By David Snow
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) came to the Alabama Rural Heritage Center in Thomaston for a town hall meeting on Saturday. At the hour-long meeting, he spoke about topics before the U.S. Senate, gave his opinions on national issues and heard questions from members of the audience.
About 100 people filled the dining area of the center to hear Shelby speak and to ask questions. Several county mayors were on hand, including Mike Grayson of Demopolis, Mitzi Gates of Linden and Jeff Laduron of Thomaston, who introduced Shelby.
Shelby said that banking is where the action is going to be in the near future.
“Without a banking system that’s viable and functioning in this country, we’re not going to have any job growth,” he said. “We’re not going to loan money to businesses if the banks freeze their credit... I don’t want the banks to make a windfall off the taxpayers; I don’t want anybody to make a windfall off the taxpayers.”
Shelby said that the economic stimulus package offered by President Barack Obama “has a few good things in it, but it’s not going to turn our economy around,” explaining why he voted against it last week.
Shelby said he told the president that the priorities were wrong in the bill, saying something needed to be done with real estate and banking first.
”I believe that ‘09 is going to be tough for us,” he said. “We’re going to continue to lose jobs. The economy is going to contract, basically, around the world. But maybe later this year, we’ll see some vitality signs. Underlying all of this is a glut of real estate — mainly in Florida, California, Nevada — too much money, too easy money making deals. …We’ve got to absorb that. I don’t believe that we’ve got to borrow money and borrow money and borrow money, and that’s going to make us prosperous again.”
Shelby said he would remain involved with the stimulus package voting.
“I’m going to say ‘No’ sometimes, and I’m going to say ‘Yes’ when I think it’s right,” he said.
Shelby then took questions from the audience. Questions ranged from the economic stimulus package to national health care and from term limits to the census.
“This was a great meeting in Thomaston today,” Shelby said. “I have never been to this facility (the Alabama Rural Heritage Center). I’ve read about it, and I’ll have to bring my wife back here. This is a real treasure.
“This was a good meeting; it was an informative meeting. The people are informed, and it’s good for me to have access to the people, but more, for them to have access to me. It’s good for me to come home and learn.”
“We are very privileged,” Laduron said of Shelby’s visit. “We appreciate him for taking this time out to visit. I was very pleased with the turnout.”
Laduron credited the board members of the Alabama Rural Heritage Center with arranging for Shelby to visit Thomaston.