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Saturday, February 28, 2009

State of North Carolina playing with Revenues again

In case you don't think the State of North Carolina will raid monies not intended for use in the general fund, then please read this article from the Saturday Charlotte Observer entitled Perdue may use lottey funds to cut shortfall.

Bev Perdue has no excuse. She cast the tie breaking vote for the NC "Education" lottery. She knew what this money was supposed to be intended for and now she is going to play the shell game and push it over to the general fund. Shame on you Mrs. Governor.

The Governor's spokesperson says "....the governor had little choice. Already $2 billion in the red, the state faces a $3 billion shortfall next fiscal year." I respectfully disagree. Y'all are the ones that ran up spending when times were good; so y'all are the ones that need to ramp down spending in these bad times. Playing these little "Rob Peter to pay Paul" games are not going to solve the problem. We have to make structural changes to the State budget. That is what you do when you have an obvious systemic problem.

The article states "Perdue has said she may transfer $300 million from several special accounts into the depleted general fund. That includes nearly $38 million in scheduled lottery allocations to counties and $50 million from the lottery reserve fund." Here they go again taking from the funds that are directly intended for other levels of government. That means that Catawba County Schools (as well as others) will be forced to readdress their local budget, in order to account for this shortfall in the state budget. In other words, the State of North Carolina wants others to feel the pain of what they have caused. This will only exacerbate local problems since those agencies are already suffering from the shrinking economy.

The worst part is that they are once again breaking a pledge and a promise. You cannot trust these people to do what they say that they are going to do. That is the main problem that people have with government and further contributes to the cynicism that is rampant in society today. I was apprehensive about the lottery to begin with, because it is generally a regressive revenue raiser. Now, after seeing this, I think that I am totally against this lottery and would like to see a bill moved forward to abolish it, if they aren't going to lock that money away in a true trust.

It is time for our state to get its act together. Everyone is being forced to cut back at unprecedented levels. Why do Raleigh and Washington not understand that it is there obligation to do the same?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Z. Anne Hoyle about National League of Cities Meeting

My last letter about the City Council meeting of February 17, 2009 was so long that I left out Ms. Hoyle's important comments at the end of that meeting. Ms. Hoyle is a North Carolina representative for the National League of Cities. She is on the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Steering Committee for the NLC.

Ms. Hoyle went to Capitol Hill to talk about Hickory's plight, in terms of money, that needs to be addressed with our infrastructure. The committee worked for two evenings and as a result she feels that they came up with a pretty good plan. She was involved directly with infrastructure plans. She wants money from the federal government to be sent directly to the cities, instead of coming to the state and then being filtered down to the cities. In the past there have been issues when the State of North Carolina has had a shortfall, they end up confiscating money that was intended for the cities.

The Hound is happy to hear about Ms. Hoyle taking a stand on this issue. What good does it do, when this City runs a tight fiscal ship and Raleigh continues to constantly kick sand in our face. This State has been no friend to Hickory. We have constantly been short shrifted by the good ole boy network in Raleigh.

The worst part is that we have received little representation by local leaders when it comes to our issues with Raleigh. State Senator Austin (Who?) Allran is worried about unenforceable text messaging legislation, when he needs to get on the ball and propose legislation that keeps the State Government from being able to confiscate County and Municipal funds, the way they have in the past.

Ms. Hoyle should not have to stand alone. We need to join together with other local governmental entities, like we have with the Catawba River Project, to grab the bully pulpit and tell Raleigh that their out of control budget process is unacceptable and they better not steal any more local funds, like they did with the half-cent sales tax a few years ago.

It is time for Raleigh to get its house in order.

Hickory must redefine concept of downtown - HDR Editorial

My editorial published in the Hickory Daily Record on 2/26/2009

A New Vision for Downtown

In a Your Voice contribution on February 25, Andrea Klena sums up her post about Downtown by stating, ” I enjoy my grown-up excursions downtown and hope that it doesn't become more family-friendly if it means sacrificing quality for quantity.”

I agree with what she states, but Downtown must become a more economically viable asset for this community. Our city has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars there and we deserve a return on that investment. Downtown must become an area that all of our citizens can enjoy.

We definitely don’t need a Wal-Mart downtown. It would be an infrastructure nightmare trying to adapt the roads leading to downtown to fit a megastore. But, we definitely need a variety merchandise retailer there as a draw and other businesses besides bars, restaurants, and boutiques.

The main issue I see is that we are going to have to expand our vision of “what construes Downtown?” Downtown has to be more than just Union Square. That was acceptable when only 10,000 people lived in Hickory, but now there are over 80,000 people living within 5 miles of Hickory's Epicenter.

It is time to quit addressing the same ole issues involving Union Square. The Downtown vision has to be expanded to include Ridgeview, Green Park, Kenworth, Frye Regional, The SALT block, and eventually Lenoir-Rhyne. In order for our Downtown to be economically viable, we must develop and enhance other areas near the core of this city.

Monday, February 23, 2009

8 Suggestions for the Road Ahead -- Self Preservation

I do not propose to be some sort of expert on survival, but we can all see that these are not normal times and it is time to prepare for the worst of times and pray that we never reach that destination. I have compiled some information about personal finance and personal responsibility. You can move as close to these targets as possible or you may ignore the advice. I only give you this advice, because my soul moves me to. In the end you are responsible for your own countenance.

1) Get out of short term debt - You should be in no more short term debt (credit cards) than what you can pay off immediately. I believe that 5% of your take home pay would be about the Maximum amount of debt you should be carrying in this recession. If you get laid off, then you can easily pay that off.

As inflation rises, the adjustable interest rates on short term debt will also rise. You could very well see 20%+ interest rates on credit cards (if not way higher than that). How would you ever pay these debts off, if that were to happen?

2) Keep cash on hand and tuck it away somewhere that no one can find it. I am not saying that banks will go bust like they were in the 1930s, but on March 5, 1933 Franklin Roosevelt (the day after being sworn into office) called a 4-day bank holiday. The banks were closed and people could not withdraw cash from their accounts. Some people say that this same scenario nearly played out last September. What would you do if the bank was closed for a week or two? Remember the gas shortage last September and how everyone panicked?

3) Put some of your money in precious metals. Most of us can't afford $1,000 an ounce gold, but we can afford $14.50 an ounce Silver or even cheaper Copper. These metals will hold there value during inflationary times. In 1980, during the last inflationary period in the U.S., the price of gold spiked to $850 an ounce in 1980 (an equivalent of $2,178.05 in today's dollars). The same year Silver spiked to $48.70 (an equivalent of $124.79 in today's dollars). U.S. Inflation Calculator Link

I am not saying that we will see those levels in the coming year, but unless our government gets its spending under control, I believe we will burst through those levels by the end of Obama's first term. At the end of the year 2000, the Dow Jones Industrial average was trading at 39.5 times the price of Gold and 2,345 times the price of silver. Today the DJIA is 7.17 times the price of Gold and 494 times the price of Silver. This has all been brought about by the tanking of the U.S. Dollar. Until our government starts reigning in the ridiculous spending and comes back towards fiscal sanity, it is time to get out of our currency and into something real.

4) Be Thrifty and quit wasting your money - Don't throw things away unless they have no value. Eat at home, use coupons, share meals with your friends and neighbors, look for cheap entertainment, turn that heat down, use the fan (instead of the AC), and consolidate you trips when driving. This is not the time to throw money around. It is time to spend wisely.

