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Saturday, January 31, 2009
What this city, county, and the rest of the metro are going to have to understand is that no one is coming to our rescue. We will succeed or fail on our own and that is a good thing. We have been disenfranchised by Washington and Raleigh. It is us against the World and frankly I like it that way.
MSNBC shows no C.R.A.P. money targeted to the Hickory Metro Area
C.R.A.P. plan discussed "at a Glance" by the Detroit Free Press
President Obama pushes C.R.A.P. and another Tax Cheat
Easy Money discussed by the Wall Street Journal
Here is what Glenn Beck has to say about President Obama's C.R.A.P. proposal.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Thursday, January 29, 2009
I have a little trouble understanding the jargon, but after looking up some of the keywords, I can see that he is pretty much spot on in his assessment. As we have stated here many times on this blog, you can't drive a car by looking in the rear view mirror. You must look forward, through the windshield, or you are bound to crash. In my opinion, our community has crashed, because of nostalgia, complacency, and stubbornness. These are three characteristics of people who live in the past.
There have been too many people in our local leadership positions that have been insulated from the financial problems that many of our citizens have experienced. That is the reason why people will tell you, "That's the way it's always been," when you point to deficiencies in our local area. To me, that is just an unacceptable response. I'm sorry, I am old enough to know better. Whole sections of this city have not always been blighted and it is immoral to ignore the plight of the least of us.
I think that Mr. Hearn is looking to do what has needed to be done in this area for years. We have to change the negative, "Can't Do" culture that has permeated through this community. I like what he says in his last paragraph of this article, "Please join us as we create a new system of values, concepts, capacities, strategies, attitudes, and behaviors..." Those are the words I have longed to hear and he is asking us to join together to do this.
What I think needs to be understood is the jargon Mr. Hearn has laid out in this article. We all understand what trends are. It is the general direction in which something tends to move. The concept that I had trouble understanding is "Weak Signals." To be honest, I have never heard of this term before.
In looking it up, Weak Signal Theory defines the ability to recognize and act upon subtle changes in conditions (such as markets) that may lead to extreme changes that can create barriers to growth. Weak Signal Theory espouses the Reduction of Noise (clutter) around projects, by not enabling Band-Aids (Temporary Fixes) to be placed on those projects to facilitate completion. Those Band-Aids mask "Weak Signals" that can lead to disastrous results. Another important "Weak Signal" problem solving issue is "Sense Making." Sense Making takes into account historical data, and using the patterns of that data, to theorize logical conclusions. By learning from past patterns of anecdotal evidence, we cut through problematic noise and get right at the heart of solving problems.
Next, Mr. Hearn went into the need for development of Transformative Leadership Skills. I agree with what he states here about Transformative Leadership Characteristics, but I have questions about "Characteristic 1," The ability to think systematically. I understand the need to have a plan as long as it does not espouse uniformity. In my opinion, uniformity kills innovation.
I agree completely with what Mr. Hearn states about the differences between Transformative Leaders and Traditional Leaders. Harry Hipps says it best, "Almost everyone wants a position and title but who wants to find, promote and evaluate initiatives that may carry some risk and may even fail." Transformative Leaders do not worry about failure. They learn from it!!!
Here I go being honest again, but in my humble opinion, this is where our educational system has failed us. It has turned the masses into a bunch of memorizing, copycat, follow the leader, cheating, grade earners. I was a failure in my formative education and I know why. Formal education isn't about obtaining knowledge, it's about being a good little robot and obtaining a letter of the alphabet (grade) that labels you. I have never accepted labels. Now that we are in changing times, all of the good little robots are running around, freaking out, babbling, "Does not compute, Does not compute, Does not compute," because they cannot think outside of the box.
I am reminded of something a local citizen said about the proposed Cloninger Mill Park. He said, "In 100 years, people will look back and ask why anyone attached a piece of commercial property to this land?" Personally I am not arrogant enough to look that far forward, but I can look back to the changes we have seen since 1909. We have seen 18 Presidents, America has fought in six major wars including 2 World Wars, 14 recessions have occurred including a Great Depression, there was still a Czar in Russia, and it was the first year the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was opened -- for automobile testing.
We must embrace change and relish it. My grandmother will be 95 years old in July. She gives me perspective. She has seen all of this transformation from an economy based on agriculture and sweatshops to where we are today. For all of the simplicity that life had to offer back then, there were still problems. We don't have to deal with Polio, billowing smokestacks, no indoor plumbing, or lack of electricity. We have the whole world at our feet.
We must carry forward with progress so that we may leave a lasting legacy to our descendants, as has been left to us. With all we have been given, we have the responsibility to not let what we have inherited wither. It is our obligation to enhance this area economically, culturally, educationally, spiritually, and environmentally for all our citizens; now and in the future.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
I still believe every word that I wrote in that letter to this day. 18 months later, we are still nowhere near righting the wrongs that were discussed. The hangover from the fiber-optic, furniture, and textile busts are obviously still haunting our community. The standard of living is getting worse in our community and we are enduring the brunt of the current recession, because we have not addressed the serious, underlying issues that we have faced during this decade. Eighteen months later, how much of a difference has that All-American City designation made?
Was I wrong? After the article, I heard certain people say that the All-American City designation was going to entice businesses to come to our area. Since that initial article, we have continued our downward slide losing nearly 10,000 jobs in the Unifour area and nearly 4,000 jobs in Catawba County. I know that I am beating a dead horse. My Grandmother calls me a gadfly, but I have only posed these questions to wake people up to the fact that the status quo was and is unacceptable.
I wrote a follow-up article to the HDR that was never published, but I believe that it was just as important as the first article. I believe it was never published, because the HDR was given some heat, because of the first article. The following week (7/22/2007) we were blessed with an article telling us how Hickory's job picture was on the upswing and Commscope was rehiring all of these new workers. How's that working out now?
