DETROIT – On August 14, 2014, U.S. Congressman John Conyers Jr. (MI-13)joined urban farming advocates and community members in the unveiling a mural on the new headquarters of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI).
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr. at MUFI
“I congratulate all of the dedicated volunteers of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative and Door to Door Organics for their inspiring efforts to renovate this formerly blighted building in Detroit’s North End and designate it as their newcommunity resource center,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. “I want to extend a special thank you to Tyler Gersh, founder of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, Detroit artist Ryan Herberholz, our friends at Door to Door Organics and all of those who have worked tirelessly to make this a reality.”
The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is a nonprofit organization that seeks to engage Michiganders in sustainable agriculture, believing that many of the challenges facing the region - such as blighted properties and vacant land, malnutrition, and food insecurity - create a unique opportunity for community-supported farming. The organization has begun renovation of a previously blighted building in Detroit’s North End that was built in 1915, and became uninhabitable after it was left vacant in 2009. The organization aims to restore the three-story, six-unit apartment complex and turn it into a community resource center that will help foster sustainability and urban renewal.
Door to Door Organicswas founded 1997 and partners with farmers to bring fresh, organic produce directly to the homes of its customers. They strive to help people incorporate healthy food into their everyday life with planning, shopping, and cooking tools.
“I am proud that Detroit has become a national leader in urban farming. It provides families with access to fresh produce that can reduce childhood obesity and malnutrition while addressing the lack of quality and affordable foods in our most food insecure communities,” added Conyers. “As your representative in Congress, I will continue to do everything I can to support the urban farming movement, which has untold potential right here in Detroit and beyond.”
WASHINGTON – On August 15, 2014, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers Jr. (MI-13), Subcommittee on Crime Ranking Member Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Subcommittee on the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (VA-06) requesting a Congressional hearing on recent incidents of local law enforcement using excessive force—sometimes deadly—and other violations where civil rights have been infringed upon.
In the letter, the Congressmen highlighted the troubling events that have transpired in Ferguson and those of similar nature that have occurred recently in New York City, Los Angeles, and Houston. The letter also expresses concern over the extensive militarization of local law enforcement.
The House Committee on the Judiciary has jurisdiction over protecting constitutional freedoms and civil liberties, oversight of the U.S. Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, legal and regulatory reform, innovation, competition and anti-trust laws, terrorism and crime, and immigration reform.
DETROIT – U.S. Congressman John Conyers Jr. (MI-13) released the following statement in response to ongoing events in Ferguson, Missouri:
“A few facts are clear: A young, unarmed man was shot by a police officer. A small town is under what is essentially martial law. Tear gas and rubber bullets are being used against everyday citizens. Serious and sweeping civil rights violations may have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri.
The tragic killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown and the events that have transpired since the shooting in Ferguson are reminiscent of the violent altercations that took place during the Civil Rights Movement. Countless African Americans endured unwarranted hostility and excessive force from law enforcement while exercising their right to peaceful assembly and civil resistance.
It is a great travesty to find ourselves again witnessing the blatant violation of our right to peaceably assemble in Ferguson. As documented by journalists and people on the ground in Ferguson over the last week, state and local law enforcement have grossly mismanaged any attempts to peaceably resolve the situation. Earlier this week, my colleagues and I issued a letter to the Department of Justice asking them to consider expanding the scope of federal involvement and to investigate the legal and civil rights ramifications of the shooting and surrounding circumstances.
Removal of the St. Louis County Police Department from any involvement in the policing of Ferguson is an important step towards restoring peace and allowing for an independent, thorough investigation to take place. The people of Ferguson deserve nothing less.”
Detroit, MI – It was a morning that featured plenty of applause. But John Dingell, hands down, received the biggest round.
When the 88-year-old congressman took the podium Wednesday morning at the post-primary Democratic Unity breakfast held at Wayne State University, it marked the beginning of a long-anticipated transition.
But Dingell’s remarks sounded little like those of a retiring statesman, and instead struck a tone that sounded more like an excited campaigner gearing up for one last battle.
