April 01, 2020

Municipal Power and Racial Injustice: Solutions for Water Discrimination

Coty Montag

Albert Pickett, a Black man and lifelong resident of East Cleveland, Ohio, has lived without running water in his home for six years. Pickett v. City of Cleveland, No. 19-cv-2911, Complaint at 23 (N.D. Ohio Dec. 18, 2019), naacpldf.org/wp-content/uploads/Pickett-Filed-Complaint.pdf. His sole income is disability benefits. Pickett owns and lives in his childhood home. When he moved in about a decade ago, there was an unpaid balance on the water account, which he was unable to pay. Pickett attempted to negotiate a payment plan with Cleveland Water, but was denied because he could not afford a down payment of several hundred dollars. In 2013, his water service was shut off. The water department placed a lien on his property for just under $550 in overdue bills, which increased once interest and penalties were added. His sister eventually paid off the lien, but Cleveland Water claims that he still owes the department $2,800, even though his water has been disconnected for years. In October 2019, Pickett’s home caught on fire. Without water on the premises, he was unable to douse the flames, and his home is currently uninhabitable.

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