550

Detroit, MI 48226

  1. 961-4330

U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr

669 Federal Building

231 W. Lafayette

Detroit, MI 48226

  1. 961-5670

U.S. Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick

1274 Library, Suite 1-B

Detroit, MI 48226

  1. 965-9004