Detroit council wants a piece of future bridge proceeds

If the Moroun family builds a second Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit City Council wants to make sure the city has a chance to generate revenue from its traffic.

The council could vote as early as Tuesday on a much-debated land swap agreement with the Detroit International Bridge Company that would advance the Morouns’ plans for a twin span to the aging Ambassador Bridge.

Although approval would still be required from the state and federal governments in both the U.S. and Canada, the land swap would give the Morouns a 3-acre piece of land at Riverside Park in southwest Detroit needed for a twin span.

“If and when a bridge is constructed, the city needs to be able to participate in the upside,” Councilman Scott Benson said in an interview.

To that end, Benson proposed a mechanism to capture property taxes associated with a second Ambassador Bridge. The money would be used to offset air pollution, increased truck traffic and other negative impacts of a new bridge. The mechanism wouldn’t necessarily raise more money, but it would direct the property taxes to specific uses rather than going into the city’s general fund, Benson said.

The council’s planning and economic development committee also wants to set up a work group with the Bridge Company to figure out other ways the city could make money off another bridge. Benson said his idea for the city to get $1 off tolls paid by each car crossing the new bridge was rejected.

The council is expected to attach an addendum that incorporates Benson’s property tax capture and the work group to study a second span to the land swap deal Mayor Mike Duggan proposed in April.

A vote on the deal is on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, but the vote could be pushed back a week if the addendum’s terms are not satisfactory.

Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, whose district includes the Ambassador Bridge, has a much longer list of proposed changes she wants made to the land swap deal.

Rather than transfer a piece of Riverside Park to the Bridge Company, Castaneda-Lopez suggests the city grant an easement for 100 years, with the city collecting 10% of revenue generated from a second Ambassador Bridge. She also wants the city to become part owner of a second bridge, similar to the public-private partnership that manages the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel. Furthermore, she wants the Bridge Company to enter into a legally binding community benefits agreement that includes requirements for training and hiring Detroiters, environmental mitigation and community investment.

Castaneda-Lopez said now is the time for the council to negotiate benefits from a second Ambassador Bridge.

“Everyone supports the park, the reopening of Riverside,” she said. “The conditions around a second span need to be incorporated now.”

For now, it appears Duggan’s office is leaving it to the City Council to prepare the city for a potential second Ambassador Bridge.

A list of 55 questions Castaneda-Lopez submitted to Duggan’s office about the Riverside Park land swap included nine questions about a second bridge. Alexis Wiley, Duggan’s chief of staff, answered every question the same way. She referred Castaneda-Lopez to the proposed work group, which has not been approved or set up yet.

Bridge Company officials were receptive to the property tax capture and work group, Benson said. A Bridge Company representative declined to comment Friday because the concepts had not been given to him in writing yet.

Councilwoman Mary Sheffield agreed the pending land swap deal with the Morouns needs to include some sweeteners for the city.

If the second span is built, that’s a significant revenue stream the bridge company could be receiving, Sheffield said. “How does the city benefit from that?” she said.

Under the proposal pending before the City Council, Detroit would give the Morouns about 3 acres at Riverside Park in exchange for nearly 5 acres of land next to the park that the bridge company owns. The swap would allow the city to expand Riverside Park and would give Moroun control over land needed to pursue a twin span of the Ambassador Bridge.

The Bridge Company also would pay the city up to $5 million for park improvements under the proposal. On top of that, the Morouns have agreed to install about 1,050 windows in the Michigan Central Station, a commitment Duggan values because it could help erode the train depot’s international reputation as a sign of Detroit’s decay.

Duggan and residents who support the deal say it is a unique opportunity to fix up the park and provide valuable recreational opportunities in southwest Detroit. Park improvements to be made starting this fall include new baseball and soccer fields on the northeastern part of the park, a new riverfront playscape, new benches, picnic tables and an improved waterfront promenade.

Sheffield said she is ready to support the land swap deal if it includes the addendum spelling out the work group and other provisions discussed with the Bridge Company earlier this week.

But Benson said he’s not sure. “I am not committing to anything,” he said.

A perfect tribute to extra-special star Gordie Howe

By Jerry Green
The Detroit News

This is the perfect fit. Who would have thought — an international bridge named for Gordie Howe?

Nothing more appropriate, because Gordie has had his own bridge for decades and was the primary cause that so many former NHL players, now senior citizens, have bridges of their own.

There were no records kept for the total number of teeth Gordie knocked out of rivals during his quarter century with the Red Wings and 32 years in major hockey total.

But Gordie has to be the all-time record holder. Back then, he was the foremost practitioner in all of professional sports for the subtle use of elbows and butt ends of hockey sticks.

Most of the time, the targets were the other guys’ mouths.

Congratulations to the politicos of two countries for coming together on this bridge deal. Rarely is there such a sharing of acute imagination. Seldom is there such a friendly pact between nations as was reached in the naming of the eventual Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Oh, I got it now. This bridge is going be built spanning the Detroit River – a new connection between Detroit and Windsor – and not as part of some unfortunate Russian hockey player’s mouth.

Naming a bridge for Gordie is a great, great honor for a former professional athlete.

It is an honor that those of us of an octogenarian bent cheer.

Posted in Uncategorized

New bridge to Canada will be named for Gordie Howe

By Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

UPDATE: The new Bridge to Canada will be named for Detroit Red Wing great Gordie Howe, the Gordie Howe International Bridge.

This is a developing story…

Editor’s note: Second span to Windsor needed

Nolan Finley, The Detroit News

Hopefully, Michigan’s congressional delegation was paying attention Tuesday to what was not happening on the Ambassador Bridge.

Traffic was not moving over the lone bridge across the Detroit River to Canada because a vehicle fire shut down the span.

The delay was short-lived, but created a traffic back-up that inconvenienced motorists and cost truckers and the factories they supply money. Imagine if the accident had been more serious and the bridge had to be closed for days instead of hours.

