Sewell visits with county residents
Published 9:55 am Thursday, February 7, 2013
By Fred Guarino
The Lowndes Signal
Coming back to her roots, U.S. Rep. Terri A. Sewell of the 7th Congressional District of Alabama hosted a “Congress in your community” town hall meeting at Hayneville Town Hall on Thursday, Jan. 31.
Sewell, who grew up in Selma, was joined in Hayneville by her uncle, Tom Gardner Jr. of Beulah Primitive Baptist Church in Hope Hull, who brought the invocation, as well as her mother, Nancy Gardner Sewell, who was born and raised in Lowndes County, her aunts Negatha Holt and Dorothy Sanders of Hope Hull and cousin Patricia Means of Fort Deposit.
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Commission Chairman Robert Harris brought Sewell greetings from the Lowndes County Commission.
“We look forward to working with you in the future,” Harris said. “Your phone is probably going to stay busy because Lowndes County is a growing county, and we want it to continue to grow, and we’re going to continue to support you in any way that we can.”
Hayneville Mayor Kelvin J. Lawrence welcomed Sewell on behalf of the Town Council. He also presented Sewell with a key to the city.
“It’s just a great honor to have one of our own here to represent us here in Lowndes County,” Lawrence said.
“On behalf of the people of Lowndes County, we are so happy you are our Congresswoman,” State Rep. David Colston of District 69 said.
“I feel like I’m back home,” Sewell said. “My ancestral home is Lowndes County.”
She said her grandfather and grandmother are both buried in Lowndes County. “And my uncle (Tom Gardner Jr.) pastors the church that my granddaddy pastored for over 50 years… And so my roots are deep in Lowndes County.”
Sewell also welcomed Lowndes County to the 7th Congressional District.
“I feel it is a blessing that we extended to Lowndes County and we’ve extended into Montgomery County,” Sewell said. “And I’m indeed honored and humbled to represent my home district.”
Sewell said she grew up in Selma and spent summers with her grandparents in Lowndes County.
“I know it is an awesome responsibility to represent home. Everybody I love lives in this district from my parents in Selma to my aunts, uncles in Lowndes/Montgomery County to my brothers… one lives in Birmingham,” she said.
She introduced Lowndes County residents to her newsletter, guide to grants and staff members.
“I would rather meet someone in the middle and get something that I need for my district than to be on either extreme where we we’re just shouting at each other and nothing happens,” Sewell said of her dealings with fellow congressmen.
She described herself as “left of center” but also as a mediator and compromiser. “I’m about efficient, best practices,” she said.
“The debt and deficit debate is really a debate about value judgment,” she said. “How we as a nation spend our money tells us something about our priorities.”
Sewell said not all spending is bad. She said spending on infrastructure, of “which we have tons of really worthwhile projects in the Black Belt” she said, such as water, sewer, roads and bridges, creates jobs today and also builds the highways and byways of the future to attract industry, “I think are worthwhile expenditures.”
“You may think America is broke. We are not,” she said. “We have a finite amount of money. We need more money. But the debate is about how are we going to divide that pie. And that’s a value judgment.”
Sewell said she considered the number one priority in the district to be job creation.
“It’s important that we figure out a way to create economic viability in our communities and a key to that is infrastructure investments, water, sewer roads, bridges, even the waterways making sure the Alabama River, which goes through the Black Belt, is a viable option is important.”
She said she wants to improve grant opportunities in the district and was proud that in two years, $798 million had been brought into the district. She said $2.3 million retroactive benefits were secured for constituents.
Sewell said raising the debt limit is critical and that she recently voted for “no budget, no pay.” She said she felt Congress should pass a budget or not get paid.
Sewell announced that she and her staff are also rolling out a new initiative called Project READY, which is a workforce training initiative.
“We plan on having workshops throughout the district,” she said on career development topics such as resume writing, how to best use the Internet to find a job, how to dress for success.
It will also address how to provide job opportunities for those who have been incarcerated, Sewell said.
She said READY stands for Realizing Everyone’s Ability to Develop Yourself. And she added, “Lookout for a workshop near you.”
Another local initiative she said is being made in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham.
“I’m very pleased that I introduced a bi-partisan bill seeking a Congressional Medal of Honor for the four little black girls who lost their lives in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.”
She said the girls were emblematic of the overall sacrifices that were made in the Civil Rights Movement.
She said every member of the Alabama delegation signed on as an original co-sponsor of the bill.
In answer to local questions Sewell said loans can be had for things as opposed to grants and urged that those seeking funds be creative before she used all of her favors for something for which matching funds could not be provided.
She said she stayed on the Agriculture Committee because rural economic development is going to need a partner and the United States Department of Agriculture has been that partner.
She education has to be improved because “education is a great equalizer.” She said she differed with President Barack Obama on funding of an education program called “Race to the Top.” She said it gives points for charter schools.
She said she did not feel charter schools would solve the problems in the state of Alabama. “It further divides us and doesn’t get to the core of the problem,” she said. “I believe that we have to uplift our public schools.”
She also urged that the State Legislature be fought on this issue because, “It is going to come up.”
She said teachers should be accountable, “But we also need to give teachers the tools to teach and let them teach… I wouldn’t be before you today had I not had great opportunities through education,” she said.