A good investment would be to buy dry and canned goods in bulk. Remember the price increases last year during the fuel run up? Buy these goods and store them for the rainy day. If that day never comes, then you can use them; but if a truly inflationary period does hit, then you will have bought yourself some valuable time.

5) Grow a garden. The only thing that this will cost is the money for a few tools, the cost of some seeds, and some labor. You will be handsomely rewarded. You'll have something to eat to get through the summer months and you can can, freeze, or dry this stuff to get through the winter. This will help you get outdoors and get some exercise. You can be basic or elaborate. That is up to you. The deal is that this will save you money, when your budget gets tight, and that is money that may be needed elsewhere. You can also barter these vegetables for other food or maybe to get something else. Growing a garden creates value.

6) Secure your house. Crime is naturally going to increase. You need to get deadbolt locks for the doors and hide your valuables in safe, secure places. Don't flaunt what you have. You need to be humble and thrifty. Be aware.

7) Get to know your neighbors and look out for one another's well-being. This goes hand-in-hand with number 6 and maybe even number 5. One thing that we have lost in the age of gluttony is that sense of community. Neighborhood Watch will be very important if times get tougher and we will need to look out for the elderly, who will become very vulnerable as their fixed incomes are attacked by inflationary dollars.

8) Pay attention to what the Government is doing - It is time that people figure out that the condition our economy is in today is a direct reflection on the economic choices that have been made by our leaders and the bureaucracy over the last 40 years. No one expects perfection, but we also should not expect utter incompetence and/or corruption either. It is time for accountability.

Peter Schiff's Ideas on turning America's Economy Around

Peter's Solutions

For the last several years, Peter Schiff had been predicting a severe correction in the stock, credit, and housing markets. These predictions were highly unpopular; he was often mocked and ridiculed by other so-called investment experts. In late 2008, Peter’s predictions were largely vindicated, and a shocked consensus took notice.

While it’s important to recall that he was accurate in these particular predictions, his solutions are often lost in the media frenzy. In his books, op-ed pieces, and countless television interviews, Peter has offered the following set of solutions to restore economic viability to our great republic.

1. Increase savings and production. People need to start saving and paying down credit card debt, and the US needs to become a net producer and manufacturer of goods once again.

2. Vote no on all bailouts. Instead, the government should begin eradicating grotesque budget deficits and national debt by reigning in profligate spending.

3. Allow the recession to run its course and rebuild quickly from a fresh start. “Let it collapse today so it can prosper tomorrow.” To use a crude analogy, wildfires are devastating in the short term, but they are extremely beneficial in the long run for the entire ecology. Currently, the trillions of dollars of new government spending is akin to pouring gasoline on the fire. It will only serve to exacerbate the problem and delay meaningful recovery.

4. Let the free market operate without inefficient, ineffective, and cumbersome government involvement. The government should enforce the integrity of free markets, not manipulate them.

5. Drastically cut federal spending. It’s time to quit over spending and over borrowing and start living within our means.

6. Cut corporate and personal income taxes to spur savings, job growth, and real industrial production.

7. Minimize corporate regulation. If you allow the free market to operate, businesses and banks which accrue massive debt will fail. More efficient and fiscally responsible banks and institutions will prevail and restore prosperity to the economy.

8. Restore the value of the US dollar. Since 2002, the US dollar has been devalued by nearly 30%. Put a stop to the Federal Reserve setting artificial interest rates and printing trillions of dollars out of thin air. Instead, get the Fed out of the markets and bring back balanced budgets, low taxes, and robust production.

If these policies continue to be rejected, Peter predicts a complete collapse of the US Dollar and extreme hyperinflation sooner rather than later ( or much sooner than expected). Hyperinflation, due to a devalued dollar, is nothing more than an invisible tax on our future prosperity. However, if these solutions are enacted, a period of short term pain will be followed by a sustained economic boom, based not on artificial bubbles, but real value. Considering he was right about the stock market, credit, and housing bubble collapse, we should take a long, hard look at his proposed alternatives.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Western North Carolina getting shafted by the DOT again

Read this Charlotte Observer story McCrory questions N.C. DOT's stimulus-project list and tell me if you don't see more of the same ole, same ole. It's time to start taking a stand.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Excellent HDR "Your Voice" Editorial on Downtown - 2/19/2009 (Updated)

Downtown Hickory does need energizing - By Craig Boyer (Bottom of the Page)

Mr. Boyer's comments are excellent. Let the citizens of Hickory have input and contribute to the decision making process and direction of Hickory's Downtown. Let's open up a roundtable discussion, teach and learn the history of our Downtown, discuss the problems, and work on solutions as a community.

But, this will have to be a true open forum, that is inclusive in nature, and not just the same ole people that represent Downtown's "Powers That Be" in order for it to work. Because a fake forum, where the citizens have no voice, will only make people more cynical and drive them further away.

(You can read my address to Council to see some of my thoughts on this issue at the bottom of Tuesday Night's City Council Meeting - 2/17/2009) - Linked.

Since I am apparently not going to get my opinions expressed in the Hickory Daily Record any longer, I will go ahead and post this Your Voice letter that I sent in
Sunday Evening:

Downtown More Than Just Union Square

In the article in Sunday’s paper entitled “Downtown Vital to Hickory’s Identity.” I have to say, I am sorry, but I cannot agree with its assertions.

Who is Connie Kincaid to decide what the proper boundaries of Downtown are? I totally disagree with what she asserted. Her version of Downtown is three blocks on the Northern side of the Railroad tracks and Union Square must be its epicenter. There are two blocks to the east and west of Union Square and only 2 short blocks on the south side of the tracks that constitute what she deems as Downtown.

We read the philosophies of 3 candidates in the upcoming city election to be held later this year, but there was one important person missing from Mr. Gould’s article, Z. Anne Hoyle. I would really like to know what her thoughts are about Downtown development. Is her point of view not just as valid as the other council members mentioned?

This lady has been a bedrock of the Ridgeview community and if you ask me, under her leadership, she has brought this area forward from where it was 15 years ago. I am interested in hearing what Ms. Hoyle has to say about Downtown development. Notice where Mrs. Kincaid draws her line in the southern direction, it stops at 2nd ave, one block away from Ridgeview.

Frankly, I am tired of seeing what I view as intolerance towards the less fortunate areas of our city. Every year Mrs. Kincaid receives an automatic $50,000 towards her benefit. Alderwoman Sally Fox, who sits on the Downtown Development board votes to give Mrs. Kincaid that money. Let’s be honest, Cronyism and Intolerance towards minorities and the less fortunate are not appealing. Ms. Hoyle, the Ridgeview community, and Southwest Hickory deserve a place at the table when it comes to discussions about the development of Downtown Hickory.

We will not solve the issues of our Downtown area until all interested parties are brought into the discussion. After all, Citizen Tax money is contributing to the coffers of the Hickory Downtown Development Association.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 17, 2009

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'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 2/17/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Susan Smith of the Exodus Outreach Church.

Special Presentations:

A. Presentation of Proclamation Declaring the Week of February 15 – 21, 2009 as “National Engineer's Week” in the City of Hickory -- Chuck Hanson received the award from the Mayor.

