By Michele Bourdieu
Lon Johnson, right, Democratic Candidate for Michigan's First Congressional District, speaks to Houghton County Democrats about key issues in his campaign during the April 20 Open House at the Houghton County Democratic Party's Headquarters, 323 Quincy St. in Hancock. (Photos by Keweenaw Now)
HANCOCK -- Lon Johnson, Democratic Candidate for Michigan's First Congressional District, told Houghton County Democrats his campaign is centered on three important issues for Northern Michigan and the U.P. -- passenger rail service, high-speed Internet and mobile phone access for all communities, and protection of our fresh water -- beginning with the fight to shut down the 63-year-old Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.
Speaking at the April 20 Open House at the Houghton County Democratic Party (HCDP) Headquarters in Hancock, Johnson reminded party supporters that "21 percent of the world's fresh water is right here." He said in 20 years nations will be going to war for fresh water since it will become more valuable than any other natural resource and we will have to fight to protect it.
"We've got to keep Northern Michigan and the U.P. both beautiful and
profitable," Johnson said. "We can continue mining and our logging
operation in a sustainable way, but at the same time we also have to
protect our assets here so our children and grandchildren can use them.
That's why I'm proud to be one of the leading drivers in trying to shut
down this Line 5 oil pipeline."
During the April 20 Open House at the Houghton County Democratic Party Headquarters, Lon Johnson speaks about the importance of protecting fresh water, beginning with a shutdown of the aging Line 5 oil pipeline under the Mackinac Straits. Pictured with Johnson here is Brian Hoduski, Houghton County Democratic Party co-chair, who compared Johnson to former First District Congressman Bart Stupak, who has endorsed Johnson.
Johnson pointed out that this pipeline starts in Canada, goes through parts of Wisconsin and the U.P., and under the Straits of Mackinac -- then back to Canada with only about 10 percent of the oil remaining in Michigan.
"The same people that are telling us that this thing is safe are the same people who said that Flint water was safe to drink," Johnson noted.
The people running this pipeline are the same people (Enbridge) who ran the Kalamazoo pipeline that became, in 2010, the largest inland oil disaster in the history of the United States, he added. Johnson also made reference to proponents of the pipeline, including State Sen. Casperson, who claim that shutting down Line 5 will raise the cost of propane in the Upper Peninsula.
"That's just wrong," Johnson said. "If you shut this pipeline down in the Straits of Mackinac, you can still allow the pipeline to haul propane to the Rapid River site, just about 125 miles west of the Straits, just north of Escanaba. That's where the propane is taken out and distributed to the U.P."*
Johnson welcomes bi-partisan support on Line 5 issue
During the Open House, Johnson told Keweenaw Now he was glad to see bipartisan support of the effort to shut down Line 5, including that of Republicans like U.S. Rep. Candice Miller (MI-10).
On Wednesday, Apr. 27, Miller introduced the Great Lakes Pipeline Safety Act of 2016, which would require the Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to terminate the operation of Enbridge’s Line 5 if, based on an 18-month comprehensive study mandated by the bill, the Administrator finds that the pipeline poses a significant risk.
Just after introducing the bill, Miller stated, "Any rupture of Enbridge’s 63-year-old Line 5, which transports 23 million gallons of contaminants a day, would have a catastrophic impact on the Great Lakes, especially if it occurred along the portion that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron converge. Just last month, the University of Michigan Water Center released a study where researchers estimated the impact of a leak in Line 5 under 840 different weather scenarios. According to the study, over 700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline could be impacted; and Mackinac Island, Bois Blanc Island, and the coastline around Mackinac City would certainly be impacted in almost every scenario. That, however, is just a snapshot of the damage a rupture would cause."**
Today, Apr. 28, Johnson reacted to Miller's introduction of this bill with this statement: "I am glad to see that our efforts on the ground across the U.P. and Northern Michigan have resulted in bipartisan action on both the state and now the federal level. I have said for months that this 63-year-old Enbridge oil pipeline should be shut down at the Straits of Mackinac so it can be independently inspected to be safe. The impact on the health of our Great Lakes and on our economy in the event of an oil spill would be devastating.
