Our Editorial: Taxpayers on hook for Port boondoggle
The Public Dock and Terminal belonging to the Detroit-Wayne County Port Authority downtown is a fine place to hold an upscale wedding, with its generous glass windows opening to a sweeping view of the Detroit River. Receptions start at $18,000 and go up from there.
But it’s apparently a lousy place to unload Great Lakes cruise boat passengers, the purpose for which it was built with $22 million in pork, much of it secured from Washington.
The facility has seen just one cruise ship at its dock this summer, and none last year.
So instead, it’s used for weddings and other high-priced events staged by a company with deep ties to the Democratic Party.
This glaring example of how carelessly the federal government spends taxpayer money without any assurance of a return on investment comes to us courtesy the Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security was, as its name implies, formed after September 11 to safeguard the nation. Instead, it has it has become a rapidly expanding, $54 billion federal bureaucracy notorious for funding boondoggle projects.
Add to the list the Port Authority building. This white elephant came to be with the help of former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat who helped secure the Homeland Security funds for its construction.
The Port Authority was convinced that building an inviting entry point on the river would entice cruise ships to make Detroit a stop on their Great Lakes tours.
But those ships haven’t come. The authority blames U.S. Customs for not staffing the four-year-old building, a necessity since many of the cruise ship passengers are from Canada and other foreign countries. Customs says that’s not true, and counters the facility is not equipped to meet its inspection and retention standards.
Meanwhile, cruise ship passengers continue to disembark across the river in Windsor.
And a facility whose construction costs in typical fashion soared to $22 million from $7.5 million because of poor planning now exists to serve the interests of Continental Services and Catering, which paid the authority $140,000 in commission last year and has the building tied up through 2017.
The payments from Continental are $60,000 less than it costs to heat the building.
Continental’s founders, Alex and James Brady, donate heavily to Democratic politicians — one of the events it catered at the authority building was a $1,000 a plate fundraiser for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
The company also has a political action committee administered by Ron Thayer, a veteran Democratic money man.
The mistakes of building the facility and overpaying for its construction should not be compounded by now having its limited use fall under the shadow of political back scratching.
This building should be put up for sale — though it’s questionable how much of the $22 million it cost can be recovered — and the taxpayers spared additional abuse.
If a sale isn’t possible, the seemingly cronystic arrangement with Continental should be set aside and a tenant found that will at least cover the facility’s annual costs.