“The challenge is yours, the challenge is ours. The hopes of the country rests with us. Are we up to it?” Dingell told the 100 or so Michigan Democrats gathered for the breakfast. “We are here to win the next election. We need to get those Republicans out of Lansing. And get them out of Washington!”
The longest-serving member of Congress was passing on the torch, with his wife Debbie formally nominated as the Democratic nominee to replace him in his left-leaning district and his colleague John Conyers eager to take on the role of “Dean of the House.”
But, as anyone who has interacted with Dingell would expect, he had a few more things to say before yielding the microphone.
Dingell dressed down House Republicans, focusing his 10-minute remarks largely on the infighting that has characterized GOP control of the House since 2010.
“It’s the strangest party that I’ve ever seen, the Republicans. They’re so busy fighting each other they don’t have time to fight the Democrats,” Dingell declared. “You kind of feel sorry for John Boehner, who is a very decent man, 'cause he has to deal with all of those crackpots.”
The dream of a Democratic majority colored the comments of Conyers, who faced an electoral scare earlier this year when he initially failed to turn in enough signatures to get on the ballot.
But once he secured a ballot spot, Conyers – who has been in the House since 1965 -- coasted to victory.
He said he hopes his time as Congress's longest serving member will be remembered as a period in which the Democrats can take back the House.
“I see a lot of opportunity here. I’m looking for a Democratic resurgence nationally” Conyers said in an interview with the Post following the breakfast. “The Republicans…seem to have had a lot of turmoil.”
He, like Dingell, said that House Democrats must take advantage of infighting between the GOP House leadership and the more conservative wing of the Republican Party in order to win back the House in future years.
“That’s still ongoing, and that’s where our opportunity comes in. The tea party is willing to take the Republican moderates over the cliff. They’ve made that pretty clear.”
Economic Development Bond Programs Would Lower Borrowing Costs for Detroit and Cities Across the Nation
(WASHINGTON) — On July 31, 2014, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. introduced H.R. 5330, theBringing Urgent Investment to Local Development (BUILD) Act. This critical legislation would reauthorize the Build America Bond (BAB) Program and Recovery Zone Economic Development Bonds Program to enable states and municipalities to build and repair roads, schools, medical facilities, water sanitation systems, mass transit, and other essential infrastructure at lower cost.
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
“The BUILD Act directly addresses the root causes of the unemployment crisis in communities where it is most severe and enables cities across the country to accelerate much-needed infrastructure projects, while spurring economic development,” said Congressman John Conyers Jr. “Investing in infrastructure and public works projects is a proven, cost-effective, market-oriented approach to empowering communities.”
BABs are taxable bonds for which the U.S. Treasury pays a direct subsidy to the issuer to reduce interest costs. The bonds empower state and local governments to build and repair roads, schools, medical facilities, water sanitation systems, mass transit, and other essential infrastructure at lower cost. In 2009-2010, every dollar from the BAB program leveraged $41 in private capital, enabling the financing of thousands of projects and the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs. The reauthorization of the BAB program has been supported by diverse organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the National Association of Counties, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. TIME magazine described this approach as one of the economic recovery effort’s biggest successes.
The BUILD Act will immediately reauthorize thenow-expired BAB Program with a 35% subsidy rate for communities facing emergency economic conditions (communities that exceed 150% of national average rate of unemployment or poverty) and a 28% subsidy rate for all other communities.
“It’s time to invest in America’s future and close our infrastructure deficit. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our nation needs to invest approximately $2.7 trillion in roads, bridges, water and sewage systems, electrical grids, and ports by 2020. That’s just 6 years away - yet there’s only an estimated $1.6 trillion in public and private financing projected to be available over that period,” added Conyers. “Left unaddressed, it will mean more frequent power outages, traffic jams, higher prices at supermarkets, and even dangerous accidents like the bridge collapses of recent years.”
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The BUILD Act has the support of the following original cosponsors: Representatives Charles Rangel (NY-13), Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Gregory Meeks (NY-05), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Frederica Wilson (FL-24), and Matt Cartwright (PA-17).
WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman John Conyers Jr. , Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made opening remarks at the full House Judiciary Committee legislative hearing on the “IRS Targeting Scandal: The Need for a Special Counsel.” Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
“Mr. Chairman, today is the last full working day before the August recess.
“I am concerned, and deeply disappointed, by how we have chosen to spend it.
“Under federal regulations, and according to all available precedent, the appointment of special counsel is reserved for extraordinary circumstances—where a conflict of interest at the highest levels of government requires the Department of Justice to abandon its normal process of investigation and prosecution.
“Two separate congressional committees have sorted through more than half a million pages of documents, conducted 40 transcribed interviews, and held more than three-dozen hearings and markups to examine the criteria used by the IRS to screen applicants for tax-exempt status.
“The committees have not uncovered one shred of evidence to suggest that the involvement of senior officials at the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, or the White House.
“Without that evidence, calls for a special counsel are simply unwarranted.
“The Chairman has mentioned H. Res. 565, which demands that the Attorney General appoint special counsel in this matter. Of course, as a matter of law, the Attorney General has absolute discretion to determine whether a special counsel is necessary. Congress cannot compel him to do so.
“We might have explained this point had we maintained regular order, and discussed H. Res. 565 in this Committee prior to consideration on the House floor.
“What troubles me most about this resolution is its preamble: 8 pages of unsubstantiated claims, carefully tailored half-truths, and political innuendo.
“For example, the resolution references two anonymous sources in a January 13thWall Street Journal article, who claim that the Department has concluded its investigation. That claim ignores the testimony of both Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey, who assured this Committee that the investigation is ongoing.
“The resolution claims that the Department of Justice and the FBI “have refused to cooperate with congressional oversight.”
“Of course, the Chairman knows that—under longstanding policy, applied consistently by Administrations of both parties—Congress is not entitled to materials related to an ongoing criminal investigation. Otherwise, the Department’s attempt to accommodate our needs have been extraordinary.
“The resolution’s largest error is the same false premise underlying this hearing. H. Res. 565 claims that the IRS “targeted conservative nonprofit groups for extra scrutiny in connection with applications for tax-exempt status.”
“That is partly true. But it is a deliberate half-truth, and one that leads to the wrong conclusion.
“The record is clear: overwhelmed with applications for tax-exempt status after the Citizens United decision, the IRS created a list of search terms in an attempt to sort legitimate applicants from mere political shells.
“Those search terms applied across the political spectrum—to Tea Party groups, but also to groups with the words “progressive” and “Occupy” in their titles. We all agree that this approach was poorly conceived, but not a single applicant was denied tax-exempt status because of it.
“The Majority knows that this is a case of bureaucratic ineptitude, and not so-called ‘political targeting.’ They only frame it as such because it is politically expedient to do so.
“This underscores my final point. Given the long list of urgent matters pending before us, this hearing is an unacceptable misuse of our time and resources.
“The 113th Congress has spent more than $18 million taxpayer dollars investigating the IRS. The House has held more than three dozen hearings and markups on the topic. We have already voted on the particular question of appointing special counsel.
“But we have held not one hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on comprehensive immigration reform.
“Not one hearing on legislation to update the Voting Rights Act.
“Not one hearing on much-needed reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.
“Not one hearing on stemming the tide of gun violence in this country, a scourge that has claimed nearly 20,000 lives since this Congress began.
“Not one hearing on a range of local civil rights issues across the map: including police practices in New York, due process rights for minors at the Texas border, prison conditions in California, access to the ballot box in Florida, and access to drinking water and other basic utilities in Michigan.
“Any one of these topics would be appropriate for consideration today, our last full day of work before the break.
“Instead, we will hold one more hearing—in the line of dozens of hearings—on a so-called “scandal” in which one office in the IRS bureaucracy denied zero applications for tax-exempt status.
“In terms of actually compelling the Attorney General to appoint a special counsel, this hearing stands about as much a chance of success as the Speaker’s woefully misguided lawsuit against the President.
“I hope that, after the break, cooler heads will prevail. There is still time to correct this Committee’s priorities before the Congress ends.