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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 2nd Meeting

The second workshop is tonight April 28, 2009 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hickory Regional Airport. The address is 3101 9th Ave Drive NW. The Airport entrance is up Clement Blvd off of Hwy 321.

Here is an article that was posted about the notification of the meeting from the Hickory Daily Record: Help Plan Hickory's Future Growth, Development.

Here is a link to what HBC 2030 is all about.

Hope to see you there and I will do a full article on this meeting tonight

Previous HBC meetings and discussion links:
Why the original Hickory By Choice doesn't work
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 1st Meeting
Studio Cascade awarded contract at November 4, 2008 City Council meeting

Brian Frazier opened the meeting and made some general comments about the plan. Basically he made the same introductory statements that he has made in the past. You can read the introductory statement from the last workshop. It is pretty much the same as what he said tonight. He then introduced Bill Grimes and Rick Hastings. There will be an advisory committee meeting that will take place tomorrow. You can check out the city website and HBC 2030 to see what the process is all about.

Mr. Grimes mentioned the purpose of the original HBC plan. The original plan created a land use plan that was based on a cupcake type of pattern (centers). The circles that dot the map are located at the intersections of major thoroughfares. The plan also suggests the patterns that these centers should adopt as they develop. The discussion at the last workshop gave details about the HBC structure and how it might relate to today's condition.

Mr. Grimes once again went over the "Neighborhood Core" philosophy. He mentioned the concept of "Pedestrian Shed" and "Commercial Catchment Areas." He said they wanted to make sure that the concept was valid 10 years later. In the first workshop, Studio Cascade wanted people to take some time and affirm the various directives and policies that are 10 years old. The participants answered a survey about various issues to try to find a comprehensive statement of city policy that supports Hickory by Choice.

Mr Grimes mentioned that some of the comments (from the survey) added some nuance and shading to the policies that were implemented 10 years ago. Most of these comments were rooted in the current economic condition and maybe we were being a little too ambitious in that original plan and maybe we need to scale back a little on what we are expecting to do. There was also a level of environmental awareness that was keyed into the economic development perspective of the plan and how we might be able to take advantage of the opportunities available with environmentally based or Green types of Industry that can help us.

Mr. Grimes said that everything seemed to be tempered by "how do we get the over-arching aspirational policies to fit into a more realistic context for the year 2010 (and up until 2030)." To what degree will the community commit to implementing the plan as its going to be updated and actually commit to supporting the adoption of development regulations that will be consistent with that plan. Right now there is a disconnect between the comprehensive plan and the development code regulations (zoning).

We were given a packet that contained a summary of the responses to the first workshop's survey. He talked about the issues that struck Studio Cascade. The vast majority of responses were 4's and 5's. The policy context supports what was adopted. There is a supportive level of ratification to move forward and find other policies and development standards to implement the overall goal.

Transportation and infrastructure are key ingredients. Transportation system design and Land-Use design must make sense; along with a pedestrian connection, mobility, and highway capacity that will complement and support this (HBC) type of scheme. Multi-modal travel options have not been supported (thus far). A car is a vital component and should not be sacrificed as a viable transportation mode.

Housing and Land-Use were mentioned. Mixed use is an important premise to the implementation of the HBC plan. We need to make sure that we can have(support) a ground floor retail store with residential over the top. The community isn't 100% behind how to deal with the transition between mixed-use and established neighborhoods. There is an importance placed on compatibility between land uses. Uses should respect existing land uses.

How do we reconcile the survey with the concept of HBC? We have to develop policies and standards that help us to get where we desire to go. Mr. Grimes displayed plans of Davidson, NC. Davidson has seen some success in designing neighborhood cores. The mixed-use centers must be designed where thoroughfares intersect. Davidson has chosen to develop mixed-use concepts near major transportation arteries.

Hickory has to find a way to create a pattern that is adaptable enough to fit the various centers that we have. Our commercial development has taken place along corridors. This has happened naturally. There is a lot of capital invested in these corridors and investors want them to remain exactly as they already are. We have to turn these corridors into something that they presently are not. This will be a structural change.

Nodal development will have to be developed through a groundswell of support by multiple owners (in an area) or it will have to be established in areas where land ownership is concentrated in the hands of few. The centers are important and we must set them up for success. The development of the corridors have denuded the viability of centered commercial areas. We can't do both, because we will bombard the market with an amount of commercial uses that it cannot support.

Corridors weren't mentioned in the original HBC. They are real. They must be supported and redeveloped over time into linear commercial districts that support the cores or they must be involved into some other sort of use. They must be recognized and addressed in policy.

There are 15 centers established by the original plan. It will be hard to provide the support needed to all 15 of these core areas to help them do all that they need to do. How can we prioritize the centers that have the best chance to succeed. We need to identify what is on the ground today and how we can best achieve the desired ideal. Mr. Grimes says that we might be able to support 4, 5, or 6 of these cores.

The prioritized areas that we looked at tonight were Downtown and Viewmont as centers and Hwy 127n as a corridor. They have to serve a wide variety of audiences. We looked at these areas as a 1) Pedestrian/Cyclist 2) Motorist 3) Resident 4) Shop/Retail store. We ranked them 1 to 5 (5 being the best) in aspects of their viability. (This survey is online)

In our small group (our group had 3 people) discussion, we talked about the viability of this overall plan. One of our participants said that Studio Cascade is ignoring the fact that a good many people would prefer that we start over from scratch. We need to open up the process and analyze more concepts of development. Lifestyle has kept people from accepting the pedestrian mode of the neighborhood core concept. Some say that we should build the city's subsystem around a spine of public transportation. The development should be built along the public transportation nodes (almost like depots). That would make it easier for people to get around. The neighborhood core creates a feudal concept of enclaves and is going create a separation of the citizens of Hickory along socio-economic and cultural barriers.

Mr. Grimes readdressed the group and discussed how each of the 4 groups will look at the development concept from a different angle. Our group looked at Hickory By Choice from the view of the Pedestrian/Cyclist. We organized into table discussions for this exercise.

A participant (1) in our group discussed how he would travel from behind Hobby-Lobby to his job Downtown. He told us how he would maneuver down 127n, take a right at near Viewmont Square and go down North Center Street to avoid dangerous traffic conditions on 127n. Another participant (2) talked about his driving and how he avoids 127n while driving a car. He stated that the 127n corridor between Downtown and North Viewmont was a deadzone for retail because of pass through traffic. People drive the back streets and don't like to turn into businesses located along that area, because of traffic.

Participant 1 made the point that businesses that have been successful have been located at areas where it was easy to turn off of 127n. He personally doesn't want to deal with The Cook Out or Dairy Queen, because of the traffic issue. Participant 2 talked about Dead Zones and how the City has created these areas by having strong concentrations of commercial property in certain areas that cause bad traffic congestion. I mentioned that one of the major problems with 127n is traffic flow and it should be re-engineered electronically to achieve better flow.

Harry and I mentioned the issue of safety for pedestrians downtown. We had a meeting at the Tap Room on Friday night and as we were leaving, we were accosted by an individual that "needed $9 to get his stuff back." We were both driving, but imagine if we were pedestrians Downtown. That seems like a dangerous (and at the least uncomfortable) position for someone who is walking. The perception of safety is one of the main reasons why people choose to drive a car.
Participant 1 said that Downtown was good for pedestrian traffic, but terrible in Viewmont.

One issue that I mentioned is the fact that if we are going to have a core built in North Viewmont, then we will eventually have to have overhead crosswalks so that people can safely get across the road. Another problem mentioned is the problem with the light at Starbuck's. It is very dangerous for pedestrians and just as bad for motorists. The final issue that was addressed by this group was to take the center of the cupcake (core) off of 127n, because of traffic and pedestrian issues.

The Pedestrian/Cyclist area - Downtown is pedestrian friendly, but you have to get there first. There has to be dense residential areas (taller buildings). Downtown needs to work on the safety issue. 127n, is ok for pedestrians, but 127n kills any opportunity to cross in Viewmont. The bold solution is to move the cupcake to one side or the other. The corridor is avoided and people prefer to walk in the neighborhoods. Pedestrian Crossovers in Viewmont might help. Bike lanes need to be designated better. Bike routes need to be designed better. Lights need to change for bikers.

