Matty Moroun

Commentary
10:59 am
Wed October 19, 2011

A New Bridge Across the Detroit River: Conflict of Interest?

Here’s something you may not know about journalists: We have a pretty high standard of integrity, especially when it comes to conflicts of interest. We normally don’t cover any events in which we have any kind of personal interest -- especially economic interest.

Any time we even suspect we may have any conflict, we are obliged to tell our bosses, and our public. There are some gray areas, but I can tell you this. If I did a commentary urging you to support someone who gave me thousands of dollars, I’d be fired.

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Politics
8:31 am
Mon October 10, 2011

Michigan Senate scheduled to vote on new bridge bills this week

The state Senate is planning a vote on Wednesday on a new bridge from Detroit to Windsor, the Detroit News reports. From the News:

The Senate Economic Development Committee, which is considering legislation to create a public authority to take bids on the bridge, will hold hearings Tuesday and Wednesday and vote on the two bridge bills at the end of Wednesday's session, according to a schedule released Friday.

Governor Snyder’s administration has been pushing for a new span across the Detroit River since January, when the Governor signaled his support for the new bridge during his first State of the State address.

But, as the Detroit News notes, it’s unclear whether the Legislature will pass the bills, “in fact, it wasn't clear Friday if there were enough votes to get the bills out of committee, which has five Republicans and two Democrats… Republicans have generally opposed the public bridge, while Democrats have supported it.”

The News explains:

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun is opposed to the project, which he sees as unfair government encroachment on his private business. He has spent millions on TV ads and lobbying against the public bridge.  The Michigan Chamber of Commerce recently joined most other business and labor groups in supporting the project.

Snyder has said the bridge will be publicly owned, but privately financed, built and managed. The legislation says the bridge is to be built at no cost and no risk to taxpayers. Opponents say they are skeptical of that promise.

Canada has offered to front $550 million to pay Michigan's share of the project costs and would recover the money from bridge tolls. The bridge is estimated to cost just less than $1 billion. The total project — including plazas and connecting roadways on both sides of the river — is estimated to cost about $3.6 billion.

Michigan Radio's Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry has been writing extensively over the years about the bridge controversy:

Detroit
4:30 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

New attack on proposed new Detroit-Windsor bridge

A view of downtown Detroit and the Ambassador Bridge from about a mile downstream, near the proposed site of the new international bridge.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are once again attacking Governor Snyder’s  push to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  

The company says experts it hired say the proposed bridge would not attract the billions in federal money promised by the governor and would end up costing Michigan taxpayers money.  

Matt Moroun is the vice chair of the Ambassador Bridge company.   He says "building a new bridge to Canada will not garner any more federal funds for highways in Michigan…then what Michigan gets ordinarily from the feds every year.”  

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Politics
10:49 am
Wed September 21, 2011

The Bridge: Beyond Any Doubt

Pretend you are a judge, let me give you some undisputed facts, and then tell me how you would make up your mind.

The top business leaders of this state strongly support a new bridge over the Detroit River. So do the major leaders of both political parties. The bridge wouldn’t cost the taxpayers of Michigan a cent.

What’s more, the bridge would instantly mean billions of dollars and thousands of desperately needed jobs for our poor battered state.  Not when it was completed, but right away, right now.

That’s because the federal government has agreed to count money Canada is giving us to  cover our costs as state matching money for federal highway funds. That would mean two point two billion dollars to fix our roads and bridges.

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Auto/Economy
4:02 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

A little clarity in the muddy international bridge debate

Bridge traffic estimates from the Anderson Economic Group's report. The report states that "public road projects in the U.S. that included a toll component tended to overestimate traffic by an average of 42%."
Anderson Economic Group

A report from the Anderson Economic Group has offered some clarity to the debate over a new international bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

A little background in case you have sat this story out thus far:

Governor Rick Snyder has been pushing the idea of a new bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, known as the New International  Trade Crossing (NITC).

It would connect up I-75 and Highway 401 in Canada.