Back-up capacity is one reason Metro Detroit needs a second bridge across the Detroit River. And yet some Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation aren’t on board.

Rep. Candice Miller of Harrison Township wants money first for an expansion project at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, which is in her district. Rep. Mike Bishop of Rochester says he supports Miller, but he also has benefited from campaign donations from Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Maroun, who opposes the second span. Outstate GOP Reps. Tim Walberg and John Moolenaar have yet to endorse the new bridge.

Relying on one bridge in an era in which global trade is so vital to the local economy is reckless. Miller and Bishop should join the rest of the state delegation in setting aside parochial interests and work for the good of the entire state.

Originally posted by The Detroit News

Politics and Prejudices: Treating Canada like, uh, spit

By Jack Lessenberry

Lower Americans, which is what we really are, geographically (and often otherwise) tend to disrespect Canada, our most important friend, ally, and trading partner.

Not only haven’t we expressed gratitude for their picking up all Michigan’s expenses for the badly needed new bridge over the Detroit River — our government wouldn’t even pay for its own customs plaza.

Canada sighed and rolled its eyes, or would have if an entire nation could. This is nothing new. We’ve been doing it for well over a century: Sometimes on purpose; more often, out of our usual boorish insensitivity and absent-mindedness.

Back in the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson once grabbed Canadian Prime Minister Lester Pearson by his lapels and screamed at him, “Don’t you come into my living room and piss on my rug!”

Poor old Mike Pearson hadn’t in fact ignored the toilet; all he had done is make a speech calling for a bombing halt in Vietnam. LBJ also usually called Pearson by the wrong first name, and sometimes confused him with the British prime minister. Other presidents have openly insulted Canadians or attempted to walk all over them.

Congress, if possible, has been worse. After Pierre Trudeau, who was regarded as a world statesman, addressed a joint session in 1977, one member from Milwaukee said he was impressed because “some members of Congress didn’t know a Canadian could speak such good English.”

Back then, Canada felt mainly ignored. Sondra Gotlieb, an accomplished and outspoken novelist, was the wife of Canada’s ambassador to Washington back in the Reagan era. “For some reason, a glaze passes over people’s faces when you say Canada. Maybe we should invade South Dakota, or something,” she mused. Sadly, they never did.

Canada’s problem is that she is like a sensible, usually sweet woman married to a bully. Though Canada is just as large geographically as the United States, it has barely more than a tenth of the population. Canadian politicians have long referred to it as a mouse sharing a bed with an elephant.

Years ago, Canadian columnist Allan Fotheringham said the problem was “the mouse still quivers. He fears sexual assault.” Being crushed on purpose is more like it.

Things do, in fact, seem to be particularly bad right now. Despite our frequent boorishness, Canada and the United States have usually gotten along very well. Our nations really have been close, at least on most issues, and it really was the world’s longest unguarded border, at least until Sept. 11, 2001.

There’ve been exceptions; President Clinton did seem to have a warm relationship with Canada’s leaders, and Canadians will tell you that former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard was the best envoy Washington ever sent.

But those days are gone. Whatever you think of President Obama, relations with Canada have been especially bad in the last few years. The Globe and Mail, Canada’s most important newspaper, ran a long story last month saying that U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman has been more or less frozen out by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government, in part, evidently because he brought the arrogant attitude of a former investment banker to the diplomatic table.

Mostly, however, there is a chilly atmosphere between Harper and Obama, who have never warmed to each other.

Not even the Canadians would put all the blame for that on Obama; Harper is not notorious for charm. But even his detractors think the United States could show some respect.

Whatever you think of the Keystone XL pipeline project, Canada is fully committed to it. Douglas George, Canada’s current counsel general in Detroit, knows something about energy issues; he is a former ambassador to Kuwait.

He knows something about this nation and this area too; he grew up in Sarnia right across the border from Port Huron, and came with his friends to many a concert in Detroit.

Though environmentalists have legitimate Keystone concerns, George told me “this is something that offers both our nations the chance for energy independence from the Middle East and Venezuela.”

Shortly after that, President Obama flatly declared he would veto a Keystone bill if one reached his desk.

One has the sense that Canada is less offended by Obama’s opposition to Keystone than they are that he didn’t seem to take Canada’s position seriously.

Closer to home, much the same is true for the New International Trade Crossing bridge. The bridge is vital to the economies of both our nations; Canada’s even more than ours.

In a perfect world, representatives of both countries would have sat down a decade ago and thrashed out where and how to build it and how to divide the costs.

But Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun was able to prevent that, by giving Michigan legislators legal bribes known as “campaign contributions.” But Canada stepped up.

They advanced Michigan the money needed, in what amounts to an interest-free $550 million loan that is to be paid back — someday — out of our state’s share of the toll revenue.

Though nobody mentions this, what this really means is that Canada will lose millions on the deal, thanks to inflation.

Canada did think Washington should pay for the customs plaza an international border crossing requires. After all, even poor countries pay for their own diplomatic installations.

But the Obama administration embarrassed itself by not even stepping up to ask Congress for the $250 million or so needed for an immigration and customs facility.

To be fair, even if Obama had, the Republicans who now control both houses of Congress might well have denied it.

Matty Moroun has given money to a number of GOP congressmen, including freshman U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Rochester Hills) who has vowed to stop the new bridge.

So Canada is picking up that expense too. Oh, they expect to be reimbursed from our share of the duties, maybe half a century from now. There’s no real danger relations between our two countries will get too chilly.

Each needs the other too much. Last month, Canada and the U.S. signed a new initiative that should soon eliminate much of the hassle of crossing the border by land, sea, or air.

The relationship is intact. But we’ve shown little class when it comes to the way we’ve treated our most reliable ally and friend. Ten years from now, if the new bridge is indeed up and running, and you have a job, especially in any job that is related to manufacturing, you might think about doing something our government should be doing right now.