1) Our area has been inundated by Temporary Work Agencies over the last decade. Whether you feel these enterprises are building blocks of community development or not, it is a fact that they enable corporations to not pay full scale wages and benefits to the workforce. Over the last few years, many people went back to the companies they were originally working for and worked as temps through companies such as Adecco and Manpower. Many of these people worked (or have worked) for over a year without receiving full-time status. Should our Economic Development Leaders be prostituting our citizens like this, when they are supposed to be the representatives of those citizens' interests? What kind of security has that brought people?
2) We have seen city leaders devote themselves to issues that did not enhance the public's interest. These social issues took away their focus from the most important issue that our city has faced over the last 8 years. That issue is Jobs.
We are losing many of our best and brightest young people in this area, because of the lack of opportunity. I have seen it first hand. My cousins Jessica and Stephan Moore have told me if there was opportunity in this community, then they would be here. They are both Dean's List students. Jessica just graduated from NC State and Stephan graduated last year from UTI and is working in Memphis, Tennessee. I can name countless people under 30 years old that are no longer here, because of the lack of opportunity. What does this say about the longterm viability of our community?
It is no secret that we have seen a major influx of retirees, in this area, over this past decade. Right now, I feel that we have assimilated these people well; but as we see our city's younger demographic dwindle and the older demographic expand, we are going to see a tight squeeze on our local area's governmental budgets. The elderly are on fixed incomes. No matter how much money they have in the bank, they always must think about the possibility of catastrophic health care issues. While the elderly consume a disproportionate amount of public services, they don't stimulate the private economy by purchasing commercial goods and services at the rate that younger generations do.
We cannot afford to turn this area into a retirement village. We must create opportunities for younger generations so that we can level the demographic anomaly that we could soon be facing. Look at the issues that South Florida is facing because of the current Real Estate Crisis. Much of this is due to the fact that the demographics in that region are out of kilter. With so many 30 year olds and younger moving away from our area and more and more retirees moving in, we are seeing the shrinkage of a viable housing market. We could soon find ourselves in a similar situation as that of South Florida.
What would happen to our housing market if the 65+ age bracket becomes 25%+ of our population by 2025? Who are the elderly going to sell their houses to, if the best and brightest young people move away? People working in Fast Food restaurants and Retail Stores have a hard time when it comes to housing affordability. Many Retirees use the appraisal value of their home for reverse mortgages to subsidize their retirement. The value of their houses are going to fall if we don't have a robust and viable local economy. The consequence will be less money to live on in their golden years.
You can see the perilous situation that our community now finds itself in. Our Economic Decision Makers have not made good long-term decisions. Certain leaders have pushed this notion of bringing in more geriatric care centers and marketing our community to retirees. That might be alright as part of a total comprehensive strategy, but folks we cannot afford for that to be "The Strategy."
The strategy has to be jobs. We have been behind the curve for eight years on the jobs issue. We have lost over 28,000 jobs in the Hickory Metro area. Yes, some of that can be laid at the feet of Raleigh and Washington, but our city is far from powerless and we are far from blameless.
The lack of power that we have is a mindset. There has never been any determination to make things any better around here. We have taken for granted that Raleigh and Washington are going to work us over because we are Republicans. I don't buy that, because I have looked at other Republican areas (such as Texas, Utah, and Tennessee) and seen them thrive.
This recession is reshuffling the Economic Deck of Cards in this country and throughout the world. We can stand at Washington's Pork Barrel Trough and beg for some scraps or we can try to get all of the Pork recipients to spend money on Hickory's economy by figuring out what the 21st century market needs. To do this we must begin implementing some sound policies and strategies. People must understand that nostalgia, complacency, and stubborness have caused this city to fall behind.
We must have leadership that is selfless, willing to step outside of the box, willing to take calculated risks, and willing to take the heat for failure. We can't get stuck in a losing effort, because of pride. If it's obvious that Plan A isn't working, then it is time to move on to the next strategy. By doing this, we will eventually find success. We must have decision makers that don't live in denial and don't have issues about accountability. The citizens need, and deserve, to know the direction this city is headed in. Apathy is grown from the seeds of disenfranchisement. We need more participation. Our city will not suffer if we fail. Our city will suffer if we do not try.
May God Bless Us
Sunday, January 25, 2009
You can read the article yourself to get a full understanding, but a few points are: 1) The only present Amtrak route to Atlanta leaves Charlotte at 2:45 a.m and arrives 5.5 hours later. 2) The top speed for the Charlotte-Atlanta route today is 79 mph, but the average speed is much lower, making the train noncompetitive -- a car trip takes 4 hours (1.5 hours less than by train).
Regional authorities want to update this route. They are currently only in planning stages, but the proposed goal is to get a route that averages 90 mph and would take between 3 hours, 31 minutes and 3 hours, 51 minutes to travel from Charlotte to Atlanta.
One of my visions of Hickory is to move back toward passenger rail service. I remember my grandfather (Leroy Shell) taking me when I was 9 years old in 1975 to see the last passenger train pass through Hickory. He used to work at the Hickory Railroad Station, the now rotting building, as a switch operator in the late 1940s up until around 1960. I never understood how big of a deal it was to lose that service at that time, but today I do.
I have seen the way that Charlotte's light rail system has taken off. Granted, it was doing much better over last summer when gas surpassed the $4 barrier. But, we all know that the price of gas will once again rise to those levels in the future; since global demand will not go away, we aren't moving towards increasing production, future alternatives are going to take time to come to fruition, and various other consequential factors.
I would like to see our regional transportation authority move toward creating a light rail line to Charlotte from the Hickory area. We all realize that this will not happen overnight, but I would like to see a study established on the basis of a 20 year plan. Hickory would be the hub of regional operations of this Western-Central North Carolina Light Rail Operation.
