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Fred Durhal is 'not for sale' when it comes to new bridge

Ambassador Bridge
J. Stephen Conn
Two joggers run under the Ambassador Bridge which connects Detroit to Windsor

When Governor Rick Snyder came into office, one of the priorities of his campaign was to build a new international bridge to span the Detroit River.

Snyder's proposal for the  bridge - from Detroit to Windsor - was denied time and again by Michigan's state Legislature. Democrats in the State House and Senate were against the idea, as were many members of the Governor's own party. 

But last May Snyder made an agreement with Canada in which Canada would pay for the construction of the new bridge - without the consent of Michigan Legislature. 

Last Friday, State Representative Fred Durhal (D-Detroit) challenged Snyder's deal in court in Ingham County.

Durhal, who is also running for Mayor of Detroit, said that the Governor doesn't have the legal authority to make an agreement with a foreign country. The Governor believes he does have the authority to do so under the Urban Cooperation Act. 

"He's violated the Michigan Constitution and Michigan statutes by executing this crossing agreement and purporting to bind the state of Michigan without any approval from the Michigan legislature," Durhal said.

Under the agreement Snyder made with Canada, Canada will be responsible for building the $550 million dollar bridge. 

"I can't recall [a time] when someone offered me $550 million with no strings attached. This will bind citizens of Michigan...members of the Senate and House opposed it," said Durhal.

Let's complicate this story a little bit more.

Matty Moroun, the owner of the Ambassador Bridge is strongly opposed to Snyder's proposal of the building of a new bridge to Canada.

Moroun contributed some $7,000 to Durhal's campaign. 

Has that money influenced Durhal's decision to file a law suit against Snyder?

"The reason the suit is being filed is because we've perceived [the agreement with Canada] to be an overreach by the governor," Durhal said. "I'm not the only person who's received money from Matty Moroun. There are a number of legislators who have, and that doesn't have anything to do with this," Durhal said.

Durhal said he has not had any conversations with Matty Moroun or his family about the case and that the campaign contributions are not influential.

"$7,000 is nothing. I think I make more than that in my salary and not only that but I don't think I would sell for 7,500 bucks or whatever newspapers are reporting," he said. "I've been in this business for more than thirty years and I think you can rest assured that it'll take a hell of a lot more than 7,000 bucks to buy me if that were the case. I'm not for sale in any case."

Despite questions about Durhal's interests, he maintained that Michigan Legislature deserves to be a part of the deal making process. Durhal  would like to see an injunctive release, which he said will stop the agreement from becoming law. Additionally, he would like Snyder to bring the agreement to the legislature and "run it through the proper channels again and see if he can get it done."

-Lucy Perkins, Michigan Radio Newsroom

To listen to the full audio, click the link above. 

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