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.
The cancellation of the federally-funded light rail through the Woodward Corridor is not the worst outcome of this project.
The federal funding that was to be spent on a lightrail system intended to connect Detroit to Ferndale will instead be funneled into a suburban bus system. In all likelihood, a suburban bus rail system will better serve Detroiters, namely because 60% of city residents with jobs work outside of the city center.
Lightrail should be more than a pipe dream, but as the Detroit bus system slows, as routes become increasingly erratic, maintaining transportation infrastructure for people to have access to what employment opportunities are available is more crucial than the possibility of garnering what some have termed a “$3 billion investment.” It is likely that investing in lightrail would garner lots more investment than the area currently enjoys; however, achieving higher employment generates higher tax revenues for Detroit, the lack of which is the reason the city lost the federal funding for the Woodward lightrail project in the first place.
The Detroit City Council, by a vote of 6 to 2, voted to not touch their allotted $700,000 per year budgets for office expenses amidst their calls for further concessions from unions and a cut to the mayor’s budget.
If Michigan Governor Snyder needed any affirmation to his decision to begin the review process ultimately leading to an emergency manager for Detroit, then the City Council may as well have raised their hands for an emergency manager in the same way that they voted.
The council members argue that they’ve taken 10% cuts for the past three years. So, too, have city businesses, city workers, city residents, and the constituents who they serve. This is not a time for exceptions, this is a time for the city council to show solidarity by giving up the same cell phones, city cars and perks that their constituents have already done without.
Detroit, this move boils down to how to cast your ballot in for the next city council elections.
Vote for: City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown and Councilwoman JoAnn Watson.
As for the rest?
I’m taking suggestions. I’m sure there’s a cushy board position around there somewhere. Maybe check out vacancies at Metro Airport?