Thank a Canadian.

U.S., Canada strike deal to speed border checks

Melissa Nann Burke, Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Travel by roadway, rail and water between Michigan and Canada could become easier under a deal signed Monday by U.S. and Canadian officials.

The impact on crossings in the Great Lakes state is likely years away, though the effects could be felt sooner in other states if the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament approve it.

The proposed change could mean shifting some American customs inspections to the Canadian sides of the border crossings at Detroit and Port Huron, and allowing U.S. customs agents to carry weapons while stationed inside the Canadian border.

The deal — years in the making as part of the Beyond the Border Initiative — sets out a legal framework allowing law enforcement agents into each other’s countries to conduct customs, immigration and agricultural inspections inside the border. It is a process already in operation at eight Canadian airports, including Toronto.

“This agreement will help facilitate the legitimate trade and travel that keeps our economy thriving as we maintain utmost vigilance to the security of our borders,” U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said. “We remain committed to our deep partnership with Canada, a true ally, neighbor and friend of the United States.”

A new process for advance government screening of business shipments and individuals could relieve congestion and shave off time while traveling between the two countries, officials say.

Canadian Public Safety Minister Steve Blaney said the “historic” agreement builds on decades of successful pre-clearance operations in Canadian airports. About 4.5 million passengers traveling through Toronto airport now go through the pre-clearance process before traveling to the United States, Blaney said.

The administration of Gov. Rick Snyder welcomed the development with Michigan’s largest trading partner.

“It is extremely helpful for goods to move quickly across the border in a way that still protects residents in both countries,” Snyder spokesman Dave Murray said Monday, but noted the administration still needs to review the agreement.

The crossing between Detroit and Windsor is the busiest along the U.S.-Canada border, carrying more than 20 percent of all merchandise trade between the nations through the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

Detroit is also a popular crossing for travelers, last year ranking the third-busiest U.S.-Canada crossing for passenger vehicles with more than 4 million, behind Niagara Falls, New York, and Blaine, Washington, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Port Huron was the fourth-busiest crossing with more than 1.9 million passenger vehicles in 2014.

The agreement could cut valuable seconds and even minutes off getting across the border.

“It means the same number of officers at the border can process more trucks, and those officers can spend more time on those trucks who do require more attention,” said Douglas George, the Canadian consul general in Detroit. “Both our countries are very interested in ensuring there’s still a very high level of security.”

Maryscott Greenwood, an adviser to the Canadian American Business Council, said she expects arrangements for the Detroit-Windsor crossing would move quickly after the agreement receives legislative approval because of how busy and important it is.

“We’ve talked about pre-clearance at Detroit-Windsor for years because of how congested it is on the Detroit side, and how relatively less congested it is on the Windsor side,” Greenwood said.

“There’s always a complicated dance that you do in Detroit-Windsor with the various stakeholders, so that will remain to be seen,” she added, referring to the private ownership of the Ambassador Bridge.

The re-clearance operations would require approval by both Canada and the United States. Johnson said there will be “some negotiation” that goes into each border-crossing site, and “this agreement even spells that out.” The deal will be implemented at select sites “where it makes sense,” he said.

The trucking industry applauded the agreement as a step toward easing costs and increasing predictability at the border, although David Bradley, president and CEO of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, doesn’t see Detroit-Windsor as a top candidate for a pre-clearance site.

Buffalo-Fort Erie is a more likely site, in part because there’s no space for a modern customs plaza on the Buffalo side, and officials want to relocate inspections to the Fort Erie side, said Bradley, whose group represents more than 4,500 Canadian trucking companies.

“In Detroit-Windsor, you really don’t have that same sort of issue, and you certainly won’t with the new bridge,” Bradley said. “They’ll have a modern customs facility on both sides and the Ambassador Bridge doesn’t have the same land constraints that you have in Fort Erie and Buffalo.”

Last month, officials said Canada would pay to build a U.S. customs plaza on a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor while the U.S. finances its operations. The $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing span over the Detroit River is to be built two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge by 2020.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, supports the new agreement but called on the Obama administration to finish the long-delayed project to expand the customs plaza and ease congestion at the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, estimated at $165 million.

“In the interim, it should employ every means possible to facilitate the flow of commerce and trade with one of our greatest neighbors and allies, Canada, including using this new authority to ease congestion, starting with the Blue Water Bridge,” said Miller, who chairs of the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, also welcomed the agreement.

“Thousands of jobs in southeast Michigan depend on our trade and travel partnership with Canada,” Peters said Monday. “Today’s announcement will strengthen that relationship and bring new economic opportunities to both countries.”

How Michigan compares

Two Michigan ports lead the nation when ranked by the total value of goods traded with Canada.

1. Detroit, $133 billion

2. Port Huron, $86.1 billion

3. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y., $85.1 billion

4. Pembina, N.D., $27.9 billion

5. Champlain-Rouses Point, N.Y., $23.2 billion

Source: U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics

New $2.1 Billion Detroit-Windsor Bridge Promises Boon to U.S. Trade

Fiscal Times | Eric Pianin

Amid the gloom over the partisan deadlock in Washington over an infrastructure program and the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. and Canadian governments have quietly cut a deal on a new $2.1 billion bridge linking Detroit and Ontario designed to eliminate a massive bottleneck in the flow of goods between the two countries.

With more than $650 billion in goods exchanged each year between Canada and the United States, Canada represents this country’s largest trading partner, overshadowing China, Mexico and Japan. Nearly half of all goods that are transported between the two countries by truck each year – or roughly $131 billion worth – currently pass over the Ambassador Bridge or through an adjacent  tunnel.

The 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge is swamped by over 8,000 trucks daily. A combination of heightened border security and persistent traffic jams is creating a drag on potential growth in U.S. exports and imports along the Detroit-Windsor border. Some experts say construction of a new bridge would pave the way for a significant increase in trade in coming years.

