On Tuesday, September 7th in Detroit Michigan a reported 85 homes were destroyed or severely damaged by fire across the city. The city of Detroit, Mayor Bing and DTE Energy has offered several explanations to the cause for the fires, each of them different; however before any investigation the city has already targeted and begun demolition of the damaged property. This demolition will cover up and destroy any possible evidence as to the fires’ root cause. There are also many open questions on performance and intent as to the reasons the fires began and how the city and DTE Energy responded to this emergency.
• Mayor Bing called the fires a “natural disaster”. Why then didn’t the mayor invoke the city’s disaster plan which exists to handle disasters. Bing also did not invoke the assistance of any other city departments during or after the fires. Bing has not sought disaster aid which would provide financial assistance to those who suffered a loss. By calling this a natural disaster Bing may have given cause for insurance companies not to pay any claims for losses suffered as a result of the fire. Bing as mayor represents law enforcement and a government entity capable of being an expert witness in a court of law. Bing’s statement could well be taken as fact and stand for an official city explanation. However, Bing should not have provided a cause without an investigation. Now Bing has taken actions where any and all evidence is being destroyed.
• Arson was another possible cause according to the city, as the structures are demolished so too is any evidence for any potential arson investigation. There were no eye witnesses who claimed to have seen arsonist. This claim of arson coming from the city contradicts Mayor Bing’s claim of a natural disaster. Arson is not natural. Yet this is also a statement from a government that could be taken as fact. Claiming arson could have legal consequences and expose the city to lawsuits based on these statements.
• Why is the city in such a hurry to demolish these homes? There are vacant homes across the city which has been waiting on the emergency demolition list for many years. Why these houses and why now? Even insurance companies may want to investigate if arson is indeed responsible for some or all of the fires as the city claimed. Are the laws being followed? Has the city properly notified the property owners of the demolition? Have all state agencies been notified properly this time?
• DTE Energy claimed that illegal hook-ups were in some cases at fault. However, reports stated that less than a third of the homes were occupied. Approximately 29 households lost everything. So either DTE is blaming the victims with an unproven accusation, or DTE is saying that the other ‘vacant’ homes were actually occupied. This reason also contradicts Bings’ statements above. DTE has also been accused of not maintaining the power lines as they are required to do by law. There were claims that there isn’t enough money to care for the power lines, and trim the trees that interfere with the power lines. However DTE being is a for-profit company providing a necessary public utility and is required to properly maintain all equipment. DTE is not allowed to reduce necessary people just to maintain a profit at the expense of public safety.
• Residents living in the affected area stated that they had called DTE about problems, some of them recently, and that they received mixed responses. Some did not get a call back. Or after a DTE person would respond they would spend insufficient time to investigate. Some persons stated that after reporting downed wires, they waited for hours until DTE responded. Did Mayor Bing investigate the response times for DTE? Has he determined if DTE is liable for this disaster?
• Mayor Bing and DTE are coordinating their responses to this issue. They have held private meetings regarding this incident (as reported by the Fire Chief on the news show Flashpoint, 9-12-2010). Bing as head of the police and in charge of the law department is also capable of directing or charging DTE with negligence. Are these meetings interfering with due process for the city and for the city’s residents? Bing has further hired many persons from DTE to work within his administration. Does this compromise the integrity of Bing’s administration? Is this a conflict of interest?
• Bing used to sit on the DTE Energy board of directors. If Bing provides unproven explanations in coordination with DTE, how then is he supposed to carry out his job as mayor? At a press conference, when asked if Bing could be objective due to his ongoing relationship with DTE he became irate and criticized the reporter who asked the question. Will the city’s Ethic’s board look into and investigate if there are any conflicts of interest in these relationships? DTE is also a city contractor having received contracts with the city of Detroit. Does a city contractor have the right to conduct private meetings with their customer when they may be responsible for causing a loss in tax dollars?
These and others questions need answers.
JOIN Hood Research on
Tuesday at 10:00AM at the City Council session.
Tuesday at 2:00PM for the Public Health and Safety committee
Hood Research will address the issues above and others related to this issue, with the both city council and then committee who oversees the primary response for fires and the Fire Department.
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