Sunday, July 13, 2014

How not to use social media on behalf of your city's water utility

The City of Detroit has decided to ignore the idea that access to clean water is a human right. They have spent the last few months turning off the water of residents who cannot pay even though rates have been hiked to cover some questionable financial choices the city has made over the years. They only started turning off businesses who have not paid--which make up the lion's share of the cost of delinquency--last week. Golf courses in Detroit owe hundreds of thousands in unpaid bills, yet they get preferential treatment.

Sunday Detroit Water representatives took to social media to accuse people who are trying to get water of "stealing" it from their utility, and they looked like thugs threatening their customers on Twitter:

This is worse than bad PR. It reflects the neglect and disdain that increasingly privatized municipal services, heavily influenced by business sector wealth, have for ordinary people living in difficult times. The double standard is clear: wealthy people have need of golf courses; they have no need of people who can't afford to bankroll brokered water. They have no need of universal human rights.


  1. No doubt, businesses that are similarly late as residents should get shut off first. But know that many of these residents have gone 6+ months without paying. At some point, enough is enough. Detroit has problems.

    Closer to home, this reminds me of the signs at Brentwood parks. They say something like "We are watching you" with creepy eyes.

  2. What does privatization have to do with this story? Detroit Water is a public entity operated by the City of Detroit, funded by rate and taxpayers. Access to water might be a universal right, but access to free water is not

    1. It has been widely reported in the past few months that the City of Detroit made a foray to privatize its water utility. DWSD has been under pressure from private industry creditors and it is obvious to me that the utility is jettisoning customers who either will not OR cannot pay in order to eliminate costs to make the lease more attractive to private companies. That is typical market-based logic fostered by an unelected city administrator appointed by a conservative GOP governor who is also a venture capitalist. Creditors are working every angle, including pressuring the public art museum to sell off its art.

      Detroit's crisis was caused by mismanagement, including borrowing from private companies and giving corporations ridiculous tax incentives to stay, also marks of privatization of the public sector.

      I thought I was being fairly charitable merely describing DWSD's as following the trend of "increasingly privatized municipal services."

      Lastly, you seem to believe that only those people who have the money to pay for it have a right to clean water. I don't subscribe to might makes right logic when it comes to universal human rights.