Terri Sewell seeks jobs for 7th districts

By Heather Smith

TUSCALOOSA–Congresswoman Terri Sewell spoke at a luncheon Tuesday provided by the Rotary Club at the Indian Hills Country Club on McFarland. One of the main points in her speech was strengthening the job market in Alabama.

Voted the first African American Congress representative for the 7th district of Alabama, she is the only Democratic in Alabama’s delegation. She is a freshman in the 112th Congress and a member of the House committees of agriculture and science,space, and technology. Raised in Selma, Sewell went on to attend Princeton University, Harvard Law School, and Oxford.

Sewell has many notable achievements, but she focused on her story about escorting the president during his inaugural address. She was able to speak with him about her home state a few minutes before his speech.

“I went on to tell the president about the 7th Congressional districts, while one of the poorest districts in the state of Alabama … and one of the poorest in the nation. We also have a high unemployment rate–high drop out rate–but what we lack in economic prosperity, I told him that we more than made up for in heart and in spirit and fight. And that I am convinced that what we need in the 7th Congressional district are just resources and opportunities.”

One of the opportunities focused on the TRAIN ACT. Sewell defended her decision to vote for the bill because of the potential damages Alabama’s workers and businesses could suffer if it did not pass.

The TRAIN ACT, H.R. 2401, pits the environment against jobs for Americans. The proposed bill would stop the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) from strictly regulating carbon emissions and would continue the use of coal as one of our main energy supplies. The EPA mandates could affect the price of energy consumption and potentially affect the labor forces.

“The environment, while very important, I just think is a luxury when you’re taking about saving jobs in this kind of economy,” she said.

Sewell was one of 18 Democrats that voted with the Republicans to dismiss the TRAIN ACT. The bill passed the House and is now in the Senate.

However, there is another potential move that could bring 15,000 jobs to Alabama in the next five years. Sewell said that the free trade agreements with Panama, Columbia and Korea could help the economy. Congress will take up those discussions in the next few months.

Obama’s job plan is another way to boost the market. She went on to say that there needs to be more tax reliefs for small businesses and believes that corporate tax structure has to be re-examined. Sewell also said that the state or the government should not limit pale grants because they are essential to building the future of this country by allowing students to earn higher educations. She was adamant that she would not have been able to attend college without one.

“The only way I believe we can out educate, out innovate, out compete with the rest of the world is that we invest in all that is good in America.”

Obama’s bill has hit a wall, however. The Wall Street Journal covers the story. It might not be as easy to generate jobs as the Congresswoman suggested. Now that the bill has passed that severely restricts illegal Latino immigration into Alabama, there are more jobs for Americans but no one wants them.

Marcy Bonebright wrote about the difficulties now facing the construction companies. “Hispanics, documented and undocumented, dominate anything to do with masonry, concrete, framing, roofing and landscaping,” Bob McNelly, a contractor with Nash-McCraw Properties, told the news service. “There are very few subcontractors I work with that don’t have a Hispanic workforce… It’s not the pay rate. It’s the fact that they work harder than anyone. It’s the work ethic.”

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Emmanuel Church hosts programs to help Latino families

This is my first attempt at a stand-up. I do not want to confess how many times it too me to choke out a few sentences, but I got through the project. I think it turned out to be a decently told story about how life was for Latino families living in Wood Village mobile home community.

I had to learn to work around the limitation of not filming the children’s faces, however. Because I did not have parental consent, I could not identify the kids in the video.

From Farm to Plate

I know this subject matter might be a little off the journalism and technology track, but I believe there are ties that exist if one takes a long and hard look. So far, I have focused tightly on just the system of journalism, or a mainstream journalism subject (like politics). For this blog entry, however, I want to weave the idea of how our new age of reporting can have a greater affect on immensely dense and tangled issues.

For me, finding such a ball of opinions and facts would be easy due to one class I am taking through the UA Honors program. It is titled “Food and Community”; and it has dramatically changed the way I see food and how I eat it. Now, I am the bane of my friends’ and families’ existences because I continuously babble about the horrors of farm animal abuse, agricultural corporation monopolies that threaten family farms, the dangers and mistreatment employees face at meat-packing factories, the consumer’s ignorance about the drugs and processed chemicals injected into every aspect of food… The list goes on and on.

I wish I could stop caring. I wish that I had never taken this class, so that I could live blissfully unaware. But instead, all I can do is pass on my knowledge.

