Critical Moment Issue _13 Compilation 5

Document Sample
Critical Moment Issue _13 Compilation 5 Powered By Docstoc
					Critical Moment Issue #13 Compilation 5

Contents
   1. MI Press Release SolTrain/TEN Model Project
   2. Why Transgender Day Of Remembrance Matters
   3. Coke article
   4. New Orleans: Leaving the Poor Behind Again!
   5. Crimes of Poverty: The Long Winter Ahead in Detroit



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: OCTOBER 6, 2005

Media contacts:

Linda Manson, Sustainable Michigan
(616) 638-9862
tenmodel@yahoo.com or ljmgoblue2003@yahoo.com

Ted Lahti, Sustainable Monteray Bay
(831) 334-2717
ted_lahti@yahoo.com

REVOLUTIONARY CALIFORNIA SOLTRAIN AND ECOHOUSING
MODELS COMES TO FERRYSBURG MICHIGAN THEN ON TO
FLORIDA

SPRING LAKE, MI October 6, 2005 – An amazing solar
powered passenger rail mass transit model called the
SolTrain, and its sister, a Transit EcoVillage
Network eco community called the TEN Model from Santa
Cruz, California may be coming to Ferrysberg, Michigan
and on to Orlando, Florida because of the efforts of
a Spring Lake local.

A year ago, Linda Manson was struggling to make ends
meet, and at a crossroads in her life. She wanted to
do something to help the planet. She was not happy
about working for a system she felt was collapsing,
and was faced with the decision of taking on a second
job she didn’t like for little pay, or starting her
own business, an eco-business.

Doing a Google search, Linda discovered a little known
solar powered passenger rail vehicle being developed
in California by two leaders in the alternative
transportation industry, Ron Powers of Powers Design
International, and Ted Lahti of Sustainable Monterey
Bay. The California group has been developing the
SolTrain concept for a decade and now a breakthrough
thermo-electric generator that is solar powered and is
three times as efficient as anything out there
today, makes the SolTrain concept viable. A
retro-styled vehicle body such as the Edwards Rail Car
in Mount Dora, Florida has been chosen to test the
model before a more sleek futuristic design developed
by Powers will be marketed. See soltrain.com

In addition to the Soltrain, Linda also learned about
the TEN model communities being built in Santa Cruz,
California. These eco-communities are sustainable
and walkable communities located near rail lines. The
TEN model was a 15-year effort by Lahti, Powers and
hundreds of locals and UCSC students in Santa Cruz,
pioneered by interns from Community Studies professor
and current mayor of Santa Cruz Mike Rotkin. Mr.
Rotkin has put the SolTrain on the city’s list
of future State funding requests. The City of Capitola
and the local transportation system have also helped
fund the project, and a successful proof of concept
SolTrain was built and tested in 2002-2003. The final
production model is being developed by Ron Powers of
California, whose company Powers Design International
has pioneered alternative transportation concepts for
some of the largest companies in the world.
The group is now teaming up with Steve Torrico, Owner
and President of Edwards Railcar Company from Mount
Dora, Florida to test the new energy system that not
only generates electrical power but free drinking
water as well, all from the sun. Mr. Torrico's firm
historically was one of the leading manufacturers of
lightweight, self-propelled railcars, selling cars to
50 different railroads in 19 countries in the Western
Hemisphere. The group plans on retro fitting
old-fashioned lightweight trolley vehicles from
Mr.Torrico's company, Edwards Rail Car Company.

The TEN model EcoVillages have clean green
construction techniques and provide their own energy,
food, water, communications, barter, travel,
lifestyle, and health programs. This includes
renewable solar, wind, and biomass energy systems,
rooftop gardens and edible landscaping, water
collection and strong home-based live-work programs.
Finding ones mission in life is a priority within a
TEN supportive community. Residents actually plan to
produce more resources than they consume. Creating a
personal mission statement for ones life is an
important element in the concept as well.

Linda fell in love with their ideas and took the leap
starting a company Sustainable Michigan. She worked
hard and got the TEN model franchise for Michigan, and
set up a Florida distributor. She is ready to bring
solar transportation and eco-community development to
Ferrysburg. Her focus site is the North Shore
Recreational Center and bowling alley site located
about a mile north of Grand Haven, Michigan just off
US 31 and Van Wagoner Road.

