Community, Labor and Business Leaders Tour Delray Neighborhood

As lawmakers in Lansing debate the future of a new bridge in southwest Detroit, political, business and labor leaders got on a bus to see what the impact would be in one neighborhood. WDET’s Rob St. Mary reports.

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Inside the Delray Community Center, lunch was served as State Representative Rashida Tlaib welcomed community, business and labor leaders to the bus tour.

“I’m one of original supporters who came out in support… of what we call in southwest Detroit… the Delray bridge. In Lansing they call it NITC, DRIC, all kinds of things. We supported in the hopes that we will be able to talk about the needs of the community and the things that we need to do in order to make this a win-win development.”

Before heading out, several people spoke including UAW President Bob King. He says the union is on record supporting a new bridge in Delray because if it's built it could be a great benefit for more than just one company.

“You know we went through a horrendous struggle to save General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and we did it by government and labor and community all working together. What I’m excited about with this project and the community benefits agreement is that this is a model that we have to set for the rest country. Too much of what we see going on in America is about polarization and too much of what we see today is instead of people coming together to find common solutions is people being polarized and pit against each other.”

With over 500 community members, the Community Benefits Coalition has been formed to seek a neighborhood voice in the effort to bring a bridge to Canada through Detroit’s Delray neighborhood. Under a state house bill, any agreements made with community members would be legally binding. Taking a cue from other public-private infrastructure developments in other states – like the Los Angeles International Airport expansion – the coalition would like the new bridge plan to include local jobs and economic development possibilities. Representative Tlaib says whomever builds the bridge should also aim to improve air quality and mitigate other industrial pollution.

“The company… whoever it is… is gonna want the same thing we do. They want people to think positive thoughts when they think of the new international trade crossing. They want to be able to come across there and not see blight, not see crime, and not see poverty and the odor and so much truck traffic. They want to have a positive experience when they come across there because that’s going to make that bridge more successful.”

Right now, lawmakers in Lansing are holding hearings to get more information before voting on the new Delray bridge deal. Much like the neighborhood tour Tlaib was on, she says she’s been giving tours to members of the Michigan Legislature on both sides of the aisle so they have a more complete picture of what it’s like in southwest Detroit today and what it could be like tomorrow with the new Delray bridge.

“What I’m hearing from my colleagues is “you know, Rashida, I’m willing to come and tour and look at this area. I’m willing to listen and be educated about the issue.” But they are not really ready to get out there. As you know… anybody who does… their district gets bombarded with mailers. In my community, I got fake eviction notices for god sakes. So, they are very desperate. The only people in this game that loses the most out of this is the Ambassador Bridge Company… and we have to be very cautious that any information that comes from that end is bias.”

In the meantime, Tlaib says she plans to continue her education efforts in Lansing to try to move the legislature forward towards a vote supporting a new international crossing between Delray and Windsor.

I’m Rob St. Mary – WDET News.