To download this flier, click on City retirees demand vote on DWSD 2.
To download this flier, click on Protest Bankruptcy/
To download this flier, click on City retirees demand vote on DWSD 2.
To download this flier, click on Protest Bankruptcy/
By Jeff Karoub, Associated Press
August 30, 2014
The report, commissioned by the Michigan Association of United Ways and released today focuses on people whose earnings are above the poverty line but still unable to cover expenses such as housing, transportation and health and child care.
Their households, according to the study, are 13 percent short of filling the gap between how much money wage earners take home and what they need to cover those expenses.
The United Way in 2009 coined the acronym ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed. The project, which focuses on people within that group, started in New Jersey and has spread to Michigan and several other states.
The report found that about 930,000 Michigan households fall within the ALICE criteria, and the number grows to 1.5 million when those below the poverty line are added.
“ALICE exists in populations all over the state,” said Scott Dzurka, president and chief executive of the Lansing-based association, which represents about 60 United Way chapters statewide that coordinate, promote and provide social and economic services.
Michigan is among the first states beyond New Jersey to perform its own version of the study, so no regional or national comparisons can be made. But New Jersey’s statewide report in 2011 found that 30 percent of its households couldn’t cover basic expenses.
Dzurka said there’s “no silver bullet” for those working yet struggling to make ends meet but he views the report as “a starting point” for conversations with local governments, nonprofits and businesses. Efforts could include boosting the quantity and quality of affordable housing and medium- and high-skilled jobs.
“Here’s a group of people who are tinkering on the edge who could potentially fall back into more (poverty) and become more costly,” Dzurka said. “I think everybody has an interest here.”
Research on the studies is led by Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration. Dzurka said the association also worked with the Michigan League for Public Policy, an advocacy group for the poor that also publishes reports examining families’ financial hardships and the economic gaps they face.
Michigan League officials say the United Way study breaks new ground by estimating the share of families who don’t make ends meet.
“This is further proof that Michigan needs to do much more to support working families,” Gilda Jacobs, the group’s president and CEO, said in an email. “That means working families would get better tax credits and more help with child care, and we need to raise the minimum wage even more than we have.”
(VOD tried to obtain a copy of the actual report, but ironically it is listed as “private” on the the United Ways’ website, meaning one has to pay to get it. VOD is among the 40 percent, so we couldn’t afford the expense.
The report covers households ABOVE THE POVERTY LEVEL WITH AT LEAST ONE WORKER who can’t meet expenses. Since we were unable to obtain separate statistics for Detroit, VOD investigated statistics for Detroiters BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL, from census sources for 2012. They are shocking compared with levels in Michigan as a whole, and with the United Ways report.
Thirty-eight percent of all Detroit residents live UNDER THE POVERTY LEVEL, with figures ranging up to 55.5% percent for families with children under 18. Individuals 15 and over had poverty levels of 43.2%. Since these figures don’t cover those who have dropped out of the workforce, the real poverty rates are much higher, particularly for Black families and youth, who comprise 82% of Detroit’s population.
The fact that 40% of Michigan households over the poverty level can’t cover expenses, while indicative of the rich vs. poor war, still pales in comparison to the situation in Detroit, GROUND ZERO in the war on poor and working people and on the Black population nationally.
|PERCENTAGE OF FAMILIES AND PEOPLE WHOSE INCOME IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS IS BELOW THE POVERTY LEVEL||MICHIGAN||DETROIT|
|With related children under 18 years||19.2%||45.2%|
|Married couple families||5.2%||16.6%|
|With related children under 18 years||8.1%||25.6%|
|Families with female householder, no husband present||33.7%||44.9%|
|With related children under 18 years||44.0%||55.5%|
|Under 18 years||22.8%||52.7%|
|Related children under 18 years||22.4%||52.4%|
|18 years and over||14.3%||32.8%|
|18 to 64 years||15.7%||35.1%|
|65 years and over||8.2%||20.1%|
|People in families||13.4%||36.8%|
|Unrelated individuals 15 years and over||29.1%||43.2%|
Missouri citizens seek $40 million in federal court for harsh police tactics after shooting death of Michael Brown
August 29, 2014
Al Jazeera America
St. Louis, MO — A group of people caught up in the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, that followed the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer, sued local officials on Thursday, alleging civil rights violations stemming from arrests and police actions that used rubber bullets and tear gas.
The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, says law enforcement met the broad public outcry over the Aug. 9 killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown with “militaristic displays of force and weaponry,” and engaged U.S. citizens “as if they were war combatants.”
The lawsuit, filed by D.C.-based Black Lawyers For Justice (BLFJ), seeks a total of $40 million on behalf of six plaintiffs, including a 17-year-old boy who was with his mother in a fast-food restaurant when they were arrested. Each of the plaintiffs was caught up in interactions with police over a period from Aug. 11 to 13, the suit alleges.
“We filed this suit because there were serious constitutional and human rights violations carried out at the hands of Ferguson police during the demonstrations,” said Malik Shabazz, lead attorney for the group filing the suit. Shabazz said the suit alleges “4th, 5th and 1st Amendment violations.”
Neither the city, county nor police departments had any immediate comment on the lawsuit.
The filing of the lawsuit followed nearly two weeks of demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, where Brown’s killing prompted area residents to take to the streets. The initial show of force by city and county police, which included riot gear and military-style assault weapons and armored vehicles, elevated local tensions and drew national attention.
Supporters of the police response cite looting of a few Ferguson businesses that occurred during some of the nights of demonstrations.