Planned are 80 eco-housing units and a large
Educational, entertainment and green eco conference
center giving ecotours to other property owners,
developers, and builders who are interested in
sustainable development models. Taking 15 years of
history and research after the 1989 Santa Cruz
earthquake, gave Linda and her experienced green
building team a running start on our current
disasters. Her team is seeking other financial
partners and consultants to participate in this
amazing sustainable living experiment.

For further information, contact:

Linda Manson-Sustainable Michigan
Michigan TEN Model Rep.
(616) 638-9862
www.SolTrain.com
tenmodel@yahoo.com, or
ljmgoblue2003@yahoo.com

Ted Lahti, President
Sustainable Monterey Bay
(831) 334-2717
ted_lahti@yahoo.com
www.SolTrain.com
Ronald H. Powers, President
Powers Design International
949-645-2265 California Office
254-364-2416 Texas Ranch Phone/Fax
714-749-8900 California Cell Phone
joequata@@our-town.com
www.powersdesign.com


B. Steven Torrico, President
Edwards Rail Car Company
Mount Dora, Florida 32756
303-944-6038
Steve@EdwardsRailCar.com
www.edwardsrailcar.com


Why Transgender Day Of Remembrance Matters
By Cynthya BrianKate

                This November 20th marks another observance of Transgender Day Of
Remembrance (TDOR), dedicated to raising awareness on gender-based hate crimes and
honoring victims of such crimes. The statistic of at least one transgender person
murdered per month in this country still stands. Our society still undervalues transgender
and gender-transgressing peoples’ lives, especially in the law and the media. Killers
often go unpunished, or punished in ways that blame victims. Many in the media still
sensationalize trans lives and disrespect us, even our dead. The situation is improving if
slowly. More people are becoming aware and caring about these issues. We need to
know the victims’ stories, especially those who’ve been denied justice. We need to honor
the dead and work to make a better world than the one they were taken from. That’s why
TDOR matters, and why I’m about to tell some of these stories, so people can keep them
in mind.
                This summer the second Gwen Araujo trial ended in a mixed verdict. The
first time Araujo was on trial just as much as her killers. They went with a “panic
defense,” arguing they killed her in a “crime of passion sparked by sexual deception,”
blaming her for her own death because they couldn’t handle her having a penis. The first
trial ended in a mistrial; the jury couldn’t decide whether they’d committed murder, or
manslaughter (a manslaughter verdict would’ve meant the jury believed the panic
defense). Because many reporters insisted on referring to her by male pronouns and her
birth name, often putting quotes around “Gwen,” Araujo’s mother had her name legally
changed.
In the second trial the defense was “they didn’t mean to kill her.” Gwen Araujo had been
bound. gagged, beaten with fists, knees, a soup can and a skillet, strangled with a rope
and buried in a shallow grave, found only because Jaron Nabors turned in his friends for
a lesser sentence. Michael Madison and Jose Merel were convicted on second-degree
murder, though Jason Cazares is currently free because the jury couldn’t reach a decision,
especially after the prosecutor said. “He’s not as guilty as the others.” At least two of her
killers were convicted.
                This January in Florida Ronnie Paris was beaten to death for being seen as
gay. He was three years old, killed by his own father, Ronnie Paris, Jr. An aunt said, “he
was concerned that the child might be gay.” and a friend of the father said, “He didn't
want him to be a sissy.” Instead Ronnie Paris won’t grow up to be anything.
                In August Estanislao Martinez received only four years for the 2004
murder of Joel Robles. He stabbed her 20 times. He claimed he “suffered gay panic”
when he found Robles was transgender. As Charlotte Jenks, executive director of
Central California Pride Network, said, “"If I just stole money from you, I'd serve more
time than this person did for stabbing someone 20 times.” He got away with murder.
The court excused the taking of a human life because the victim was trans.
Robert Bumenfeld’s killer, Jason Bardsley, was allowed to plead guilty to first-degree
manslaughter and fourth-degree grand larceny. He claimed he strangled Bimenfeld in
December because he “suffered extreme emotional distress” and “psychiatric
breakdown” when Bimenfeld “lifted his dress and revealed male genitalia.” The court
allowed the “panic defense” to stand.
                This September Bella Evangelista’s killer, Antoine Jacobs, was allowed to
plead guilty to second-degree murder. He admitted, as reported in the Washington Post,
that in 2003 he “hunted down and shot” Evangelista for being transgender. Hunting
someone down to kill them is a premeditated act, yet he was allowed to plead otherwise.
And media coverage, straight and gay, used her birth name and called her “a man.”
                Four transgender people have been murdered here in Michigan. The first,
Chris Muzett in Detroit, strangled with a phone cord in 1999. The second, Tamyra
Michaels, December 2002. shot in Highland Park. The third, Nikki Nicholas, shot in
February 2003 in Green Oak, not far from Ann Arbor. Nicholas and Michaels may have
been killed by the same person, though they died before being able to provide details.
The fourth, beaten and stabbed in the throat in Grand Rapids on August 14, 2004, was
Riviera Rene. The Grand Rapids Press used only her birth name. Her killers denied
killing her, despite being caught with her car immediately afterward. Except for a drag
club promoter who knew her, her friends haven’t come forward. The only place to report
the case accurately was TDOR founder Gwen Smith’s coordinators’ email list
(groups.yahoo.com/group/remembering).
                Things are changing, if slowly. The House of Representatives passed the
Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA), expanding definition of hate crimes
to include “based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or
disability.” California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) is pushing for a bill to
ban the “panic defense, saying, “As a state, we must ensure that our courts are a place
where bias--whether based on race, gender or sexual orientation—does not prevent
victims from obtaining justice.”
Laws are a start, but what really needs to change is the culture. The idea that murder is
wrong no matter who the victim is should be a no-brainer. Trans people must be seen as
people, by everybody. When trans lives are valued as equally as everyones’ then we can
demand that the law give justice to all and that the media tell peoples’ stories accurately
and fairly, and expect it to actually happen. That is why telling their stories matters, and
why I’ll be out there this TDOR as usual.
            The official Transgender Day Of
Remembrance site:
www.gender.org/remember/day/
               The list of locations observing TDOR:
i:http://www.gender.org/remember/day/where.html
               The list of victims since 1970:
www.rememberingourdead.org/
               For info on the Ann Arbor TDOR you can visit
groups.yahoo.com/group/transgenderadvocacyproject/

