Bamboozled 

If you feel like printing this column and mailing it, we won't stop you!

News Hits wants someone's help. Anyone's, really.

We're not certain about protocol, but we suspect that it's not exactly kosher for a reporter to be sending information to a judge regarding a case being heard.

But that doesn't mean it's questionable for someone from the general public — someone exactly like you, say — to read an item in a column like News Hits and spontaneously decide to mail said column to a particular judge.

A judge like Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Macdonald, for instance.

Word on the street is that Macdonald is a good, competent jurist. We won't dispute that. The street usually knows such things.

But she needs to get a little bit more of a clue regarding a case she's hearing involving the Ambassador Bridge Co. and the city of Detroit.

For nearly two years now, we've been watching as proceedings drag on, first in 36th District Court, and now, after the company lost the opening round, in Macdonald's court on appeal.

It seems like such a simple issue. Something that should have taken, oh, maybe five minutes to decide. And here we are, going on two years, and still no end in sight.

The issue is that, in the frenzy immediately after the 9/11 attacks, apparently with the permission of then-Mayor Dennis Archer, the company put up a chain-link fence on the south side of the bridge.

It was done as a precaution, Archer said, just until the situation settled down. The fence, which cut off a swath of Riverside Park, was never meant to be permanent. And even if it was, that's not the mayor's call to make. The City Council has to approve any transfer of city property for it to be legal.

Well, the fence stayed up for about seven years. Then blogger (and former Freep reporter) Joel Thurtell had a run-in with one of bridge-owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun's "shotgun-toting goons" and began looking into what exactly was going on with that fence. And then someone at the city woke up and asked the company to take the fence down and give the city back its land. The bridge company declined. And things ended up in court — way back in November of 2008.

Jeez.

The company claims the fence is still needed to protect the vital transportation link from terrorist attack. We went out there with videographer Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman and showed how you could walk right up to the span from the north side, which has no protective fence.

In that video, we show the ramp to nowhere, built in anticipation of connecting to the new bridge good 'ol Matty wants to build next to the old one. And we showed how that ramp leads straight into — you guessed it — the commandeered city property that the company refuses to give back.

Standing under the bridge, we point to the ramp and say flat-out that the company's claims that the fence is needed to guard against terrorism are completely bogus. The company needs that property if it's going to have any hope whatsoever of getting federal approval to build that new bridge. That is why it is fighting so hard to keep control of it.

Illegal control, as far as we're concerned.

There were also signs that Matty's people put up warning trespassers away. Signs that appear to have been authorized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But we checked with the DHS folks at every level and were consistently told that no one from the department ever authorized said fence.

Which brings us to the point of this rant.

Recently in court, Macdonald made the statement that "everyone" is in agreement that the fence needs to be there to keep terrorists out.

That was all we heard because the attorney for the bridge company said that, because this is such a sensitive national security issue, certain highly classified information couldn't be discussed in open court.

So the attorneys for both sides and Macdonald scooted off to her chambers, where she apparently applied some pressure in order to get the city and the company to work out some sort of deal.

But here's the point: It's the city's damn land — our land — and there shouldn't be any pressure to sell it to the company. Period.

So someone — you? — needs to get word to Macdonald so that she understands that she's getting flimflammed by these national security scare tactics the bridge company is employing.

That is, if you get the urge, in a completely spontaneous moment, to clip this article and send it to:

Judge Kathleen Macdonald
in care of the Third Judicial Circuit Court — Civil Division
2 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48226-3461

You know, just in case you are feeling spontaneous.

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