The Ambassador Bridge owners, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), don't want competition from another bridge. Owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been fighting against the proposed bridge with a $4.7 million television ad blitz.

The ads say Michigan taxpayers could be on the hook for the costs of the New International  Trade Crossing if plans don't pan out.

Moroun is proposing to build a second span next to the Ambassador Bridge to ease congestion.

The report from the Anderson Economic Group analyzes both proposals (NITC vs. DIBC).

The bottom line of the report from several media reports out today is that the new bridge (NITC) would ease congestion currently felt at the Detroit-Windsor crossing, and a second span of the Ambassador Bridge would not (DIBC).

It's finding no. 2 in the report.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit International Bridge Co.'s proposed second bridge between Detroit and Canada would not eliminate the current congestion on both sides of the border but the New International Trade Crossing bridge would do so, according to an independent study released today by the Anderson Economic Group.

From Crain's Detroit Business:

A proposed government-owned bridge over the Detroit River, with additional U.S. Customs booths, would do a better job reducing border traffic congestion and handling future traffic than a second Ambassador Bridge span, says a new independent report released today.

From the Detroit News:

A proposed bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge would alleviate border congestion, but a new span beside the Ambassador would not, according to a study released Tuesday.

Finding no. 3 in the report states that the obligation to repay borrowed funds for the construction costs of either bridge does not rest with Michigan taxpayers. That finding assumes that protections for Michigan taxpayers are in place for "statute and bond covenants."

Jeff Watrick over at MLive has a nice summary of the 7 findings of the report.

Or you can read the report yourself.

Let us know what stands out to you.

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Commentary
10:56 am
Thu June 30, 2011

Selling the Bridge

Our lawmakers are preparing to wind up business for the summer, and Governor Rick Snyder has racked up an astonishing record of legislative success. True, his party has heavy majorities in both houses, and there was a broad consensus that Michigan needed change. But he got lawmakers to agree very quickly to major reforms that faced entrenched opposition.

Taxing pensions, for one thing. True, he had to compromise, finally agreeing to exempt most of those already receiving them. But that he got Republicans to agree to a tax increase at all was something like getting a vegan to eat a hamburger.

The changes in the Emergency Financial Manager law and in the rules covering binding arbitration for government employees will have profound effects in years to come.

In six months, this governor has accomplished more than his predecessor did in four years. But he has so far failed at one thing, something that would have seemed an easy sell.

The proposal to build a new bridge across the Detroit River,  the New International Trade Crossing. The facts indicate this should be a no-brainer. The Ambassador Bridge is old. Canada wants and needs a new bridge so much it will cover all Michigan‘s costs.

Not only that. The federal government will allow Michigan to use the $550 million Canada is offering us as matching money to get two billion dollars in badly needed federal highway funds.

Yet the governor had to postpone a vote on the bridge because he’s been unable to win over most in his own party. To understand their thinking, I talked yesterday with one of the rising stars in the Michigan Republican Party, Senator Tonya Schuitmaker.

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Politics
5:39 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Matt Moroun testifies against new bridge crossing

The Maroun family owns the Ambassador Bridge and have been vigorously fighting the construction of a second bridge over the Detroit River. Matthew Maroun testified against a new bridge today.
Mike Russell creative commons

A member of the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Canada testified before a state Senate committee in Lansing today.

He spoke with a handful of lawmakers who appear annoyed by conflicting information.

Matt Moroun told lawmakers that a proposal to build a publically owned bridge between Detroit and Canada is unnecessary because traffic is down, and tolls would not cover the construction costs.

But he also says the company is prepared to build a second bridge.

That prompted this question from Republican state Senator Geoff Hansen:

“If you receive a permit, will you build a second span?”

Moroun answered:

“The next day we’ll start. Promise.”

Republican state Senator Mike Nofs asked why the Ambassador Bridge owners would want to build a second bridge.

