By Tom Travis
A group of seven Flint residents gathered outside City Hall on Tuesday to announce that they had collected more than 1,000 signatures on two separate petitions. The group was led by Flint water activist and warrior Claire McClinton, who said she would deliver the signed petitions to the city clerk.
“This is a message from the people of the town of Flint,” McClinton told members of the media. Both petitions concerned the affordability of water and a call for a permanent ban on water cuts, McClinton said.
âWe pay the highest water rates in the country and we need a water affordability plan yesterday. As we were collecting signatures, people would rip them out of our hands so they could sign. They are looking for some relief from the oppressive water tariffs, âMcClinton said.
She added, âA water affordability plan is nothing new. It is not something unique. This is something Flint has been overdue for a long time, and even before the water disaster we were cheated on our water bills.
The petitions are directed to Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Flint City Council and demand that an ordinance be passed on each separate issue.
After the protest outside City Hall, McClinton and her fellow activist Vicki Marx walked into the City Clerk’s office on the 2nd floor and handed in the petitions.
Each neighborhood represented on the petitions
“The signatures on these petitions are representative of each district of the city and” each ethnic group is represented black, brown, white. From all the neighborhoods of this city, multigenerational, old and young. So that’s a big part of our city in this petition, âMcClinton said.
McClinton said the group hopes to extend the deadline for collecting signatures, but the first set of petitions was delivered to the city clerk today. McClinton said they would continue to speak at city council meetings and urge council to pass an ordinance.
“Solving the water crisis is a long way from any sort of justice.”
âDuring this water crisis, we have seen millions and millions of dollars entering this city and it never reached the residents. Resolving the Flint water crisis falls far short of any sort of justice for the town of Flint, âsaid McClinton.
âMany inhabitants of the town of Flint are going to be totally ignored, ignored and ignored in this colony. So now it’s our turn and the voices of the people must speak out as to what we want to remedy what happened to us, âMcClinton said.
“We are not going to sit idly by and let others profit from our crisis.”
Referring to the $ 94 million US bailout stimulus funds that have started pouring into the city, McClinton said, âThe Biden bailout money is our money. It does not belong to the mayor, it does not belong to city council, it does not belong to state officials, it does not belong to state senators, and it certainly does not belong to the governor.
âThis money was directly intended for us. We are not going to sit idly by and let others profit from our crisis. It is time for us to stand up for what we want. It’s our money.
“It’s just a step [the petitions] to use the money for a water affordability plan. Other cities have water affordability plans and we, more than anyone, need such a plan to escape these oppressive and abusive water tariffs we are paying. And by the way, the water we can’t use, âMcClinton added.
Water prices in Flint
When asked for examples of the cost of water in Flint, some of the protesters said their own monthly water bills were well over $ 100 per month. Bishop Bernadel Jefferson said his church’s monthly water bill is $ 75 and no one has used the church building for over a year.
Activist and Flint resident Vicki Marx said on her recent $ 70 water bill, $ 10.50 was for actual water and sewer charges, the rest, almost $ 60, was for service charges. Activist Quincy Murphy has suggested what city council can do is adjust the service charge on each water bill.
McClinton pleaded, âAnd please, residents, understand that 60% of your water bill is paid to bondholders, to stakeholders. You don’t even pay for water. You pay to be exploited by Wall Street. Water should not be a commodity. We need water to live. It is inhuman and outrageous for anyone to profit from water, something we need to survive.
âI have five rain barrels in my garden. I filter the water for drinking and cooking and my water bill ranges from $ 70 to $ 90 per month. The bill doesn’t stay the same even though my usage stays the same, âMarx said.
GEV told protesters that often city officials refer to water as a âcommodity,â something that must be paid for. McClinton replied, âWe have to prevent water from being a commodity. Many residents are not told how outrageous and painful the water tariff is for them. “
In his State of the City address in December 2020, Neeley said water is a human right. In 2020, the Town of Flint established a Water Payment Assistance Fund to provide up to $ 225 in assistance to help low-income and modest-income families pay their water bills.
In 2010, the United Nations issued a resolution declaring safe drinking water and sanitation an essential human right for life. The UN statement said in part: âWater and sanitation facilities and services must be available and affordable to all, even the poorest. The costs of water and sanitation services should not exceed 5% of a household’s income, which means that the services should not affect the ability of people to acquire other essential goods and services, including food, shelter, health services and education. “
âThe water crisis is far from over.
Perkins said he recently spoke to a woman who believed Flint’s water issues were all resolved. Perkins explained, âIt’s far from over. We sit in the water pipes two or three days a week to get bottled water. And we live in the Great Lakes State, come on.
Vicki Marx referred to a recent statistic from the state of Michigan that included testing Flint’s water at over 3,000 ppb (parts per billion). Marx said that according to that same website, there are “seven or eight houses” in Flint that are tested at 200 ppb. “You tell me the water is not safe,” Marx retorted.
The language of the petition
Protesters read each petition aloud. “We, the undersigned residents, respectfully call on Flint City Council and the Mayor of Flint Town to institute a Water Cutoff Protection Order to permanently protect Flint residents from water cutoffs. . “
The second petition read, “We, the undersigned residents, respectfully call on Flint City Council and the Mayor of Flint Town to pass a Water Accessibility and Fairness Ordinance with the aim of increasing the availability or affordability of basic water and sewer service. To ensure a fair process for all consumers by establishing for these purposes an all-water release program and a water customers review committee. Establish the water eligibility conditions for all delivery programs, its distribution and recertification conditions. Ensure the operational independence of the Water Customer Review Board as a neutral intermediary. Authorize a delinquency problem-solving investigation. Notice will be offered the opportunity to enter into a installment payment agreement subject to certain conditions.
GEV Editor-in-chief Tom Travis can be reached at [email protected]