Breaking the bridge stalemate
Should Snyder bypass the Legislature?
Published: March 28, 2012
In December, and again in January, the Gongwer News Service reported on the possibility of Gov. Snyder pursuing an end run around the Michigan Legislature, which, under heavy lobbying from the Moroun family and the bridge company, has blocked approval of a publicly owned bridge.
"... it is fairly clear the administration has been in communication with Attorney General Bill Schuette over legalities of different proposals" Gongwer's John Lindstrom wrote in January. "One factor in those discussions seems to be what strategy would best survive the inevitable legal challenge."
Lindstrom went on to report that one of the options being investigated by the administration is something called an "interlocal agreement" between the state and Canada. Such agreements are used between government agencies to provide services to the public.
With the Canadians fronting the money to construct the bridge, the Legislature wouldn't be in a position to stop the project by cutting off funding.
When we asked a Snyder spokeman if it is indeed exploring possibilities, including entering into a compact with Canada to construct the bridge without gaining legislative approval, Snyder spokesman Ken Silfven replied via e-mail:
"The project is vital to Michigan's future and our commitment to it is as strong as ever. But we prefer not to speculate as to possible options at this point. We're continuing the dialogue with our legislative partners. The governor has consistently said that his preference is to work with the Legislature to move the NITC forward. Tossing around various scenarios wouldn't be productive from our standpoint."
But it seems clear that the administration is indeed exploring alternatives that would allow it to act unilaterally. If that happens, Snyder would have the support of at least one former governor.
Jim Blanchard, a Democrat who occupied the governor's office from 1983 to 1991, told us that, in his view, the only people opposed to the NITC are those who have benefited financially from the largesse ladled out by the Moroun family and the bridge company.
Formerly a paid consultant on the DRIC project, Blanchard says that he continues to work on a pro bono basis because, as he puts it, there's no infrastructure project that's more important to the state's economic well-being.
The way he sees it, talk of the bridge company building a second span can't be taken seriously. Which means that there's really only one choice at this point: A publicly owned bridge built downriver as a joint project between Michigan and Canada.
As it is now, there is a standoff of sorts. A new Moroun-owned bridge isn't likely to be approved, yet Moroun and his company have so far been able to block construction of the publicly owned bridge.
It is up to Snyder to break the stalemate. He can do that by either winning support in the Legislature, or by finding a way to get the project moving by taking administrative action.
One way or another, though, Michigan needs the NITC. And Snyder needs to follow through on his promise to get it built.
Curt Guyette is Metro Times news editor. Reach him at 313-202-8004 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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