Thursday, April 23, 2009
Congressman tours county with sheriff
By SUE WATSON
First District Congressman Travis Childers spent some time in North Mississippi recently and visited with Sheriff Kenny Dickerson and members of his department to discuss law enforcement needs in Marshall County.
“The Congressman has come by several times to check on our needs since he was elected,” said Dickerson. “We are discussing grant applications and will provide him a list of needs to enhance our getting public safety grants. He shares a mutual interest in getting us connected today forward through the stimulus package.”
Childers provided a list of local law enforcement agencies in the First Congressional District that altogether are eligible to receive $1.1 million in grants from the economic stimulus package signed into law by President Obama last month. Marshall County is eligible to receive $104,408, while the City of Holly Springs is eligible to receive $87,830 with funds available through the grant application process of the Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants (JAG) program already in existence.
Stimulus monies are not automatically doled out to local governing bodies and they must apply for those grants through existing state agencies.
All four of Mississippi’s congressional districts have been together allocated $7.2 million in JAG funding and the State of Mississippi is eligible to receive another $11.2 million from the fund, bringing the statewide availability of the funds to $18.4 million, Childers said.
Childers said he is working with local law enforcement in his district “to discover opportunities to make sure we meet the short deadlines that the powers-that-be wanted this money spent on.”
The federal stimulus dollars are meant to stimulate the economy quickly by putting the dollars to work as immediately as possible.
Childers’ ride along with the sheriff and meeting with key personnel was meant to make sure no stones were left unturned in future needs assessment as well as the immediate application for eligible grant dollars. He said face-to-face visits go further than office-to-office communications and telephone calls.
“The sheriff and I get to visit face-to-face and I hear what their needs are and help move things faster,” Childers said. “I was a chancery clerk for 16 and a half years and worked with my own board of supervisors (Prentiss County). I talked to the sheriff several weeks ago and there’s nothing like a personal visit. I always get a warm welcome here.”
Congressman looks at future
Childers answered questions about what he expects the Congress to get done this year.
“I’ve made friends on both sides of the aisle and I felt more comfortable when I got there in January,” he said.
He said taking the First District seat after the special election last year was “like being thrown into the fire because I had to keep campaigning.”
Childers had missed the first four months of the 2008 congressional session and “was playing catch-up ball,” he said.
He said he always thought the economy would be the number one issue this year.
“The number one issue can change in 30 to 60 days,” he explained. “I can deal with more than one issue at a time but the priority with me is to get North Mississippi back to work and to get unemployment rates down. There are so many worthy issues on the table, but to me it is still jobs.”
Childers said he stands by his vote for the economic stimulus package and government bailouts this year.
Now that the American Recovery and Investment Act funds are making their way into the states, Childers said he has little control over how the monies will be used by the state and Governor Haley Barbour.
“I can’t meddle in that and I accept the fact that someone else will dole it out,” he said. “I am very tickled with the $2.5 million for the Mississippi Department of Transportation for the North Holly Springs bypass road.”
On the horizon this year, Childers said, is a health care reform bill “in some capacity” being worked on by Congress.
“I really believe the American people expect some form of healthcare reform,” he said. “I am a member of the Blue Dog (Democratic) Caucus of 51 members that compose 20 percent of the Democratic Caucus. We may not set legislation and policy, but we can affect policy.”
A looming issue this year continues to be the Afghanistan war, the congressman said.
“It could get a lot more serious and we could have to deal with that,” Childers said.
As co-chair of the Rural Caucus with Nebraska Republican Congressman Adrian Smith, Childers said rural water projects and fire protection, broadband internet access, rural healthcare (especially the clinics), and education in rural areas will be issues close to his heart this year.
He meets with the Blue Dog healthcare task force once or twice weekly, he said, and would like to see the federal healthcare plan open to everyone.
“I do not believe in free healthcare, but no one should be denied access to health care,” he said.
For more information on the First District’s and Mississippi's share of the Recovery Act funds, visit Congressman Childers’ North Mississippi Recovery Tracker at www.childers.house.gov.
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