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Saturday, May 30, 2009

There is only one problem with our Economy -- REALITY

Listen to Peter Schiff spell it out in simple terms that can't be denied. Commodities are shooting through the roof. Look at the price of gas over the last few weeks, look at the dollar's sharp declines recently. Since last summer, the dollar had risen dramatically and now it has fallen sharply over the last month, losing nearly 10% of it's value in that period of time US Dollar vs Euro Chart. Look at the price of Silver (Chart). Since January the price of silver has risen from $11 per ounce to a close of $15.79 on Friday. That is a 43.5% gain in 5 months. That coincides with the price of gas we are seeing at the pump, which will soon be back to $3/gallon. That is going to put a serious crimp into any Economic Recovery Plans.

All of this points to the fact that inflation and volatility are here. Now is where the rubber will meet the road and the Federal Government over the next few months will have to make some tough choices. They have two choices:

1) Pull the plug out from underneath the printing press - monopoly money machine. Get the dollar to comeback to reality and the housing market and auto sectors continue their deterioration. -Or-

2) Keep printing the Monopoly money like they have been doing and watch inflation take off, which will further reduce the value of our wages and further erode the purchasing power and the retail sector. Either way interest rates are going to have to rise. Option 1 is the Common Sense solution and the better solution over the long haul. Look at the increase in the money supply over the last 8 months (shown in this graph).

Now I present Mr. Schiff's Vlog from 5/29/2009:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My address to the Chamber of Commerce Board this morning about the Future Economy Council - 5/27/2009

I truly appreciate Danny Hearn inviting me to the meeting this morning and allowing me to address the Chamber's Board. Below is my prepared statement and I am also placing it on the Project 3P website. I hope that you will begin visiting that website to see what the Future Economic Council is up to.

Thank You for allowing me to speak on behalf of the Future Economy Council. The Future Economy Council has given me hope that we can turn our area’s Economic Malaise around.

The last 2 meetings have been inspiring. Rick Smyre is very engaging and he certainly has a way of inspiring innovative communication. There are definitely quite a few forward thinkers in the group. This group seems to embrace the idea, notion, and actuality of an exponentially changing world.

The realities are that we need new skills, new approaches, and a different Philosophical framework for the world of tomorrow. And the world of tomorrow is actually here today. That is the reason why this area continues to fall behind. We have allowed innovation and technology to pass us by.

We are in a new age of enlightenment. We can’t cordon Hickory off from the global experience. Mr. Smyre believes that Catawba County's Future Economy Council is comprehensively setting up the initial conditions to deal with this New World effectively. One concept that Rick mentioned was the idea of looking at our community and organizations and building in resiliency. We have to develop capacities in our thinking, skills, and leadership to be able to adapt quickly in this exponentially changing world.

My role has been to develop a blog that will be the first in a number of websites dedicated to the process of rebranding Hickory as an area of innovation. I started a blog about the Hickory Metro’s political, economic, and cultural landscape called the Hickory Hound last August. I have received over 10,000 unique visitors to the website, in that short span, from cities around the world. I do not tell you this for self-promoting purposes. I am telling you this so that you might understand the possibilities of engaging the Global Community and helping them understand the Rebranding of Hickory and what we are setting out to accomplish.

The goals of this and subsequent websites will be to provide content, including books and links to websites, about what the Future Economic Council is trying to accomplish and what the Creative Molecular Economy entails. I will provide summaries of the agenda and the minutes of Future Economic Council and related meetings. We will create a message board forum that will allow for interactive communication between members and other interested parties.

My next goals are to interact with council members and devise a Mission statement. We want to outline a division of labor for both efficiency and effective purposes.

I really enjoyed Terry Bledsoe’s presentation of the Broadband upgrade opportunities for the area and the discussion that ensued. Since last Thursday I have had a couple of offshoot discussions that spoke to the limitless possibilities of upgrading our Broadband connectivity. If given the chance, this process will bear fruit. This is not the be-all, end –all, but it could enhance and attract entrepreneurs and forward thinkers from around the world to seriously enter Hickory into their equation.

In our last meeting, just last Thursday, Jay Adams said that he believes that the thing we need to aim at, is that there is going to be a lot of money thrown at solving problems like this (the Broadband issue). The project is going to have to be well formed and well thought out, it's going to have to look good on paper, it's going to have to be comprehensive. After the implementation, the maintenance is what local government and businesses have to cooperate to maintain. Hickory, because of size and layout, is in a much better position to implement these kinds of things than a major metro area.

Folks, the average citizen has been kept out of the loop on Economic Development Issues in this area. We are told that we are doing all the right things. We are told that it’s not the local government’s fault. It’s all caused by Washington and Raleigh. We have all the right ingredients, but we just can’t get over the hump. Apparently close only counts in Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Hickory.

