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The POG Blog: Vote "No" on Proposal 6; the Devil's in the Details

To be clear: When this Progressive, Opinionated Geek says "Devil," he means the Odious Billionaire Manuel "Matty" Moroun, owner of the Detroit International Bridge Company and the Ambassador Bridge.

Proposal 6, which was forced onto the November ballot thanks to paid signature-gatherers and a Moroun-friendly majority on the Michigan Supreme Court -- particularly incumbent Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra, hyperpartisan Republicans who richly deserve to LOSE in two weeks -- is a bad idea, would be a horrible amendment to the Michigan Constitution, and set the worst possible precedent for the ability of one rich man to thwart the best interests of everyone else.

Don't Hold Back: Tell us what you Really Think!

I am a big proponent of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), the proposed second bridge connecting the City of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. The economic reasons for it are strong; the national security NEED for a second bridge to supplement the Ambassador is even stronger (it's a single point of failure; if it closes for any reason, the regional economy -- Canada, the Midwest states, all of it -- takes a giant hit we cannot afford).

But let's set aside the NITC's merits and look at Proposal 6 itself. The Devil is truly in the details...details that would make gaining voter approval for ANY new bridge or tunnel that crosses the U.S.-Canada border nearly impossible.

Proposal 6 would add a new Section (6a) to Article 3, General Government. The full text can be found here, on Page 9 of the analysis performed by the Michigan House Fiscal Agency; here is the official ballot language:


A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION
REGARDING CONSTRUCTION OF
INTERNATIONAL BRIDGES AND TUNNELS
 
This proposal would:
 
Require the approval of a majority of voters at a statewide election and in each municipality where "new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles" are to be located before the State of Michigan may expend state funds or resources for acquiring land, designing, soliciting bids for, constructing, financing, or promoting new international bridges or tunnels. 
 
Create a definition of "new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles" that means, "any bridge or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic as of January 1, 2012." 
 
Should this proposal be approved?

PROPOSAL 6 = FUTURE VOTERS' NIGHTMARE

The disingenuous name given this proposal by the Moroun family is "The People Should Decide." Should Proposal 6 pass, "The People" would find it almost impossible to decide in favor of ANY new international crossing.

Proposal 6 would require MULTIPLE votes: Not just a statewide ballot proposal (meaning hundreds of thousands of signatures collected and certified, court challenges, language approval by the Board of Canvassers, etc.), but also SEPARATE elections in every "municipality" -- Village, Town, Township and/or City -- where "improvements" related to a new international bridge or tunnel would be located.

Consider: Our state is divided into 1,115 General law Townships, 127 Charter Townships, 274 Cities and 259 Villages. That's 1,775 "municipalities" that any government or public-private partnership would have to take into account. Which municipalities would require a vote? Would it be strictly limited to the ones where land is to be used, or roads and ramps constructed? Or could every local government that might see economic "improvement" have to approve the proposed new crossing's construction or operation?

[Actually, it's 1,777 local governments: Wayne and Macomb Counties operate under Home Rule Charters, meaning the current NITC would be subject to a Wayne County referendum on top of the State and Local votes.]

Should even ONE of these required ballot proposals fail to get on the ballot for lack of sufficient signatures, get blocked by the Board of Canvassers, or lose at the polls, the entire bridge or tunnel deal (the NITC or any future effort) dies immediately.

An unscrupulous (not to mention Odious) Billionaire could rig the game in his favor; gaining positive press and all manner of good will by supporting the STATE referendum...yet still getting his way (no new bridge or tunnel) by influencing one or two of the LOCAL elections.

Here are some of the many problems with how Proposal 6 would operate:

  • The overlapping referenda would confuse voters who'd be asked to vote two or even three times on the same proposal;
  • By the same token, some local voters would wield two or three times the voting clout of everyone else in Michigan, violating the spirit of "one man, one vote;"
  • Voters in one municipality would have effective veto power over the expressed wishes of voters across the state and in every other municipality affected by the proposed crossing;
  • The wording of the various proposals would have to be identical, but there's no mechanism to ENSURE identical language except for statewide elections.

PROPOSAL 6 = EX POST FACTO LAW

Article I, Section 10 of the Michigan Constitution forbids passing any "ex post facto law" or "law impairing the obligation of contract." But the language to be inserted into the Constitution (seen in the second paragraph of the ballot language above) retroactively sets the effective date back to 1 January 2012. This is intended to invalidate the June contract signed by Governor Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and is an obvious attempt to create an ex post facto exemption to kill the NITC Contract.

The Michigan Supreme Court should have kicked Proposal 6 off the November ballot on that basis alone -- only the most craven and partisan Justices would have tolerated such a...

...Oh, right. Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra ARE that craven and partisan. Well, as I said above, we'd better make sure they lose to the "3 Supremes" -- Judge Connie Kelley and Bridget McCormack over Markman, and Judge Shelia Johnson over Zahra.