“Why would you build a second bridge the next day if you can’t make the money? The tolls aren’t going to be there. The traffic isn’t going to be there," Nofs said. "It’s going to cost you a lot more money, and you have to expand the roadways on both sides, and you have a government against you apparently right now - Canada - why would you build a second span?”

Moroun says his family’s company needs to build another bridge because the Ambassador Bridge is about 80 years old, and costs a lot of money to maintain.

Democratic state Senator Virgil Smith from Detroit says the Ambassador Bridge owners are controversial figures in the city.

“If you want to proceed with this – with the new project, with the new bridge – I think you’re going to have to clean up a number of your actions in southeast Michigan to do so, or I don’t see it happening no time soon," Smith said.

Many state senators expressed frustration with what they view as a slew of contradictory studies about whether a publically owned bridge would be profitable to taxpayers, or a burden.

Hearings on the bridge issue will continue next week.

Commentary
1:08 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

A Bridge Too Far

Once upon a time, two businessmen wanted to build a bridge across the Detroit River, using their own money to do it. 

The politicians were skeptical. It won’t make money, some said. They’ll sell bonds to finance construction, and people will lose their shirts. Detroit’s mayor had a different objection. He said that if the bridge was successful, the owners would get rich off the public. Funny, but I thought that’s how private enterprise was supposed to work. Eventually, a city-wide referendum was held, and people overwhelmingly voted for the bridge.

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Politics
7:36 am
Thu June 16, 2011

Senate committee opens bridge hearings

Michigan Senate hearings on a new Detroit River bridge crossing began this week.
Patricia Drury Flickr

A state Senate committee opened hearings yesterday on legislation that would start the process of building a new bridge connecting Detroit to Canada.

The new bridge would compete with the existing Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor-Ontario.

Governor Rick Snyder would like the Legislature to approve the initial stages of the bridge project by the end of the month.

Representatives of Governor Snyder’s administration and the Canadian government were on hand to insist the new bridge is an economic necessity that would not cost Michigan taxpayers any money.

Canada has committed to pay all the construction costs with repayment coming from tolls.

Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general to Michigan, says both Michigan and Canada would benefit from expanded border access.

“There are jobs in almost every county of Michigan that depend on companies being able to move things back and forth across the frontier with Canada,” said Norton.

The new bridge would compete with the existing Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor. The owners of the Ambassador Bridge are trying to stop the project.

Matthew Moroun’s family owns the Ambassador Bridge. Moroun will testify today before the state Senate Economic Development Committee.

“We intend to show the actual statistics," said Moroun. "You know, we’ve been in the bridge business for 30-some years, and you learn a lot about the bridge business from being in the bridge business, I can tell you.”

Moroun says the state and Canada cannot credibly guarantee taxpayers’ money is not at stake in going ahead with a new bridge.

Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley is the governor’s lead negotiator to win legislative support of the bridge. He says a new border crossing in southeastern Michigan is critical to the economic future of the entire state.

“Our biggest customer is Canada," said Calley. "We sell more to Canada than anybody else. They buy more of our goods than anybody else, and so we need more access, better access to that market if Michigan is to be successful.”

Calley and the Snyder administration face skeptics in the Legislature.

Opponents of a new bridge say traffic studies show there’s no need for a new bridge. They also say the state should not be backing a public bridge to compete with a private business.

Many Democratic and Republican lawmakers say they remain skeptical the deal would be good for Michigan taxpayers or that a new bridge is necessary, and they say it will take more before they’ll cast a vote in favor of it.

Politics
5:11 pm
Fri June 10, 2011

Moroun acknowledges money to bridge foe

A member of the family that owns the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit has acknowledged giving money to a group that’s working to stop the construction of a competing bridge – including plastering a neighborhood with fake eviction notices.

But Matthew Moroun says his family had nothing to do with the flyers.

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Commentary
1:47 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Beyond the Law?

Let’s say that I seized a portion of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park for my own uses. I erected a fence, and put up phony signs saying “No Trespassing Due to Homeland Security.”

Later, I ignored court orders to tear it down, and said that I could do this because I was sort of an agent of the federal government, or as I put it, a “federal instrumentality.”