But attorneys for the plaintiffs said that is not a direct justification for police actions. “The evidence will come out showing that very few people were arrested for actual looting,” said Shabazz. “Many allegations of protester misconduct have been found to be blown out of proportion,” Shabazz said, adding it still didn’t merit a “blanket approach.”
“Gassing and arresting everyone within a 3 mile radius is preposterous,” said Shabazz. “Those kinds of actions, in fact, only encourage some people.”
“You can’t just gas people off the streets, and arrest them simply because there’s protesting and unrest,” Shabazz said.
One of the plaintiffs alleges she and her son were in a McDonald’s restaurant when several police officers with rifles ordered them out. According to the suit, an officer threw her to the ground and handcuffed her, with she and her son both arrested.
Another plaintiff alleges he was trying to visit his mother in Ferguson when several police officers in military uniforms shot him with rubber bullets. When he fell over, he was beaten and sprayed with pepper spray, the lawsuit says.
Two other plaintiffs say they were peacefully protesting when officers in riot gear fired on them with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. A separate plaintiff says he was trying to record footage of the protests when police took his camera and arrested him.
“This is a blatant example of how police handle African-Americans … how it can go terribly, terribly wrong. You have a right to peaceful assembly,” said BLFJ attorney Reginald Greene.
Ferguson Police said officer Darren Wilson shot Brown on a residential street when a dispute erupted after Wilson asked Brown to move out of the road. Some witnesses have reported that Brown was holding his hands up in surrender when he was shot multiple times, including twice in the head.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they expect more complaints will come, and if more victims sign on, they will look to upgrade the suit to class-action status.
Shabazz, who is president of the BLFJ, said he hopes suits like this one will encourage better training of police, so that when there is unrest, it is met with a more disciplined and professional response. “We hope this will send a message to every police department in America,” said Shabazz, “if you violate the constitutional and human rights of black people, you will be aggressively challenged in court on these issues.”
A St. Louis County grand jury has begun hearing evidence in the case. The U.S. Justice Department has opened its own investigation.
Reuters. Amel Ahmed contributed to this report
Click on http://www.blfjustice.org/ to see lawsuit.
COALITION ASKS FOR TRO AGAINST SHUT-OFFS
August 25, 2014
DETROIT – In an effort to preserve a moratorium on water shut-offs, a group of Detroit residents and civil rights attorneys filed court documents over the weekend asking a judge to immediately block the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) from terminating water service to any occupied residence, and to require the restoration of service to occupied residences without water.
The moratorium was currently scheduled to end today. The ACLU of Michigan and NAACP Legal Defense fund are serving as expert consultants in the ongoing litigation.
“Without a continued moratorium on water shutoffs, thousands more Detroiters, mostly low income children, seniors, and disabled, will immediately be at risk for shutoff,” says Alice Jennings of Edwards & Jennings, P.C., counsel in the lawsuit.
“A comprehensive water affordability plan, a viable bill dispute process, specific polices for landlord-tenant bills and a sustainable mechanism for evaluating the number of families in shutoff status or at risk for shutoff, is necessary prior to lifting the DWSD water shutoff moratorium.”
Jennings said that Judge Steven Rhodes scheduled the hearing at 8:30, on September 2, 2014.
“The legal team is requesting support for the Plaintiffs in the courtroom or outside of court. The bankruptcy trial is also schedules to begin that day. Please let me know what you are hearing about shutoffs this week.”
The motion for a temporary restraining order filed yesterday is part of a class action lawsuit, Lyda et.al v. City of Detroit, on behalf of Detroit residents affected by the mass shut-off campaign of DWSD, as well as organizations active in the fight for the restoration of and affordable access to water. They include the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, People’s Water Board, National Action Network-Michigan Chapter and Moratorium Now!.
This suit is currently in bankruptcy court before Judge Stephen Rhodes as part of the city’s bankruptcy proceedings. The lawsuit argues that that the DWSD began water shutoffs without adequate notice and against the most vulnerable residents, while commercial entities with delinquent accounts were left alone. The suit also argues that this violates the plaintiffs’ due process and equal protection rights.
“More than 17,000 homes have had their water cut off and water bills in Detroit are among the highest in the country and unaffordable to many Detroit residents,” says Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “The rush to resume shut offs when there are serious questions about the affordability plan, accuracy of bills, and issues with the water department’s ability to process disputes, means that the City of Detroit should get its house in order before turning off anyone else’s water.”
In March, DWSD began dispatching private contractors to begin shutting off water service to residents who are more than 60 days delinquent, or owe more than $150. Despite the fact that 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, the shut-offs began without a plan to help those who cannot pay.
After public outcry and this lawsuit, the city implemented a moratorium and announced a 10-point plan to address the dysfunctions raised by the lawsuit and civil rights groups.
“The mayor’s plan only consists of proposals and temporary fixes,” said Rev. Charles Williams of the National Action Network-Michigan Chapter. “Until actual policies are in place to ensure that residents have access to affordable water, the water shut-offs cannot be resumed. The current proposal for residents to enter into non-negotiable payment plans is only a short-term solution.”
Last month, the ACLU of Michigan and NAACP LDF wrote a letter to city officials arguing that that the poorly implemented and uneven DWSD shut-off policy violates the civil and human rights, as well as the due process rights of residents because it often fails to provide them with adequate notice and a hearing that takes into account whether they actually have the ability to pay.