              My email is barbieboy001@yahoo.com. My blog “The
Sacred Side Show” is at www.livehournal.com/users/sacredsideshow/


On Friday, September 30th, the office of Financial Affairs at the University of Michigan
received a letter from Coca-Cola Company just in time for the deadline. In order to keep
their $1.3 million dollar contract with the university, Coca-Cola was required to produce
a written agreement to a third party assessment of allegations of labor rights abuses in
Colombia and environmental issues in India by the last day in September. Students from
the “Coke Campaign”, who presented the university with the allegations last year and
demanded the contract be cut, were able to obtain copies of this letter (and deem it
insufficient) four days later. This is an example of the unstable relationship between the
administration and the students fighting to hold Coca-Cola accountable; there is a huge
disconnect. Representatives from the 5,000-student Coke Coalition met with the
Associate Vice President for Finance, Peggy Norgren the week before the deadline. At
the meeting, she seemed more than willing to listen to student concerns, asking if we
could meet her on October 1st, the day after the letter was to be received. We declined,
because it was a Saturday. We were assured enthusiastically that the Coke Campaign
would promptly receive copies of all communication between Coke and the University
administration. Not surprisingly, our administrator‟s enthusiasm did not follow through
and no one in the coalition was notified that a letter was indeed received on Friday until a
reporter from the Michigan Daily called on Sunday night, having phoned Norgren at
home.

It seems there is a constant power struggle between student activists and university
administration. It is never clear whether administrators genuinely care about what we
have to say, or if they are just protecting the university‟s image. Ironically enough, the
same relationship seems to be simulated between the university and the Coca-Cola
Company. Since the beginning of the international movement to hold Coke accountable
over 10 years ago, when allegations of union murders, associations with paramilitary,
illegal privatization and pollution of water surfaced in the media, the company has treated
these issues as mere public relations concerns.
Coca-Cola‟s best scam so far has been to hire yet another „old, white guy‟ to work for the
company and give him the title, “Director of Global Labor Relations”. This man, Ed
Potter, knows how to play the game well; he is an experienced lawyer and claims to have
been an activist “in the 70s”. In May, he proposed that a commission of university
administrators, students and labor rights experts be formed to put together a timeline and
methodology for an independent investigation into the allegations raised by students on
campuses around the world. Commissions and committees are often the result of
struggles between activists and people in power. Because Coke knew it could not deal
with the problems at hand, forming a commission would buy them time and polish their
image, making it look like they were committed to change.

