Matty Moroun | Michigan Radio

Matty Moroun

Last year was a major milestone in the epic battle to get a new and badly needed bridge across the Detroit River. Frustrated by the Michigan Legislature’s unwillingness to even vote on the issue, Governor Rick Snyder found a legal way to bypass the lawmakers.

Snyder found a clause in the Michigan Constitution that allowed him to conclude an “interlocal” agreement with the government of Canada. This didn’t make Matty Moroun, the 85 year-old owner of the 84 year old Ambassador Bridge, happy.

Moroun then spent close to $40 million attempting to get Michigan voters to ratify a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have essentially given him monopoly control of our nation’s most important border crossing for all time.

If you want proof we need sterner ethics laws for Michigan’s elected officials, you need only consider former State Rep. Paul Opsommer, who until this year was chair of the House Transportation Committee. 

Term limits then forced him to give up his seat in the legislature. While he was there, he supported his fellow Republican, Governor Rick Snyder, on most issues. Except for one: Whether to build a new bridge across the Detroit River.

Opsommer, who lives in the small town of DeWitt, outside Lansing, was rabidly opposed to the New International Trade Crossing. He did all he could to stop it.

We haven’t heard much about the great Detroit River bridge debate since the November election. That’s when Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s attempt to amend the state constitution to preserve his monopoly.

Earlier last year, Governor Rick Snyder bypassed the Michigan legislature and used a little-known  provision of the constitution to sign an agreement with Canada allowing for a New International Trade Crossing to be built south of the existing bridge.

The Ambassador Bridge is currently the only way heavy freight can be moved across the river, at least between Port Huron and Buffalo. The governor and virtually all business interests agree that a backup is essential.

So why aren’t shovels in the ground? Well, the short answer is bureaucracy.

This has been a bad year for Matty Moroun, the billionaire owner of the Ambassador Bridge. In January, he was thrown in jail overnight, for failing to comply with court orders to live up to an agreement he’d signed to finish a road project near his bridge.

After spending around $40 million to try to block a new international bridge downriver of their Ambassador Bridge, the Moroun family issued a statement that said in part "like any family business, we would do it again - and will in different ways - to defend economic freedom and limited government." Now the new bridge moves forward.

It’s obvious why the Ambassador Bridge-owning Moroun family is backing Proposal 6. That’s the ballot measure that would require of vote of the people to build international crossings. It would be another step toward blocking a competing bridge Canada has offered to fund.

You might say there was more than usual going on last night. There was the last game of the National League baseball playoffs, in which San Francisco completed a dramatic comeback to take on the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. Meanwhile, on another channel, the Detroit Lions were blowing their Monday night football game.

And Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were locked in the final debate of the closest presidential campaign in years, this time arguing about foreign policy and the state of the world.

Teamsters Local 299 has agreed with Matty Moroun to support Proposal 6.
Steffen Norgren / flickr

Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has secured the support of Michigan’s 5,000-member Teamsters Local 299 for Proposal 6.

Proposal 6 would amend the state Constitution to require a statewide vote before Michigan constructs or finances any new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles.

The Moroun-backed amendment is opposed to Governor Snyder’s New International Trade Crossing.

States with supermajority requirements for tax increases. Mich. has a supermajority requirement for raising property taxes. If Proposal 5 passes, Mich. would join the states in gray with the most restrictive taxing policies.
Citizens Research Council of Michigan

State legislators play the game. Michigan voters will set the rules.

The playing field for Michigan lawmakers could change significantly after Nov. 6, if voters approve any one of five constitutional amendments on the ballot.

The "bed sheet ballot" is something California voters are used to, but Michigan voters haven't seen this many proposed constitutional amendments since 1978, when voters faced 9 proposed amendments.

We're posting on all the proposals seeking to amend the Constitution.

As you probably know, a Titanic battle has been going on for years now over whether to build a new bridge over the Detroit River.

On one side is Governor Rick Snyder, the government of Canada, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, and the chambers of commerce. On the other side, Matty Moroun’s family, the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, who right now have a monopoly on moving billions in heavy automotive components from Detroit to Ontario.

The Moroun family, that is, together with those who support their position because of their money.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."    

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Detroit Free Press reports that the United Auto Workers union - no friend to Governor Rick Snyder - is considering a deal with billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun - also no friend to the Governor.

The deal would involve Moroun helping the union pay for ads in support of Proposal 2, which would enshrine labor organizing rights in the state constitution.

Concept NITC Drawing
NITC

Mickey Blashfield, Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun's director of government relations and head of the Moroun-financed group "The People Should Decide" released a statement following a report from the Detroit Free Press on a possible deal between the UAW and 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.

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