Longtime Detroit Port Authority board member Art Blackwell leaving

Art Blackwell says Wayne County politics threaten crucial Port Authority

DETROIT - For nearly 30 years, Art Blackwell has been on Detroit's Port Authority Board.

Blackwell was there for its humble beginnings and when it was one of the finest ports in the country.

"We got along with Engler and Granholm, we got along with Bush, Obama, you know it didn't matter because we had a mission," he said.

His unprecendented 7th term is ending and he has attended his final board meeting. He said his departure comes immediately after a failed political coup attempt to push him out of office.

"We've always been pro economic growth and pro economic development," he said. "The problem is politics sometimes gets in the way."

Blackwell said former Wayne County deputy exectuive, Azzam Elder, held secret meetings to try to replace him with Michael Grundy, who has since been fired from his position as County Executive Robert Ficano's assistant. Grundy is now under an FBI investigation.

Moreover, Blackwell said $200,000 were taken from the Port Authority's budget at the same time the County gave former economic development director Turkia Mullina severance payout for that amount.

"Two days after that we found out about a severance deal -- the same $200,000. And I thought it was just completely incidental until my director kind of said me that Mr. Elder wanted to have me replaced on this board."

He said the Port Authority is crucial to the region's well being. It is responsible for multi-million-dollar decisions in cargo shipping and pleasure travel. Blackwell insists it is no place to play politics and he is confident now that a qualified board member will replace him.

"Our record is impeccable here in terms of what we have done," Blackwell said.

Elder did not respond to comment request from Local 4.

Blackwell's replacement is expected to be named in the next two weeks.

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