Seize the bridge! (Again)

By Joel Thurtell

Finally, somebody in mainstream media gets it. Matty Moroun’s privately-owned bridge to Canada is falling apart, he’s corrupted Michigan politics in hopes of torpedoing a publicly-owned bridge in favor of his family’s monopoly, he’s filed innumerable stupid lawsuits costing taxpayers millions, so why don’t the governments of Canada, Ontario, the United States and Michigan declare the bridge a public nuisance and take it?

Thank you, Jack Lessenberry!

“Seize the bridge!” was the gist of Jack’s talk on Michigan Radio this week.

Now for a pop history quiz: What Michigan blogger has urged public officials since 2009 to take Matty’s toy away from him?

Hint: Try googling “shotgun totin’ goon.”

I started my campaign to push Matty back shortly after one of his thugs chased me out of Detroit’s Riverside Park on September 22, 2008. My first aim was to eject the billionaire scofflaw out of the park. Take back what belongs to the people. After 9/11, Matty conspired with the felon mayor of Detroit, Kwame “Jailbait” Kilpatrick to steal the part of the park that he needed for his proposed new bridge. That, by the way, is the portion of the park that Detroit’s currently unconvicted mayor, Mike Duggan, so brainlessly dealt away to Matty last summer. (It was a move that Detroit’s media enthusiastically endorsed as smart politics on Mike’s part.) The media luminaries forgot how hard the city had to fight for more than three years in court to eject Matty from that piece of public land that he converted from shady basketball courts to a dump for his construction debris.

Seven years ago, on September 25, 2008, I wrote: “Why go to court? Give Matty the bum’s rush: Send a city work crew with bulldozers and dump trucks to tear down the fences and clear out the construction crap. Assign a couple dozen Special Weapons And Tactics cops with heavy artillery to guard the workers. Open up the boat ramp and invite people to bring their boats.”

Remember, I was harassed into leaving that piece of the park by none other than Matty’s hireling, a shotgun-totin’ goon named Doug. I learned that jackboots like Doug doing Matty’s bidding had been ejecting other people, including city park officials, from Riverside park. The story I wrote after my ejection from Riverside Park was the first of dozens of articles I wrote in a campaign to alert local media that this billionaire sociopath was stealing public property with impunity.

When I tried to report the shotgun totin’ goon to Detroit police, a desk officer told me, “Take it up with Mr. Moroun.” The city cop seemed to think Matty owned Detroit.

So on September 25, 2008, I continued, “I’ll bring my boat. I’d be honored to launch the “Slick” at Riverside Park. Then assign police to keep an eye on the park. If Matty tries to retake it, to close the ramp, to bring his crud back, why, just send a SWAT team in to push his bully boys out. Believe me, Doug and his gunslinger pals would wilt at the first sign the city means business.”

Then on May 14, 2009, I upped the ante in an essay, “Playing Matty’s Game.” I didn’t just call for taking back the park. I demanded that government authorities seize Matty’s beloved Ambassador Bridge:

Remember what JOTR said when this whole story surfaced last September? Why not send a city work crew with bulldozers, backhoes and a SWAT team to Riverside Park?

Tear down Matty’s fence.

Tear down Matty’s fraudulent Homeland Security “no trespassing” signs.

Replace those basketball courts.

Re-sod the area Matty tore up.

Once started, why stop with taking back the park?

Turn Matty’s medicine back on him. Send that SWAT team in to seize the bridge itself.

Lots of chatter about whether Matty has the power of eminent domain.

Surely, the government has the power to condemn private property, including a privately-owned international bridge.

I understand 40 percent of the freight passing between Canada and the U.S. goes by way of the Ambassador bridge.

The people need to own the bridge.

Seize it!

If Matty sends out his private army of shave-domed, shotgun-slingin’ hooligans, why hey — I kinda think Detroit cops could sent em packin.

If there’s a problem, maybe Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans could lend a few deputies and even Gov. Jennifer Granholm could send in the National Guard.

