Google Groups
Join To Get Blog Update Notices
Visit the Hickory Hound Group

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Federal Government's Ponzi Scheme

This forum is about local issues, but the current federal government mess is inexorably linked to our local economy. If the average person can't use commerce to their advantage, when we have done nothing wrong, then our standard of living will surely decrease. When this happens, through no fault of our own, then we become thoroughly frustrated by the lack of leadership; especially, when the decision makers have been insulated from the discomfort.

Most people are scared to death with what we are witnessing from our government on the federal level. We have rightfully lost confidence in the so called experts that have gotten us into this mess. Most of us have been in a recession for years, while the government has continually told us that our eyes deceive us.

I really don't think that this $700 billion plan to infuse the credit markets will work. The problem is that personal income levels are not keeping up with debt levels. We cannot, as individuals, afford to keep borrowing money; when we are leveraged to the hilt and our personal income levels aren't rising. That will eventually lead to personal bankruptcy.

Paulson's scheme wreaks of a huge Ponzi scheme. No one is telling us that this will fix the problem. They are telling you that they need this money, but they can't tell you how they arrived at the $700 billion dollar number. My gut feeling is that they feel that $500 billion won't be a drop in the bucket (in their estimation) and $1 trillion isn't saleable. So they came up with this $700 billion figure arbitrarilly.

No one is seeing this the way that I do. This is a gigantic Ponzi scheme. The Feds want to hand over this $700 billion in exchange for what are currently worthless assets. The banks would then supposedly have money to lend out. Well, if people not borrowing money now (at historically low interest rates) is a problem, then injecting money into the system isn't going to facilitate commerce.

As a matter of fact, injecting money into the system is going to stir up inflation, because our dollar is going to continue to fall in value as we create more money supply. If we have more inflation, then interest rates are going to rise, because inflation is a factor in the lending rate. People are going to lose real income, because the money that they earn is going to be worth less. Goods and services are going to become more expensive, because of the growing rate of inflation.

We just can't afford to let our government continue spending money like drunken sailors. At some point in time those bills are going to come due. We have got to cut back on spending. Last year our federal government spent $2.8 trillion, we took in $2.3 trillion in revenue, and that left us with a $500 billion deficit. That in and of itself is ridiculous, and now they want 25% of the budgetary amount, that they corruptly spent, on this scheme. Our real annual deficit will be well above $1 trillion.

If they get this money, it won't be the end. They will be back and they will want more. This debt will continue to grow. Our country already has a $10 trillion national debt. Now they are pushing money out the door like it is monopoly money. We are growing this deficit to the point that it will take generations of reduced standard of living to get it back to a manageable level.

How do we solve this problem? The country is going to have to tighten its belt. The government is going to have to quit borrowing money to grow social programs and discretionary spending. The government is going to have to let the private sector work. We are already spending nearly 10% of our annual national budget toward servicing the national debt. That is money that can't go towards real issues. A good part of that money is leaving our country.

This problem was not caused by a lack of regulation. This problem was caused by fraud. The central focal points of this debacle are Fannie Mae, political corruption, and cronyism. If we are going to arbitrarily enforce laws, then we are not going to solve this problem. We have to bring the people that committed this fraud to justice.

Things are going to be tough for a while no matter what we do. Let's not exacerbate the problem by letting the so-called experts keep us on the same track we have been on. Call your elected officials and tell them what you think. Make them pay at election time. The sooner we start working on real solutions; the sooner we will emerge in a better and wiser world.

How much is $700 Billion

Check out the rest of wizbang blog.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Submitted by Harry Hipps II

In the past few days we have seen yet again corruption surrounding the North Carolina Department of Transportation. This time it is the allegation that Lewis Sewell Jr. of Jacksonville steered $375,000 of state money to transportation projects near land that he owns. Obviously, one should not use public funds for private enrichment. Also, he is a fundraiser for Beverly Purdue, who is the Democratic candidate for governor, so it points to the rotten core of backscratchers in Raleigh who have gotten away with corruption and cronyism for way too long.

What is wrong with this situation is clear and simple! What is not so clear and simple is why no government official from the Hickory area has voiced concern or any outrage over this. Why is there no outcry from Mayor Wright about why Sewell could get his $375,000 for Jacksonville and we have unfunded projects. If Senator Austin Allran is not screaming about this, then what will it take to get a rise out of him?

Have any protests been lodged? Any motions to condemn this been offered? Or are we simply going to moan “oh well” and continue to murmur amongst ourselves that, “we just don’t get no respect?”

It would seem that every Lewis Sewell story that surfaces from our state government presents an opportunity to point out that State corruption is costing US (the City of Hickory and Catawba County). Sure, the options are limited. Protests and indignation in the media will not immediately send dollars here. A resolution from the city to condemn actions like this won’t either. But, it would seem that drawing attention to the fact that when money is improperly steered to one of Raleigh’s “good ole boys” someone else is losing out.

All too often it is Hickory. Local officials have to use every situation like this to point out our unmet needs and the unfair and unequal treatment that has gone on for too long.
Hey Rudy, hey Austin, the silence is deafening.