There have been other studies done before that haven't quite gotten off of the ground, such as the Report on Western North Carolina Rail Operations and Station Right-of-Way Acquisition released in 2002. I don't diminish the merits of this proposal at all. This plan is more Commercial in nature. A Light Rail plan would help Hickory embrace and develop its geographical relationship with Charlotte. I believe that these two plans can be integrated in some way.
The reintegration of webs of Light Rail Service connected to Commercial Rail Service would move us away from the automobile and towards fully integrated public transportation. Yes, this would take away individual independence as far as the relationship between transportation and time, but it will also take away individual responsibility. You won't have to control your own travel. You will just hop on that Light Rail Service that will take you to the Major hub in Charlotte and from there you will be able to travel pretty much anywhere in Continental America.
I have often dreamed about a day when I could drive (or ride a bus) to the local rail station, hop on a train, sit and relax, and ride to Wilmington. A few stops or a changeover doesn't change my desire for this day to be realized.
I know that this is just a dream at this point, but fruit bearing projects do begin with a dream. Is this project realistic and attainable? Most certainly. Most of the rail lines already exist. A few new connectors will need to be developed. Maybe instead of laying down more asphalt, the state and federal governments could see the worthiness of laying some rails instead.
The key is that this would be an excellent investment. As Charlotte's Metropolitan boundaries expand, they move closer and closer to Hickory's Metropolitan boundaries. Charlotte's larger population base is naturally going to wield more and more influence in this region. We cannot and should not shrink from that influence. We should take advantage of that influence and use it towards Hickory's benefit and enhancement.
The local governmental leaders and citizen's of our area are going to have to start looking towards this area as a region instead of as a collection of medium and small sized city's. We wield much more influence in Raleigh and in Washington when we point to the fact that we are from a metropolitan area that has a population of 400,000 people; instead of talking about Hickory's 40,000, Morganton's 17,000, Newton's 13,000, Lenoir's 18,000, or Conover's 7,000. Regional focus has accomplished a few goals, such as bringing attention toward the Water Transfer Issue. We must start coordinating our efforts more thoroughly when we head to the Capitals looking for capital.
The citizens of this area are going to have to understand that low taxes does not equal zero taxes. I am a conservative, but when I see the opportunity to make a fruitful investment, I am going to go for it. When benefits outweigh the risk of costs, then it is our obligation as a community to move forward toward such investments. Cheap begets Cheap. Our standard of living in this area has fallen behind, because of a lack of investment in this community. We cannot afford to let our community age and crumble. We must make investments toward growth or there will be none. It is our responsibilty and it is our obligation to move forward to the future.
There are other projects in this area that also deem worthiness. The Brownfield Projects come to mind. Besides taxes, there are other ways to raise these investment dollars. Local community bonds, styled after Liberty Bonds, could be sold to local citizens. Paying a little higher rate of interest on bonds issued locally might instill a sense of pride. It might also help garner more support and interest for these infrastructure projects.
I do not pretend to have all of the answers. I am sure that most of you can find some issues to play Devil's advocate about when it comes to these statements I have made here. I know something needs to be done to move this city forward. I feel that this belief that I have "that Light Rail to Charlotte would be an excellent investment" moves this community forward in a positive direction and it meets all of the Criteria and Objectives of the Hickory Hound.
I can understand everyone worrying about the burdens of today, but we cannot afford to become so wrapped up in the misery of today that we throw away the promise of tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
- Something that logically or naturally follows from an action or condition. See Synonyms at effect.
- The relation of a result to its cause.
- A logical conclusion or inference.
Now we live in a world built upon materialism. A world where might makes right, a world where no one stands up for righteousness, a world where righteousness and justice are looked upon as relative terms, and no person wants to be judged or held accountable.
This world of excuses and justification has led us to the precarious ledge that we now stand upon. Let's open our minds by looking at a few current events through the prism of the good and noble values that we should represent.
Bernard Lawrence (Bernie) Madoff is charged with running a Ponzi scheme that may have cost investors over $50 billion. People were impressed by the way this man carried himself and the lavish lifestyle that he led (and is still leading). He has already broken and flaunted the rules of his bail. He is still out on bond. Why?
Timothy Franz Geithner is President Obama's nominee for Secretary of the Treasury. It is a fact that he did not pay taxes owed and his excuses for doing so are less than believable. He also had employed an immigrant housekeeper who briefly lacked proper work papers. Finally, Geithner was at the table with Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson when the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP fund) was created. He has said that the plan, which he helped create that has sent $350 billion out the window, isn't working and needs to be fixed. In my book, this guy has struck out. Can we afford for this man to be placed in charge of the world's largest cookie jar?
Outcomes are based upon logic. Doing the right things in life leads to positive consequences and doing the wrong things in life lead to negative consequences. If we put people in positions of power that we cannot trust, then we will surely pay the price when they follow their pattern of deeds. We cannot have viable commerce if we don't have trust naturally built into our Capitalist economic system.
Many economists are saying that our banks are insolvent, while politicians keep denying there is a systemic problem. They keep throwing more and more money towards these institutions without stopping to reassess the situation or demand accountabilty. Tell me what does empirical evidence make you think?
Capitalism has unjustly been put on trial. The problem is not Capitalism, it is Hedo-Economics. The people who have a Fiduciary responsibility to act in others best interest have not done so. We have seen political and business leaders act only towards their own material self-interests. This greed and subsequent poor judgment has led to the Recessionary consequences that we are enduring today. Yet, the perpetrators of misdeed are still in charge. Does that make sense?
We must learn from history. We are not going to solve the problems of our broken economy unless we demand positive values from our leaders! There must be transparency in the actions of people in power. When people break the law, no matter who they are, they must be held accountable. If they aren't, then we will continue to suffer. The laws of Common Sense are always in play and so are Consequences.
At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government 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 1/20/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.
