Matty Moroun

The Ambassador Bridge.
Lester Graham

Proposal 6 was introduced by the owner of Detroit's Ambassador Bridge as a direct reply to the proposed New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

The new bridge was first proposed in 2004, after a long-term study highlighting the need for a new crossing was commissioned by the Border Transportation Partnership--a coalition of Canadian and American transportation authorities.

It would be sited two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge and would connect directly to the Canadian highway.

Nathan Boomey and Brent Snavely of the Detroit Free Press have a report on a "2 for 6" deal between the UAW and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. 'You support my proposal.... I'll support yours.' Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton is following up on this report.

There’s one thing that the vast majority of mainstream Republicans and Democrats agree on—Governor Rick Snyder, the man he defeated, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, and virtually every other elected official in the state:

Ballot Proposal 5, which would require a two-thirds vote of the legislature or a statewide vote of the people to raise any taxes, would be an absolute disaster for Michigan. It would cripple our ability to change with the times, respond to crises or make infrastructure improvements necessary to attract new business.

Nobody likes taxes, and for the last 30 years, we’ve been happily brainwashed into thinking that our taxes are too high.

And, as a result, a leading economist told me the other day, “We have some of the worst roads in the country.” But hold on. If a lot of people are fooled into voting yes on Proposal Five, our roads and everything else are certain to get worse. In fact, much worse.

That’s the conclusion of Michigan State University Economics Professor Charles Ballard, perhaps the top expert on our state’s economy. His short, excellent book Michigan’s Economic Future ought to be required reading for anybody who wants to understand how things work.  Believe it or not, there are a few hard facts you need to know about taxes. First of all, we are already paying far less than we once were. Ballard told me, “State and local tax revenues in Michigan are already a much smaller fraction of our economy than they were a few decades ago.”

How much money is that?

The election is six weeks away, and the vast majority of the media attention has been on whether President Obama or Mitt Romney will win the state. But I think that in Michigan, the real importance may be about something bigger.

This election will also determine whether one incredibly rich man can essentially buy our government for his own selfish interest.

That man is Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge over the Detroit River. He is 85 years old, and according to Forbes, is worth close to two billion dollars.

Construction on the Gateway Project started in 2004. The $258 million construction project was supposed to be finished years ago, but a partnership between the Ambassador Bridge owners and the Michigan Department of Transportation broke down. A court determined the owners were not holding up their end of the bargain, and pulled them off the project. Today, another milestone passes in the saga as the Gateway Project opens.

After weeks of court battles, the Michigan ballot is now final, and in addition to a boatload of candidates, we will be asked to decide six statewide ballot proposals.

One of these is designed to prevent anyone from building a new bridge to Canada, no matter who, what or why, without first holding a statewide vote of the people. That may sound sensible.

But it is anything but. This is the result of a private monopoly spending millions of dollars in order to keep a stranglehold on trade.

Elaine Ezekiel / Michigan Radio

The Board of State Canvassers deadlocks on the ballot proposal that would require public votes to construct a new international bridge. The measure is backed by the owners of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, who are trying to block a competing bridge. They could now go to court to get on the ballot.

The Ambassador Bridge.
Lester Graham

The question of whether to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario has been the source of ongoing conflict between Gov. Snyder and Matty Moroun, owner of the Ambassador Bridge Company.

Reporter Lester Graham, with Michigan Watch, will bring us a special five-part series on the debate about building a new bridge. The series begins on Monday August 13.

http://buildthedricnow.com/

Check out Forbes staff writer Joann Muller's in-depth look at the politics behind this month's bridge deal:

-Via Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio Newsroom

 

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

A group that opposes efforts to build a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor says it’s well on its way to putting that question on the November ballot.

“The People Should Decide Ballot committee” says it’s collected more than 420,000 petition signatures in favor of a voter referendum.

If passed, the measure would implement a constitutional amendment requiring Michigan voters to approve any new international crossings.

Governor Snyder and Canadian officials signed an agreement to build a new crossing just last week. That's after Snyder's efforts to get the project through the state legislature failed last year.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republican House lawmakers are attempting to block state spending by the governor to build another bridge across the Detroit River.

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a supplemental budget that would prohibit using state money unless the Legislature authorizes construction of the bridge. Grandville Republican Rep. Dave Agema said Wednesday his goal in amending the supplemental budget is "to stop spending money" lawmakers didn't authorize.

Unless every news source in the western world is totally wrong, on Friday, Governor Rick Snyder will announce an agreement with Canada to build a new bridge across the Detroit River.