From the very beginning, students were critical of the idea of forming a commission to
deal with these issues. Because it was initiated by Coca-Cola, we felt it might never
escape the corporation‟s controlling hands, hands that wanted to blind the public—not
find the truth through an investigation that might lead to its own ruin. At Michigan
especially, students fighting Coke harshly questioned SOLE‟s (Students Organizing for
Labor and Economic Equality) umbrella group, United Student‟s Against Sweatshops, for
pressuring us to take part. Nevertheless, in July, we sent a student representative to
Chicago for the first commission meeting--but not to negotiate with Coke. The national
student campaign planned to use the commission as a venue to get student voices and the
voices of the Colombian and Indian communities who had not been permitted to be at the
table heard.

Ed Potter was surprised, to say the least, when all of the student representatives walked
out of the meeting in protest of Coke‟s presence at the table and the absence of
representation from India and Colombia. When the remaining commission members
realized we would not compromise, they agreed that Coke would have no decision-
making power over the commission and that the first meeting would be simply to consult
with Coca-Cola, as it would do with all other concerned parties.

Today, after 3 more meetings, the draft investigation drawn up by the commission is yet
to be accepted by Coca-Cola. Before it agrees, Coke would like all litigants involved in
the Miami lawsuit regarding Coke‟s labor rights abuses in Colombia to agree to an
inadmissibility clause: that nothing found in the investigation planned by the commission
shall be used in the court case. Plausibly, lawyers for SINALTRAINAL (the Colombian
union from which 9 members were killed by paramilitary associated with Coke plant
managers), could be sued for malpractice if they agree to such a thing. The admissibility
issue is still up in the air while commission members‟ patience gets thinner.

Contrary to reality, Coca-Cola stated in the letter to U of M administration that they have
“made a commitment to the working group to […] work towards a resolution upon which
both parties can agree”. Coca-Cola is stalling, in all actuality, because they know results
of a truly independent investigation will prove they are not in line with the University of
Michigan‟s ethical Vendor Code of Conduct. In order to protect their contract with the
university, Coke is drawing out the process for as long as they can, writing farce letters
that “highlight some recent accomplishments”, none of which can be confirmed by
people living in India or Colombia. Nowhere in the letter sent to meet the September 30th
deadline does Coca-Cola explicitly state: “We agree to an independent investigation,”
which is what was required of them according to the recommendation of the University
of Michigan‟s ethical labor standards oversight body. At this time, the commission has
not even begun to address an investigation into India because planning the Colombia
investigation has been needlessly prolonged.

It is clear from both Coke‟s stalling tactics and the University‟s lethargy that they are
hoping that if enough time passes, the campaign will lose its momentum. We in the Coke
Campaign are actively working to make sure that we do not lose focus of why we are
really working in this movement—to ensure that conditions improve in the affected
communities in Colombia and India. By placing emphasis on corporate doublespeak or
administrative bureaucracy, our energies become diluted in the effort to analyze letters,
meet with administration and decipher the nuances of deadlines. However, the Coke
Campaign will not allow Coke, nor the University of Michigan to forget why this issue
was brought to the public‟s attention in the first place—and until the affected
communities themselves express their satisfaction with improvements and reparations,
we will not stop.

Many continue to ask, “Why Coke? Is Pepsi really any better?” We in the Coke
Campaign recognize that American college student activism is highly privileged, and
there are many communities, movements and causes that are overlooked because the
affected people are not heard by us. However, Coca-Cola sets the global standard for not
only the beverage industry, but also multinational corporations throughout the world.
Some studies even conclude that the word “Coca-Cola” is the second-most recognized
word in the world—the first being “Ok.” So, if the campaign to hold Coca-Cola
accountable is successful, the ripple effect will pressure other corporations to improve
their labor and environmental standards and to have better cooperation with the
communities in which their production and sales are based. An example of the success of
such a strategy can be seen in the disclosure campaign—Nike was pressured to disclose
the locations of its factories throughout the world, which prompted other notorious
corporations to do the same, sometimes even before Nike did.

