Peter and I go back and forth with who gets irked about what news. Last night on the news, he heard a story about the top ticketed vehicles. He tracked the story, and then he realized that the news station got their facts wrong. So, he began perusing their website and he found this article. So, now it’s me who’s irked.
A 93-year old man, Marvin E. Schur, couldn’t afford to pay his electric bill. The story doesn’t say, but we can speculate. He’s living on a fixed income, rates are rising, and damn, It’s Cold Outside. He ends up with $1,000 in unpaid electric bills. So, in the middle of January, the City goes out and does its job. They installed the required limiter on Mr. Schur’s home Jan 13th. The limiter is designed to blow a fuse (turning all the power off) if the requested power exceeds where the limiter is set. On Jan 17th, a neighbor found Mr. Schur dead. The neighbor is quoted saying the windows inside the home were covered in ice. The city’s chief medical examiner said Mr. Schur must have died a slow and painful death. In a home with no power, in the middle of a freezing, Michigan winter, for FOUR days.
The City Manager‘s response is that he should have been responsible and paid his bill and the neighbors should have looked out for Mr. Schur. Six days later, the city commissioners approved a 3% rate increase to the electric/heat bills.
If we really want to know what’s wrong with our society, it’s stories like these that epitomize the wrongness. Where does the neighbor boundary end, Mr. Robert Belleman? Does it extend to the end of our street, to the next street? How shall we define neighborhood? Couldn’t the entire city be considered one large neighborhood? And, if so, wouldn’t that make you, Mr. Belleman, Mr. Schur’s neighbor? Why didn’t you check on him yourself? Oh, you’re busy you say, you have a job to do, running the city (killing it’s fragile residents), looking after solely your immediate family.
When will we act more presidential (Harry S. Truman in mind here) and stop passing the buck? We are each others responsibility. It’s our responsibility to ensure our neighbors are taken care of and healthy. It’s our responsibility to ensure that the least of us are provided for. We do this in many ways. Some people work as case workers and advocates getting into the nitty-gritty dealing one-on-one with folks with serious problems (mental illness, dementia, unemployment). We have others who donate to causes that do this dirty work. Others refer folks in need to agencies and organizations that can offer that help.
Bay City claims they are looking at reviewing their policies now that a lot of people are angry that an old man died. I would suggest they put referral to outside agencies in their review. If it takes $300 a month to heat a home to 68 degrees during the day so that a person can stay comfortable, and a person is having problems keeping up with their bills, how hard is it when that courtesy call is made that you’re overdue to say, “Call this number.” And, of course give the number.
Or, are we so heartless that we forget this recession is affecting everybody.
If this bugs you, call the City Manager’s office.
301 Washington Avenue
Bay City, MI 48708