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Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Problems facing Hickory, Catawba County, and the Unifour area -- We Want Your Input

In the blog posts "Nuisance Law is a Nuisance" and "Newsletter about the City Council meeting of October 7, 2008," there are many interesting comments in the comment section of those posts that seem to come from people in the know. It really got me to thinking of how we could use that knowledge to our city's advantage.

I want to talk about the problems people see with our city. I don't care whether you are a present city employee, a past city employee, or a citizen. I would like input from local businessmen, government officials, and regular citizens about the issues they are facing on the local level. Let's get it all out in the open.

I am begging you to participate in this forum. I really think that getting all of this stuff out in the open will 1) Be therapeutic, 2)Let everyone know where everyone is coming from, 3)Give us all a better understanding of how this city operates both publicly and privately, and 4) Help us think of real solutions to addressing the needs of this great city -- that can be addressed in the post below.

If there is any information that you feel might compromise your anonymity, there are ways that these issues can be addressed without doing so. You can e-mail me and we can figure out together a way to address the issue without someone figuring out where it came from.

I am going to archive "Problems and Solutions" at the right under the Blog Archives on this page. I truly believe that doing this will help our city mature, grow, and prosper; fulfilling the potential that we all know that we are capable of.

Thank You,
Let's Get Started

Solutions to the Problems that Hickory, Catawba County, and the Unifour are facing -- We Want Your Input

No proposal will be belittled by the Hound. We want input from everyone. I beg you to please participate in this roundtable discussion. We want everyone to be cordial and civil, but no input is stupid no matter how large or small, no matter how simple or intricate.

Insiders and Outsiders are both needed in this process. This forum just might be what helps kickstart our city back to the progressive city that it was as little as a decade ago.

I have learned so much in the last few months and I think this solutions' forum will give everyone a better understanding of where we have been, where we are heading, and where we need to be.

If there is any information that you feel might compromise your anonymity, there are ways that these issues can be addressed without doing so. You can e-mail me and we can figure out together a way to address the issue without someone figuring out where it came from.

I am going to archive "Problems and Solutions" at the right under the Blog Archives on this page. I truly believe that doing this will help our city mature, grow, and prosper; fulfilling the potential that we all know that we are capable of.

Thank You,
Let's Get Started

Banking Bailout Money Paying for Stockholder Dividends and Wall Street Bank Bonuses

Read this article: With government permission, banks are looking to pay out 52% of $163 billion already allocated to them to their shareholders. This money was supposed to give liquidity to the credit markets and instead it is going to help prop up stocks and pay stockholder's dividends.

This article shows that Wall Street banks are paying $70 billion to staff from the money they are receiving from the federal bailout.

So $150billion+ is going to pay salary bonuses and Stockholder dividends from taxpayer money. How does that make you feel. For those of you that thought the bailout was necessary, do you still?

It is obvious that Government officials knew this was going to happen. They did nothing (and are still doing nothing) to stop it. The Feds were lying to us again!!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Letter of Apology to City Council about Jeanette Wester's Truck

I would like to apologize about the issue of Jeanette Wester's truck. It has been brought to my attention that the city has had issues with this lady in the past and she was unlikely to cooperate. Those facts were not brought forward at the City Council meeting of 11/21/2008.

I am not someone that is looking to confront the council on every issue. I just believe that nuisance laws are conveniently arbitrary and not administered equally to all citizens. I only believe in standing up for the rights of all of the citizens of this community, especially the vulnerable. I am a conservative person that believes in small government -- a government of, by, and for the citizens.

Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

I am not perfect, but I try to live by this rule. That is what I was getting at when the facts were presented to me on 11/21/2008. Whether the council had the facts about Ms. Wester's issues, I do not know. There should have been witnesses from the Highland Neighborhood Association present at the time of this hearing to make their case. I thought that Sgt. Baer made an excellent case, as to the facts, that something needed to be done; but I had the feeling that there were aspects missing to this hearing. Now I feel that I have those facts. Though I had to find them through alternative sources.

I will present this apology on my blog, so that people will be informed that there were grounds to believe that Ms Wester was not going to be cooperative in abating the nuisance.

Sincere Apology,
James Thomas (Thom) Shell

Bev wants more of the Same Ole, Same Ole When It Comes to Our Roads

This article shows that Bev Perdue represents the status quo when it comes to North Carolina's corrupt DOT. No wonder, when one of her largest fundraisers was Louis Sewell Jr. of Jacksonville (a former DOT boardmember).

I like this quote. "The board has evolved into a shadow legislature," said David Hartgen, a transportation analyst at UNC-Charlotte who also writes for the conservative John Locke Foundation. "They see their job as bringing home projects to those counties. That's wrong."

I won't go further into the article. You really need to read it. Mrs. Perdue admits she won't ban fundraisers from serving on the DOT board, but Mr. McCrory will. This is the cronyism that we have been preaching about and this is the problem that I have with the good ole boys from down east. They run our state like they are Boss Hogg and Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. I think I've even heard these two on some political radio commercials. Is that the way you want our state represented?

If you vote for Mrs. Perdue, then you will be voting to continue to drive over the craters and pot holes on I-40. If you vote for her, you will continue to see our tax dollars funnelled to her buddies in the rural areas down east. It is time for these shennanigans to end and the best way to do that is to get these people out of office so that they can no longer damage our beautiful state.

I beg you to read this entire article. It's not that long.

Watch this short film.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Newsletter about the Planning/Zoning Meeting of October 22, 2008

Harry Hipps attended the Planning and Zoning Board meeting as a representative of the Hound. His thoughts to me were that if the rest of the city were represented the way that this board carried itself, then the city would be in good hands.

The main reason he attended the meeting was to get a perspective of how this board would deal with The Drinking Establishment Moratorium Issue. Those, along with several other fascinating developments, are detailed below:

Several projects and zoning requests were discussed during the meeting of the Planning and Zoning Board. We will highlight only the main issues here and encourage readers to read the full minutes of city government for themselves.

