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Scott hopes to save bases, stop predatory lending

U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, whose 13th Congressional District includes portions of Rockdale and Newton counties, sat down with reporter Dave Williams recently in the lawmaker's Washington office to discuss issues facing Congress. Here are excerpts of that interview:

Q: The Pentagon has recommended to the federal Base Closure and Realignment Commission that two military bases in your district, Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem, be shut down. What are the odds for saving them?

A: We remain very hopeful. ... We have a very, very good case. ... I think it's very critical that we not strip the Atlanta metro area of the military presence. It would weaken our security at home. The military bases play a pivotal role in coordinating our homeland security, ready responders.

Q: The presence of (Hartsfield-Jackson International) Airport is something you guys have latched onto.

A: Absolutely. Military value, national security value and homeland security value ... all point to the geographical presence of the world's busiest airport. ... In a time of war, we need quick mobilization ... This is an all-volunteer Army. We've got to go out there and compete. We're not reaching our (recruitment) goals ... Atlanta rates as the No-1 destination. It's a very attractive area. When you move the military presence out of there, you lose a very valuable commodity. ... As a result of 9/11 ... you've got the terrorists looking at the Atlanta airport ... It is on their hit list, so it makes sense to have a coordinated force of ready response located at Fort Gillem. ... We have the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which is a very big target for terrorists. .... One hit there and you'd have a disaster. ... Then, from a public relations and image standpoint, the Coca-Cola Co. is located there, as well as CNN, two of the world's most well-known brand names that are on a target list because of the great propaganda value the terrorists would have if they were to hit those. ... Why would we want to expose this Atlanta region by moving a military base away?

Q: We're starting to hear some members of Congress calling on President Bush to establish a timetable for pulling American troops out of Iraq. What do you think?

A: We don't know how long it's going to take to fix the situation and win in Iraq. We've got to have a measure of success that's consistent with ... fixing the place that we broke. You can't leave it broken. If you're going to leave it broken, you shouldn't have gone in there and broken it in the first place. If you leave it broken, all you've got is a cesspool ... for developing more and more terrorists.

Q: I understand you've been active in addressing the predatory lending issue at the federal level.

A: Georgia is a main market for abusive lending practices ... going back to my days in the (state) Legislature. ... The key to stopping abusive lending practices is to have a sufficient level of education for our people. ... Predatory lending is a targeted phenomenon. Predators know where they're going ... to African-American communities, low-income communities, communities where there are lots of widows and elderly. They're going to vulnerable populations. ... We have a bill we've introduced that sets up a toll-free number. ... That predator is going directly to folks and engaging them, directly to the little old lady sitting on the porch ... What we have done with this approach is put human beings on the end of the national toll-free number. We (also) put grants in this bill so we can get money down to the grass-roots community groups ... that the targeted people can relate to, to assist in getting the toll-free number marketed. ... If we can get the message out and be preemptive ... it's a way you can put a crimp into these guys because they'll know there's something out there that might bounce back at them.

Q: There's been a lot of criticism of the bankruptcy bill recently passed by Congress as hurting some of these same "vulnerable" groups of people.

A: I voted for the bankruptcy bill. I look at that as a "tough-love" approach. We still have room in that bill for lower-income folks. ... All too often, filing for bankruptcy is used irresponsibly. ... It's largely a lack of discipline and focus, and a part of this bill is to try to bring some discipline and focus. ... Why should you want to make it so easy to file for bankruptcy? People use that for financial planning.

Q: With redistricting, you're going to be shifting west and losing the portions of your district in Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton counties. How is that shaping up for you?

A: We're ready and we're excited. Whatever the courts decide, if they uphold where we are, we're happy. We like our district where it is. I love the people in Rockdale, Gwinnett and Newton counties ... We've got some exciting projects out there. We've put at least $6 million into the Rockdale Veterans Park ... We've done a lot of work out in Newton County ... (including) a new community center ... And, in Gwinnett ... we've done a pedestrian improvement project on Jimmy Carter Boulevard ... However, if they uphold this recent plan and push me out into Douglas and Cobb counties, we'll get to love those people, too. ... Wherever you go, people are basically interested in the same thing. They want good quality representation.