Residents - Downtown needs to be more resident friendly. Neighborhoods bump up on it, but there aren't many residents downtown. There are things that are nice to buy downtown, but there is nothing that we need to buy down there. There is no grocery store or things you need to exist(live). It is a place for optional purchases. As far as Viewmont, it is resident friendly. There are all kinds of stores there. There are stores that we all shop at because of needs. People drive through the corridor to go to Viewmont. The corridor is not resident friendly directly on it, but it is on the streets behind it. This group stated that the sidewalks are not continuous and they need to be. They go from side-to-side-to-side.

Motorists - Parking is a major problem downtown. The street identification system needs to be looked at. There is good access to downtown. Perpendicular parking is a problem. The one way pairs are a problem. The traffic light system is a problem in Viewmont. There are alternate routes that can be developed. Landscaping needs to be developed on the center line. The corridor is what it is and it runs very well. We need to focus traffic back into the 127 corridor. Hickory is very motorist friendly. The east side of 127 needs better signage so that they can see what the businesses are.

Shopkeepers/Retailers - The one way pairs are hard on businesses. Reconnect Government Avenue and 1st Ave. Possibly reopen the street in front of Union Square. Need to have businesses near cars. 127n is what it is. We need to push more mixed use. The corridor needs to allow people to park in the front. Mr. Grimes stated that each parking space in front of a building, that has zero setback, translates to $100,000 in sales.

Mr. Grimes pointed out specifics about what Hickory by Choice was implemented to create. 1) Centers close to housing 2) Less Auto dependent 3) Neighborhoods be safe 4) Parking be concealed 4) Interconnected Streets 5) Informal Gathering Spaces 6) Thoroughfares and Intersections to support retail use 7) Streets are calm 8) Continuous Sidewalks 9) Scale and Retail match Identity and Place

** The next meeting in June will be about corridor development.

The Hounds Take: I think this is an excellent process, but we must realize that this is only a process. If people don't accept what is going on here, then this will all be a waste of time. We can't support certain sections of this city at the expense of other sections. As a matter of moral code and/or practicality, we cannot continue to ignore the blighted areas of Hickory. It is not viable and it is not sustainable.

Do we really want to create niche enclaves? Are we not one city. I do realize that the more affluent areas pay more property tax, but are not the citizens of these blighted areas just as much citizens as those from Northwest Hickory? It is my contention that they are.

This plan needs to be about bringing the city together and having balance. The bottom line of this plan should be based upon transportation or moving around this city. That will go a long way towards increasing the quality of life, especially when we are still so vulnerable to fuel prices. Including every quadrant and citizen in this plan will increase the likelihood that this plan will be accepted and succeed.

If we have a good portion of this city become blighted, then those accepted enclaves will have to pay more in security costs to protect their assets. You cannot expect to cordon off certain blighted areas of this city and ignore them. If you try to do that, then prepare to become a city of gated communities, walls, and private security. I hope that Hickory never comes to accept that. We need to lift the area up and not succumb to accepting Least Common Denominators.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Misrepresented? No

Anyone who has read the Hickory Hound should know that it is a forum for discussion and airing out differences. While I value most of Thom’s reporting, especially on City meetings, this blog on the Hickory Daily Record misreporting the unemployment numbers seems off the mark. First, Thom and I have had discussions about the angry tone of some of the posts. He is a proponent of “focused anger” and I tend to follow the edict to speak the truth in love. One can express the facts and opinions factually and very candidly and still maintain a tone of civility that gets breached too often. Maybe I’m just getting nostalgic for the old time genteel Southern culture that is getting as rare as Necco candies.

More to the point, Thom is actually mixing two separate criticisms, one about the economic numbers which were the focus of the article, the second is about the reporting of the Hickory Daily Record generally. First, I’ll address the specific article. The data were released on Friday, the article was published on Saturday. This was, in fact, the first date it could be published so I’m not sure why it should have been delayed. The Charlotte Observer published a similar story on Saturday as well. I’m not sure I can see a conspiracy here. If the story had been delayed before publishing, that could have been a cause for criticism as well. The economy has been THE story as Thom pointed out but the decision to put it on page three may be a decision based on the HDR’s perception of what stories on the front page would sell the most newspapers. I don’t know if the average reader would find this article more newsworthy than the other articles, but even if they did I don’t see the connection about the article and the political fortunes of local leaders.

Many people, in fact, think that the national scene now is much more important that local issues. In either event, it seems trivial to me. Unless, it can be proven that the statistics are incorrect or that information was withheld to benefit local leaders, I don’t agree that this article was a misrepresentation and I don’t see the linkage to Thom’s more general criticism of the HDR’s reporting.

I find more common ground in the criticisms of the HDR’s reporting in general. Newspapers are struggling to survive today and the readership trends don’t bode well for any of them. Sadly, I don’t think our local paper stands above the crowd. My opinion is that they will only survive if they can provide more content and context. The HDR does need to do more to get to the real meat of stories and provide the reader with more background and a clearer picture of the story and not just the data. Most people in Hickory are blind as to how things really get done and there is a substantial subtext that is fodder for conversations by connected people in the loop of things that our average citizen is not aware of. We do need real reporting and digging below the surface. Just printing minutes of meetings and some puff pieces doesn’t live up to the vital role a free press in a democracy like ours needs and deserves. Our newspaper, like it or not, is an important link in the dialogue our society needs to be a healthy, self governing country.

The bottom line for me: the Record needs to step up in the quality of their reporting and Thom needs some relaxation therapy.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Catawba County Unemployment Rate hits 15.6% - HDR misreports another story

It sure seems to be a coincidence that this story is misreported on a day when fewer people read the newspaper. The Region's Jobless Rate Drops Why does it always seem that the Hickory Daily Record is always trying to float these unemployment numbers under the radar? Are you trying to carry the water for those who might suffer some consequences from our economic malaise?

At what point Hickory Daily Record does this become THE STORY, because this truly is THE STORY to all of the people in this area that are unemployed, underemployed, or worried about job security. That accounts for nearly half of the people living in this area. Let's hear about what is being done by local leaders to lay a foundation for recovery. Is the strategy to sit around and hope that something will fall into our laps?

If our leaders' strategy is to stand around and say, "Well there's nothing we can do about it," then frankly it is time for new leadership. The HDR has access to these people, but instead of asking pertinent questions, they allow the paper to be manipulated by the very people that they should be questioning. It is more than obvious that city staff basically write the articles for the Hickory Daily Record that pertain to the city. That is just sheer laziness.

What do the reporters for the HDR do with their time? They definitely don't spend it writing stories. Look at the stories that I write in my spare time. I do this while maintaining a job, running errands, doing tasks for two grandmothers, attending city council meetings, planning and building a garden, doing household chores, working on a few hobbies, attending city meetings for this blog, having meetings with city leaders for this blog, attending church, and other things.

This is their fulltime job! They are earning a salary to do it. Where is the accountability in reporting the news and important events taking place in this area? Why even purchase this paper if they aren't going to do any true in-depth reporting. Our local paper has become truly irrelevant. HDR, you can either dig into some stories or dig your grave. It is your choice.

This Charlotte Observer story does the same thing: Region's jobless rate falls to 11.4% - (In small print) March drop typical for this time of year; economists say it could fall again this month and is likely to climb again. But, the Charlotte Observer article gets more into the nuts and bolts of the situation.

I truly believe that it will take people with a positive, can-do vision to get us turned back in a positive direction. Some people that do not consider themselves leaders or visionaries need to step forward and speak up. The value of your life should not be centered on treasure. It should be centered on the Legacy you leave behind.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Governor Perdue snubs Western NC yet again -- Remember the State of Franklin

An interesting article from the Asheville Citizen Times entitled Perdue’s snub of Smokies ceremony is a snub of WNC.

On Friday the Great Smoky Mountains National Park kicks off its 75th anniversary events with a gathering of more than 200 dignitaries, elected officials and community representatives at an event called "the Governors’ Proclamation Ceremony at Clingmans Dome."

And what will be missing from this Governors’ Proclamation Ceremony? Why, North Carolina’s Governor. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen will attend. County managers, commissioners, mayors and aldermen from 10 counties and 13 cities on both sides of the border will attend. But no Bev Perdue.

Here are a couple quotes from the article. "Gov. Beverly Perdue probably didn’t set out to give Western North Carolina a slap in the face Wednesday. But we know a slap in the face when we see one, and this sure qualifies."

