Moroun Continues to Abuse the Legal System

State of Michigan seeking quick dismissal of latest Moroun suit

John Gallagher , Detroit Free PressPublished 10:29 a.m. ET Jan. 31, 2017 | Updated 3 hours ago

The State of Michigan is seeking an expedited ruling to quash the latest attempt by businessman Manuel (Matty) Moroun to delay or block construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge project.

The dispute in the Michigan Court of Claims in Lansing stems from the attempt by the Michigan Department of Transportation to use its eminent domain powers to take some Moroun-owned land in southwest Detroit’s Delray district for the Gordie Howe Bridge project. Late last year, MDOT made what it described as a good-faith offer of $11,520,000 for the Moroun-owned land on West Jefferson Avenue in a filing in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Besides opposing that action in Wayne County, Moroun filed suit in the Court of Claims, where actions against the state are brought, seeking a ruling that Gov. Rick Snyder lacked the authority to negotiate a deal with Canada to build the bridge. As Moroun attorney Mike Cox, the former state attorney general, said when filing the Moroun action, “We say any bridge that is going to be built has to follow the law.”

In its response filed Monday, the state argued that a quick dismissal of Moroun’s Court of Claims suit was needed “to prevent Mr. Manuel Moroun from doing what he has done so often in recent years — misusing the legal process to delay the Gordie Howe International Bridge and preserve his monopoly on cross-border bridge traffic between Detroit and Windsor.”

Moroun and his family own and operate the privately held Ambassador Bridge, the venue for an enormous amount of cross-border trade and traffic. The family has fought the publicly owned Gordie Howe Bridge project tenaciously for years because the  new bridge is likely to siphon off a significant amount of trade and traffic, and the profits that come with them, from the Ambassador Bridge.

As the state’s filing Monday noted, Moroun has filed multiple lawsuits over the years in courts in Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Canada seeking to block the Gordie Howe Bridge. So far, he has lost on all major points and the bridge project is proceeding.

Recently the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority issued its request for bids to three teams of finalists vying to get the contract to build and operate the span. The authority is expected to name a winning team in 2018, followed by construction, with the new bridge opening around 2022.

Six Moroun-owned companies — Crown Enterprises, DIBDetroit, Riverview-Trenton Railroad, Central Transport, CE Detroit and the Detroit International Bridge Co. —  filed the lawsuit on Dec. 29 in Michigan Court of Claims against Snyder, MDOT and the Michigan Strategic Fund. The lawsuit argues that the state is improperly seeking to use eminent domain to take property from the companies because the state constitution gives the Legislature — not the governor — the authority to build international bridges.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or gallagher@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.

http://www.freep.com/story/money/business/michigan/2017/01/31/moroun-bridge-michigan-lawsuit/97254572/

U.S. needs to step up on Detroit-Windsor bridge project: Gov.

OTTAWA – Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday the U.S. “needs to do a better job” on the Detroit-Windsor bridge, a project that’s been in the works for more than a decade.

Proposed back in 2002, the bridge is needed to facilitate trade between the U.S. and Canada – the largest trading partners in the world – but that’s been mired in controversy and setbacks since the beginning.

Snyder was joined by Transport Minister Lisa Raitt Wednesday for the joint announcement of a review panel, appointed to oversee all phases of the bridge construction.

Canada is funding most of the $1 billion project, with Washington only on the hook for the construction of a customs plaza on the U.S. side of the bridge.

That funding – $250 million – was thrown in doubt several months ago when Washington indicated it may not have the money.

Snyder thanked Canada for its generosity in the deal and described the U.S. position on the bridge – that it needs the bridge but doesn’t want to pay for it – as irrational.

“To be blunt, I think the U.S. federal government needs to do a better job,” Snyder told reporters.

Trade between the state of Michigan and Canada stands at roughly $75 billion a year, “far more than any other country,” Snyder said.

Raitt told reporters “our government won’t let financing disagreements get in the way of constructions timelines.”