This is good news for Michigan, good news for Canada, good news  for business and, at least temporarily, perhaps even better news for the people  who will fill the thousands of construction and other new jobs that will be created, some permanently.

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

A new report from a Washington-based watchdog group finds Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun spending a lot of money to influence Congress.

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington--or CREW--tracked campaign donations from Moroun’s family, company, and associates.

Their examination of campaign finance data found more than $1.5 million in Congressional donations from 2004 through the first quarter of 2012.

Jim Wallace / flickr.com

It’s no secret the Ambassador Bridge’s owners don’t want the state to build a new bridge between Detroit and Canada.

Now, the Detroit International Bridge Company is trying another tactic to make sure that doesn’t happen: a ballot referendum.

The Bridge Company has proposed language that would require state lawmakers to put any proposed international crossing up for a popular vote first.

You have to give Matty Moroun, the 84-year-old owner of the Ambassador Bridge, credit for something. To steal the old Timex watch slogan, he takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

When the courts told him to live up to an agreement he made with the state about road improvements around the bridge, known as the Gateway project, he ignored the judge’s orders for two years.

There’s been a long-running conflict about whether to build a second bridge connecting Detroit and Canada.

Now, the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says voters should decide the issue.

The Detroit International Bridge Company says the Ambassador Bridge is enough. The DIBC has butted heads with Governor Snyder and state officials, who favor building a new crossing.

Now, the Bridge Company says it wants to put the issue before voters. They want the State Board of Canvassers to authorize language for a petition drive.

It states:

Some interesting construction is going on down by the Detroit River, and more is about to start. Michigan Department of Transportation crews have been pouring concrete to finish a long-overdue road. Next week more crews will swing into action.

They will begin tearing down a concrete pier to nowhere, and then build a truck access road to help relieve congestion leading to the Ambassador Bridge. If you’ve come up to Detroit on I-75 from the South, you’ve probably seen huge trucks stacked up in the right lane.

user dherrera_96 / Flickr

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined to build a new bridge between Windsor and Detroit.

More from the CBC:

He is also frustrated with Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge, one of two crossings in Windsor.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards lifted the civil contempt finding against the Ambassador Bridge owners today, saying they had been complying with his orders to turn the disputed Gateway project over to the Michigan Department of Transportation. The ruling means that bridge owners Manuel (Matty) Moroun, his son Matthew, and bridge company president Dan Stamper are no longer under threat of jailing and no longer are required to attend subsequent court hearings in the case.

A judge has stripped the company that owns the Ambassador Bridge of control over a key construction project, and transferred total control to the project’s joint partner, the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Judge Prentis Edwards had found Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) officials in contempt of court for delaying the Gateway Project.

The Ambassador Bridge / Jim Wallace

DETROIT (AP) - A judge has ordered the company that controls the Ambassador Bridge to surrender control of its portion of a project on the U.S. side of the international crossing to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards ordered Thursday that an account be set up to fund the work.

A next court hearing is March 22.

The Detroit International Bridge Co. has said it's making progress on its share of the $230 million Gateway Project and pledged to complete the work.

In January, Edwards put 84-year-old billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun and his top executive, Dan Stamper, in jail for contempt of court for failing to follow orders on the project, which includes connecting the bridge with Canada to area interstates.

They were released by the Michigan appeals court.

The Detroit International Bridge Company says it’s moving forward on a long-disputed construction project.

Godfrey Dillard and other DIBC lawyers will try to convince Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards they're making progress in a hearing Thursday.

Edwards found DIBC President Dan Stamper and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun in contempt of court for ignoring his orders. He had ordered them to finish the Gateway Project, a disputed joint construction project with the Michigan Department of Transportation, according to initial plans.

Norris Wong / Flickr

UPDATED: Thursday, Feb. 9 1:00 PM

Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) President Dan Stamper and Matty Moroun's son, Matthew, appeared before Judge Prentis Edwards in Wayne County Circuit Court today.

Both pledged that DIBC will comply with Edwards' order, and complete the Gateway Project according to specifications.

And both swore to cede power over the Gateway Project to a "special committee" as outlined in Michigan law--one that will include Stamper, but will otherwise be made up of outsiders.

DIBC lawyer Godfrey Dillard says his clients are doing what they can to "purge themselves of the contempt" charges that landed Stamper and Matty Moroun in jail briefly last month. But they still think the underlying court order is wrong--and will appeal that separately.

Dillard says the company has already started "de-construction" on their portion of the Gateway Project in order to comply.