Then, when a federal judge ruled that I was nothing of the kind, and ordered me to stop claiming to be, quote, “any type pf arm, appendage, or agent of the federal government,“ I ignored him.

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Commentary
12:54 pm
Thu May 26, 2011

Canada and the Bridge

We live in highly polarized times. But even by those standards, it is remarkable how much those who support a new bridge over the Detroit River, and those who oppose it, differ.

Differ not just on the merits of a new bridge, but on the most basic facts. Those who oppose the new bridge claim that Michigan taxpayers could be stuck for a hundred million dollars a year. Those who oppose the new bridge - mainly, those who work for the owner of the Ambassador Bridge - Matty Moroun - say that traffic has been declining and another structure isn’t needed.

But they say Moroun is willing to build one anyway, at no cost to the taxpayers, and that this is best left to private enterprise. Those who want a new bridge say it is very much needed, that this is not “socialism” but a public-private partnership. They say the old bridge is wearing out, there is no backup, and that a new one will be desperately needed if Michigan is to be economically competitive.

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News Roundup
9:45 am
Mon May 2, 2011

In this morning's news...

Osama bin Laden is dead, Detroit reacts

The Detroit Arab American and Muslim communities reacted last night as news of Osama bin Laden's death spread. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan are holding a press conference this morning at 9:30. Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody is there and will have an update for us. Here's a statement from CAIR:

In a statement issued following President Obama's announcement of bin Laden's death, CAIR-MI Executive Director Dawud Walid said, "We welcome the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been eliminated as a threat to our nation and the world through the actions of our military personnel. In addition to the killing of thousands of Americans, he and Al Qaeda caused the deaths of countless Muslims worldwide. We also welcome President Obama's clear statement tonight that the United States is not at war with Islam."

Chrysler records its first profit since emerging from bankruptcy

The good economic news continues for U.S. automakers as Chrysler announced a first quarter profit. From the Detroit Free Press:

Chrysler said today it earned $116 million during the first three months of the year, giving the company its first profit since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, as well as details about its debt refinancing plans.

The profit compares to a $197-million loss for the same January-March period last year.

Collusion between bridge-owner Moroun and former Detroit Mayor?

A WikiLeak cable reveals the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation felt shut out of negotiations between former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. From the Windsor Star:

The former president of the company that manages the Windsor-Detroit tunnel complained to the U.S. embassy in Ottawa in 2005 about backroom dealings between Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun and Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, correspondence released by WikiLeaks this week shows.

In a cable he sent to the State Department on Nov. 10, 2005, David Wilkins, former U.S. ambassador to Canada, said Gordon Jarvis complained he had been "shut out of negotiations" as he tried to get the Detroit & Canada Tunnel Corporation's lease arrangement renewed. Moroun had offered to pay $30 million to gain control of the U.S. side of the Windsor-Detroit tunnel for 100 years and the tunnel corporation was trying to make a counter offer.

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Politics
7:19 am
Thu April 7, 2011

Snyder defends new Detroit/Ontario bridge plan

Governor Rick Snyder (R) is pushing for a second span across the Detroit River
Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder is defending the plan to build a second bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. Snyder spoke to the Detroit Free Press about his support for a new international bridge over the Detroit River a day after the newspaper published comments from Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun that criticized Snyder and the new bridge plan.  From the Free Press:

Gov. Rick Snyder told the Free Press on Wednesday that a TV ad campaign attacking plans for a second bridge to Canada reminds him of misleading campaign attacks on him in last year's race for governor.

"It's inaccurate," he said of the ad's claim that the public project connecting Michigan and Canada would cost state taxpayers $100 million a year.

The ad is paid for by the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who said in a front-page Free Press report Wednesday that Snyder's advocacy for the public bridge would kill Michigan jobs, notably at his companies.