B. Presentation By Community Groups Requesting Appropriations from the City Council During the Next Fiscal Year Beginning July 1, 2009. The Council will not take action tonight. Action in May or June.

United Arts Council of Catawba County -- Scott Anderson -- $40,412.00
The amount of money is based on $1 per capita. The city has funded the UAC since 1984. This funding is important, because of trouble with the state funding. For every dollar granted by Hickory, a minimum of $4 is spent on arts, science, and history projects in this community by the UAC.

Hickory Downtown Development Association -- Connie Kincaid -- $50,000.00
Tracy Nestor, President spoke. Purchased banners and developed landscaping to create a sense of place along well lit areas. Increased lighting in Trade Alley. Worked towards the wayfinding system, addressing vandalism, and renovation of the depot. Addressed special events, the Farmer's Market, and Art crawls. Netted three new businesses this year.

Catawba County Economic Development Corporation -- Scott Millar -- $138,924.65 for the Catawba County Economic Development Corporation and $50,000 for the Greater Hickory Golf Classic - Talked about alternative energy and "Green Manufacturing" and possible manufacturing industries. Can we expose our existing industries to those types of industries. Trying to revitalize existing industries and create new jobs in the alternative energy sector. Froze wages and reduced marketing and research. The requested increase is .08%. The Greater Hickory Classic was used to try to lure Data Center Industry's to this area.

The Mayor stated that we have had great success in the area of economic development, but we have not had success with the local economy. Mr. Millar says that the City has been aggressive and it has shown. The Mayor says that we have listened to every reasonable and unreasonable deal. Our success rate, when we make the finals, is very good.

Habitat for Humanity -- Mitzi Gellman -- $18,792.00
18 qualified applicants are currently on their list. 128 houses have been completed so far in Catawba County (most in Hickory). The money requested will be used to fund, along with Neighborhood Stabilization money, water-sewer taps. The request will be withdrawn, if other funds fall through that they are trying to qualify for. Donations from sells in their home store has brought in an excellent stream of funding. All donations are down by 20%. Will reduce the number of houses that they are looking to build in the upcoming year. Demand is up during the bad economy.

The Salt Block Foundation -- Steve Mull, Vice Chair -- $100,000.00
Operates three buildings on the SALT block campus. Provides a home for the Museum of Art, Science Center, The Choral Society, the Western Piedmont Symphony, and the United Arts Council. Pays building and Capital expenses. Along with the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, these entities povide economically invaluable cultural resources for the entire Hickory region. Auditorium is used over 200 times per year. More money is requested for this year, because the endowment is suffering from the economy, and increased expenditures.

Hickory Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau -- Bebe Leitch -- $20,000.00
Support and stimulate the local economy by tourism, business conferences, and meetings. Network by attending meetings, advertising, and the internet. Generated $7 million in revenue from 5,600 room nights, the Hickory-Conover hotel occupancy tax generated $451,000 in revenue. Our Convention center is accessible and affordable, which gives us an advantage over larger centers in other areas of this state. Updated the Hickory Map.

Consent Agenda
Approve Community Appearance Commission’s (CAC) Request for $3,000.00 to Fund Graffiti Removal Initiated by the Hickory Downtown Development Association (HDDA). Pulled from the agenda for discussion. The Mayor asked for more information about this request. City Manager Berry said the CAC has the funds, but they would like a costiary program of a 50% matching funds up to $250 to pay for the removal of graffiti. Mayor Wright asked if this was only for Downtown. Asst. City Manager Surratt said that it was decided during CAC discussions that it was best for this to be citywide. Alderlady Hoyle asked about requirements. Ms. Surratt stated that a police report would have to be filed, it would have to be photographically documented, and obtain the cost for removal. Alderman Seaver asked if they would apply to the CAC for the grant. Ms. Surratt said they would and the staff would review it.

The Mayor
asked if only graffiti would be included and not vandalism. Ms. Surratt said it would just be graffiti. The Mayor said that he thought insurance would cover this after deductibles. The Mayor asked if the CAC used up all of its grants for beautification projects. The Mayor said he didn't want to get involved in what deductibles businesses were paying on their insurance. He said that this program would only reward businesses with high deductibles and businesses with first dollar deductibles would receive nothing. Mayor Wright wants to push for a victim's fund that will be built by true work by the perpetraitors. He understands the good intentions of the HDDA and the CAC, but he isn't certain any buildings will be cleaned, because they qualify for $250. They will either clean it or not clean it. The Mayor motioned that the issue be tabled until some of the issues that he brought up can be explored and worked through. Motion carried unanimously.

The Hound Says kudos to the Mayor for shelving this. His questions were spot on and addressed the core of this issue. Thank You for doing the right thing.

Social Interest -- Downtown Appearance Grant to Hickory Community $267.50. Request by Charity Chase Committee to Use Union Square for the Charity Chase Event 6/6/2009 from 4am to 12pm. Transfer of Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery from Linda Lewis Helms to James Nelson Sherrill, Jr. and Pat Gragg Sherrill.

Approval of Assistance Through the City’s Housing Programs - First Time Home Buyer - Telessa S. Williams 3275 Blue Sky Court, SE - $5,000

Approve Revisions to the Hickory Police Officer Home buyer’s Program and Approve Assistance to Master Police Officer Shana D. Hudson 2222 15th Avenue NE, unit 506, for $10,000 through the Police Officer Homebuyer’s Program.

Approval of Three Resolutions For Applications to the North Carolina Drinking Water State Revolving Fund For Loan Funding on Drinking Water Projects - High Service Pump Project $935,000. Radio Read Water Meter Change-out Project $7,759,200. Water Treatment Facility Disinfection Modification Project $380,000

Business -- Approve Contract for Services with Stephen F. Austin for Hickory’s Annual Action Plan and Application for Funding to HUD for 2009-10, Community Development Block Grant Exceed $2,500.00. Approve 2009 Lobbying Services Contract With Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice through 12/31/2009

Budget Ordinance Amendments -- Appropriate $18,944 Insurance Claims from Trident Insurance Company for electrical damage. Budget $35,860 of Library donations. Appropriate $662 for January 2009 for Police Overtime. Transfer $100 of Miscellaneous Donations to the Landscape Services Departmental. Transfer $26,905 from the General Fund Sidewalk Materials to the Stormwater Fund Construction Materials. Transfer $42,979 of Community Development Funds to reimburse the General Fund for invoices paid from the New Sidewalk Construction line item for the curb and gutter project on 12th Ave NE. Transfer $21,000 from the General Fund to the Stormwater Fund.

Informational Items:
A) City Manager Berry’s Attendance at the Catawba County 2009 Legislative Kick-Off Breakfast in Newton, NC - 1/20/2009 - registration - $20.00

B) Alderwoman Fox’s Attendance at the 2009 NC Main Street Conference Awards Program and Dinner in Statesville, NC - 1/29/2009 - registration - $35.00

C) Alderwoman Hoyle’s Attendance at the Catawba County Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting in Hickory, NC - 2/3/2009 - registration - $45.00

D) City Manager Berry’s Travel to the NCCCMA 48th Annual NC City & County Manager Seminar in Raleigh, NC From 2/3 – 6/ 2009 - registration - $220.00, hotel - $221.00, per diem - $85.00, City vehicle expense - $22.71.

