While News Hits was away on vacation soaking up way too much sun and even more copious quantities of piña coladas, the Detroit City Council, before taking a month-long break (making our brief holiday seem absolutely pitiful by comparison), voted to void two deals with transportation mogul Manuel "Matty" Moroun's Ambassador Port Co.
We offer a recap because a) Metro Times focused attention on the deals in question in a cover story earlier this year ("Port in a storm," MT, April 26) and b) the local dailies didn't give much ink to an issue that's important for a variety of reasons.
On Aug. 31, the council in a rare show of unanimity both voided two deals Deputy Mayor Anthony Adams inked with the privately owned port company and put Adams on notice that it would exercise its rights granted by the City Charter and force him from office if he again attempts to commit the city to other such contracts without first receiving council's approval.
The primary contract involves Moroun's company, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority. That deal allowed the company to reopen a 34-acre dock in Detroit and allows the company to operate the dock for as long as 90 years.
To get the deal to go through, the company loaned the Port Authority $2 million so that it could pay off a debt the prior port operator owed the city. The authority would also receive 2.5 percent of annual gross revenues, minus costs associated with the loan repayment.
As reported by Today's Trucking Online (todaystrucking.com), a trade publication based in Toronto, the second issue involves a $30 million offer by Moroun to take over the lease for the Detroit side of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel beginning in 2020. Outcry from folks on both sides of the border forced Kilpatrick to "temporarily" shelve that plan.
Interestingly, the above-mentioned account provided the most information about the controversy. The Detroit Free Press relegated its short report to its "news in a minute" briefs section. The Detroit News seems to have lived up to its nickname as the "snooze," because as far as we could tell, it was asleep at the rudder and missed the story completely.
Dan Stamper, who runs Moroun's various operations, tells News Hits that this is an instance of "no good deed going unpunished."
"We made an investment in Detroit, guaranteeing income to the Port Authority and the city, and bringing jobs back to Detroit," Stamper says.
Contending that there's been a lot of misinformation surrounding the deal, he says the company officials look forward to meeting with council members so that they can "answer questions with facts."
"We think they will come to the conclusion that this is good for Detroit," he says.
The concern voiced by some, as we reported back in April, is that the deal helps provide Moroun who owns the Ambassador Bridge with a monopoly over international trade moving into and out of Detroit.
And if the council doesn't see things Moroun's way? The company's lawyers are already researching whether the council actually has the authority to void the deals.
Which means that this has the potential to get ugly not to mention costly before it's all over.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]