“DWSD must immediately restore water to all its customers,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. “In addition, they should create a reasonable timetable for a hearing and appeals process, pending resolution of these issues.”
Attorneys for residents are calling on Judge Rhodes to order DWSD to extend the moratorium to ensure that the most vulnerable Detroiters are not left without water. The moratorium on shut offs should be extended until DWSD has policies in place to ensure that collections are done in a way that doesn’t violate residents constitutional rights.
Tawana Petty, an activist with the People’s Water Board Coalition, echoed these sentiments. “We are asking the Governor, Mayor, Emergency Manager and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to stop their assault on the citizens of Detroit and restore all water to residents. Water is life and without it, we perish.”
CONTACT: Alice Jennings, Edwards & Jennings, P.C, at email@example.com or 313.961.5000
Rana Elmir, ACLU of Michigan, at firstname.lastname@example.org, 313.578.6816
Jennifer Parker, NAACP LDF at email@example.com, 212-965-2783
In addition to the lawsuit filed Aug. 25, Hassan Aleen and Carl Williams, along with members of the Detroit Active and Retired Employees Association, filed an objection to the upcoming water shut-offs Aug. 21, stating in part:
“Governor Snyder and Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr conspired by their action and were cruel in their action and in a sense using punishment for those being unfortunately unable to pay a water bill for something that is an essential necessity of life to exist, a “God” given element of life.
Their action was shocking to conscious people all over the world in the so-called richest country in the world depriving their residents and citizens of a God-given necessity. In the way it was executed it was a cruel and usual violation of IX Amendment of the United States Constitution. Gov. Snyder and his sidekick Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr contravened the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
“Art. 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Art. 5 No one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Art. 7 All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Art. 8 Everyone has a right to any effective remedy by the competent National tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
Art. 10 Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
We need Magistrate Judge Steven W. Rhodes to order an investigation against the State of Michigan and to hold a hearing on this matter in connection with the Bankruptcy.”
Full objection at DB DAREA objection re water shutoffs.
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, 28, received an award for “extraordinary effort in the line of duty” months before he gunned down unarmed teenager Mike Brown and left him in the street for 4 hours last Saturday, reports Yahoo News.
Wilson’s father, John Wilson, posted how proud he was of his son on Facebook:
“Very proud of my son, Darren Wilson on his receiving a Commendation from his Police Department,” John Wilson wrote on February 11. “Congratulations Son.”
Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson released Wilson’s name during a press conference on Friday after 5 days of refusing to do so.
When reporters tried to contact Wilson, it was revealed that he and his family had “left town days ago.”
Four days ago John Wilson turned to Facebook for support without mentioning his son by name.
“Dear FB friends, Our family is in need for prayers to be sent up for a family member,” John Wilson wrote. “Circumstances do not allow for us to say anything further. Please pray with our family in mind. Put a covering of protection over our family member please.”
A woman who replied in the comment thread told John that she could put him in touch with someone that “has been through many difficult times with his children. Prayers are what brought the family through the rough times. We are just a phone call away.”
John Wilson thanked his many friends who were quick to offer encouragement.
“Please continue to do so as we deal with a family situation that is very challenging,” he wrote.
In his last post this week, John Wilson shared a saying from a Texas evangelical pastor: “When something is ‘out of control’ it is merely out of your control — not God’s!”
The Ferguson police department has done it’s best to paint Brown as the aggressor, describing Wilson as a “gentle” man and an “excellent” police officer who is “devastated” about killing Brown.
But he wasn’t too devastated to stand over him and gun him down while the unarmed teen held his hands in the air.
The FBI is currently conducting an investigation, while the citizens of Ferguson continue to protest Brown’s brutal slaying.
CELLPHONE VIDEO APPEARS TO CONTRADICT OFFICER ACCOUNTS IN KAIJEME POWELL KILLING AUG. 20 IN ST. LOUIS, MO
Within 15 seconds of arriving at the scene officers fired on Powell
By Ian Blair
The St. Louis Police Department released cellphone video footage and the 9-1-1 dispatch recording on Wednesday showing the killing of a 25-year-old black man, Kajieme Powell, by two white police officers shortly after Powell allegedly shoplifted [donuts] from a local convenience store The incident transpired only three miles south of Ferguson, Missouri, where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, less than two weeks prior.
In a press conference on Tuesday, St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson had said his officers fired upon Powell after Powell allegedly got within 3 or 4 feet of them while wielding a knife “in an overhand grip.”
But the cellphone video released Wednesday appears to contradict Chief Dotson’s story and his officer’s police reports. In the video, the two officers arrive on the scene in their signature police SUV responding to the 9-1-1 call from the store owner. Powell appears to be pacing as described by numerous witnesses though it is difficult to make out his words. When the officers got out of their vehicle, Powell clearly yells, still pacing about. Witnesses said the suspect yelled, “Shoot me now. Kill me now.” Powell then approaches the officers with both hands at his side and clearly further away than “3 or 4 feet,” when the two officers fire nearly a dozen shots.
The whole incident, from the time officers arrived to when they began shooting, lasts only 15 seconds.
In an interview following the release of the tapes, Chief Dotson defended his officers’ actions, acknowledging the discrepancies in his Tuesday briefing and what the video shows.
“The officers did what I think you or I would do, they protected their life in that situation,” Chief Dotson said.
When pressed by CNN’s Don Lemon about the need for officers to exercise lethal force, Dotson replied: “In a lethal situation, they used lethal force.”
Ian Blair is a Master’s Candidate in the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program at NYU. Follow him on Twitter: @i2theb.
