"Reflections & Remembrance"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, September 16, 2011

The President’s address to a joint session of congress on Sept. 8 seemed to be just more of the same. When he introduced his jobs program, other than suggesting tax breaks for the wealthy would pay for it, he offered no ideas on how the jobs would actually be created.

I was happy to hear him speak of the WPA (Works Projects Administration) projects backed by the government during times of high unemployment. He fell short of saying he was prepared to get this type of project started.

The next time you visit Port Austin, go down to the harbor and look to the east side of Bird Creek, across from the gas dock. You will notice what looks like metal boxes; they are just that — bins filled with rocks sitting on top of and supported by additional rocks and cribbing. A WPA construction project was done, long before either breakwall was erected, to lay cribbing along the east side of the creek. Its purpose was to slow or stop sand from washing into the creek, thus allowing boats to navigate it.

Over the years, ice and repeated storms took the poles off the top of the cribs. When the creek began filling in again, those of us who docked along it or had a business interest on it, met with the village fathers and made a plan. We all chipped in, and at the direction of K. Don Williamson, an engineer and member of the Port Austin Yacht Club, purchased metal bins. With help from a local heavy equipment operator, we set the bins on top of the original stone crib structure constructed by the WPA project, producing a “bin-wall.” Those bins haven’t moved in over 30 years. The WPA projects in the Thumb area put many local people to work on road projects and waterfront development.

As I see it, we could sure use this type of help today.

A combined state-aid and federal financing program could put a lot of people to work and feed many hungry families. Those healthy enough to work could earn their way and reduce welfare payouts and unemployment payment drains on the economy. During the years of the depression and WWII (1935 to 1943), the WPA provided almost eight million jobs. It tried to provide one paid job for all families where the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment. To those sitting at home saying, “I didn’t go to school to perform manual labor,” remember those willing to work did not expect to carry the weight of those who won’t work.

Even if heavy equipment had to be used to perform some of the public works, we could rebuild much of our nation’s infrastructure. I think the President dropped the ball by not suggesting these specific projects and how they could be launched. Our financial condition is certainly no worse than it was in the 1930s when much of the original WPA projects built what is now crumbling and falling into decay. There is no reason we can’t pull together, no matter the politics, and get our country going again.

For the many who have lost homes, toys, cars and other belongings, these hard times will be very difficult to overcome, but if we all work together we can regain our individual and country’s stature. None of us wants to leave our kids and grandkids saddled with debt. Too many of us took advantage of the free and easy times and should have known better. If we contributed to making the tough times being faced now, we should be responsible to help overcome them.

It’s truly time for all politicians, of every party, to roll their sleeves up and dig right in with the rest of us to solve our country’s problems. No more name calling, posturing or finger pointing, remember the party pointing the finger today could be the one pointed at tomorrow.

As you read my columns, you may find differences regarding what I comment on being superseded by on-going events. As fast as the political scene is changing, I can’t be expected to write, text, edit, send to the editor and have printed my column before there is a new perspective. I note speakers change their mind several times, on the same subjects during one debate, so humble media types like myself cannot be expected to know what they will say next.

I’m sure most of you viewed some of the 9/11 tributes.

I was so proud to see our Thumb community, Brown City’s fire department, recognized on national TV. The department had requested and received a piece of steel from one of the towers. Members of the department traveled to New York and transported it back to Brown City. They dedicated a monument in memory of all those lost on 9/11 and the brave men and women who fought and died trying to save them.

Small towns can stand out and speak for all of us. Port Austin’s fire department displayed a tribute in remembrance as I’m sure most of the Thumb’s departments did. We all need to recognize and appreciate sacrifices made by every first responder and the risk they take each time they answer the call.



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