"While I’ve been calling for lawmakers to address the issue of Line 5 for months, it’s disappointing that Lansing politicians like Tom Casperson would rather defend a Canadian oil company than protect the health and jobs of the people of the U.P. and Northern Michigan. Maybe it’s the $28,000 in campaign donations Casperson has taken from oil and gas industry PACs that’s influencing his decision?"***
Addressing the issue of jobs in the U.P., Johnson said he hopes to create a Fresh Water Institute that would not only protect the water but also change the economy by creating a new industry for our children and grandchildren. It would show the world how to better use and protect the water. He cited as a model the growth of the computer industry in Silicon Valley.
Candidate Lon Johnson is pictured here, during the Open House, with three generations of the Wisti family: from left, next to Johnson, Nick Wisti, who is working for Johnson's campaign; Nick's parents, Judge Mark Wisti and Amy Wisti, former aide for Bart Stupak; and, foreground, Ruth Wisti, Mark's mother.
"We need a member of Congress who's thinking five, ten, fifteen years ahead," Johnson said.
He said he would also work for national issues such as campaign finance reform, overturning Citizens United and changing unfair tax policies benefiting wealthy corporations that move their money offshore to avoid paying their fair share.
On the issue of passenger rail service in the U.P., Johnson said it would attract tourists to the U.P. and could change the economy. Johnson told Keweenaw Now it would need a feasibility study and might happen in 10 or 15 years.
"We need to investigate how we can use existing rights of way and existing lines for passenger rail service," he said.
Spring Fling is Saturday, May 7
The Houghton County Democratic Party will host their annual Spring Fling on Saturday, May 7, 7th Floor of Magnuson Inn, 820 Shelden Ave. in Houghton. First District Congressional Candidate Lon Johnson, 110th District State Rep. Scott Dianda and local candidates will participate as well as the keynote speaker, 1st Congressional District Organizer G.T. Long.
Local candidates for Houghton County offices also spoke at the Open House about the importance of electing Democrats to the county offices. Here Commissioner Scott Ala, center, speaks about how every vote counts in these local elections. Other candidates pictured here are Houghton County Clerk Jennifer Lorenz, standing far right, and George Rajala, second from right, candidate for County Commissioner from Chassell. Not pictured here, but also present, was Rick Kasprzak, candidate for County Commissioner from Calumet.
The program for the Spring Fling is as follows:
5:30 p.m. -- Cocktail hour and Silent Auction Viewing
6:30 p.m. -- Dinner
7 p.m. -- Awards Program, Candidate Remarks, Keynote Address, Auction Winners
The Silent Auction includes many lovely creations by local artists as well as gift certificates and offers from local businesses.
Last Chance to Buy Spring Fling 2016 Tickets:
Tickets are $35 per person. Please buy tickets by April 30 so organizers can tell the venue the number of attendees for planning purposes. To purchase tickets online, click here.
Tickets may also be paid for by personal check in person at the Wednesday, May 4, 2016, HCDP monthly meeting at the Super 8 in Houghton. Cash payments are forbidden by law. If you plan to pay at the meeting please email HoughtonDems@gmail.com by April 30 to reserve your seat.
Funds raised at the Spring Fling will be used to support Democratic candidates.
* Click here, on Lon Johnson's Facebook page, for a video of the April 16, 2016, town hall on Line 5 in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. See also Lon's new short video ad here.
** Read the rest of Rep. Miller's statement here.
*** Lon Johnson has been taking on Enbridge officials at numerous town halls in the U.P. and Northern Michigan, as well as helping local communities pass resolutions urging their elected leaders address the pipeline. More than 30 townships, local boards, and communities have passed resolutions. Lon is collecting signatures on his Web site.