Austerity and Corporatization in Detroit: Cleveland Could Be Next

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The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions, and Utility Shutoffs held a raucous rally and march in Detroit on Friday.

Several thousand Detroiters and “Detroiters for the day” who were attending the Netroots Nation 2014 national conference poured into the streets near Cobo Hall, site of the 2010 US Social Forum, to call attention to the severe austerity measures being imposed by the power elite in Detroit (including elected and unelected officials and multinational corporations) against residents.

2014-07-18 13.21.59Attack on public pensions, replacing public schools with corporate charter schools, rising insurance costs, home foreclosures, and privatization/corporatization of city assets and services are austerity realities Detroiters are increasingly experiencing before and especially since the city was forced into a state-imposed bankruptcy by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and his appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr – former Jones Day law firm attorney, headquartered in Cleveland. Jones Day is the “restructuring consultant” for Detroit.

2014-07-18 12.18.37Among the most egregious actions by the power elite has been water shut offs to thousands of families for lack of payment of a mere $150. The situation has become so extreme that a United Nations commission has condemned the shutoffs as a violation of international human rights. Call it a drive to drive poor people from the city and corporatize the water system. While the city is unable to afford keeping water turned on for the poor of Detroit, J.P. Morgan Chase corporation, UBS corporation, Morgan Stanley corporations and others were paid $537 million by the city in termination fees on interest rate swaps out of $1 billion in city bonds issued from 2010-2013. Among the protestors many demands was calling for the city to stop the shutoffs and recover the $537 million paid to the banking corporations out of water bonds meant to help city residents.

It’s been speculated that the French water firm, Veolia corporation, would run the city’s water system if it’s corporatized – with all the added costs, reduced services, reduced staffing and lack of local control that corporatized public services entails. The same corporation was, supposedly, in line to acquire Akron’s sewer system if voters had passed a measure proposed by Akron’s power elite back in 2008. However, the Save our Services (SOS) coalition, of which AFSC was a part, organized to defeat that measure by a 2:1 margin. On the same ballot, a separate initiative calling for any proposed future corporatization of any city public utility needing to be first voted for by citizens at the ballot (and not by council) passed by a 2:1 margin.

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If the power elite gets away with all the cutting, slashing, transferring, abolishing and removing programs and people that they have begun implemented in Detroit, then no community with debt – which is just about all of them – is safe.

2014-07-18 12.39.21That includes Cleveland. Jones Day, fresh off their successful “restructuring consultations” will be more than happy to offer Cleveland’s power elite advice on ways to impose austerity measures that will ensure that water and other valuable public assets are turned over to any number of willing multinational corporations.

The costs of privatization/corporatization would surely be, just like Detroit, reduced services, diminished public services, fewer public employees and higher costs. But that’s not all. It also costs what’s left of our democracy. Decision-making would be shifted from the public to the private/corporate realm. The right to decide what takes place in our communities will be in the hands of corporate entities which were intended to be subordinate to We the People with zero inalienable constitutional rights. Our rights will be usurped by our own legal creations.

We can’t let this happen. We must work against it. For now, we must all be  “Detroiters.”

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Additional photos at


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