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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Scottsboro City Council Work Session, June 1, 2015 - A Question of Morals, Law and Rights of the Poor.

Scottsboro City Hall - photo by G. Morgan

There were two issues on last nights agenda, 1) Roseberry Rescue and the aquatic nuisance species issue; 2) Water and the River-Chase Mobile Home Community issue. 

It is interesting to note in the below city council video, here is an example of two extremely different societies in Scottsboro, one for the rich and influential - requesting money to spray the weeds around their private boat docks, money approved by the City Council with stipulations; and, the plight of the poor, citizens requesting help for the basic necessity of life - WATER. This is in one community, the difference in political support is a stark contrast of our culture in Scottsboro. 

Other Notes and Thoughts - First, many thanks to the Scottsboro Police Department in helping to resolve this situation of a slum landlord not meeting their responsibility.  

Several concerned citizens met with the Mayor, City Attorney and Council Member Keith Smith prior to the city council meeting, this was appreciated. The problems were brought forward, but the City Attorney did not agree that the poor people have a right to water while residing on the property of another, although payment for water had been tendered. The Mayor commented that no one had complained to him about conditions, there has been an ongoing complaint for years, including the City of Scottsboro suing the property owner for code violations.. 

The Mayor also mentioned, bring forward specific examples of nuisance structures and he would direct the Code Enforcement Officer. This is part of the problem, it is not my or any other citizens responsibility to do the job of city officials. Besides, structures which have no ceilings, floors windows, and are hazards are readily visible. It seems a slum landlord's property rights transcends the law. Property rights have been brought forward by the water board corporate authority. The city in its corporate authority and failure is part of the problem, the failure to recognize basic human rights, and a failure to equally and justly enforce laws in support of all citizens, including the poor. 

Another question is this - will the city act in such a way that further victimizes the poor by taking an easy road out of the situation by declaring the property a public nuisance and further victimizing the poor by dislocating them and causing extreme hardship by errant decision making?


Water rights are a growing issue across this nation. We hear about the drought in California and the battle between corporations, farmers and private citizens rights to water. Water rights have become an issue in cities such as Detroit, MI. where the poor are being denied water.

In Alabama, Water is treated as property in the Common Law. http://www.rivercenter.uga.edu/education/practicum/documents/draft_cahaba_river_nwr_water_rights.pdf  and The Code of Alabama about water Section9-10B http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/codeofalabama/1975/coatoc.htm

The right to water of the poor in this case becomes a question of government enforcing law, where a landlord has received money for payment. Instead of punishing innocent victims of a crime committed against them, government must focus their attention on the criminal,  not penalize innocent victims.

In our nation people do not serve government, government must serve the people. This argument is as old as our nation itself. Water rights and rights of individuals living on property of another have been an issue at law in Alabama since slavery was abolished and tenants have lived on the property of another. In the 21st Century we would hope and pray that human rights have progressed since the formation of Common Law in England. However, in this case there seems to be a disconnect between political leadership and the rights of the poor in our community. Either Scottsboro Leadership sets an example that there will be no tolerance given to slum landlords, or they demonstrate their values toward support of a time in the past which includes Jim Crow, abusive practices toward the poor and victimization of the poor. The difference here is, the poor will not sit by in apathy and put up with the abusive practices of errant people, that includes government officials or private citizens.

More on the issue below.

    Is the City of Scottsboro headed toward a showdown on the issue of Human Rights to Water? 

    The City of Scottsboro has attempted to utilize corporate authority of their water board to overrule poor people’s rights to water, even though the water was paid for by responsible tenants in a local mobile home park.       
    Previously, tenants paid for their water directly to the Scottsboro Water Sewer & Gas Board. But when a sample of dirty water was brought forward to the Health Department and the Water Board, with a request for help in resolving issues, the bill paying service for the poor tenants was discontinued. Now the tenants are forced to pay 30-40% more for water and garbage service directly to a "slum landlord."  
    Unfortunately the slum landlord has refused to pay the water on occasions, and has subjected the tenants and visitors to sewage problems. Last week, 200 poor, disabled, including disabled veterans, and minority citizens water was terminated temporarily until a concerned citizen came forward and threatened criminal action - the concerned citizen was me. The Scottsboro Police Department was very helpful in assuring the landlord met their responsibilities, thank you.   
    The Water Sewer & Gas Board was not helpful, and by all appearances prefers to protect a slum landlord, instead of the poor women, babies, disabled, minorities and poor disabled veterans residing in the mobile home community. The issue of property rights was brought forward by the corporate water authority,  I ask, making victims of the poor whose water was stolen - is this the Christian thing to do - is this supportive of moral Christian Values - are the actions of Corporate Authorities of the City of Scottsboro supportive of people, all people including the poor and helping the disadvantaged, or are the politicians and governmental corporate entities only concerned about the rich and influential citizens of Scottsboro?
    Some in authority seem to be claiming the poor have no rights to water, even when it is paid for if they live on the property of another; saying, "sue the slum landlord," with what, our poorness? Basically, the poor are being told the corporate water authority holds all rights, even that of water. There are many who disagree, including the United Nations Human Rights Commission
    If the City of Scottsboro chooses to maintain that the poor citizens have no Right to Water if they live on the property of another, the City of Scottsboro is headed for a Human Rights and Discrimination Showdown. Let us all pray this does not become necessary, and that the good people of the City of Scottsboro's leadership will do what is just for all people, including the poor and disadvantaged. https://youtu.be/xhX3HUoMr8A  (city council video above)

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