Oct 15, 2009
Protest planned against misguided choice for ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’
Residents of Southwest Detroit are outraged that Grosse Pointe billionaire and Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun has been named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Arab American Chaldean Council.
They are so outraged that they are sending a petition of protest to the Council, and they plan to protest at the 30th Annual Civic and Humanitarian Awards Gala on Saturday at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. The protest starts at 5:30 p.m.
The petition highlights Moroun’s sleazy business practices. He is going forward on building a second bridge span right next to the current Ambassador Bridge without a single permit or environmental clearance; not from the City of Detroit, the state of Michigan, the federal government or the Canadian government.
State Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, has tried to get Moroun to undertake a full environmental impact study for the planned second span of the Ambassador Bridge, but the bridge company has refused to do it. Instead, they tried to mount a recall against Tlaib, who represents Southwest Detroit, for pushing the issue.
Residents say he and the bridge company are not good neighbors. Southwest Detroit has some of the worst air quality in the state, and the children of Southwest Detroit are suffering from high rates of asthma. Rates of respiratory diseases are skyrocketing. The Ambassador Bridge brings in over 10,000 vehicles a day with more diesel trucks idling in the bridge plaza. The community deserves to know the impact of this massive transportation project on environment and human health.
While the Bridge Company makes profits from allowing more trucks across the bridge, the community pays the toll. Organizers of the protest say the Ambassador Bridge Company has not made a single attempt to engage in dialogue with the community to discuss measures to mitigate air pollution, such as planting trees, creating a buffer zone around the truck plaza or anti-idling regulations for diesel trucks.
The company took possession of Riverside Park at 23rd Street to build the second span because it claims an old act of Congress designated it an instrument of the federal government because it controlled traffic on an international crossing. They then said they had permission from former Mayor Dennis Archer. The city tried to evict them, and the Bridge Company sued to stop it.
But just a few weeks ago a District Court Judge ruled they have 90 days to get out of the park. But that is not the only court loss the Bridge company has suffered this month.
The Ambassador Bridge is the busiest commercial border crossing in all of North America, handling 20 percent more trucks than its closest competitor and almost double the commercial traffic of the next busiest crossing on the Canadian border. In all, almost 30 percent of all U.S./Canada trade and over 25 percent of the truck traffic between the U.S. and Canada passes through the Detroit-Windsor gateway. This U.S.-Canadian trade directly supports 7.1 million U.S. jobs, 221,500 Michigan jobs, and one in three Canadian jobs. More than $1 billon in trade crosses the bridge everyday.
Yet, not a single government official - local, state or federal - is allowed to inspect the bridge for safety. The company hires a private contractor to do the annual inspection. The company has tried to keep the latest report secret, and it went to court to stop it’s release after U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, obtained a copy from the Federal Highway Administration. On Tuesday a U.S. District Court Judge denied the request to keep the report secret.
Remember, the protest is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday, October 17 at Jefferson in front of the Renaissance Center.