I was having something of a lousy day until I pulled up the Huffington Post’s latest Detroit headline.

What? Manuel Matty Moroun going to jail, you say, Huffpo? Today just got better. 

Moroun is the sole reason for the hold-ups impeding the construction of an additional bridge connecting Windsor and Detroit, a seriously important trade route with our largest trading partner. Moroun owns the only current bridge connecting Detroit to Canada, the Ambassador Bridge, and with it, gleans the significant profits not only from the monopoly he has on transit, but also because he is able to use this as a platform to sell gasoline. In his efforts to prevent a competitor bridge, Moroun bought off Republican state senators and heavily lobbies to protect his interests. 

Admittedly, Moroun is not being thrown in jail for these charges. He appeared in court to face sentencing on contempt of court charges because he failed to connect the Ambassador Bridge to neighboring freeways, construction known as the Gateway Project. Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards delivered a sentence that placed Moroun in jail pending completion of the Gateway Project. In typical Moroun fashion, he’s tried to wriggle out of this with the aid of his lawyers: he’s tried resigning, and claimed not to own DIBC, the construction company charged with completing the project.

Seriously. Awesome. Moroun has harmed job growth, wasted taxpayer money, and done everything in his power to stop Governor Snyder  (who’s done a good job on pressing the issue) from doing what Michigan elected him to do: jobs. Jobs happen with increases in trade. The new bridge will increase trade. 

This sentence isn’t about the new bridge, but what is encouraging is that the courts show willingness to hold Moroun accountable. The guy owns the old rail station in Detroit, and is just sitting on it, refusing to sell or allow any improvement to the burned-out building. This isn’t addressing the root of the problem, but at least it’s a step in addressing the failed democratic process that hampers Detroit. 



why the new state tax rules will have no effect, other than harming poor people. oh, and old people.

That’s a mouthful, but whatever. More importantly, the new Michigan state tax rules going into effect in this month just plain suck. A lot. Governor Snyder and the Republican Senate pushed through tax reforms that will do a few things:

  1. Most Michigan companies will see a lower tax or no tax in 2012.
  2. Low income workers will see cuts of up to 70% in EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit).
  3. Retirees with pensions will now see their pensions taxed.

My response is two-fold. First, the low-hanging fruit: another misleading headline! This article is entitled “New State Tax Rules Good For Business.” Well, actually, according to the report cited in the same (SAME) article, the headline is refuted. The article cites nonpartisan Citizens Research Council, an objective Michigan think tank that publishes reports on issues pertinent to Michigan policymakers. Oh, and they’ve been at it for 90 years:

“The nonpartisan Citizens Research Council concluded in a July report that the business tax cut likely will have a positive effect on business investment and Michigan’s reputation in the business community. But it sees potential pitfalls as individuals pick up the tab through higher income tax payments, reducing their ability to spend in ways that would spur the economy.

“Because of the offsetting nature of these effects, any overall effect on growth, positive or negative, is likely to be small,” the report concluded.”

For some reason, the outcome of this tax reform, that consumers will have less to spend and will offset any business tax cuts to have NO EFFECT, is buried in the article and missing from the headline.

Media responsibility aside, what’s more is that this vital point is also buried in the policy debate. Citizens whose public sector jobs are gone or whose pensions are now taxed have that much less money in their pockets with which they can buy the goods and services that these businesses produce. Not only is the outcome problematic, essentially encouraging no growth in Michigan’s economy, but these tax cuts are unnecessarily unfair, in some cases downright cruel, to the middle class. In order to give businesses tax cuts, Michigan citizens will see their tax credits lowered from approximately $400 to $100. Retirees will now pay taxes on pensions they thought they could count on being untaxed. Talk about uncertainty, Republicans!

The whole idea that cutting taxes on businesses will lead them to hire more is incredibly wrong, misleading, failed, and plain unfair.


detroit (MSA) does not need new construction

The Washington Post came out with a fake-good headline a few days ago about Detroit’s housing market, claiming that:

Among the nation’s top 20 metropolitan regions, only the Detroit and Washington areas posted annual home price increases, according to S&P/Case-Shiller home price data for October released this week.

The key here is that this is not Detroit; rather, this is the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). As compared to Detroit proper, which comprises 143 square miles, the Detroit MSA comprises the six counties surrounding Detroit, totaling to most of Southeast Michigan. Detroit’s crumbling population doesn’t exceed 1 million; Metro Detroit’s population exceeds 4 million. This trend isn’t occurring in Detroit proper, it is occurring in Metro Detroit.

What’s worse, the article continues:

Improbable as it might seem, the Detroit area is seeing an increase in building permits. Construction firms are dusting off their equipment and returning to work, and bidding wars are breaking out over desirable homes.

Well, okay, this isn’t Detroit, we’ve covered this already, but any increase in building permits and construction aren’t occurring within Detroit. As per Metro Detroit’s sprawl-inducing zoning policies, this growth is occurring admit a vacant housing crisis in Detroit proper, where some estimates list housing vacancies at 30% of the city’s housing stock.

Not all of this housing stock is usable, certainly not new, but the important point is that the infrastructure — the roads, the electricity, the schools — exists in Detroit proper and its nearest suburbs. And it is not being used to its optimum capacity right now. So instead, new construction continues to pull resources away from the natural urban pole to the outskirts of the Metro Detroit area, to places like Romeo, Shelby Township.

The outcomes of this urban policy make no sense, but are incredibly difficult to change. What, have Detroit leaders work with the suburbs? Years of animosity long ago ruined this vital relationship. Institute a smart growth boundary similar to what we’ve seen work in Portland? Tea Partiers in Troy, L. Brooks Patterson, and other Metro Detroit suburbs would never stand for it.

So no, WaPo, this is not a good thing. Detroit proper and Detroit metro do not need new housing construction. They need revitalization of what they have, not the cheap and unsustainable sprawl that their policies encourage.

the news that’s fit to print

Shouldn't Roy G. Biv be turned on his head?

Except. Well. The most-read news story is not actually news. It’s opinion. That Rick Snyder ‘made a misstep’ is a normative statement, conveying not the facts, but what you should think of the facts.

I am whining about how society gets their news (if they get it at all). Nothing new. Probably irreversible. But to counter normativer with normative, shouldn’t the bottom story be the top story?