Take the bridge. 

Wouldn’t that be great?

Number One thing a public owner would do? Have the bridge inspected for safety. That would be a first. That would lead, inevitably, to defusing the bomb under the bridge, i.e., dismantling those underground fuel storage tanks sitting under the bridge along with the 300,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel that are the biggest security risk facing this bridge. (The fuel storage situation no longer exists.)

Number Two: According to law, no more hazardous material trucks on the bridge. That would be a first.

Number Three: Run the bridge as a public entity generating revenue for the public treasury. Another first.

Lastly, tell Matty if he wants his bridge back, he can sue.

Isn’t that kind of what Matty’s telling the city?

I just could not understand why government officials didn’t push Matty back. Why let him get away with his outlaw behavior? If I tried to steal a public park, I’d go to jail. So I said in a May 15, 2009 essay, “Who’s the Thug?” in which I again called for booting him from park land and seizing his bridge:

Was I promoting “thuggish” behavior by arguing that Detroit should run Matty Moroun out of a city park, part of which he seized illegally alongside his Ambassador Bridge?

I’ve suggested sending a city work crew with a SWAT team for protection in case there’s any resistance from his musclebound, shotgun totin’ goons.

A reader says I’m ignoring Matty’s right to due process.

It’s a twisted line of reasoning that turns Matty into the victim rather than the palpable perp that he is.

Let’s be clear about this: Manuel “Matty” Moroun, the billionaire trucking mogul who stole part of Detroit’s public Riverside Park, has no lease on the property he seized. He had no permission from the city to destroy backetball courts and play fields so he could store construction junk on city property.

He paid no rent over the several years that he illegally used the park.

Now, I ask you: If a few poor, homeless people set up a tent city in Riverside Park, how long would it take for the city of Detroit to send cops to bounce the interlopers and tear down their tents?

And if the tent people refused to leave, what do you think would happen?

They’d be arrested and tossed into jail.

They’d be charged with trespassing, obstructing justice, littering and a host of other infractions. If they destroyed city property, they’d be charged with malicious destruction of property.

Why not treat Matty the same way?

Squatters are squatters.

Oh, I know — Matty has legions of lawyers with nothing better to do than tie up government in long, drawn-out court battles.

Is that why he gets special treatment?

I say charge him with the same counts anybody else would face if they destroyed city property and used it illegally.

This could all be done through courts, and Matty would get more due process than he gave citizens like me who were chased out of Riverside Park by his thugs.

We had a right to be there.

Hey, I wonder if there are civil rights issues involved with Matty’s ouster of people peacefully and legitimately using a public park?

Why this case of Matty seizing park property is being pursued by the city as a landlord-tenant case baffles me.

He’s created a public nuisance. No need for eviction proceedings. Give him the bum’s rush.

Boot him, then condemn his beloved Ambassador Bridge under eminent domain laws. Pay him a fair price and convert it to a publicly-owned, operated and regulated bridge.

If his shave-headed guards put up resistance, send in a SWAT team from Detroit and let the Mounties take the Canadian side.

I wrote on September 22, 2009,” Send a SWAT team to run him off city property,  charge him and his minions with criminal trespass, declare the bridge a public nuisance due to the explosive automotive fuel he’s storing under it and seize it under eminent domain.”

I’ve been pushing this idea for a long time. Take the goddam bridge!

Don’t think Matty isn’t worried that someday a government will try to take his bridge. In an April 17, 2010 essay, “Faces of Matty,” I reported on a Metro Times story that quoted one of Moroun’s lawyers threatening to shoot city employees who might try to take back Riverside Park:

Echoing a sentiment expressed more than once on this blog, city attorney Eric Gaabo remarked that the government could stop being polite and abandon the court process, since it has the legal power to seize 23rd Street back from Matty.

According to the Metro Times, Matty’s lawyer, William Seikaly, had this to say about that:

It’s a good thing that didn’t happen, responded Seikaly, saying that if any city employees tried to tear down the fence they “would be met by armed guards. Probably somebody would be shot.”