"Chrissy Pearson, Perdue’s spokeswoman, told a Citizen-Times reporter, “The governor was invited and did give serous consideration but given the length of the trip and the potential travel cost involved she declined. It is so far out of the way and we are trying to cut back on travel."

The 75th Anniversary of one of the most treasured National Parks in this nation and this woman doesn't even show up to commemorate one of our state's most valuable natural assets. Where are her priorities? If she can hop-scotch up to Washington several times over the last few months to kiss up and play party politics with the Washington elite, then she can make the drive to western North Carolina. She is the highest ranking official in this State and she should represent all of the regions of North Carolina with pride, not as an afterthought. Why should we respect Raleigh, when they have shown no respect to us?

One of the sites that I frequent mentioned the subject of Raleigh's frequent snubs of Western North Carolina. This person mentioned that this has historically happened since the days of the American Revolution and then brought up the subject of the State of Franklin.

(From Wikipedia) The State of Franklin was an autonomous, secessionist United States territory created, not long after the end of the American Revolution, from territory that later was ceded by North Carolina to the federal government. Franklin's territory later became part of the state of Tennessee. Franklin was never officially admitted into the Union of the United States and existed for only four years.

The spirit of the American Revolution was still very much a part of the frontier world view, and increasing dissatisfaction with the government of North Carolina by citizens in the territory west of the Alleghenies led to calls for the establishment of a separate state. On August 23, 1784, delegates from the North Carolina counties of Washington (that at the time included present day Carter County), Sullivan, Spencer (now Hawkins) and Greene — all counties in present-day Tennessee — convened in the town of Jonesborough and declared the lands independent of North Carolina.

On May 16, 1785, a delegation from these counties submitted a petition for statehood to the United States Congress. Seven states voted to admit the tiny state under the proposed name Frankland. Though a majority, the number of states voting in favor fell short of the two-thirds majority required to admit a territory to statehood under the Articles of Confederation. In an attempt to curry favor for their cause, leaders changed the name to "Franklin" after Benjamin Franklin, and even initiated a correspondence with the patriot to sway him to support them. Franklin politely refused.

As of 1790, the government of the State of Franklin had collapsed entirely and the territory was firmly back under the control of North Carolina. Sevier was elected to the North Carolina legislature to represent the region. Soon thereafter, the state once again ceded the area that would soon become Tennessee to the national government to form the Southwest Territory. John Sevier became Tennessee's first governor, and John Tipton signed the Tennessee Constitution as the representative from Washington County.

The Hound
does not tell you this story to promote or condone the secession of Western North Carolina from Raleigh and its interests. I only relate this to you, because many are ignorant of the subject and the origins of what was to become the State of Tennessee. Much of what happened 220 years ago is happening now.

I love my home state and its history. I don't want us to have to begin anew. Many have witnessed that State representatives in Raleigh, whether from the executive or legislative branch, don't give the Western 1/3 of the state its just due. We have always contributed mightily to the State's assets, but we have not received in return the consideration for what we have given. It is time for Western North Carolina leaders to band together in a show of force and make Raleigh take notice. It is my hope that Raleigh end this neglect. If Raleigh chooses to repeat history by continuing to ignore us, then I think no option should be taken off of the table.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of April 21, 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 4/21/2009 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 Howell of Corinth Reform Church

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of Proclamation to Flotilla Commander, John Gray and Vice Flotilla Commander, Phil Bowman of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Declaring the Week of May 16 – 22, 2009 as “National Safe Boating Week” in the City of Hickory. The Mayor
stated that wearing a life jacket reduces deaths by 80% and 700 people die each year in the U.S. The vast majority of accidents are caused by human error or poor judgment.

B. Special Presentation by Mandy Pitts to City Council of the Three North Carolina City-County Communicators Awards Received (Conference was held in Hickory) During the 2009 Excellence in Communications Awards Dinner Held on April 2, 2009. Mandy Pitts came before the council and announced that the city received three first place awards for "Printed Publications for Annual Report," "Special Events - International Springfest," and the "New Website Launch." Mandy announced that these projects would be submitted for national awards.

Consent Agenda:
Proclamation Declaring the Week of May 3 – 9, 2009 as Municipal Clerks Week in the City of Hickory.

Social -
Approval of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs:

The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan Program:
Brandi M. Maples 1676 Mack Ct, Blue Sky Ct SE, Hickory (up to $5,000)
Patricia K. Good 1658 Mack Ct, Blue Sky Ct SE, Hickory (up to $10,000)
Christopher J. Dale 630 15th Street SW, Hickory (up to $6,500)

The following applicant is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program:
Stephanie Fortune & Jovan Hoover 428 3rd Ave SW, Hickory (up to $5,000)

Business - Approval of the 2009 Urgent Repair Program Grant, Assistance Policy and Procurement Policy for Submission to the NC Housing Finance Agency - Hickory Community Development Department applied in November 2009 for funding through the NC Housing Finance Agency’s Urgent Repair Program and has been awarded $37,500.00 to assist a minimum of eighteen (18) eligible homes with urgently needed repairs in an amount not to exceed $5,000.00 per housing unit. The City of Hickory will provide $37,500.00 in matching funds available from the Rental Rehabilitation program income. The NC Housing Finance Agency (NCHFA) requires the preparation and approval of an Assistance Policy and Procurement Policy

Approval to Apply for the NC Governor’s Crime Commission Inter-Agency Grant in the Amount of $135,629.31 - The NC Governor’s Crime Commission Inter-Agency Grant is in collaboration with Claremont, Long View, Catawba County, Newton, Conover and Claremont law enforcement agencies. The project will provide a Crime Analyst to work with the above agencies with a primary focus of identifying potential at risk youth and will unite a network of community resources in order to maximize the prevention and intervention programs. The project will include probation, law enforcement, schools, mental health services, employment agencies and community and faith based organizations. The Hickory Police Department recommends applying for this Grant in the amount of $135,629.31. The
City’s portion of the 25% match will be $6,716.00.

Approval of Subordination Agreement From Villas at North View in the Amount of $32,500.00 - The Villas at North View is located at 415 26th Avenue, NE which is an affordable housing community for people 55 years of age and older and is securing permanent financing with North Carolina Housing Finance Agency. This is a tax credit project and meets all requirements for the NC Housing Finance Agency’s tax credit projects. The City of Hickory is in third position with our loan to the Villas. Subordinating our lien in this circumstance will not change our position. Normally, these agreements go to the citizens’ Advisory Committee for approval, but the Villas need to close by the end of this month on their construction project and the CAC does not meet until May 7, 2009. The reason for the request is due to permanent financing of the 1st Lien. The purpose of the loan is to promote and assist affordable housing to income eligible people. Funds for the Villas at North View are provided by program income from the Rental Rehabilitation Program. The Villas has increased the tax value of the property by $2,308,700.00

Traffic Ordinances – Prohibiting On-Street Parking Along Both East and West Margins of 6th St NW From the Intersection With 19th Ave Ln NW East Approximately 2,620 Feet to the Intersection With 16th Ave NW - Parks and Recreation and the Hickory Police Departments identified problematic overflow parking during peak visitation periods at the Glenn Hilton Park along 6th St NW. Traffic Division determined that the street does not support parking activity at any time. Unwarranted parking activity has been noted, yielding considerable traffic flow and safety problems.

Ordinances - Budget a total of $550 of International Springfest donations in the International Council expenditure line item. Reclassify $6,500 of Library donationsAppropriate $776 for the month of March 2009 of Restricted Local Government Revenue and budget in the Police Department Overtime line item. Budget a $1,062 insurance claim check from Nationwide Insurance Company in the Police Department Maintenance and Repair of Vehicle line item for damage sustained to a vehicle on 02-24-09.

(United Arts Council-$4,000 and Catawba County-$2,500) as State and Intergovernmental Revenue Appropriate and Transfer a total of $163,525 of Capital Reserve-Parking Fund to the General Fund-Public Buildings Capital Equipment line item for the installation of a Municipal Video Surveillance System. Budget a $398 insurance claim check from Canal Insurance Company in the Water and Sewer Departmental Supplies line item for damage sustained to a fire hydrant on 08-22-08. Transfer a total of $34,000 of Water and Sewer Contingency to the Water and Sewer Pipes, Hydrants and Meters ($32,000) and Departmental Supplies ($2,000) line items transfer $8,005 of Water and Sewer Fund Contingency to the Sludge Composting Facility Interest.

