Monday Congressman Gary Palmer, R-Hoover, was in Vincent for a town hall with city leaders and residents.
Vincent Mayor Ray McAllister said, “It is our pleasure to have Gary Palmer and his staff with us today. He does a great job for us in Washington. I know it is a zoo.”
Palmer was introduced as, among other things, a former football player at the University of Alabama under legendary Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
“I practiced football at Alabama, I was a little short on the playing side,” Palmer said. “I grew up in Hackleburg so I have a heart for rural Alabama.”
“One of the big deals is broadband,” Palmer said. “We really need it statewide. We are getting some things done there. I am really focused on economic development. One of the most important things is to finish the northern beltway. That will take some of the pressure off of (Highway) 280.”
Palmer said that we are a behand Nashville and Atlanta. The good part of that is that we can learn from their mistakes. “With broadband more people will be willing to settle in rural Alabama because of the quality of life.
Palmer said that development is going down Highway 280 to Vincent eventually. “It is all coming this way. The key is to manage that growth so that you don’t give up what you have.”
A veteran asked Palmer about the Veterans Health Care System.
“We have a very good veterans hospital in Birmingham,” Palmer said. “Birmingham is fortunate. Montgomery is not.”
“We have given the administrator the ability to fire people,” Palmer said that will help some. “We have a number of places where veterans have died on waiting lists and they (the VA) tried to cover it up.”
Vincent City Council Member Bridgette Jordan Smith said that seventy percent of the children in Vincent receive free and reduced lunch. Money is not something we have in abundance; but when we apply for grants we are often overlooked because we are in Shelby County. It is a challenge for us.
“The grant process is all we have because we no longer do earmarks, at least in the House,” Palmer said. “The senate still does because they hide them in the big omnibus bills. I don’t know if they will do that this year.”
Palmer said that for the Congress to pass a budget under regular order it has to pass out of both Houses, then it goes to a conference committee and what comes out of conference committee still has to pass both houses. If that does not happen there will be an omnibus. Committee chairmen can then slip earmarks into the omnibus as it goes through committee.
“I would recommend putting your grants in and then getting with Sen Shelby’s office,” Palmer said. “He is literally one of the most powerful people in Washington.”
Palmer said that he grew up skidding logs, looking at the back of a mule. I was in the Future Farmers of America. I learned a lot in ag class, carpentry, welding, electrical etc. “I am the first person in my family to go to college. We don’t have a lot of those things for young people now but that is about to change.” Congress is providing funding for craft training. Birmingham has a craft school. Graduates get a basic high school education, not college prep, but they learn carpentry, welding, masonry, etc. The mayor of Clay is an instructor there and teaches stonemasonry. “These kids that come out and weld are going to be making $50 to $60,000 a year.” I am talking in Washington about letting 18 year old drive semi trucks I am not for letting them drive a tandem truck. In the Navy kids who are barely 20 are driving nuclear aircraft carriers driving a truck I think they can handle it.
“Quit trying to put square peds in a round hole build an economy that works for everybody,” Palmer said. Hoover is building a craft school with the old Riverchase elementary and Leeds is looking at it.
Residents asked about improving school security.
“I have been meeting with superintendents in the district to talk about school safety,” Palmer said. Palmer said that he has been asked to help with a Congressional task force on school safety.
Palmer said that he asks school superintendents Do you have a school resource officer? And if you don’t what do you have if a shooter gets inside your school.
Palmer said that there is a developing profile on mass school shooters: They are White, males, they are adolescent to mid twenties, they are all on psychotropic drugs, they grow up in suburban households, only one shooter has been rural, often more affluent, and they are all either atheist, agnostic, or are hostile to religion.
Palmer said that he is not in favor of closing off schools with a wall or fencing. Palmer was on the field when the shooter attacked the baseball field. There was a fence around that and only one gate in or out. If the Capital Police had not been there to engage the shooter and keep him from entering the gate that would have become a killing zone.
Palmer says that he is for utilizing canines to form an outer layer of perimeter security. Technology like metal detectors can only tell you what went by the detector, dogs can track it down and find where it went up to thirty minutes after it went by there. Some people don’t want big German Shepherds in the schools but Beagles are being trained up in Anniston to do the same thing. “That gives you another layer of security. Palmer said that he has also been pushing for using dogs as an outer layer of security at airports.
“We are also looking at keep track of school buses.” Palmer said that psychotropic drugs are needed by some people; but they don’t work for everyone. Everyone is different. They have the ability to do genetic mapping to tell you what will work best for you and what will work best for me. Hudson Alpha is doing research so, “We are fast getting to the point where they can look at your genetic map and determine what drug works best for you.”
Arkansas is providing every school teacher with an ap for their phones where they can push a button and alerts the whole school system immediately for fire and another button for security threats. The NASA administrator said that they have developed a sensor that will tell you not only that a shot has been fired but what caliber bullet it is.
One resident asked Palmer if he could work with Democrats in Congress.
“I have got good friends on the Democratic side,” Palmer said. “If there is anything real significant their leadership will not let them vote for it. That is why there are 60 Democrats committed to voting against Nancy Pelosi. On my side of the aisle we are not as dependent on our leadership as they are we have more independence as a consequence we have factions.”
Palmer said that the Republican leadership wrote their Obamacare replacement bill and they were told that you either were for that bill or they were for the Affordable Care Act. Palmer opposed the bill and then contributed to developing replacement which did pass the House.
“I think I have a high level of respect on the other side of the aisle,” Palmer said. “I thought when we did the hearing on Peter Strzok and I though a bunch of people on the other side of the aisle and on my side were way out of line. I told him that I said a prayer for his family and his whole countenance changed.”
“Everything is a story,” Palmer said. “History is one huge narrative. There are no insignificant people. We are all part of the tapestry. If you take one thread out and it is not complete.”
“The millennials really struggle,” Palmer said. “They are just drawn here and drawn there they don’t have the purpose.”
“Don’t think about where you are, but where you want to be,” Palmer said. Think about what will be said at your funeral. They ae not going to talk about what kind of car you drive or how big a house you lived in.”
“What we are going through right now is so destructive,” Palmer warned. “This divisiveness will kill us as a nation.”
A resident asked if there was any money to get a medical clinic in Vincent.
Palmer suggested that they look at what they have done in Centerville in Bibb county. Centerville has a dentistry, optometry, chiropractor, doctor, office etc. in one clinic. The doctor have gone through a government program that pays for their medical education if they work in rural areas.
Palmer said that he liked doing town halls.
“When I was elected to this office, I made a commitment to not be an absentee representative. This is the part of the job,” Palmer said. There is no better place to live than small towns in Alabama.
Ray Melick, the District Director of Palmer’s office, said that in addition to the regular town halls Congressman Palmer tries to meet with the mayors of the district every quarter at a luncheon to hear the concerns of all the cities in the district.
Gary Palmer is seeking his third term representing the Sixth Congressional District. He faces Danner Kline (D) in the general election on November 6.