After being called “a relentless student campaign on a premier American campus” in one
of the most widely distributed news sources in India1, the U of M Coke Campaign is
ready to live up to its new international name. While over 70 colleges worldwide have
cut contracts with Coca-Cola because of their environmental and labor rights abuses,
Michigan lags behind in the movement. We call on the Ann Arbor community,
university members and alumni to force the administration to realize that Coke is playing
a game of power and it is time to cut them off. Coke‟s only incentive to change beyond
smoothing its public relations will be to regain contracts lost from universities and
businesses, while simultaneously salvaging its integrity before the world. Please e-mail
your concerns to Peggy Norgren (pnorgren@umich.edu), Timothy Slottow
(tslottow@umich.edu) and Dennis Poszywak (dennisp@umich.edu). For more


1
    S Rajagopalan. “Coke agrees to probe,” Hindustan Times, October 4, 2005
information on getting involved with the University of Michigan‟s student campaign,
please e-mail cokecampaign@umich.edu.

New Orleans: Leaving the Poor Behind Again!

       By Bill Quigley. Bill is a professor of law at
Loyola University New Orleans where he directs the
Gillis Long Poverty Law Center and the Law Clinic and
teaches Law and Poverty. Bill can be reached at
guest.530527@MennoLink.org


      They are doing it again! My wife and I spent five
days and four nights in a hospital in New Orleans
after Hurricane Katrina. We saw people floating dead
in the water. We watched people die waiting for
evacuation to places with food, water, and
electricity. We were rescued by boat and waited for
an open pickup truck to take us and dozens of others
on a rainy drive to the underpass where thousands of
others waited for a bus ride to who knows where. You
saw the people left behind. The poor, the sick, the
disabled, the prisoners, the low-wage workers of New
Orleans, were all left behind in the evacuation. Now
that New Orleans is re-opening for some, the same
people are being left behind again.

      When those in power close the public schools, close
public housing, fire people from their jobs, refuse to
provide access to affordable public healthcare, and
close off all avenues for justice, it is not necessary
to erect a sign outside of New Orleans saying "Poor
People Not Allowed To Return." People cannot come
back in these circumstances and that is exactly what
is happening.

       There are 28,000 people still living in shelters in
Louisiana. There are 38,000 public housing apartments
in New Orleans, many in good physical condition. None
have been reopened. The National Low Income Housing
Coalition estimated that 112,000 low-income homes in
New Orleans were damaged by the hurricane. Yet,
local, state and federal authorities are not committed
to re-opening public housing. Louisiana Congressman
Richard Baker (R-LA) said, after the hurricane, "We
finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We
couldn't do it, but God did."

      New Orleans public schools enrolled about 60,000
children before the hurricane. The school board
president now estimates that no schools on the city's
east bank, where the overwhelming majority of people
live, will reopen this academic school year. Every
one of the 13 public schools on the mostly-dry west
bank of New Orleans was changed into charter schools
in an afternoon meeting a few days ago. A member of
the Louisiana state board of education estimated that
at most 10,000 students will attend public schools in
New Orleans this academic year.

      The City of New Orleans laid off 3,000 workers. The
public school system laid off thousands of its
workers. The Archdiocese of New Orleans laid off 800
workers from its central staff and countless hundreds
of others from its parish schools. The Housing
Authority has laid off its workers. The St. Bernard
Sheriff's Office laid off half of its workers.

      Renters in New Orleans are returning to find their
furniture on the street and strangers living in their
apartments at higher rents -- despite an order by the
Governor that no one can be evicted before October 25.
  Rent in the dry areas have doubled and tripled.

      Environmental chemist Wilma Subra cautions that earth
and air in the New Orleans area appear to be heavily
polluted with heavy metal and organic contaminants
from more than 40 oil spills and extensive mold. The
people, Subra stated, are subject to "double insult --
the chemical insult from the sludge and biological
insult from the mold." Homes built on the Agriculture
Street landfill -- a federal toxic site -- stewed for
weeks in floodwaters.

