Mar 6, 2009

To get their way Senate Republicans threaten to get police to collar businessmen

LANSING – Senate Republicans demonstrated just how far they will go to satisfy a rich benefactor at a joint meeting of the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee and the Transportation Appropriations Sub-Committee on Thursday.

The Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) declined to vote on a measure last month to approve bonds to finance a second span of the privately owned Ambassador Bridge for the Detroit International Bridge Company, owned by Grosse Pointe billionaire and Republican benefactor Matty Moroun. Senate Republicans have put pressure on the MSF to hold a special meeting to approve the bonds, and that was the sole purpose of the joint meeting. But because the MSF members are some of the most successful businessmen in the state, it has been difficult to get them together other than at the scheduled monthly meetings.

According to subscription only MIRS, the chair of the Commerce and Tourism Committee Chair, Sen. Jason Allen, R-Traverse City, threatned to call the state police to “round these people up.”

Two members of the MSF board had just been appointed just days before last month’s meeting, and they were not familiar with the bridge issue. When they were told about the tactics the Bridge Company has used to delay the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) project, they declined to vote on the bonds until they knew more about the issue.

The Michigan Department of Transportation, as well traditional as GOP allies, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and Oakland County Republican Executive Brooks Patterson, favors the DRIC study that wants to build a new public-private bridge about a mile from the current Ambassador Bridge.

Senate Republicans have been using the false talking point that the state is turning down $1 billon in federal funds and killing jobs, but Brad Williams of the Detroit Chamber calls that notion “silly,” noting that this is really just a finance mechanism. The man who has really carried water for the Bridge Company, rightwing Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, had the nerve to call the MSF board's move as "political." Kettle, meet pot; if that were true.

The chamber, MDOT, Patterson and Senate and House Democrats in the area have no problem with the Bridge Company putting up a new span, but it will not increase capacity, which is the goal of building a new bridge. The Bridge Company has indicated it will shut the old span down; plus, the Canadian government hasn't signed off on the Bridge Company’s new span – like they have on the DRIC bridge - and won't allow traffic from the new span to land in Canada. But Senate Republicans, especially Cropsey, and the Bridge Company are against the DRIC project, and they have done everything in their power to delay it and kill it.

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