The crowd that greeted U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson for a town hall meeting Wednesday at Altamaha Technical College in Jesup was mostly supportive of the Republican politicians, voicing concerns rather than anger.
Residents asked Georgia’s senators how they propose to create jobs and stimulate the economy, and which social programs they would cut.
“I hope to hear about some increased funding for community action agencies,” Wayne Crawford said before the town hall began. Crawford is the executive board vice chairperson for Concerted Services Inc., a community action agency that covers 18 South Georgia counties, including Long County.
“Everybody has had funding cuts and budget cuts,” he said.
Crawford added that the nation’s joblessness hit close to home for his family.
“I have a son who was three years without a job,” he said. “He’d be on the computer every day looking for work.”
Crawford said his son finally found work but must relocate from Georgia to Virginia to take the job.
“I’m going to miss my grandchildren,” he said. “My son used to live behind me.”
The 72-year-old retired Navy man also said he doesn’t want the government to drastically cut defense dollars.
“If they start cutting defense money, Hinesville is going to be hurting. Really, every military town is,” Crawford said.
Former Walthourville Mayor Henry Frasier attended to find out why Chambliss and Isakson voted the way they did on the recent bill to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling and to see if they can avoid further political infighting and work with Democrats to solve the nation’s problems. Chambliss voted against raising the deficit and Isakson voted for it.
“Will we go through the same process or work together to get something done?” Fraiser asked.
Both senators said they are willing to “reach across the aisle” and work with Democrats to solve the country’s ills, with job creation at the top of the list. However, both reiterated budget cuts must be made, suggesting there was duplication of services among social programs and therefore some of those programs could be eliminated.
Isakson and Chambliss outlined their plan to get America back on track. They said government regulations on industry are too rigid, and easing those regulations would motivate businesses to invest in projects and begin hiring again.
Chambliss and Isakson also sat down with reporters after the town hall to discuss local issues.
Isakson said the Savannah harbor deepening project would bring 300,000 jobs to Georgia, “either directly or indirectly.”
“We’re doing all we can to get federal contributions to the project,” he said. Chambliss and Isakson agreed funding the project is “a constitutional responsibility” because it would be one way for Congress to spur job creation and economic growth. Isakson and Chambliss are working to secure $105 million for the project. Plans are to deepen the harbor channel from 42 to 48 feet to allow larger ships to pass through and therefore attract more business to the region and state, the senators explained.
Both Chambliss and Isakson also support bringing more troops to Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, especially after a 5th brigade was canceled in July 2009. These troops eventually could come from Europe, where the Army is downsizing, they said.
However, Chambliss said soldiers likely would not come to Fort Stewart from Fort Benning, which is planning to expand its training area. Local leaders have recommended bringing the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team to Fort Stewart, rather than have the Army purchase 83,000 acres for the expansion in Columbus.
Chambliss said the expansion is for a specific purpose, which is to allow more space for special-operations training.
“It’s not a done deal yet,” he stressed.