Presidential visit, local leaders concerns - - The News for South Mississippi

Presidential visit, local leaders concerns


By Krystal Allan – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - On his fourth trip to the Gulf Coast region, coast leaders suspect President Obama will use a familiar approach to gain perspective about the situation on the ground in South Mississippi.

"I suspect that he'll do more listening than talking, and generally that's characteristic of good leaders," said Dr. John Kelly, chief administrative officer for the city of Gulfport.

Among the issues weighing on Kelly's mind is just how far BP's resources will stretch as the federal government works to hold the company accountable for the spill.

"My concern, more than anything else, is with the amount of resources they're having to deploy to the different agencies in this region. I don't know how much longer they can do it and that's what worries me," said Kelly.

At local businesses, like the Half Shell Oyster House in Gulfport, concerns also weigh heavy on the minds of owners and management. General Manager John Graham said the President's backing of coast businesses boils down to accountability.

"It's all about holding BP responsible for the mess of the Gulf Coast. The summers here are usually jamming. They're not jamming any more. They're not bad, but you can definitely see a hit to tourism," said Graham.

Graham said he can't think of a better pitchman to get to the Mississippi Gulf Coast than the President during his visit.

"Our needs right now, at this moment, is to get the word out that we're open for business," says Graham.

According to Kelly, if anything, the president's presence sends a positive message to those on the front line dealing with the disaster.

"When he's on the ground in Gulfport, Mississippi, talking to regular people, talking to city officials, I think it makes a huge difference in terms of motivating those people and letting them know all the resources of Washington, D.C. are behind them."

After Mississippi, the President will head to Alabama and Florida. Shifting winds have pushed heavy amounts of oil on the shores of Orange Beach, Alabama.

 The President's Senior Advisor, David Axelrod, said the President is pushing for BP to set aside billions in an account to pay for damage claims expected to come from the oil spill.

Axelrod said Sunday the President will use every legal option available to ensure money is escrowed and the process is overseen by an independent administrator. The President, according to Axelrod, wants to make sure people get relief in a timely fashion.

Ahead of the President's visit to South Mississippi on Monday, BP was working to put together  containment effort plans following demands from the government to speed up the process.

It's set up underwater sensors to get a better handle on how much crude is spewing into the Gulf.

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