A planned project by Pete Zagaroli on Hwy 127, at the location of the 127 Steakhouse and Century 21 Real Estate office was given unanimous approval by the Board. It will have two buildings of 20,000 square feet each with parking and some buffering. The first building will have two stories of office space. The second will have one story of office space and an upper story of residential space.

A large project by Third Gate Properties was approved that will extend from the area behind Shoney’s on Fairgrove Church Road to close to C R Laine on Hwy 70 SE. The area near Fairgrove will have some commercial and retail buildings then it will have townhomes marketed to HUD housing. The board commended the developer for his thorough planning which will include numerous street, water, sewer and runoff infrastructure improvements.

THE HOUNDS TAKE: These are two good, well planned projects that bring proper growth to the area. The plans are solid and will be executed by proven, competent developers.

The longest and most vocal issue was a requested zoning change on Hwy 127, at the Whisnant Farm property, by Pete Zagaroli from R3 to PDMU. This would allow mixed use of residential, office, retail, commercial tenants. Mr. Zagaroli presented an upscale concept of offices, and anchor tenant such as an upscale grocer, possibly a micro winery, and some high end townhouses. Reaction from Moore’s Ferry residents was mixed with some liking the upscale concept and pedestrian-friendly project and others not liking any commercial development at all. Some concern was expressed about the aesthetic aspects of the buffering – how it would look and should it allow pedestrian access to Moore’s Ferry. Crime and security impacts on the neighborhood were another concern by the residents. It appeared that the opposition increased by the property owners that lived on the east side of Moore’s Ferry nearer to the planned project.

The Board had concerns with water runoff and traffic issues. Water runoff is already a concern in this area and the impervious surfaces on the project would be in excess of 50%, well above the allowable 24% threshold (which could be mitigated by a runoff control plan). The bottleneck of Hwy 127 and Cloninger Mill Road was also a concern.

With Mr. Zagaroli not having a firm commitment from an anchor tenant, and uncertain economy which could delay implementing the project and the water runoff issues the Board recommended denying the request. It will be taken up at Hickory City Council on Nov. 18.

THE HOUND TAKE: Mr. Zagaroli’s concept is interesting and it appears that the community consensus is that if he could pull it off as conceptualized it would be a good thing. However, with the current financial and macroeconomic environment deteriorating there are a lot of unknowns and not enough solid commitments to proceed with it at this time. Allowing a zoning change would possibly allow some other developer to build a much less desirable project if Mr. Zagaroli were not able to implement his concept. It’s probably wise to delay the project and hope that it can proceed at a future time when economic conditions are more favorable.

Finally the Board denied zoning changes that would restrict where bars and nightclubs can operate. The Board expressed some frustration as to why the problem that the City Council wants to address, specifically the number of Police calls that the nightclubs generate, would be sent to Planning and Zoning. Secondly, they were perplexed as to why they should deal with this now since the City is going to rewrite the whole land use plan in a couple of months. They were sympathetic to the problem but felt that this was not the proper venue.

THE HOUNDS TAKE: The Board did the right thing. This whole issue is a pet project cooked up by the City Council at February’s retreat. And since the year is almost over and they haven’t done anything, they are in a rush to meet an arbitrary, self-imposed deadline. The problem is some bad management by some of the bar owners and it is not a problem of land use. This whole issue could probably be resolved by a meeting with the bar owners to work with them to reduce problems.

Alex Rooker’s suggestion that they could get a couple of free Police calls per month, followed by fees imposed on excessive calls to Police seems like a much more reasonable response. The harsh, authoritarian approach to this issue speaks poorly about how some members of City Council want to impose their will, rather than communicate with citizens and build consensus on solutions. We are also highly suspicious that this has a lot to do with denying the Cercil Brothers the permit they have petitioned for and which the City is now spending our tax dollars in court fighting. If Council had the professionalism of the Planning and Zoning Board we would be a lot better off.


Let's Add this up - $1.979 trillion in bailouts and counting

The Fed is back at it again. The Federal Reserve will provide up to $540 billion in loans to help relieve pressure on money-market mutual funds beset by redemptions.

Here is a link to all of the bailouts now set in place:

In my opinion this is what is leading to Wall Street's meltdown. This only ends with the complete devaluation of our currency. They tell you these bailouts are necessary, but I am telling you that this is pushing us further and further into a corner. We are being boxed into a situation and limiting our ability to have flexibilty in the decisions that will have to be made.

We would have been better off to have to gone through a stagnant deflationary period, than what this is going to force upon us. We will still have to go through that stagnant period, but with a much weaker dollar, all that that entails, and we will be further in debt.

You need to read up on the Weimar Republic and what happens when you deflate your currency and thus bring about hyperinflationary pressures.

Here is Wikipedia reference to hyperinflation.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of October 21, 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.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 10/21/2008 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

The Invocation was made by Rev. Deborah McEachran, Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

Special Presentations were made by Tracy Nester, Vice President of the Hickory Downtown Development. She reported that although she didn’t have all the facts on economic impact that this years Octoberfest was better than ever. She thanked Councilman Seavers for his contribution and direction toward the Castle of Cans.

The next presentation was the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the year ended 6/30/2008. Deanna Rios, Hickory’s finance director, and John Rosenthal, the auditor from Dixon-Hughes, made presentations.. Mr. Rosenthal said that the audtor’s gave a clean opinion of the books. There was one problem with certain grants, dealing with the Davis-Bacon Act, but he reported it to be a technical compliance error and the city has since corrected the issue. He complemented the finance department saying that they found no errors in the report.

Ms. Rios stated reported on statements of assets and Business activities of the city (such as sanitation). Net assets were reported at $190 million. Fund Balance was over 10.5 million. City has more net assets. Fund balance is in line with last year’s numbers considering the Clement Boulevard project and increased fuel expenses.

