An Open Letter to Manuel “Matty” Moroun

Dear Matty,

You have been very successful in your business career. You have established a long list of properties in Detroit, including the Ambassador Bridge and the Michigan Central Depot. You have claimed that you have plans to redevelop those properties, a few in the short term, and most in the long term. When exactly is that going to happen?

Rather than establishing building funds, hiring contractors, and negotiating with city leaders for permits or zoning variances, you are spending your money and time fighting the government and democracy in Michigan.

So far, you have used hundreds of thousands, if not, millions of dollars sponsoring television advertisements trying to convince voters we should not take the Canadians at their word, sponsoring ballot initiatives to inhibit the building of any new bridge in Michigan, to require a 2/3 majority in the legislature to pass any new tax, and volunteered to own yet another transportation monopoly in the form of  a bridge to Harsen’s Island in the wake of the retirement announcement from the ferry operator.

You wanted to build the New International Trade Crossing right next to the Ambassador Bridge, and went as far as to build a pier to accommodate its construction from this side in the place where freeway ramps were supposed to be easing the transition of truck traffic onto the Ambassador Bridge. You violated your contract with MDOT, tried to blame them for your mistakes, went to jail, threw a rich man’s fit, and got a slap on the wrist in the process. Too bad for you that the Canadian government decided they don’t want a bridge where it will cause more traffic congestion.

Now that the Canadian government has said you would have to stop your proposed bridge at their border, you wasted no time in trying to hijack our legislature and public opinion through false advertisement and a ballot initiative that would require the approval of the entire state of Michigan AND the residents of any area that might be affected by any new bridge that might be built ANYWHERE in Michigan. Again, you used lots of money that could have been used to improve your more dilapidated Detroit holdings.

You also are sponsoring a ballot initiative to require a 2/3 majority in the Legislature to pass any new tax. I can’t help but believe that you are again driven by purely selfish motives. Making it harder to pass new taxes makes it harder to hire more teachers, more firefighters, more police.

The last thing Detroit or any other community needs in this economy is reduced funding for the public services the people who live in these communities pay for. The last thing Detroit needs is to be less educated, less safe, and less protected. However, you have made it clear that you don’t think that a simple majority in legislature should be sufficient to pass new funding to give raises, provide better or more efficient services, or to pay for the pension plans the state promised they would provide public employees. You would rather have a few thousand more dollars in your pocket than pay for a civilized society.

Now, you have the unmitigated gall to jump up and down waving your hands back and forth saying “OOOH OOH! ME! PICK ME! I CAN BUILD THE HARSEN”S ISLAND BRIDGE!” Tell me, are you going to build the bridge according to MDOT’s specifications, or decide that their blueprints won’t make you as much profit as yours, which will probably include a gas station where a dedicated lane for bridge traffic is supposed to be? What happens if someone decides to pick up the ferry business and the people in Harsen’s Island decide that they don’t want your bridge? Will you sponsor a ballot initiative to overrule the will of the people so you can build the bridge anyway?

Mr. Moroun, your greed has gotten the best of you. You seem the think that you can either buy the Canadian government or sue them into oblivion, that the New International Trade Crossing should be done your way or no way, that you should be able to own public bridges and run them as you see fit, that your money is better spent fighting city hall and the voters of Michigan than on fixing up your umpteen slum properties.

All one has to do is look around Detroit at various landmarks , buildings,  and street names to see the name of millionaire and billionaire philanthropists who were wildly succesful like you. Unlike you, they chose to preserve their legacy with public works projects that benefitted the public.

In fifty years, what is your legacy going to look like Mr. Maroun? Your name is not going to be on any buildings or any streets or any landmarks because you chose not to spend your money to benefit the public. Your name is definitely going to be in history books, most likely near the word “charlatan” or “used millions of dollars to benefit no one but himself.” This is your right and privilege as an American, but that also will tend to produce a dim historical view of your deeds.

My advice to you is to preserve what little positive legacy you might have by actually fixing up the properties you own in Detroit with the money you are using to subvert the Michigan Constitution and Michigan law. Don’t let history remember you as a billionaire slumlord who simply owned property to see how long the structures on them took to fall completely apart.





Maroun should step aside as Michigan and Canada near bridge deal (Society’s Slideshow)

Governor Rick Snyder announced a deal with Canada to pursue a public span across the Detroit River about two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. Canadian authorities have agreed to front all of the money needed for both sides of the project and to collect tolls as repayment. Once the monetary obligation is fulfilled, Michigan and Canada would split tolls evenly, and Canada assumes all the risk if the tolls aren’t enough to keep regular payments going to the Canadian project financiers.

However, it seems that Matty Maroun doesn’t want any competition in the international trade crossing business. His newest play in attempting to prevent a second bridge from being built where the Canadians want it instead of next to the Ambassador Bridge where he wants it is to begin a petition drive to place a bridge referendum on the November ballot.

The jist of the main referendum is amend the state constitution to require a vote both statewide and in the municipality the proposed bridge or tunnel would be built. It is also written in a fashion to include any new bridge or tunnel that was not in operation as of January 1 of this year, which could feasibly require a vote for any new bridge construction, not just this one.

I fully believe that the people of Michigan should get a say as to whether or not this bridge becomes a reality. I also believe that the people of Michigan will make the right decision once they are presented with the facts of the situation instead of the facts according to Matty Maroun.

As I already mentioned, no taxpayer here in Michigan is on the hook for any financing of this public bridge. If too few tolls are collected, or a default on loan repayment occurs, the Canadians are the ones who will have to come up with the hard answers. Sure, we won’t see any of the tolls collected for several decades, but the bridge will stand for many years after the loans are repaid.

However, Maroun purchased thousands of dollars in advertising when the bridge was first proposed to make Michiganders believe that if loans defaulted, the taxpayers were the ones who would be answering to the collections agencies.  No doubt he will return to the same rhetoric as the final details of the agreement are hashed out.

This is by no means the end of the headaches that Maroun could cause for Michigan, Canada, and even our federal government as they plan to move forward with the bridge. The planned approach for the new bridge goes over a corner of truck terminal property Maroun owns on the Yellow Freight site on West Jefferson. Maroun certainly has the money and the lawyers to ensure that the corner is not ceded without a fight.

Also, Maroun’s corporate entities have filed suit in Canada and the U.S. challenging parts of the proposed new bridge. One only has to look back to 2004 and the Gateway Project to see how much of a hassle for road construction Maroun can cause when they don’t get their way.

Maroun has also complained that a public span will unfairly compete with his Ambassador Bridge, and the only way to prevent that is to allow him to build and control the new span according to his plan. The Canadians want no part of his plan as it will increase congestion in downtown Windsor, which they are trying to relieve by connecting the new span directly to their 401 expressway. So, unless Maroun plans to build a bridge that stops at the Canadian border somewhere in the middle of the Detroit River, he should at the very least rethink his proposed location for the private bridge he so desires.

Instead of focusing on what he can’t control, such as where the Canadian government wants the bridge built, Maroun should focus on what he can control. He could submit a bid to be the construction company that handles the construction of the public bridge. He could use the many thousands of dollars he is sinking into disinformation campaigns to fix up Michigan Central Depot or to tear down the many abandoned eyesores he owns all over the city.

Most of all, Matty Maroun should step aside and stop trying to limit Michigan’s economic growth to ensure the growth of his own pocketbook. If he doesn’t, we may be reading about the opening of a new international trade crossing in Buffalo, New York where his money and opinion will amount to absolutely nothing.