Ain’t that sweet?

Probably somebody would be shot.

City workers trying to fence off city property would be attacked with firearms.

By Matty’s goons.

Which is to say, by Matty.

That doesn’t play well around me.

I was confronted by one of Matty’s goons on city property.

“Probably would be shot.”

Well, that goon had a shotgun.

When he tried to arrest me, I walked away.

When he tried to block my car with his pickup, I drove away.

Guess I’m lucky.

I’m lucky the goon didn’t shoot me.

That was the real face of Matty.

Sometime late in 2010, the Windsor Star urged governments to seize the Ambassador Bridge. My blog post report of the fact included a link to the Star editorial, but the connection no longer exists. But it happened — a print newspaper actually took up my cry. I reported the Star’s position on December 8, 2010: “Seize the bridge!”:

The Windsor Star has called on Canadian governments to nationalize the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge linking the U.S. and Canada.

About time somebody took this idea seriously.

Besides me.

Back on May 14, 2009, I argued that governments, using their power of eminent domain, simply condemn Matty Moroun’s beloved, lucrative and decrepit Ambassador Bridge. There’s not much leadership right now on the U.S. side, but if the Canadians took over that portion of the bridge that rests on their territory, it might build a fire under U.S. authorities. It might shame them into doing what’s right for the common good instead of playing the billionaire’s shoddy game.

One piece of advice I’d change. Instead of having the Canadian and U.S. governments operate the bridge, I’d suggest doing one of two things: 1) Tear it down as a public nuisance and replace it with the government-supported Detroit River International Crossing bridge; or 2) build the DRIC, but re-open the Ambassador as a theme park dedicated to the merits of PUBLIC transportation.

By December 11, 2010, Fox Channel 2 picked up the story. I received a visit from one of their news crews and in an essay, “Me & Matty & Fox 2,” I reported on their report:

Bill Gallagher of Fox 2 stopped by Plymouth a few days ago and we chatted about Matty Moroun alongside the city’s picturesque Kellogg Park.

Later in the day, Fox 2 aired parts of our interview:

I seemed to be butting heads with Dan Stamper, another Plymouth Township resident who’s president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., paper owner of the Ambassador Bridge linking Detroit in the U.S. with Windsor in Canada.

We know who the REAL owner of the bridge is.

Manuel “Matty” Moroun.

Here, as best I can recall, are the details of what I told Bill Gallagher:

If you or I decided maybe we’d pitch our tent in a city park and live there, how long do you think it would take Detroit police to run us out?

What if I went down to Riverside Park and tore down city-owned basketball courts and shade trees so I could use the site for a new money-making bridge for me while meantime storing construction debris where kids used to play basketball?

What if I put up a chain link fence to keep the public out of a public park?

Just to add insult to my actions, what if I hung phony “Homeland Security” signs from my illegal fence?

What if I hired security guards — shotgun totin’ goons — and had them run citizens out of this public park just because I wanted the place for my own money-grubbing pursuits?

What if I stole city property to build a duty-free store and gas station?

How long do you think it would be before a SWAT team hauled me off in handcuffs while bulldozers tore down the fence, trashed the signs and leveled my store?

Pronto is how fast it would happen.

If it were you or me we’d be jailed on charges of criminal trespassing.

But the perp is Matty Moroun, and Matty Moroun gets away with it.

The city’s been in court more than two years trying to evict this miscreant from a public park.

They’re in court now trying to make him raze that store and build according to plan.

But he’s Matty Moroun.

He’s a billionaire

He gets away with behavior that would put you and me behind bars.

You know what? Matty used to claim his bridge was a “federal instrumentality” with the power to seize property under eminent domain. The courts told him that’s baloney.

But I know a REAL federal instrumentality invested with the power to seize private property like Matty’s prized bridge.

It’s called the “federal government.”

Memo to Barack:

Take the bridge!



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