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.
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