Council Reaffirmed and Ratified Second Readings of the last meeting

The City Confirmed Several Projects including the Voluntary Annexation of the Property of Lewis Ray Wagner Heirs, Approved Rental Agreement with Avis Rent-A-Car at the Hickory Regional Airport. Renewed Contracts with JM Aircraft Sales, Corporate Aircraft and Pilot Services, and CAPS for Office Space at the Hickory Regional Airport.

Approved a Contract For Modification of Waterlines regarding the Clement Boulevard Road Project in the Amount of $135,400.00. Approved the use of Union Square for the Girls on the Run 5K Event on December 6, 2008

The Budget was Amended to the tune of $176,577 for tables needed at the airport, Police Department OT pay, Glenn Hilton Park recreational equipment, The new stoplight at L-R, and waterline project at Clement boulevard.

Informational Items: City Manager Berry’s Travel to Richmond, VA on September 19 – 23, 2008 to attend the ICMA 94th Annual Conference cost $1981.18

Councilor Hoyle’s Travel to Charlotte, NC from October 11 – 14, 2008 to attend the NCLM 2008 Centennial Conference cost $1159.45

New Business:
1) Presentation of the “Redevelopment Plan of 8th Avenue Drive, SW” by Todd Hefner: The city is selling a portion of the land that it owns in the Ridgeview area in conjunction with property it is buying to develop affordable housing. Habitat has already developed 15 houses in the area and wants to purchase 12 lots from the city to build more.

The Hounds View: I am glad that we are fixing blighted areas. I would tweak this idea by challenging the Ridgeview community developers to look towards building some modern structures that focus on building up, instead of out.

I know people have bad thoughts about such projects, but if we encourage these residents to police their own community and show zero tolerance toward illegal activity, then these multi-family residences could be a powerful tool in dealing with those that need affordable housing.

Done right, these units would be much more secure than single unit houses that are in close proximity to one another. No one can argue that Habitat is an integral part to any redevelopment of affordable housing, but the community needs to think about what will be good for the future. The best way to get to that future is to start developing those plans now. Redeveloped Ridgeview property would be a valuable asset for the African-American community. By not allowing sprawl, more land can be used for future commercial endeavors. Commercial property would create value for this community.

2) Resolution and Order Closing a Portion of 2nd Ave Court, SW as Requested by Dennis and Merlin Detweiler – This issue has been delayed until the next meeting, because of unresolved issues on the part of the Detweilers.

3) Petition to Rezone Property of Charles and Loretta Ivey Located at 815 2nd Street, NE From R-5 Residential to O&I-1: This issue was unanimously approved with the exception that a 14 foot strip of property that leads to 8th Ave NW won’t be rezoned.

4) Petition to Rezone Property of Grady and Gayle O’Neal Located in the 500 Block of 10th Street Boulevard, NW From C-5 Commercial to R-6 Residential. Mrs. Fox had issues with the changing of the zoning of this property. She said that it was becoming a hodgepodge area that has an issue with transients. She believes that plans for the area need to point people in the rights direction as far as development goes. The council approved this property with Mrs. Fox being the lone dissenting voice.

5) Voluntary Annexation of the Property of Mountain View Baptist Church Located at 4266 River Road: The church wants to expand and can’t do so without new plumbing and utilities. An agreement stated that the city would have to annex the property before it could be hooked up to city services. Mrs. Fox questioned whether the police could properly service this property. The council unanimously approved this annexation.

6) Voluntary Annexation of the Property of Pruitt and Huntley, LLC Located at 2950 Sandy Ford Road: The council unanimously approved this annexation without reservation

Departmental Reports:
Appeal of Public Nuisance Decision Regarding Jeanette Wester Located at 1217 10th Street, NE
On August 19, 2008 the Hickory Police Department Code Enforcement Unit received a complaint from Chief Adkins regarding a junked/nuisance motor vehicle located at 1217 10th Street NE. Code Enforcement responded to the complaint and identified a white pickup in front of 1217 10th Street, NE, which was found to be in violation of Hickory City Code Chapter 18, Article 6. After notification of the property owners, it was discovered that the owner of the vehicle, Jeanette Wester, is a tenant at the residence. Once a nuisance has been investigated and determined a nuisance, the owner of the property is given ten days to correct the nuisance. If nothing is done after ten days, a sticker is placed on the vehicle giving the owner seven additional days to correct the nuisance before the vehicle is towed. In this particular case, the property owner was initially contacted on August 22, 2008, which has well exceeded the seventeen days allotted to correct a nuisance. Ms. Wester contacted the Code Enforcement Unit and requested additional time to remove the vehicle, which was agreed upon by Sergeant Baer. Ms. Wester filed an appeal with the City Attorney approximately two days later. Ms. Wester’s appeal will be heard as a quasi judicial matter and will follow the appeal hearing procedures.October 21, 2008.

Ms. Wester did not attend the meeting citing illness by written letter. She wanted the hearing postponed to November 18. Mayor Wright was in favor of moving this meeting to November 4th. Councilman Lail asked John Crone what standard procedures were in most judicial proceedings and Atty Crone stated that varies greatly. Sally Fox, Jill Patton, and Bruce Meisner stated that the lady has had enough time to remedy the situation. The council voted 4-3 to allow the hearing to move forward. The dissenters were Mayor Wright, Danny Seaver, and Z. Anne Hoyle.

Officer Reed Baer presented the above details and said that this issue was brought forward by the Highland Development Association. He did not speak to the state of the lady's mental or physical condition and he did not speak to any attempted private remedies proposed by the Highland Development Association. From what he said it sounded like the police department did everything that they could to work with this lady following proper public procedures.

The Council voted 6 to 1 to site the property as a Nuisance and to allow the truck to be towed off. Ms. Z. Anne Hoyle was the lone dissenting voice. Even Mayor Wright and Councilman Seaver agreed that it was a nuiscance, but they stated that they would have rather waited to November 4th to give the lady an opportunity to show up for the hearing.