Under contractor EMA, which caused 2012 Toronto flood, Wastewater Treatment Plant runs with skeleton crew, grossly negligent maintenance
WWTP retirees advocate cancellation of $5.2 B water/sewerage debt in Detroit bankruptcy: “Re-financing” will profit banks, not people
Call for end to pension cuts, water shut-offs
Protest at BOWC meeting 735 Randolph 1 p.m. Fri. Aug. 22; Freedom Friday 4 p.m. at same location; Stop pension cuts, water shutoffs 4:45 pm CAYMC; Water shut-offs resume Aug. 25; Bankruptcy trial, protest re-set for Sept. 2
By Diane Bukowski
August 20, 2014
DETROIT – City retirees from Detroit’s Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) said at a press conference Aug. 13 that workforce cuts resulting in grossly negligent sewage pump maintenance caused the massive flooding of metro Detroit freeways and homes Aug. 11 to Aug. 12, leading to three deaths and untold property damage.
They said Detroit pump failures also played a major role in the Toledo, Ohio water emergency that began Aug 3. During the weeks-long crisis, 430,000 residents of that city and parts of southeastern Michigan could not use municipal water to drink, bathe, cook, or wash dishes as it was contaminated with toxic algae and other substances. Authorities told them that even boiling water would not remove the toxins.
“Monies that should have been allocated to improvements in our infrastructure and helped employ people went to the banks in illegal deals instead,” said Bill Davis, who worked 34 years at the plant and retired as a shift supervisor. “That $5 billion going to the banks under the bankruptcy plan should instead be going to the people, to rebuild our system.”
The previous week, Detroit’s Board of Water Commissioners and the City Council approved a “re-financing” of DWSD debt ordered by EM Kevyn Orr. The Michigan Finance Authority approved the re-financing deal Aug. 12.
Their actions make over $2 billion of the $5.2 billion debt, originally “impaired” (reduced) under the plan, subject to full payment. The deal, while claiming to ensure lower interest rates for DWSD bonds, closely resembles the gamble on Wall Street interest rates involved in the $1.5 billion “Certificates of Participation” loan of 2005-06. Detroit defaulted on that loan after the Wall Street crash of 2008. (For complete release and presentation, cick on: pr2014-08-06-2014_Bond_Refinance_Release_final_2014 and bowc_pr_tender_refunding_moneyplan_2014-08-06.)
The lenders, instead of taking the city’s proposed 40 percent of the total $2.5 billion still outstanding on the loan due to interest rates and penalties, are demanding full payment. This is despite the fact that even Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr called the loan “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable” in a lawsuit filed in bankruptcy court Jan. 17.
“If you have a basement flooded right now, thank Gov. Rick Snyder and Kevyn Orr,” Davis said. “That money should have been clawed back from the banks, not from the retirees. At one time we were under federal review because we were polluting and almost killed Lake Erie, now we’ve gone back to that. I’m surprised that people of Toledo are not calling Gov. Snyder every day.”
Mike Mulholland, president of AFSCME Local 207, and also a WWTP retiree, said that the plant director and many staff members are now from EMA, Inc., an engineering consultant firm based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“They have reduced staffing to a skeleton crew,” Mulholland said. “Although there was a torrential rain Monday, the sewage pumps already were not working properly due to minimal maintenance. It is EMA’s intention to strip the plant down and run it remotely as much as it can. Instead of 24/7 maintenance, they only check equipment every few days. The pumping stations at the plant, the incinerators, and other equipment are close to catastrophic failure.”
Davis told VOD that one of the two largest pumps in WWTP Station #1 is out of service, while only five of seven pumps in WWTP Station #2 are working. He said DWSD director Sue McCormick is promoting unqualified white staff to positions previously held by well-trained Black workers who have retired or been laid off.
“She doesn’t want to see Black faces around there,” Davis said. DWSD has had predominantly Black workers for years. Davis added that Black city retirees are the most affected by cuts to their annuity savings plan payments under the bankruptcy plan, since those cuts affect only those who retired beginning in 2003.
The dismantling of the WWTP is especially dangerous because it is the only plant out of five run by DWSD that treats wastewater for runoff and sewage before it is released into the environment. It serves the needs of a 946 square mile six-county area including Detroit and 76 other communities.
Under previous federal oversight by U.S. District Court Judge Sean Cox, who is now taking part in bankruptcy mediation related to DWSD, EMA, Inc. recommended that 81 percent of the department’s workforce be eliminated. While supervising sewage plants in Toronto, EMA caused similar floods of subways and basements during a downpour in 2011.
“Along with the water shut-offs, they want to run our water system on the cheap and make it ripe for privatization,” Mulholland said. He agreed with Davis that sewage overflow from the WWTP, running downriver into Lake Erie, contributed to the build-up of poisonous “algae blooms” that caused the crisis in Toledo.
“We are killing the lakes that make this place liveable,” Mullholland said.
“The whole purpose of the takeover of the WWTP in 1977 was to bring Lake Erie back. We did bring it back, with hard work, adequate staffing, and training, but now we’re going backward to 1977.”
A report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency detailed the transformation of Lake Erie over that time, due to efforts to control phosphorus concentration and sewage over flow from wastewater treatment plants feeding into the Lake.
