Davis woos Black Belt voters, officials

Published 12:35 am Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Seventh District Congressman Artur Davis campaigned a little on a business trip to Selma Tuesday.

He met with a handful of constituents, chiefly elected officials from over the Black Belt, at Vaughan-Smitherman Museum to talk about his race for governor.

Davis talked about the needs for jobs, economic development and stimulus money in the state.

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He talked about the Black Belt, where counties rank among the highest in unemployment.

And he promised, if elected, to bring home the bacon.

“I want to give this region a governor who is not only on the side of the Black Belt … but who knows this area intimately,” Davis said.

He pointed to the recent closure of New Era Caps in Demopolis of an example of how the recession has played havoc with an already depressed region.

Last week the baseball cap maufacturer’s workers union voted to close its Demopolis plant of 351 workers to keep one in New York open.

Davis said this steady eroding away of the manufacturing base in the region means state officials must find ways of shoring up the existing industries while attempting to attract new ones.

He said the state does not have a set of tools to sustain industry in areas, such as the Black Belt.

Davis pointed to a bill he introduced in the House recently as a way to help those industries. It’s called the “Main Street Survival Act” and would set up a $1 billion revolving loan fund for small and mid-sized businesses struggling to obtain credit in this waning days of the recession.

The fund would receive money from leftover dividends from TARP program. It would be administered by the Department of the Treasury.

But that’s on the national level, Davis said. The state must help its people.

Davis pointed to improvements in public education as key to putting Alabama on its feet.

“We’ve got to get the school systems to the point that companies and industries will say, ‘I will come here because of the schools.’”

That means adequate funding so teachers don’t have to spend part of their paychecks for classroom supplies and when proration is an exception rather than the standard.

Davis said he seeks to bridge the regional differences that exist in the state. Those differences omit regions, such as the Black Belt, for suburban areas and cities along the interstates when business and industry come calling.

During a question-and answer session Davis said he supports constitutional reform. He believes in home rule, where counties and cities can determine their welfare without having to take issues to the Capitol in Montgomery if the area’s legislative delegation disagrees.

Davis also said he supports a statewide referendum on gambling to allow the voters to decide if the state should have casinos. And, if the referendum passed, cities and counties should have the local option of accepting or rejecting a casino.

If voters should approve gambling, Davis said he would want the revenues taxed to the state’s benefit, sharing the wealth with education, to shore up the state’s Medicaid system and to fulfill the obligations the state made in the Pre-pay a Child’s Tuition contracts