Friday, December 15, 2006

At Long Last - Rumsfeld Steps Down

After six years of failed leadership, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped down today, handing his position over to Robert Gates. Gates was confirmed on December 6, 2006, and is scheduled to be sworn in on December 18, 2006. Before being confirmed as the new U.S. Defense Secretary, Gates served as a member of the CIA, the National Security Council, as Director of Central Intelligence under President Bush, and as a member of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

The actions of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and President Bush have undermined the contributions and sacrifices of our brave men and women in uniform. They failed to take responsibility for the consequences of a mismanaged war and refused to send adequate equipment and provisions to our solidiers serving in the war torn region.

I have called on Rumsfeld to resign for years and hope today marks the beginning of an important transiton in our military strategy. The decision to go to war is the most serious action a country can take. I wish our new Defense Secretary the best as he works to resolve this terrible conflict in Iraq, and I continue to send my prayers to all the men and women in uniform who are risking their lives to spread peace throughout the world.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Jonesboro Lands Hair Care and Skin Care Manufacturing Plant

An Illinois-based company, Alberto-Culver Co., just announced it will open a new $60 million, 500,000 sq. ft. plant in the Jonesboro Industrial Park. The facility will make hair care and skin care products such as Alberto VO5, TRESemme, and St. Ives Formula, employing up to 400 people.

Company officials intend to break ground in two weeks with construction complete by 2008. They chose to locate in Jonesboro because they were landlocked in Dallas, where they make a line of ethnic hair care and skin products. The Dallas plant is closing and most of that production is expected to transfer to Jonesboro.

University of Arkansas Community College of Batesville (UACCB) to get $2 Million Grant

Today the University of Arkansas Community College of Batesville (UACCB) has been awarded a $1,992,274 competitive grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The funding is part of the Community-Based Job Training Grants program designed to help community colleges equip workers with the skills needed by growing local industries.

UACCB and its partners will use the grant to address existing nursing and allied health labor shortages in North Central Arkansas. As more and more Baby Boomers continue to settle in the popular Ozark Foothills upon retirement, the need for a greater number of health care professionals and medical services will only increase.

The UACCB partnership is one of 72 recipients out of 429 applicants nationwide. The grant will be utilized in training activities in 22 counties in North Central Arkansas.

These funds will help the University of Arkansas at Batesville establish an important partnership with the local business community that will provide high-skilled jobs for its graduates and improve the quality of health care for local residents. This is one of the best investments we can make in our community. I commend the community college for all its work to secure these funds and promise to help in any way I can to make sure this program continues to grow.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Berry Appointed to Vice-Chair of Democratic Steering and Policy Committee

Today Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi appointed me to serve as Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. As a Vice-Chair of the committee, I will help the Leadership and full Democratic Caucus establish a policy agenda and guide legislative priorities through Congress.

I am honored the Democratic Leadership selected me for this important position. This is a great opportunity to shape a positive agenda and make sure Congress listens to the priorities of working families. I welcome the challenges that lie ahead, and look forward to all we will accomplish when the Democrats assume the majority in the 110th Congress.

I intend to use this position to become even more involved in health care and agriculture policy as well as promoting greater fiscal accountability in Congress.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Congress Reflects on an Important History Lesson

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill today to preserve the historic Japanese Internment camps where the U.S. government wrongly held approximately 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II. This terrible civil rights violation happened shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Many Americans feared the bombing was a sign Japan was preparing a full-scale attack against the United States.

Two of these internment camps are located in Arkansas. The Rohwer War Relocation Center was established in September 1942 and housed 8,475 Japanese and Japanese Americans. The Jerome War Relocation Facility was established in October 1942 and housed 8,497 people.

It is important to preserve these historic landmarks, so our children and grandchildren do not make the mistakes of the past. America has come a long way in 60 years. We have a responsibility to make sure this country continues to grow together, where our citizenship and rights define us above our race, class, or origin.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Arkansas Congressional Delegation Announces $1.2 Million in Delta Regional Authority Funds

The Arkansas Congressional Delegation today announced five Arkansas Delta projects that will receive funding awards from the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). This is the fifth consecutive year the federal commission has issued grant awards.

The DRA, a federal agency established by Congress in 2000, is designed to channel resources, aid and guidance for economic development to the Mississippi Delta region. Of the eight member states covered by the DRA, Arkansas’ FY 2006 share is the second highest, with $1,199,395 for the following five projects:

$431,820 City of Monticello-- Drew County
This funding will be used to construct water system improvements for the city of Monticello. A 250,000- gallon elevated water tank will be built on land owned by the city and larger water mains will be installed.

$300,000 Southside Public Water Authority-- Independence County
This funding will assist with acquisition and construction costs for a wastewater treatment plant. An estimated 600 households and businesses will be connected to public sewer once the project is completed.

$233,675 Southern Arkansas University Tech-- Calhoun, Ouachita, Dallas, Union Counties
This funding will help support the institution’s training consortium project. The project will provide advanced manufacturing training to incumbent workers and improve SAU Tech’s advanced manufacturing training laboratories by upgrading software and equipment. There will be a minimum of 325 employees trained in 13 organized classes available for incumbent workers.

$155,000 Chicot-Desha Metropolitan Port Authority-- Chicot, Desha Counties
This funding will support improvements to the transportation infrastructure by adding a barge winch system, access between the conveyor belt support structure and barges loading area, and access between the crane structure and the barge area. These improvements will be to port-owned facilities.

$78, 900 City of Tuckerman-- Jackson County
This funding will assist with the installation of a generator that will keep the City’s water treatment plant in operation during power outages.