Why Matty Moroun and Marion Barry Have So Much in Common

Deadline Detroit

Allan Lengel

Back in 2004, Marion Barry was campaigning for D.C. city council when he ran into a woman in a rough Southeast Washington neighborhood.

The woman, according to the Washington Post, complained to Barry:

“We are homeowners. Right here. So I want you to represent homeowners! There are drugs on this block!… We got cars right here that have been burned up. Abandoned buildings where people go to have sex. I paid a lot of money to live in this building!”

Instead of saying, “that’s why I’m running, I want to fix these problems,” a clueless Barry responded: “Okay, baby. But don’t blame me. I didn’t do it.”

That little exchange came to mind the other day after watching Fox2’s Charlie LeDuff interview with Ambassador Bridge Owner Matty Moroun. Moroun won’t step up to the plate. And like Marion Barry, he’s fond of shunning responsibility.

LeDuff said to Moroun: “You know what’s funny, you remind me of a Dickens character — the kid in rags who comes up to be the richest man in the country maybe and you go to jail and lots of people are happy because they call you a devil, that you own ghettos, that you won’t fix that train station, that you’re selfish, it’s about Matty Moroun and let him rot in hell.”

Mouron responded: “That’s the propaganda. The truth is there’s a hundred buildings like me in Detroit, like the train station, that are empty.  I’ve got one of the hundred and I’m getting vilified. Not because of the train station, that’s a ruse. It’s because Canada wants to own the bridge. They can’t build another one. It will not work.

Moroun doesn’t get it. He’s a billionaire. He’s not like all the other owners. And no, his building is not like any other. It’s an icon. It’s the convenient backdrop for endless photos and videos of people trying to show the decay of Detroit.

The billionaire could have put that $33 million in ads — most of which were deceptive — to revive one of the biggest eyesores in the city, and one of the potentially coolest buildings. Think of the possibilities. A flea market. A produce market. A self-contained Asian Town chock full of restaurants and shops. A residential/commercial development. Corktown is ready for it.

But nooo. Moroun wants to be loved. And he wants everyone to love him through his hollow words.

“Our country in my book always came first, in my trucking, in the bridge, anything that I have, I love my country first,” he told LeDuff. “It gives me the opportunities.  Otherwise, I would never have them.”

Really.

If anything, it would be better for Moroun to spend the next $33 million on a reality coach — someone who can convince him that he’s nothing more than a self-absorbed figure who could care less about the city.

And if that doesn’t help him connect with reality, well, then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell him.