Invocation by Alderman Danny Seaver
Approval of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs -Funds are budgeted for these items through the City of Hickory’s Community Development Block Grant funding received in FY 2008. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval
**The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan Program:
Chang Chang & Pa Xiong Chang 3263 Treadwell Lane, Hickory Approved for up to $10,000 (Blue Sky Court)
Nena Lachella Freeman 3269 Treadwell Lane, Hickory Approved for up to $5,000 (Blue Sky Court)
**The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program:
Crawford Ellis 212 4th Ave SW. Previously awarded $20,000. Cost of project Approval to increase loan to $22,721
Harold & Alice Wilfong 318 3rd Ave Dr SE Previously awarded $6,786.32. Present loan amount is $4,017.47. Approval to increase loan to $9,017.47 (additional $5,000.00 for a new roof).
Award Contract to Camp, Dresser, & McKee, Inc. for a Sludge Composting Facility Evaluation at the Regional Sludge Composting Facility in the Amount of $20,000. Approve Contract with Embarq for Relocation of Telephone Cable for Clement Boulevard Connector Project in the Amount of $112,329.54. Request by Catawba Science Center Guild for Donation of City Skybox for One Hickory Crawdads Game, Along With Ten Passes, to be Auctioned at the Catawba Science Center’s Annual Italian Dinner and Auction to be Held on March 28, 2009.
Budget Ordinance Amendments -Appropriate $276 from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officer’s time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients. Transfer $1,428 from the General Fund for the City of Hickory's payment to Catawba County for participating in a Developer Satisfaction Survey. Budget $11,000 from Catawba County in the Public Utilities budget for the materials purchased to extend approximately 1,020 LF of waterline along Frye Ave. Appropriate $20,000 of Water and Sewer Fund Balance to the Sludge Composting Facility. Appropriate & Transfer $1,983,452 of General Fund to the Clement Boulevard Capital Project (City Council Meeting 09-02-08). Appropriate $462,768 from the General Fund and transfer to the Stormwater Fund . Appropriate & Transfer $76,850 of Capital Reserve-Parking Fund to the General Fund-Traffic Professional Services line item. This appropriation is needed to pay Frazier Associates $73,850 for designing and planning a coordinated Wayfinding sign system and Graphic Brand for the City of Hickory.Miscellaneous expenses for incidentals will be budgeted at $3,000 for the duration of the project. The design phase of this project is anticipated to take 7-8 months with a cap of 12 months beginning in February 2009.
New Business - Public Hearings
Approve Submittal of Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grant Application to the North Carolina Department of Community Assistance - The application will be submitted in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the City’s Community Development Department focusing on local governments facing problems related to housing foreclosure and abandonment. Revitalization of the 8th Avenue Drive, SW area will be the main focus. The U.S., Department of Housing and Urban Development has made funds available under Title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. The City is eligible to apply for $2 million to $5 million. These funds can be used to acquire land and property, demolish or rehabilitate abandoned properties, provide down payment and closing cost assistance to low to moderate income homebuyers and create land banks. Catawba County has been identified as one of twelve counties across the state with the highest rate of foreclosures. The grant application guidelines state that applicants must target areas of high poverty, which would be southeast and southwest Hickory. The City of Hickory submitted a letter of intent to apply for the funds in November 2008.
The Hound has Confidence when he sees that Todd Hefner and the Habitat for Humanity have come up with a plan. It is good to see the positive scale that was drawn up in this situation. The Budget for this project is $3.863 million. The Habitat is looking for a Multi-Use property where the Hickory Motel is located with office spaces and possibly retail stores.
Something has needed to be done about the negative decline that has been going on in that area for 20 years. Mr. Hefner said that this plan included the possibility of 12 houses and a new headquarters for the Habitat for Humanity. Mrs. Fox spoke about the issues of that area including the old Kroger shopping center down to the Sky City area.
Let's up the property values in this area and maybe the slumlords will decide that it is best to sell. I know that Mr. Agapian had to be bought out of blighted properties in Greensboro. The Mayor stated that he believes that the City always gets a really good "Bang for the Buck" when the Habitat for Humanity is involved. I believe most of us support that statement.
New Business - Departmental Reports
1. Approve Contract With Frazier Associates for Professional Services for the Wayfinding and Branding Project not to Exceed $73,850.00 - This contract for professional services is to provide assistance in designing and planning a coordinated wayfinding sign system and graphic brand for the City of Hickory. Wayfinding was discussed during the February 2008 City Council Planning Retreat and a Request for Proposals (RFP) was presented to Council at the October 7, 2008 City Council meeting whereby Council directed staff to move forward with firm selection. Frazier Associates is a full-service architecture and planning firm based in Staunton, VA and has expertise in community wayfinding signage and branding. The project is estimated to take seven to eight months with a cap of twelve months beginning in February 2009. The contract is based upon services outlined in the RFP using the means and methods outlined in the Consultant’s proposal. The consultant will work closely with staff to organize and work with a community stakeholder group as well as conduct interviews with other community stakeholders. The project will be paid for from the City parking fund.
Mr. Lail believes that this idea is excellent, but he had questions about the cost of the contract with Frazier and he also wondered aloud about the possibilities of finding a local firm to do this. Ms. Hoyle had questions about the timing of this expenditure during these uncertain economic times. Mr. Meisner asked if there was any way to pare this plan down. The Mayor, Mrs. Fox, and Mrs. Patton seemed to feel that it was time to move forward on this issue, because of aesthetics, mapping, and long-range planning. The deciding vote was 4-3 with the Mayor, Fox, Patton, and Seaver For and Lail, Hoyle, and Meisner against.
The Hounds Take: I am 50-50 on this issue at the current time. I think that this needs to be done, but wonder about the timing during current circumstances. I can understand where both sides are coming from. It is hard to justify an expenditure, like this, at this point in time; but we really do need to work on the "Brand Identity" of this town. Go ahead and get this study done so that we can have a system and then we need to incrementally put it in place.
