Following Tragedy and Action: War Vet Freezes to Death in Home, Dems Hold Hearings
For once, I don't actually mean this title to be all that snarky. The man is dead, nothing can change that now. Hearings can be a first step to prevent future, similar deaths. The point I'd make is that there's something deeply wrong with allowing power companies to shut off people's homes in the dead of winter. I know corporate profit is God in this country, and all must submit to its needs, but then again, once upon a time we called power companies "regulated public utilities" and understood that in civilized society, allowing poor people to freeze to death simply because they are poor is, you know, barbaric. From the MI Dem Party Press Secretary via email:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
LANSING – State Representative Jeff Mayes (D-Bay City) and State Senator Jim Barcia (D-Bay City) today called for a review of the tragic death of Marvin E. Schur, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, who froze to death in his Bay City home after Bay City Electric Light & Power placed a device on his home to limit his electric use.
"I am shocked and saddened by this tragedy," said Mayes, Chair of the House Energy and Technology Committee. "Though we're still getting more information, what's clear is that this man's death was entirely preventable. Until we understand this unfortunate situation, we need a moratorium on all electric shut-offs as well as the use of these limiting devices, in order to ensure that this does not happen again."
Schur, who owed more than $1,000 to Bay City Electric Light and Power, had a limiter device placed on his home on January 13 to restrict the amount of electricity that the home can use. If the homeowner uses too much electricity, the device shuts off all power to the home, and needs to be reset. City officials believe that nobody explained the device's operation to Schur, who tripped the device and did not reset it. Schur's body was found January 17.
"Under no circumstances should a person suffer what Marvin Schur did," Barcia said. "We need to know what happened and what we can do to prevent this from happening anywhere in our state, ever again. In the meantime, Bay City Electric Light & Power should suspend all shut-offs and use of regulators for the remainder of this winter season."
Mayes and Barcia have called for a review by the Michigan Public Service Commission to review city shut-off policies and offer recommendations to Bay City in order to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Additionally, Mayes is calling for a subcommittee in the House of Representatives to review policies and make additional recommendations. Mayes and Barcia are also drafting legislation to protect vulnerable citizens like seniors and the people with disabilities during the winter months. Both are working on efforts in the House and Senate that not only would restrict power shutoffs between November and April, but also would ban the use of limiter devices until strict criteria are met that would protect the safety of homeowners.
If I understand history correctly, deaths like this played a large role in getting various New Deal legislation passed. The down side to that comparison is of course that lots and lots of old and poor people had to die, before "hearings" and strongly worded press releases did anything to curb the oligarchic greed that had destroyed the economy.
I don't like all the "should" and "calling for" in the language of this release; I guess higher ups in the party are too busy to make serious hay out of an old man's tragic and preventable death. Or too cowed by the power company. We'll see what comes of this, if anything. But I'll say this: if corporations are allowed to put "limiters" on your power in the dead of winter, they're not too far from 'limiting' other things, even beyond what they already do, for the crime of being poor.