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More Support For Keeping Control Of Water System In Detroit

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Mayor Dave Bing (WWJ Photo, File)

Mayor Dave Bing (WWJ Photo, File)

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DETROIT (WWJ) - Several Detroit politicians, clergy, and union representatives made a show of solidarity against any takeover of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department.

“With our unity, we’re sending a strong message to Governor Snyder , to representative Heise that we’ll be fighting to keep our water,” Detroit City Council President Charles Pugh said.

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is standing up against a takeover of the city’s Water and Sewerage Department.  But Bing says he’s not looking for a fight.

While Mayor Bing says the water system should remain under Detroit ownership, he says he is also open to changes to make it better. 

“I’m not here to defend past practices. I’m not here to defend the management, on a historical basis. My job, as I’m here today, is to look forward,” he said.

“So, if people would take a step back and stop marching, stop demonstrating, stop threatening, I think — as intelligent people — we can get something done with that benefit all of us,” Bing said.

Speaking before citizens at a community meeting Thursday, Bing said he is willing to sit down with community members and leadership in user counties to find a win-win solution. But, he says a bill in Lansing that would take power away from the city, requiring regional ownership, is not an option.

The bill,  introduced in the state House this month by Republican State Rep. Kurt Heise of Plymouth, would create a nine-person regional board responsible for setting water and sewage rates. Four permanent seats would be set aside for Detroit and the three adjacent counties, and the other five members would be elected from communities using the system.

AFSCME Local 207 president John Riehl says they will support the call to rally in Lansing or Detroit to stop the threatened water takeover.

“Anybody whose already under investigation for that is no longer in charge of the city of Detroit, and the citizens in this town do not deserve to be a part of that kind of conversation,” said Riehl.

Bing’s administration has been working on a plan to turn around the system that was mismanaged by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick stands accused of steering water contracts to his friend, Bobby Ferguson, in a federal indictment in December. 

Former Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Director Victor Mercado is charged in that same indictment.

State Senator Bert Johnson of Detroit held a press conference Thursday speaking out in opposition of the bill. Johnson says Detroiters should not be punished by the actions of a few bad apples.

“Just because you’ve had people have been accused of corruption or might have committed some bad acts within that system, it does not mean that you throw the baby out with the bath water. What is means is that when there are new people on board, trying to make it right, you give them an opportunity to do what they’re sent there to do,” Johnson said.

Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Anthony Marrocco feels the same, saying he is against a motion filed by Oakland County for creation of a regional management committee.

“Mayor Bing, as the new mayor, deserves a chance to address the problems in concert with the suburbs, without the intercession of the Federal Court,” Marrocco said in a statement.

“Mayor Bing recently reached out to the suburbs to begin the process of working together toward a common goal and I’m concerned that the Oakland County motion will bring that effort to a halt. Litigation has a chilling effect on interagency cooperation,” he said.

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