The Hounds Take: I detest nuisance laws. Many times they are administered arbitrarily and that lends itself to abuse. I grant you this lady’s truck can be construed as being unsightly (and therefore can be defined as a nuisance).

We all have aspects to some form of property that we own that someone else could define as a nuisance. I have an apple tree on my property that is diseased. It still produces apples, but it isn’t pretty any more. I also have a dead tree on my property that a neighbor could consider a nuisance. What is a nuisance? One man’s nuisance might be what another man considers valuable property.

I know that we don’t have all the facts to this issue, because the lady wasn’t present at this Council meeting. I have known other people that have been under similar circumstances. We didn’t get a chance to observe this lady and whether this might be a mental or physical health issue. Sergeant Baer never addressed this issue and no legal authority present ever addressed whether he could address the health issue.

I wish someone could tell me whether the Highland Neighborhood Association ever approached this lady? Did anyone offer to help her move that truck to her backyard? What were the issues with her landlord? Were they against her moving this truck to her backyard? If the lady, under those circumstances, was not accommodative to the city’s needs, then I could understand the city having the truck towed away.

If that was not the case and this is just a matter of following some sort of mandated city guidelines, then I feel that this is a shame – and I am not trying to be a second guesser. My Church had a group called Genesis Now. We went and volunteered to help indigent individuals clean up their houses, paint, or basically do anything we could to help them out and it cost us little other than time.

I think our city government should encourage such groups when it comes to issues of reclusive indigents pertaining to these nuisance statutes. I fully understand the notion of the greater good, but what has happened to individual rights? Individual rights are defined in the U.S. Constitution pertaining to our dealings with government.

We can hide behind issues of liability and lawsuits (although the city apparently has no problem entering into a lot of legal issues about other subjects) all day long, but don’t these Police Officers (and the city) deal with issues of liability the second that they step onto the property involved?

I believe this particular issue can still be dealt with a better way. I think that someone should ask the lady if she would mind if this truck were pushed to the backyard. If she agrees, then (even with a flat tire) someone could put the truck in neutral and push it to the backyard. If she doesn’t agree then by all means tow it off. I am sure we could find volunteers willing to help this lady move the truck.

There has to be room for compassion in these circumstances. We have frail people living in our community and situations like this are going to become commonplace as the population grows older. Everything shouldn’t be pigeon holed into the template that fits the community’s idea of what is or isn’t the norm.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Template for Request of Public Information from the City of Hickory

Place the Date on this line (ex: January 1, 2009)

Ms. Arnita Dula
Staff Attorney
City of Hickory
N. Center Street
Hickory, North Carolina 28601

Dear Ms. Dula, This letter is a request for all public documents pertaining to (The issue that you would like information on). I am entitled to the public information that I am requesting according to Chapter 132 of the General Statutes of the State of North Carolina’s General Assembly.

According to the North Carolina Public Records Law, “The public records and public information compiled by the agencies of North Carolina government or its subdivisions are the property of the people.” Your cooperation is greatly appreciated in my attempt, as a public citizen, to understand the facts of this issue.

Thank You,
(Your Signature Here)

Phone Number for contacting you

The Hounds Advice: If under any circumstances you are given the runaround, I want you to contact us at We want to publicize such incidents and get to the root cause of why the City would not willingly provide the information.

If the city asks you to provide a request in writing for specific information that you may be looking for, let them know that it is a violation of State Law for them to require you to give them a written request or to explain who you are or what you want to see, pursuant to North Carolina General Statute 132-6.

If you need help with your letter of request, you can contact me at the e-mail address above and I will do my best to help you. Be nice to them, be accommodative, be courteous, but be assertive of your rights.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Nuisance Law is a Nuisance

I would like to address our city's use of the "Nuisance Law." I believe that this law is unconstitutional. Mayor Wright and the City Council brought this law about under the guise of the Buffalo's Sinkhole issue and now it is being arbitrarily used to intimidate certain businesses and individuals within our city.

Last week, in the Hickory Daily Record, we read about Fantasia's Nightclub being issued a temporary restraining order to keep them from operating. The city referenced generalities about many bad incidents that had happened there, but gave no specific details.

Assistant DA Eric Bellas stated, "Fantasia's must refrain from allowing any type of nuisance or illegal activity to occur on the property. If the establishment doesn't, the property will be subject to forfeiture."

The case "The City of Seattle vs McCoy" relates to a similar action in which city officials tried to use a nuisance statute to take possession of a bar when the owner wasn't participating in the illegal activity that the city considered a nuisance. The ruling found that taking this person's property this way, without compensation, was a violation of the man's rights under the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.

Hickory city officials are already facing legal action, because of their steadfast resistance to allowing the Cercil brothers (who happen to be Hispanic) to open up an establishment downtown. They have used several questionable tactics to prevent this dance club from opening.

In the same article, Police Chief Tom Adkins said, "though Fantasias is in a commercial district and many of the businesses closest to it are closed, up for sale or shuttered, complaints continue to come from the club's business neighbors."

Should we close down Wal-Mart or McDonalds, because of what some of their customers do when they leave their premises?

Adkins further stated, "A nuisance action is a powerful tool we can use to eliminate problem establishments in Hickory, where traditional law enforcement methods have failed."

We don't want your Police State, Chief Adkins. It is not your job to decide what businesses are or are not viable here in Hickory. It is your job to enforce statutes that are on the books, not ones that are randomly enforced and subject to much philosophical and legal interpretation. How much is all of this legal wrangling costing this city?

What I have seen smacks of xenophobia and shows how small minded certain elements of our community are. This is not pre-1960; we shouldn't discriminate against people because they are different than us. It is time to accept the fact that there will be many culturally diverse elements within our community that we don't understand, but we must show tolerance toward.