But Tony Kratofil, Metro Region engineer for M-DOT, says it's "too soon to tell" whether all of this adds up to DIBC acting in good faith.

"It all sounds very good on the surface, but  we’ll see what actions play out in the next month,” Kratofil said.

Another hearing to monitor progress is scheduled for March 8th before Judge Edwards.

------------------

The company that owns the Ambassador Bridge says it will comply with a court order—and give up a years-long legal battle over a disputed construction project.

The announcement comes ahead of a scheduled hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court Thursday.

But the Detroit International Bridge Company won’t use it to keep fighting the February, 2010 court decision ordering them to finish the long-delayed Gateway Project.

That's a joint construction project with the Michigan Department of Transportation, meant to better connect the bridge with surrounding highways.

Instead, Bridge Company officials say they'll use the hearing to detail how they plan to comply.

The ongoing battle between the DIBC and MDOT landed DIBC President Dan Stamper and bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun in jail overnight for civil contempt of court last month. Last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the lower court judge's right to incarcerate the two men, though not indefinitely.

Stamper admits the idea of returning there motivated them to cooperate. “It entered into all of our thoughts,” said Stamper.

Moroun's son, Matthew, added: "I don’t think any human being likes jail.”

Matthew Moroun says he and his father will also cede decision-making powers for the Gateway Project to a "special committee." They say that committee will include Stamper, but otherwise be made up of people from outside the DIBC.

Although they've now agreed to comply with, the DIBC continues to insist the court order is wrong. They've blamed MDOT all along for the construction delays, despite the court's decision and the findings of an independent monitor.

 

When I heard the first news flashes about the Michigan Court of appeals ruling yesterday, it appeared briefly that the Ambassador Bridge company had won. Indeed, the court said Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards was wrong to rule that Matty Moroun, the bridge’s owner, and Dan Stamper, his top employee, had to stay in jail until they lived up to an agreement with the state.

Jim Wallace / Flickr

A three judge panel from the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards used his power appropriately when he jailed billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun and his top company official, Detroit International Bridge Company President Dan Stamper, on January 12, 2012.

However, the court did say Judge Edwards didn't make the conditions of their release clear enough.

Lawyers representing Moroun and Stamper argued that their imprisonment was an improper use of the civil contempt of court power and "was invalid as a matter of law."

From the opinion of the Michigan Court of Appeals:

We disagree with appellants to the extent that they argue that incarceration was an improper use of the trial court’s civil contempt power; however, we agree with appellants that the trial court erred in requiring their continued incarceration until DIBC “fully complied with” the February 1, 2010, order...

Confinement or imprisonment may be imposed whether the contempt is civil or criminal in nature. Borden v Borden, 67 Mich App 45, 48; 239 NW2d 757 (1976). In the civil context, the confinement must be conditional.

The other two judges on the panel agreed with most of the decision, but not all. You can read Judge Fort Hood's opinion and Judge Wilder's opinion.

Moroun and Stamper were freed on appeal by the Michigan Court of Appeals on January 13 after spending the night in a county jail.

Now, after this Appeals Court ruling, the two top Ambassador Bridge officials will return to Wayne County Circuit Court this week.

And they’ll do so facing the possibility they could go back to jail if Judge Edwards crafts a new civil contempt of court order.

The whole issue stems from a dispute over the Gateway Project, a joint construction project between the DIBC and the Michigan Department of Transportation. The project was meant to build ramps that would better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways, and keep truck traffic off residential streets.

The Appeals Court ruled that Edwards was within his rights when he ordered the two to jail. But they maintain Prentis's order that the two remain incarcerated until the Gateway Project is "complete"--something that will likely take months--was too vague.

The Appeals Court judges said Edwards would have to provide specifics on how Moroun and Stamper can remove the civil contempt of court ruling.

A Michigan Department of Transportation spokesman says the agency is pleased with the ruling, and is “eager” to see the more specific conditions the Judge lays out.

The Detroit International Bridge Company released a statement that was silent on most of the ruling, but noted the DIBC is "pleased with the recognition by the MI Court of Appeals today that the Ambassador Bridge Gateway Project must be finished." It went on to say:

"Given the events since the Court of Appeals accepted the appeal from Judge Edward’s order, MDOT announced its intent to begin completion of MDOT’s unfinished ramp. It is very clear that MDOT has held up construction, not DIBC...No one wants the Gateway completed more than us."

But a report from a court-appointed monitor who studied the Gateway dispute agrees largely with MDOT's position that the DIBC has held up the project.