PROPOSAL 6 = MOROUN'S LOOPHOLE

Take another look at the language in the second paragraph. Aside from the retroactive dating is the phrase "any bridge or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic." The NITC certainly meets that criteria, as would any other bridge or tunnel that might ever be proposed (even, as Lt. Gov. Brian Calley argues, small, local bridges that have no statewide economic impact).

But what about EXISTING inernational crossings? The Ambassador Bridge, Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, and the Blue Water Bridge linking Port Huron and Sarnia were all "open to the public and serving traffic" this past New Year's Day.

The Blue Water Bridge already has a second span, and the Tunnel cannot be widened. That leaves Matty Moroun's pie-in-the-sky "proposal" to "twin" the Ambassador Bridge. In the past, the second span idea has been an empty promise, a stalking horse intended to confuse voters and legislators that there might be an option other than the NITC.

To be clear, NO ONE on the Canadian side wants this -- not the City of Windsor, nor the Province of Ontario, nor the national goverment in Ottawa. But if Proposal 6 passes and every other possibility for expanding commercial traffic between Michigan and Canada is blocked....

Funny how that phrase, once enshrined in the Michigan Constitution, would allow the Odious Billionaire (or, given Matty's age, his equally-Odious son, Matthew) to BYPASS all these state, county and local elections and start expanding his 83-year-old bridge without ever putting it up for a vote. So, "The People Should Decide" -- when it's convenient for Matty Moroun. But when it comes to his own bridge, Matty offers "The People" the back of his hand.

Bottom line: Proposal 6 is a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad amendment that puts the interests of one rich old man above everyone else. Even if you happen to think there should be a statewide plebescite on the NITC itself -- or even a true up-or-down vote in the Legislature, something which has NEVER happened thanks to campaign contributions from the Moroun family to various Republican sate Senators -- Proposal 6 reaches far beyond whatever noble goal proponents want to give it.

Vote NO on Proposal 6.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Herb Helzer October 23, 2012 at 07:02 PM
The short list of those SUPPORTING the New International Trade Crossing: Gov. Rick Snyder and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley Former Govs Jennifer Granholm and John Engler The City of Detroit The City of Windsor The Province of Ontario The Ohio Legislature (unanimously) The CEOs of Ford, GM and Chrysler Detroit Regional Chamber Michigan Chamber of Commerce Michigan Department of Transportation, which had to sue Moroun and his toady Dan Stamper repeatedly to get them to follow the Gateway Project contract they signed (Moroun & Stamper eventually were jailed for contempt of court, MDOT was given the greenlight to undo Moroun's bad-faith construction and do it right...finishing the Project in less than a year) U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Coast Guard U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Michigan Truth Squad -- who've called Moroun for DOZENS of "flagrant fouls" on his ads, filled with nothing but lies and hyperbole Anyone who knows that the decrepit, derelict Michigan Central Terminal is owned by Manuel "Matty" Moroun, along with dozens of abandoned, rotting houses all over the City of Detroit, and rightly concludes that Matty has ZERO interest in the public good or lifting a finger for anyone that isn't immediately profitable for himself and his family.
Marc Hesse October 23, 2012 at 09:33 PM
I am certain the Maroun family will jump with glee when all the industry is driven from Michigan to the Buffalo corridor and he can justify building the bridge he is trying to build there. Too bad Michigan, how stupid we will look if we allow this to happen. Look it up (Ambassador Niagara) on hold until Michigan destroys itself with proposal 6.
Marc Hesse October 23, 2012 at 09:34 PM
. The NITC project is not the solution to fix Michigan's economy but it is a piece to the puzzle. The train tunnel under the river for double stacked trains is another piece. Both of these pieces are in jeopardy if proposal 6 passes. An air freight hub at willow run is another piece. A world class deep water port on the Detroit river. All of the industry in Michigan which if you don't know is a peninsula might as well be an island with our industrial products subject to if we can move them into a world market. The ports are not located in Detroit they are on the east cost and the west coast. The responsibility of government is to give our state the ability to compete in a global market and keep our state prosperous. Proposal 6 has the potential of destroying the economy of Michigan as it will forever restrict the state from providing the infrastructure required to allow our people to compete globally. November 6th we as a state are making a decision which we will be forced to live with forever with the consequences of which will forever subject the people of this state to the whims of the most litigious lawsuit slinging slum lord that has destroyed every community he has invested in through blockbusting and attrition.
Herb Helzer October 26, 2012 at 04:36 PM
"Michigan Proposal 6 is about one thing: allowing billionaire Matty Moroun to purchase a constitutional amendment that will secure his monopoly on bridges and tunnels to Canada. Period. There is nothing else really to be said about it. The Proposal, which requires a statewide vote on any further international bridges and tunnels in Michigan, even includes a clause that excludes Moroun’s existing bridges and tunnel from such a vote. It’s that vulgar." Eclectablog, 25 October 2012 (http://www.eclectablog.com/2012/10/vote-no-on-michigan-proposal-6-dont-allow-a-billionaire-to-buy-a-constitutional-amendment-to-protect-his-bank-account.html)

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