By Joel Hall
U.S. Rep. David Scott (D-Ga), says Congress is going to present the Barack Obama administration with an unprecedented public works economic stimulus package, and he wants those he represents to be prepared to share in the financial outlay.
On Saturday, Scott is meeting with county officials, mayors and public safety officials, in a Countywide Leadership Forum on Dec. 13, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the National Archives and Records Administration, Southeast Region, located at 5780 Jonesboro Road in Morrow. He said the forum would give current and recently-elected officials a chance to have an open discussion and get on the same page in regards to pursuing federal dollars for the county.
"There is a change in leadership, you have a whole new school board, a change in a lot of local municipalities, and a lot of this is coming together when we are putting the funding packet together," said Scott. "We want to be in a position to be as helpful to Clayton County as we possibly can with this upcoming economic stimulus."
While Scott could not, at this time, say how much the stimulus package would be, he said the amount will be "huge." He said the funding would be able to address road projects, bridges, new schools, and other projects.
Scott said county entities will need to have cohesiveness in order take advantage of the stimulus package and a meeting of the county's leaders may provide "a template for moving forward.
"We have in Clayton County had a series of meetings with individual groups," he added. "Clayton has not been as organized and systematic [as other counties in the 13th congressional district]. I want to come out of this meeting with clear lines of communication, with goals, and a timetable for them to get projects identified."
With state grant funding for Clayton County currently on hold, county leaders are eyeing federal funds to help with local projects.
State Rep. Roberta Abdul-Salaam (D-Riverdale), said Saturday's meeting will be a "unique" chance for a dialogue between leaders.
"I think the meeting is a good sign that we are getting on top of some of these issues," said Abdul-Salaam. She wants funding to help create a new technical college in the county to create more skilled laborers.
"We took a lot of hits early due to the issues with Delta [Air Lines] and the closing of the Ford plant," she added. "When Delta was going through their bankruptcy, a lot of people lost their jobs. Delta is on the upswing, but what about all the people who took the hit?
"The issue with the technical college is that business follows skilled labor," Abdul-Salaam continued. "If we had more skilled labor, we could bring more business to the county."
Jeff Turner, Clayton County Police chief, said burglaries in the county are up 29 percent from last year. He said many of the issues are related to the high number of foreclosures in the county, and he believes the county will benefit from more federal funding for crime and foreclosure prevention programs.
"A lot of people are out of jobs. When people get desperate, they do desperate things. When we can do something that makes sure these people buying homes can afford to live in those homes, that will make our county that much better," said Turner. "Collectively, we'll be able to do something about the problems."
State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-Jonesboro), said state budgets will be slim in 2009 and he will be seeking help for several projects, including the Atlanta-to-Griffin commuter rail line; the National Museum of Commercial Aviation in Forest Park; help with $23 million in funds lost by Clayton County Public Schools when 3,000 students left the district; a permanent Boys and Girls Club; a new science building for Clayton State University, and a breakfast program t for Clayton County students.
Glanton said the more the community can work together, the more successfully it will be lobbying for funding.
"If we're going to get help, it's going to come from the federal government and private entities," said Glanton. "I think the more we come together in open dialogue and exchange ideas, the [more] our community will benefit."