Originally posted by: Toronto Sun

Snyder, Canadian transportation minister vow new bridge will be built

Canada’s top transportation minister vowed today that construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor won’t be stopped by a dispute with the U.S. federal government over paying for a new customs plaza on the Detroit side.

The U.S. government so far has failed to commit to funding the U. S. Customs plaza for the New International Trade Crossing bridge between Detroit and Windsor, set to open in 2020. Failing to agree to pay for the roughly $250-million facility where incoming trucks would be inspected by U.S. Customs workers has been a sore point in the ongoing bridge saga.

At a news conference this morning to announce the members of two bodies that will build and oversee the bridge project, Canadian Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said that the dispute over paying for the plaza on the Detroit end of the new bridge will be resolved.

“Our government won’t let financing disagreements get in the way of construction time lines,” Raitt, flanked by Gov. Rick Snyder, said. “We are going to be building a bridge, and we are going to stick to our time lines. … It’s time to get the work done and financing arrangements in our point of view will not hold up our construction time lines.”

At the news conference, Raitt and Snyder announced the appointments to the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, a Canadian entity that will build the span, and to the joint International Authority, which will oversee the project.

The WDBA will hire a private contractor or team of contractors to perform the actual construction work. The International Authority will settle disputes on procurement of materials and hiring of workers, tasks that are supposed to be split equally between Canadian and U.S. firms and workers.

The three Michigan representatives appointed by Snyder to the six-member International Authority were Michael Hayes, president and CEO of the Midland Center for the Arts and a former vice president with Dow Chemical; Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of the Right Place, a West Michigan economic development agency; and Matt Rizik, the chief tax officer of Rock Ventures and a former longtime partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Snyder, echoing his earlier comments on the matter of the customs plaza funding , chided the U.S. federal government for its failure to commit to funding the facility.

“That’s something I’m going to continue to have strong and ongoing dialogue with the United States government,” he told the news conference on the Canadian waterfront. “The government of Canada has been fabulous. To be blunt, I think the U.S. federal government needs to do a better job.” To the extent that the U.S. government doesn’t want to pay for its own facility, Snyder said, “I don’t believe that’s a rational position to take, and I think it’s something that’s inappropriate.”

But both Raitt and Snyder emphasized the positive today. Snyder noted that the bridge project has received multiple permits and approvals in the past year, and the appointments announced today will allow the project to move ahead even faster.

“We’re on a time line to get this bridge built,” Snyder said.

The bridge project, known as the New International Trade Crossing in Michigan and as the Detroit River International Crossing in Canada, will cost about $950 million. Because Michigan legislators have blocked any state funding for the project, Canadian is fronting all the costs except for the customs plaza and will be paid back through future tolls.

Some observers have suggested that Canada might even pay upfront for the customs plaza, too, and be repaid through tolls, but Michigan officials, both within the Snyder administration and among the state’s congressional delegation, are working hard to convince U.S. officials to pay for the customs plaza.

They see it as a matter of fairness for the U.S. to pay for its own facility. And they worry that if Canada has to pay even for a U.S. customs plaza, negotiating with Canada over other issues will become more difficult.

With a planned opening in 2020, the new bridge project remains in the early stages of planning and organization. The first visible signs that something is happening may occur later this year as the Michigan Department of Transportation, using Canadian money advanced for the project, begins buying up the hundreds of parcels in southwest Detroit’s Delray district needed for the bridge approaches and customs plaza.

Originally posted by John Gallagher in the Detroit Free Press

Nurturing Michigan’s Most Important Relationship

By Roy Norton

On Oct. 7, Governor Snyder made his third official visit to Ontario in as many years. This shouldn’t be newsworthy; after all, Ontario is at the other end of the bridges and tunnels at Sault Ste. Marie, Port Huron, and Detroit. More than five million Michiganders and Ontarians make that crossing every year.