“Among all the border crossings between Canada and the United States, Detroit is really the most emblematic of the infrastructure problems that need to be addressed,” Joseph Kane, a senior policy specialist on U.S. metropolitan areas, said in an interview on Monday. “There’s a huge scale of value really going across the border, and it’s not just a local issue where it’s just benefiting local workers and business establishments in Michigan itself.”

The U.S. State Department approved the bridge in 2013, but the project has been dogged for years by financial and legal problems and challenges from community residents.

The new bridge is to be constructed about two miles south of the  Ambassador Bridge, a privately owned suspension bridge that currently is the busiest international border crossing in North America in terms of trade volume. The project also will include construction of new highway interchanges in downtown Detroit and Windsor to handle more easily the crush of traffic. Officials have said they hope to open the bridge in 2020, although construction hasn’t started yet.

The deal was finally sealed after the Canadian government agreed recently to pick up the $250 million to $300 million cost of a customs plaza for the New International Trade Crossing on the U.S. side. The Department of Homeland Security says that a “public-private partnership” will use tolls to reimburse Canada for the plaza’s construction. In return, the U.S. will pay for the workers, operations and maintenance of the plaza in Detroit – with a first year cost of about $100 million.

Much of the $131 billion worth of cargo transported by truck between Detroit and Windsor annually is high-value transportation and electronic equipment that is destined for regions well beyond Detroit and Ontario.  By comparison, the next highest volume border crossing, in Buffalo, N.Y., handles about $151 billion of truck traffic a year, or one third of what is trucked across the Ambassador Bridge, according to data prepared by Brookings.

 

New $2.1 Billion Detroit-Windsor Bridge Promises Boon to U.S. Trade

Fiscal Times | Eric Pianin

Amid the gloom over the partisan deadlock in Washington over an infrastructure program and the Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. and Canadian governments have quietly cut a deal on a new $2.1 billion bridge linking Detroit and Ontario designed to eliminate a massive bottleneck in the flow of goods between the two countries.

With more than $650 billion in goods exchanged each year between Canada and the United States, Canada represents this country’s largest trading partner, overshadowing China, Mexico and Japan. Nearly half of all goods that are transported between the two countries by truck each year – or roughly $131 billion worth – currently pass over the Ambassador Bridge or through an adjacent  tunnel.

The 85-year-old Ambassador Bridge is swamped by over 8,000 trucks daily. A combination of heightened border security and persistent traffic jams is creating a drag on potential growth in U.S. exports and imports along the Detroit-Windsor border. Some experts say construction of a new bridge would pave the way for a significant increase in trade in coming years.

“Among all the border crossings between Canada and the United States, Detroit is really the most emblematic of the infrastructure problems that need to be addressed,” Joseph Kane, a senior policy specialist on U.S. metropolitan areas, said in an interview on Monday. “There’s a huge scale of value really going across the border, and it’s not just a local issue where it’s just benefiting local workers and business establishments in Michigan itself.”

The U.S. State Department approved the bridge in 2013, but the project has been dogged for years by financial and legal problems and challenges from community residents.

The new bridge is to be constructed about two miles south of the  Ambassador Bridge, a privately owned suspension bridge that currently is the busiest international border crossing in North America in terms of trade volume. The project also will include construction of new highway interchanges in downtown Detroit and Windsor to handle more easily the crush of traffic. Officials have said they hope to open the bridge in 2020, although construction hasn’t started yet.

The deal was finally sealed after the Canadian government agreed recently to pick up the $250 million to $300 million cost of a customs plaza for the New International Trade Crossing on the U.S. side. The Department of Homeland Security says that a “public-private partnership” will use tolls to reimburse Canada for the plaza’s construction. In return, the U.S. will pay for the workers, operations and maintenance of the plaza in Detroit – with a first year cost of about $100 million.

Much of the $131 billion worth of cargo transported by truck between Detroit and Windsor annually is high-value transportation and electronic equipment that is destined for regions well beyond Detroit and Ontario.  By comparison, the next highest volume border cro

U.S. appeals court upholds Detroit-Windsor bridge plan

David Shepardson
The Detroit News

A three-judge federal appeals court panel Friday upheld a decision by the Federal Highway Administration to select the Delray neighborhood of Detroit as the preferred location for a new international bridge crossing to Canada.

The decision upheld a 2012 ruling by U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn dismissing a lawsuit by the Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development, Citizens with Challenges, Detroit Association of Black Organizations and other community groups — along with the Detroit International Bridge Co., which owns the privately held Ambassador Bridge. The groups sued the Federal Highway Administration in 2010 over its decision to approve the bridge location in Delray.

“The record amply reflects that the (Federal Highway Administration’s) decision regarding (bridge) governance was a lengthy, reasoned process based on an objective analysis subject to public scrutiny throughout,” said the decision by Judge David Dowd of Ohio writing for the panel. The panel also rejected the contention the United States yielded to Canada’s opposition to adding a second span to the Ambassador Bridge, writing the U.S. did not “rubber stamp” the decision.

Opponents argued the FHA review and 2009 approval violated the National Environmental Protection Act, Administrative Procedures Act, principles of environmental justice and other federal laws.

The ruling is the latest setback to opponents challenging a new bridge crossing known as the New International Trade Crossing, which is slated to be two miles from the Ambassador Bridge.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a required permit for a publicly owned bridge from Detroit to Canada — clearing another key hurdle in the high-profile project. A federal judge in Washington, also earlier this month, rejected a legal motion to force the Coast Guard to issue a permit to Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun for his proposed six-lane span alongside the Ambassador Bridge.

Moroun’s bridge company has been fighting efforts by the state of Michigan and the Canadian government to build the bridge it insists will harm the Ambassador’s business. In court filings, the company argued it needs to build a second span across the Detroit River to handle traffic while it repairs the Ambassador so it can compete with the publicly financed bridge.