-- Harry Hipps II

Friday, September 26, 2008

This Ain't Podunkville Anymore

A month ago, I wanted to look into our population numbers, to see where we stood as a city growth wise. The numbers are really quite impressive for a town that really has not had a good economy for 8 years. I have grown weary of hearing the terms “small town” or “small city” bandied about by people that have a certain agenda for the direction that they want to take us.

Their code words are terms such as “controlled growth” or “neighborhood core.” These terms fall under the City’s Codes and Mandates, which are bound in a micromanagerial volume called “Hickory by Choice.”

It is my opinion that this cumbersome set of over 400 pages is part of what is holding this community back. We need to be asking businesses what they need to motivate them to locate here; instead, we are mandating what we want from them before they even take a look at us. Those two ideals are obviously incongruent.

I have already stated the direction that I believe that we should be moving our economy toward. We need to be looking 20 to 50 years down the road with a futurist's vision. What will the world be like in 50 years and how do we get there?

At the bottom right hand corner of this page, there is a set of links titled "Main Information Links" (I may reorganize this soon, but it will still be there). There is a link about Kannapolis’s Biotech plans. You should click on it. It takes you to a set of Google links.

Kannapolis is a city much like Hickory, with the exception that they are a little closer to Charlotte. Kannapolis was a one-horse town. They didn’t even incorporate until 1984. The city was all about Cannon Mills and Textiles. There was no diversification of industry there. When textiles left, that city was reeling at a much worse level than what we have gone through.

You see, I know this because my great Uncle (in-law) owns Whitley’s funeral home there. When my cousin Whit started telling me about the Biotech plans at the Cannon Mills property, I thought man that sounds cool. He never mentioned anything about the water transfer, but this was over five years ago and everyone in our city’s government seems oblivious to what was going on, at that time, 50 miles down the road.

That just shocks me in so many different ways. It seems to me that our government officials here would be trying to find out what is going on with the other communities in our surrounding region. Wouldn’t you be curious when you first heard about these Biotech plans that David Murdoch was trying to bring to fruition?

I would think you would be calling up the mayor or city manager there and lending an ear to get the lowdown. I would think that you’d be seeing if the tentacles of this development could possibly benefit our city or county.

Instead we have acted like we have been blindsided and bamboozled. We act like Concord and Kannapolis are cheating us somehow. Frankly, I think it all stems from jealousy, because they have something that our governmental leaders wish that they could have. And we’re still holding the bag, searching, searching, searching…..waiting, waiting, waiting….

I have crunched the numbers and the links are provided below. By 2010 our population should be over 42,000 people within Hickory proper and Catawba County should have a census of around 160,000 people. That means that more than 25% of the people in Catawba County live within the City Limits of Hickory. Including St. Stephens and Mountain View, over 40% of the county resides in Hickory Township. Hickory is the focal point of this region.

Cabarrus County, which was 10% to 20% smaller than Catawba County as little as ten years ago, projects to have 5,000+ more people, than Catawba County, living within its borders by 2010. The rate of growth for that county is double what we have here in Catawba County. In 20 years Catawba County should have over 200,000 people, while Cabarrus County will be close to a quarter of a million people.

People might sarcastically say “good” about Cabarrus County’s growth compared to ours. They might even say OH BOY! When they think of our City (under it’s current boundaries) nearing 60,000 people by 2030. The only problems we inherit from this situation are nostalgia and complacency.

All of the counties surrounding Mecklenburg, with the exception of Gaston, have realized exceptional gains in growth over the last 20 years. These counties are all over 40% growth in that time period. Hickoryites better soon realize that Charlotte is coming our way. We should be happy, not depressed, about the urbanization that will take place as a result. In my opinion it will mean better jobs, more activities, and easier access to public transportation around the area.

I believe that with proper planning that we will easily be able to manage this projected growth, but we must not live in the past. When my grandparents moved here in 1946 and 1950, there were only 14,000 people living in Hickory. When I was born there were only 20,000 people living here. For many, it is hard to accept the fact that our once small town is going to be so large in 20 years.

They are afraid of the unknown and what the future holds. But, we know that as sure as the sun will rise in the east tomorrow morning that the future is coming. We must embrace that future or we will continue to suffer the stagnation of the last eight years. We cannot afford to live in a world of denial that this is “Little Ole Hickory” anymore. That is what got us into this current predicament.

Mayor McDonald and the council (pre-2000) did not set us up for the 21st century. Times were good in the late 80s and all the way through the 90s. This town didn’t and still doesn’t really have a history to fall back on, so we just figured the good times would roll on forever. This period (the 00s) is our history. We didn’t have a backup plan. We must learn from this lesson and teach future generations not to repeat it.

We have good, honest, industrious, hardworking people. That is what we are known for and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. We can use those principles to build a history. That history needs to start now and it needs to begin with leadership and foresight.

I know that times are hard, but most times that is when movements take root. We need to tell our local officials what we want. Those of us that have connections need to use them and the rest of us need to keep moving forward and try to be more involved.

I will cut our city leaders some slack, because of the circumstances that they have inherited. But, it is time to move forward. It is time to embrace the 21st century and move past the Podunkville mentality. You should feel insulted when someone says Little Ole Hickory, They are saying that we are irrelevant.

