Fleischmann is on a tour of all 11 counties in the 3rd Congressional District that stretches from Georgia to Kentucky.
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis concluded the hourlong meeting in the Courthouse Annex.
“I feel it is very important that local governments not be burdened with any additional unfunded mandates,” he said. “County governments must operate within a balanced budget and unfunded mandates from the state and federal level can make that task difficult if not impossible."
He said every once in awhile, an unfunded mandate from the 1970s still surfaces.
Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland asked the congressman to urge the International Olympic Committee to reinstate wrestling as an Olympic sport.
Also part of the discussion was the U.S. Department of Energy’s Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge.
DOE is building a new UPF to replace the aging facility. It is the biggest construction project in Tennessee history at an estimated $6.5 billion, more than three times the corporate investments of Volkswagen and Wacker Polysilicon North America in Hamilton and Bradley counties. The UPF could go online by 2023.
Fleischmann said the UPF will process highly enriched uranium for use in nuclear weapons and naval reactors on submarines and aircraft carriers.
“Although a processing facility currently exists at Building 9212 at Y-12, the building dates back to World War II and is outdated and in need of replacement,” he said. “UPF will be critical to meeting our nation’s 21st century nuclear deterrent and naval reactors needs.”
The congressman from Chattanooga said education cannot fail because it is the great liberator. He also believes in more local control over schools. But, he also said society should place more priority on vocational education.
“I’ve gone to technology centers where they are teaching people how to work on car engines, how to do body work and heating and air-conditioning systems and told them what they were doing was great. I can’t do what you are doing,” he said. “One pulled me aside and said that was the first time anyone had every said anything praiseworthy to him about his abilities.”
Employers tell him they need skilled workers, but we have to develop those skills.
“Not everybody is going to be able to get a law degree, and we don’t need that. We need to work on science and math. There are tremendous opportunities right here in our state for vocational education,” he said.
Bradley County Commissioner J. Adam Lowe said he agreed with more local control while at the same time, he understands the need for common core standards in a national and global economy.
He said many of the local tax dollars go to fund education which most people feel is a worthy investment.
“But I think most parents are concerned, not as much about the quality of education as much as the content,” he said.
Lowe said the recent report released by the State Collaborative on Reforming Education showed 10 percent of Cleveland and Bradley County school students are college ready, according to that standard.
“We debate over standards a lot, but we don’t actually debate what it results in. We’re often left at the community college level bridging the gap between employers who need a certain level of competency and the project that we’re actually getting.”
Lowe said Bradley County has already proven it will take care of its own. But, he said, the topic that raised the most discussion in a recent lecture was the financial and structural security of the United States.
The 4th District commissioner said he “absolutely despises the conversation about reducing the deficit. I want to eliminate the deficit. I want to reduce the debt.”
Lowe, who is a first-generation college student, watched his parents struggle, but his parents would pay more taxes if they knew if would go toward paying the foreign debt.
“There’s not trust it will go to that,” he said. “Their concern is that it will continue to fund programs that leach off of the federal budget. I think people are prepared for solutions that will get us out from under that.”
Fleischmann said the federal government borrows 42 cents of every dollar spent. That could be corrected with a balanced budget amendment, which has a “slim-to-none” chance of passage. Another way is to keep spending in line with the Gross Domestic Product.
Continuing, he said when the U.S. borrows money, that debt is placed on the open market where it is purchased primarily by China, Japan and Russia. During World War II, Americans purchased about 90 percent of the debt through War Bonds. Foreign ownership of American debt creates national security concerns. Unless there is the political will to make fundamental changes in discretionary and mandatory spending.
Commissioner Mel Griffith asked about the prospects of immigration reform.
Fleischmann said that constitutionally, immigration is an obligation of the national government. It is unfair to cities, counties and states to deal with the debacle immigration has become. He said borders must be secure, legal immigrants need to be rewarded and existing laws must be enforced.
“Immigration is an issue the federal government has dropped the ball on for too long,” he said. “It’s a national security problem. It’s an economic problem and it is something that has to be dealt with,” he said.
Commission Chair Louie Alford said gun laws are of concern to conservative Republicans. Also, there continues to be talk about the federal government being broke, but nothing gets done to fix it.
Fleischmann said he has been and always will be a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. He said the president’s proposals would be dead on arrival in the Senate and House. He said “no budget, no pay” is a good first step toward forcing elected officials to seriously debate the economy.
Concerning the U.S. Postal Service, the congressman said the mail service would have to make some reforms in it operations. He opposed closing the regional post office in Chattanooga.