New Business - Public Hearings:
1) Petition 09-02 – Rezoning of the Property Located at 1938 Wallace Dairy Road from Catawba County R-20 Residential to City of Hickory R-2 Residential - This 17.32 acre property is located at 1938 Wallace Dairy Road.- Should the property be rezoned as requested, it could be developed for the single-family residential uses at a maximum density of 3 units per acre. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on March 25, 2009 conducted a public hearing and voted unanimously for approval of the requested rezoning. Cal Overby made the presentation. Property is in the city's ETJ. Near Braxton Gate, Waterford Hills, Zion Church Road, and US 321. The Petition was unanimously approved.

2) Petition 09-03 – Rezoning of the Property Located at 3011 N Center Street From R-2 Residential to NC-2 Neighborhood Core Commercial - This 0.449 acre property is located at 3011 N Center Street and is owned by Robert and Linda Palmer. Given there are commercial uses immediately to the south and east of the property and its location along Highway 127, the uses allowed in NC-2 district would be suitable for this property. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on March 25, 2009 conducted a public hearing and voted unanimously for approval of the requested rezoning. Dave Leonetti made the presentation. Property is on HWY 127n. Across from Belle Hollow Shopping Center. Next to Bojangles and Bumble Bee Interiors. The Petition was unanimously approved.

3) Approval of FY 2005-2009 Consolidated Plan and FY 2009 Action Plan for Submission to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - HUD requires submission of the FY 2005-2009 plan. Central to the City’s five-year strategy and Action Plan is the City’s mission to preserve its existing housing base, enhance ownership opportunities, and provide a quality environment which is conducive to the safe and healthy growth of its citizenry. Todd Hefner made the presentation. This is the fifth year of the five year plan. The total budget will be $471,373. Several projects were noted that are of a benevolent nature.

Larry Pope objected to the outlays. He says he will respect the decision , but says Exodus Homes has been funded for 11 years and there are other organizations that can't get a dime. He wants to see the same organizations stopped from getting money every year. He thinks in 11 years that they ought to be self-sufficient. He wants a limit put on the number of years that someone can receive money. The Plan received unanimous approval.

The Hound knows
that Todd Hefner does an excellent job with the limited funds that the city has to work with on these benevolent tasks. The Reverend Longcrier runs an excellent charitable organization that gives people a second chance and requires accountability. I believe that Mr. Pope is barking up the wrong tree on this one. The money that Exodus receives is a pittance compared to what it costs to operate such an organization. $10,000 compared to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If Mr. Pope wants to find some money for these other organizations, then he needs to go ask why we are subsidizing businesses downtown with taxpayer monies. Money going to pay for signage, awnings, and landscaping could be redirected toward more worthwhile causes. Mr. Hefner and Reverend Longcrier are champions of Ridgeview and minority programs. Mr. Pope, join me and I'll help you obtain a truly worthy objective.

Departmental Reports –
1) Quarterly Financial Report - Presented by Warren Wood. Report is for the 3rd quarter. Freeze on vacant positions, Case by case basis on travel requests and spending. Purchase orders will be wrapped up on May 22 five weeks before the end of the fiscal year. The General Fund and Water-Sewer Fund make up 75 to 85% of the budget.

The General Fund - The city has received 76% of it's revenues at this point (3/4 of the way through the year) versus 86% last year. The city has spent 71% of it's budget. Revenues are $3.67 million over expenditures. Last year revenues were $9.65 million over expenditures at this point.

The Water-Sewer Fund - 65% of budgeted revenues have been received. 62% of expenses have been budgeted. The city is $1 million in the black on the Water-Sewer budget. Still down a little bit on the budget compared to years past.

Cash investments equal $53.7 million compared to last year's $46.8 million. That is excellent news, but interest rates are down. Really conservative on investments. Property Tax revenues are in line with last year $22.74 million 2009 versus $22.36 million 2008. Probably going to see a negative impact in the next couple of years, because of a lag that takes place on Real Estate trends (which are bad). Sales Tax (Local Penny) is $2.3 million versus $2.6 million last year. City has to pay $500,000 back to the state, because of the state's error. The Sales Tax (State Penny) is $2.1 million versus last year's $2.2 million. Investment Revenues are down 43%, Hotel/Motel Revenues are down 15%, and Building Permit Value has fallen 41%.

The Hound has previously stated that this city has done an excellent job with its finances. To be able to go through what we have been through the last 10 years and keep our head above water deserves kudos to city staff, Warren Wood, the Mayor, and City Manager's direction. We haven't received our fair share in Raleigh, yet we are doing better than city's down east that have had money thrown at them. That shows the spirit of what this city has always been about and what the majority of our citizens stand for. This city is indebted to those that have laid the groundwork and those that have maintained the structure of fiscal sanity.

2) Review of Tree Canopy Study Performed by City Staff - The project was started in 2006 with the NC Urban Forestry Grant to purchase software. City Staff has completed the canopy study for the city limits of Hickory using the 2005 aerial photography. This study gives baseline data for 2005, which can be used to map future canopy changes. Presentation made by Chuck Hansen and Tammy Teague. The city received a growth award from Tree City USA. Tree Canopy equals Green Infrastructure. The Canopy helps with stormwater erosion, air quality, wildlife, clean water, and energy conservation.

Hickory Proper consists of 32% trees and 42.2% open space. The tree cover is less than the desired 40%, but is not bad when considered with open space. Hickory's Downtown area is consists of 6.2% trees and 24% open space.

Numbers of some neighborhoods: Kenworth (36.9% trees/ 42.9% Open Space), Falling Creek (36.2% Trees/ 48.1% Open Space), Falling Creek 2 (30.5% Trees/ 50.8% Open Space), Moore's Ferry (23% Trees/ 50.3% Open Space). Newer neighborhoods seem have been designed with more canopy and open space. Ms. Teague gave some numbers that placed a monetary value on our Canopy. She also wants to prevent topping of trees. The arborists have planted over 2,500 trees over the la 12 years on public property. Over 2,000 trees have been given out over the last few years on Arbor day. This Saturday tree seedlings will be given away at Patrick Beaver Library in honor of Arbor Day.

The Hound believes that this shows that the Ecology of this area is not bad, as a matter of fact this empirically shows that it is good.

3) Progress Update of City of Hickory Recovery Act Team and Potential Grant Funding Opportunities - The Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was passed into law on February 17, 2009. At the National League of Cities Congressional Conference in Washington, DC it was suggested that local government agencies form a multi-departmental team to coordinate the grant and loan application effort for the Recovery Act on behalf of their city. Therefore, the City formed the Recovery Act Grant Team who have been navigating both the and websites for potential projects and the process for applying for both federal and state grants. Discussions have taken place between the Team and the City’s management staff regarding potential grants and their funding. In addition, tracking spreadsheets and website links have been prepared to keep track of a grant’s progress.

Ms. Surratt addressed "Opportunities" available through the Recovery act. Staff team designed to work on this in a comprehensive way. She addressed various sites available that list grants. Grants have been identified that the staff wants to pursue. Grants appear on a daily basis on these websites. Working with the communications group to do press releases when grants are applied for or received. Demographic information has been gathered so that everything will be consistent.

$144 billion in state and local fiscal relief (tax relief) include protecting the vulnerable, energy, infrastructure, and science. State pots of money have been broken into categories. North Carolina has received $6 billion out of $225 billion that have been awarded to states. Does not include tax cuts. Hickory has received $85,000 for a HUD grant and $198,536 for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant. Hickory has applied for $87 million in grants and nearly 50% has been turned down.

The city is eligible to receive a block grant from the Department of Energy - the efficiency and conservation block grant program. We have to have specifics and meet guidelines to be eligible. The formulated amount we are eligible for is $209,000. Helps to improve the city's electrical bill. The city's website has links to the recovery act website. It will be updated as the process moves along.

The Mayor asked if tax relief was for individuals. Ms. Surratt said she wasn't an expert on it all. The Mayor said he didn't understand the totals. Ms. Surratt said there was fine print on the website and she talked about the bubbles on the web page. The Mayor asked how much was stimulus and how much was the bailouts of states that haven't done the right thing. Ms. Surratt said the divides allocations by agency, category, and state. Brad Lail asked if we could get some Private Sector folks to coordinate an effort for monies available to the private sector that might help the city ("Can we leverage those monies for the benefit of our city. Alot of SBA stuff out there). City Manager Berry said the city has shared research with non-profits. Alderman Lail stated that this was well organized and well done.

