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Taylor holds town meeting

U.S. Congressman Gene Taylor was in Poplarville on Thursday at a town hall meeting to answer residents’ questions about local and national issues.

Poplarville resident Steve Strigham told Taylor he has been living in a Federal Emergency Management Agency-issued travel trailer in Poplarville since Hurricane Katrina, but lived in New Orleans prior to the storm. Strigham said his only options now that FEMA is moving all residents out of the travel trailers because of formaldehyde issues are to move into a hotel room or to accept $500 a month for up to a year to relocate to a rental property.

“I have 12 children. They don’t all live with me, but I do have 12 children. I am also disabled. I have been disabled since the storm. These options aren’t acceptable to me, but there are no other options,” Strigham said.

Strigham said he has been unable to receive assistance from Louisiana agencies because he has changed residency to Mississippi, but that the Mississippi agencies are unable to help him because he lived in Louisiana at the time of the storm.

“I have Louisiana saying move to Louisiana and they can help me, but I want to stay in Poplarville. This is my home now. But I have Mississippi saying they can’t help me, because prior to the storm I had a Louisiana address,” Strigham said.

Taylor told Strigham that he understood his situation, but that government assistance can only go so far.

“This is kind of a situation for the nation where you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. If FEMA allows residents to stay in these travel trailers, there’s going to be a health lawsuit. If they throw them out, they will be upset that they’re being thrown out… People have lost their houses and the government is trying to get them back to their home. If they lost a home in New Orleans, it makes sense that the government will help them back in New Orleans… It’s not a perfect system, but we have helped 42,000 families. That is unprecedented in its scale of generosity,” Taylor said.

Taylor said he believes the main thing that the government wants to see is that residents are making progress towards rebuilding their homes and lives.

“Our nation paid $31,000 per travel trailer for assistance for Katrina victims. That totals $1.3 billion. We’re grateful for every bit of help that we have received, but that assistance can’t go on forever,” Taylor said.

Taylor said his recommendation to the government is to keep the travel trailers now that they are aware of the health hazards and their effects.

“We know there are health problems now. But just after the storm, people were living in tents and in the backs of vans or wherever else they could find a place to stay, and these trailers are better than whatever else these people could be living in,” Taylor said.

Another resident asked about Taylor’s position on the United States Air Force awarding a multimillion dollar plane contract to a company that is based partially in Europe.

“What scares me about that is, you can make half of something in the United States and still call the finished product made in America, because we base it on the valuation of the work. So they can bring in an entire fuselage or an entire wing from another country and still call it ‘Made in America’,” Taylor said.

Taylor says he has voted for legislation every year that will require America to purchase products that are made completely in the United States, but the Senate votes against it every time.

“I have voted for American-made language on every single defense contract out there… And I will tell you this. I have the utmost respect for the man, and think he is a great person, but one of the men who leads the campaign to block that legislation is John McCain,” Taylor said.

Several residents expressed concern about increasing gas prices. One woman asked, “Why are we paying increasingly high gas prices when we have so much in reserves?”

Taylor said the reason gas prices continue to rise is two-fold.

“For one thing, I’m convinced that over half the oil in this world that is going to be found has already been found and pulled out. It’s like on a fruit tree. The low-hanging fruit has already been picked. It’s a scarce commodity, and is getting harder and harder to get. If it’s harder to get, it’s more expensive. Second, the less oil we have, and the more people there are who want it, the more the cost is going to be. The United States makes up two percent of the world’s population, and we use 25 percent of the world’s resources. It’s turning the oil prices into a bidding war. Whoever owns the oil is sitting there with no loyalties and selling it to the highest bidder,” Taylor said.

When asked about alternative fuel and energy sources, Taylor said he has voted for legislation to fund these sources in the past, but so far, it has not been passed by the Senate.

“We’ve all been spoiled with cheap fuel. When fuel was cheap, there was not much incentive to look at things like alternative energy and fuel sources… Legislation has been passed in the House three times to fund research for alternative energy sources. But it has been voted down in the Senate every time. We recently voted on it again, but it will probably be voted down again in the Senate too,” Taylor said.