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Holy MOSES 

If News Hits were monotheistic, we’d get on our knees and beseech the almighty to lead MOSES to the promised land. And we aren’t talking about the man who brought the tablets down the mountain. We are referring to the 80 metro-Detroit churches that make up the Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength.

MOSES, along with the City of Ferndale and other groups and individuals, recently sued the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) over how it spends public money on transportation.

Each year, the feds give southeast Michigan about $1 billion to invest in transportation. SEMCOG, metro-Detroit’s regional planner, composed of elected officials from seven counties, oversees the cash.

MOSES, a major advocate of public transportation, complains that more money should be spent on mass transit. Instead, the money goes for building roads in areas far from urban centers, feeding suburban sprawl, MOSES contends.

At the heart of the case is SEMCOG’s voting structure. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court last month, more-affluent and less-populated areas have more voting power. Consequently, officials representing these areas have more say on how transportation money is spent, the lawsuit claims.

For instance, Monroe County, which has 146,000 residents, gets four votes, while Detroit, which has a population of 955,000, gets three.

If News Hits has done its math correctly, that means Monroe County gets one vote per 36,000 people, while Detroit gets one vote per 318,000 people.

The rest of Wayne County, not including Detroit, gets nine votes for its 1,070,000 population. By our calculations, that’s one vote per 118,000 residents.

Far be it from us to make accusations, but that just doesn’t seem fair.

Ferndale City Manager Tom Barwin agrees. Barwin would like to see a fair voting structure where everyone has equal representation. Otherwise, densely populated, poor and minority communities won’t get their fare share of transportation funding. Fewer dollars for public transit means poorer access to jobs and less ability to revitalize struggling communities, says Barwin.

“Any entity that receives public funds can’t discriminate,” he says.

A SEMCOG spokeswoman would not comment on the lawsuit, explaining that the sinister-sounding giant acronym had not been served with it.

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