New Business - Public Hearings
1) Rezoning of the Property Located at 4429 North Center Street From R-3 Residential to Neighborhood Core Commercial – 2 - Should the property be rezoned as requested, it could be developed for the location of retail, office, and service. Cal Overby addressed the council across from Cloninger Mill Road and to the left of the Hess station. Originally it was zoned commercial, but that was lost in the process when the property was brought into the city. Unanimously Approved.

2) Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of the Property of Camp Creek Home Builders Located at 1938 Wallace Dairy Road Including Two Vacant Tracts Directly to the East - 17.32 acres. the property is currently vacant. The current tax value is $257,300.00 and if annexed, the property would generate $1,286.50 in additional tax revenues. This property is in Mountain View off of Zion Church Road. Unanimously approved.

New Business - Departmental Reports
1) Accept Grant from the Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program “Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services” - Congress has appropriated $190 million for FY 2008 for the Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant. Application submitted on 6/20/2008 -

Presented over 40 years of data and information
. Stated that there are a lot of risks to the community as a whole. The Engine Company is the backbone of the department. Six fire stations employ the six engine companies, strategically distributed. Engine company responsibilities include fire, medical, EMS response, first responder, hazardous materials, and extracation rescue. Has a responsibility of 1 1/2 road miles from wherever the engine is placed, which equals over 7 square miles. The city is reponsible for protecting 43 square miles. Ladder Company's is the companion component to structure fires. The First Ladder Vehicle was purchased in 1924 and the first staffed Ladder Company was established in 1948, before 1948 it was all volunteer. The Ladder Company has to protect 19.625 square miles (2 1/2 road miles). Right now it resides at station 1. 24 square miles are currently not being covered. The Ladder Company has additional responsibilities over the engine companies.

Prior to 1970, there were only 10 square miles that needed to be covered. In 1980 it went to 12 sq. miles. 1990 went to 21 sq. miles. 2000 went to 28 sq. miles. Presently the areas, including rural districts, have increased coverage to 43 sq. miles. The ladder companies will be moved to more strategic locations in West Hickory and Highland. This isn't about the Ladder apparatus. It is about a grant for staffing. Warren Wood came to the podium and addressed the budgeting. $450,000 is the total cost or 1-cent on the property tax rate. Fed vs City cost in this staffing is 90%-10% in 09-10, 80%-20% in 10-11, 50%-50% in 11-12, 30%-70% in 12-13, and the city will be paying 100% thereafter.

The Hound can see
that this was a very important issue that is long overdue in being addressed. We can see that the Fire Department has been doing an excellent job with very limited resources. The citizens must allow tax money to be spent on this for our own safety. We are in our 15th year without a fire related death. Thank You Hickory Fire Department. Cheap doesn't only beget cheap on this issue. It can also mean the difference in saving your property and your life. That doesn't mean, however, that the Fire Department's policies shouldn't be accountable and reviewed from time to time.

(At the End of the meeting, I was allowed to address the Council on the issue of Downtown. Thank You Council for allowing me to address this issue:)

Thank You Council for allowing me to voice my concerns about this city’s investments in the Union Square area. You may notice that I am saying Union Square, because I believe Hickory’s downtown to include a lot more area than what was described as Downtown by Connie Kincaid in Sunday’s Paper

I have read transcripts of every meeting that go back to when the City first started placing the minutes of Council meetings on the internet. I have seen what I construe as a waste of city funds, when it comes to investing in Downtown. I am sure tenants of other sectors of this city would like for you to repair and enhance their property the way you have in the immediate vicinity of Union Square.

In the comments section of today’s editorial in the Hickory Daily Record, an owner of a local Bike Shop had a comment that addresses this issue.

He stated “Hickory should promote businesses throughout the Hickory metro area, not simply downtown. I don't mean give businesses money or tax credits, it's up to the business owners to provide their own capital. The downtown merchants seem to think the city should provide them with funding to promote their businesses. If you can't take the pressure of building up and promoting your own business with your money, go do something else. But please, take your hand out of my pocket. Customers decide where they want to shop, if they are not coming to your store maybe they don't care for your products.”

I have been told that Mast General Store looked into possibly locating a store downtown, but they were micromanaged in their dealings with “the powers that be downtown” to the point that they said they would never locate here if they had to deal with certain individuals.

A former tenant told me why he is no longer downtown, He said he didn’t mind the competition that was brought by a major variety retailer, such as the former Woolworth’s. He said it only enhanced his business.

He stated and I quote, "silly decisions by the big fish in downtown's small pond (too many bars, no variety stores, the closure of the Fresh Air, parking stupidity, the downsizing of the cops' presence just when drunks took over nights) killed downtown's traffic and my business."

I am not here, just to talk about problems. If we are honest with ourselves, we know what the problems are. We need to help Ms. Hoyle enhance the Ridgeview area, because that is downtown. We need to spruce up the Southeast and Southwest sections of town, because that is Downtown. If you want to throw around $50,000 every year toward developing downtown, then that is where it should go.

What needs to be realized is that "Downtown" is more than just Union Square and a couple of blocks surrounding it. We cannot have upscale anything downtown, until the blighted areas surrounding the epicenter of Hickory are addressed. The last Downtown grocery store was robbed out of business.

Mr. Mayor, Council, I am not here to take pot shots or lob bombs. My interests aren’t here to tear this city down. We are here to build this city up, but if we find that there are cracks in the foundation, then we must be willing to tear it down to rebuild it on a stronger, more resolute foundation. We must quit trying to restore downtown from the inside-out and start doing more to develop it from the outside–in.

Editorial in today's HDR comes around to the truth

In the Hickory Daily Record this morning, an article was written in their Our Voice Editorial section, the article entitled More people needed in downtown Hickory has some good points to it and in my book goes a long way towards balancing out the PR piece from Sunday morning's paper.

I would like to thank the HDR for coming around to the fact that we do have problems with the Downtown area and the same ole, same ole isn't addressing the key issues needed to resolve the problems. We don't need any more Shakedowns by the Downtown Development Association, as Harry addressed in the article below. We need to review the process annually and there must be accountability towards Hickory tax dollars invested in Downtown.

Once the HDR comes around to the fact that "Downtown" is more than just Union Square and a couple of blocks surrounding it, then the paper will be well on the way to being on the same page as The Hound. We cannot have upscale anything downtown, until the blighted areas surrounding the epicenter of Hickory are addressed. The last Downtown grocery store was robbed out of business.

The Hound doesn't expect anyone to march in lockstep with our philosophy. Harry and I have only wished to see this paper give independent observations that address the key issues facing Hickory and the surrounding area. This article suggests that there is something awry with Downtown and much of it has to do with a lack of leadership, vision, and focus.

Thank You Hickory Daily Record for giving the people a voice, because residents of this area have been saying that for years. We appreciate when you represent our interests.

***Hickory's Downtown Boondoggle

Sunday, February 15, 2009


During City Council meetings you can often hear trains pass by just outside the meeting room. It's loud enough to stop the meeting temporarily. Sadly, this is not the only railroading going on. Tuesday night, Council is set to give $53000 to downtown interests. I can only assume Sally Fox will vote on this even though she has a downtown business, is a member of the Hickory Downtown Development Association, and has an obvious conflict of interest.