The Canadian government doesn’t expect to complete construction of the new bridge for at least another decade. The bridge could take even longer to finish because the Obama administration declined to propose $250 million for building a Detroit customs plaza in its annual budget plan — but Canada may opt to loan the money to the U.S. for the plaza. The Canadians plan to spend $2.1 billion buying land and for ramps and highway connections.

The appeals court noted the process to build a bridge began in 2001 with meetings between the United States and Canadian governments transportation agencies. In January 2004, a joint study concluded that for a number of reasons, including increasing traffic volume, economic security and national security concerns, additional border-crossing capacity, connectivity and redundancy was needed in the Detroit-Windsor area.

U.S. Appeals Court Chief Judge Alice Batchelder and Judge Danny Boggs joined the opinion. Boggs and Dowd were appointed by President Ronald Reagan, while Batchelder was named to the bench by President George W. Bush.

Unions back plan for new public bridge

Unions on both sides of the border support a new publicly owned international bridge and are surprised that UAW President Bob King might not.

“I am shocked,” said Canadian Auto Workers President Ken Lewenza, who was planning to call King on Friday for clarification. “Until I talk to Bob, I won’t believe it.”

Lewenza said the New International Trade Crossing “is the most significant infrastructure project in Canadian history. The CAW supports the bridge.”

Mike Jackson, executive secretary-treasurer of the 14,000-member Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, said Friday the new bridge “seemed like a no-brainer to us” and would put many of its members back to work.

“We believe it’s a game-changer, we really do,” he said.

King was expected to return from South Korea on Friday. But the UAW provided no updates on its stand as of Friday evening.

Lewenza and Jackson are among those who reacted to media reports Friday that the UAW and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun have discussed a deal that would have the billionaire donate to the Proposal 2 campaign, a labor-sponsored ballot initiative, in exchange for the UAW’s support for Proposal 6, which is designed to scuttle Gov. Rick Snyder’s plans for a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor.

Proposal 6 would require a statewide vote for Michigan to spend money on international crossings. And Proposal 2 would enshrine collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.

The People Should Decide, the Moroun-backed group pushing Proposal 6, said reports of an alliance were nothing but “rumors and speculation.” The statement from Mickey Blashfield, Moroun’s director of governmental affairs, did not deny the reports.

The UAW has not taken an official position on Proposal 6.

It’s unclear how much money would go into backing the UAW effort, how it would be spent or how effective UAW higher-ups could be in delivering votes for Moroun’s Proposal 6, if a deal was consummated.

Many key labor groups on both sides of the border support the proposed new public bridge because it could create up to 10,000 construction jobs.

The bridge’s labor supporters include the Michigan State AFL-CIO, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, Canadian Auto Workers, Utility Workers Union of America Local 223, International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 and Canadian Teamsters Local 879.

Jackson said Friday he had not spoken to King, but said the possibility of a UAW deal with Moroun was perplexing.

One contentious issue for the labor community has been where workers and materials will come from for the massive international project that would span two countries.

Some union activists have grumbled that Snyder approved a waiver allowing the bridge to be built with steel from Canada and the U.S. But Jackson said the carpenters group supports the measure.

“I think it’s fair,” he said. “I mean, Canada is putting up the initial money. I think it’s a little ridiculous to expect Canada to pay for it but not be able to use any Canadian steel.”

On the Canadian side, the CAW and the Canadian Automotive Partnership Council, a group of automakers, suppliers, unions, academics and politicians, have said the countries should use domestic content, employees and businesses.

Lewenza said bidding for contracts always creates controversy, but the bounty of work should be shared and balanced.

“The two sides should have a shared opportunity to supply steel and labor as part of the stimulus even though the Canadian government is fronting all the money,” Lewenza said. The Detroit Three automakers along with many major Michigan companies, including Meijer and Kellogg, also back the new bridge because it’s expected to make it easier to ship parts across the border.

Chrysler moves more than 1,300 parts shipments, 2,000 cars and trucks and logs more than 1,600 customs entries daily.

Billed as an enabler of future economic growth, the new bridge would offer direct freeway-to-freeway connections on both sides of the border.

That would eliminate massive traffic jams in Windsor along a stretch of many traffic lights between the Ambassador Bridge and Canada’s 401 highway.

Ford’s strong support of a new border crossing is unchanged, said spokesman Todd Nissen. The automaker opposes Proposal 6 and is neutral on Proposal 2.

“GM supports a New International Trade Crossing spanning the Detroit River,” GM spokesman Greg Martin said in a statement. “This initiative is necessary to ensure the region’s ongoing competitiveness and quick, reliable and cost-effective transportation.

Moroun family lies

The judge’s jailing order was hardly capricious or unexpected

By Curt Guyette

If you want to understand what the Moroun family values are, look no further than the statement issued by Matthew Moroun when his billionaire father, Manuel “Matty” Moroun, was jailed last week.

“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,” Moroun the younger declared.

And what can we take from that statement? Simply this: You cannot believe a word that comes from the mouths of these people.

Now, if you were to take Matthew Moroun’s statement at face value, you would believe that, out of nowhere, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards, on a sudden and inexplicable whim, ordered the elder Moroun and Detroit International Bridge Co. President Stamper into court and then, without provocation or forewarning, had them hauled away to the hoosegow.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The jailing of Moroun has been a long time coming, and the stable of lawyers working on behalf of him and his company had ample time to prepare a defense for their client.

How do we know this? Because, as they like to say in court, there is documented evidence showing what is true, and what is not.

And the truth in this instance is that, on Nov. 3, 2011, Edwards issued an opinion and order saying, in effect, that the people calling the shots for the Detroit International Bridge Co. — which owns the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit and Windsor — had spent the past two years willfully violating an explicit court order.