Moroun wants to build his own second Detroit-Windsor span, but the Canadian government won't let him build the span because of traffic, legal and environmental concerns. Snyder said two bridges would be viable…

Snyder said a new bridge, built by a private builder, would stimulate commerce. But, he said in a wide-ranging interview, his top priority is balancing the state budget and enacting tax changes he said will lead to more jobs.

Politics
12:05 pm
Wed April 6, 2011

Ambassador bridge owner: Snyder’s plan for new Detroit/Ontario bridge should be stopped

A view of the Ambassador Bridge that spans the Detroit River
J Powers 65 Flickr

Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge, says Governor Rick Snyder’s proposal to build another bridge connecting Detroit and Ontario should be stopped.

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press on Monday, Moroun said, "I don't know what the governor's doing... He's probably going to win. I can't stop him, but he should be stopped. He's doing the wrong thing."

From the Freep:

Supporters of a publicly owned bridge say it will create construction and spin-off jobs near the new development and meet future traffic needs.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Snyder's point person on the proposed New International Trade Crossing, said the Moroun family's recent high-profile advertising campaign against the project cannot stop it...

By stressing the jobs that might be lost at his bridge and trucking companies if the public bridge is built, Moroun is clearly trying to influence the Republican-controlled, business-friendly Legislature that will soon decide the fate of Snyder's plan, he said...

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun, who opposes the Snyder plan because it would siphon traffic and revenue away from his privately owned span, sought to frame the debate this week as jobs in Michigan versus jobs elsewhere...

During the past couple of years, the Moroun family and associates have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash to both Republicans and Democrats to try to help block the public bridge project. During last year's gubernatorial campaign, however, Snyder did not take any contributions from the Morouns.

Governor Rick Snyder has said he wants lawmakers to introduce legislation to authorize a new bridge when they come back from their Spring break. Lawmakers will be back in session next week.

Detroit
7:21 am
Fri March 25, 2011

Iconic former train station could get a fix-up

The Michigan Central Depot
MichaelNPatterson Flickr

It’s being reported this morning that Manuel (Matty) Moroun, owner of the Michigan Central Depot in Detroit, plans to replace the roof and windows of the tattered train station. From the Detroit News:

After decades of looking like a bombed-out relic, the iconic Michigan Central Train Depot is set to receive a mini face-lift…

Created by the same architects who designed Grand Central Station in New York City, the building at one time was the largest train station in the world and known for its rich décor.

Decline and decay pulled into the station soon after the last train departed in January 1988. Scrappers looted the building.

Over the years, several ideas have been pitched for the building, including a new police headquarters. None has panned out. Nor has a 2009 resolution from the City Council to demolish it.

Because of its look of urban decay, the depot has been used in several films, including "Transformers," "The Island," "Four Brothers" and "Eight Mile.”

Moroun also owns the Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario. The Detroit News quotes Bridge Company President Dan Stamper as saying, “We're applying with the city to replace the roof and the windows…We're doing it because it would be much easier to help a developer to come up with a package to use the depot if some improvements were made … so that's what we're doing.”

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Politics
5:58 pm
Wed December 8, 2010

Bridge dispute claims a Detroit business

Lafayette Bait and Tackle
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

The owner of the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Department of Transportation are back in court over a disputed construction project.

One Detroit business owner says that project is forcing him out. Lafayette Bait and Tackle is literally stranded here in the midst of the Gateway Project, as trucks rumble overhead.

That project was a $230 million effort to better connect the Ambassador Bridge to surrounding highways.

It’s also the subject of a long-running legal dispute. The Michigan Department of Transportation says the Ambassador Bridge Company violated project plans when it built entrance ramps and a duty-free plaza.

The Bridge Company has lost several rounds in court. But the ongoing legal drama has left Lafayette Bait and Tackle cut off from the surrounding neighborhood.

Business owner Dean Aytes says his landlord hasn’t paid the taxes on the property. And a lawyer for bridge owner Mattsay Moroun says the landlord has now agreed to sell the property.

Aytes says that means the shop will have to close for good. He says “that billionaire, Matty Moroun, put me out of business.”

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