Jan 29 2006

Shelby visits Talladega County

Talladega Daily Home

A visit Saturday from Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind gave Talladega County residents an inside look at topics ranging from Iraq to the controversial Medicare D drug plan.

Shelby, a U.S. Senate member since 1986, spoke to a crowd of public officials, citizens and AIDB employees, students and parents at the campus after sponsoring a $500,000 appropriation for transportation improvements at the school earlier this year.

"We all know he’s been great to the state of Alabama," said AIDB President Terry Graham. "His leadership has been felt throughout the nation."

The visit comes just days before President George Bush initiates his State of the Union Address, which Shelby said will likely cover topics such as Iraq, the escalating economy and U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito.

As far as the war in Iraq is concerned, Shelby said, "if we were to unilaterally withdraw from Iraq without any measure of success … it would be one awful message to send to the Islamists of the world."

A supporter of "finishing the mission" in Iraq, Shelby said troops must complete tasks such as training a security force and establishing a stable government before a withdrawal to ensure success in the country.

Despite the impending effort in the Middle East, the state and national economies are thriving in the face of high gas prices and textile industry failures, he said.

With a national unemployment rate of 4.9 percent and a state-wide rate of 3.5 percent, Shelby said, "we’re on a roll. We’ve got to stay that way."

In order to ensure the economy continues to progress, "We’ve got to tell the world that Alabama is open for business," he said.

"… We need to send a message that if you come here and provide jobs for our people, create jobs for our people, you’ll be treated right."

Increasing the country’s oil supply by drilling in Anwar, Alaska, will also help improve the economy and possibly lower fuel prices.

"We can protect our environment," Shelby said. "I know we can, and we can drill too. … I’m voting to drill, you can count on it."

The job market can be improved even more by pumping money into colleges and universities throughout the country, Shelby said.

"We need to pump about $1 billion into our universities right now," he said.

Apart from assisting education, attention must be given to seniors in order for them to understand the new Medicare D prescription drug plan, he said.

"Seniors are frustrated because of the lack of clarity," Shelby said. " … Our intention was to try to give you choices and save you money. … It’s a new program. It might work, but we’ve got to give it a chance to work."

Following the briefing on issues facing Washington, in which Shelby affirmed support for Alito, citizens in attendance applauded the senator for his help with funding the methamphetamine problem, airport improvements in Talladega and even appropriations to AIDB.

Graham presented a print of Manning Hall to Shelby following the meeting, which was one of many conducted throughout the state this month.

"Over the years, these meetings have provided an excellent opportunity for area residents to listen and voice their opinions on activities of our government," Shelby said in a press release. "This (is) a great chance to discuss the important issues facing our state and our nation as the 109th Congress reconvenes."