That order involves the bridge company’s share of the $230 million Gateway Project, a public-private venture the DIBC and Michigan Department of Transportation entered into back in April 2004.

The goal of the project, which was partly funded with federal dollars, was to improve freeway connections to the Ambassador Bridge. The people of southwest Detroit supported the project because part of the deal included the construction of a roadway that would keep bridge truck traffic off local surface streets.

According to the contract signed with the state, it fell on the DIBC to construct that part of the project. The problem is that the company unilaterally changed the plan. In part, it constructed a towering approach ramp to a hoped-for new bridge — a bridge, we should point out, that has received approval from neither the United States nor Canadian governments. And that ramp to nowhere, referred to in court documents as Pier 19, stands in the way of the roadway the bridge company is contractually obligated to build.

There’s also the matter of a lucrative duty-free shop and diesel pumps that are also in conflict with the original design. There’s another problem as well: At least some of that construction covers a section of 23rd Street, and the city of Detroit never gave the company legal authority to commandeer that public right of way. (That matter, too, is the subject of a separate long-running court battle.)

So, instead of being completed by 2008 as was originally planned, the project has been tied up in court for nearly three years.

In June 2009, MDOT sued the bridge company, asking that it complete its share of the project. The company since then has been arguing that there is no actual concrete plan showing exactly what it is that it’s contractually obligated to do.

In February 2010, Edwards rejected that argument, telling the company that it’s clear what its share of the project is, and that it had to do the job.

After a year of inaction on the part of the company, Edwards sent what should have been a clear message that he wasn’t fooling around with this and ordered Stamper to jail.

The company responded by immediately beginning some cosmetic work that made it appear that it was finally willing to abide by the court’s order, and Stamper was released after a few hours.

Then, according to MDOT, the company went back to ignoring the court’s order to complete the project as agreed to.

And so, in November, Edwards’ patience — which through hearing after repetitious hearing appeared to News Hits to be nothing short of remarkable — finally reached a breaking point.

We offer this detailed history so that people understand Matthew Moroun’s claim that Edwards somehow caught his father off guard, and that due process was wrongfully denied, is a lie that’s so outrageous that it is both laughable and contemptible.

In his Nov. 3 decision ordering Stamper and Moroun to appear in court last week, Edwards points out that in civil cases such as this, when one of the parties refuses to abide by the court’s order, “imprisonment may be imposed” until the order is carried out, or those in prison are no longer in a position to see that it is adhered to.

That, by the way, is why both Matty and Stamper hastily submitted resignations from the DIBC’s board of directors. It was a bit of flimflam that Edwards didn’t swallow.

What can be lost in all this are the human consequences found in the bridge company’s adamant refusal to abide by the contract it signed, instead looking out for its own financial well-being.

When the people of southwest Detroit agreed to support the Gateway Project, it wasn’t because they relished the idea of a massive new truck plaza in their back yard. Instead, they said, they were willing to accept that in return for the promise that thousands of trucks rolling down their streets, and making their lives miserable, would be removed as a daily nuisance.

That is why some people sitting in the courtroom applauded when Edwards said Moroun and Stamper would be going to jail.

Or at least part of the reason.

Because the frustration experienced by the residents of southwest Detroit isn’t due just to the Gateway Project fiasco. It is born of decades of dealing with a company that repeatedly acts as if it were above the law and beholden to nothing but its own bottom line.

That is why a group of area residents took the law into their own hands and tore down a fence the bridge company had illegally erected in Riverside Park, commandeering a piece of public property that it wanted to use in order to build that hoped-for second bridge.

Although one judge had already ruled that the company was obligated to remove the fence, the DIBC did what it is so adept at: it stalled by tying the matter up in yet another court.

The same sort of anger and frustration were on display late last year when area residents, joined by supporters of the Occupy movement, marched en masse on the Ambassador, briefly shutting it down.

That’s what happens when government and the courts don’t enforce the law. Denied justice, people will take it upon themselves to set things right.

It is difficult to imagine a family more politically powerful than the Morouns. Single-handedly, they were able to buy off enough of the state Legislature to forestall approval of a publicly owned bridge that would threaten the virtual monopoly they now enjoy.

It takes real guts to stare that sort of power in the face, and then put it in its rightful place. And in this case, that place should be behind bars, because Moroun and Stamper are the public face of an outlaw company.

The pair has won a reprieve, with a three-member panel of the state Court of Appeals ordering the two men released pending their appeal of Edwards’ order.

After Edwards decided that jail was needed to “coerce” Moroun and Stamper into making sure the DIBC fulfills its obligation to complete the Gateway Project as designed, more than a few people pointed to the jailing of a billionaire as proof that no one is above the law, no matter how wealthy and powerful they might be.

But with the two men gaining their release after spending just one night behind bars — having chowed down on a specially catered meal provided by the swank Detroit Athletic Club instead of the standard jail fare — we remain skeptical.

This much is clear, though: When it comes to the Gateway Project, real justice has yet to arrive for the beleaguered residents of southwest Detroit in particular, and taxpayers in general. It won’t be achieved until the project is completed as designed.

If attaining that goal means putting Moroun and Stamper back in jail, then we can only hope that other judges have the same sort of integrity and fortitude Prentis Edwards displayed last week.

Windsor-Essex Parkway will not be road to nowhere, politicians vow

But highway will have ramp to Ambassador Bridge

By Dave Battagello, The Windsor Star

WINDSOR, Ont. — Politicians vowed Thursday during groundbreaking for the $1.4-billion Windsor-Essex Parkway that it will not be a “road to nowhere” and will eventually lead to a second Detroit River bridge.

But just in case, there will be a ramp off the parkway near E.C. Row Expressway so trucks can reach the Ambassador Bridge via Huron Church Road.

“If you look at the road, you travel two-thirds of the (distance), then have a ramp to the Ambassador Bridge,” said Michael Hatchell, technical director for the Windsor Essex Mobility Group, the consortium formed to build and maintain the massive road project.