“The result was greater than a 90% reduction in phosphorus concentration and loading from the Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant,” the EPA report said. “Similar reductions occurred in other wastewater treatment plants, however, because of the Detroit plant’s 700 million gallon per day flow, the impact on Lake Erie was substantial. The Detroit Wastewater Treatment Plant would become the single largest reason for the reversal of cultural eutrophication [algae and other plant takeover] of Lake Erie during the 1970s and 1980s. Lake Erie responded with dramatic improvements in water quality.”
In addition to EMA’s dismantling of the WWTP, legal analyst Carl Williams noted that “change orders,” barred by Art. 11 Sec. 3 of the Michigan Constitution, have jacked up DWSD contractors’ profits by billions over the years, to the detriment of ratepayers, workers, and services.
“It cannot be ‘extra compensation’ under the constitution,” Williams said. “These contractors low bid to get the contract, then come back and jack the price up. Detroit is a cash cow. Now that more people are aware, maybe we can stop the looting of Detroit under this illegal bankruptcy.”
Art. 11 Sec. 3 of the state constitution says, “Neither the legislature nor any political subdivision of this state shall grant or authorize extra compensation to any public officer, agent or contractor after the service has been rendered or the contract entered into.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan denied any malfunctions at DWSD caused the floods, in a release.
“Despite the extraordinarily heavy downpour, DWSD’s operational systems suffered no failures and by design excess water was discharged into the Detroit River as rapidly as possible in an effort to prevent flooding,” Duggan said. “Unfortunately, the volume of rain—over five inches in some areas—overwhelmed sewer systems, causing widespread flooding.” Duggan said.
Similar denials were issued by Toronto Mayor and alleged crackhead Rob Ford in 2012.
City officials noted that flooding of this type [raw sewage] also presents health concerns and risks,” the Detroit release continued. “City residents who experienced basement flooding are advised to contact local restoration services to dry and disinfect their belongings. If your skin has come into contact with sewer water, be sure to wash thoroughly with anti‐bacterial soap immediately afterward.”
The release also advised residents to clear the storm drains in front of their houses, as if that were the cause for the flooding.
“I remember when the City of Detroit not only cleaned our neighborhood streets several times a year, but also brought trucks with vacuum hoses to suction the sewage out of blocked drains,” Cornell Squires said. “That what we pay taxes for and that’s why we should cancel DWSD’s debt.”
In Toledo and parts of lower southeastern Michigan Aug. 3, authorities told 430,000 residents not to use to the area’s water to drink, bathe, brush their teeth, wash dishes or cook, because a toxic algae bloom had caused a large dead spot in the lake, taking it back to conditions from the 1970’s. Even boiling the water would not remove the toxins, authorities said.
Truckloads of bottled water were delivered from across the state, in scenes eerily similar to the creation of “water hubs” supplying bottled water in Detroit neighborhoods where residents had their water shut off in droves for minor delinquencies in payments.
The Ohio National Guard used water purification systems to produce drinkable water. In southeastern Michigan, authorities operated water stations for 30,000 customers affected by the toxic contamination.
The AP reported, “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a satellite image showing a small but concentrated algae bloom centered right where Toledo draws its water supply, said Jeff Reutter, head of the Ohio Sea Grant research lab. ‘The amount of phosphorus going into the lake has risen every year since the mid-1990s. We’re right back to where we were in the ’70s,’ Reutter said.”
Oakland County confirmed the allegations of WWTP retirees in a bankruptcy court objection to the Plan of Adjustment, concurred in by Macomb and Wayne Counties.
“The City’s Plan, which includes $2.9 billion in funding for its proposed Capital Improvement Program (“CIP”) over the next 10 years, fails to appropriately budget for the very significant capital improvements that are necessary to maintain the water and wastewater systems in good repair and provide reliable service.
“The DWSD continues to maintain its systems, at best, on an ‘as needed basis’ only, failing to adequately inspect, service, and maintain systems in accordance with normal industry standards. Capital improvements which are deferred pursuant to the City’s projections will likely cause catastrophic failures that will compromise public health, safety, and welfare.”
Instead of calling for cuts to the banks and contractors, however, the Oakland County objection blames delinquent water bills in Detroit. Detroiters are already penalized for these by higher sewerage rates, and the addition of outstanding bills to their property tax accounts.
Such suburban allegations sparked EM Orr’s order to shut off water to 170,000 Detroit homes last month. After local protests and global attention, Orr agreed to a pause in shut-offs, which is due to end Aug. 25.
During a meeting prior to the retirees’ press conference, U.S. Rep. John Conyers spoke on various issues including the water shut-offs. He said he would investigate the possibility of introducing a bill in the U.S. Congress to completely ban water shut-offs as a threat to the public health and safety, like the laws that exist in the United Kingdom and other countries.
Some related articles:
LARGEST USDOJ BANK SETTLEMENT SINCE 2008 CRASH
NO CRIMINAL PROSECUTION OF EXECS
BOA PART OF FRAUDULENT POC DEAL CITED BY EM KEVYN ORR IN DETROIT BANKRUPTCY FILING
(VOD: Bank of America is the principal backer of one lender involved in Detroit’s fraudulent $1.5B “Certificates of Participation” loan in 2005-06, which Detroit EM Kevyn Orr cited as a prime factor in his bankruptcy filing. BOA backed SBS Financial, whose current COO Sean Werdlow took his job with them shortly after he negotiated the deal as Detroit CFO under Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
The city defaulted on the loan three times after the 2008 global market crash, largely caused by predatory mortgage lending. The lenders are still demanding the city pay them $2.5 billion, including interest and penalties, as part of a bankrupty settlement. Even Detroit EM Kevyn Orr called that loan “void ab initio, illegal and unenforceable” in a lawsuit filed Jan. 17 in the city’s bankruptcy case. Judge Steven Rhodes has yet to hear that suit and likely never will.)