What’s remarkable about the Governor’s visit is that when he went to Toronto with a business delegation in November, 2012, it was the first time a Michigan Governor had called on the Premier of Ontario in six years. Ontario is Michigan’s best customer in the world. By a long shot. A few data points underscore that fact:

  • More than a third (37% in fact) of Michigan’s exports to the world are to Ontario (46% are to Canada)
  • Michigan sells more to Ontario than to its next seven most important customers put together (those are Mexico, China, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, South Korea, and Australia)
  • Meaning the 13.5 million people of Ontario buy more Michigan-produced goods and services than the 1.8 billion people of Michigan’s second-through eighth next-best customers put together

Is it any wonder that Michigan’s leadership would want to pay particular attention to Ontario?

Michigan’s interest in Ontario is being reciprocated. Premier Wynne participated in the Council of Great Lakes Governors (CGLG) ‘Annual’ Meeting on Mackinac Island in early June this year. That was the first official visit by an Ontario Premier to the province’s best customer since 2005. For that matter, it was the first time the CGLG had met in eight years! Why only in 2013 – and why in Michigan? Probably because Michigan’s Governor became co-chair of the CGLG in January – and seems to have resolved that since the CGLG exists to bring regional decision-makers together to address and resolve issues of shared importance, it was high-time that Governors and Premiers meet to do the work they’re supposed to be doing. Several important Resolutions – pertaining to Great Lakes management and to eliminating barriers to trade within the region – were passed at that meeting (see:http://www.cglg.org/Docs/6-1-13%20Leadership%20Summit%20Press%20Release.pdf).

This kind of contact matters – and not just in economic terms. Michigan ‘owns’ 31.7% of the total Great Lakes frontage, Ontario 49.5%. Meaning the two jurisdictions, together, ‘control’ more than 80% of all of the acreage fronting directly on the five Great Lakes. So when the leaders of Michigan and Ontario get together to discuss protecting the Lakes against invasive species – and other relevant issues – as they did in Toronto in October, their views not only matter, but are predominant in encouraging national governments (and other states) to embrace new, technologically implementable, standards.

On infrastructure and transportation issues – like forward planning for the New International Trade Crossing, the importance and desirability of a new double-stack rail tunnel connecting Detroit and Windsor, and the possibility of a high speed (or at least ‘higher speed’) passenger rail connection between Chicago and Toronto, via Detroit – these are two leaders who can play vital roles in driving necessary investment decisions.

While in Toronto, Governor Snyder met with a group of more than 80 business persons, many of whom represent companies with significant investments in Michigan, to discuss the state’s interest in public private partnerships. This meeting followed upon his keynote address, in November 2012, to the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships. Canadian expertise with PPPs is considerable; governments at all levels in Canada have accessed private capital to deliver major projects for years. The Governor took advantage of the opportunity to update prospective investors on the strong state of Michigan’s economy, and on all that’s being done to transform Detroit.

The Governor concluded his day with remarks at the new Toronto offices of the Detroit-headquartered law firm Dickinson Wright. DW has recently expanded its Toronto footprint – reflective, among other things, of the large increase in volume of cross-border trade (Michigan-Canada trade was $40 billion in 2009; it reached $75 billion in 2012).

Visits of this sort are important. In addition to casting light on the breadth of the existing relationship, they focus the attention of job creators in the private sector on untapped opportunities. Ever since his first State of the State speech, in which he placed great emphasis on extent to which Michigan could benefit by deepening its relationship with Canada, Governor Snyder has ‘walked the talk’. More jobs have been created on both sides of the border as a result of the profile the relationship now enjoys. Issues and challenges have been – or are closer to being – resolved. A Canadian diplomat charged with increasing the profile of his country in this state could not ask for better outcomes.

