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On the governor’s public bridge, let the people decide

‘Yes’ on Prop 6

By Belda Garza and Jane Garcia

To hear it from proponents of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC), a proposed new bridge between Detroit and Windsor will provide a risk-free bounty of jobs and dollars for the state. But not only have state officials misinformed the public by vastly overstating the economic benefit from the project, they have also completely disregarded a crucial consideration: how a new bridge will devastate the neighborhoods and environment in Delray where it’s being built. To the people living there, the whimsical promises of jobs and money won’t matter if their very livelihoods are destroyed.

We’ve seen this lack of concern from politicians time and time again. The decision about a fourth international crossing, and where any such crossing should be located is so vital it should not be left to politicians. Rather, it is a decision that should be made by citizens — especially those who would be directly impacted by the construction.

The argument that the NITC would drive economic growth, especially in the local community, is built on a very weak foundation. First, the agreement signed by the governor gives Canada control over selection of contractors and materials for construction. The governor even applied for a waiver to avoid requirements to use American-made steel and iron on the bridge. If they’re not using American materials, why should we believe they’ll use American workers? Second, there is absolutely no proof another bridge will stimulate new business, given that existing crossings already provide more than sufficient transportation capacity.

Meanwhile, the devastating damage the bridge will do to an existing community is very certain. At least 250 homes, five churches and 43 businesses in the Delray neighborhood are in the footprint of the new bridge. With Michigan homes severely devalued by the housing crisis, even fair market value would provide little for these displaced residents and business owners. The state’s own study notes these local businesses support 685 jobs, and that “the loss of jobs will be predominately borne by minority and low-income population groups.”

Those who remain will be left to deal with the headaches of bridge construction. Pollutants emitted from diesel engines idling while waiting their turn at the crossing will severely diminish the neighborhood’s air quality. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, idling truck traffic can emit as much as 135 grams of harmful nitrogen oxides in an hour.

Shockingly, at least one site with less environmental impact appears to have been rejected, and still other sites were not fully studied, because Michigan and Canadian officials declared such locations “off limits” to protect more affluent neighborhoods.

We deserve better.

Our leaders must answer the tough questions about the potential negative impact on Detroiters, and specifically those in the communities that would be most directly affected by the construction, traffic and demolition that the NITC would bring.

Michigan voters will have a chance to ensure they have a voice in the bridge debate, thanks to The People Should Decide initiative, Proposal 6 on the ballot. If passed, Proposal 6 would require any new border crossing to win the approval of Michigan voters.

While the economic impact of the bridge is still uncertain, the potentially devastating human impact near the proposed bridge is frighteningly real — too real, in fact, to leave it up to our politicians (and Canada’s, for that matter) to decide.  That’s why a “yes” vote on Proposal 6 on Nov. 6 is so important.

It is not just checking a box on a ballot sheet. It is empowering the Michigan people to prevent politicians from selling us an economic mirage that imperils our own backyard.

Belda Garza is a member of MANA de Metro Detroit, the local chapter of MANA, a National Latina Organization, dedicated to empowering Latinas through leadership development, community service and advocacy. Jane Garcia is a board president of LASED (Latin Americans for Social and Economic Development), an advocacy agency serving the Latino/Southwest area of Detroit.

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