From theDetroit Free Press:
Bearing the words “Eviction Notice” in large type, the bogus notices told homeowners their properties could be taken by the Michigan Department of Transportation to make way for the New International Trade Crossing bridge project. The NITC is the subject of debate in Lansing, and Americans for Prosperity is lobbying heavily against it.
“It was meant to startle people,” Scott Hagerstrom, the group’s state director, said today. “We really wanted people to take notice. This is the time that their opinions need to be heard. We wanted people to read it.”
Somehow scaring the heck out of folks with a fake eviction notice might not be the best tactic for winning people over to your side. The residents were not amused.
This is all about bridges. The Ambassador Bridge runs between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. The bridge is privately owned, by billionaire Matty Moroun, who purchased this border crossing thirty years ago. The bridge is now 81 years old, and needs to be replaced.
Two months ago, Canadian officials took matters into their own hands and offered to loan Michigan $550 million to start construction on a new bridge a couple of miles downriver from the Ambassador to be called the Detroit River International Crossing (or DRIC). Such a plan did not sit well with Moroun who argues that a new bridge would unfairly compete with the Ambassador and could potentially burden taxpayers.
Yes, compete with.
But Moroun estimates that the state's bridge could take up to 75% of his commercial traffic, the biggest money maker for any bridge. The Ambassador is currently estimated to generate about $60 million a year in toll revenue, according to Crain's Detroit.
The Ambassador is a privately owned toll bridge. Mr. Moroun doesn't want to lose this very lucrative cash cow.
Meet the proposed new Detroit River International River Crossing, DRIC for short, to be built two miles downriver from the Ambassador. DRIC would be jointly owned by the United States and Canada, funded partly by private investors, and enable us to meet the trade, transportation and security issues of this century.
The United States wants this bridge. The government of Canada needs it. Republicans like Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson are behind it. So are the Ford Motor Co. and the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. In Ohio, where the economy is closely linked to Michigan and Canada, the GOP-controlled state Senate passed a resolution supporting DRIC — unanimously.
The new bridge is desperately needed. The US and the Canadians agree. It's a cooperatively financed project, which makes sense for both sides. So what's the problem?
Matty Moroun has spend millions lobbying the Michigan House and Senate. The DRIC bill passed the House, barely, last week. The GOP has control of the Michigan Senate, so far, they're supporting their buddy Matt. So are his buddies at the oxymoronically named Americans for Prosperity. That's why they're trying to scare people with fake eviction notices.
It's not as if the Detroit area doesn't desperately need the 10,000+ jobs that would be created.
It seems that Mr. Moroun is a less than stellar corporate citizen. In fact, he's widely regarded as a negligent slumlord. A report from a recent rally in Detroit, from People's World:
They believe that if a negligent slumlord did what he was supposed to do some of the worst urban blight in America could be used to generate good jobs.
People who love this economically battered city rallied last Friday in front of one of the nation's largest symbols of urban decay - the long-abandoned Michigan Central Train Depot - to demand that its billionaire owner fork up money for its rehabilitation. The rally was organized by the AFL-CIO "Good Jobs Now" committee, the Service Employees International Union, and religious and community organizations.
Moroun bought the train depot, promising to rehabilitate it. He's reneged on that promise. In fact he owns at least 500 decaying properties in Detroit.
Rev. Charles Williams, pastor of the historic King Solomon Baptist Church, said rehabilitation of the train depot and Moroun's homes would create many jobs. At the Detroit depot alone there could be jobs for maintenance workers, carpenters, laborers, and iron workers, he said.
Williams said it is wrong to blame problems faced by Detroit on its residents. He noted that right-wing talk radio personality Glen Beck recently smeared city residents by comparing Detroit to Hiroshima and said its residents and unions were to blame.
The Detroit coalition group Good Jobs Now has put together a slideshow called Matty Moroun's Parade of Slums
It is truly amazing that the Michigan Legislature would turn their backs on the future of their state, and the creation of badly needed jobs, in order to allow an 83 year old billionaire to keep his stranglehold on border transportation and the tolls his bridge generates.
cross-posted at MainSt/workingamerica.org