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General John Douglass, the Democrats’ candidate for the 5th Congressional District seat, stopped in Bedford last week to hold a panel discussion, one of a number that he’s holding around the district.
The panel consisted of Dr. Janice Luth, a local physician, Ronnie Miller, owner of Bedford Funeral Home, Linwood Hoffman, a county employee, and Charles Kolakowski, Bedford’s city manager. Kolakowski and the other panel members were invited by the Douglass campaign to participate. Douglass led the discussion through the five points of his “Help Virginia Families Plan.”
“I think education is the foundation for almost all the issues we face,” Douglass said, beginning the discussion.
Miller brought up the problem of school supplies for children from needy families. He said that he’s been involved with the Bedford City and County Improvement Association which, for the last 10 years, has been giving out between 30 and 40 backpacks filled with school supplies each year.
He said that a problem they run into is that so many times parents are too proud to ask for help.
“There are so many out there who don’t let us know,” he said.
Hoffman suggested that the group contact schools.
“A lot of times the teachers know who they are,” he said.
Douglass called for more vocational education in schools. He also favors schools that operate year-round with a school day running from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. He said that this could be paid for by immediately pulling all American troops out of Afghanistan.
Jobs is another item on the plan. Douglass began the discussion on that topic by saying that unemployment rates vary widely across the 5th District. In some counties, it’s half the national rate. In others, it’s triple.
Dr. Luth suggested programs to help people enter health care professions.
“These are good paying jobs, but they do require skills,” she said.
“I’d like to see more taxing on imports,” Hoffman said. Hoffman was also concerned about American companies that buy from countries that allow child labor and where businesses don’t provide health insurance for workers.
Douglass touted setting up cooperative programs between industry and state and local governments.
Kolakowski brought up excessive state and federal regulations on business, saying that overregulation is one reason why businesses are relocating overseas. He mentioned a remark Senator Mark Warner made on the subject on a recent visit to Bedford. Senator Warner suggested that an independent agency is needed to arbitrate between business and regulatory agencies. Kolakowski called for “common sense” regulation.
Douglass spoke about the elderly.
“I’m going to make sure our Medicare and Social Security remain viable,” he said.
The final topic was community safety. Kolakowski said that volunteer rescue squads are struggling and there is a growing trend toward using paid personnel.
“It’s very hard for volunteers to get the training required,” he said.
Kolakowski also believes that more should be spent on rehabilitation for prison inmates, as well as providing alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders.
Douglass said that he believes that border security needs to be enhanced and he favors cutting the military budget and redirecting that money to this purpose. He said that it’s only a matter of time before a terrorist group begins using drug smugglers, already adept at getting illegal items across our border, to smuggle in weapons to use for terrorist attacks.