The Hound had so many emotions listening to Ms. Surratt speak on this issue. I wonder if Ms. Surratt has the paradox of emotions that I experience on this boondoggle. It is so easy to get lost in the size and magnitude of this monstrosity that they call "Recovery and Reinvestment." Her style, presentation, and delivery were excellent in this address of council, but her summaries seemed totally disjointed and nonsensical. Of course this program, in my estimation, and everything that has happened since last September has seemed to go against the grain of common sense.

I just can't see how chasing after this money can be labeled an "Opportunity." We are devaluing our currency at the expense of citizens with savings and investment income and we are creating debt that will imprison our future generations and steal their liberty. That does not seem favorable to me. That does not seem goal oriented to me. I feel sorry for the people in the city that are having to chase after this money. The people in this city know that we need help, but most of us feel dirty having anything to do with this money.

The funny part about this presentation was the discussion of Bubbles. Economic Bubbles are what have led to this economic collapse ( and Housing). I don't blame Ms. Surratt for not understanding the websites. Anyone with honesty will readily admit that they don't understand the blueprint, policies, or implementation of this program. No one at the Federal or State level understand it, so why should anyone from middle America understand it? Every day we see someone else near the upper echelons of government admitting something that they didn't understand about this program.

4) Award Bid to Carolina Video Security Incorporated for Installation of Video Surveillance System in the Amount of $163,525.00 The Video Surveillance System Project consists of entering into a contract with Carolina Video Security Incorporated to install a wireless IP-based security camera system consisting of 30 cameras in the downtown and Patrick Beaver Memorial Library public parking areas. The system would also have a fully functional public and private “wi-fi” capability in the Union Square common area upon initial installation. It would put the infrastructure in place for future expansion of both the camera system network and expansion of the “wi-fi” coverage along with possible integration of the current existing security cameras at various city properties. In late 2008 a staff team was established to look into possible security systems and their vendors. Following several meetings with vendors and reviewing proposals, the team unanimously determined that April 21, 2009 6 Carolina Video Security Incorporated met the City’s short and long-term requirements. The monitoring station consisting of two (2) 42” monitors would be located in the communications center at the Police Headquarters. Project installation time would be between 30 – 60 days and would include a three (3) year comprehensive warranty and service plan. The addition of this system would greatly improve public safety in the downtown and Patrick Beaver Memorial Library public parking areas. Additional cameras and/or wireless points can be added at a minimal cost in later years. The funds will be taken from the capital parking fund. Staff recommends that City Council authorize the City Manager to execute the contract with Carolina Video Security Incorporated once the contract is finalized.

Captain Thurmond Whisnant of the Hickory Police Department made the presentation. The project has been worked on since late fall of last year as a result of several incidents that have taken place downtown and at the SALT block parking areas. A murder and a shooting had taken place downtown in 2008.

The system will consist of 30 total cameras, it will be IP based on a wireless infrastructure, there will be two 42" High Def television monitors, and the servers will be at city Hall. The system will be wi-fi, and camera expansion costs will be minimal. The two 120 degree stations will have a 5 to 8 mile range of reception..

The Police Department is looking to improve safety and security Downtown and at the SALT Block. This type of system will provide what Captain Whisnant described as the DNA evidence of the future. This system will help retrieve eveidence. The system utilizes motion detection and the data will be saved for 30 days. This system will help to monitor large scale events. The public wi-fi will be able to be utilized by patrons and owners of businesses of downtown. The equipment is non-proprietary so it is compatible with almost all equipment off of the shelf. This will help to network the departments equipment. Capt. Whisnant said that the department has received excellent service from CVSI in the past.

City Manager Berry Stated that the final contract couldn't be approved because Womble-Carlisle (the City's lobbyist) represents both groups. Mr. Berry stated that he had just signed on the waiver a couple of days ago and that their wasn't time to review and finalize the contract before tonight's meeting. Motion carried unanimously

The Hound might surprise you on this one if you haven't paid attention. If you go back to my address of Council on February 17, 2009 you will see this part of my statement...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 totally support those cameras on Union Square. I do hate that we are having to move toward the Orwellian philosophy of the book 1984, but out of control people have brought us to this precipice. I have been downtown and have personally witnessed some of the shenanigans that happen there at night and heard about others. It happens in many cities across America and those cities will also have to address this issue in a similar manner. Our downtown took 20 years to turn from a viable area of commerce into a bar scene. The market now dictates that it be a bar scene, because we haven't had leadership to keep it from moving in that direction.

The one issue is that I believe that the businesses on Union Square should have to support this expenditure with an assessed fee. If Union Square is going to be a bar scene, then we have to have security, because we all know that things happen when people get drunk. This will protect life, limb, and property.

Recognition of Persons Requesting to be Heard
1) Miss Kayla Stover of 59 Duke Street, Granite Falls - a Junior at South Caldwell High School Requests to Address City Council regarding the Foreign Exchange Student Program.
Ms. Stover thanked the council for inviting her to speak. She is trying to go to Argentina next year as an exchange student. She has been personally fund raising to businesses and corporations to help meet her monetary goal. She has 2 months to come up with $3,000 so that she can afford to go on the trip. She gave out a letter that described and addressed her goal.

2) Mr. Larry Pope Requests to Address City Council Regarding Community Block Grant
Funds. The Mayor asked if Mr. Pope had said everything he needed to say (previously). Mr. Pope said he did, but he would like to take another second. Mr. Pope asked Todd Hefner to come to the podium. The Mayor stated that Mr. Hefner had not asked to come to the podium. Mr. Pope said that when he met with the citizen's advisory committee that he had made a grave error. He had stated that Mr. Hefner had sat on the board of Exodus Homes and he never has. Mr. Pope said when he makes a mistake that he is man enough to admit he is wrong. He hopes Mr. Hefner will accept his apology.

***The Mayor announced that Z. Anne Hoyle is a nominee for Woman of the Year from the Chamber of Commerce.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Future Economy Council Meeting was awesome

Here is my report on this morning's Future Economy Council Meeting. Rick Smyre really got me to thinking about the possibilities for our community going forward into the future. We should be thankful that Danny Hearn has moved us in this direction.

Mr. Hearn made introductions of a few new members that will participate in our Future Economy Council: Mary Sizemore - Director, Hickory Public Libraries; Karen Foss - Director, Hickory Public Libraries; Patty Thompson, Mountain State University; Tom Alexander - Fire Chief, City of Hickory.

Mr. Hearn stressed the importance of utilizing library resources to get our message out. We have applied for a $10,000 grant from the Catawba Valley Community foundation. This money will go towards training 15 to 25 "Master Capacity Builders;" "Futures Institute Training at L-R, CVCC. and ASU;Improving the IT curriculum of Catawba County's 3 school systems; Transformative Dialogue Groups - to involve and educate the citizenry; and for Incidentals. Mr. Hearn stated that even if we don't get this grant, that there are other avenues available to raise the monies needed. We will know in 5 weeks whether we get this grant or not.

Mr. Hearn then introduced Rick Smyre. He was a CEO of a textile company in Gaston County and is a leading Future Development Specialist. He believes that we are in a period of Historical Transformation. He told us that he used to debate people, but now he has learned to listen and connect with what people are saying. He stated that everything he told us was an opinion and that he has no truth left in his body. One of the real challenges is to create a culture in communities where they can transform themselves.

His experiences led him to think structurally and linearly in the past. He used to debate upon what he heard. If he agreed with what a person thought, then he could carry on a discussion with the person. He said he really wasn't listening to what people were saying.

We need to learn to not just reform, we need to learn how to transform. Transformation means something has not been around (existed) before. Reformation is just changing something that already exists. Transformation requires people to rethink what they have thought for years. These are fundamental issues.

Dialogue is communication in the form of questions and statements. Dialogue is not enough in the transformative times we are in. We have to find value (a connection) in what one another are saying. This can help us with our capacity to innovate. The skill to ask appropriate questions is going to be more important at times than to make a statement.