First, $50,000 is requested for the HDDA. While there is money for the Economic Development Association, which promotes the whole City, HDDA doesn't work for the whole community, just downtown. Personally I think the traditionally thought of boundaries of downtown aren't really accurate, 127 and some adjacent streets should be included as well, but this is not what they are talking about. And you can be sure that the Ridgeview area, which is downtown as well hasn't even been thought of. There is no review process for seeing that the taxpayer will get any value out of this other than a nebulous "downtown is good" slogan. There is no accountability. How about seeing if our sales tax revenues are increasing as a result of this so called investment. What did we get for last year's appropriation of money? Where is any accountabilty?

The next appropriation is $3,000 for the city to help to pay for vandalism by graffiti. I detest vandalism and would like to see them caught, but why is the City paying for a private business's costs in the name of appearance? The City does not buy me a sign or pay to clean my business. It's a shame when businesses have to bear unbudgeted costs but welcome to the business world. If we as a City are going to start insuring against damages from crimes, then we would have a line of business owners stretched around the block waiting for our reimbursement checks. We should not be like Washington DC and subsidize politically connected interests with taxpayer dollars. This is what led to the fiscal mess we have at the Federal level and creates a lot of the cynicism and disenfranchisement we have in this country today. The City should not be in the disaster insurance business or promote some selected businesses at the expense of others. I urge Council not to do this.

Here is a link of investments made by the City of Hickory in "Downtown Hickory" since 2002.

Hickory's Downtown Boondoggle

Here is a link to an article in Sunday's Hickory Daily Record:
Downtown Vital to Hickory's Identity

Take a good whiff of the aroma of your morning coffee to disguise the smell of this manure laden article. It is time to get real. Downtown is a Boondoggle. Look at definitions 2 and 3 of Boondoggle below. That is exactly what our downtown area is. I have linked to the posts that I have written about downtown at the bottom of this article. You make the choice. In these trying economic times, I feel that it is not only time to reign in the power the Downtown Development Association has within this city, it is time for it to be self sustaining and stand on its own two feet.


1) a product of simple manual skill, as a plaited leather cord for the neck or a knife sheath, made typically by a camper or a scout.

2) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.

3) a project funded by the federal government out of political favoritism that is of no real value to the community or the nation.

Our downtown has been mismanaged and good money has been thrown after bad for over 20 years. Here come the same ole people, Fox, Kincaid, Yates, et al, waddling up to the trough looking for more of OUR MONEY. I guarantee that this article is the precursor to that.

Connie Kincaid's salary comes from funds furnished by Hickory Tax dollars approved by the Hickory City Council. Mrs. Fox has conflicts of interest by sitting on the Downtown Development Association Board that receives funds that are directly approved by the Hickory City Council. She needs to step down from one or the other. Mr. Yates group bought the Hickory Station two years ago and it continues to rot. When is that restaurant ever going to open?

Mrs. Patton and Mrs. Fox were directly responsible for the Hickory Drinking Establishment Moratorium issue that was basically smoke and mirrors to keep a couple of Hispanic-American brothers, who are citizens of this country, from opening up a dance club near downtown. They have tried to micromanage every facet of our city's economy. Haven't they done a wonderful job?

It is high time to get responsible and accountable people in decision making positions in our city and it is time to get these people out of our pockets.

Links from the Hound that have valid points about our Downtown issues:
An All-American City deserves first-class leadership
Building the Bridge to Hickory’s Future
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of September 16, 2008
This Ain't Podunkville Anymore
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of October 7, 2008
Nuisance Law is a Nuisance
Newsletter about the Moratorium Workshop on November 4, 2008
Watch Out Folks -- Taxpayer Alert -- Downtown Parking Deck
A New Equation!!!
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 18, 2008
Tax Money Spent on Downtown Interests from 2002 to Present

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

41.3% of the Unifour's Population Works (Revised with December data)

When I did these numbers originally I compared Workforce versus Population. I should have compared Employed versus Total Population. The actual number of employed vs Total Population in Catawba County is right at 42.5%.

I have done some more statistical analyzes of our area. These numbers do have some extrapolations, since our last guesstimates on population were presented for January 1, 2007. But, by rounding the numbers I feel that it is safe to say that we are very close to the numbers represented in this analysis.

The latest unemployment data presented by the St Louis Federal Reserve was for December 1, 2008. New data should be coming out in the next couple days. The last data was released on February 12, 2009. The population of the Unifour area is right around 367,000 people, up from 293,000 people in 1990

Look at the numbers of total citizens versus those that are actually employed. As of 12/1/2008, the population has increased by 20.24% in the Unifour since 1990, but we have lost 7% of our jobs during that time period.

In July 2000 the Unifour hit its Zenith as far as Employed Workforce Population is concerned. There were 183,838 people employed in the workforce, since then we have seen our area's workforce fall by nearly 29,000 people. From 1990 to 2000 we had added over 21,000 people to local payrolls. Our reversal in fortunes is directly attributable to the dismantling of our manufacturing based economy, especially after the decimation brought about after the bust.

Look at the numbers and see that Alexander County is the only County whose employment numbers have grown over the last 19 years. I believe that is because these people want to be near the heart of the Hickory Metro without having to pay the taxes. I believe a lot of this growth is from the Bethlehem area, but that is an anecdotal interpretation.

It is terrible to see what Burke and Caldwell County have gone through since 1990. Burke County has lost 13.6% of its jobs, while Caldwell County has lost over 15% of its jobs. Burke County is struggling to show any signs of population growth over the last few years and Caldwell County isn't fairing much better. According to employment statistics, Caldwell County is the worst off in the region, the only bright spot being the Grace Chapel area near Hickory, which seems to be doing fairly well. But once again, I have to say that is anecdotal evidence.

What do these numbers show? Well, one interpretation is pretty much self explanatory. We have seen our traditional manufacturing job base devastated without question. But, I also believe we have seen a perfect storm of circumstances that are leading us down a path that honestly could send us into third world status. We must reinvent this community to survive and there are right ways and wrong ways to go about doing so.

The Unifour's population has increased by nearly 74,000 people and most of that is attributable to the growth of Catawba County. It is just too bad that there hasn't been the growth in industry to keep pace with population growth.

Harry Hipps makes some excellent points about the demographics of our population growth issue, in the article 47% (really 42.5%) of Catawba County's Population Works:

"First, the average household income (last statistics I saw was 2006) showed that we had a two income household making $67,000 a year. Catawba County recently stated that by 2025 six out of ten people in Catawba Co. will be over 65. The average Social Security check is $1000 per month so you can see that the income for 60% of us is going to drop by almost 2/3s. In addition, health care is rising more than general inflation and taking our disposable income and the strength of our Federal gov't and the future of the SS system is questionable. If there is a crisis in Social Security where does that leave us? And what does our economy look like when 60% of us are living on this reduced income?"

We cannot build our Economy on Fixed Income Economics. We have to attach ourselves to growth industries and we all know that the elderly are naturally risk-averse and not looking toward long-term investment or what might be termed as somewhat risky.

We must diversify our economy, especially demographically. Let's challenge ourselves to bring in a younger demographic. Once we do develop some new industry, we need to recruit young people who will not look at our community as a stepping stone, but will be willing to grow with it. That is the reason why we need to retain the best and the brightest that have been raised in this area.

What good does it do to develop youth as gifted students and then watch them gravitate to other communities? We must do something to get these young up and comers to stay at home. We must develop industries that challenge these young people to give the Unifour a look when choosing where they want to advance their professional careers. That, my friends, is the key to turning our community around.

