Monday, October 24, 2011

Bridge Proposal Defeated in Senate Committee. What's Next?

From the neighborhoods in Delray, one can see the Ambassador Bridge and the RenCen. A number of homes and businesses would be displaced by the bridge project, Sen. Virgil Smith said. (Elizabeth Conley/The Detroit News)
On Thursday, October 20, two votes were taken in the Senate Economic Development Committee in an attempt to push legislation to create a new bridge authority out of committee and on to the Senate floor for a full vote. The first proposal to receive a vote was a revision of the original bill. It included millions in "community benefits" for the neighborhood that was to be affected by the construction of the new bridge. Billed as a way to compensate displaced property owners, the bill actually included a number of goodies such as subsidized housing, new parks, and subsidies to local businesses. The cost might have exceeded $100 million. All five Republicans on the committee voted NO, while the two Democrats voted YES.

The second vote in committee was on the original version of the bill, which did not include the community benefits. On that vote three Republicans voted in favor, two opposed, and the two Democrats "passed." This was their way of saying they wanted to benefits but were unwilling to vote against the bridge. Because the bill only received three YES votes, it failed.

Much pressure was brought upon lawmakers before the vote by several groups including you, the grass roots readers of Core Principles. Over 500 of you called and emailed to let your voices be heard. You proved that grass roots activism still works.

What's next? The Senate could reintroduce another version of the bill with elements in it that will lure more Republicans and Democrats to support it. There is even talk of an "end-around" by the governor who could find a way to accomplish this project using an executive order. This would not require any legislative action.

You need to continue to lobby your legislators and the governor not to move forward with this costly project. Here are some facts:
  • It will require $2.2 billion in new state and federal spending
  • Over $550 million in new debt to Canada
  • $100 million in new "community benefits" may be included
  • An Authority would be created, with the ability to bond, issue debt, and tax
  • Hundreds of parcels would be seized under eminent domain
  • New roads and exit ramps would need to be built
  • A bailout of the project down the road, if traffic and toll projections don't pan out
Thank you for participating in citizen government. Please don't rest now. Remember what Thomas Jefferson said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

Read a background story from the Detroit News here.

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