Traditional Leadership is project oriented and is focused on outcomes.Transformative Leadership requires that we use new ideas that create a futures context. New ideas do not have a model or template to go by. If we don't open our minds to these new ideas, then we don't have the capacity to make the changes necessary to transform our community. We must have a sense of what is emerging, instead of being fixated on the way that things have always been.

Work of the future will be mental. Biological Principle says that you do not have innovation, growth, or evolution unless you have diversity. Diversity alone is not enough, you must have processes that allow that diversity to take shape. Nobody changes unless we as individuals decide that we must change. This is the reason that Statements are no longer effective. We must build connections between individuals. Questions help us to evolve and develop ideas and processes.

We are seeing 3 different Economies emerge:
1) The Knowledge Economy - Thought to be taking place from 2000 to 2025. Creation of an environment in the culture that supports continuous innovation that is always open to new ideas.

2) Industrial Economy - The Industrial age. Peaked in the 1980s. This is still the focus of most leaders in our community.

3) Creative Molecular Economy (Open Source Economy) - When you cannot control where you want to go, because you don't no where you are going, because things haven't been invented yet, then you have to create productive capacities. Adaptive planning says that you must work and network together (as individuals) to respond and adapt to what is emerging. Connectivity (And/Both reasoning) is important in understanding context, structuring statements, and objectives. The two major components a) Technology and b) Organization of economy and society around individuals, global innovation networks, and small groups.

People resist change, because of comfort. That makes it hard to make positive transformations in society. If we want to have our economy be vital and sustainable, then we must be willing to take what are considered radical approaches in changing society. We must depend on one another to achieve higher objectives. This is a systemic issue and we must build parallel processes to achieve objectives in an exponentially changing world.

We need to build relationships with cutting edge individuals that can help our area. These people might come to this area, if we are supportive of a Creative Molecular Economy. We must learn to collaborate and cooperate. Leaders need to develop environments where others can come to their own conclusions. We should not limit ourselves, because we are not willing to listen to others who might have different ideas than our own. That expands the mind.

Marching Orders - Lead and talk to one another. Ask questions of one another. Design a 6 month strategy. Bring our own ideas to the table, so that community transformation can emerge over the next 5 to 10 years. Build connections with people that we know virtually or personally and collaborate with them so that they can see the value in what we are doing.

The Future is Now
Time to Start Transforming Catawba County
Transformative Leadership -- All Chips In. How 'bout You?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15, 2009... The Tea Party was Cool

There were well over a thousand people at the Justice center, Heck there may have been 2,000. It was all about the people. No politicians spoke and except for a couple of exceptions, it was non-partisan. I loved hearing honesty and people telling it like they see it.

The one thing that I wish people understood, and I don't think they do, is that We the People are the Government -- A Government Of, By, and For the People. Folks that means that we are the Government. And along with this comes responsibility. People have to become more involved in Civics. It is that lack of involvement that has led us to where we are today.

The Bureaucracy is the problem, but the people have let this happen. The Bureaucracy is supposed to be made up of people that represent the interests of the American Public. Now all they represent is the system and its structure. Many, in the Bureaucracy, believe that the Government is supposed to be Of, By, and For the Bureaucracy. That they are a class above the rest of us. Look at the pay and benefits. During these trying times is that representative of what the private sector is experiencing?

Not all of our public servants are bad. Some of the individuals in the Bureaucracy are excellent Public Servants. We have all seen the good and the bad. It reminds me of the parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24–30). It is time to root out the good from the bad. Those who truly want to serve the public should rise and those who want to serve themselves at our expense should fall.

What we are seeing is tyranny. A few bad apples are making all of the decisions that they don't think the rest of us are intelligent enough to understand and they don't want our input. They aren't living by the same rules that we have to abide by. They aren't held to the standards of accountability that the rest of us are. Their decisions are arbitrary, illogical, and nonsensical. It is time that we reign the bad Bureaucracy in. It is time to get back to basics with a smaller, wiser, more efficient Government -- Of, By, and For the People.

April 15, 2009....T-DAY

Would love to see a zillion people in Newton at Noon today. We pay a lot of taxes around here, what are we getting in return.

I know that many people will have to work, but this is our chance to create the momentum of something big. If government officials see that their positions are tenuous, because of the decisions they are making, then they may reverse the trends they have accepted as the norm. The Federal Budget Deficit was $192.3 billion in March. That means in one month, the Federal budget deficit was nearly half of what it was last year. Anyway that you cut it, this is dangerous. We cannot continue down this path without suffering catastrophic consequences.

This is not about ugliness. It is about expressing concern fot the direction our country is headed. We can make a difference. Hope...Change....T.E.A.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Drought Restrictions Over, but please don't Waste Water article, "Hickory and the entire Catawba-Wateree Group recommends voluntary continuation of wise outdoor water use as basin’s drought conditions improve to LIP Stage 1," pointed to me by an anonymous poster.

A couple of items that I would like to see addressed. Minimum and Maximum water usage rates. If a person (or family unit) is innovative in ways of conserving water, then they should be rewarded for that conservation. If people are using water to fill up their swimming pool, then why are we subsidizing it. If these people can afford a swimming pool, then they most assuredly can afford to put the water in it. I can understand the exception for businesses, such as restaurants, construction, and landscaping; because they provide jobs.

I think that in the future, the city is going to have to find ways to control the flow of water. I think the thoughtfulness brought about by the introduction of water barrels sold at city hall was a great first step. At some point in the future I would like to see cisterns, man-made aquifers, aqueducts, and ponds and lakes into the equation. That would be good positive contol, instead of always coming at this from a negative angle.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

April 15, 2009... Anyone Up for Some Tea?

On April 15, 2009 there will be a peaceful demonstration that will offer us the opportunity to display our angst over the current state of our Government versus the Bureaucracy. Here is a link to a posting that discusses the particulars of the Catawba County Tea Party and where it will be held. (Tea Party Link).

Catawba County Justice Center
100 SW Blvd, Hwy 321 S
Newton, NC 28658
Time: Noon to 1pm

I know that many people will have to work, but this is our chance to create the momentum of something big. If government officials see that their positions are tenuous, because of the decisions they are making, then they may reverse the trends they have accepted as the norm. The Federal Budget Deficit was $192.3 billion in March. That means in one month, the Federal budget deficit was nearly half of what it was last year. Anyway that you cut it, this is dangerous. We cannot continue down this path without suffering catastrophic consequences.

The Boston Tea Party was a seminal event in the evolution towards the American Revolution. The current tax structure of this country is unfair to all classes. It basically has only benefited bureaucratic representatives. What has evolved is a Government of the Bureaucracy, by the Bureaucracy, and for the Bureaucracy. It is time for the power structure to be placed back where it belongs, with the people. If the Politicos are not going to represent the interests of the people; then it is time that we make drastic changes for the People's, and thus the Government's, Interests.

The Hound hopes to see you in Newton on Wednesday!!!

Friday, April 10, 2009


Yes I am celebrating Easter and the wonderful message of the resurrection, but I meant Austin Allran. I saw a glimpse of him on a NC news show. He wasn't doing anything (which was not a surprise), but he's still alive and well. Hope springs eternal.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of April 7, 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 3/17/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Alderman Danny Seaver

Special Presentations:

Proclamation to City Of Hickory’s Public Safety Communications Personnel – Declaring the Week of April 12 – 18, 2009 as “National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week” in the City of Hickory. Mayor Wright said that these people are responsible for the lives and property of our citizens. On a daily basis they serve the public in countless ways without the recognition by the beneficiaries of their services. Each telecommunicator must exhibit professionalism, accountability, compassion, and teamwork during the performance of their job. Police Chief Adkins addressed the council and showed various members of the telecommunications team. They answered 455 calls per day and dispatched over 71,000 calls for service to police officers last year. He thanked them for their service and the council for their proclamation. The Mayor stated how important these people are and cited the example of what happened in Carthage, NC last week.

B. Proclamation to the Hickory High School Key Club for its Success and Service to the Community - Proclaiming April 7, 2009 as “Hickory High School Key Club Day” in the City of Hickory. The Mayor said we are absolutely blessed by these members of the Key Club. He said that they were integral in Hickory being proclaimed an All-American City. He has observed leadership growth, realizing potential, and accomplishing more than they ever dreamed. Key Club is the oldest and largest service program for High School students. 240 clubs in the Carolinas met in Durham, March 13-15, 2009 to compete, learn, and network. Hickory High members won first place in all of the major service and leadership categories.