Here is a cluster of topics that encompass the greater issue of how our country’s complex agriculture and meat industry needs serious consideration by Americans. People don’t know what they need to know. Hopefully, this blog might help with that.

Tracking from farm to plate:

In most cases, you will never know where your food originally was grown. Farming and ranching depends on a series of processes that include processing the food in factories, packaging it (sometimes in other factories), transporting it to main facilities that then ship it to other stores, until it finally comes to you in a grocery aisle in a supermarket. The best thing you can do when decided between two brands is to do some research about the company and read the labels looking for ingredients or terms you understand.

JustBare is a good example of a chicken company that cares about it’s animals and it’s customers. They are environmentally conscious and extremely transparent about the food they serve. A code is on every one of it’s packages that the consumer can type into the website and find out what farm the chicken came from.

McCormick is a poor source of information about where the spices in their blends. A vast majority of our spices come from other countries, but surfing McCormick’s website never gives the consumer a clue. They use pretty pictures of cookies and delicious recipes to distract from the fact that they do not tell you anything concrete about how their product is made.

The issues of large-scale farming and ranching:

The NewYorkTimes has done an excellent job of covering farming and ranching from all sides. Here is a whole index of stories.

Oprah did a segment on the cattle industry. Lisa Ling went into a slaughterhouse to tell the story of how cows become steaks. Warning: this is a graphic video.

Lisa Ling had permission to videotape, but it is rare for anyone to get a glimpse into the food industry. Many companies want to protect trade or product secrets, but this can also hide transgressions against animals, health or safety code violations.

Any knowledge of these abuses usually comes from secret filming behind closed doors. New York, Iowa and other states are now passing bills that make a crime out of taking pictures in the facilities without the company’s permission. However, many argue that this is the only way to find out the truth.

Since corporations began taking over our nation’s food industry, they have continually fought legislation that would cost them money. They do not want to disclose evidence that would change the public’s view of their products. Therefore, they hide employee accidents that occur because of ignored safety regulations, and argue that consumers do not have the right to know about food recalls (the FDA does not require them to announce when food is taken off the market for safety concerns).

Organic and healthy:

There are many organizations and clumps of farmers and ranchers that believe in the traditional styles of growing food–totally natural. Natural Health News is a nonprofit devoted to covering green farming and educating the public about healthy eating.

In Tuscaloosa, there is a student led farmer’s market, called Homegrown Alabama, where most of the vendors sell organic produce.

Other sources of information:

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Fast food nation: the dark side of the all-American meal by Eric Schlosser

The table of paparazzi at Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s luncheon

I do not follow politics one bit, and I don’t even vote. Gasp! That’s right. I’m a journalism major, and I do not exercise my first amendment. It does not interest me and frankly, I would rather stay away from the drama of it all. To me, every politician is exactly the same. They promise things that never get done, and issues that need solutions never have an easy answer. So why bother?

When this country was founded, men who ran for office were of different lifestyles and careers. A farmer, a rancher and a barber could all run for mayor. Now, politicians are strictly taught how to be politicians. Most of them are lawyers or businessmen, which make sense because both apply when it comes to running the country, but that has also limited the views and opinions of the people in office.

When I went on assignment to cover Congresswoman Terri Sewell’s luncheon, I had no idea who she was. Turns out she is an incredibly accomplished woman, but while I researched her background and career I could not help but dread the upcoming Tuesday. In our quest for a higher education, my peers and I met at the Indian Hills Country Club at noon.

The ten or so other aspiring journalists sat at the same table like paparazzi. Once glance in our direction and you could tell exactly why we were there (in fact, we received a great many stares). There was barely any room for our food because of all the cameras, notepads and equipment bags stacked on the table and around our chairs.

I hate being that person who annoys everyone around them because I have to move around and get various angles of video and pictures for the article. In short, I hate being an obnoxious journalist. I would much rather be the cool journalist that never has to trip over people’s feet or get glared at because I almost hit them in the head with my tripod.

When I had my perfect spot picked out and actually relaxed, it was interesting to hear Sewell’s stories about President Obama and her job of watching over the 7th district. She seemed like a genuinely friendly and generous personality with an enthusiastic love of her job. So as far as politicians go, she made a noteworthy impression on me. In the future, she might be the only politician that I pay any attention to.