MICHUHCAN’s Open Letter to Gary Brown

We recently wrote to Gary Brown, the director of Detroit’s Water and Sewage Department, urging him to reevaluate the cost of Detroit’s water, as well as its impact on the city residents, and the region:

I am writing on behalf of the MichUHCAN Board of Directors, a non-profit education and advocacy organization on health issues, to comment on your proposed plan to address the cost of water in Detroit

The proposed recommendations fall far short of the charge to public officials in Michigan’s constitution to make the health of our citizens their highest priority. Water is critical to everyone’s life and health. Access to clean and affordable water must be seen as a right for Michigan residents. We, as residents, expect and require our public officials to assure access to water as a “common good” for a caring society.

We are not proposing that water should be free to those who can afford to pay for it, but the defining affordable must be carefully examined. Using the Federal Poverty Level (FL) as a baseline for affordability is almost ludicrous today. The basis for its development, nearly forty years ago, used only some of the commodities needed for an individual or family’s survival budget today. The FPL does not reflect the costs of surviving in in 2015 as the United Ways of Michigan’s Alice Report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) so clearly demonstrates. We cannot continue to base public policies critical to the lives and health of our residents on fallacious data.

We urge you to re-examine the proposed plan to assure affordability for all Detroit residents by using the Alice Report levels as your guide. The revised plan must also include a provision for the small number of people who truly cannot afford any water bill that will assure continued access to water.

We, as Michiganders, cannot afford to risk the lives and health of our residents by denying them access to something so critical to life and health as water.

Thank you for your consideration of these comments. I look forward to your reply.

Marjorie J. Mitchell

Executive Director


Phone: 248-880-2526
Cc: Mayor Mike Duggan