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Rep. Conyers’ record argues against election in 13th District

By Sen. Bert Johnson

The most striking part of the campaign for election to the new 13th Congressional District has been seeing a 47-year veteran of Congress touting his seniority, while avoiding any opportunity to speak in public to the voters. Voters should not accept this type of campaign because it is disrespectful to them and the decision they have to make on Election Day.

Simply put, Rep. John Conyers has, for the better part of two decades, failed to deliver results for our community.

As the former Chair of the Judiciary Committee during a period when Democrats controlled the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate, and with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, Mr. Conyers did nothing to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. The ban expired in 2004 and he sat idly by for two whole years, while Democrats were in charge of every aspect of the federal government and did nothing. The result of this complacency was most shockingly evident in the recent tragic shootings in Aurora, Colorado, but can be seen across the City of Detroit almost every day. Weapons of war, such as the AK-47 and AR-15, are used in home invasions, carjackings and other crimes more often than simpler weapons such as pistols. Yet, the congressman from the City of Detroit has been remarkably silent. If elected to Congress, the first bill I will introduce will be a reinstatement of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.

Mass public transit with a functioning regional system has eluded Detroit and southeastern Michigan for decades. Of the 41 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, ours is the only one lacking such a system. Our federal tax dollars go out, but we see none of the reinvestment. The federal government refers to Michigan as a ‘donor state’ because, quite literally, our tax dollars are ‘donated’ to other states’ projects. As a member of President Barack Obama’s Federal Transportation Task Force, I have championed this issue on the state level for years – and expect to see movement on this legislation in the Senate this fall – while our current congressman has been out of the picture. The seniority touted by the Conyers campaign, if it is truly relevant, would be put to good use in pushing the U.S. Transportation Department to move forward with the M-1 Rail plan as well as to work closer with our local leaders to create a functioning system that allows us to enter the 21st Century. Instead, our region continues to lag behind and our tax dollars fund other systems in places like Philadelphia, Denver, Atlanta and Baltimore.

In his 47 years in Congress, the school systems in Highland Park and Detroit – once the state’s most productive – have fallen into disrepair. Highland Park’s vibrant system of free community college and high-quality education has disappeared. Detroit’s status as a statewide benchmark for excellence has become appallingly deficient. Today, both districts are moving steadily into the hands of private investors and profiteers. It would be one thing if Mr. Conyers were merely silent on this issue; but even worse, he has been complicit. While I successfully fought former DPS Emergency Manager Robert Bobb, Mr. Conyers participated in panel discussions on the NAEP exam that denigrated our students and provided no solutions; while I aggressively fought and blocked outsourcing, helping to save Safeway Transportation, a minority-owned, Detroit-based bus company, Mr. Conyers sat on Bobb’s DPS Bond Advisory and Fiscal Responsibility Committee and looked the other way as Bobb and building contractors ran their projects over budget and without the 11,000 jobs for Detroiters initially used to sell the plan to voters; and while I have always stood against privatization and emergency managers, John Conyers endorsed Proposal S by donating nearly $20,000 from his PAC in support of the Bobb initiative. Proposal S was sold to voters as a boost for the district, but it left DPS saddled with millions more in debt and Detroit homeowners with higher property taxes. Today, the new schools constructed with these taxpayer dollars are being moved into the privately-operated Educational Achievement Authority (EAA).

There is a stark choice in the August 7th election. I respect Mr. Conyers’ legacy of service and the accomplishments he is responsible for from the 60s, 70s and 80s. Today is a new day. The productivity this district has received from his representation in Congress has steadily declined, while the issues we face have changed and piled up. I am ready to go to our nation’s capital on your behalf to advocate and produce real results for you. I invite you on this journey with me in the spirit of building a partnership that will reinvest in our communities, keep our families safe and force the federal government to work for us instead of against us. I hope to have your support.

Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit) represents Michigan’s 2nd District in the Michigan Legislature. He is running for Congress in the new 13th Congressional District. He can be reached at 313.915.0129 or at

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