The major expense is going to be sign implementation. I also wondered, like Brad, whether it was smart to move ahead when the issue of Hickory by Choice is being readdressed by Studio Cascade during the same time frame. But, as Harry Hipps pointed out to me, "This stage is about art. It is about creating a logo. Studio Cascade's plan will come into play during the implementation phase when the signs are actually being placed. That has nothing to do with what the signs look like."
2. Quarterly Financial Report - Warren Wood went over the numbers. The City has $49.2 milion invested. Interest on investments is down significantly, but revenues from investments should come pretty close to projections. The Budget is $3.6 million "to the good."
Retail sales strength shows a 20% increase in Sales Tax from year-to-year (for the first 5 months of the fiscal year), but Novembers numbers were down. He believes numbers show our retail numbers have been excellent compared to the state. Hotel/Motel occupancy shows a decline and soft market. Mick Berry stated that we have been exceeding projections on events and event revenue so far this year. Going forward through this year it will be hard to project.
Mr. Wood showed residential property building is down. Commercial building is down around 40%. 2011-2012, the city will have to look at Property Tax re-evaluation. Mr Wood stated that the unemployment in the Hickory area is 7.9%, the same as the state's number, and lower than the Metro area number of 10.2%. He is wary that the state may come looking for money from the City of Hickory.
The Hound Can See that the city is doing a good job in keeping up with finances. It has to be hard keeping a good grasp on projections in this recessionary economic environment. One has to commend our city for doing an excellent job of conservative financing during these trying economic times.
I disagree with the "City Proper" Unemployment numbers. First, there is no true way to calculate that number since people in the city, work outside of the city and people outside of the city, work in the city. Please define these parameters. Second, that would mean that we would have to be around 2.5% better than the rest of Catawba County's rate, since the rate for the whole county is 9.7%. This city accounts for more than 25% of the county's population. As you can see that "Hickory Proper" guesstimate is a bit dubious to say the least. I truly believe that our city officials are out of touch on this issue. Maybe that's an Ego issue, but it is certainly nothing to brush off or make light about.
3. Approval of the 2009 Legislative Agenda for the City of Hickory - Request for consideration and support of State and Federal Legislative issues as outlined in the proposed 2009 Legislative Agenda for the City of Hickory. The Agenda explains how the City views potential legislation or initiatives to change current laws and also provides a listing of projects that the City is seeking additional funding for with the help of members of our delegation.
Ms. Surratt addressed the issues on the table: Which are three water and sewer projects, including the NorthEast water treatment facility; The Grace Chapel Extension: a Water pump issue; Meter Reading Radio System; Clement Center Blvd Extension; Solid Waste Management; Elevated storage off of Cloninger Mill Rd.; New Urban Traffic Signal System and Software. Unanimous Approval
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Mack McLeod of Parks and Recreation and Derek Williams and Jeff Ashbaugh of Site Solutions were once again present at this meeting. Mr. McLeod opened the meeting giving a topical overview of what had been laid out at the last meeting before handing the podium over to Mr. Williams.
Mr. Williams explained that there were 2 concepts. Both concepts value the trees on the 63 1/2 acre property. He stated that these trees are a true resource and provide a natural habitat for the wildlife in the area. Both plans tried to take advantage of the available sewer and electricity.
The trails for the Park will have to accommodate the natural stream and low lying area that run through the center of the property. The Hydrological features are part of the beauty of the property, but they represent flags to stay out of that area. There can be pedestrian bridges built as part of the trails. The creek naturally divides the site into an eastern and western area.
As far as the issues raised at the last meeting, they were addressed by Mr. Williams. Security will be handled by police patrols. The Police will drive through the parking lots and they will do bike patrols on the trails if there are signs that illegal activity may be taking place. A Park watch (such as a Neighborhood watch) may be formed. Site Solutions wants to maintain a natural buffer between the Park and Residential Developments in the area. Playgrounds, Parking Lots, and Picnic areas will be a 275 feet minimum from any residences. Trails will be 100 to 200 feet away from any residences. As far as the issue of Traffic Lights on Cloninger Mill Road, the Department of Transportation does not require one. The cost of one will be $140,000, which includes a $20,000 assessment from the NCDOT and $120,000 for the light itself.
Jeff Ashbaugh addressed the group next. He further went over the passive nature of the designs and what activities the park will probably encompass. It looks like the Park will include a Walking Trail on the East side of the Property, a Mountain Bike Trail on the west side of the property, 2 picnic areas consisting of 6 tables at each site, Exercise Stations, boardwalks, frisbee golf, and a scenic overlook at the north of the property viewing Lake Hickory.
The parking area on the west side of the property is pretty much settled on as being off of Cloninger Mill road, near the set aside commercial property. The issue comes with the east side parking access which will either be off of 43rd avenue or 9th street.
Here is the Picture as I remember the schematics: Cloninger Mill Park Pic
Many of the Neighborhood Residents don't want any parking access on the East side of the property. I would say that 75% of them made that clear, but the majority of those would accept the 9th street location if they had to make a decision. Many didn't care about the parking on the east side, but they would like to see the issue of more parking at the commercial site addressed. The vocal group, included one man with a British accent who repeated himself at least six times about the nature of the roads and the fact that people that don't live in that neighborhood would have a tough time navigating the roads.
A few people harped and bemoaned the fact that there will be a piece of commercial property attached to the land. This group included The City's Resident Curmudgeon Steve Ivester and his wife. They believe that there should be no commercial property attached to the land. As he put it, "In 100 years people will look back and ask why anyone attached a piece of commercial property to this land?"
The Hound can sympathize to a certain degree with the people that live in this neighborhood. Yes, it is going to change their neighborhoods to a certain degree, but I believe that it will be good change.
Please don't put your stock in with Steve Ivestor. He is against everything and doesn't care whether it is good for your neighborhood or not. He is against any and all progress. This park will increase the value of your homes. It will increase the security of your neighborhood. It will give you a place to walk your dog. It will give your children a safe place to play. It will help your health by giving you a place to exercise. It will turn a roughshod piece of land into a safe, well developed, scenic asset to your neighborhood. It will give you a true since of community.
