NEW White Paper: Detroit Water Shutoffs and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The RISE Lab is happy to release a White Paper detailing how institutional authorities in the State of Michigan and City of Detroit addressed water affordability and the mass water shutoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. When the first cases of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, were identified in the United States, community activists appealed to authorities to reverse this shutoff policy. Although the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged people to wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds to prevent community spread of COVID-19 , activists pointed out that this was impossible for many Detroit residents who lacked running water in their homes. Their pleas were initially dismissed, however, and it was not until March 10, 2020, by when Detroit had emerged as a national epicenter of COVID-19, that Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued executive order EO2020-28 halting water shutoffs and restoring water to disconnected homes. In December 2020, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced that the City would cover outstanding payments through 2022 and permanently end shutoffs, but questions remain about whether these promises will be upheld, if they have not fundamentally changed their language and assumptions of the root problems related to water affordability.

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(Re)Crafting Narrative Fragments of Personal Sense-Making during COVID-19: Pieces from our 2020 MCQ Forum Essay

For the August 2020 issue of Management Communication Quarterly, the journal has published an OPEN-ACCESS forum essay where a multicultural team of organizational communication scholars, from different universities, reflected on our collective sense-making of the historic COVID-19 pandemic. The essay builds on personal narratives from each of us on different questions posed by the lead researcher, to create a beautiful mosaic from our words, ideas and feelings. Below, I try to another iteration, by crafting together my fragmented narratives from an earlier, unedited version of the essay, to re-present those forms of expression, to create a new/old essay rooted in praxis. Thank you for reading.

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New publication: What is “water privilege”? And how do we perpetuate it in our everyday language, to dismiss the problems of people who lack water access?

When I began work on the Detroit Water Stories project, back in 2017, I was puzzled why more people living in the city and suburbs were not aware of or perturbed by the mass water shutoffs that had already impacted close to 100,000 households, since 2014. This was, after all, an issue that the United Nations had condemned in no uncertain terms as a major violation of human rights, after the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department started disconnecting water for residents who could not pay their bills — and in the richest country of the world, no less!

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Here’s my Twitter Thread on #WaterSecurity Organizing and Policy

I read this news article in The Atlantic this morning noting how Florida Governor Rob DeSantis, who does not have the best record on environmental action and climate change policy, has unveiled a new set of measures to protect the state’s water sources. The article goes on to argue that water is the “one” issue that even traditionally climate action-averse Republican governors cannot avoid. That prompted me to reflect on what is rhetorically distinctive about water insecurity that prompts widespread action. Here are my musings…

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CSCA 2015 Research presentations on Social Media Crisis Communication and Deliberating Water Stewardship

CSCA

I’m back home in Detroit after spending three days at the annual conference of the Central States Communication Association (CSCA), I presented some of my work — and caught up with some old friends from graduate school in the amazingly vibrant city of Madison, WI.

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