“That will always be there. As it turns toward the new crossing there will be a ramp … that can access the Ambassador Bridge.”

The proposed DRIC bridge that would link Brighton Beach with Delray in Michigan has yet to receive the state’s approval.

Billionaire bridge owner Matty Moroun, who is proposing a twin span for his bridge, has continued his bitter fight to kill the competing DRIC project.

“We are building,” said Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan (L – Windsor-Tecumseh). “Mr. Moroun is simply trying to protect a monopoly and we are prepared for the fight.”

MPP Sandra Pupatello (L-Windsor West) said she hopes Michigan lawmakers who vote later this year on the DRIC bridge’s fate are paying close attention to the economic benefit the parkway will bring to Windsor and Ontario.

“We need the jobs and economic boost this is going to give us,” she said. “Of all the states in the U.S. that need this, it’s Michigan. We have to allow them to go through their own process, but we know our economy needs this infrastructure.”

Ross Clarke, a leader of the former Mich-Can bridge proposal which sought to build in the same corridor as the DRIC bridge, believes the downriver bridge will be built despite Moroun’s lobbying.

“Eventually, (the DRIC bridge) has to get done to improve Canada getting goods into market in the U.S.,” Clarke said. “The new bridge will end up right where we first proposed it starting 15 years ago.

“We need two facilities. The momentum is there now and we need more bridges. Michigan will eventually be on board with it.”

The parkway groundbreaking symbolized a giant step forward for Windsor’s economy and the nation’s trade, said politicians and project leaders at the ceremony.

After a half-dozen years of debate and more than 300 community meetings, construction for the 11-kilometre highway goes into full swing starting this weekend.

The one-of-a-kind highway will feature 11 tunnels that will cover 1.8 kilometres of the below-grade road and include 300 acres of green space. It is expected to create about 12,000 direct and indirect jobs.

Critics have described the project as a “road to nowhere” because the DRIC bridge has not been approved.

“It is not the road to nowhere,” Duncan said. “It is the road to the future for our city and no one is going to stop this.”

Mayor Eddie Francis applauded the community’s effort to fight for the best environmental solution possible to get tractor-trailers off local roads.

“This is a solution that gets trucks off our streets and will improve our quality of life,” he said.

Added Essex County Warden Tom Bain: “It’s taken a long time to get here, but it’s been well worth it now that we are here.”

The first stages of construction will see demolition and reconstruction of the North Talbot Road bridge over Highway 401; a new Howard Avenue-Highway 401-Highway 3 connection; and road building next to E.C. Row Expressway between Malden Road and Matchette Road.

Construction is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015.

“Today, it is very exciting because it’s the beginning of the job,” said Ignacio Lasa, the Spanish CEO of the Windsor Essex Mobility Group. “We are not only here for construction, but also ongoing maintenance, so that means 33 years.

“We believe this project will define the community into the future. We want this project to improve the quality of life for the community. And we want the community to be proud of our work.”

In all, 3.9 million cubic metres of earth will be excavated during construction – enough to fill the Rogers Centre in Toronto 2½ times.

The biggest headache for Windsorites will be 5,600 piles that have to be pounded into the ground, a consequence of the dozens of bridges and tunnels that will be constructed.

Coun. Drew Dilkens represents neighbourhoods near ground zero where construction will occur and expects his phone will be ringing with complaints.

“People need to know there are outlets to give them a chance to express concerns,” he said. “This is the type of project where there will be some pain and be disruptive, but we have to live through this in order to get to the other side where life will be better for everyone in the region.

“This will be a legacy project that will make the community proud when it’s done.”

Citizens clean up trash from property owned by Slumlord Billionaire (Manuel ‘Matty’ Moroun)

 

“Matty Moroun is a billionaire slumlord who owns countless unsafe, unoccupied and dilapidated properties throughout Detroit, which discourage jobs and investments from coming to Michigan,” said JoMeca Thomas, spokeswoman for the Good Jobs Now coalition. (Photo by Good Jobs Now)

DETROIT – Citizens today cleaned up the land around one of many vacant Detroit properties owned by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun — then attempted to drop the garbage from that and five of his other properties off at his office. But security for the building, as well as officers from the Warren Police Department, stood guard to prevent the garbage from being delivered.

Thanks to the hard work of volunteers who have cut grass, cleared brush and picked up litter — and no thanks to Moroun — six of Moroun’s more than 400 vacant properties have been cleaned up recently, with more to come in the days and weeks ahead. The trash hauled Friday from those sites was enough to fill a 24-foot U-HAUL truck. A makeshift “Matty” was presented with a bill for the clean-up services, along with job applications to show that the trash removal could have provided work for Detroiters.

“Matty Moroun is a billionaire slumlord who owns countless unsafe, unoccupied and dilapidated properties throughout Detroit, which discourage jobs and investments from coming to Michigan,” said JoMeca Thomas, spokeswoman for the Good Jobs Now coalition, which helped organize the cleanup. “Instead of allowing slumlords like Matty Moroun to turn our cities into symbols of disrepair and despair, we should be rebuilding them.”

Today’s cleanup took place at 8172 Kenney St. in Detroit. The Kenney site and other Moroun vacant properties are featured on “Matty Moroun’s Parade of Slums,” which can be found at www.mattymoroun.com.

“We hope that by cleaning up some of Matty Moroun’s properties, he will take the hint and start using his considerable wealth to improve Detroit’s neighborhoods, instead of leaving them in shambles,” cleanup volunteer Linda Dennis-Goss said. “It’s unfortunate that he’s not willing to take out his own trash, however.”

A Moroun spokesman told the Detroit News in an article published today that Moroun’s real estate holdings company has begun an “aggressive and specific initiative” to deal with the slums, including hiring people to inspect the residential properties.

