Conyers: First Black Dean of Congress

images_Conyers_PhotoU.S. Representative John Conyers received strong vote of confidence from members of the 13th Congressional District in Tuesday’s primary who voted overwhelmingly to return him to Congress to continue his decades-long service to Detroit and the nation.

Winning Tuesday’s primary makes Conyers the first African American Dean of Congress. The historic designation coming in the Obama era means that come January 2015, when he is sworn in for another term in office, he will be the longest serving member of Congress.

Conyers earlier on was locked in a ballot snafu that threatened to derail his campaign when questions began being asked about the validity of signatures submitted by his campaign to qualify him for the primary ballot. Rev. Horace Sheffield, a Detroit activist who said he is a family friend of the congressman, launched his campaign to dethrone Conyers. During a Feb. 23 appearance on the WDIV Sunday morning show “Flashpoint,” Sheffield said of Conyers, “I’ve observed him, I’ve watched him. I don’t think we get a bang for our buck. I think the congressman has served us well. I think he has lost the ability to serve in his present capacity. What interest does he represent?”

Apparently voters of the 13th Congressional District did not agree with Sheffield’s assertions and Tuesday’s victory where Conyers garnered over 70 percent of the vote compared to his challenger’s 20-plus percentage indicates that the iconic civil rights leader and dean of the Congressional Black Caucus still has strong identity among his constituents.

A few days before the primary election, Conyers introduced HR 5330, the Bringing Urgent Investment to Local Development Act which would reauthorize the “Build America Bond Program” to help enable states and municipalities to build and repair roads, schools and medical facilities among other things at lower cost.

“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,” Conyers said. “Investing in infrastructure and public works projects is a proven, cost-effective, market-oriented approach to empowering communities.”

According to Conyers, the BUILD Act will immediately reauthorize the now-expired BAB Program with a 35 percent subsidy rate for communities facing emergency economic conditions (communities that exceed 150 percent of national average rate of unemployment or poverty) and a 28 percent subsidy rate for all other communities.

“It’s time to invest in America’s future and close our infrastructure deficit,” he said. “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 six years away, yet there’s only an estimated $1.6 trillion in public and private financing projected to be available over that period. 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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