This nuisance law is a bad law. Once again I say, enforce the existing laws. Do not use tyrannical systems that have been well established to be biased. If we don't protect the rights of all of the people, then our rights are no longer concrete and so they are basically non-existent.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Expect delays on I-40 (Hickory Daily Record)

HICKORY - Drivers who use Interstate 40 in Catawba County can expect to get stuck in traffic sometime between now and June 2010.

Today, expect delays westbound on the interstate between exits 126 and 128. Work could stretch to exit 125, depending on how much work got done last night, said Anne Schley, a resident engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Repaving crews that began work in westbound lanes around exit 128 last week will keep going west until they reach exit 119 in Burke County.

Every night except Friday and Saturday, workers will repave the right lane. Every day except Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they will work on the left lanes.

After that, crews will work back through Catawba County on the eastbound side of I-40, alternating lanes the same way until they reach exit 146 in Iredell County. The completion date for the entire repaving project is June 30, 2010, Schley said.

By the end of this year, she said contractors plan to finish westbound lanes to exit 119 and eastbound lanes from exit 119 to exit 128.

Crews will replace old concrete on I-40 with new asphalt. The result should be smoother roads, Schley said.

One More Thing : I'd like for this project to get done in less that the alotted 21 month period, but thank you State of NC for finally getting around to what you were supposed to do long ago. We'll still be keeping an eye on the progress.

Good to see that this issue is resolved. Now we can move down the checklist towards some other issues that need some closure. We'll be forcing the issue on those as well. This is the beginning folks. With your help, we can right this ship and make this the 21st century city that it should be.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Inflation will be price of growing debt

Submitted by Harry Hipps II (published in the Hickory daily record on 10/10/2008)

Those of us who were raised by parents who survived the Great Depression should be ashamed for not listening to the lessons they learned. They knew that we should save some money for a rainy day, don't waste and be thankful for what we have.

For years, individuals, corporations and government at all levels have spent all the income available and then borrowed to finance things we couldn't afford. Individuals read books touting the virtue of using "other people's money."

Corporations leveraged themselves to the max, and governments decided to create a program for every need and want rather than encourage self-sufficiency. Well guess what? The rainy day finally came.

Maybe now we will start living the lifestyle we can afford, pay off credit cards, save some money and demand that our government learns to do the same. The federal debt is $10 trillion and rising rapidly. Do you still believe that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will go on funding a comfortable retirement for all of us?

There are only three options. Raise taxes, cut benefits or inflate the currency. I believe they will inflate the currency. Raising taxes or cutting benefits is politically unpopular. There are no courageous leaders in Washington willing to tell the truth so the currency will be inflated.

Retirees will still get their $1,000 check from Social Security but inflation will be so high that it will only buy $500 worth of goods. So they will pay the obligations but it will not be sufficient to live on. People should start preparing now for leaner times.

Brother, can you spare a dime?

Harry Hipps

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of October 7, 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.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 10/7/2008 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

The invocation was from the Reverend Reggie Longcrier
. I may not agree with a lot of the political people that he supports, but I really do admire this man. I met Reverend Longcrier 9 years ago at my church, Mt. Olive Lutheran. His outreach program has helped a lot of people when they were down and out. The Reverend had us go to the Prison camp at Newton and read scripture with the inmates there. These people need the message of redemption and hope that spirituality brings.

If you ever get the chance to meet Reverend Longcrier, I hope that you will accept. His message is an uplifting one. He is a man that accepted the consequences of his youth, righted the wrongs, and has fought for the greater good of our community. We need more men like the Reverend that will stand up for the least of us.

Jennifer Helton of the Community Appearance Commission handed out awards for various voluntary beautification projects done throughout Hickory. Tim Cline received an award for the renovation of the arcade downtown. Bishop and Terry Jackson received an award for work done at a location on 127 north. Other projects were at Hickory High and the Salvation Army.

Phil Barringer made a presentation about the new Art Benches that have been placed around town. The council unanimously approved to allow the Public Art Commission to solicit money from the private sector to produce more of the benches. The City is not being asked for any more money.

The mayor and State Representative Ray Warren presented the Order of the Long Leaf Pine to Dr. Ed Rogers. Greg McGuiness, Mr. Rodgers long time friend and town manager of West Jefferson, asked Governor Easley to bestow North Carolina’s highest civilian honor to Dr. Rodgers. Dr. Rodgers has apparently been very instrumental in a lot of work done by the Habitat for Humanity. If anyone would like to send me a bio on Dr. Rodgers, I would very much like to post it.

The Council confirmed several projects including a couple of annexations. Recognitions were approved for National Family Day on 9/22/2008, Financial Planning Week 10/6-12/2008, and Respiratory Care Week 10/19-25/2008. The Library has been approved to have a book sale 10/9-12/2008.

Hammer Properties was awarded grants of $10,437 for landscaping and appearance improvements at 432 4th st SW. The City amended its parking lot agreement with Transportation Insight, Inc.

The city approved a lease agreement with the Hickory Downtown Development Association to Lease vacant property at 24 1st ave NE. The city is leasing the property for an annual fee of $1 for 5 years. The HDDA will be responsible for maintenance and repairs of utilities up to $1,000. The HDDA currently budgets $3,000 annually for these expenditures. The City of Hickory currently appropriates $50,000 annually to the HDDA.

In the Hounds Opinion: This is a backdoor attempt by the city to increase its investment in the Downtown Development Association. I would like to know what are we getting for our investment in this association? In my opinion, the problems with our downtown have nothing to do with the amount of money that we continuously throw at it and have everything to do with the viability of our city as a whole.

It is time that the city freezes any expenditures aimed at downtown, have these people fend for themselves, and start focusing on the greater areas of need throughout the city. Downtown will start hustling and bustling when we rectify the economic integrity of the city as a whole.

The Budget was amended to the tune of $109,750. This included $71,503 for the Clement Boulevard Extension Project. The cost is to pay Duke Power to relocate utility lines along the project.