Did you know? More facts about Michigan-Ontario/Canada relations:

  • In the U.S. & Canada, MI & ON rank #1 & 2 in automobile assembly. A study by Ann Arbor’s Center for Automotive Research notes that 60% of the major components (e.g. powertrain) of autos coming off assembly line in Ontario consists of U.S. content;
  • 25% of the total value of Canadian manufactured exports to the USA consists of U.S. content;
  • 218,000 jobs in Michigan depend on trade with Canada;
  • 23,100 Michiganders work at companies in the state owned by CDNs (e.g. Ontario’s Martinrea, at facilities in Jonesville, Manchester, Detroit, Troy, and Auburn Hills; Ontario’s Magna International, at facilities in Holland, Benzonia, Southfield, Tory, Rochester Hills, and China Township; Ontario’s Linamar – in Southfield; Ballard Power Systems – in Dearborn; Ontario’s Guelph Tool Sales – in Warren; Canadian National – with facilities and employees across Michigan);
  • More than 80 Michigan companies have operations in Canada, including: Dart Container, Dow Chemical, Kellogg, Steelcase, Stryker, and Whirlpool (the Dow Chemical Company actually was founded in Michigan in 1897 by Herbert Dow – of Belleville, Ontario);
  • 68% all Michigan agricultural exports to world are to Canada; 20% everything grown on Michigan farms is sold to Canada;
  • 45% of total U.S.-Canada trade crosses the Michigan-Ontario frontier (in fact, 25% of the world’s largest two-way trade partnership crosses the 84-year-old Ambassador Bridge). In 2012, Michigan native Dr. Christopher Sands (now with the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute) reviewed the vast network of bridges, tunnels, railways, ferries, pipelines and power lines linking Michigan and Ontario. He concluded: “Michigan is the gateway for the largest volume of trade in the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world”;
  • Energy development currently underway in Canada will create more than 460,000 jobs in the United States by 2035 – 16,000 of those in Michigan;
  • With bi-partisan majorities in every case, Michigan’s House and Senate have passed Resolutions supporting construction of the KXL Pipeline, endorsing the development of Canadian energy reserves, and calling for greater U.S.-Canada energy integration. Dozens of Michigan firms already supply goods, services and technology to the Alberta oil sands development;
  • At least seven Michigan municipalities have ‘sister city’ relationships with counterparts in Ontario (Ann Arbor & Peterborough; Bay City & Goderich; Flint & Hamilton; Holly & Leamington; Redford & Georgina; Sault Ste. Marie and Sault Sainte Marie. The most recent addition to that list: Monroe and Amherstburg – centers of opposing forces during the War of 1812; they have become sister cities in celebration of the 200 years of peace between the U.S. and Canada since the end of that conflict);
  • Michigan State University has had a Canadian Studies program longer than any university in the USA. MSU’s law school offers a joint degree program with the University of Ottawa’s law school;
  • The University of Michigan-Dearborn and the University of Windsor are partners in a joint initiative that enables participants to earn a Master of Public Policy (UM-D) and an MA in Political Science (U-Windsor);
  • The University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Windsor offer a joint law degree;
  • The University of Michigan’s Ottawa Internship Program celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2013. Each year, more than twenty UM students are placed in the Ottawa offices of Canadian Members of Parliament for several weeks;
  • Stratford Ontario’s world-renowned theater festival attracts thousands of Michiganders each year. In fact, ‘Michigan Members of Stratford’ has several hundred adherents;
  • In 1926, the Victoria (British Columbia) Cougars (a professional team in the Western Hockey League) moved to Detroit and became the Red Wings. Six of the seven players whose numbers have been retired by the Wings were born in Canada (Abel, Delvecchio, Howe, Lindsay, Sawchuk and Yzerman);
  • Thousands of Canadians are season ticket holders of the Wings, Lions, Pistons and Tigers. Many southwestern Ontario sports enthusiasts consider Detroit’s storied franchises to be ‘their’ teams;
  • James Naismith, of Almonte, Ontario, invented basketball in 1891. Canadian students with exceptional basketball prowess frequently enroll at Michigan universities; one fine (current) example: the Wolverines’ Nik Stauskas;
  • Canadian-born Dr. Roger Coles, Professor at Central Michigan University, is considered the founder of the Special Olympics of Michigan Winter Games;
  • 170,000 Michiganders (or 1.7% of the state’s population) are of French-Canadian origin;
  • Ten Canadian artists exhibited in Grand Rapids’ Art Prize in 2013.