      Yet, the future of Charity Hospital of New Orleans,
the primary place for free comprehensive medical care
in the state of Louisiana, is under furious debate and
discussion and may never re-open again. Right now,
free public healthcare is being provided by volunteers
at grassroots free clinics like Common Ground -- a
wonderful and much needed effort but not a substitute for public healthcare.
       The jails and prisons are full and staying full.
Despite orders to release prisoners, state and local
corrections officials are not releasing them unless
someone can transport them out of town. Lawyers have
to file lawsuits to force authorities to release
people from prison who have already served all of
their sentences! Judges are setting $100,000 bonds
for people who steal beer out of a vacant house, while
landlords break the law with impunity. People
arrested before and after the hurricane have not even
been formally charged by the prosecutor. Because the
evidence room is under water, part of the police force
is discredited, and witnesses are scattered around the
country, everyone knows few will ever see a trial, yet
timid judges are reluctant to follow the constitution
and laws and release them on reasonable bond.

      People are making serious money in this hurricane but
not the working and poor people who built and
maintained New Orleans. President Bush lifted the
requirement that jobs re-building the Gulf Coast pay a
living wage. The Small Business Administration has
received 1.6 million disaster loan applications and
has approved 9 in Louisiana. A US Senator reported
that maintenance workers at the Superdome are being
replaced by out of town workers who will work for less
money and no benefits. He also reported that
seventy-five Louisiana electricians at the Naval Air
Station are being replaced by workers from Kellogg
Brown and Root -- a subsidiary of Halliburton

Take it to the courts, you say? The Louisiana
Supreme Court has been closed since the hurricane and
is not due to re-open until at least October 25, 2005.
 While Texas and Mississippi have enacted special
rules to allow out of state lawyers to come and help
people out, the Louisiana Supreme court has not.
Nearly every person victimized by the hurricane has a
price-gouging story. Yet, the Louisiana Attorney
General has filed exactly one suit for price-gouging --
against a campground. Likewise, the US attorney has
prosecuted 3 people for wrongfully seeking $2000 FEMA
checks.

No schools. No low-income apartments. No jobs. No healthcare. No
justice.
A final example? You can fly on a plane into New
Orleans, but you cannot take a bus. Greyhound does
not service New Orleans at this time.

     You saw the people who were left behind last time.
The same people are being left behind all over again.
You raised hell about the people left behind last
time. Please do it again.