For that gift to your neighborhood, all you have to do is accept that there will be a commercial piece of property on the opposite side of the property. That land, when it is sold, will be worth a few million dollars. That money will go to help develop this property and, as Mr. McLeod stated, another park in Hickory.
You should also allow parking spaces on the East end. Let's get real, the road isn't the obstacle course the British man made it out to be and your children are most likely not going to be playing in the streets any longer, if there is park access now available. The city will also accommodate your needs as far as traffic calming measures go, if the east access is allowed.
If you have speeders in that area now, then it isn't because of outsiders. It is because people in your area are racing up and down the roads. It sounds more like the naysayers don't want to have the intrusion down 9th st, because they don't want to slow down. That is truly sad.
The bottom line is that it sounds like you want the city to build a park where only your neighborhood gets access from the east side. You want city taxpayers to foot the whole bill for the park, because that is what would be necessary if the commercial property can't be sold. That isn't fair to city taxpayers, because the whole city will be expected to pay for this park, the park belongs to all of the people of Hickory, and you want access limited to the very people that the park belongs to. That just sounds very selfish to me and that "not in my backyard" mentality is what has our local economy on the verge of a full-fledged depression.
Check out this interesting article from HickoryHumans about a possible expansion at CVCC to accommodate a Center for Emerging Manufacturing Solutions (HickoryHumans article).
If focused properly, I truly believe that this will be an excellent investment for our community. Along with the engineering center we may see some real progress toward innovation being made in this area.
To the right, under the main information links, I have created a new link to New Science Magazine (newscientist.com). I think there are a lot of interesting articles and ideas in this magazine that are at the forefront of the future. This community is going to have to start thinking outside of the box and move toward new technologies, if we are ever going to get back ahead of the economic curve.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Workforce Stats in Excel Format:
(Published in the Hickory Daily Record on January 10, 2009)
The employment situation in our area is bad and getting worse. We know about the financial crisis, and sadly many working people will suffer from years of poor management by government and business leaders.
As a citizen who tries to be responsible, I have communicated with national and local leaders about economic and regulatory issues, but I think we also have to look honestly at ourselves and what we can do to make our local situation better.
First, we need to watch our personal debt. The average household now has $9,000 in short-term debt, and this is a weight around our families' necks. If you still have your job, paying down debt would be a great investment.
Second, we should try to give a little more to our churches and civic organizations that help people who need it. The need will grow, and we need to step up our help to our neighbors.
Third, we need to think about our schools' drop-out rates and education in general.
When our economic development and government leaders pitch our area to businesses that may be interested in locating here, the quality of our workforce is a big issue. In the short term, if you are unemployed it may not be your top priority, but in the long haul it's crucial that we try to upgrade education and vocational training.
Let's pray that this recession will end soon.Harry Hipps
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Since this is the second call center that will locate here and there haven't been many other companies coming here (except for the often touted MDI and Target) I would like to make a couple of observations:
First, we need to rejoice for the good news and double down on efforts to attract more. We still have a lot of ground to make up both in terms of the number of jobs and the pay scales. In the whole Unifour area, since the furniture and textile bust, we have lost around 24000 jobs. Many of these jobs paid $15 to $18 dollars an hour. The jobs at the call center will pay pretty well but certainly not what we lost. We have to get what we can but at some point we need to land industries that pay the fat checks .
Secondly, while the call centers are good news it does not create a "Hickory Brand". And we don't want to be the Bangalore, India of the US (should we call ourselves Hickolore or Bangalickory?) In the former economy, we were known internationally for furniture and textiles. This was our "brand name" if you will. Now, I am all in favor of a diversified economic base but we need a focus for Hickory. What will we be known for? The county has made some strides in biodiesel. Charlotte is trying to lure energy companies such as solar panel manufacturers and nuclear plant technology. Kannapolis has the biotech operations that David Murdock is creating. And Hickory will have ????????????
Double-H Believes : Hickory is a center of retail sales (drawing from a 6 county area) and we have a vibrant restaurant scene. If people are coming to shop and eat, why do we not have more entertainment businesses?
Manufacturing is not dead. Burke county has attracted a specialty battery company, there are medical devices, medical textiles, military textiles that camouflage soldiers, etc. We need to get industry leaders and partner with them to get ahead of the curve on some of these and locate them here to use the talent base and assets we have here to build our brand. The call center is good news. Now let's get some momentum.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government 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 1/6/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.
Invocation by Rev. Bill Garrard of St. Luke's United Methodist Church
Presentation of the Stormwater Advisory Committee’s Final Report - The SWAC met over a 12 month period, from 12/2007 to 12/2008, to look at the future needs, potential levels of service for the stormwater program, funding methods, and the regulatory requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Phase II program, that the City of Hickory is required to meet. In the final meeting, SWAC agreed with the proposed implementation plan of the committee’s Final Report.
The Hounds Take: I agree with the premise of taking care of run-off. Look at South Charlotte and the flatter regions of this state such as Raleigh and Wilmington. When it pours rain, we see the problems with these areas that don't have the proper infrastructure to support the flow of water over concrete and asphalt.
The last few years should have taught us that we must manage our water resources wisely. As the population continues to grow toward 60,000 people, in Hickory Proper in the next 20 years, we are going to have to become more efficient in our water usage.
Why not take advantage of this runoff? This water can be collected using man-made ponds, cisterns, and rain barrels. This greywater (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greywater) isn't potable, but with a little treatment it is suitable for use in irrigation and landscaping. The Europeans even use it to flush their toilets.
The Bottom line, as I have said, is that as the population continues to grow, we are going to have to become more efficient in the usage of water and we are going to have to manage the resource better. It would be much better to harness it at the source, than to let it run for miles and miles and miles unimpeded.
