Ballot Box: Proposal 6 is flagrant attempt to manipulate Constitution, thwart Michigan’s recovery

By Sandy K. Baruah

The misinformation campaign in support of Proposal 6 has been historic. Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun is running a price check on Michigan’s constitution. The tens of millions he has committed–a record $31 million or more–is fueling a massive blitz intended to confuse and mislead voters into protecting his monopoly on truck traffic between Detroit and Windsor.

With the election just days away, it’s time to push aside the flood of misleading commercials and call Proposal 6 what it is. Proposal 6 is one special interest spending whatever it takes to hijack Michigan’s constitution under the guise of protecting voter sovereignty. Proposal 6 is bad public policy that undermines Michigan’s constitution and will jeopardize Detroit and Michigan’s fragile economic recovery. Voters across Detroit and Michigan need to protect their constitution and support Michigan’s future with a “No” vote on Proposal 6.

This potentially disastrous proposal manipulates the intent of the Michigan Constitution. As the state’s governing document, the constitution is designed to lay the framework for the principles by which our state government serves our citizens. It is intended to serve as the foundation from which governance emanates. Under no circumstances is the constitution intended to be amended on the whims of powerful special interests as is being threatened through Proposal 6. While amendments to the constitution serve an important purpose, they should be approached with caution and only utilized when absolutely necessary. Careless rewriting of the constitution will only lead to poor public policy that does a disservice to citizens and businesses throughout the state.

Legal experts have analyzed the flawed language in Proposal 6 and have determined it could require a statewide and local vote for any bridge, tunnel or overpass built in Michigan after January 1, 2013. Our state could essentially be forced to wait until the next election before being able to build a bridge anywhere in the state. This could potentially force communities that need key infrastructure improvements to wait while the cumbersome and expensive electoral process runs its course.

Proposal 6 could also thwart Michigan’s economic recovery by impeding crucial infrastructure projects like the New International Trade Crossing and Detroit rail tunnel that are poised to create thousands of jobs and millions in investment. Sharing a border with Canada is one of Detroit’s most important economic assets. It positions our region to be a major player in the global economy because Canada is Michigan’s largest trading partner with more than $70.2 billion in trade in 2011. In fact, more than 237,000 Michigan jobs depend on Canada-Michigan trade–1 in 8 jobs in Southeast Michigan alone. Keeping this trade relationship robust is crucial to our economic success.

With truck traffic projected to increase by 128 percent over the next 30 years, Michigan’s current infrastructure is not equipped to accommodate the growing demands of international trade. Over 8,000 trucks cross the Detroit-Canada border daily and 99 percent of those cross the 83-year-old Ambassador Bridge, which has no direct freeway-to-freeway access. Traffic is forced to travel 7 miles on a commercial street with 17 stoplights to reach Highway 401.

In the global market, minutes of delay cost businesses millions of dollars, particularly for the auto industry which depends on just-in time delivery. These frequent delays caused by traffic jams on the Canadian side of the current bridge significantly hinder economic expansion and businesses’ ability to compete. Failure to improve the flow of trade through key infrastructure projects will drive much needed investment elsewhere.

Let’s set the record straight. Proposal 6 is the product of a billionaire’s effort to protect his monopoly over the best interest of an entire state. It is a flagrant attempt to rewrite the constitution and dupe Michigan voters to benefit one special interest. While Proposal 6 may benefit Matty Moroun, it’s bad public policy and bad economics for Detroit and Michigan. Proposal 6 threatens Michigan’s economic recovery and the future of our state. It deserves your vote of “No” on November 6.

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Sandy K. Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Baruah joined the Chamber in 2010 after a career in Washington, D.C. He served as President George W. Bush’s last Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Prior to leading the SBA, Baruah served as U.S. assistant secretary of commerce.