Selma receives $400k

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Town Hall meeting with Artur Davis

By Cassandra Mickens

The Selma Times-Journal

The Dallas County annual congressional town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Artur Davis, D-Birmingham, wasn’t just any ordinary meeting.

To make up for his tardiness, Davis arrived at the Carl C. Morgan Convention Center Tuesday night bearing a $400,000 check from the federal government for the Selma Streetscape Project, “a community revitalization effort that seeks to offer a grand site for recreation in downtown Selma along historic Water Avenue.”

The project will include improvements for sidewalk reconstruction, underground utility service and public and private business development. Plans are also underway to place underground power lines for the project.

This revitalization effort will cost the city $800,000.

The good news, Davis said, is the $400,000 check. The bad news is the city will have to put $400,000 on the table to match it.

But city officials and residents didn’t seem to care so much about the bad news.

Mayor James Perkins Jr. pumped his fists in the air as Davis presented him the check.

“What a great Thanksgiving gift,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t get much better than this. I just can’t say thank you enough.”

“Amen!” was the general consensus among audience members.

After the presentation of the check, Davis zeroed in on the concerns of Selmians.

“This is an opportunity to talk to me about what’s going on in your mind,” he said.

Health in the Black Belt

Timothy Marlow, a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Selma, asked Davis if there were any federal initiatives in place to fight obesity in Dallas County and surrounding Black Belt communities. Davis believes education is key to battle obesity.

Davis said there are several factors that contribute to the high obesity rate in Dallas County and mentioned programs like the Selma Nutrition Exercise and Wellness Study that are currently in place to educate the community on eating right.

“We need to give more information about how food affects the body,” Davis said.

Davis wants to re-introduce health education classes to school curriculums and “change the culture of what we’re serving our kids in schools.” He also mentioned how one’s income affects food choices.

“If you have money, you can afford to eat healthy,” he said. “If you don’t have a certain amount of money, you focus on eating.”

Black Farmer’s lawsuit

The congressman was then asked about the black farmer’s discrimination lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several farmers, he said, did not file their claims on time or didn’t know about the lawsuit. Two weeks ago Davis introduced a bill to Congress that would give the farmers one year to file suit if they haven’t already.

Davis said farmers, black and white, need to know how to economize and make money.

“Farming is a business,” he said.

Davis said young people must be drawn back to the land to revitalize the farming industry and the only way to do that is by making farming more profitable.

Mainstreaming

The treatment of students and adults with learning disabilities was another popular topic at the meeting.

Resident Kimbernice Marshall wondered if a facility specifically for children with learning disabilities would be feasible in Selma. Marshall’s son has attention deficit disorder.

Davis said the only way that would happen was if the federal government changed its standards for children in special education.

Children with learning disabilities are now mainstreamed into the classroom, which means they are placed in classes with children who don’t have learning disabilities.

“The problem is we haven’t done enough to close the deficit between learning disability kids and regular kids,” Davis said.

Davis said the government does not put enough money in cognitive development and speech therapy and communities must have a “stronger belief system” in children with learning disabilities.

Davis said while some children with learning disabilities can be turned into academic performers, others can be molded into hard workers in the community.

“Not everybody has to be a doctor,” he said. “Work has dignity. Work has value.”

Frustration over Medicare plan

Lastly, several elderly residents stressed their frustrations over the new Medicare plan. Many complained they don’t understand it.

Davis said he and his staff have scheduled educational forums throughout the district to educate senior citizens about Medicare and admitted its complexities.

“It’s too complicated, it’s unfair and it’s hard to understand,” he said. “It may take another president, another party and control to fix it.”

Davis told the audience they have until May 15 to choose the Medicare plan that best suits them and urged them to do their homework in making the right choice. If Medicare recipients fail to choose a plan, the federal government will assign them a random plan that may not cover all of their prescription drug costs.

As the meeting drew to a close, Selma residents were grateful that Davis took the time to answer their questions and offered him shining comments.

“They say Tom Joyner is the hardest working man in showbusiness,” one attendee said. “But I believe Artur Davis is the hardest working man in Congress.”