It is time to be inclusive towards all of our citizens from every ward and give them all the respect they deserve. It is time to quit being judgmental. Every one of us is relevant. You never know when that person, you give that opportunity to, might become the iconic figure that puts Hickory at the forefront of history.

Hickory Census vs Cabarrus vs Mecklenburg

Hickory Census Projections

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cloninger Mill Park - 1st meeting - Preliminary Proposal

I went to the meeting on the proposed Cloninger Mill Park tonight thinking that it was going be a positive discussion on preliminary proposals about the master plan. This meeting is to be followed by a second meeting where a more definitive plan will be shown. The meeting broke down somewhat into a rant of hypothetical conjecture from Cloninger Mill area homeowners mistakenly aimed at the developers.

City of Hickory Parks and Recreation Director Mack McLeod was the first to speak. He gave a historical perspective about the origins of the park proposal. In 1979, a Hickory Park Master Plan was developed which designated the Cloninger Mill site as a future site of interest. In 1997 the Master Plan was reviewed and Cloninger Mill came to the forefront as a good area to develop a new park. They realized at that time that it would need to be developed as a passive recreational park. Money subsequently dried up and until now the park has not been a priority.

A passive recreational park has outdoor activities compatible with preserving natural resources such as wildlife habitats and floodplain protection. This park would allow for limited picnicking, walking trails, bike trails, and scenic views of nature near Lake Hickory. It could even host an amphitheatre. All of this could be done without costing the city very little, while enhancing what is an undeveloped asset.

Site Solutions ( is the firm that has been chosen to develop the site. Derek Williams gave an overview about what developing a passive park on this site involved. He displayed a map of the proposed 75-acre site, which included 2 areas that would be held back from the proposed parks development.

One of the two areas abuts Hwy127. This area would be used as a proposed commercial site. The other area, at the opposite side of the park, would be used for residential real estate development. There are full utilities capabilities and the city could sell these pieces of real estate and infuse those proceeds back into the park.

Jeff Ashbaugh gave a more thorough overview of the land, its terrain, and the issues involved in the development of the project. The area is heavily wooded, there is a natural waterfall at the center of the park (though it is more of a runoff area), the property has many steep graded slopes, and there are very few level areas. That is the reason that the area is proposed as a passive park.

Interjecting into the discussion were mostly residents of the area. Many seemed not to support the proposed project. One issue is that of parking. The people didn’t like the proposed parking areas in the preliminary drawings.

The residents didn’t like the thoughts of projected increases in traffic along Cloninger Mill Road, 9th st ne, and 45th ave lane. They stated that children play out there and there is already a high level of traffic on those streets.

Several people told developers that there needed to be a traffic light where 9th st ne meets Cloninger Mill Rd. The developers tried to explain that that may be proposed in the master plan, but that was the city’s responsibility. Mr. Ashbaugh said that maybe these residents might want to talk to the city about a proposed traffic light. He said that the developers would look into it.

Another issue that was expounded upon was that of security. Issues of robbery, break-ins, and drugs were brought up. Residents stated that there were already issues of crime in those neighborhoods and they were worried that they would worsen. .

One lady seemed frightened at the thoughts of the park buttressing her back yard. She asked about the definition of a buffer and what was the state code on that buffer. Mr. Ashbaugh stated that he believed it to be 12 feet, but that they were going to make it much greater than that.. The lady cackled that she wanted a buffer the distance of a football field.

Another lady asked about where proposed picnic areas would be. When shown the general area, she firmly scoffed that it was in her backyard. Mr. Williams pointed more specifically that the area was "a football field away" from her house.

One gentleman attending the meeting said that he lived in northwest Hickory, within walking distance of Geitner Park and Hilton Park. He stated that maybe the residents of the Cloninger Mill area might want to talk to residents of northwest Hickory about the effects of parks on their area and the implications a park might have on the Cloninger Mill area.

They had people at the meeting take five dots and place them on a list of ten areas of activity interest in the proposed park. Mr. Williams and Mr. McLeod discussed and then promised to put the proposed design plans for the park online. There were various discussions taking place, as I left.

In the Hounds Opinion, This meeting was embarrassing to this city. People! This was a proposal! Why were you frothing at the mouth? We can have better and more positive roundtable (sort of) discussions about PROPOSED (!!!) ideas. God, no wonder we can’t move forward on real issues, when you act like this about a park.

Someone in that neighborhood had to have been fostering this discontent before the meeting. It was more than obvious that many of the people had made up their mind, on the subject of a park, before attending this meeting. When it comes to a park, I think that you can afford to come in with a somewhat open mind.

I believe that it is alright to have concerns. That was what this meeting was about. It was about giving you a voice. They wanted to hear what you had to say, but why be so abrasive towards developers about a park. Those concerns would be better served by contacting the Mayor, City Council, or City Staff. It was embarrassing to treat people from a top-notch development firm (and guests of this city) the way that you did.

I personally believe that the idea of this park is a sound one. These people said that they had illegal activity going on in this area and they believed it would be exacerbated by the development of this park. I believe that is wrong on many, many levels. I think this would be an enhancement to your area and make it a lot more secure.

These residents can make a deal with the city and developers to put some recreation equipment on this property for their kids and then their kids won’t be playing in the streets. These developers have some of the best engineers in the world working for them. They aren’t going to slap this park up willy-nilly.