By PETE YOST and MARCY GORDON
WASHINGTON (AP) – The government has reached a $16.65 billion settlement with Bank of America over its role in the sale of mortgage-backed securities in the run-up to the financial crisis, the Justice Department announced Thursday.
The deal calls for the bank, the second-largest in the U.S., to pay a $5 billion cash penalty, another $4.6 billion in remediation payments and provide about $7 billion in relief to struggling homeowners.
The settlement is by far the largest deal the Justice Department has reached with a bank over the 2008 mortgage meltdown. In the last year, JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to a $13 billion settlement while Citigroup reached a separate $7 billion deal.
At a news conference, Attorney General Eric Holder said the bank and its Countrywide and Merrill Lynch subsidiaries had “engaged in pervasive schemes to defraud financial institutions and other investors” by misrepresenting the soundness of mortgage-backed securities. The penalties, Holder said, go “far beyond the cost of doing business.”
According to one example laid out by the government, Bank of America knew that a significant number of loans packaged into $850 million in securities were experiencing a marked increase in underwriting defects. Notwithstanding the red flags, the bank sold these residential mortgage-backed securities to federally backed financial institutions, the government said in a 30-page statement of facts that is part of the settlement.
In California, Countrywide concealed from investors the company’s use of “shadow guidelines” that permitted loans to riskier borrowers than Countrywide’s underwriting guidelines would otherwise allow, according to the statement of facts.
In addition, over a period of years, “Countrywide and Bank of America unloaded toxic mortgage loans on the government sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with false representations that the loans were quality investments,” said Preet Bhara, the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York.
The government said the civil settlement, the largest reached with a single entity, does not release individuals from civil charges, nor does it absolve Bank of America, its current or former subsidiaries and affiliates or any individuals from potential criminal prosecution.
Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said in a statement that the company believes the settlement “is in the best interests of our shareholders and allows us to continue to focus on the future.”
Of the $16.65 billion, almost $10 billion will be paid to settle federal and state civil claims by entities related to residential mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and other types of fraud.
An independent monitor will determine whether Bank of America is satisfying its obligations under the settlement.
“In the run-up to the financial crisis, Merrill Lynch bought more and more mortgage loans, packaged them together and sold them off in securities — even when the bank knew a substantial number of those loans were defective,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman, whose jurisdiction covers New Jersey.
“The failure to disclose known risks undermines investor confidence in our financial institutions,” Fishman added.
The Bank of America settlement will resolve allegations that the bank and companies it later bought misrepresented the quality of loans they sold to investors. Most of the problem loans were sold by Countrywide Financial and Merrill Lynch before Bank of America bought them during the 2008 financial crisis.
Consumer advocates say previous settlements show that the amounts announced in enforcement actions can overstate their actual costs to the companies being penalized.
In the deal with JPMorgan in November, the Justice Department had a clear message for homeowners: Billions of dollars’ worth of help was coming. Holder at the time described the appointment of an independent monitor who would distribute $4 billion set aside for homeowner relief.
The actual relief is more complicated than cash handouts, however.
Both Citigroup and JPMorgan earn credits under the settlement from a “menu” of different consumer-friendly activities, according to settlement documents. The options are effectively an update of the consumer relief previously provided through the national mortgage servicing settlement, a 2012 deal between state attorneys general and the major banks.
JPMorgan probably will earn its $4 billion in credits under the settlement through a total of $4.65 billion of activities that qualified as relief, according to a report by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit run by executives from low-income housing groups and major banks.
More than half will come from principal reductions, with the rest earned through actions such as writing new loans in distressed areas, donating foreclosed properties to community groups and temporarily suspending payments on some loans.
Associated Press writer Jeff Horwitz contributed to this report.
Judge refuses to honor letter from bank saying homeowner owes nothing
Hearing in Judge Robert Colombo’s court at CAYMC Fri. Aug. 22 9 a.m.
By Ron Seigel
August 19, 2014
One of the major reasons for Detroit’s economic crisis, which has led to domination by a state appointed emergency manager and the prospect of bankruptcy, is the mass of foreclosures by banks.
So far most critics of the banks have been content to accuse them of making predatory loans. However, one case may lead us to question how many of the debts they are calling in are fraudulent.
The giant banking firm, J. P. Morgan Chase, has issued foreclosure proceedings on the home of Gwendolyn Mingo, the former head of the Brush Park Citizens District Council and also the Coordinating Council of all Detroit district councils.
Mingo, however, has shown this reporter a past letter from the exact same bank saying she does not owe them a cent.
When asked about this, the bank refused to comment.
Unless the bank is able to give a satisfactory answer, we may well wonder if JP Morgan Chase may have a huge case of financial fraud and violations of the law.
If so, one must wonder if Mrs. Mingo was the only victim or whether there were other false foreclosure suits. If there were others, J. P. Morgan Chase may face today a financial scandal comparable to the ones that faced Charles Ponzi and Bernard Madoff.,
Right now though the bank does not have to explain a single thing, thanks to Wayne County Circuit Judge Patricia Fresard.
In her foreclosure case, Mrs. Mingo was not allowed to submit the bank’s letter stating she did not owe them any money because the letter was on paper. Recent court rules declare judges in Wayne County foreclosure cases will not look at any documents no matter how relevant unless they are e-filed. Higher court officials admit that often grassroots people like Mrs. Mingo may not be able to afford to e-file or understand how to use such machines. These oficials claim they have solved this problem by allowing those in such situations to use court clerks to e-file under certain conditions.
