Detroit council wants property sale proceeds for DRIC bridge pumped back into Delray

Detroit council on Monday demanded something in writing that guarantees re-investment in Delray’s neighbourhoods when the city sells 300 properties to the state for the new Detroit River bridge leading to Windsor.

“They keep telling us we can negotiate these things down the road, but our community is seven years down the road on this — how much longer do we need to wait to get this?” said Detroit Coun. Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, who represents the Delray community.

Given the massive makeover that lies ahead for the downriver industrial community during construction of the $2.1-billion Detroit River International Crossing project, neighbourhood leaders have been fighting hard to get “community benefits” in writing before bridge construction gets started.

Detroit council last week unanimously rejected a request by the city’s Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to approve the property sale for $1.4 million until community protection and investment for Delray gets put in writing.

Under protocol, Detroit’s council had to come up with its own counter proposal instead of Orr’s request — which Castaneda-Lopez put together and was approved by council on Monday.

Both Orr’s request and council’s proposal will be sent to Lansing for a decision by the state government’s Emergency Loan Board within the next couple weeks.

“The proposal has just been received and is under review,” said David Murray, spokesman for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday.

Government staff and those connected to the bridge project will review what can be addressed in terms of the community’s requests, he said.

What the community wants is “legally binding agreements” for most of the $1.4 million to be reinvested in Delray for such things as housing improvements, demolishing vacant buildings, diesel pollution mitigation and fixing street lighting, according to Castaneda-Lopez’s proposal.

They also want community leaders consulted in development of the request for proposal for the bridge project, plus reinstatement of a $1.9-million government housing grant designated for Delray, but has long remained on hold.

“Planting 50 trees is the (current) community benefit to take care of the diesel emissions,” Castaneda-Lopez said. “At this point, that’s very much our reality.

“You would think they would want a thriving, beautiful community for those coming off the bridge to drive through or stop. You want that on both sides of the border, otherwise this (bridge) really doesn’t move us forward as a region or a city.”

Local MP Brian Masse (NDP -Windsor West) represents the riding where the DRIC bridge will be located on the Canadian side in Brighton Beach.

“You can’t hold it against them for trying to improve their community for the new border crossing,” Masse said. “I have been over there several times and it’s a reasonable request they are making.

“They just want to do this right. More power to them because they are the ones who are going to have to live there and co-exist with the border crossing.”

If the property deal is eventually approved, it would be the first properties acquired on the U.S. side for the DRIC project. Causing a delay of a few added weeks in getting the property sale completed is worth it if a resolution can satisfy the Delray community, Masse said.

“Hopefully, they can come to agreement or a compromise that works for everybody — and then let’s get moving forward on this,” he said. “You only get one shot at this — it might another 100 years before they build another one — so this should be a signature crossing.”

Originally posted by the: Windsor Star

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:

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.

Matty Moroun Could Sue To Stop New International Trade Crossing, Spokesman Hints

November 8, 2012 | Huffpost Detroit

Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun couldn’t stop a new international bridge from being built in Detroit with a ballot measure. Now he may be counting on lawyers to do what voters wouldn’t do on election day.

On Tuesday poll-goers rejected Prop 6, a measure that would have required a statewide vote for state money to be spent on new international bridges. (Click here to see a HuffPost Blogger debate on the issue). Following that defeat, Mickey Blashfield, a Moroun spokesman who headed up The People Should Decide ballot committee supporting the proposal, hinted at a legal challenge to the planned international bridge between Detroit, Mich. and the Canadian border city of Windsor, ON.

“If the governmental proposal doesn’t collapse from the weight of legal and congressional scrutiny, the NITC will never be built over unstable salt mine foundations, where land speculators are lining up to get rich on the government’s tab,” Blashfield said in a statement published by the Huffington Post.

“Similar and serious financial, legal and logistical questions have already been raised regarding the viability of the NITC — questions Governor Snyder and his administration have still refused to answer directly,” he said in another statement released by the Detroit News.

The New International Trade Crossing, which is supported by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and the Canadian federal government, would compete with Moroun’s Ambassador Bridge for traffic and tolls.

On Wednesday Gov. Snyder said there might be “shovels in the ground” for the new bridge project in two to six months, the Detroit Free Press reports. A spokesman later clarified that the governor was speaking metaphorically about getting a U.S. Presidential Permit to go ahead with the project, adding that construction would likely take about two to three years to begin.

Moroun’s business, the Detroit International Bridge Company, spent more than $40 million opposing the new bridge through television ads and its support of the Proposal 6 campaign, according to The Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

“We are happy with the investment made in this campaign on behalf of taxpayers and the 5,000 families employed by Ambassador Bridge family of companies,” Blashfield said of the campaign in release published by The Huffington Post. “Like any family business, we would do it again – and will in different ways – to defend economic freedom and limited government.”

Matty’s money pit

Curtis Guyette | MetroTimes

As the election results arrived last week, few outcomes gave the malcontents here at the Hits more satisfaction than Manuel “Matty” Moroun’s Proposal 6 had been thoroughly rejected by voters.

We don’t care whether that rejection was the result of confusion caused by a surplus of ballot measures and a mass of conflicting advertising that prompted voters to say “no” to all measures.

It’s enough that one billionaire and his family — the owners of the Ambassador Bridge — couldn’t con the people of this state into voting against their own best interest in order to help the Morouns maintain their virtual monopoly over cross-boarder truck traffic between Detroit and Windsor.

Instead, voters, in a roundabout way, provided support to Gov. Rick Snyder and his efforts to build a publicly owned bridge (that would be financed by the Canadian government!) downriver in the Delray area.

By some estimates, the Morouns spent as much as $40 million to have their greedy way with us, and they failed spectacularly.

But anyone who thinks the rebuke is going to stop the Morouns from continuing to fight the new bridge doesn’t know Matty, a guy who apparently never learned the meaning of the word “no.”

Once the election results were in, Mickey Blashfield, director of government affairs for the Moroun’s bridge company and head of the ballot committee that attempted to halt construction of what’s now being called the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), issued a statement that, in part, declared:

“It is clear the voters resisted amending the constitution, but it would be a mistake to assume taxpayers support a flawed government bridge that puts taxpayers at risk. Proposal 6 successfully invited public scrutiny of the $3.5 billion government proposal. We have full confidence that the citizens, legislature, and financial community will continue to hold any bridge to its promises of ‘not one dime of taxpayer money.'”

He concluded by saying:

“If the governmental proposal doesn’t collapse from the weight of legal and congressional scrutiny, the NITC will never be built over unstable salt mine foundations, where land speculators are lining up to get rich on the government’s tab.”

The salt mine issue is, by all appearances, another bridge company red herring.

We’re more interested in the phrase “legal and congressional scrutiny.”

We’re not sure that even Matty and his well-heeled kin have enough cash to purchase a majority of Congress, but we do know that, whether he has any real foundation, he is more than willing to spend his money tying things up in court as long as the courts will let him get away with it.

In the long run, we don’t think this is a battle he can win. But that’s not gong to stop him from fighting on and on and on.