By Russ Lay | Outer Banks Voice on June 2, 2015
When U.S. Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C.,visited the Outer Banks Visitor’s Bureau on May 28, the audience was treated to one of Jones’ favorite subjects, but this time with a local twist.
Jones is a well-know budget deficit and national debt hawk in Washington, D.C. circles.
He has also split with House Republican leaders over the Iraq and Afghanistan war efforts, apologizing for his vote to take action in the former case while citing the continued waste of taxpayer funds and “life and limb” in the Afghan conflict.
Speaking to a full house of business and political leaders, Jones tied all of those issues to Dare County and ongoing problems with beach nourishment, dredging at Oregon and Hatteras Inlets, and a host of other issues.
He also stated the federal government had overreached in mandating offshore drilling off the state’s coast and said moneyed interests in Washington were helping Wall Street but ignoring crumbling infrastructure here and across the nation.
Jones said the $18 trillion debt, which has grown from $5 trillion since Bill Clinton left office, is the fault of both parties.
Jones noted the increasing debt is already impacting budgets down to even the lowest service levels promised to veterans, citing a case where one veteran was able to get the Veterans Administration to treat most of his dental issues but was unable to pay for capping his teeth.
Under the new agreement President Obama signed with Afghan leader Mohammad Ghani, Jones noted, “We are there for nine more years, spending billions of dollars a month there, but we can’t find funds to dredge Oregon Inlet.”
“We need those funds to help repair the infrastructure of Dare County and the entire nation,” Jones said. “We can’t continue to fund all of these things.”
“We can build roads in Afghanistan and the Taliban can blow them up as soon as were finished,” added Jones.
The congressman added his two-cents worth on offshore oil exploration off of North Carolina’s coast .
“I am not in favor of the federal government determining that the federal government should mandate that North Carolina should open up the seas for exploration,” Jones said.
Jones commended Dare County’s leadership in bringing attention to the issue of offshore drilling to his office and noted that pressure resulted in a an additional federal public hearing to be scheduled in Dare County.
He thanked Dare County citizens for attending, stating Dare “turned out the largest numbers (BOEM) had seen in a long time.”
Pessimistically, Jones told the audience he felt the tight budget issues would be with us “for a number of years.”
He felt more time should be devoted to local, state, and federal governments working together in financial partnerships to get needed projects underway.
Jones spoke for only about fifteen minutes but took questions from the audience for another thirty minutes.
The Voice asked Jones why a man-made bridge and roadway through Pea Island had been blocked by a federal judge, based upon federal laws, because it might harm what is, in essence, a series of man-made dikes at the Pea Island Refuge, which are protected by a failing system of man-made dunes on the ocean side.
Jones cited the issue of overreach and directed one of his aides to seek more information from us about the exact nature of our question.
Dare County commissioner Warren Judge asked the congressman what we could do locally to raise public awareness and involvement in all of the federal issues handcuffing the county.
Jones responded that the major problem with the budget and debt problem was a “lack of outrage” among the American people, particularly among younger generations.
He cited the Moral Monday protests that took place in Raleigh and across North Carolina in 2014.
While not agreeing with all of their issues, Jones did note that the majority of protesters “looked like me, with grey on top of their heads” and speaking to younger members of the audience mentioned, “at least they were out there, getting their voices heard…and letting their legislators know how they felt.”
Jones also cited sequestration as an issue, which he did not support, and the influence of large monetary contributions to both parties, as result of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case as “one of the worst decisions ever made” since he entered Congress.
Jones cited an example where the GOP leadership in the House that would benefit billionaire Warren Buffet almost exclusively, asking, “Why does a billionaire need a law to help him make a few more billion?”
Other questions from the audience, especially from Judge and Hatteras residents, emphasized the need to roll back regulatory overreach in environmental issues and problems facing all of our local waterways, especially Hatteras Inlet.
Jones agreed with all of the sentiments but made it clear once again that he felt his colleagues in Washington were far too affected by money and the use of power to understand how their decisions hurt average citizens on the local level.