Unifour Employed vs Total Population
- Click the link to see the spreadsheet

Monday, February 9, 2009

Violent Crimes in the Hickory area since 11/24/2008

Do you think this is a problem, to have this many violent crimes in the last 77 days, or do you think it is normal? I want to know.

Violent Crimes
1) - Hickory 11/24/2008 - Hickory police are asking for information in the robbery of a bank Monday. At about 12:45 p.m., a man and a woman walked into the BB&T branch on 12th Avenue N.E. and demanded money.

2) - This happened around 11/29/2008 - Jonathan Christopher Cooke, a Newton resident, was taken into custody Saturday. He is charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon. His first court appearance is Monday.Cooke was in the Catawba County Detention Center on Saturday under a $50,000 bond.Newton police said the investigation of the bank robbery is ongoing.It was the second bank robbery in less than a week in Catawba County.Newton police responded to an alarm at the branch bank at 2619 N. Main Ave. at approximately 2:36 p.m. Friday.

3) - Robbery at a Waffle shop on 12/4/2008 in which 2 waitresses were pistol whipped.

4) - 12/5/2008 - With bushel baskets filled with ripe tomatoes and fresh pecans beside its prominent holiday fruitcake display, the Randy Willis Grocery in Vale shows little evidence of the violent struggle that left one man dead during a botched robbery attempt early Saturday.

5) - Six Catawba County businesses - reported on 12/6/2008 - two banks, two grocery stores and two restaurants, have been robbed at gunpoint over the past two weeks. Vehicle break-ins and residential burglaries seem to have become commonplace. Thefts are on the rise.

6) - 12/8/2008 - An employee at the Fairvalue Supermarket was shot during a robbery at around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

7) - happened on 12/16/2008 - masked suspects ran in and demanded money at gunpoint. Police say the same suspects first tried to rob the Market Basket convenience store on 14th Avenue, NE.

8) - Happened I believe on 12/21/2008 - Two Catawba County women are among three suspects charged in connection with a robbery at a Hickory McDonalds. The third suspect is charged in two different robbery cases.

9) - Gary Joshua Wilfong, 20, of 145 10th Ave. SE, Hickory, is charged with the murder of Denny Michael Abernathy, 45, of 823 2nd St. SE, Hickory on 12/23/2008.

10) - 12/29/2008 - A masked man with a knife tried to rob a gas station Monday night, but when the clerks fought back, the would-be robber ran.

11) - Hickory - 12/30/2008 - Two men robbed and sexually assaulted a woman after they abducted her from Valley Hills Mall last week

12) - 12/31/2008 - A masked man wielding a black sawed-off shotgun robbed the Smoker Friendly tobacco shop at 1417 29th Ave. Drive, NE, on Wednesday, according to police reports.

13) Hickory- reported on 1/9/2009. Police believe that they have arrested the two men responsible for two robberies in Hickory.

14) - Alexander County - 1/23/2009 - GDS collection workers suspected something was wrong when they noticed there were jewelry boxes mixed in with the trash they were dumping in the back of their garbage truck day after day. So they brought one of the boxes back to their supervisor, said GDS Operations Manager John Isenhour.

15) - Bethlehem - 1/27/2008 - At 10:45 a.m. a man entered the bank, flashed a silver handgun and demanded money, according to police. Authorities did not disclose the amount of money taken in the robbery.

16) - Hickory police hope surveillance video will help them catch a pair of robbers who ambushed a convenience store clerk, beat him and dragged him across the floor early Thursday.

17) - Hickory Springs Road Area though it says Newton - 2/6/2008 - One of the intruders pointed a pistol at the homeowner's head, ordered him to the floor, demanded to know who else was in the home and warned the victim that if he didn't comply he would kill him, said Coy Reid, Catawba County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy.

18) - Hickory - Arrest made in weekend armed robbery at Hickory restaurant 2/7/2009 - A Hickory man is charged in connection with an armed robbery that occurred over the weekend at a restaurant in the city. 20 year old Jonathan Credle was arrested yesterday and charged with robbery with a firearm in connection with an armed robbery at Subway at 2157 North Center Street.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Does this really belong here?

I know that my address of my "supposed" traffic violation is of a personal nature and may have some people wondering, "Does this really belong here?"

I would like to say that I believe that it does. Not because it is personal to me, but because I believe that it was a wrongful action. But, it is my word against a police officer's and I am guilty until proven innocent. I can tell you that if any of you have something like this happen to you, I want to know about it. That is what we do here, we want to know about the issues that this city faces and open them up to the public eye.

We had a home invasion two blocks from here, in this neighborhood, the other night. Does it not make some of you wary, when you see the escalation in violent criminal activity that we have seen in the Hickory area over the last several months? Do you think this is an anomaly? Do you think this is going to get better or worse as we move forward in these trying economic times?

I have ultimate respect for our police officers. I know that there job is tough and I am glad that we have people that are assigned jobs to protect us. I do support them. I have never held animosity towards the police and have always been polite, respectful, and cooperative; both when approached and when asked to cooperate with them. I think we should all be, but I also understand why people of certain racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds have a bitter and wary attitude towards police officers.

It just seems ironic, to me, that we have police officers sitting inside of neighborhoods looking to see if someone stops at a stop sign properly (which can be judged very arbitrarily), when we have all of the crimes of a severe criminal nature taking place a couple of blocks away. Where are the priorities? Is it wrong for me to think this?

I will end this by saying that I will try and not put the letters B and S together or P and O together in my writings in the future. Yes, we all know what those acronyms mean and maybe some of you were offended by their use. To those of you who were offended, I apologize. I follow this action because I respect what Harry Hipps says and he says that it isn't right. I hope that as we move forward on the relevant issues of the day that the public will participate more with comments, whether you agree or disagree with me, because we need everyone to make this thing work and to move this city closer to what we dream of it being.

Friday, February 6, 2009

When is Stopping at a Stop Sign, not Stopping?

I just got a ticket for supposedly "rolling" through a stop sign on the way to a doctor check-up this morning at the end of the road that I live on -- not 200 feet from in front of where I live. I stopped, but I didn't stop for 3 seconds. I stopped for 1. I certainly didn't "roll" through the stop sign.

I am mad about this, because no one's life, limb, or property was anywhere near endangered. I knew he was coming after me as I passed by him and he started rolling. I pulled over and I was polite. I knew what he was going to say, because it couldn't have been for speeding, because I went by him at about 10 mph. Through the entire process, I was started out thinking, "This guy isn't going to write me a ticket," and then I was like "He's actually going to write me a ticket." Then I was like, "I cannot believe this guy is actually going to write me a ticket." That ticket was total BS. I would love to ask Officer ********** if he would like a ticket written to him under those same circumstances?

That is the kind of stuff that makes people resent the Hickory Police Department. I haven't had anyone pull me over for not stopping at a stop sign in 25 years. I have seen policemen make stops at stop signs right in front of me (all the time) just like I made this morning and I didn't find it to be offensive, so I really don't know where this guy is coming from. I just wish they would get some perspective.