Social Items - Petition from Timothy D. and Teresa P. Lail to Close a Portion of Riverside Drive Extension. Proclamation Declaring 12/14/2008 as “Bill Gibbs Day” in the City of Hickory for his 90th Birthday. Transfer Cemetery Lot From Harold Dean Travis and wife, Mary H. Travis to Robert W. Conley and wife, Charlotte, M. Conley in the Fairview Cemetery. Request From Hickory International Council for Use of Union Square for the 2009 International Spring Fest Event on Saturday 5/9/2009 from 7am to 8pm.
Approve Resolution of Support for the Carolina Thread Trail and Participation in Feasibility Study and Appointment of the City’s Steering Committee Representative.
Approve Resolution Terminating the Temporary Moratorium Placed on Development
Approvals For All Drinking Establishments, Discotheques, Nightclubs and Bars
set October 7, 2008.
Amendments to Traffic Ordinances
1) Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 31st Avenue, NE and to Include 17th Street Lane, NE, 30th Avenue Court, NE, 31st Avenue Lane, NE, 30th Avenue Drive, NE, 17th Street Court, NE, 30th Avenue Place, NE, 18th Street, NE, 31st Avenue Drive, NE Serving Lawson’s Creek Subdivision as Indicated in the Ordinance.
2) Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 21st Avenue, NW From the Intersection With North Center Street West Approximately 3,800 Feet to the Intersection With 8th Street Drive, NW and 21st Avenue Drive, NW From the Intersection With 21st Avenue, NW North Approximately 1,100 Feet to the Dead End
3) Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 5th Street, NW From the Intersection With 4th Avenue, NW North Approximately 1,500 Feet to the Intersection With 7th Avenue, NW
4) Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 12th Street, NE From a Point 200 Feet South of the Intersection With 18th Avenue, NE, Which is the Entrance to Huntington Woods Townhouses North Approximately 1,900 Feet to the Intersection With 21st Avenue, NE, 12th Street Place, NE From the Intersection With 12th Street, NE North Approximately 550 Feet to the Dead End, 18th Avenue, NE From the Intersection With 12th Street, NE East and West Approximately 1,030 Feet and 650 Feet Respectively to the Dead End
Budget Ordinance Amendments
Appropriate $687 of Local Government Revenue and budget in the Police Department Overtime line item. Transfer $4,200 of General Fund Contingency to the Western Piedmont Council of Government line item. to assist citizens in the surrounding counties with foreclosure counseling. Transfer $1,736 of General Fund Balance to the Brownfield Grant Project. Decrease General Fund Appropriated by $1,478 and increase the Fire Department Miscellaneous Restricted Government revenue by $1,478.
Transfer $2,897 from the General Fund to the Planning Department’s Demolitions Contracted Services. Budget $160 of Library donations to purchase a memorial book for Herman Carpenter ($25), an honor book for James R. Stephenson ($35), and a ($100) gift for large print books. Budget a $2,000 Library donation from the North Carolina Community Foundation, Inc. to the 2009 Big Read Program.
Transfer $2,000 from the General Fund to Parks and Recreation to pay the City of Hickory's portion of a feasibility study of the Carolina Thread Trail project. Transfer $865 from the General Fund Contingency to Planning and Development Departmental Supplies for printing and binders needed to make the notebooks for the Hickory By Choice and Land Development Code group.
Report of Alderwoman Hoyle’s Travel to Orlando, FL from 11/10-16/2008 to
attend the NLC - 2008 Congress of Cities & Exposition – hotel - $1,468.98; airfare -
$369.50; registration - $1,010.00; per diem - $281.75; mileage - $60.84; taxi cab/shuttle -
$47.00 – Alderwoman Hoyle reimbursed the City $22.34 for parking
New Business - Public Hearings
1. Rezoning of the Property of Mountain View Baptist Church - 4266 River Road From Catawba County Residential-20 to City of Hickory Residential-2 - This 5.52 acre property is located at 4266 River Road and is located in Ward 4. The property was recently annexed into the City limits to enable the existing church to connect to the City’s water and sewer system. Churches are permitted uses in all residential districts. Unanimously Approved.
2. Rezoning of Property Located at 3617 Section House Road From Catawba County R-20 Residential to City of Hickory R-3 Residential - This 20.99 acre property is located at 3617 Section House Road and is located in Ward 3. If rezoned to R-3 Residential, the property could be developed for single and two-family residential structures with a maximum density of 3 units per acre. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 3, 2008 voted unanimously for approval of the requested rezoning. Unanimously Approved.
3. Petition 08-12 – Rezoning of Property Located at 5100 Fleetwood Drive From R-
2 Residential to O&I-1 Office and Institutional - This 5.82 acre property is located at 5100 Fleetwood Drive and is located in Hickory’s extra-territorial jurisdiction. Hickory Fleetwood Properties, LLC plans to redevelop this property as a funeral home. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 3, 2008 voted unanimously in favor of the requested rezoning. Unanimously Approved.
4. Petition 08-17 – Rezoning of Property Located at 2950 Sandy Ford Road From Catawba County R-20 Residential to City of Hickory R-2 Residential - This 1.2 acre property is located at 2950 Sandy Ford Road and is located in Ward 3. The property was recently annexed into the City limits. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on December 3, 2008 voted unanimously for approval of the requested rezoning. Unanimously Approved.
This is the world that we live in today. A world devoted to the pursuit of happiness through unabashed materialism and Greed. A world of demanded immediate gratification. Greed is ok in the world of Hedo-Economics, because it helps one to secure pleasure and happiness.
People are quick to throw capitalism under the bus these days. The socialists claim that capitalism is ruining our lives. That capitalism has led to people's greed and anti-social behavior. I vehemently disagree, all capitalism does is create an economic system that allows individuals to secure private property, which gives them the ultimate control in the decision making process of how best to take care of their property. That creates ambition and gives people the right to self-determination, which creates stronger character.