C. Recognition of Key Club Advisor, Danny Seaver for his Accomplishments and Leadership of the Hickory High School Key Club. Mayor Wright thanked Danny Seaver and Helen Devlin for helping Key Club members achieve more than they could have ever imagined. Alder Seaver is one of 37 people in the last 63 years to be recognized as a Carolinas District Honorary member. This is the highest honor that a leader can receive. Mr. Seaver has been integral in the growth of Hickory High Schools Key Club. The group will travel to Dallas, Texas this summer to receive "Diamond Level" recognition, the highest honor that can be bestowed upon the club at the international level. Alder Seaver thanked everyone for their support and wanted the recognition for the diverse group that represents the key club. He stated that the 45 members have amassed nearly 3,000 hours of service. Some kids have given hundreds of hours of service. The Mayor commended them for their voluntary service and said he was very proud of them.

D. Proclamation to Linda Baker Recognizing the Month of April, 2009 as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in the City of Hickory. The Mayor said that this is a community problem that affects the quality of life in the community. This is preventable and it increases the likelihood of criminal behavior, substance abuse, health problems, and risky behavior. Prevention programs succeed because of partnerships created among social service agencies, schools, faith communities, civic organizations, law enforcement agencies, and the business community. Alder Seaver mentioned that Mrs. Baker is a leader in the Circle K organization at CVCC, which like the Key Club is also supported by the Kiwanis. It has also won numerous awards.

The Hound agrees with the Mayor and Alderman Seaver about how these people have touched the lives of others through their voluntary contributions. We need people to realize that your reward for hard work will not always be monetary, Sometimes your reward will come through helping the community address its quality of life issues. That is exactly what these people have done and continue to do. They are examples of the people that we should all strive to be.

Consent Agenda:
Social - Community Appearance Grant to Meredith Adams for Property Located at 831 Old Lenoir Road in the Amount of $377.50..... Landscape Incentive Grant to Lenoir-Rhyne University for the Mauney Music Building Located at the Intersection of 8th Avenue, NE and Stasavich Place in the Amount of $2,500.00.....Community Appearance Grant to Lenoir-Rhyne University for the Mauney Music Building Located at the Intersection of 8th Avenue, NE and Stasavich Place in the Amount of $5,000.00.....

Cemetary Lots - Corrected Transfer Oakwood Cemetery From Linda Lewis Helms to James Nelson Sherrill, Jr. and Pat Gregg Sherrill..... Corrected Transfer in Oakwood Cemetery From Linda Lewis Helms to James C. Winkler and wife, Dolores Y. Winkler. (Document Prepared by Attorney Susan L. Haire).....Quitclaim Deed From James C. Winkler and wife, Dolores Y. Winkler to Larry Penley and wife, Mildred W. Penley to Correct the Transfer of a Cemetery Lot in Oakwood Cemetery

Request From Christ United Methodist Church for the Use of Union Square for Their May Reactivate Concert to be Held on 5/29/2009 From 6 pm to 10pm.

Request For Funding By Community Relations Council (CRC) - Spring 2009 Grant Recommendations in the Amount of $7,413. As part of the work plan and annual budget process, the CRC receives funds to disperse during the fiscal year. A total of $12,000.00 is available for grant funding in FY 2008-09 and the CRC awarded $2,750 in Fall 2008. The CRC recommends funding on eight groups:
1. Hickory Community Theatre ($1,500)
2. Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club ($550)
3. ALFA ($1,500)
4. Clinton’s Corner of CC ($528)
5. Catawba County Hispanic Ministry ($600)
6. Hickory Branch NAACP ($860)
7. Council on Adolescents of CC ($1,275)
8. Western Piedmont Symphony ($600)

Proclamations - Declaring the Month of April, 2009 as “Fair Housing Month.".... Designating Thursday, May 7, 2009 as “National Day of Prayer.".... Proclaiming April 18 – May 2, 2009 as “Spring Little Sweep 2009.”

Business - Approval of Fire Hydrant Grant Application From Bowen Urgent Care Located at 2365 Springs Road N.E. ... Apply and Accept a Traffic Unit Grant By The Governor’s Highway Safety Program with the City’s Portion Being in the Amount of $102,530.00.... Approval of Property Tax Refund as Recommended by Catawba County Tax Office to Xerox Corporation in the Amount of $4,312.77.... Approval of Property Tax Refund as Recommended by Catawba County Tax Office to Charles E. & Mary Ann Mitchem in the Amount of $67.25.

Approve Resolutions for Application to North Carolina Clean Water State Revolving Fund for Loan Funding on Multiple Projects.

Traffic Ordinances - Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 4th Avenue, NW From the Intersection With 6th Street, NW East Approximately 870 Feet to 4th Street, NW and 5th Street, NW From the Intersection With 3rd Avenue, NW North Approximately 815 Feet to the Intersection With 4th Avenue, NW...... Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 1st St NW From the Intersection With 31st Ave NW North Approximately 1,200 Feet to the Intersection With 34th Ave NW, 1ST St Pl NW From the Intersection With 33rd Ave NW North Approximately 400 Feet to the Intersection With 34th Ave NW, 2nd St NW From the Intersection With 32nd Ave NW North Approximately 1,200 Feet to the Dead End, 2nd St Pl NW From the Intersection With 31st Ave NW North Approximately 420 Feet to the Intersection With 34th Ave NW, 32nd Ave NW From the Intersection With 3rd St NW East Approximately 2,400 Feet to the Dead End, 33rd Ave NW From the Intersection With 3rd St NW East Approximately 2,600 Feet to the Intersection With North Center St, and 34th Ave NW From the Intersection With 1st St Pl NW West Approximately 1,600 Feet to the Intersection With 2nd St Pl NW..... Prohibiting On-Street Parking Along Both the East and West Margins of 6th St NW From the Intersection With 7th St NW West Approximately 1,080 Feet to the Intersection With 20th Ave Ln NW

Ordinances - budget a total of $750 of International Springfest donations in the International Council expenditure....transfer $71,894 from the Hickory Police Department Specialized Equipment line item to the Debt Service Payment line items....transfer $97,334 of General Capital Reserve to the General Fund Installment Purchases line item. This transfer is for final payment to William S. Barkley for the purchase of properties located in the 800 block of 3rd St. Place and 3rd St....Decrease the Parks and Recreation Miscellaneous Donations revenue line item and the Special Events expenditure line item by $5,000, because it was budgeted twice (8/08 & 2/09).

Informational Items:
Update of Grant From the Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program “Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services” (SAFER) Accepted by City Council on February 17, 2009 - City Manager Berry stated that after further review the Department of Homeland Security is saying that we must fully fund 12 full time firefighters. This was fully discussed at the City Council Meeting on 2/17/2009 under New Business - Departmental Reports - Accept Grant from the Department of Homeland Security Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program “Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Services"

City Manager Berry’s Attendance at the 2009 Catawba County Chamber of Commerce Economic Issues Conference in Hickory, NC on 3/11/2009 – registration - $15.00

Mayor Wright’s Travel Expenses for the NLC – 2009 Annual Congressional City Conference in Washington, DC on 3/15/2009 – airfare - $697.70; registration - $465.00

New Business - Public Hearings:

Voluntary Non-Contiguous Annexation of the Property of Claude Ray Shrum Located at the End of Timberland Hills Drive Off of Robinson Road - The properties are currently vacant and are located in the City’s ETJ area and zoned R-1 residential. Mr. Shrum intends to develop a 41 lot single-family residential subdivision. The current tax value is $166,100.00 and if annexed, the raw property alone would generate $830.50 in additional tax revenues. Unanimously Approved by Council

Recognition of Persons Requesting to be Heard

Mr. Harry Hipps of 405 29th Avenue Drive, NW Requests to Address City Council Regarding an Amendment to the City Code, Article 3, Section 4-32 - Keeping of Swine and Goats - Harry stated that he had a simple request. He would like the code amended to include sheep. His neighbors as he stated "believe it or not" were raising up to 13 sheep on a 1 1/2 acre piece of property in their backyard. This section was done in 2006, because before that a person had to go before a board to have the situation declared a nuisance. The ordinance stated that a nuisance is defined as pigs, swine, hogs, and goats. He stated that he didn't know what the difference was between pigs, hogs, and swine, but the ordinance covered goats, but did not cover sheep. He spoke with the code enforcement officer and the code enforcement officer pointed that out (that sheep weren't included). He said that Sgt. Yoder was very helpful. He stated that the noise and fecal matter that apply to the others should also apply to sheep. Harry (asked) would like for sheep to be included in the ordinance.