New Business
1) The City approved an assessment to install curb and guttering along 7th ave NE.

2) Assistant City manager Andrea Surratt brought up for discussion the issue of Wayfinding. She said that this subject was first addressed at the February 2008 retreat. She thoroughly discussed the issue as a way of reducing sign clutter, projecting community image, projecting consistency, and safety.

Here is a link to a wayfinding system in New York City.

Ms. Surratt wants a Committee to be formed to look into this issue before hiring a consultant. This system will be unique to our community identity. The main purposes of such a system are to help people find their way around and help benefit local destinations in helping people identify and successfully find their locations.

She stated that this would be good for downtown, but also stated that this system will have to be flexible as we move forward to the future. Paraphrasing, she said that the city would have to work with the Department of Transportation on color schemes and consistency.

Mayor Wright asked what she was wanting from the council tonight. Ms. Surratt said that she was just updating the council on where the staff was in the process. (Paraphrasing) Councilor Lail said that she was making a proposal to move forward. Mayor Wright said this was a good idea. We need to sell our image…clean up sign clutter…most places do this. City Manager Mick Berry said we need to consolidate and streamline signs in the city.

The Hounds Take : I think this is an excellent idea. It may be because I am from here, but I have never had a problem getting around this city. If you have a mind that thinks mathematically, then the grid system isn't that hard to adapt to. But, if people are having trouble getting around Hickory, we need to make it more user friendly.

The only issue that gives me any apprehension about this plan, is the conspiracy theorist in me has me thinking that this is just another scheme by Downtown Special interests to point the way towards Union Square. I do believe that Downtown is an integral part of the community and they should play a big role in such a project, but they should not be the focal point of this project and it should not be done at the expense of other areas that need to be lifted up. If this project were to turn into a Downtown marketing tool, then I believe that a light should be shone on it and I would have to fight it.

On the other hand, if this project is developed in such a way to help businesses and organizations in every quadrant of our city, then I think it will be a wonderful thing. It would be a great benefit to the small businesses interspersed throughout our city. It also would collaterally help businesses near those destinations. So I really do think that this will be a great project for 21st century Hickory, if the focus is right.

3) Warren Wood was next and he gave a summary of the City’s investments during these tumultuous economic times. He stated that our investments are regulated by the North Carolina Local Government Commission.

The North Carolina Local Government Commission is a part of the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer which was created after the Great Depression to assist local North Carolina
governments in decision making involving large financing projects such as bond issues. The
commission is chaired by the North Carolina State Treasurer..

Mr. Wood stated that the city has $42.7 million basically invested 1/3 in CDs (with 60 to 90 day
maturity) and they are presently earning around 2.7% interest annually, another 1/3 is invested in US agency securities which have a 2 to 5 year maturity and these assets are earning around 4% annually, and the last 1/3 is invested in the North Carolina Capital Trust – these are the most liquid assets – which earn 2.5% interest. The trust is the most volatile of these investments.

Mr. Wood stated that the city does it’s banking with BB&T. The city keeps around $850,000 in this account. It is used for payroll and to do daily business.

The city’s finances are reviewed by North Carolina Independent Auditors twice per year. City staff report to council annually. The city’s view toward investments is that safety and liquidity are more important than yield. The city believes in taking a conservative view towards investments and projections.

The city is looking to issue bonds very soon for the upcoming water and sewer project in Northeast Hickory. Because of present circumstances, the issuance of these bonds is still up in the air. The city has a revolvong loan available from the state for $17.5 million dollars that can be utilized to buy time and get the project off and going. Mr. Wood said that the city may wait until next spring to offer the bonds. When Mr. Wood was through with his summary presentation the mayor subsequently closed the meeting.

The Hound Believes: If you have read any of this blog, then you will understand that I believe that the United States macro economy is shot. If there is one thing I can say about our Mayor (and city staff) it is that I agree with the way that they have managed our city's finances. We don't need to be taking an aggressive viewpoint as to our outlook and making investments based on overly optimistic numbers.

Where I differ is on the the cost-benefit analyses related to growth. If an investment doesn't create value, then let's just call it what it is, a social outlay. We can have a small percentage of our budget directed towards this, but they cannot be priorities. These are totally discretionary (and some have been frivolous) expenditures. They definitely aren't necessities. If times become hard, then this stuff is going to have to take a backseat.

We need projects that create value. If a project, that the city fosters, overtly tries to control growth, then the end result is that it will most likely stifle growth. When this happens, then we don't mature, our standard of living stagnates, and most parts of our community will fail.

There has to be accountability when it comes to our city's investments. We should not enter into any agreements that don't have checks and balances, aren't results oriented, aren't flexible towards the needs of the community, and/or don't allow the city a way out.

No matter what, we are headed towards a difficult macro economic environment. Money is going to be hard to come by from the State and Federal government. We aren't in good shape locally and it is going to take an innovative governmental system to turn the tide. We cannot copycat other communities to get ahead. We need to be at the forefront of whatever we do. We need people coming to us and not us going to them, because we will always be playing second fiddle and lucky if we get scraps under those conditions.

I hope that the Mayor and Council understand that it it is time to quit worrying about frivolities and time to take our city's role in this world seriously.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Submitted by Harry Hipps II (published in the Hickory Daily Record on 10/4/2008)

After Sept. 11, we heard a lot about how we failed to connect the dots and see the danger. America is so specialized and compartmentalized that we apparently have little ability to look at our life and society as a whole.

Our politics have become corrupt and dysfunctional, corporations overpay executives and cook the books so few people really know what’s going on. Drugs, divorce, crime and incivility are so common we just tolerate them and keep on going.

I believe the root of almost all of our dilemmas stems from a severe decline, if not collapse, of our moral backbone. We removed prayer from our schools and the 10 Commandments from our courthouses. Few are well versed in the Bible or even read it. Simply mentioning the name of Jesus Christ is enough to invite cries of judgmentalism.