Originally posted in Dome Magazine

Canadian Transport Minister and Michigan Governor meet to discuss the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) / New International Trade Crossing (NITC) project

Digital Journal

Canada NewsWire

WINDSOR, ON, Nov. 12, 2013 /CNW/ – Today, the Honourable Lisa Raitt, Canada’s Minister of Transport and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder met in Lansing, Michigan to discuss the progress and the next steps towards the building of the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) / New International Trade Crossing (NITC) project.

Both the Minister and the Governor reiterated their strong commitment to move the new publicly-owned crossing forward as soon as possible.

Since the issuance of the presidential permit in April 2013, Canada and Michigan have undertaken further design, planning, and due diligence work.  Geotechnical and foundation engineering as well as the property acquisition process are continuing on both sides of the border.  Several environmental mitigation measures including the installation of snake fencing, the relocation of species at risk plants and breeding birds and vegetative surveys have already been completed in Canada.  On the U.S. side, the partners are completing titles searches for properties needed for the U.S. port of entry.  The State has also obtained the requisite Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) permit and has completed its application for the Coast Guard navigational permit.  As well, both Canada and Michigan continue to meet with border agencies to advance the design of the new inspection plazas.

“International projects of this magnitude and complexity require a great deal of planning and due diligence work on both sides of the border,” said Minister Raitt. “The new Windsor-Detroit crossing will facilitate cross-border trade, provide thousands of much needed jobs, will help ensure continued economic growth, and is one of the top infrastructure priorities for Canada.”

“The NITC will be a testament to our enduring ability to achieve great things,” said Governor Snyder. “Since the issuance of the presidential permit, Canada and Michigan have continued to strengthen both their partnership and working relationship to ensure that their shared vision of a vibrant future is fully and timely realized. This project strengthens Michigan’s position to excel in the global economy and we’re committed to moving it forward aggressively.”

The new Detroit River crossing will help existing businesses as well as foster new business opportunities on both sides of the border. The project also demonstrates how the Governments of the United States and Canada are working together to enhance our security and accelerate the legitimate flow of people, goods and services between our two countries.

Originally posted in the Digital Journal

Michigan voters spoke, but Morouns don’t seem to listen

Jack Lessenberry | November 16, 2012

DETROIT — Suppose the day after the presidential election, Mitt Romney had his spokesman announce that he didn’t accept the verdict, that he now believed President Obama wasn’t a legitimate president because he was born in Kenya, or maybe on Pluto, and that he might sue to prevent Mr. Obama from staying in office.

Sound farfetched? Well, no more so than the latest antics from Michigan’s least-beloved billionaire, Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel Moroun. After months of trying to preserve his monopoly with a shameless and misleading ballot proposal campaign called “Let the People Decide,” the people did, indeed, decide.

The Morouns didn’t like the verdict one bit.

On Election Day. Michigan voters overwhelmingly rejected Proposal 6, a state constitutional amendment designed to protect the Moroun family’s monopoly on moving billions of dollars’ worth of goods across the Detroit River.

Mr. Moroun, his wife, Nora, and son Matthew are the sole owners of the Ambassador Bridge, the only place between Buffalo and Port Huron, Mich., where heavy automotive components and other freight can be hauled across the Detroit River.

The Ambassador, which was built in 1929, is showing increasing signs of wear, including holes in the pavement and roadbed. For years, political and business leaders have argued that a new bridge is needed.

This year, they did something about it. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a pro-business Republican, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed a deal in June to build a second bridge, tentatively called the New International Trade Crossing, about two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge.

The deal was an amazing bargain for Michigan. Canada agreed to cover, upfront, all of Michigan’s costs, an estimated $550 million. They would be repaid only when the bridge is built years from now, out of the state’s share of tolls.

Additionally, Washington agreed that the Canadian cash can be used as matching funds for a federal highway grant, meaning Michigan should get $2.2 billion in badly needed money to fix the state’s roads, free of charge.

