Jobs will be the top priority for Congressman-elect Jerry Carl when he officially takes over as the representative for District 1 in January.
Employment has always been at the top of the agenda for the two-term Mobile County commissioner and that focus will not change in Washington, D.C., even if the stakes do.
“Jobs is my focus,” he said in a phone interview with Lagniappe. “It always has been and it always will be.”
Among the efforts on the jobs front, Carl hopes to help Austal negotiate for more contracts with the U.S. Navy, even as the company works to convert to steel hulls. A new series of contracts for Austal would not only secure jobs, but would help with the defense of the country, Carl said.
“It’s important to the defense of the country to have more than one shipyard going,” he said. “There’s a lot out there other than what they’re currently building.”
Carl said he is “trying my best” to get a seat on the House Armed Services Committee to help in this endeavor. With an aging Navy fleet, the federal government will be looking to issue new contracts, Carl said, but the process could be a “roller coaster.”
“My focus is not Austal,” he said. “It’s the 4,000 jobs.”
Jobs at Airbus’s two final assembly lines and its engineering center at Brookley Aeroplex will also remain a focus for Carl. Specifically, he wants to help in the French company’s tariff fight.
“I’ll be reminding people in D.C. of the jobs committed here,” he said. “Not only here, but also in Wichita [Kansas] and D.C.”
The tariff fight has oftentimes pitted American manufacturer Boeing against Airbus, an European Union competitor. The free market needs competition, Carl said, so it’s not in the country’s best interest to side with one over the other.
“You have to keep competition going,” he said. “It makes us all healthy.”
While Carl said he will fight for Airbus, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand Boeing creates a lot of American jobs. Carl said he wants to help keep them “healthy,” too.
To keep aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing viable, Carl said, people have to start flying again.
Carl is also angling to get on the House Agriculture Committee, in the hopes of better representing farmers in the area. He said he wants to bring the focus back to the important work farmers are doing in South Alabama and is poised to support a bill that would reallocate subsidies to farmers. He recognized support might be at odds with some of his Republican colleagues.
“Most don’t realize how big our farm community is in District 1, especially in peanuts,” Carl said.
It won’t be all about jobs for the freshman congressman. Carl said his goal would also be to help revive the plans for an Interstate 10 bridge project, although one with a more limited, less costly scope.
“I want to see if we can get everyone working together,” he said. “I want to see how we can raise money for the project and maybe downsize it. We’ve got to get that bridge built.”
The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) had started preliminary work on a new bridge and Bayway project, but an increased cost from about $800 million to more than $2 billion forced the state to consider tolls equaling as much as $6 one way. This proposal set off a firestorm debate over what many considered a tax on commuters.
The debate led to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization — a board made up of local mayors and other officials — to take the project off its future planning document, meaning it wouldn’t be eligible for federal funding, which essentially killed the project.
Carl understands even though he received a healthy portion of the vote from Baldwin County there will be folks on the other side of the bay who think the Mobile County resident will forget about them. He promises not to.
As a Mobile County commissioner, Carl said he “knows a lot” about infrastructure and that’s important to residents in the growing county.
In January, Carl will enter a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, but he said he’s willing to work across the aisle to get things accomplished for the district.
“When you talk about Republicans and Democrats, that’s how you run for office,” he said. “There are a lot of Democrats out there that I can work with. I will work with them. The country works better when we work together.”
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