My primary goal is to listen to what you say

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, August 26, 2014

By U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne

From Atmore to Chatom and Daphne to Theodore, our August district travel period has been filled with stops throughout the 1st Congressional District. At each stop, my top priority has been to listen to the concerns of people from our area. Far too often, it seems politicians are only interested in talking at people, but it is through actively listening that I can better represent you.

Much of our August has been spent touring local businesses, ranging from a chemical plant in McIntosh to a paper mill in Bay Minette. I am always impressed by the variety of products and services we produce right here in southwest Alabama. A common theme during each of these stops has centered on the idea that Washington is standing in the way. Whether it is a burdensome federal mandate or a costly tax, our local businesses are being held back by federal polices, rules, and regulations. Hearing directly from businesses owners and employees helps me better tackle the difficult task of cutting through red tape in Washington.

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In order to continue growing the number of great businesses in southwest Alabama, we must continue to maintain and grow a skilled workforce. Over August, I’ve made it a priority to spend some time exploring details about job training and technical education in our area. Last week, I visited the Alabama Aviation College and Airbus/AIDT Training Center to see firsthand how we are training the first batch of employees for the new Airbus Final Assembly Line in Mobile. From my time as chancellor of Alabama’s two-year college system, I have seen just how useful our two-year colleges can be in training the workforce. That’s why this week I will be holding a roundtable with higher education leaders and presidents from throughout Lower Alabama.

As I have mentioned before, I am also devoting time in August to visiting all the hospitals in the 1st District. We have recently visited some of our more rural hospitals in Grove Hill, Jackson, Chatom, and Atmore. While all of those involved in the health care industry are facing serious changes brought on by Obamacare, our rural hospitals are being hit especially hard. Obamacare was designed to help our nation’s most vulnerable people and improve healthcare in rural areas, but the exact opposite is happening. I am hopeful that recent changes allowing veterans to seek care at non-VA providers will help boost our rural hospitals, but other challenges certainly await.

We have also continued to hold open town hall meetings and events to allow constituents to share their concerns directly with me. We have held town hall meetings in Saraland and Chatom, and a Senior Citizens Roundtable at the Senior Citizens Center in Fairhope. At each of these events, the number one concern seems to be President Obama’s continued disregard for the rule of law. Repealing Obamacare, building the I-10 bridge over the Mobile River, and expanding red snapper season also remain some of the top concerns I hear. All of those are issues that I am actively working on in Congress.

So whether at a town hall meeting or while touring a business, this August has been all about listening to you. Henry Ford once said that one of the secrets to success “lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.” I probably don’t always agree with everything people share with me while I am traveling the district, but I am a better congressman having listened. You keep sharing your concerns and ideas about our country, and I’ll always be here to listen.