Thursday, January 24, 2013

Conyers Applauds $8.5 Million Renovation Funding for the David Whitney Building

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.

 (DETROIT) – Today, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $1 million Michigan Community Revitalization Program performance-based grant and a $7.5 million loan to Whitney Partners, LLC for the renovation of the David Whitney building in Detroit. The Michigan Community Revitalization Program is managed by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, a public-private partnership supported by a state appropriation from the Michigan Strategic Fund. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) issued this statement following the announcement:

“I am delighted that $8.5 million in performance-based grant and loan funding has been provided to a local real estate development company, through a public-private partnership, for the renovation of the David Whitney building,” said Conyers.

“This funding will go towards the construction of 108 residential apartments, 135 hotel rooms, and the creation of 75 permanent full-time jobs. In addition, this renovation project will restore the community’s access to the Detroit People Mover, and will bring in investment capital of $82.5 million.

“I commend the Michigan Community Revitalization Program for their innovative public-private partnership model that addresses local challenges. This project has the potential to be an integral part of the continued revitalization of our great city.”

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Conyers Joins Gun Violence Prevention Forum in Calling for Action Now

U.S.. Representative
John conyers, Jr.

 (WASHINGTON) – Yesterday, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) participated in a forum put on by the Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce, established by Minority Leader Pelosi. Following his participation in the forum, Congressman Conyers issued this statement:

“As gun violence continues to pervade our nation, I commend the Gun Violence Prevention Taskforce for their continued focus on the issue,” said Conyers.

“A broad spectrum of witnesses at today’s hearing, and at the hearing of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee last week,  have proposed a number of ways for Congress to act to help reduce gun violence in our communities.  Based on those ideas, and the recommendations announced last week by the President and Vice President, I call on Congress to act now, including adoption of these important priorities:

“First, we must require background checks for all gun sales. Current law only requires licensed gun dealers to perform the checks before selling a gun.  Non-licensed sellers do not have to perform checks, and it’s estimated that 40% of guns are sold by private sellers without checks. This is unacceptable, and is a major drive of gun violence in this country.

“Second, we must ban semi-automatic assault weapons. In 1994, Congress enacted a ban, but it expired in 2004. Military-grade weapons simply do not belong on our streets.
“Third, we must ban high-capacity ammunition magazines. As with assault weapons, Congress had banned high-capacity ammunition magazines but the ban expired in 2004 due to the law’s sunset provision.  High-capacity magazines, which have the capacity of holding more than 10 bullets, allow shooters to spray a high-volume of bullets at people without reloading, making guns much more deadly.

“Fourth, we must address the root causes of violent crime in our communities through programs which are proven to prevent crime.
“Fifth, we must also address the mental health crisis in our country, in which approximately 26% of our population suffers from serious mental illness. I applaud President Obama’s call for a new initiative to train mental health professionals and deploy them in our communities.  And I commend the action the President is taking to finalize regulations to establish insurance parity between mental health treatment and treatment for physical health. 

“Above all else, we must take a comprehensive approach to preventing firearms violence, including these actions and others as President Obama has recommended, because the scope of the problem is enormous.

“There are 33 people murdered with firearms every day in America.  The actions we take must reflect that the fact that we have the equivalent of a mass shooting every day.  Over 58,000 U.S. soldiers were killed during the entirety of the Vietnam War.  However, gun violence kills more civilians in America every two years. 

“In the past several years, tragedies arising from gun violence have impacted our schools, movie theaters, and even local Congressional events. The time is now for Congress to take action on these proposals, so we can address the national crisis of gun violence before another tragedy occurs yet again.”

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House & Senate Democrats Reintroduce Comprehensive Voting Rights Bill

Voter Empowerment Act Will Strengthen Our Democracy 
Through Ensuring Equal Access to Registration and Voting
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Rep. John Lewis (GA-5), House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD-5), Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC-6), Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), and Rep. Robert Brady (PA-1) reintroduced the Voter Empowerment Act in the House of Representatives.  Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York introduced a companion version in the Senate.  The Voter Empowerment Act will help ensure equal access to the ballot for every eligible voter, will modernize our voter registration system to help more Americans participate, and takes steps to eliminate deceptive practices and voter fraud that deter voters from casting their ballots. 
As more and more stories of voting problems emerge from last year’s general election, Democrats are continuing to press the issue of ensuring Americans’ voting rights through Congressional action, especially at a time when some states have implemented or are planning to implement new barriers to voting for certain groups, including seniors, students, low-income Americans, and members of our Armed Services.  The bill is being reintroduced on the anniversary of the 24th Amendment, which banned the discriminatory practice of the poll tax.
Click for a section by section descriptionfact sheetquotes in support, or full bill text of the Voter Empowerment Act.

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Pelosi, Conyers and Moore Reintroduce Violence Against Women Act Vow to Work for Swift Reauthorization of Vital Legislation

Washington, D.C. – Today, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers and Rep. Gwen Moore (WI-4) were joined by a number of their colleagues to reintroduce the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.  The legislation strengthens the abilities of the federal government, states, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.  The Violence Against Women Act currently has 158 cosponsors in the House.

