Interview with Sen. Burr: Energy, immigration, health care are key issues

Published 4:19 pm Thursday, August 14, 2008

By Staff
Tours Washington’s new fire station, mingles with officials
Staff Writer
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr got a tour of the Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS and Inspections Department’s Station 2 from the department’s chief, Jimmy Davis, on Tuesday.
Burr, the state’s junior senator and a Republican, helped arrange the funding that built the station, officials said. Burr also toured several other sites in Washington, including National Spinning.
The senator’s stop was part of a larger swing through North Carolina that saw him visiting another fire station in Vanceboro and opening campaign headquarters for John McCain in several North Carolina cities. That was a task in which former presidential candidate Bob Dole joined him, Burr said.
During an interview after his tour of Station 2, Burr was upbeat about a poll released in July by a Raleigh firm that gave the senator a 27 percent approval rating. The largest segment of respondents, over 40 percent, had no opinion of the senator, and 26 percent disapproved of his actions.
In a press release, the president of Public Policy Polling, which conducted the survey, said the numbers showed Burr hasn’t entered the public’s consciousness.
But Burr remained optimistic.
He said the stop in Washington wasn’t part of any concerted effort to raise his profile, and that his numbers weren’t all that bad, given the current political environment.
He also said that he’s not concerned with the statistical snapshot shows only 3 1/2 years into his 6-year term.
The senator said he is pleased with his work as chairman of the committee that is crafting the Republican Party’s national platform for the campaign season this fall.
Burr particularly touted the committee’s Web site, with which it solicited suggestions from the public for the party’s platform. He said it was the first of its kind for either party and had received 127,000 hits when he left Washington, D.C., on Friday.
He didn’t rule out surprises in the platform as a whole, but he did say the top issues are easy to see coming.
Burr said he isn’t intimately familiar with the efforts of local governments to address those issues, but the senator said a resolution by the county commissioners asking Congress to address the nation’s energy situation and another resolution proposed by Commissioner Stan Deatherage that supports oil exploration off of North Carolina’s coast are typical of attitudes in many places.
High gas prices can be particularly detrimental to tourist-dependent waterfront areas, Burr said.
Burr said the “economic engine” for eastern North Carolina’s future is East Carolina University, which houses a large and growing medical program.
Other infrastructure, like an industrial park the county is planning to build, is a good idea, too, he said.
And companies also evaluate basic services like public schools, roads and emergency services when they consider moving to a new region.
Burr praised the station and its potential role as a headquarters for those managing the response to any disaster in the area.
Burr’s tour also brought out town dignitaries and officials from the USDA-Rural Development, which provided millions of dollars in loans to help build the fire station.
She also praised the USDA’s role in funding the fire station.
He also said that North Carolina is first in the nation in money from USDA-Rural Development for first responders, which goes to things like Station 2.
Davis said he was glad to have Burr at the station. Davis said both North Carolina senators helped secure grant funding for his department.