A hearing before Judge Edwards is set for Thursday.

Most people remember Upton Sinclair, the crusading twentieth century writer, as the author of the novel, The Jungle, which exposed conditions in the food packing industry in Chicago. If you haven’t read it, it’s enough to make a butcher become a vegan for a week.

Gregg Ward took his 16-year-old daughter Emily to a crowded courtroom last Thursday morning, so they could both see what would happen to Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.

To her father’s astonishment, Moroun became the only billionaire ever to spend a night in the crowded Wayne County jail, after a judge found him in contempt for refusing to follow court orders to demolish some illegal construction and live up to a contract with the state. Emily was fascinated. “I was definitely glad I went!” she said. “It was really interesting to see how justice would prevail.”

The Michigan Court of Appeals has freed Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun and his top aide, Dan Stamper from the Wayne County jail.

Thursday morning, Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards sent Moroun and Stamper to jail for civil contempt of court.

That night, the Court of Appeals denied Moroun and Stamper’s emergency motions to get out of jail.

But their lawyers tweaked their argument today, and again asked that the two be freed while their clients’ appeal is pending. The court has now agreed to that.

MDOT

On Thursday morning, January 12, Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards sent billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner, Manuel "Matty" Moroun to jail for failing to comply with the judge's order to finish a project that will connect the bridge to nearby expressways.

Dan Stamper, the  president of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), has been ordered to jail as well. The Detroit International Bridge Company owns the Ambassador Bridge.

This post was updated as the story developed.

Update 6:00 p.m.

The Michigan Court of Appeals has freed Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun and his top aide, Dan Stamper from the Wayne County jail, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports. The court will hear an appeal on Judge Edwards' decision on February 2.

3:08 p.m.

The son of 84 year-old Manuel "Matty" Moroun, Matthew T. Moroun, released a statement to the Detroit Free Press about his father's jailing:

"Without a trial, without a jury, with no notice stating the reasons for them to appear, a judge viciously lashed out at Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper today and ordered a penalty outside the bounds of a civil case that was excessive, unwarranted and outrageous.

“This is the same judge that refused repeated requests for site visits to actually see construction on the Gateway Project. This entire legal process has clearly become a personal vendetta by the judge against these individuals.”

On FOX 2 Detroit last night, Matthew T. Moroun indicated that he thinks Judge Edwards has a personal vendetta against his father.

 

 

"As you know, the Judge's son was recently appointed by the Governor the day before Thanksgiving to a $150,000 a year judgeship job at 36th District Court," said Moroun.

Governor Snyder strongly supports the construction of a second international bridge crossing over the Detroit River - something the Moroun family has been actively fighting with a multi-million dollar ad blitz.

The plan for a second bridge was defeated in the Michigan legislature late last year.

"When we defeated the governor's plan in the legislature, the judges's son was appointed less than one month later. And my Dad was thrown in jail less than two months after that," said Moroun.

Very little was discussed about the details of the Judge's orders to the Moroun family on the program.

To get a better idea of what the issue is, the Detroit Free Press offers this graphic showing how the Moroun family did not build the Gateway Project according to agreed upon plans.

1:42 p.m.

Moroun and Stamper spent the night in the Wayne County jail. The Detroit Free Press reports that the billionaire and his executive wore green prison garb and were held in a cell which offered little privacy:

Just like other inmates, the two were offered chicken-fried steak for dinner. Their mug shots were taken, and the two shared a 10-by-15-foot cell in an isolated wing.

Lawyers for the two jailed Ambassador Bridge executives have been trying to win their release at the Michigan Appeals Court.

In their "Emergency Motion for Immediate Consideration," lawyers for Moroun and Stamper say their release is "imperitive":

"The incarceration of Mr. Moroun and Mr. Stamper violates federal and state constitutional rights to due process, and conflicts with the well-established procedures set-out by statute (MCL 600.1711(2) and MCL 600.1715) court rule (MCR 3.606) for finding and punishing contempt."

In his piece today, Jeff Watrick of MLive writes that Moroun's legacy may now be an eroding of trust in public-private partnerships:

Right now, private ownership apparently means a multi-year legal battle is required to ensure bridge-to-freeway connections are built.

It’s increasingly hard to argue this “private-sector solution” for North America’s busiest commercial border crossing remains viable. And that, more than anything else, may be Matty Moroun’s ulitimate legacy.

Thursday, January 12, 7:00 pm:

The Michigan Court of Appeals has denied Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun and president Dan Stamper's appeal requesting their release from jail.

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