Mingo says in her case the court clerks refused to e-file her document unless they got an order from the chief judge. When she got this court order somebody in the clerk’s office rejected it. As a result the e-filed document was never seen in court. Judge Fresard refused to consider Mingo’s paper document, even though she was given the copy and awarded Mingo’s home to the bank.
If there was wrongdoing by the bank, Judge Fresard’s rulings may be intentionally or unwittingly aiding a cover up.
It is interesting that the original rules forbidding paper documents were not officially applied in all counties in all cases. One of the areas where it was first applied, in what the court officials called an experimental basis, was inWayne County civil cases, which just happened to be the one place most convenient for banks issuing foreclosures and taking people’s homes. Was this a complete coincidence?
Mrs. Mingo has conducted a long appeal, which Friday will be taken up by Chief Judge Robert Colombo. One hopes this will be a real moment of truth, where the chief judge will rule getting the facts is more important than court technicalities on how they are presented.
More than one woman’s fate may be decided that day. If it it is a common practice to issue fraudulent debts and to deny people the chance to present proof of this in court, how many people, who do not have Mingo’s knowledge and experience as a community leader, can wage an effective resistance?
In the chief judge’s courtroom, our own homes, our cities, our very right to due process may be on trial. If you can, come to Judge Colombo’s court, 7th floor of the the Coleman A. Young Building or the City County Building, 9 a.m. Friday August 22 and hear what is going on. The home you save may be your own. The rights you save may be your own.
A near-rebellion took place on Detroit’s east side Aug. 13 after officers shot and wounded one man at Berkshire and Nottingham, according to various news outlets. Police claimed first that two men opened fire on police with an AK-47, then retracted the statement to say the men tried to run them down after police allegedly interrupted an “illegal” gun purchase.
A third man was arrested after allegedly crossing a yellow police line and attacking an officer. An “unruly crowd” gathered, invoking actions in Ferguson, and more police units came to the scene.
The next night, Detroiters were called to Hart Plaza to hold a “silent” vigil in memory of Michael Brown, but were warned by organizers not to antagonize police by spilling into the streets. Arnetta Grable, the mother of Lamar Grable, one of three separate victims of Detroit killer cop Eugene Brown, who conducted a 10-year struggle for justice for Brown’s victims, has always said, “Your silence will not protect you.”)
By JIM SALTER of Associated Press
(Photos below from St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
August 16, 2014
FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Police and about 200 protesters clashed again in Ferguson, Missouri late Friday after another tense day in the St. Louis suburb that included authorities identifying the officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager and releasing documents alleging the young man had been suspected of stealing a $48.99 box of cigars from a convenience store in a “strong-arm” robbery shortly before he was killed.
Several hundred people congregated on a busy Ferguson street Friday night as protests continued nearly a week after 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer. It was peaceful until about midnight, when a large crowd broke into the convenience mart that Brown allegedly robbed the day he was killed.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson said some in the crowd began throwing rocks and other objects at police. Police used tear gas to disburse the crowd but no arrests were made. One officer was hurt, but information on his injuries was not immediately available. No protesters were hurt.
Police Chief Thomas Jackson earlier Friday said the officer who shot Brown did not know the teen was a robbery suspect at the time of the shooting and stopped Brown and a companion “because they were walking down the middle of the street blocking traffic.”
Darren Wilson, a 28-year-old white officer, has patrolled suburban St. Louis for six years and had no previous complaints filed against him, Jackson said.
Brown’s relatives said no robbery would justify shooting the teen after he put his hands up. Family attorneys said Brown’s parents were blindsided by the allegations and the release of a surveillance video from the store.
“It appears to be him,” attorney Daryl Parks said, referring to the footage, which he said was released without any advance notice from police.
The police chief described Wilson as “a gentle, quiet man” who had been “an excellent officer.” He has been on the Ferguson force for four years and served prior to that in the neighboring community of Jennings.
Wilson, who was placed on administrative leave after the Aug. 9 shooting, “never intended for any of this to happen,” Jackson said.
According to police reports released Friday, authorities received a 911 call at 11:51 a.m. on the day of the shooting reporting a robbery at the Ferguson Market. An unidentified officer was dispatched to the store, arriving within three minutes. The officer interviewed an employee and customer, who gave a description of a man who stole the cigars and walked off with another man toward a QuikTrip store.
Descriptions of the suspect were broadcast over the police radio. The officer did not find the suspects either on the street or at the QuikTrip, the reports said.
The robber took a box of Swisher Sweets, a brand of small, inexpensive cigars. The suspects were identified as 18-year-old Michael Brown and 22-year-old Dorian Johnson, according to the reports.
Separately, Wilson had been responding to a nearby call involving a sick 2-month child from 11:48 am until noon, when he left that place. A minute later, he encountered Brown walking down Canfield Drive. The documents contained no description of what happened between Brown and Wilson.
Johnson has told reporters that the officer ordered the pair to move onto the sidewalk, then grabbed his friend’s neck and tried to pull him into the car before brandishing his weapon and firing. He said Brown started to run and the officer pursued him, firing multiple times.
Another family attorney, Benjamin Crump, noted that police did not release a photo of the officer but released images from the security video that they say show Brown grabbing a man inside the store. Crump said he had not seen the photos.