We suffer from poor ethics, greed, lack of compassion and a shortsightedness that focuses on what we can satisfy ourselves with right now, rather than looking out for our common good for the future.

We so completely lack any moral compass that we treat every religion, every law, every idea as equally valid when common sense and experience show that some things are right and some things are wrong, period.

We have nothing to guide us and provide the moral structure we need. The next time we see a crime, crooked politician, or corporate CEO going to jail, connect the dots. Until we get back to One Nation, Under God, we can expect more of the same.

-- Harry Hipps II

Repaving on I-40 set for approval in Wake County

From the News and Observer in Raleigh (
RALEIGH - Interstate 40 in western Wake County is in line for a resurfacing job expected to start next spring. The state Board of Transportation is expected to approve today a $13.8 million plan to repave six miles of the eight-lane freeway from Interstate 540 to the Wade Avenue exit, plus a mile of the Wade Avenue extension.

The Hounds Take : The politicians make sure that they have a nice smooth ride to work; while they expect we peons, here in Hickory, to bump and grind our way to work through the cracks and crevices of I-40 and Hwy 70. Raleigh promised to fix these roads years ago. It sure is funny how they can find money for everyone but Catawba County. If we don't start speaking up, we will continue getting the short end.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goldman Sachs' Treasury - The Biggest Conflict of Interest Ever

From Wikipedia : (
Goldman Sachs has offices in all major world financial centers. The firm acts as a financial advisor and money manager for corporations, governments, and wealthy families around the world. Goldman offers its clients mergers & acquisitions advice, underwriting services, asset management, and engages in proprietary trading, and private equity deals. It is a primary dealer in the U.S. Treasury securities market

Hmmm, who is in charge of the U.S. Treasury securities market?

Henry Paulson, the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. previously served as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs.

A wikipedia entry shows that: (
Paulson's three immediate predecessors as CEO of Goldman SachsJon Corzine, Stephen Friedman, and Robert Rubin — each left the company to serve in government: Corzine as a U.S. Senator (later Governor of New Jersey), Friedman as chairman of the National Economic Council (later chairman of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board) under President George W. Bush, and Rubin as both chairman of the NEC and later Treasury Secretary under President Bill Clinton.[14]

From Reuters : (
Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is expected to name Neel Kashkari to oversee the $700 billion program to buy distressed assets from financial institutions, The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

Kashkari was Treasury assistant secretary for international affairs and the former head of Goldman Sachs information technology security investment banking practice in San Francisco.

From the NY Times : (
As the group, led by Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., pondered the collapse of one of America’s oldest investment banks, Lehman Brothers, a more dangerous threat emerged: American International Group, the world’s largest insurer, was teetering. A.I.G. needed billions of dollars to right itself and had suddenly begged for help.

One of the Wall Street chief executives participating in the meeting was Lloyd C. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, Mr. Paulson’s former firm. Mr. Blankfein had particular reason for concern.
Although it was not widely known, Goldman, a Wall Street stalwart that had seemed immune to its rivals’ woes, was A.I.G.’s largest trading partner, according to six people close to the insurer who requested anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. A collapse of the insurer threatened to leave a hole of as much as $20 billion in Goldman’s side, several of these people said.

From Bloomberg - 9/22/2008 (
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley may be among the biggest beneficiaries of the $700 billion U.S. plan to buy assets from financial companies while many banks see limited aid, according to Bank of America Corp.

From Wikipedia - (
George Herbert Walker IV (born April 1969) is a Managing Director at Lehman Brothers and is a second cousin to U.S. President George W. Bush.

Walker began his career on Wall Street when he joined Goldman Sachs in the Merger Department in 1992 and six years later, in 1998, became of one of the firm's youngest partners ever. He held several senior positions at Goldman, including co-head of the firm's Wealth Management business, and head of Alternative Investment strategies. In May 2006, Walker announced that he was resigning from Goldman Sachs to become global head of rival Lehman Brothers' Investment Management division.

From Wikipedia - (
Lehman Brothers - On September 15, 2008, the firm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection; the filing marks the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history.[2] The following day, Barclays plc announced its agreement to purchase, subject to regulatory approval, Lehman's North American investment-banking and trading divisions along with its New York headquarters building.[3][4] On September 20, 2008, a revised version of that agreement was approved by Judge James Peck.[5]

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Alphabet of Leadership

A – Accountability- subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable. True leaders realize that actions lead to consequences whether positive or negative. This does not keep a true leader from taking action when needed.

B – Bravery - possessing or exhibiting courage or courageous endurance. Every person on this earth has fears, but it takes a special person to step forward in spite of those fears.

C – Command - to direct with specific authority or prerogative. Delegation is tough when the troops don't want to listen. Every great leader has to have power and respect for his authority. Power is not something that is annointed (or given), it has to be demanded. When the troops won't cooperate, then you have to get rid of the bad weeds to get everyone moving in the same direction.

D – Determination - the quality of being resolute; firmness of purpose. Leaders don't ever give up. It is their biggest asset and their biggest liability. You are a hero or a zero. It's easy to escape being labelled a zero by never stepping forward and taking a chance; but for society to progress, we have to have people willing to step forward.

E – Energetic - powerful in action or effect. Leaders keep going even when they are tired. That persistence leads to opportunity. When coupled with positive preparation, then good results will happen.

F – Faithful - true to one's word, promises, vows. If you are trustworthy, then people are more likely to voluntarily follow you.

G - Goals - the result or achievement toward which effort is directed. Having goals allows one to develop a plan, which makes it easier to achieve objectives.

H – Honor - honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions. If you are fair to people, then (again) they are more likely to follow you.

I - Initiative - The power or ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task. Those that voluntarily step forward are a special breed. Yes, you risk possible embarassment, but the rewards far exceed anything negative that may happen. We all have things we are comfortable doing and when we are comfortable, then why not step forward. Everyone will benefit.

