The other day, a former student of mine came by to remind me of something I had completely forgotten about that I did on 9-11.
I was teaching a large lecture class at Wayne State at 11:45 that morning. I immediately asked, “Who lives in Canada?”
Five or six hands went up. ‘I want you to leave and go home now, or you may never get home,” I said. That turned out to be good advice. It took a friend six hours to cross the bridge later that night.
Since then, this nation has been obsessed with security concerns. Ask anyone who has been guilty of driving or flying while Arab. At one point, the Department of Justice thought it was a good idea to call in thousands of young Middle-Eastern men for a talk.
Yet for some baffling reason, the media in this state seem totally uninterested in anything having to do with Matty Moroun, the reclusive multi-millionaire who owns the Ambassador Bridge and a lot of other real estate in Southwest Detroit. The Detroit newspapers shy away from asking questions about his business dealings or his ownership of the bridge. Forbes did do a piece in 2004 called “The Troll Under the Bridge” in which it said that Moroun “controls the best monopoly you never heard of.’
Without any doubt, the economies of Michigan and Ontario are totally dependent on the billions of dollars in annual trade between the state and the province. And much of this trade would be impossible without the Ambassador Bridge.
Yet Matty Moroun has gotten away with ignoring state and local laws, claiming the bridge is a “federal instrumentality.“ On the other hand, he has refused to let government engineers inspect his bridge.
He says that federal rules barring things like explosives, hazardous wastes and other toxic materials don’t apply to him. And he has been a major contributor to U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, and to her son, the mayor of Detroit.
Forbes estimated that the bridge makes Moroun $60 million a year. Now, I have no objection to good old Matty making a profit, or even owning the bridge. What I do object to is any one man having pretty much total control over international commerce at a major border crossing. What needs to happen is for the bridge to be regulated and run by some kind of International Port Authority.
Any border crossings should be controlled by an institution that would be equally answerable to the United States and Canada.
Diplomatic negotiations need to be undertaken and legislation introduced to make this happen, pronto. And both countries need to start on another bridge as soon as possible.
The Ambassador was built almost eighty years ago. Its approach is too narrow, its lanes too steep, and trucks waiting in line in Windsor back up through residential neighborhoods.
Forbes called the bridge “the nation’s most critical choke point” when it came to trade. And I have to ask, “Doesn’t that worry you?”