Matty Moroun played rough on bridge issue, but can we really blame him for NITC’s defeat?

By Jeff T. Wattrick |

Toronto Star columnist David Olive pulled no punches blaming Matty Moroun’s “disinformation” campaign for the New International Trade Crossing’s legislative defeat in Lansing.

Oct. 21, Toronto Star: There really is a troll under the Ambassador Bridge spanning the Detroit River at one of the world’s most congested transit points. His name is Manuel “Matty” Moroun. It’s a name worth remembering as symbolic of what’s toxic about America’s political culture.

A second crossing, by the reckoning of Michigan political and business leaders, would kick-start economic recovery in one of America’s states hardest hit by the global recession.

Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, regards a second crossing as “critically important” to his vision of a rejuvenated Detroit as a major hub of international trade. The influx of Canadian tourists alone, no longer dissuaded by the notorious Ambassador Bridge bottleneck, could boost Michigan’s GDP by some 10 per cent. It’s all good, as the kids say.

I don’t think “the kids” have said “it’s all good” since about 1997, but there’s no question the Moroun machine thoroughly obfuscated the issue with all manner of tricks and gimmicks. From straw man arguments debunking about mythical promises of $2 billion “lump sum” payments to their laughably disingenuous claim that the Ambassador Bridge is “Pure Private, Pure Michigan,” they left it all on the court.

That said, it’s a little hard to blame Matty Moroun or his pets (i.e. Americans for Prosperity and Dick Morris) for the NITC’s defeat. Though Team Moroun had a never-ending stream of arguments against the NITC, each one was weaker than the last. Pure Michigan, Pure Private> Last time I checked the largesse of the Michigan taxpayer funded the Gateway Project.

If anyone was fooled by the anti-NITC playbook they’re either Moroun’s kept legislators (and let’s not be too outraged over that, he’s not the only big wheel with lawmaker or two in his pocket) or fools. More and more, I’m convinced it’s the latter.

After all, Lansing walked through this process twice and both times failed to even bring NITC—a plan crafted by a bi-national process and supported by the Big Three, Amway, the UAW, Dave Bing, Brooks Patterson, Rick Snyder, Jennifer Granholm, John Engler, Jim Blanchard, and William Milliken, as well as the Republican-majority Ohio state Senate—to a legislative floor vote.

In the end the fault doesn’t lie with the Morouns, but with voters who stock the legislature and other elected offices with the sort of third-rate morons who believe a privately-owned international bridge receiving a $230 million government subsidy is wholesome American free enterprise while another privately-operated/publicly-owned international bridge is a socialist scheme designed in hell by Alger Hiss and Pol Pot.

My personal favorite exercise in NITC fecklessness was state Rep. Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser) and her Buck Turgidson routine after a Chamber of Commerce town hall in July: “I was pleased to participate in this tonight, but for me personally, I still need to hear the other side of the proposal from the Ambassador folks before I can make a decision.”

The border crossing issue has been on the front burner for almost a decade. The only plausible reason a duly elected member of the state House of Representatives hadn’t yet heard “the other side” can only be attributed to her own willful ignorance and/or incompetence.

The NITC is done for now. So be it. But if you believed this bridge was vitally important to Michigan’s economic future, don’t waste time blaming Moroun for making an obvious play. Blame voters for not electing a better class of legislator.

The Marilyn Lanes of the world just don’t cut it.