I really think that the parking situation will be resolved. There are a couple of access points that can easily be engineered to be more agreeable to these residents. Heck, they will probably get their light and/or new residential exiting roads to Cloninger Mill Road. This could be re-engineered so that residential exits will be better than they currently are. That is win-win-win.

Why so dour? Sometimes a gift is a gift and there doesn’t always have to be a catch. I wish I could have this park in my backyard. A place to walk or run besides the streets, the same for biking, a nice place to have a picnic, a developed setting to go sit and meditate by the lake, and/or a cleaned up site that has a reduced chance of wildfire. Ask people that live on a golf course, there are many more benefits than the minimal intrusion to privacy – and how would that be guaranteed anyway?

This will be an enhancement to the area and many people will be more attracted to an area with such a development so close. The aesthetics, along with simple supply and demand, will mean that you have a great real estate investment on your hands. And guess what? It will be the cheapest investment, with the least risk and the biggest reward that you could ever dream of.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why not Hickory?

A city always eyeing the Next Big Thing (Charlotte Observer)

Region has power to be a leader on energy (Charlotte Observer)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Nation of Laws, Not of Men

Submitted by Harry Hipps II

Every day governments at every level make and change laws and statutes -- conditions change, ideas change, and/or circumstances change. God blessed America with the wisdom of the extraordinary men that created this exceptional country. Our Founding Fathers set us up with a constitutional framework dedicated to freedom from tyranny. Once we start to ignore our principles and ramrod things through by treating one person one way and someone else differently, then we are on the path to chaos.

Once this happens, we will see oppression of weaker, less powerful citizens by the richer, more connected ones; we will have mob rule; or both. We are seeing this happen almost routinely by the federal government and I fear we may be seeing this happen locally.

The City of Hickory certainly has the right to amend ordinances. If a moratorium on bars and nightclubs allows the city government and staff time to study any proposed changes to the code, then this is not unreasonable. Personally I do not see why we need a moratorium. The issue could be studied without the moratorium and changes could be submitted for consideration at any time.

The problem in this whole issue is the way the permit, that has been submitted by prospective club operators at the former Ferguson’s Plumbing, has been handled. As attorney Larry Johnson has stated, the permit process was initiated well before the moratorium was passed.

The city council and staff embarrassed themselves by not following proper procedures for notices on public hearings. They seem unwilling to grant or deny the permit under the law that was in effect at that time. One irony is that the Ferguson's Plumbing property is a suspected Brownfield property. I suppose the City did not care to inform the owner that grant money is available to evaluate the property, as they claim they are interested in doing in Hickory.

The real issue is “due process.” Laws are to be executed as they exist. They may have been different in the past, they may be different in the future, but the law today is the law of the land. To not follow the laws, because the Mayor, Council, or anyone else sees a result they deem undesirable, is just not acceptable.

Laws are not perfect. But, given the choice between living under imperfect laws or living under the whims and impulses of people who don't think they have to obey the law, I would certainly choose the former.

I don’t go to bars and will never set foot in this proposed nightclub. But, if we don’t speak up when other’s rights are trampled on, who will speak up for us when our rights are trampled on? Furthermore, do we really want to spend taxpayer dollars defending the indefensible? Are we a nation of laws or of men?

- Harry Hipps II

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of September 16, 2008

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory, NC link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website. At the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, you will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.

The two items on the agenda of the 9/16/2008 meeting that stoked my interest were the following:

1) Important Outlays
Fairgrove Business Park(Geotechnical Testing Services)................……..$5,215.00
Hickory Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program….....................................$25,000.00

2) Readdressing the Moratorium on New Drinking Establishments for 120 days – Held over from 9/2/2008 -- This was a resubmission of a proposed ordinance preventing the establishment of any business, where more than half of gross sales were obtained through sales of alcohol, for a period of 120 days while new codes are implemented and instituted.

Asst City Manager Andrea Surratt noted that there have been serious public safety concerns on this issue and alternatives that have been implemented have not been successful.

The Chief of Police Tom Adkins basically restated that in the last 2 years 1472 calls were made on 14 establishments. 1,024 of these calls were made between 10pm and 2am. Of these, 7 establishments have been cited by ALE and 2 have been cited twice in the last 24 months. There has been 1 murder, 3 sexual assaults, and 43 drug and alcohol arrests during this period. He stated that many of these places didn’t have adequate staff for the number of customers that frequented them, causing safety issues

Also brought up, was the fact that when applying with the ABC board to open an establishment, the police are requested to fill out a local opinion form. They look into such issues as criminal history of the applicants and the locations in relation to local neighborhoods.

Speaking Against the Proposed Amendment
Attorney Larry Johnson spoke against the ordinance. He stated that the City staff was very professional in doing there job writing the ordinance, but the problem is laid at the feet of certain Hickory City Officials that wanted their mandates pushed through without regard to the law.

He spoke about his client having tried to open an establishment in the old Ferguson’s Plumbing building since October 2007. 3 times he applied (the last being on August 28, 2008) to open his establishment and each time he was given the run around. He stated that the procedures of this moratorium were kept in the dark until they were brought to light at a city council meeting.