“For nearly two decades, the Violence Against Women Act has brought domestic violence out of the shadows, protected women and children from harm, and saved lives.  Congress must build on this history of progress and reauthorize and strengthen this law without any delay,” said Leader Pelosi.  “No woman should ever be forced to suffer in silence in the face of abuse, and Democrats are committed to expanding protections for America’s women and giving law enforcement the tools they need to enforce the Violence Against Women Act and keep women safe.”

“Since the Violence Against Women Act was signed into law in 1994, it has always enjoyed strong bipartisan support,” said Conyers.  “Last Congress, partisan politics got in the way of action, and the Violence Against Women Act was not reauthorized.  I call on my colleagues today to put aside their differences and pass this bill as soon as possible for President Obama to sign.  Victims of domestic violence can wait no longer.”

“Domestic violence is a cancer that pervades our communities and our homes,” said Rep. Moore.  “As a survivor of domestic violence I feel it is my personal responsibility to reach back and help those who have been victimized.  No woman should ever feel afraid in her own neighborhood or home.  No woman should ever have to endure the physical and psychological pain of domestic violence.  Yet, too many women continue to live in fear.  And that is why we must reauthorize – and strengthen – the Violence Against Women Act.”

The Violence Against Women Act has a strong track record of success, demonstrably improving the criminal justice system’s ability to keep victims safe and hold perpetrators accountable.  The annual incidence of domestic violence has dropped more than 50 percent since the law was originally enacted.  This Act provides life-saving support to victims of domestic violence and strengthens communities to help end this brutality.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Time to Tackle America's Real Debt: Jobs

By U.S. Congressman
John Conyers, Jr.

As President Obama prepares to take the oath of office, an elite consensus has emerged in Washington: The first term was about reducing unemployment; the second is about tackling the federal debt.
The Economist Magazine put it succinctly: "The crisis and recession are past," it declared. "Mr. Obama's priority now is dealing with the deficit they left behind."
For tens of millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans, there is a different reality, however: The Great Recession is alive and kicking. Rather than buying into the defunct economic ideology that underlies today's budget-cutting fervor, President Obama should focus on restoring workers' dignity and the nation's economy by restoring full employment.
For all the talk about the end of the Great Recession, there are still 12.2 million unemployed people in the United States. This does not include millions more who are working part-time but want and need full-time work. Worse still, this does not include millions of others who are too discouraged to continue looking for work.
Even these grim statistics mask the urgency of the situation. Empirical research over the past four years has shown that people who lose their jobs bear lasting damage to their earnings potential, their mental and physical health and the life opportunities of their children.
The costs are borne not only by individuals and families but cities, regions and the national economy. Years of persistently high unemployment have undermined the base of technical skills on which the nation relies to compete in manufacturing and other sectors globally; these years of high unemployment have reduced consumer demand, causing countless American firms to close.
All told, unemployment is still a national emergency in 2013.
Yet Washington politicians, spurred by an extreme conservative faction, are now pretending that it isn't.
The narrative that has taken hold in the nation's capital -- that America is broke and must sell off its assets and abandon key services for its most vulnerable people -- is based not on facts but fear.
Insider interest groups like the Peterson Institute, intent on reducing taxes for the wealthiest 1% by cuttingvital programs including Social Security and Medicare, have been screaming since the early 1990s that investors will soon boycott U.S. bonds unless the nation drastically reduces its spending on the social safety net. These "bond vigilantes", they argue, will force our national borrowing costs -- the interest rates on our bonds -- through the roof, wreaking havoc on the economy.
Yet, tellingly, this never happens. For all the hysteria about budget deficits, there's a simple fact that's evident today: the cost of government borrowing is very low. The federal government can raise funds in the short term with practically no interest; it can borrow funds over ten years for less than two percent. These rates are not simply an economic advantage for the United States: They are a powerful statement that global markets still have great confidence in our national finances.
These low rates are also, crucially, a sign that we should assign urgency where urgency is due: dealing with our debilitating jobs crisis.
This is why I am proposing the "21st Century Full Employment Act" to invest in workers' skills and create public-interest work opportunities for all those who seek them. Such an approach would not only help the nation to overcome its educational challenges, environmental crises, and infrastructure deficits; it would also boost private sector economic growth by injecting desperately needed demand into the economy.
In seeking election in 2008, President Obama invoked a powerful line from Dr. Martin Luther King: "The fierce urgency of now." With regards to jobs, I pray that he continues to feel this urgency today.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Conyers Joins President Obama at the White House and Calls for Strong Measures Against Gun Violence at Special Congressional Hearing

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.

(WASHINGTON) – Today, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) participated in two events highlighting the need for Congress to take action against gun violence. In the morning, Congressman Conyers attended an event at the White House, hosted by President Barak Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, at which the President set forth a package of recommendations on gun violence reduction.  Subsequently, Congressman Conyers participated in a congressional hearing held by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and chaired by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi entitled, “Gun Violence Prevention: A Call to Action.”  Witnesses at the hearing, including Emily Nottingham (whose son was killed in the 2011 mass shooting), Dr. Janet Robinson, who is the Superintendent of Schools in Newtown, Connecticut, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, and Chaska, Minnesota Police Chief Scott Knight, called on Congress to enact new laws to protect our citizens. Congressman Conyers issued this statement following the events:

“We have to take a stand against all gun violence, whether it is perpetrated in acts of mass violence or in the many other shootings that take place in communities across America every day,” said Conyers.