J - Justice - the quality of being just or fair. When a system is fair, then the atmosphere created is much more positive and conducive to creativity and progress. When it is not then wasted energy goes toward decension, bitterness, and anxiety.

K – Keeper - a person who assumes responsibility for another's behavior. A true leader realizes where the buck stops. When he delegates responsibilties, he isn't absolved of the end results. He and his troops learn from the mistakes and correct them. A true leader won't stifle his troops, because they make a mistake. He just asks that they don't repeat the same mistake.

L - Loyal - faithful to one's oath, commitments, or obligations. A person is more willing to cooperate with direction, when they realize that their leader will never sell them out to make himself look good at their expense. The leader realizes that he is as much a part of the team, as the lowest man on the totem pole.

M – Mastery - command or grasp, as of a subject. A great leader will obsess about the art that he is studying. If it means nights of little or no sleep, then so be it. Whatever it takes is what has to be done. How many ever repetitions to succeed in hitting the target or meeting the objective does not matter. It is all about gaining confidence in what you are trying to achieve.

N – Noble - Having or showing qualities of high moral character, such as courage, generosity, or honor. When someone follows the principles of chivalry, honor, integrity, and justice; then people will hold high thoughts of him. It may not happen until he leaves this earth, but that legacy is something to aspire to, whether you are spiritual or not.

O – Objective - not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased. When someone can set personal feelings aside and take emotions out of decisions, then the greater good can be achieved for everyone involved. The best results may not be achieved immediately, but in the long run they will be.

P – Plan - a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc., developed in advance. We need a blueprint of where we are at and where we intend to be -- the objective. No plan will be perfect, but I have learned that it is better to deviate from specific methods, than to try to achieve good results through chaos.

Q – Quintessential - the most perfect embodiment of something. That is where we all want to arrive, no matter what the goal is -- Perfection. The more that we try to get to perfection (or best at a task); the closer we will get to it. If we don't try to get to perfection, then we won't get anywhere close.

R – Responsive - Readily reacting to suggestions, influences, appeals, or efforts. A true leader listens to his troops. Everyone in an organization deserves input. As they say, "Together Each Accomplishes More." The sum is greater than the parts. Allowing input is the greatest facilitator of initiative and innovation in any organization.

S – Strength - vigor of action, language, feeling, etc. When we talk about strength we talk about bravery, perserverance, poise, energy, and all that goes with it. Sometimes a leader will have to be forceful in his decision making, when his troops aren't following his explicit directions. This has to be done judiciously, but sometimes it is necessary to move forward.

T – Teacher - to impart knowledge or skill to; give instruction to. All great leaders are excellent instructors. They are good at taking their personal experiences and passing them along to their troops, so that they don't have to repeat the steps the they have already taken. A very experienced person with great communicative skills can lead his followers to achieve heights that may have been previously thought to be impossible.

U – Understanding - to grasp the significance, implications, or importance of. A great leader has a special cognitive reasoning to sense the past, present, and future of the objectives that he is studying and trying to achieve. He knows where he is coming from, as well as where he is trying to get to.

V - Versatile - capable of or adapted for turning easily from one to another of various tasks, fields of endeavor, etc. A great leader is a Jack of most trades and a delegator of the rest. He will lead by example, while not letting his ego get in the way of his weaknesses. He realizes that there are other people that can achieve better results in many areas, that he has less (or no) proficiency in.

W – Will - power of choosing one's own actions. A great leader won't let his vices consume him. He can focus and dedicate himself to the objectives he is striving to achieve. Vices, whether mental or physical, will definitely get in the way of success. This will cost any entity involved valuable progress, time, money, and energy.

X – Xenomorphic - in an unusual form; having a strange form. True leaders aren't conformists. They are revolutionaries and pioneers. This makes them seem eccentric, because they don't follow the crowd, the fads, and/or pop culture.

Y – Yes - Used to express great satisfaction, approval, or happiness. This is a word of positivity. It isn't what we want to hear, when we aren't succeeding. We need someone to tell us when things aren't working, because when people don't say 'no' at these times, then we end up off track, costing us time and money. The goal is that ultimate sweet exclamation YES!!!, when we have succeeded in our objective.

Z – Zeal - Enthusiastic devotion to a cause, ideal, or goal and tireless diligence in its furtherance. We all achieve more when we are really interested in a subject. Pick what you are good at and go for it. You see from all of the principles outlined that we can all lead in certain areas, but it takes a special person to direct an organization and bring the sum of all of those parts together. That is the reason we are having a problem with government at all levels. It will take very special and dedicated individuals to bring us out of the malaise we are in

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Let's Add this up - $1.979 trillion and counting (Initially $1.439 trillion)

AIG (American International Group) - Insurance - $85 billion bailout or

Automotive Industry - $25 billion loan guarantee

Bear Stearns forced sale to JP Morgan - Chase - $29 billion guarantee
Fed will fund the remaining $29 billion on a non-recourse basis to JPMorgan Chase.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac - $200 billion in preferred stock
"But the eventual cost to the public purse is unknown and potentially huge. The Treasury says it could buy as much as $100 billion of preferred stock in each of the two firms, though it deems that highly unlikely." or

Financial Securities and Derivatives Bailout - $800 billion (bailout + Tax Incentives)
The tax provisions added more than $100 billion to the cost of the plan. From the original three-page proposal by the Treasury Department, the bill has swelled to 451 pages.,0,1307485.story

The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 - $300 billion (Congressional enactment)
(Pub.L. 110-289, 122 Stat. 2654) designed primarily to address the subprime mortgage crisis, was passed by the United States Congress on July 24, 2008

Fed to Provide Up to $540 Billion to Aid Money Funds - added on 10/21/2008 - loans to help relieve pressure on money-market mutual funds beset by redemptions.
The Cover Up and Encouragement of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Scam that caused our current National Economic Crisis (15+ minutes)