1/16/2008 - Shelby speaks to Perry County residents, says "Education key to future of Black Belt"
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby used his Perry County town hall meeting at Judson College on Tuesday to underscore the value of education for community growth.
"I'm not just saying this because I'm at Judson, but education is the key to the future in the Black Belt," Shelby said. "You young people here need to stay in school and get all the education you can, but even that won't be enough. You need to keep learning. Employers today want an educated work force, and good jobs are the key to growth here. An industry with 300 or 400 good jobs can transform an area."
Shelby is serving his 30th year in congress and his 22nd year as a U.S. senator. He noted that he had represented the Black Belt as a congressman before being elected to the senate. He spoke about two initiatives he had recently supported to help the area.
"I insisted we include 20 counties in Alabama in the eight-state Delta Regional Authority," Shelby said. "This program has the potential of pouring billions of dollars into our state in the years ahead. I don't mind telling you we had a nasty fight in the senate over this, but I stood my ground."
He also talked about the $100 million he appropriated to "jump start" the I-85 extension through western Alabama.
"Of course highways are a state matter," he said, "but this money is waiting to be used. The extension would cost $1 billion, which is the total amount the state spent last year on highways. This project won't solve all our problems, but it will bring people to the area. I've proposed the extension be a toll road to help with the cost."
Shelby noted that the widening of I-80 has been of benefit to west Alabama as well.
In other matters Shelby spoke about the need for more energy exploration.
"Seventy-five percent of the world's oil is in the Mideast and Russia," he said. "We used to export oil to Japan, but now we import 65 percent of our oil. When we do this we export our wealth to the Mideast, Venezuela, Angola and other places. Energy is our biggest challenge, and it won't go away."
An audience member asked about the sub-prime loan crisis.
"I was on the banking committee during the savings and loan crisis several years ago," he said. "The country lost $250 billion in this bail-out. I don't think we should bail out any company today that invested in bad loans. There was too much money chasing after too many deals, and this has hurt our whole economy."
Responding to another question, Shelby agreed that the government must have compassion for the poor.
"Yes, we must help people who deserve it," he said. "But we also know there's no such thing as a free lunch. Government programs are funded by the taxpayers and we have to handle this money responsibly."
Shelby dodged a question about who would win in the Alabama presidential preference primary on Feb. 5.
"I know Edwards, Obama and Clinton," he said. "I've worked with them all. But I won't vote for them. I'm on the other side. I'll vote for our Republican nominee whoever it is. I'll support my party, though sometimes I've supported our candidates with less enthusiasm than at other times!'
Article courtesy of the Judson College Public Relations Department