Crimes of Poverty: The Long Winter Ahead in Detroit

         Last year, it was Douglas. Fifty-six years old, he perished in his Highland Park
home on the 1900 block of Trumbull. His heat has been turned off, and the kerosene
heater he used for warmth fell over while he was sleeping. His house caught fire, and he
asphyxiated, and then burned inside his home. He was the first casualty of the winter
utility shut-offs.
     In 2002 nearly 30,000 homes in Wayne County faced light and gas interruptions.
This was due in part to the large unemployment problem in the county, coupled with
welfare reform measures that limited government assistance to those in time of crisis. It
was also the time when the utility companies discontinued what was called the Vendor
Pay Program. If you were enrolled in this program, you were protected from utility shut-
offs because the Family Independence Agency paid a portion of your utility bills until
you were back on your feet again. Without this safety net, people quickly fell behind and
were left cold and in the dark. Since 2002, the numbers of those unemployed have risen,
and the financial assistance needed to alleviate these problems has not materialized—
apparently there is more political will in our government to wage foreign wars on
innocent people than there is to take care of its own. With winter around the corner,
people are bracing for more of the same in 2005.
     This year—with heat and electricity costs rising 45 to 70 percent—promises to bring
more deaths, more 4 AM fire engines rushing to put out house fires, more casualties from
these crimes of poverty. This is the third time in the last year and a half that the price of
natural gas has risen, and while for some of us this means less spending money, for many
others it means having to choose between medicine, clothing, food, water, rent—or heat.
The added stress of this extra utility costs will drive the size of the homeless population
up, and City Council members are already worrying about how Detroit will be
confronting these challenges.
     Maureen Taylor, State Chair of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, says that
they are already receiving 10-12 phone calls a day from folks who are in a heating crisis.
“It‟s still warm outside,” says Taylor. “Soon it will be fifty calls a day. Then it will be
twenty calls an hour.” She expects the call volumes to rise starting in the last couple
weeks of October, when the latest rate hikes will be reflected in people‟s bills. Many
who limped through last winter, managing not to get their heat turned off until the spring
time, are once again finding themselves in trouble because they don‟t have the money to
get their utilities back on again for the colder months.
     The city and state both have programs set up to assist low-income people with utility
bill payments. According to Jacob Corvidae, the Greens Program Manager for the
WARM Training Center, the city of Detroit is effective in getting what federal funds are
available into the city to address this problem. They not only help with low-income
residents‟ heating costs, but they also run a program that will pay for residents to
winterize their homes—sealing or replacing windows, and even putting on new roofs.
But the funds always run out quickly, and there is not nearly enough to address the sheer
magnitude of the problem.
         The state also has fuel assistance programs for people that find themselves facing
heat and electricity shut-offs. In the opinion of many, though, they intervene too late, and
only when people find themselves already in a crisis situation—you need to be already
shut-off or have received a shut-off notice before the state will step in to help. After
going through the bureaucracy of all the paperwork that needs to be filed and the hoops
that need to be jumped through, it can take weeks or months to receive your aid—and
that can often times be too late. “I‟ve talked to people who haven‟t had heat the last three
winters,” Corvidae explains. “Yes, there are programs out there. Some of the programs
are very well designed, but some of them basically end up requiring people learn how to
work the system just to get their needs met—and they need to get their needs met.”
Anyone who‟s lived through a Detroit winter knows that having heat can be a matter of
life or death.
         There are organizations in Detroit that respond to this crisis in more effective
ways than the government. One of the biggest ones is THAW, The Heat and Warmth
Fund. THAW is an independent non-profit agency that supplies emergency assistance to
qualified people that have nowhere else to turn when their heat is turned off. They hold
fundraisers and work with five different utility companies that match them dollar for
dollar in energy assistance. They are not only in Detroit, but in 65 counties in Michigan,
and have helped many folks through the coldest winter months.
         Another organization is the WARM Training Center, mentioned above. WARM
works with those who are provided with government fuel assistance to make their homes
more energy efficient, not only driving down costs, but helping people live more
sustainably. They also hold classes for the general public, and run other programs as
grants allow. In the past they were able to get government funding to fix broken furnaces
in people‟s homes, and run home repair workshops for long-term solutions to heating
problems.
         The Michigan Welfare Rights Organization (MWRO) has been very active in the
struggle for human rights in Detroit and Highland Park. They are an advocacy group that
works to get people the money and help they need to turn their utilities back on—NOW.
If there‟s money out there, they will direct people where to find it, and strive to address
the situation without sending them through all the red tape of other assistance programs.
They have brought international attention to the struggles in our city through the
organizing that they have done, and manage to do it with no overhead costs—all the
money that they get in goes directly to turning people‟s heat and lights back on.
         As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, the responsibility of the
government has been shifted to organizations like THAW, WARM, and MWRO. Those
in Detroit, Lansing, and Washingon D.C. need to be held accountable to the people whom
they are supposed to be serving—we should not have to rely on NGOs to do their work
for them while thousands are dying from poverty in the richest nation in the world. As
activists, we need to be directing our energies at the Governor‟s office and the Michigan
Public Service Commission, the governmental body that regulates the price of gas and
electricity, demanding more money be going to keep people‟s utilities on. Being poor
does not deny you the right to life. It does not justify you being killed in a house fire or
freezing to death in the cold. As Taylor explains, “These are crime of poverty, and they
happen every year. Every year.”



If you are facing utility shut-offs or you want to support those fighting against the shut
off, contact information is below.

The Heat and Warmth Fund—Neighbors Helping Neighbors in Need
1212 Griswold Street 48226-1899
Detroit, MI 48226-1899
(313) 226-9443
www.thawfund.org

WARM Training Center
4835 Michigan Avenue
Detroit, MI 48210
313-894-1030
info@warmtraining.org
www.warmtraining.org

Michigan Welfare Rights Organization
4750 Woodward Ave #404
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 832-0618
info@mwro.org
www.mwro.org