(Please Read Harry Hipps's contribution below. It is a very good article about the Wayfinding issue and the missed opportunity that it represents, when it comes to the lack of citizen involvement in our City's relevant issues of the day.)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Recently, City Council approved a contract for a consulting firm to design a logo and artwork for the City of Hickory. It's called a wayfinding project. This design will be used on City vehicles and signs to help direct traffic to popular destinations. In addition, they will interview people to determine which destinations to include when the signage is eventually purchased and installed. Council's vote was closely split with some feeling that now was not the time to spend the $74,000 on the first phase of this.

We do need to bring some uniformity to the signage and I think this is good for the City image as well as helping newcomers and visitors to find their way around the City, which is tough. People always comment on the difficulty our street layout presents. But I think we missed a great opportunity to think creatively here and boost citizen involvement. This decision followed the classic bureaucratic pattern. A need was identified, companies that specialize in meeting that need were identified, interviewed, and a bid was received. Staff studied it and made a recommendation to approve the bid. Our staff does a great job and they usually make good choices. This time, however, we could have taken a different approach.

This project does not really need a great deal of specialized knowledge. We're not talking about heavy equipment, computer systems, or a complicated legal morass. We are talking about artwork and signs. This is tailor made for citizen involvement.

First, we don't need a lot of interviews to determine what entities need a sign. I could probably do that myself in an hour or two. City Hall, the Crawdad's stadium, the SALT block, the Museum of Art, etc.... Most of us could come up with the list before a cup of coffee goes cold. Secondly, we will need different types of signs. The presentation at council showed what types of signs we need, some on light poles, some on power lines at intersections, large free standing signs at the entrances to the City........ so we know what we need as far as types of signs from this. Finally, the design of the logo itself, the colors, the images, etc...

What an opportunity this presents for citizen input. We could have a contest for someone to come up with the design. Local school art classes may be interested in trying out, graphic arts students at local colleges may want to try to be the winner so it would be a Resume enhancement for them. Local advertising agencies may try so they could get some bragging rights. Many people could then be focused on Hickory's image and what we are about and what we want to present to people. The artwork submissions could be submitted to a committee comprised of residents from our arts, engineering, academic, and other areas to narrow down the choices to be voted on by Council. This would generate more than artwork, it would generate participation in a City enterprise that is directly involved in defining who we are and what we want to be in this world.

When Council meets, few people attend or seem to care. It's a shame that participation and interest is so low. I think it is incumbent on the City government to do what it can to try to spark some interest from citizens and get us all working together for our common good. This would have been an opportunity to think outside the box.

47% (really 42.5%) of Catawba County's Population Works

When I did these numbers originally I compared workforce versus population. I should have compared Employed versus Population.

I have decided to do some more statistical analyzes of our area. These numbers do have some extrapolations, since our last guesstimates on population were presented for January 1, 2007. But, by rounding the numbers I feel that it is safe to say that we are very close to the numbers represented in this analysis.

The last unemployment data presented by the St Louis Federal Reserve was for November 1, 2008. New data should be coming out in the next couple days. The last data was released on January 7, 2009. Looking at the numbers it is safe to say that Catawba County has a population right in the area of 160,000 as of November 1, 2008. This is under the assumption that we are growing at a rounded off rate of 2,400 people per year -- as we have grown over the last several years.

If these numbers are holding true, then that would mean that we have some serious issues when looking at the numbers of total citizens versus those that are actually employed. As of 11/1/2008, Catawba County has 75,307 people in its workforce, the unemployment rate was 9.7%, which means that 7,305 people are out of work. With an estimated population in the county right at 160,000 people, we see that only 47.06% (actually 42.5%) of Catawba County's citizens were employed at the beginning of November.

To give those numbers some comparison and perspective, you need to look at the data from the spreadsheet linked below. In January 1990 there were 68,339 people employed in this county. As of November 1, 2008 there were 68,002 people employed in the county, The population in the county on 1/1/1990 was 118,945 people compared to 11/1/2008's 160,000 people. So that means that basically, while the population has grown by more than 40,000 people in the last 19 years, we have lost 337 jobs.

On February 1, 2001 Catawba County hit its Zenith as far as Workforce Population is concerned. There were 82,245 people in the workforce at that time, since then we have seen our workforce fall by almost 7,000 people. As of 11/1/2008, there were 75,307 people available in our workforce. Our maximum number of employed people was achieved on 6/1/2000 at 78,540 people, since that time we have shed more than 10,000 jobs to where today we stand today at 68,002 people employed.

The most devastating angle in the new research that I have started shows that less than 50% of Catawba County's populace is now employed. The numbers show that only a tick over 47% (revised to 42.5%)of our total population is currently officially employed. We went below the 50% mark after December 2006 (actually December 2001) and have steadily declined since. Compare this to to July of 1991, when 61.86% (58.58% in June 1990) of our population was officially employed. That means that nearly 16% of our population is not working, as compared to then. We had 38,500 people fewer living in this county then.

What do these numbers show? Well, one interpretation is pretty much self explanatory. We have seen our traditional manufacturing job base devastated without question. But, I also believe we have seen a perfect storm of circumstances that are leading us down a path that honestly could send us into third world status. We must reinvent this community to survive and there are right ways and wrong ways to go about doing so.

Why has our population increased by over 40,000 people, yet there are no jobs to show for it? That shouldn't make sense, but I believe it is partially due to the fact that we have been slowly turning our community into a retirement village. The perfect storm of this county's native population aging, along with an influx of retirees from elsewhere is contributing to a community where more people don't work than do. It is up to you to decide whether this is sustainable or not. I contend that it is not and we must try everything we can to get our demographic model back in kilter.

I love older people. My grandmothers are 94 and 86 respectively. I do everything I can for them. But I also see the inherent costs in aging. Can our county's health care system sustain the aged if they become a predominant demographic element in this community. What will it mean for the standard of living of the younger generations, if we are expected to gear our working careers towards fixed income economics? I really think that these questions deserve to be answered. What do you think?

Catawba County Population Working vs Not Working

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 3, 2009

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'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 2/3/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Rev. Pat Pearce, Retired from First Baptist Church

Several Boy Scout groups attended tonights meeting from the Church of God, St. Aloyisius, St. Lukes, Church of Ascension. The Hound is happy to see this kind of participation and believes that the city is served well when youth are brought into the fold at a young age. The future of our city may well have been in attendance tonight. I only wish that we would see this along with other civic organizations more often. Maybe the city should promote this idea?

Consent Agenda:
A. Call for Special Meeting – Council-Staff Planning Meeting to be Held at the Catholic Conference Center on 2/24/ 2009 and 2/25/2009 at 3pm

B. Call for Public Hearing – Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of the Property of amp Creek Home Builders Located at 1938 Wallace Dairy Road and Two Vacant Tracts to the East (Authorize Public Hearing for 2/17/2009)

C. Approve Future Annexation Agreement From Roman & Victoria Procop for Property Located in Hickory Woods at 2615 36th Avenue Court, NE - requested to be connected to the City of Hickory’s water and sewer system without being annexed into the City limits and agree to be annexed in the future when the City finds it economically feasible.

D. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 12 - To budget $6,579 of Parks and Recreation Department donations in the Parks and Recreation Special Events and Supplies line items - Donations are for the annual Easter Egg Hunt and for Track and Field supplies. To budget an $18,265 donation to the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library from the Lyerly Foundation Trust to help pay for the second self-check system, library brochures, senior outreach audio visual materials and replacement of dvd/cd security cases.

