Michigan Legislature Sides With DIBC's Money, Not Citizens' Best Interests

All my life, and as my residents know, I have been a die-hard fighter for the city of Detroit. I am Southwest Detroit-bred and I take it very personally that so many of us are struggling to find work and bring economic viability to our distressed neighborhoods. Elected officials agree that creating jobs takes a vital part in re-boosting the economy, so it's puzzling to me that my legislative partners vote 'no' on plans that would do just that, which is what happened recently when the Michigan Senate failed to vote Senate Bill 410 out of committee.

Senate Bill 410 would have authorized the building of a new bridge between Detroit and Canada: The New International Trade Crossing (NITC).  It is disappointing when elected officials fail to pass a bill that would have instantly provided nearly 30,000 jobs, especially when it is due to the influence of one special interest group. Not only are we potentially losing thousands of jobs, but also the families and businesses of a Detroit neighborhood lose the opportunity for community benefits and protections they worked so hard to include in the bill.

Only one company, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC) spent millions of dollars to stop the project using fear tactics, misleading television ads, and countless unethical tactics. DIBC owns the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, the busiest international trade crossing in the United States. Yes that's right, our country's busiest and most important crossing is owned by one company, one man -- Manuel "Matty" Maroun.

If NITC is authorized, this would mean direct competition for the Ambassador Bridge and the longer they delay the construction of a new crossing, the longer the company reams the benefits of their current monopoly bringing them over $60 million dollars a year in revenue.

Every time a legislator leaned towards supporting the bill to authorize the competitive bridge, DIBC and its allies would flood their district with robo calls and flyers accusing the member of supporting a so-called government bridge and sometimes added the issue of race into their ugly and divisive messaging.

It's obvious that the well-being of families in Detroit is not a top priority for DIBC; instead they are threatened by any and everything that demands a sharing of resources and revenue, even at the expense of our working families who desperately need this bridge. It is appalling that my fellow legislators would believe a special interest group over their own governor, a Republican, who along with me, a Democrat, supports NITC, along with a number of Chamber of Commerce's, the Big 3 and so many others that understand that Canada is our number one trade partner and we need to ensure multiple opportunities to grow our economic activity.

DIBC's money and influence has manipulated our elected legislative body in such a way that it has completely warped the perceptions of a bill that would have benefited everyone. Sadly, their tactics triggered a lack of confidence among Michigan families that there is a fair and honest legislative process.

Last month's citizens' blockade of trucks coming off of the Ambassador Bridge is a sign that proves that the families in the 99 percent are sick and tired of being literally run over by the DIBC. Even in the midst of this unfortunate loss, families and supporters of the bill took to the streets of the Ambassador Bridge linked arm-in-arm, blocking steady rush-hour traffic for nearly an hour.

This protest was a reaction to a company that has the morality and priorities of those that businesses whose actions sparked this global protest. And we have every right to take a stand against political gamesmanship and crooked businessmen that use their money to create smear campaigns that attack our livelihoods.  

The failure of Senate Bill 410 is the result of gross injustice. The top 1 percent may have the best houses, the best education, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn't seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.