Biscuits went in the oven and omelets were prepped.
Breakfast was ready to serve by 6 a.m. like usual, said Misty Maddox, kitchen manager.
People started filtering in for the town hall meeting by 9. They ate their breakfast in the back of the restaurant, where Shelby would address his constituents.
The meeting began in the lull between breakfast and lunch. Shelby took questions about health care reform, taxes and national debt. It would be wonderful if the nation passed a constitutional amendment that Congress couldn’t spend more than it earned, Shelby said.
“Why, this country would be so strong and wealthy,” Shelby said over the sound of dishes being washed. “We wouldn’t have so much debt.”
This is the worst recession we’ve ever seen, said Larry Fetner, Ashland mayor, standing along the wall among the 30 or 40 people gathered.
“When can we expect to see good times?” Fetner asked.
Problems won’t fade away for four or five years, Shelby said. The housing market is overbuilt and the government over-borrowed, he said. He continued to say that money didn’t go to infrastructure or to regular people to let those people create jobs.
Questions drifted around to unfunded mandates placed on hospitals. The federal government is asking hospitals to do more and more without any passing along money to do it, said Linda U. Jordan, administrator for Clay County Hospital.
“I’m scared for little hospitals in Alabama,” Jordan said.
That’s why Shelby voted against Obama’s health care plan, he responded as kitchen workers organized silverware behind the counter a few feet away.
“If we don’t watch it,” he said, looking right at Jordan. “They’re going to regulate us to death.”
The back-and-forth wound down after about 45 minutes. Shelby touched last on health care and the economy’s strength, following a federal retiree in the crowd saying his monthly health insurance payments have increased by $250 and he hasn’t seen a cost-of-living increase.
The retiree understood the cost-of-living increase, but he didn’t understand the increase in monthly payments.
It comes down to people in power putting the country first, Shelby said. Kitchen workers listened, once they’d finished cleaning up breakfast. We’ll rise and fall as a nation that way, Shelby said.
Then, he had to cut off the meeting because he had to get to Sylacauga. It was a good dialogue Friday morning, the senator said on his way out.
“What I’m taking away from this is the American people are fearful and concerned with our debt and our economy,” Shelby said.
Not many of the 30 or 40 people in the restaurant ordered lunch before filing out. Erin Nelson, wearing an Alabama hat as she worked behind the counter, said she expected a little more of an order rush. They had even prepped lunch meat yesterday in anticipation, Maddox said.
Two women came up to the counter and ordered two Spanish bean soups after making their way through the dispersing crowd.
“Just have a seat and make yourself at home,” Nelson said, taking the order.
Star staff writer Jason Bacaj: 256-235-3546