Anti-bridge group gets 609k signatures to get popular vote in Michigan on new bridge, Moroun behind Zug Isle Vibes?
By Peter Samuel
2012-07-11: The People Should Decide, a group supported by the Ambassador Bridge company this week submitted 609,220 signatures to put on the ballot November 6 a new clause in the Michigan constitution requiring a popular vote before the state can support any new international crossing. The bridge company has been battling plans which would have a new multi-billion dollar government owned toll bridge built 1.8 miles downriver.
322,600 signatures were required, so with nearly 610k the group got 90% more than needed.
Director of The People group Mickey Blashfield said this week there was a surge in signatures in the last several weeks coinciding with Governor Rick Snyder's move to go around the state legislature's bar on the project.
The legislature has repeatedly voted to deny funds for the new bridge project which is opposed by state voters nearly two to one according to opinion surveys. Many prominent businesses, however, and most of the local media favor it, some with great passion.
Everything seemed to change June 15 when Governor Snyder signed an agreement with the Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper under which Canadian taxpayers would underwrite almost the entire capital cost of the new bridge including works needed on the US side, plus cover any operating losses.
Everything to finance, design, build, operate and toll the would be done by a Canadian entity called the Crossing Authority under loose supervision of a joint Canada-Michigan entity called the International Authority (Harper appointing three members and Snyder 3.)
Skepticism about the project arises from the fact that traffic at the three existing crossings (Ambassador Bridge, Blue Water Bridge and Detroit Windsor Tunnel) is down from a daily average of 74,000 in 2000 to 43,000 in 2010 (44,300 in 2011) a drop of 40% and a small daily traffic flow for the 12 travel lanes on the crossings (Blue Water Bridge 6, DW Tunnel 2, Ambassador Br 4), let alone 18 lanes as proposed with the addition of the Canadian bridge downriver.
Delays at the border are generally attributed to Customs and Border Protection procedures, not lack of crossing capacity.
Legislators opposing Michigan involvement in the project see it as a heavy financial loser, as well as having adverse impacts on the finances of the three existing crossings.
The apparently popular ballot measure reads:
"The People should decide whether state government may construct or finance new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles. Consistent with this policy and to shield the people from unnecessary burdens, the state shall not undertake ownership and the development or use of state funds or resources for new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles unless first determined to be necessary and appropriate by majority vote of the people."
Supporters of the new bridge see the ballot measure - written before the June 15 Michigan-Canada agreement - and the Michigan legislature's bar on state spending as now irrelevant, because it has been transformed from a joint Canada-Michigan into a fully Canadian government project. They praise Governor Snyder as a "tough nerd" who has out-maneuvered the Ambassador Bridge company and the state legislature with the "brilliant" move of turning over responsibility for the project to Canada.
Some legislation may be needed
It is unclear however if the Governor as chief executive can bring the Canadians in to design, build and operate facilities in the US without either state or federal enabling legislation of some kind.
The Ambassador Bridge got its authority via an act of the US Congress in the 1920s plus a popular state vote in favor.
Gov Snyder campaigns on
So the battle goes on. The governor continues to campaign and call for support - a tacit admission his Crossing Agreement with Canada is not definitive. And oddly he has picked a fight over a legislative move reaffirming earlier bars on Michigan spending on the project, spending he has claimed is unnecessary because the Canadians will pick up the tab.
For its part the bridge company continues to run feisty political advertisements against the Canadian bridge on local TV and radio.
Critics of the company have recently claimed that it is wrongly using money from a toll increase in the political campaign over the new bridge.
Wild card could be the "mystery hum" or Zug Island Vibes
Zug Island right next to the site of the US approach to the new bridge has for some time been called the source of an unexplained "hum" causing complaints from local residents, mostly on the Windsor side of the river. The mystery hum is sometimes dramatized in local reports as "rumblings" and "vibration" even "house-rattling." Complainers have spoken of the mystery hum as causing them sleepless nights.
The Windsor Star reports this week that federal Canadian and Ontario province officials are pushing serious investigations of the mystery Zug Island Vibes.
The Detroit Free Press earlier reported: "During the last several months, hundreds of people have heard the Windsor Hum, a late-night or early morning sound that vibrates, pulsates, thrums like trucks idling or throbs like the low bass from a car stereo. So many people have complained that Canada's ministry of environment has set up seismic monitors. And a natural resources bureau identified a one square kilometer area on Zug Island as the source."
Canadian investigation "under the radar"
A Canadian member of parliament Jeff Watson is reported today by the Windsor Star as saying that the Canadian government has been pursuing the matter "under the radar" or without publicity.
We understand from a Canadian source that two theories are being investigated either of which could play strongly into the new bridge debate.
First is that the mystery hum is seismic - in other words that it is produced by geophysical instability deep under the area.
Second that it is acoustic - some kind of manmade sound.
If the first proves out and the ground under the area is moving for seismic reasons then there will be serious questions about whether the new bridge is buildable.
The environmental impact reviews for the new bridge do refer to salt mines in the area but dismiss them as a serious concern. If the rumblings are found to be geophysical then at a minimum there will have to be delay while the potential impact on piling designs is investigated.
The other Canadian theory is that the mystery hum is acoustic, and our source says officials are leaning toward that explanation. He said: "You might hear some highly newsworthy conclusions soon on that."
Moroun behind the Zug Island Vibes?
His suggestion to us was that the mystery hum from Zug Island may be the work of agents of the Ambassador Bridge company - a kind of dirty tricks operation by the Morouns!
The local media in Detroit and Windsor have not yet alluded to this which is somewhat strange since they are not reticent in attributing villainy of other kinds to the Moroun family which owns the Ambassador Bridge. They have regularly reported that Moroun corruptly "buys" legislators, especially in Lansing. They accuse him of running "lying" advertisements, and most recently of paying people to support the ballot petition for November.
So it seems only a matter of time before they pick up on what we hear about "the highly newsworthy" story out of the Canadian government dismissing the seismic explanation for The Hum, and embracing the manmade acoustic cause.
We can imagine a whole new Detroit River saga unfolding under which a Canadian 'jailin judge' issues an extradition order for ole Matty Moroun to be brought over to Canada to answer charges he's behind those Zug Island Vibes.
And the President here agonizing over whether to comply, or jepardize relations with our northern neighbor.
No one could make this stuff up.