An ice-cold glass of water, for many, quickly provides relief from the intense burn of summer heat.
For others, a cool shower helps in reducing internal body temperatures inflamed by scorching summer heat.
But what is the summer heat relief valve for people living without water to drink or water to take showers?
This question about people living without water is not a “what if” esoteric exercise.
And, this is not a question involving people living without running water in remote Afghanistan or an impoverished forgotten rural section of Arkansas or West Virginia.
This question involves people living in Philadelphia without water.
On any given day there are a few thousand people existing without water service in Philadelphia.
On any given day in America’s fifth largest city there are people living without ready availability of water to drink, water to take showers/baths, water to cook food and water to flush bodily wastes.
The Philadelphia Water Department, between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2011, conducted 54,063 shutoffs of water service, according to data provided by that city agency.
During that same time frame the Water Department also conducted 48,572 service restorations.
The difference between shutoffs and restorations is 5,491.
Those 5,491 non-restorations are not all residences containing the elderly or children.
Even with adjustments for some of those non-restorations being commercial or unoccupied properties there remains a large number of people in Philly living without water.
Reality, some of those service accounts shutoff by the Water Department involve deadbeats who refuse to pay their bills. Those deadbeats deserve what they are not getting when they turn on faucets in their houses.
However, in these increasingly tough financial times more and more people who regularly pay their utility and other bills find themselves without paychecks or previously provided government assistance leaving them unable to pay bills.
Folks left without income through no fault of their own in this punishing economy that slams the 99 percent are forced to fend without water, electric and/or gas because they cannot afford the cost of those utilities.
Without getting into a discussion about water service rates the circumstance of people living without water service again raises the issue of folks needing solid income producing jobs.
The city of Philadelphia spends hundreds of millions yearly to purchase goods and services from funding construction projects to buying ink pens and toilet paper.
The Water Department, for example, conducted 84 capital improvement [construction related] projects in the fiscal year ending this June 30. The city spent $188.1-million on those 84 projects according to Water Department figures.
The money to fund city government expenditures comes largely from tax revenues — some federal, lesser state and mostly local.
Yet, the companies and workers that benefit from those expenditures are too often not Philadelphia residents.
One study a few years ago found that 59 percent of those working on Philadelphia’s publicly funded projects lived outside of the city.
With a decades long track record proving the fallacy that tax cuts for the wealthy translate into producing jobs for those in the middle and lower classes, one path to jobs creation for the unemployed must come through actions by government.
And one of those actions must be making sure that qualified Philadelphia companies and capable Philadelphia residents obtain a larger share of the contracts and jobs generated by City government revenue.
Yes, Philadelphians deserve emphasis on providing local preference on expenditures from their city government.
The city has a law providing a preference for local firms bidding on city contracts approved through the initiative of Mayor Nutter when he was a City Councilman nine years ago.
Two years ago the city fined an Abington firm $110,000 for falsely stating it was a Philadelphia company in order to obtain preference on a contract award.
Comparable preferences need expanding to encompass Philadelphia residents particularly for working on city funded construction projects.
Some members of City Council favor such a local jobs preference but this kind of approach to addressing unemployment is bitterly opposed by construction trades union and their backers in the contracting industry.
Decades of racial discrimination and geographic exclusion in construction industry employment practices underlie the periodic push for local preference jobs legislation now compounded by the poor economic climate.
And efforts to obtain and operate local hiring preferences historically trigger the trades union and their contractor allies to launch battles (legal/lobbying) to kill such legislation by ironically claiming such legislation discriminates against them … the original discriminators.
In another irony for the Republican Party usually is the political champions opposing local preference and affirmative action programs yet a local preference embedded in Philadelphia’s City Charter has enabled Republicans to serve as At-Large members of City Council since the early 1950s.
The City Charter in Article II, Chapter I, Section 2-201 reserves two of the seven At-Large Council seats for Republican Party.
If Republicans were required to win At-Large elections on majority votes they would usually fall short due to Philadelphia’s registration disparity were Democrats far outnumber Republicans.
In the 2011 primary election, for example, three Democratic At-Large candidates garnered more votes than the two Republican At-Large candidates that ended up on Council.
The purpose for that Council-related Charter preference is to ensure bi-partisan representation in that body, a need as laudable as employment preference for Philadelphia residents.
Linn Washington Jr. is a graduate of the Yale Law Journalism Fellowship Program.