First Talk (WHKY) - Monday Morning meeting with the Mayor - and the Hound

This is an MP3 recording of my question that I wanted to ask the Mayor on Hal Row's radio show during his Monday Morning Meeting with the Mayor segment: Link to MP3 (sorry the audio isn't perfect, but it is clear).

I truly appreciated the Mayor's response. I realize that he cannot say everything that he wants to say for political reasons, but if you read between the lines, then you will understand that he is as frustrated with Raleigh as the rest of us.

Where I disagree with the Mayor, is that we shouldn't play footsie with the people in the eastern part of the state just to please them. We are fiscal conservatives and we aren't going to change just to please the money-spinners in Raleigh that have led us down this path to a $2 billion shortfall. We have a surplus in Hickory. No matter how you cut it, one can see that we have vastly different philosophies when it comes to spending.

Like he says, we have a lobbyist, but what is this guy doing? I was there when he was awarded the contract. Is he earning his keep. I don't think so. The Consultant is going to represent the highest bidder. He is basically representing an assortment of cities. We aren't getting anything out of this guy that will specifically help this area.

The people in Charlotte voted against their own Mayor in an effort that elected Mrs. Perdue. That was nothing more than straight ticket voters that weren't intelligent enough to know how to vote anything other than straight ticket, so they KISSed (Kept It Simple Stupid on their voting) their best interests good-bye so that they could make sure that they wouldn't mess up their allegiance to Obama. No one other than typical North Carolina Democrat Party hacks would ever state anything other than the fact that Pat McCrory is a pragmatic and charismatic leader who could have taken North Carolina in a positive and new direction.

The people of Charlotte will continue to get slighted. They have always put Democrats in key positions of power, so this money issue has nothing to do with political affiliation. Charlotte gets the shaft from Raleigh (and the East), because they are jealous of Charlotte's stature as the largest city in the state. It is truly ashame that the people of Charlotte don't back up their fellow brethren in the west, The same can be said for Winston-Salem.

The West plays the role of the Forgotten Man in the State of North Carolina. They don't even know (or care) that we exist. It is time that we make a concerted effort to get our rightful money from Raleigh. We aren't asking for charity. We just want our money back. The Western Piedmont Council of Governments is an unelected body. They are more of a social organization than anything. It is our elected officials duty to take the lead on this. This is no different than the water transfer issue. The Mayor stumbled onto the truth at the end of this segment. If Raleigh keeps kicking us while we are down, by continued confiscation of our taxes and redistribution to their cronies, then it is time to sue them.

Moral persuasion, a sense of fairness, or even the cold calculus that if they would invest in the Hickory area, we would soon produce a return of monies doesn' t seem to work with these people. So if they insist, then hardball politics it should and shall be.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Catawba County's School Systems might be forced to merge

In this article in Sunday's Hickory Daily Record entitled School consolidation raises concerns in community, the issue of Catawba County School Consolidation is discussed. Please go read the article and come back here to comment on where you stand on this issue. I really would like to see a point-counterpoint discussion on this issue so that all sides can air out legitimate advocacy and concerns about the issue.

In the Hounds Opinion - It is high time that the school systems were consolidated. I have heard this issue discussed for well over 30 years. This is about eliminating wasteful redundancy and increasing efficiency. We don't need to be paying for 3 school superintendents, their secretary's, and so on and so forth or have 3 school boards. I am sure that the school board officials are worried about being consolidated to one unit, because they might just lose their position of power. Does that not go back to people just wanting a title?

Is Hickory in Catawba County? Are Newton and Conover in Catawba County? Is this about a fear of losing community identity? The Catawba County School system stretches across all borders of this county, except for two enclaves. The geography certainly hasn't hurt the achievements of the Catawba County's system and I doubt the assimilation of the other two systems would cause any dire results.

The savings in administrative costs alone would save millions. It would also create one large school system, which would carry more weight in Raleigh. It would give the consolidated school board more power and it would also make for more cohesive educational goals. Personally, I hope that this passes.

Have you ever noticed how some leaders, in this community, always want to stick with the status quo, whether things are working or not. Is all they want there little niche of power? We really need to look deeper into the positives that this might bring. Folks, we cannot continue to throw money down the drain. Some people don't seem to care about budgets. Frankly, it is time that certain individuals figure out that education isn't about administration or money. Education needs to be about the kids. Let's do what is best for them.

Friday, April 3, 2009

All Points Bulletin (Missing): State Senator Austin Allran

Our local District 42 State Senator has not been heard from since pushing through useless (unenforceable) text messaging legislation a few weeks ago. We need to find him so that he can represent the Hickory Metro Area in the State Senate assembly on issues concerning Catawba County's 15% unemployment rate.

a) A Charlotte Observer Article stated that the Charlotte population as a whole grew by 2%, because the Charlotte area was perceived as a good area that will recover sooner and stronger than most. Hickory's annual population increases, since 2001 has hovered in the low 1% range (2007 - 1.26%). We have seen growth, but most of that has been retirees that will place additional burdens on our local infrastructure. How can we move towards a younger demographic?

b) Is Austin Allran still alive? We never hear anything from him in the Hickory Daily Record. We never hear from him on WHKY radio or Television. Has anyone seen or heard from Senator Allran lately? He surely would have something to say about our county's 9 years of economic malaise.

c) Did Hickory get any stimulus money promised? I have seen where Assistant City Manager Andrea Surratt, Alder Z. Anne Hoyle, and Information Director Mandy Pitts went to Washington to talk to our local Federal Representatives. Have any guarantees been made that we would get some money or was that an exercise in self-deprecating vanity? I know money has been ear-marked towards this state, because Governor Perdue was gleefully touting it and wanting more. Is Raleigh going to send some our way or are they going to let the DOT and the Legislature do some more of their magic money disappearing acts.

d) Speaking of magic disappearing acts. Whatever happened to State Senator Austin Allran. Is he still alive? I remember Harry Hipps having e-mail communications with him about changing public notification laws. You know Harry told me that the Senator didn't quite grasp the concept of this internet thing and the fact that we could post public notifications on the Net, instead of in newspapers. Allran's staff said there wasn't a law keeping the city from doing that. Duh!!! The point was to take away conflicts of interest where the City is one of the papers biggest money clients. We pointed all of this out, but we never heard back from Senator Allran or his staff. But it confuses me, because we have heard about this text messaging thing, but like Fidel Castro there have been no pictures to substantiate the reports that he is still alive

e) Is Hickory paying more gas taxes and getting no return in Hwy funds? How much? It sure doesn't seem like we are getting much. They started working on the Interstate, but they stopped in the middle of the process. Is the state going to finish what they started or is the wave running for entertainment purposes.

f) I sure hope someone can help us find Austin Allran? If he isn't alive, then they need to let us name an interim Senator until his term expires. This area deserves some representation in the State Senate. I haven't heard or seen our State senator in the media. I guess him missing is the reason why we are riding up and down the pot hole and crater highway. I sure hope someone will find Senator Allran pretty soon.

g) Is Hickory getting our fair share of State services for the taxes we pay or is there a net outflow of tax dollars to Raleigh? Given our situation as the worst area in NC and one of the worst in the country why are we not getting more? And are any of our local political leaders pushing the issue? Where is the compassion in Raleigh for people in need. They tell us they want to help the poor and downtrodden, but here are the poor and downtrodden and I sure haven't seen any government money being used to try to jump start the economy around here.

h) Just let us know doggonit, is Austin Allran still alive? It sure seems that a man that has been a State Senator for about half of his life would have some tenure and seniority in the legislative process. I really don't know what has happened to Senator Allran, but I never hear about him in the media. How much bang for the buck have we gotten from this man that we have elected to represent us 12 times in North Carolina's State Senate.

....Oh man. Shoot, my fault, I just remembered. I just figured out why we haven't been able to find Senator Allran. We haven't been asking for him by his Raleigh name. It slipped my mind. Down in the Capital they call him Austin Who?