He basically stated that the city was breaking the law, because of their actions. His client is the only applicant at this time trying to open a drinking establishment and e-mails show that Ms. Surratt and others are solely trying to stop his client.

Johnson said Ms. Surratt’s actions are unconstitutional, because she has been allowed to be the sole authority, arbitrer, and judge of this process. His client has been denied his constitutional rights by not allowing this issue to be heard by an independent body.

Mr. Johnson introduced e-mails and statements showing that Ms Surrat and officials of council have unjustly treated his client. These individuals had made statements about how they were going to stop the construction of this bar in these e-mails.

Mr. Johnson admitted that his client jumped the gun and tore down a wall attached to the building before he had proper building permits, but the city has held up the issuance of these permits. At a later point in time, e-mails show that the city (Ms. Surratt) wanted to institute the new nuisance law and tear down the rest of the building. Mr. Johnson stated that this was clearly a violation of the law. Mr. Johnson stated that this issue could be taken as far as the U.S. Supreme Court

Another citizen (we will call her Concerned Against 1) who owns a building on 1st ave SW (last established as the bar Chameleon) spoke against the proposed ordinance. She stated that she had just evicted her current tenant and the building has been a bar for as long as she can remember. This is her retirement income. Concerned Against 1 asked if she rented the building out to someone else that wants to open a bar, would they have to wait until the moratorium was over before they could open. Mayor Rudy Wright stated that they would have to wait.

Perplexed, she then asked if the (Powers That Be) decided to Zone her area to where they couldn’t have a bar, would that mean no bar could be opened there? The Mayor stated that yes that would be the case.

Speaking for the proposed amendment - if I have gotten any of these names wrong, I will fix them as soon as I am notified.

Lauren Vaughn – Safe Harbor Rescue Mission – (also attorney for Catawba County DSS)stated that her group has bought the old Geitner building to use as a shelter and they are concerned about a drinking establishment being located near the shelter. She says that people would be walking past their building as they went home from the bar.

A Ms. Dunbar Who is associated with the Cooperative Christian Ministry and Safe Harbor Rescue Mission stated that this proposed ordinance should be passed and that no drinking establishments should be permitted within a quarter mile of any non-profit agency. She stated that there are known parking issues associated with this proposed establishment.

Clarence Buehler (sp) of Newton stated that he has been in the redevelopment business for 50 years and that he believes in this proposed moratorium. He said that an All-American city needs to worry about its image and these bars bring it down.

Rebuttal Atty Johnson stated that these people speaking for the amendment proved his point that this issue was completely about his client. He stated that this moratorium was not supposed to be about prohibition. That issue was fought long ago and there are guidelines for business being able to legally establish based upon those guidelines.

The CouncilMayor Wright stated that the proposed moratorium would not affect businesses unless they change ownership, prepare to open a new business, or plan to expand during the 120-day period.

Sally Fox stated that she had watched her ward be flooded with bars popping up and they have constantly gotten worse over time. That there are various hot spots that run right up against neighborhoods. Those areas want to remain residential. This issue, according to her, should have been dealt with 10 to 15 years ago.

Councilor Meisner stated that the Viewmont Village had no bars and that it wouldn’t have been able to attract the kinds of businesses it has if it had.

Z. Anne Hoyle asked, “…when the 120-day moratorium is up, what will happen with the 14. What will this solve? What will happen with the 14 trouble making establishments?” The City Manager said that nothing could be done until they violated the new codes to be passed.

Sally Fox quickly made a motion to adopt the moratorium and Jill Patton hastily seconded that motion. It seemed from their body language that they wanted this pushed through promptly. Mr. Lail and Ms. Hoyle were the only two to vote against the moratorium.

In the Hounds view, I still feel that this situation is not being handled properly. I understand the need to address the issue of rogue bars. It is time to crack down on those that do not adhere to regulations. However, something goes for the principle of innocence being assumed before guilt. I think some of our people on council don’t mind taking away our freedoms in the name of their personal interests and tastes.

How many of them partake in the consumption of adult beverages at their favorite country club or restaurant? You see, that’s perfectly fine, because that is in their setting. They look at themselves as upstanding citizens and they look at the people attending these bars as riff-raff. Yet, they turn a blind eye when one of their children go and hang out at one of these places until 2am.

I myself am an avowed teatotaler (really Coca-Cola), but I don’t believe in imposing that moral code on others when it comes to doing something that is legal. My belief is that if you get drunk and drive or act stupid then there are consequences. There should be consequences and that is why we have police.

If Atty Johnson’s client has legally met all of his obligations under current law, then he should be allowed to open his bar. But, I believe the dirty little secret is that the city doesn’t want this bar opened because his clients are Hispanic.

In my opinion, that just doesn’t sit well with Sally and Jill. Oh, it’s alright for these immigrants to work for $2 an hour less than most of us expect to be paid (then they love them). But, when the immigrants want to have some fun…Oh, God forbid, look at all of them over there.

I think it is purely hypocritical. I guarantee that the new Hickory Station will sell food until 10pm. But, once it gets to be 10pm, then the focus will turn to libation until the wee hour of 2am. But, that will be cool because those are the accepted people downtown.

The Mayor, on Hal Rowe’s show on Monday, was bragging about the little soiree in the name of “Economic Development” on Sunday night at Market on Main. I guess they were sipping tea and diet Pepsi before taking communion.

