Local Politics

Congressmen: Stimulus package first priority

Posted January 1, 2009 12:03 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:11 p.m. EDT

— Elected officials rang in the new year Thursday by providing a free lunch to hundreds of Cumberland County residents.

The meal at the Crown Coliseum Exposition Center has become a Fayetteville tradition over the past 16 years. It includes barbecue, candied yams and two New Year's staples – collard greens and black-eyed peas.

According to tradition, collards represent money, and people who eat plenty of collards on New Year's Day will have prosperity through the year.

More than 2,500 people attended the lunch to get their fill of collards and hope for better economic times in the coming months.

"Anything that's supposed to bring good luck, we're going to have it today in quantity," said incoming Eighth District Congressman Larry Kissell, who will be sworn into office next Tuesday. "I think the economy is front and center in everybody's mind."

Kissell, Second District Congressmen Bob Etheridge, state Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand, Cumberland County Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler and other elected officials attended the lunch.

"Congress will go to work (on Tuesday), and we're going to try to get a (stimulus) package on the president-elect's desk as soon as he's sworn in to put money into building roads, schools, water and sewer (lines), bridges – whatever it takes to put people to work," Etheridge said.

"I want to see our money, because it is our money – the taxpayer's money – spent on infrastructure so we have something to show," Kissell said.

Investing in the nation's infrastructure, both congressmen said, will feed the economy in the coming year.

"(Once we) get the private sector going, and then the public sector will hopefully pull back," Etheridge said.

Etheridge has been named to the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with writing tax legislation. He said infrastructure won't be the government's only big investment.

"Investment in alternative fuels will be a big issue," he said. "It's going to be a growing part of our economy for years to come."