And the Award for the Biggest Cold-Hearted Bastard in America Goes To…

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Bay City (Michigan) Electric Light & Power manager Robert Belleman. Upon learning
that 93-year-old Marvin Schur froze to death—”a slow, painful death” according to the medical examiner—in his home, Belleman defended the utility’s decision to cut off the man’s power, without warning, during last week’s subzero cold snap. Installing “limiters” which put a cap on power usage and shuts off the juice altogether if an owner exceeds the limit, is company policy, noted Belleman, and he saw no reason to change it in the light of Schur’s death. As for the utility’s failure to inform Schur?

“I’ve said this before and some of my colleagues have said this: Neighbors need to keep an eye on neighbors,” Belleman said. “When they think there’s something wrong, they should contact the appropriate agency or city department.”

Schur, who was $1,000 behind on his utility bill, was indeed found by his neighbor—four days after the limiter was switched on, in a sub-freezing room that had icicles on the insides of its windows.

Update: Wow, this is worse than I thought. Bay City Electric Light & Power is a community-owned utility (one of the nation’s 2,000 such utilities). And Robert Belleman is not just the manager of the utility, he’s the manager of Bay City itself. So I guess when he meant that citizens had a duty to report that their neighbors were freezing to death due to the reckless disregard of utilities to the proper government officials, he meant himself! Thanks to commentor wikibrain for bringing this to my attention.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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