Police “are choosing to disseminate information that is very strategic to try to help them justify the execution-style” killing, said Crump, who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the teenager fatally shot by a Florida neighborhood watch organizer who was later acquitted of murder.
The Aug. 9 video appears to show a man wearing a ball cap, shorts and white T-shirt grabbing a much shorter man by his shirt near the store’s door. A police report alleges that Brown grabbed the man who had come from behind the store counter and “forcefully pushed him back” into a display rack.
Police said they found evidence of the stolen merchandise on Brown’s body. Authorities determined that Johnson was not involved in the robbery and will not seek charges against him, Jackson said.
Brown’s uncle, Bernard Ewing, said the shooting was unnecessary, even if his nephew was a robbery suspect.
A robbery “still doesn’t justify shooting him when he puts his hands up,” he added. “You still don’t shoot him in the face.”
Brown’s death ignited four days of clashes with furious protesters. The tension eased Thursday after the governor turned oversight of the protests over to the Missouri Highway Patrol. Gone were the police in riot gear and armored vehicles, replaced by the new patrol commander who personally walked through the streets with demonstrators.
On Friday night, the Rev. Jesse Jackson linked arms with protesters as they marched to the site where Brown was killed. Jackson bent over in front of a memorial cross and candle and sighed deeply. He urged people to “turn pain into power” and to “fight back, but not self-destruct” through violence.
The scene was eclectic Friday night as hundreds gathered for a sixth straight evening. A man on a bullhorn called for a revolution. A young man waved a Bible while citing scripture. Some took selfies in front of a convenience store that had been burned by looters Sunday. Boys tossed a football, and horns and loud music blared. At a nearby shopping center, about 100 police cars were on hand.
To Vida Weekly, 51, it was still a somber occasion. She walked through the crowd holding high a sign that read: “The police killed Michael Brown and now they are trying to kill his character.”
U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay, a Democrat from St. Louis, took a bullhorn and spoke to people gathered at the QuickTrip.
“They have attempted to taint the entire investigation,” Clay said to a cheering crowd. “They are trying to influence a jury pool by the stunt they pulled today.
Also Friday, the Justice Department confirmed in a statement that FBI agents had conducted several interviews with witnesses as part of a civil-rights investigation into Brown’s death. In the days ahead, the agents planned to canvass the neighborhood where the shooting happened, seeking more information, the statement said.
Police have said Brown was shot after an officer encountered him and another man on the street during a routine patrol. They say one of the men pushed the officer into his squad car, then physically assaulted him in the vehicle and struggled with the officer over the officer’s weapon. At least one shot was fired inside the car before the struggle spilled onto the street.
Associated Press writers Jim Salter and Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.
Below is video from NYC march for justice for Michael Brown Aug. 14, 2014. Here, unlike in Detroit, protesters took the streets.
Previously on VOD:
Spread the word and sign petition
By Rev. Edward Pinkney
August 14, 2014
ST. JOSEPH/BENTON HARBOR, MI — Berrien County Judge John Dewane ruled the Benton Harbor recall election against Mayor James Hightower can be held. This is a major victory for the people against fascist county and city governments, directed by the Whirlpool Corporation.
The Benton Harbor mayoral recall election will now be held on Nov. 4, 2014. The order was issued Tuesday, August 12 by Judge John Dewane after the Aug. 7 civil trial.
Judge Dewayne ruled that County elections administrator Carolyn Toliver removed more than 100 good petition signatures to attempt to prevent the mayoral recall election organized by Benton Harbor and Benton Township residents.
The decision to schedule the election hinged on Judge DeWane’s decision that the practice of the Berrien County Clerk’s office to disqualify both signatures, (instead of just one) if a person signed a recall petition twice, violates First Amendment free speech rights.
[VOD: According to a report from ABC57 News, “The judge allowed some signatures that were previously disqualified to be reinstated. The judge did not discount all signatures that were [allegedly] altered, just those that appeared to have been collected prior to November 9, 60-days from the date the petitions were submitted to the clerk’s office.
The judge also found the clerk’s office disqualified both signatures if a person signed twice. After adding 21 of those back into the count, the judge counted 407 signatures by qualified, registered voters. The petitoners needed 393 signatures for a recall election to happen.
The judge wrote the clerk should hold the recall election on the next election date, November 4, 2014.”
However, Rev. Pinkney informed VOD that despite Dewane’s findings that there were sufficient valid signatures, the Benton Harbor Sheriff’s office is still pursuing felony charges against him, claiming without direct proof that he altered dates on the petitions. His trial is proceeding.]
What you’re about to read is absolutely true.
County clerk Sharon Tyler filed a lawsuit against herself in order to prevent the recall election. (She had originally verified the petition signatures.)
Whirlpool most likely directed her to take this action, probably a first in US election history. Whirlpool was desperate because their man Hightower was losing by a large margin in the absentee ballots. (Those were sent out before the powers-that-be called off the election.
This is a tremendous victory for people all around the country, with all the corruption not just in Benton Harbor.
Sign my petition:
Pinkney to Pinkney show
Every Sunday at 5 pm eastrn time
Burn Baby Burn
Burn all NAACP MEMBERSHIP CARDS
(VOD note: Berrien County Clerk Sharon Tyler has indicated her desire to appeal Judge Dewane’s decision, based on verbal encouragement given from unspecified personnel in the Bureau of Elections and the Attorney General’s office. She is disputing the inclusion of names of those who signed the petitions twice; Judge Dewane held that one signature of each voter could still be counted.)