To transfer a total of $21,000 of Contingency
. $18,000 is needed for the purchase and installation of new T-8 lighting throughout the Public Services facility. $3,000 is needed for a 2-year extended roofing warranty package for the main offices and shop areas rooflines at the Public Services facility. Transfer $880 from the Engineering Department to the Stormwater Fund - provides the balance of funds needed to pay Jewell Engineering Consultants ($1,985.71).

E. Grant Project Ordinance Amendment No. 6 - To decrease the Federal revenue-2008 Entitlement Block Grant by $19 and decrease the Community Development housing rehab expenditure line item by $19. The $19 decrease in revenues and expenditures will bring the City’s computer system software back in line with the Housing and Urban Development IDIS grant software.

New Business - Public Hearings:
Resolution and Order for Petition Filed by Attorney Steve Austin on Behalf of Timothy D. and Teresa P. Lail to Close a Portion of Riverside Drive Extension That Intersects With Lakeshore Lane - On 12/4/2008, a representative submitted a petition to close a portion of Riverside Drive Extension that intersects with Lakeshore Lane. This portion of right-of-way is no longer necessary for public use and appears that its closing is not contrary to public interest. It is recommended that the City retain a 25’ easement for any existing water and sewer utilities. Chuck Hansen addressed this issue. He stated that they property is outside of the city limits, but inside of the city's ETJ (Extended Territorial Jurisdiction). Unanimously Approved

New Business - Departmental Reports: Assistant to the City Manager Mike Bennett addressed the council in 5 specific areas and some comments on each.

1) Economic Growth and Transportation
- Operation No Vacancy is an initiative set up to encourage entities to use vacant buildings. 2 Brownfield Grants that have been awarded to the city are under the review of a advisory group that is looking at 8 priority sites including the old Piedmont Wagon Building. Mr. Bennett addressed development at Fairgrove Business Park. He also addressed the redeveloped website. As far as transportation he addressed McDonald Parkway and 13th ave SE. He also addressed the issues involving the Clement Blvd project.

2) Natural Environment and Quality of Life - Striving to protect the quality and environment of Lake Hickory through the NorthEast Wastewater and Sewer project along with the Cripple Creek project. Code Enforcement fully moved to the Police Department and the staff has received full training on policies and procedures.

3) Operational Excellence - continue to reengineer service delivery, such as with radio meter readers to check water usage. Will cut down on labor hours. The city is also using compressed natural gas vehicles for some transportation needs, such as with the meter readers.

4) Vision and Leadership - 22 member Catawba River Coalition based on the interbasin water transfer and application issue.

5)Communication and Marketing - The new interactive website has received good reviews and cut down on phone calls to the city. City uses website, along with City Snippets, and Communication releases to broaden its communication with the Public. Working on an update of the city services guide. Over 3,000 hits to the new website, which constitutes over 30% more usage of the website.

Council Questions: Ms. Hoyle asked about the decreased calls and Mr. Bennett said he believed that it could possibly be due to the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website. Mrs. Fox asked about colored brochures that have been released that discuss successes of the Hickory development. The Mayor asked about burying of lines. Chuck Hanson addressed what lines were feasible to bury and which were not. (Paraphrasing) He said the Embarq lines are feasible, but the Duke power lines are not at this time.

The Hound Knew
that this was going to be a mundane meeting going in, but it still had some interesting points in this presentation. I believe that this interactive website will be vital to Hickory's development moving forward into the city's future.

We have to get this city moving towards a younger demographic. That doesn't mean that we are going to set the codgers out to graze in the pastures, but we cannot afford to let them hold us back. The future is ours and we will either grab ahold of it or we will see the risk averse older generation run over us and run this community into the ground. They could make it impossible to modernize this city, if we aren't more aggressive about demanding modernization.

Look at this website and all that it can do to make government more accessible, streamlined, efficient, and cost effective. Times change and we must embrace it. We cannot yield to those who are afraid of that change. We cannot run this city by the least common denominator. We must lift people up, not pull people down.

Is China Manipulating its Currency for Export Advantage?

Reuters 1/23/2009 (Blue Text are Links)
"The Chinese government has never used so-called currency manipulation to gain benefits in its international trade," AFP reported the Chinese Commerce Ministry as saying in a faxed statement.

On Thursday, Treasury Secretary designate Timothy Geithner said in a written response to questions from a U.S. Senate panel that "President Obama -- backed by the conclusions of a broad range of economists -- believes China is manipulating its currency."

U.S. Treasury officials and members of Congress have long criticized China for keeping its currency, the yuan, undervalued, saying this undermines U.S. trade competitiveness by making Chinese goods artificially cheap.

Wall Street Journal 1/23/2009
Should Mr. Geithner win Senate confirmation, as the committee recommended, his choice of language will likely draw attention to Treasury's next report on international currency practices, due in April. U.S. trade law requires the report to identify any country that manipulates its exchange rate for purposes of gaining an advantage in international

"You don't want to be the bull in the China shop when it comes to currencies right now," said Frank Vargo, a vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, which has long lobbied against China's yuan policy. "But...we all know the Chinese currency is deliberately undervalued." A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington couldn't be reached for comment on Thursday afternoon.

TIME Magazine 1/23/2009
Trade hawks in Congress, pushed by union allies and some manufacturing lobbies in Washington, have long pined for this. But the Bush Administration resisted, preferring to fold the currency issue into the broader biannual "strategic economic dialogue" (SED) started by former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. That less confrontational setting was more likely to produce results on the currency issue than any forum that smacked of the U.S. putting Beijing on trial for "manipulation," the Bushies believed. In fact, over the past two years, the RMB did rise nearly 20% against the dollar.

Geithner's rhetoric before the Senate raises the question: Is the less confrontational approach now history? The short answer: in tone, perhaps. But in substance, not a whole lot is likely to change.

Discussion on Wikipedia: (Value of the renminbi - Chinese Currency)
For most of its early history, the RMB was pegged to the U.S. dollar at 2.46 yuan per USD (note: during the 1970s, it was appreciated until it reached 1.50 yuan per USD in 1980). When China's economy gradually opened during the 1980s, the RMB was devalued in order to reflect its true market price and to improve the competitiveness of Chinese export. Thus, the official RMB/USD exchange rate declined from 1.50 yuan in 1980 to 8.62 yuan by 1994 (lowest ever on the record). Improving current account balance during the latter half of the 1990s enabled the Chinese government to maintain a peg of 8.27 yuan per USD from 1997 to 2005. On 21 July 2005, the peg was finally lifted, which saw an immediate one-off RMB revaluation to 8.11 per USD.[18] The exchange rate against the Euro stood at 10.07060 yuan per Euro. The RMB is now moved to a managed floating exchange rate based on market supply and demand with reference to a basket of foreign currencies.

On 10 April 2008, it traded at 6.9920 yuan per U.S. dollar, which is the first time in more than a decade that a dollar bought less than seven yuan,[20] and at 11.03630 yuan per euro.

On 15 October 2008, the renminbi traded at 6.83170 yuan per U.S. dollar, which is a 21.8% increase and the highest rate since the removal of the peg. On the other hand, it traded at 9.19740 yuan per euro[21] , which corresponds roughly to the rate at the time of the lifting of the peg against the US-Dollar.

Purchasing power parity - Scholarly studies suggest that the yuan is undervalued on the basis of purchasing power parity analysis.