But if that was a good deal for citizens, it enraged the 85-year-old Mr. Moroun, who is believed to make as much as $140 million a year from tolls and sales of gasoline and items from his duty-free shops. He has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Michigan lawmakers’ campaigns and pet causes, and was able to block any bridge bill from coming to a vote in the Legislature.

However, Governor Snyder found a clause in the state Constitution that enabled him to bypass the Legislature by making an “interlocal” agreement with Canada. The Morouns then spent at least $34 million to try to muscle an amendment protecting their monopoly into the state Constitution.

First, they paid out-of-state firms to collect the needed signatures to put the proposal on the ballot. Next, they flooded the airwaves with incessant commercials that the nonpartisan Michigan Truth Squad said were “flagrantly foul,” as in, false.

Canada’s consul general in Detroit, Roy Norton, was peeved that Michigan business interests, primarily the Detroit Three automakers, didn’t fund an ad campaign to counter Mr. Moroun’s.

It wasn’t needed. The voters didn’t buy Mr. Moroun’s lies.

Those who went to the polls rejected the Moroun amendment by a stunning 844,000 votes. Yet the next morning, Moroun spokesman Mickey Blashfield acted as if the election never had occurred.

“It would be a mistake to assume taxpayers support a flawed government bridge that puts taxpayers at risk,” he said. He then charged the proposed new bridge was going to be built over “unstable salt mine foundations.”

The salt mine charge was dismissed with a laugh by a spokesman for the governor, who said of the bridge project: “It’s full steam ahead.”

But Sandy Baruah, president of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he expects the Moroun family to file more lawsuits to stall the new bridge.

“They use the court system like I use the bathroom,“ Mr. Baruah told Crain’s Detroit Business. Mr. Baruah, a supporter of the new bridge, added that for the Morouns, flinging even hopeless lawsuits makes sense. If they can delay a new bridge even a year, that means millions of dollars more in profit for their monopoly.

Even in a best-case scenario, ground for the new bridge is unlikely to be broken before late next year. The soonest a new bridge could open is 2017.

Meanwhile, the Morouns are attempting to confuse things further by alternatively saying a new bridge isn’t needed, and that they intend to build a second one next to the Ambassador anyway.

Canadian government officials say they never would allow that to happen, because environmental concerns and traffic congestion. They also openly loathe and distrust Mr. Moroun.

What may be most baffling is why an 85-year-old man whose net worth is at least $1.5 billion thinks he needs more money, or whether the thrill is in the power a monopoly brings.

Perhaps not even Mr. Moroun really knows.

Jack Lessenberry, a member of the journalism faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit and The Blade’s ombudsman, writes on issues and people in Michigan.

Tempers Flare Over Villain-In-Chief At Southwest Detroit Bridge Permit Hearing

Nov. 14th | Deadline Detroit

It was supposed to be a routine state permit hearing in a Southwest Detroit school, but nothing that involves Matty Moroun is routine.

Neighborhood residents shouted at pro-Moroun speakers who rode in a chartered bus to a hearing on Ambassador Bridge company plans for a second span, reports WXYZ’s Tom Wait, who calls the session “bizarre and definitely very heated.” reports.

Local attendees, including a Democratic state legislator, accused the bridge company backers of being paid shills.

State Rep. Rashida Tlaib (right), who represents the area around the Ambassador Bridge, lashed out at Matty Moroun’s bridge company for bussing in the supporters.

When we asked those people who paid for their ride and why they came to the hearing we were referred to a spokesman for the group. He told Action News the group was not paid, and that they were only in attendance because they cared about the bridge issue.

Everyone in the group who spoke during the hearing delivered pro-Moroun testimonials to the state officials holding the session.

Bridge company president Dan Stamper told Wait: “These are some of the community groups we work with on other issues.”

The Department of Environmental Quality hearing at Western High involved the Moroun company’s request for renewal of construction permits.

Stamper told Action News Moroun has not given up on building a new bridge of his own, despite plans by the state and Canada to construct a new span.