Capitalism does not espouse any philosophies of lawlessness or anti-social behavior. To the contrary, for a marketplace to be created one needs to have a social network set up with rules and regulations. There have to be guidelines (laws) in order for the marketplace to function properly. Those guidelines have to be administered by a non-partisan body which represents all of the people who have an interest in the marketplace.
That is where the government has evolved. The government is supposed to be a non-partisan entity that allows the social network to function. The people (the social network, marketplace, citizens) are the individuals that should determine the laws. The government's job is to regulate and enforce the will of the people. As governments overstep their role, the marketplace gradually becomes more and more inefficient. Authoritarian governments do not have true marketplaces, but they do end up having black markets.
The Hound Knows that somewhere along the way our system has been derailed. Our system was never and will never be perfect, not because it was created or instituted by man, but rather because it is administered by man. We must not give up on our traditional social system just because it isn't perfect, the alternatives are much worse.
Instead we must castigate and shun the purveyors of Hedo-Economics. Greed is not good!!! Because their is no virtue in greed. It also isn't virtuous to punish everyone, because of what a few people have done to sabotage our way of life. We know the instigators and they must be held accountable. Under any system, if you arbitrarily allow anti-social behavior amongst a given class, then you will surely see that society devolve into chaos.
John Adams stated we are supposed to be "a nation of laws, not men." That means that no one should be above the law. NO ONE!!!
Ask yourself, should we not hold the purveyors of Hedo-Economics accountable? Should we not be held accountable when we personally practice financial Hedonism? Think about it. Parts of the 10 Commandments say that you should not make yourself an Idol, you shall not steal, and you shall not covet. To me these three commandments define Hedo-Economics. These people think they are Gods and they try to justify stealing from others, predominantly because of jealousy and greed.
We have to get back to Common Sense Economics. If you can't afford it, then don't buy it. You need a rainy day fund. You have to set goals and separate out the needs from the wants. Besides your house, your debt should be no more than 10% of your income. We as individuals, or as a social network, cannot consume our way to prosperity. That creates a personal Ponzi Scheme and eventually the bill will come due and your finances will collapse under the weight of the debt you accumulate.
Hounds Summation We as a nation are going to go through some pain. There is no way out of it. We cannot afford to play the finger wagging and pointing blame game. We have got to start a concerted grass roots effort to tell Washington and Raleigh that we are no longer going to sit back and watch them fritter away our future.
It does no good to talk to our own Congressmen and State representatives, when they are following Common Sense principles. We need to start harassing the representatives of other districts and let them know that when the glass house they have built gets shattered, then their actions will leave them as exposed as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. These Emperors have no clothing.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Here is the press release from the Charlotte Observer.
The PR releases will not be able to put any kind of positive spin on this issue that the public will accept. It is time for our leaders to step up to the plate and do something. We cannot build our economy by competing with India for call center jobs. Do we really aspire to be India?
WE HAVE TO MANUFACTURE PRODUCTS TO HAVE A VIABLE ECONOMY!!!
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Can We At Least Admit that last Year didn't live up to expectations. In any 12 step program, the first step to solving a problem is admitting that we have one.
Let's not talk about this being our year. Let's make it our year. There is no time for reflection. This needs to be a year of participation and realization that it is going to take leadership and vision to right our wrong direction.
Don't be afraid to speak your mind and don't be afraid to take sides. We are in a time of change whether we like it or not. There will be no comfort or security, so it is best not to seek it. During times of great change it is best to take bold steps and make decisive decisions. During these times, the timid will be squashed like a bug.
I hope that you will read the two articles below The Hottest Places in Hell & Change the Archaic Law about Public Meeting Notices -- Part 2.
These 2 articles show two important issues that I believe will define The Hound as we head into this new year. None of what I have said in this blog is meant to be antagonistic. My only intentions are to give people information that they just aren't getting anywhere else. If that gets me labelled a troublemaker, then so be it.
I just want Hickory to move forward in a realistically positive direction. If you want to participate, then I am here for you. And I mean that in all sincerity.
P.S. Read Kenneth Haynes solution for downtown that he posted today (12/31/2008) in the Solutions Forum. That is a very intelligent idea.
Thank You and God Bless You this Year
In Harry Hipps earlier article Time to Change the Archaic Law about Public Meeting Notices he espouses his belief that in the internet age we should not be spending money on newspaper ads when cities and towns can communicate directly to their constituents. Newspaper readership is declining and government at all levels have a cost effective way to increase the dialogue and participation with the internet.
It was pointed out to me that the City of Hickory is one of the largest advertising accounts that The Hickory Daily Record has and the city isn't shopping around for competitive rates. Therefore in my opinion, we once again have a situation rife with the appearance, and at least the potential for, conflicts of interest.
It was pointed out by an anonymous poster that they believed that the city is required to publish notices in the publication reaching the largest number in their population. This person believes some shut-ins do not have any real access to the news other than a newspaper delivered daily to their home. As long as there are homebound citizens who do not have internet service and rarely if ever get out of their homes to access it elsewhere, a newspaper delivered to their home is the only means of getting this information.
Harry' rebuttal stated the main issue is better dialogue between government entities and citizens. There is no use to use money to disseminate information that could be sent out virtually free. There is no need to use third party intermediaries when direct communication is available.
Ant A. has a brilliant point that continues this argument in an even more logical direction. Here is what he has to say: "Hipps has a strong case for the internet; moreover, these notices could be added to the City Snippets sent out each month with the water bill alleviating Anon2's concerns about access for those without the internet."
The Hound wants to know: Someone tell me why this can't be done? Between City Snippets that are delivered to everyone in their Utility bill, The Hickory.Gov website, and having a process whereby people can apply to have e-mails sent to their personal inbox; there is no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars advertising in the local paper.
How many people that actually receive the HDR even read those public notices? I am sorry, but that argument is specious to say the least. It is time to move into the 21st century!