The two sides of the Detroit water bill crisis - New York News

The two sides of the Detroit water bill crisis

Posted: Updated:
Opinion by Mike Renda
General manager, WJBK FOX 2


As the city of Detroit advances through its historic bankruptcy, focus has shifted to the water department's controversial efforts to collect unpaid water bills.
 
The city says 50 percent of all residential accounts are more than 150 dollars behind ... or 60 days past due. That adds up to millions of uncollected dollars in a city that is broke.
 
In March the water department began notifying customers that their water would be shut off unless they paid up or arranged a payment plan. Many complied and the city settled thousands of unpaid bills.
 
But a very vocal constituency cried foul and claimed many people who could not afford to pay their bills were being shut off ... robbing them of their basic human right to water service. Further, there were protests and welfare rights groups that sued, demanding an end to the cutoffs and for the department to offer an affordability plan.
 
They have gotten some relief ... The city suspended the shutoff practice for 15 days to allow for delinquent customers to contact the water department and arrange for a payment plan or apply for assistance.
 
Most would agree we should provide a safety net for those water users who show genuine need.
 
But the city of Detroit can only thrive going forward when its able residents pay their water bills and pay them on time. All residents of Detroit must be responsible and contribute to building a city that works.
 
I believe Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and Mayor Mike Duggan are correct in their effort to change widespread non-payment of water bills, taxes and parking fines to name a few.
 
The attitude has been "Why should I pay my bill if my neighbor isn't?" This has resulted in a city whose departments are underfunded and cannot perform the basic services that cities must provide for their residents.
 
I agree with a resident who tweeted, "I understand both sides but you have to pay your bills. If everyone else does, you do too."
 
I'd like to hear your thoughts - please give us your comments on our Facebook page at FOX 2 Detroit.
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