You see all of this is in the eye of the beholder. They can pass these codes without all of this dog and pony show. What is the importance of this moratorium? Do they think someone is going to run up and say, “Gosh we better hurry up and open this bar before they pass these new codes.” Someone that does that will be broke before they get started.

There are a few people on that council that obviously have no clue about business. All they care about is their social agenda. They always throw up that “Neighborhood Core” mantra. Hickory Proper is 28 square miles, that’s 5.3 miles by 5.3 miles. Where can you put a business, in that small of an area, that doesn’t have an impact on a neighborhood?

It is more than obvious that business commerce takes a backseat with some of these people. It is high time to put the city’s economic viability ahead of selfish, egotistical, socially driven agendas for once!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Just the Facts on our Unemployment Situation

1) From the Observer News Enterprise (7/3/2008) – Unemployment rates spiked in May, when the rate usually goes down. The county is following a national trend, rising in Catawba County from 5.9 percent in April to 6.7 percent in May, according to the Employment Security Commission’s report.

Meanwhile unemployment rates in the Unifour area, including Catawba, Alexander, Burke and Caldwell counties are 7 percent, up from 6.3 in April. It’s the second highest unemployment rate of the 14 metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) in North Carolina, exceeded by Rocky Mount with an unemployment rate of 8.4 percent.

The N.C. unemployment rate also rose in May from 5.1 percent in April to 5.8 percent.
However, (Catawba County employment security commission manager, Allan) Mackie said one month does not make a trend and June will be a better indicator as to how the job market will change throughout the rest of the year. Those figures will be released on July 18.

2) From the Observer News Enterprise (7/25/2008)Catawba County reached the highest unemployment rate the county has seen in three years, according to a report released by the N.C. Employment Security Commission on Friday.

The county unemployment rate rose from 6.7 percent in May to 7.2 percent in June. It’s the highest its been since the 7.1 percent rate in February 2005, said Allan Mackie, manager of the ESC office in Catawba County.

The unemployment rate for July is likely to be higher, according to Mackie, who said January and July tend to be the peak months for unemployment due to seasonal fluctuations in workload and production schedules. He said these months are usually slower and often result in companies having a number of temporary layoffs until production picks up again. Generally, these layoffs are only for a week or two, but the change usually inflates the unemployment rate, Mackie said.

3) From the News-Topic, Lenoir, N.C. (8/22/2008) – Nathan Key -- 9.5 Percent: County Jobless Rate

Alexander, Burke and Catawba also saw increased unemployment in July. Alexander's rate rose from 6.9 to 8.6 percent, with Burke's moving from 7.8 to 8.7. Catawba jumped from 7.2 in June to 8.1 for July.

North Carolina's unemployment rate also soared in July, rising to 6.6 percent, up greatly from the 5.9 posted in June. The rate has not seen that level since August 2003 and reflects the national employment trend, which also is on the rise at 5.7 percent. The national average is up from 5.5 percent in June.

Manufacturing jobs continue to take a hit in North Carolina. In the last year, that sector of the work force has seen its employment fall by 3 percent. Since 2001, nearly 29 percent (207,000) of the manufacturing jobs in the state have been eliminated.


The Hounds View: We have seen unemployment, in Catawba County rise 2.2% in a period of 4 months. We aren’t far from having 10% unemployment according to these trends. What is the plan? Where is the Leadership?

Do not be blaming this on the national economy. Our unemployment rate is 8.1%, the state level is 6.8%, and the national level is 6.1%. HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM!!!

Looking back to data beginning in January 1990 and ending with the latest figures available, we see that from August 1992 until April 2001, that we had a better unemployment level than the state in 93 out of 105 of those months. During a parallel period from March of 1992 to January 2001, Catawba County had a better unemployment rate than the federal government in 105 out of 107 months.

Since that period of success ended, we have disastrously not had one single month where we have had a better unemployment rate than the state or federal government. 54 of the succeeding 86 months have seen Catawba County at least 1% worse than the state’s unemployment rate. Comparing to the Federal rate, we also have been at least 1% worse in 60 out of those 86 months.

The worst part is that the trends are not improving. Catawba County is currently 2.4% worse than the Federal unemployment rate. The best we have done this year is to get to within .9% of the federal rate and .5% of the state rate. That was back in April and since then we have headed precipitously in the wrong direction.

It is a little over 13 months until the next local election. Our Mayor has had almost 7 years to make some progress. Every year he has told us that we are on the right track to turn this thing around. Whether fair or unfair, his tenure has coincided with the pervasive malaise that has settled into the area.

Let’s be honest, we have never had a rosy economic picture since he has been in office. Whether fair or not, I believe that Mayor Wright should get credit when times are good and blame when they are bad. I think that he should be given every tool at his disposal to get things going in the next year, but if we don’t see a tangible change from this negative economic direction, then I think it will be time to get some new blood in our city’s executive office.

It is time for someone to step forward with a meaningful platform, a platform of leadership and progress. There has been way too much micro-management in areas of social interest, while our economy has unbelievably taken a back seat in importance. This area has so much to offer, but sadly we don’t have the glue, which is an industrial base, needed so that Hickory can flourish.

