Priorities Senator Slade Blackwell’s legislative priorities

Economic Development

Economic development equals jobs; jobs equal family-sustaining wages and tax revenue that leads to more prosperity for our area and state. The effect continues to spiral upward with more consumers making purchases, the job pool for universities and colleges increasing, and education receiving more funding. Every citizen wins when economic development is healthy. That is one of my top priorities.

Attracting and keeping new businesses and industries is critical in creating stable economic growth, yet Alabama is losing its publically traded companies at an alarming rate…from 48 down to 19 in a little over a decade. That decline directly influenced Alabama’s unemployment rate that stands at 11 percent today. And, it’s a discouraging fact that few new corporations are standing in line to locate in our area. The reasons are many; however, pointing fingers is non-productive. We must make economic development for job creation a top priority and find smart solutions to creating an environment that attracts companies to our state.

Education

Education is at the forefront of my agenda and support for our schools is a top priority. It is the lifeblood of the community and the foundation upon which we build our work-force. Furthermore, it affects every single aspect of our ability to live well now and into the future. Therefore, it is tremendously important that we examine the educational needs of every school and work to keep them safe, competitive, and outstanding in every way possible. Our students deserve to be prepared for the next stage of their lives, and it’s our job to provide the tools they need.

Alabama is blessed with excellent universities and colleges. Shelby and Jefferson Counties are blessed with outstanding elementary, middle, and high schools. But, we can’t bask in the sunshine of educational success and take our eye off of the ball. The stakes are high. New technologies surface every day, and knowledge is increasing with old theories and models being replaced by new findings. Competition is strong all around us and the rest of the world is watching. We should be concerned that the average science score of U.S. students lagged behind those in 16 of 30 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group that represents the world’s richest countries; and U.S. students were further behind in math, trailing counterparts in 23 countries. We must find a way to change this.

Solving the Jefferson County Sewer Crisis

Through JeffCoCan (www.jeffcocan.com), a citizens’ coalition, I have worked hard to help find a solution to the Jefferson County sewer crisis. Why? Because no one else has been willing to step forward to find a smart, positive solution and it’s not going away. In fact, the problem has caused our county to be on the brink of declaring the largest municipal bankruptcy in the history of the United States. Even though JeffCoCan has had tremendous support with scores of people seeing the critical urgency to solve the situation, our Legislators have not made it a priority. I’ll have to admit that I’m tremendously frustrated, as many of you are. This is one of the main reasons I ran  for the District 15 Senate seat.

Jefferson County will not be able to grow or even maintain new roads, hospitals, schools if our bond rating continues to slide downward and financing for these kinds of projects becomes impossible. That is exactly what’s happing because of the sewer debt crisis. Currently, not a single elected official has proposed a workable solution to this problem and it will continue to take a devastating toll on our economy and the entire state of Alabama if no positive action is taken to resolve it. Our legacy could be a huge debt and languishing county to pass on to our children. “If it’s true you can’t take it with you, then maybe it’s about what you leave behind,” and, I choose not to leave failures and corruption for my children to face. Don’t you?

County Commission Relations

Those representing our District have been largely ineffective in solving our problems. I believe a stronger relationship between the County Commissioners and our State Legislators would be a step in the right direction toward finding resolutions to issues affecting our District and State.

Elected officials need to have productive communication and work together. Additionally, they must adhere to strong, ethical behavior. The old “pay-to-play” mentality and all varieties of corruption must end. For Jefferson and Shelby Counties to thrive, those we elect to represent us should work together on all levels to think beyond their individual desires to devise positive, productive solutions that affect the financial viability and quality of life of all of us.