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E-M:/ Earth First! occupies and hangs banner from roof of Highland Park Municipal Building

Enviro-Mich message from Frank Ambrose <snakeman1549@yahoo.com>

Press Release
For Immediate Release
Massasauga Earth First!
July 28, 2003

Activists Occupy and Hang a Banner off of the Roof of
the Highland Park Municipal Building in Protest of
Water Shut Offs

Highland Park, MI—Today, Massasauga Earth First! and
occupied the roof of the Highland Park Municipal
building. They also dropped a large 6 foot by 25 foot
banner off the roof to indicate to passer bys why they
are there. The banner reads: Stop the Cut-Offs, Water
For Life. A support demonstration made up of community
members and participants in the SEAC summer training
institute passed out leaflets and talked to people
passing by who had questions. Police arrested two
people and charged them with  trespassing. They were
ticketed and released on $100 bond each.

The activists are taking these actions to protest of
the state’s policies of shutting off people’s water
and to demand that the state to return control of the
city to the citizens. The state took Highland Park
into receivership under Governor John Engler. Since
then, the Governor-appointed administrators Jan Lazar
and Ramona Pearson have instituted policies that
include severe human rights abuses and privatization
of essential city services.

“What Governor Granholm is allowing to happen in
Highland Park is criminal,” said Marie Mason. “By
allowing people to have their water shut off, she is
guilty of crimes against humanity. Water is a human
right that cannot be denied to anyone for any reason.
She must stop the shut offs and reinstate all of those
who have been cut off already. This is not just a
Highland Park issue, but a human rights issue that all
people, no matter where they are from, have an
obligation to work to rectify.” 

Under Granholms leadership, Highland Park
administrator Jan Lazar, who lives in Lansing and is a
vice president of a consulting firm named Mercer
Group, Inc., hired fellow Mercer V.P. Steve Egan to
run the water department. He is paid $90 an hour for 2
days of work a week. He contracted out the work of the
city’s water department to CPI engineering, based in
Algonac. CPI employees have been seen carrying
firearms while they are shutting off people’s water.
Mercer Group is a pro-privatization firm based in
Atlanta and has helped countless cities privatize
public services. 

“Lazar has no concept of how to run a city for the
people, all she cares about is ensuring that
corporations can fill their pockets with profit at the
expense of city residents,” said Frank Ambrose. “She
needs to be immediately removed from power. Then
control of the city must be returned to Highland Park

Lazar has also instituted a policy of adding
delinquent water bills to the property tax owed for a
home. She has begun to foreclose on peoples houses who
cannot pay the water bill. 

“It is amazing that the city can pay some person from
Atlanta $90 an hour to run the water department, and
all he can come up with to do is to shut people off,”
said Collette Eno. “Why don’t they save the money they
are paying him and invest it in ensuring everyone has
water, regardless of their financial situation?”

Highland Park has the highest water rates in the
nation. It is also one of the poorest cities in the
country. The city’s tax base moved out when Chrysler
shut down operations and the population dropped from
60,000 to 16,000. The city’s 16,000 current residents
are primarily seniors and children. Those who stayed
are paying the debt that Chrysler and the former
residents left behind in the way of astronomical water
bills. Over half the city is in shut-off status.

“Even though Lazar is implementing these policies, it
is Governor Granholm who is responsible. She is the
only person above Lazar in the government’s
hierarchy,” said Marie Mason. “Granholm wants a
sparkling image of being a fighter for the water and
the people, but when the facts are laid out, she is
neither. She is allowing Nestle to have free reign
with Great Lakes water up north, and at the same time,
she is denying people access to water in the Detroit

Last month, activists attempted to have a
demonstration outside of Granholms personal house in
Northville over the water issue. She called in the
state police to ensure her neighbors were not informed
about her water policies. 

The events highlighting the situation in Highland Park
will continue the next three wednesdays. The coalition
of organizations working on stopping the cutoffs will
be hosting a "Jenny Roast" community barbeque outside
the HP municipal building. They will be symbolically
roasting politicians like Governor Jennifer Granholm
who are guilty of human rights abuses.

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