Jan 07 2007

Shelby on the issues

Dothan Eagle

By Ebony Horton

New year. New issues. Same senator.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, stopped by the Ozark City Council Chambers on Saturday - his 1,348th public meeting since taking office 21 years ago - to listen to local residents.

The War on Iraq and immigration reform topped the small audience's concerns during a question and answer session.

The senator received both criticism and praise, but the room was not too tense to open discussion on some of Alabama's top news, the arrival of new Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban.

Highlighted comments by Sen. Shelby:

War on Iraq

"...Nobody in the world today can stand up military to military to an Army, Navy, Marines, and (the U.S.) didn't. Think what we did four years ago. We dispatched Suddam Hussein's Army so fast, so decisively, so efficiently, but we made a lot of mistakes after that. We didn't disarm the terrorists, we didn't get rid of a lot of weapon depots...but we're where we are today and I don't know the answer to it. I don't want to do something to undermine the soldiers.

"...I don't want to put more (soldiers) in harm's way unless it's gonna be decisive for us...What we do will be a challenge. We've got to hang together...

"But believe me, I've said all over the state we'll get hit with another terrorist attack. I pray we won't. I hope it never happens, but don't be shocked."

Immigration

"Our immigration system is broken. It's a sham and you know that...The sad thing is - I hope I'm wrong - I kind of believe the new democratic Congress with the help of some Republicans, let's be honest with each other, are going to pass an immigration bill...but the thrust of it will be amnesty for illegal aliens in the country...and I think at the end of the day President Bush will probably sign. But this is going to change America. It's changing now..."

Minimum Wage

"I think...if we pass a minimum wage bill, we've got to do something to offset small business, you know tax credits and everything...because that is not...a job building thing...Actually the economy and market should decide on that because at the end of the day, you've gotta make a profit...I don't think the government ought to mandate wages, the market ought to dictate that..."

Economy

"...We got a lot of counties in Alabama with 2 percent unemployment rates. The national average is 4 in a half percent. We've got to keep it that way. We've lost a lot of jobs all throughout this area - textile related jobs, lot of payroll...Now we're bringing it back step by step, slowly - different types of aerospace, more technical jobs. But we've got to have educated workers to do that..."

Congress

"I think we oughta cooperate where we can, put the country first, but we should not say we're gonna vote or stand for whatever comes down the line...We've got 49 (Republicans) that say we're gonna wait and evaluate whatever we can do...We've been...the minority before in 2001 and 2002 in the Senate - we survived. Let's see what happens."

Education

"...I've been instrumental and I hope I can continue to revamp all of our universities in engineering, science and math. Auburn is building a huge engineering school - I got them $65 million...They're gonna spend $100 million on modern, technological, sound classrooms, research. They're recruiting people from (MIT) to come. We're doing it at Alabama...it's gonna be expensive, (but) it will change our economy..."

Interstate 10 connector

"...I was able to get $37 million. That's not enough. That's a jumpstart. We're bringing the money...it's your money, gas, diesel money in trust funds. You've got to get your local respective senators, your legislative people, to prevail on the administration and get this thing jumpstarted because the money's gonna be spent and divided out in Montgomery."

New Alabama Crimson Tide coach, Nick Saban

"In Tuscaloosa my hometown they think that's the greatest story since (Paul) Bear Bryant came in 1957...I don't know if we'll ever build the football team, but I think we got an expensive coach."