GULFPORT — President Barack Obama on Monday pledged to make sure oil giant BP PLC compensated those affected by the Gulf of Mexico spill and made a pitch for Mississippi’s tourism industry during the first leg of his coastal tour.
Obama also was to visit Alabama and Florida.
Gov. Haley Barbour and his wife, Marsha, greeted the president in Gulfport. They then all headed to the U.S. Coast Guard station in Gulfport for an hourlong meeting with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and other local government and business leaders.
Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel, a Republican, said he’s satisfied with the oil spill response by the Obama administration and BP PLC. BP operated the drilling rig that exploded and sank nearly two months ago and is responsible for cleaning up the spill.
Schloegel said he participates in daily calls the White House has with local officials in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
“That is what I call responsive,” Schloegel said on his way into the Coast Guard center.
Kendra Auxier, 60, who lives in Madison, Ind., and has a second home in Pass Christian, Miss., sat on a wooden platform near the Gulfport Coast Guard station.
Auxier said she supports the president and worries about the problems the country faces, from unemployment to the wars overseas. Auxier, who’s retired, said she worries about the long-term impact of the oil spill.
“I’m not concerned about myself,” Auxier said. “I think we’re looking at something that could possibly change our country as we know it. It’s a calamity. It’s a nightmare.”
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said after the meeting with Obama that local officials told the president some local boat owners hired by BP need two-way radios or other equipment to communicate with one another and with planes or helicopters flying over the Gulf to spot oil.
The local boats are being used to deploy oil-absorbing boom, but Hood said some have told him they don’t know where to go because they can’t communicate with others.
“I know it was helpful for the president,” Hood said. “He listened and he summed it up quickly, what they had said.”
Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press