Morris offers new bogus poll numbers

Ambassador Bridge-Paid Poll Finds 48% Back Second Span

MIRS News

Close to 48 percent of Michigan voters would rather see the Ambassador Bridge build a second span over the Detroit River as opposed to the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) based on polling released today by Dick MORRIS, the Bridge’s hired gun.

The survey of 504 Michigan residents conducted over the past weekend was quickly thrashed by NITC supporters as a “13-question push poll” for stating as fact statements that Canadian and Michigan officials say are grossly inaccurate.

But Morris said he believes he “goes out of his way” to give supporters good wording on certain parts of the polls. The results, he said, are proof that the Ambassador Bridge’s television ads are working and that the public has decided overwhelming to oppose the bridge.

Morris wouldn’t go into the amount of money the Ambassador Bridge has spent on television ads, but did say they were running across the country in February and have been running statewide in recent weeks.

Exactly 47.8 percent said they would support a “privately owned extra span on the Ambassador Bridge. Another 30.2 percent said the backed a “new bridge owned by Canada and Michigan.”

“The public has decided overwhelming to oppose (the NITC). When you have something of this magnitude, where it approaches two-to-one, it’s a massive public rejection,” Morris said.

Asked if he felt the questions were 100 percent accurate, Morris said, “I think they are accurately descriptive of the point of view of each side.”

Tom SHIELDS of the Marketing Resource Group said the Morris 13-question “push poll” continues to “test the lies” told by the Ambassador Bridge folks.

“The questions that are accurate are the gender and party voting behavior questions,” he said. “Repeating the lies do not make them true. There are no Michigan taxpayer dollars being used for the construction of this bridge no matter how many times and how much money the Ambassador Bridge spends to repeat it.”

Reporters quizzed Morris about the poll’s wording starting with Question No. 2, which reads: “There are discussions now of building a new bridge to connect Canada and Michigan near Detroit. One proposal is for a new bridge paid for by the Canadian and Michigan governments. The other is for an additional privately owned span on the Ambassador Bridge entirely financed by private money. Which would you prefer . . . ?”

During today’s press availability on the poll inside the Governor’s Room at Karoub Associates, reporters questioned whether Michigan taxpayers would ever be in position to pay nothing. Legislation designed to create the public/private partnership needed to set up the managing authority for the bridge specifically relieves the state from being on the hook for one cent.

“It’s factually wrong,” said one reporter covering the event about some of the poll’s language.

“If you say so,” Morris said. “My understanding is different.”

Question 13 asks, “Supporters of the government bridge have proposed paying 10 percent of the cost of the bridge to the Detroit community, where the bridge will be built to provide golf courses, swimming pools and community centers. In view of this, would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose building the government bridge.

Reporters asked where Morris got this information. He said all of the aforementioned projects have been part of past community benefits projects. If NITC proponents want to take golf courses, swimming pools and community centers out of the equation “that’s fine,” but prior proposals have included such projects, Morris said.

NITC supporters have commissioned two polls on their project, including one asked by Bill BALLENGER for Inside Michigan Politics. That poll showed 66 percent support for the NITC as opposed to 23 against, Shields said.

A February statewide poll done by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce one week after the Governor’s State of the State address, showed that 89 percent of the respondents say they support the plan to build a new bridge to supplement the 81-year-old Ambassador Bridge. Nearly 70 percent (69) said they strongly favor it.

The poll question explained to voters that it would be built at no cost to Michigan taxpayers and that $2 billion in matching federal funds would be used for road construction and maintenance statewide

Ohio Senate to Michigan Senate Regarding DRIC

Michigan House Bill 4961

June 1, 2010

Chairman Gilbert, Members of the Michigan Transportation Committee, I am writing in support of House Bill 4961 which would allow Michigan to enter into a public-private agreement and further allow them to begin construction on the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) between the United States and Canada.

The importance of Canada’s relationship with the US and nearly every state including Ohio is critical.  One can speak of culture or tourism or the value of a friendly border neighbor, but the real driver of the relationship is commerce and trade. Canada is the largest foreign trade partner for the United States. In addition, Canada is Ohio’s top export markets with bilateral trade amounting to $35.8 billion for 2008. An estimated 267,500 jobs in Ohio are supported by United States-Canada Trade and Canadians made more than 605,300 visits to Ohio during 2008 spending more that $138 million.

A critical tool in this Ohio/ Canadian trade exchange is the international boarder crossing at Detroit/Windsor.  Between the existing tunnel and the Ambassador Bridge, this crossing is the busiest international border crossing in the world.  The present bridge was built in 1929 and in recent years has been a point of delay especially for trucks crossing the bridge.  These delays have curtailed commerce and have made goods on both sides of the border less attractive to companies of the other side.

Approximately 54% of United States-Canada trade moves by truck and about half of the truck use the Detroit and Port Huron Border Crossings. These statistics not only show the important trade relationship between Ohio and Canada, but also the importance of the new Detroit River International Crossing.

The Ohio Senate recently passed Senate Resolution 223 to support the construction of the new Detroit River International Crossing between the United States and Canada.

As the resolution states, “Plans are underway to build an additional border crossing system over the Detroit River, known as the Detroit River International Crossing.” Since the State of Michigan needs legislative authority to enter into a public-private partnership and enter into an agreement with Canada to build this border crossing, Senate Resolution 223 urges the Michigan Legislature to act swiftly to authorize the DRIC and assure that the United States can continue to efficiently and safely move people and goods across our border.

As a member of the US-Canada Relations Committee for Midwest CSG, I have had the opportunity over the past several months to travel to several regions of Canada and discuss new ways for leaders in the Midwest states and Canada to join together to create jobs, attract business investment and grow our local economies. Construction of the DRIC is critical to this effort.

Thank you for allowing me to offer proponent testimony for Michigan House Bill 4961.

Steve Buehrer

Ohio State Senator

1st District