We cannot turn this area into a retirement village and expect our best and brightest young people to want to return. The Elderly (no matter how much money they have in the bank) have to live on fixed incomes, because they are more susceptible to needing catastrophic care at some point. If they become a disproportionate part of our population, then our tax base will get even worse than it already is. There will be little real increase in our city’s revenues and expenses will become much greater.

We should have one singular focus in our city. We need a Blue Ribbon commission of our area's top businessmen, led by our Mayor, willing to work to bring Fortune 500 type companies here; companies that have a bright future over the next 20 to 50 years. Some real areas of interest should be Human, Animal, and Plant Biotech; Alternative Energy and Transportation; Environmental Science; and we should still play a role in the area of furniture design and manufacturing.

I truly believe that when the first domino falls, as far as industrial facilitation and production go, that that will truly be when we turn the corner and start climbing instead of this endless tumble.

+++Statistical spreadsheet of our Unemployment picture is linked below and will be stored in Microsoft Excel format at The Hickory Hound Google Group.+++

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Objectives of the Hickory Hound

1) To encourage the broadest possible dialogue with the largest number of people possible. Democracy is strongest with an active, informed citizenry. A small pool of participants tends to limit initiative and ideas and ultimately leads to acting in self interest with the public interest being secondary. With the use of the internet to disseminate information and email to get feedback it has never been easier to get an involved community going.

2) To revitalize economic growth in Hickory. Hickory ’s story is well known. With the evolution of the global economy Hickory ’s “brand name” as the furniture, textile, and fiber optic center is never going to be what it was. We need a new “brand name”. While we encourage a diversity of businesses and would welcome all to come here, our collective efforts need to develop a focus on our assets and work to attract a critical mass of business to build the economy around.

3) To use city government to promote our common interest and manage our common affairs efficiently and with respect for conservative democratic principles and individual rights. Good schools, low taxes, a fair but friendly regulatory environment, natural beauty, cultural opportunities, an available and hardworking workforce are but a few of the assets Hickory has to offer. We should work to highlight our assets and keep government limited and efficient by resisting the impulse to micromanage every activity. Trends in land management, city ordinances, and taxation should certainly be monitored and considered but we should be wary of a “follow the crowd” mentality.

4) To encourage the densification of Hickory. We cannot just be a one story, strip mall city and be great. High rise buildings, as in all large cities are a more efficient use of land, will make public transportation more viable, and create a more vibrant city core. Urban sprawl, with the traffic problems it causes and the environmental impacts it creates is something that needs to be addressed. Buildings constructed now will be around for many, many years and we need to look to the future now.

5) To position Hickory as the leader and geocenter of a vibrant region. While the City proper has about 40,000 residents the Hickory/Morganton/Lenoir MSA is a large area of about 400,000 residents. This is a respectable number of people and we need to step up and coordinate efforts to grow and live together.

6) To no longer accept second class treatment from the State government. The corruption in Raleigh with respect to revenue and especially the DOT is well known. Rather than simply complaining, we need to act in a coordinated and aggressive manner- diplomatically if possible, legally if necessary.

7) To enhance the quality of life in all areas, economically, culturally, educationally, spiritually, and environmentally for all our citizens.


This contribution was made by my associate and close friend Harry Hipps II. He is the person that encouraged me to start this blog.

Over the last several years we have grown thoroughly disenchanted by the lack of leadership displayed by our local leaders and thus we have decided to strike out on our own to bring our local government back to the people.

Our local leaders talk a good game, when it comes to citizen involvment; but they have only trivially encouraged such participation. I have seen example after example of top down rule, where you are encouraged to participate if you agree with them; but if you don't, they just ignore you and your point of view. There is no education or explanation for their decisions. There is only a pervasive arrogance that they know what is best. This has led to the majority of people feeling disenfranchised and a general lack of morale for our city's direction.

The main ingredients that we have to work with in getting our city caught back up to the 21st century are the hard working, nose to the grindstone mentality and good ethical character of our citizens.

All we need to do is to get a major industrial company to decide that this is where they want to be. We can't do this without leadership from our elected officials. It isn't good enough to meet the minimum requirements of having the garbage picked up and utilities operating properly. They cannot be allowed to shirk their accountability by appointing and instituting bureaucratic agencies to absolve them of their responsibilities. The question is, is Hickory better off than it was eight years ago?

We need our roads to be up to par, so that local companies can move their goods to and from Hickory. We need good flow to our traffic patterns, because time is money. We need city codes that allow businesses to grow and prosper. We need to set aside personal preferences and do what is in the best interests of the future of our great city. Are our local leaders doing this?

We are here to give you a voice. We will in no way, shape, or form stifle anyone from participating in this movement. We just ask you to keep the language clean and everything else is fair game. If you don't agree with me, no skin off my nose, because I have been chided up one side and down the other for my philosophies my whole life.

The only thing left to say is Welcome!!!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of September 2, 2008

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory, NC link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, At the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.

At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, you will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.

The four items on the agenda of the 9/2/2008 meeting that stoked my interest were the following:

1) Approval of 6 Vacation Days as Prizes for City of Hickory’s United Way Participation Campaign – The city wants to encourage participation in the United Way by having a raffle based on level of participation in the city’s United Way Campaign.