“Each day, on average, 33 Americans are murdered with guns, which amounts to 12,000 lives each year.  More civilian Americans are killed by various types of gun violence every two years than the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who were killed during the Vietnam War.  The President and Vice President have called on us to act, making a number of recommendations, some of which were echoed by the witnesses at our hearing today. 

“There are a variety of proposals which we have been developing as we have learned what is needed to combat gun violence. The time is now to take action on such initiatives as requiring background checks for all gun sales, banning semi-automatic assault weapons, banning high-capacity ammunition magazines, taking steps to address the root problems of crime in our communities through crime prevention programs, and addressing the mental health crisis in our nation in which approximately 26% of our population suffers from serious mental illness. I commend the President’s determination to address this crisis and to finalize mental health benefits and parity requirements under the Affordable Care Act, as well as the implementation of a new initiative to train mental health professionals and deploy them in our communities.

“The first obligation of government is to protect our citizens, and the seriousness of the problem of gun violence demands that we take action on a comprehensive set of strong solutions.  As a nation, I believe we are ready to do just that.”

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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Rep. John Conyers re-introduces H.R. 40 on reparations for slavery and discrimination

Rep. John Conyers re-introduces H.R. 40 on reparations for slavery and discrimination

Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) has re-introduced legislation before the 113th U.S. Congress to acknowledge slavery and racial discrimination, study their impact, and propose remedies.
H.R. 40, numbered in recognition of the unfulfilled promise to freed slaves of “40 acres and a mule,” has been introduced by Rep. Conyers at the start of every Congress since 1989. The bill bears the following formal title, as it has in previous years:
To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
If the past is any guide, the short title of H.R. 40 is likely to be, “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.”
H.R. 40 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for further consideration. Rep. Conyers is the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, and chaired the committee the last time there was a Democratic majority in the House.
Rep. Conyers introduced the previous version of H.R. 40 at the start of the 112th Congress two years ago. It was also referred to the House Judiciary Committee, which referred it to the Subcommittee on the Constitution, where it languished until the 112th Congress expired this week.
We were honored to have Rep. Conyers speak at a press conference before the world premiere of our documentary, Traces of the Trade, at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, to highlight the importance of understanding the nation’s complicity in slavery and discrimination in order to make progress towards racial healing and justice.

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Conyers: A Letter to Our Ancestors: To Those Who Came Before Us

U.S. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. at Henry Ford Museum
veiwing of the Emancipation Proclamation
To those who came before us:

In the darkest watches of the night, you dared to dream of a day when your descendants could breathe the air of freedom. As we mark the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, we salute the boldness of your dreams and reflect upon the value of your sacrifices. 

In many ways, the lives of your children have evolved beyond imagining; in others their circumstances are shockingly familiar. You would be proud of the progress that our nation has made since the days of the Civil War and Emancipation. Your children have become captains of industry, important contributors in every field of academics, and world leaders in government -- one even occupies the seat of Lincoln in the White House. 

The road to these successes, however, has been neither straight nor smooth. It was 100 hundred years before a rainbow of Americans gathered in Washington to hear your son, Dr. Martin Luther King, give voice to your dreams and inspire us to continue this complex struggle toward racial equality in America. The full promise of Emancipation has not yet been realized and even in the 21st century many sacrifices are required to protect hard-won progress. 

Throughout the protests, marches and sit-ins, your strength in enduring the pain and the bondage of slavery gave us the determination to continue this fight. Our struggle was not one for African Americans alone. We fought for the very soul of this nation, that the American dream could have meaning for every citizen, and for every person who aspired to reach our shores. Your early sacrifices inspired the great diversity of the American people and were held as an example for those struggling for freedom and justice everywhere.
Reflecting on our path, one cannot forget or undervalue your gifts of vigilance and determination. In a test of our resolve, every success was met with a series of setbacks. Without these gifts, we may have lost hope and direction. Even today, after gaining the franchise and electing an African-American president, we must take care to protect these hard-won rights from slipping away as some in this new generation would divert us from the path toward a more just society. We will maintain our vigilance because your example has taught us that we have only traveled a short way on our long journey to freedom. 

The successes of a few of our people may tempt some to believe that the struggle for equality has reached its conclusion and we are a race-blind society. That message ignores our young sons who are disproportionately trapped by a criminal justice system in a prison pipeline, targeted because they have insufficient access to education and employment opportunity, and far too easy access to drugs and guns. Some have labeled them an "underclass" caste, pushed to the margins of society and warehoused in prisons. Our task is not just to celebrate the successes but analyze and repair the problems that cause so many to be mired in hopelessness. Remembering our collective past and the path since emancipation makes us responsible for addressing this 21st century dilemma. Respect for your memory will not allow us to turn away.

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