My thought is that the city may as well directly give the money to the United Way itself. With all that is going on with the Upper Tiers of United Way management, I am not a proponent. The United Way, a non-profit organization, is currently rife with mismanagement and greed. I really don’t think our city should be fostering donations to the United Way until they prove that their house is in order.

I also believe that this basically puts pressure on individuals to participate. We all have charities that we personally participate in and I do not believe that it should be a city’s prerogative to focus on one charitable organization over another.

2) Approve Request by Coworker Appreciation Day Committee for 8 Days of Vacation Time. It is going to be used as door prizes. Why not give some cash or something else. Do these people not already get enough Paid Vacation?

3) Important Outlays
RR crossing for Clement Boulevard Connector project.......$309,645.00
Extension project at Fairgrove Business Park..................$225,619.00
*We will keep you up to date about costs, overruns, and timing of these projects.

4) Moratorium on New Drinking Establishments for 120 days – This was a discussion about an ordinance preventing the establishment of any business, where more than half of gross sales were obtained through sales of alcohol, for a period of 120 days while new codes are implemented and instituted.

The Chief of Police Tom Adkins stated that in the last 2 years 1472 calls were made on 14 establishments. 1,024 of these calls were made between 10pm and 2am. Of these, 7 establishments have been cited by ALE and 2 have been cited twice in the last 24 months. He stated that many of these places didn’t have adequate staff for the number of customers that frequented them, causing safety issues.

Attorney Larry Johnson spoke against the ordinance. He spoke about his client having tried to open an establishment in the old Ferguson’s Plumbing building for the last 14 months and the city giving him the run around. He further stated that his client’s bar should be administered under current regulations and not the regulations that have not been passed yet.

Atty Johnson let it be known that such ordinance could not be established at the current meeting, because the law states that the hearing must be advertised in the local paper for two weeks (it had only been advertised for one). When City Atty John Crone asked Asst City Atty Anita Dula if this were indeed true, a befuddled Ms. Dula acted as if she did not know what the law they were trying to administer was. She finally admitted that the proposed ordinance had only been advertised in the paper for one week.

Atty Johnson then spoke to the fact that “in effect” the ordinance had already been placed into effect, because his client was told that no action could be taken until after the meeting -- the meeting at which time the 120-day ordinance would be imposed. In effect this had instituted the moratorium before it was voted on.

A confused Mayor Rudy Wright, who is obviously in favor of the ordinance, asked what they should do. Atty Crone said that the council should proceed with the rest of the night’s agenda and come back to the Moratorium issue at the end of the schedule.

Twenty minutes later the issue was re-addressed with Atty Crone admitting that Atty Johnson was correct and the ordinance would have to be advertised again for 2 weeks.

Atty Johnson then wanted to re-address the council on the issue of his client. A testy Mayor Wright told Atty Johnson that he had already spoken his piece and that he needed to sit down. Atty Johnson said that it was still a public hearing and he wanted to address the issue of his client. Mayor Wright asked Atty Crone if he had to allow Atty Johnson to speak. Atty Crone stated that it was a public hearing and he was allowed rebuttal, but only pertaining to the issue of the proposed ordinance.

When Atty Johnson broached the situation of his client again, the Mayor said that only the issue of the ordinance would be discussed. He subsequently shut down the hearing and then the session.

In the Hounds opinion, I do not feel that this whole situation was handled properly. First of all, how do the city’s attorneys not know the regulations that they are instituting before this public session? It made the city’s representation look unprofessional.

Secondly, I understand the need to address the situation of these establishments, but the way that this has been handled is putting the bad before the good. We are automatically assuming that any bar is going to be bad. If Atty Johnson’s client has legally met all of his obligations under current law, then he should be allowed to open his bar. The city cannot selectively prohibit in the name of safety and security.

Third, the police just need to enforce the law. If someone is breaking the law then arrest them. I think that is what most of the citizens want to happen to the drunk and disorderly individuals that cannot control themselves.

We will look further into this matter and keep the public abreast as to its outcome.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Bad Roads due to lack of Leadership

(Published in the Hickory Daily Record on September 5, 2008)

In response to Doug Griffin's letter from this past week, it is my opinion that the problem we have is a lack of leadership from our local officials and our representative in Raleigh.

Local officials don't want to rock the boat, because they are afraid of the repercussions. State Senator Austin Allran has been doing nothing but playing the role of lapdog to the Democrats in Raleigh for years. He seems to only be interested in getting a paycheck. It's time that he earns his money or be brought back home.

Our County Commission's Chairlady Kitty Barnes is so proud of the award she was given for being the Democrats’ favorite Commissioner. Why is a Republican so proud to receive an award from people that play pure party politics against Catawba County? I'd tell them to keep it.

Catawba County and the city of Hickory have hired a new lobbyist in Raleigh. Lobbyists are always for sale to the highest bidder. In these times, we don’t have the money to play that game. We can’t afford to continue throwing good money after bad in a fruitless effort.

Persuasion is supposed to be part of our elected officials’ job. We need leaders that will fight for what is rightfully ours, instead of sitting back and watching these roads to nowhere be built in the eastern part of the state, while we roll down the crater and patch highway.

James Thomas Shell