I truly believe that the Future Economy Council is the missing ingredient. We have no plans to hide what we are doing. We are here and we are open to be approached from all angles. I believe in leaving the egos at the door. If this community will give us the tools and get behind what Danny, Rick, and this council are doing, then I 100% believe that we will bear fruit in the not too distant future.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Project 3P is Alive!!! -- The Future Economy Council

Project 3P

I have started a new blog per the request of Catawba County's Future Economy Council, which is a venture that was established by Catawba County Chamber of Commerce President Danny Hearn.

Project 3P is a play off of the idea of the future economy that is currently evolving. That economy is called the "Creative Molecular Economy." The 3P's = The Progressive Productive Proton Project. Progressive = the Future ( favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform) + Productive (Produce) = Create + Molecular = Proton (Positive Charged Molecule).

This website is just the first step in an ongoing process that we hope will evolve into something truly special. Let's work together to bring this community to the cutting edge of innovation. We already have so many tools at our disposal. This forum of open dialogue will lead to the innovation needed to bring us to an Advanced Economic Establishment for this community.

Thank You and May God Bless,
James Thomas Shell

Saturday, May 23, 2009

10 questions with Harry Hipps

Harry has been a good friend of mine for nearly 25 years and he is the person that inspired me to start this site. We have come a long way in a short time with the Hound. This weekend we will hit the 10,000 unique visitor mark. Harry has a great philosophical mind and I highly value his opinion. I can assure you that this Q&A is the real Harry Hipps. (#3 in the series)

1) Can you give us some background and a history of yourself? (Where were you born? What is your educational background? Why did you come to or stay in Hickory? Tell us about your professional accomplishments.) - I was born in Newton and was a graduate of Newton-Conover High School. I was elected Secretary/Treasurer of my class by write in vote, one of few to do so. I am a graduate of ECU with a degree in Music Education, a life long musician, currently doing some Church music and a member of the Newton/Conover Community Band. I am a volunteer for Rescue America Ministries, which was spun off from Charles Colson's ministries. Its focus is prison ministry and has focused on the Alexander County Juvenile Detention Facility. My home church is Gateway Baptist Church. I'm a baker by trade, formerly of Stone Hearth Bakery, now Pretzeltime at Valley Hills Mall.

2) Tell us about the accomplishments you are proudest of achieving in your life? Something besides having a family or raising children. We all recognize that those are common goals that we all aspire to. What’s the most exciting thing you saw/did/experienced/were a part of in your personal life? In your professional life? I have shown sales growth every year in the high single digits to double digits in good economies and bad. I've had the opportunity to employ and befriend numerous younger people and help mentor them. My relationship with God is paramount and Spiritual growth is a joy and a challenge. Engaging people on the greatest and deepest issues of life is a passion of mine.

3) If I were to ask people that know you to describe you what would they say? Well, if they were from my younger years they would say I'm a real jokester and should have been a comedian! Those who know me now would, hopefully, say that I am well read and have a passion for education, intelligent discussion on the issues we face in the world today and have a number of creative ideas.

4) How much bearing do the opinions of the people around you have on your decisions? They have a great deal of impact on how I view what is happening in the world today and what I need to be aware of, but I also have to bounce them off my core values and ideas, beliefs, and practices that have proven to have lasting value. I am not too influenced by the buzzwords, trendy attitudes, and the "herd" mentality except to be aware of the influence it has on the people around me. I am comfortable in my own skin and have a solid framework for viewing the world.

5) Can you tell us of a professional mistake that you have made that may have had an impact on who you are today? Does it still bother you? Can you share with us how you came to grips with that error? In my early days of managing people I was somewhat of a perfectionist and wanted the same in others. I frustrated some good people by not knowing what is enough and when to leave well enough alone. Now I can better gauge what is possible and find different avenues to reach what is needed.

6) If you were given enough money to tackle one project (think nearly unlimited) that you felt was important to the Hickory Area, what would that issue be? To conserve land and open spaces, while using the already developed areas in Hickory to better effect. You could write a book on this topic, but it involves public transportation, densifying Hickory's residential, office and institutional buildings, and other structures, to allow for fewer car miles and easier access to the goods and services we want and keeping as much of the woods, farmland and fields as possible.

7) Let’s say there is no money available for the foreseeable future. What one project (priority) would you push as part of your agenda that can be done with little or no money? The democratization of City and State government. We can and should engage more people. With the internet we can give out public notices and save advertising costs. E-mailing links to interested citizens to the council and committee meetings could inform them what is coming up and they could respond to representatives with their concerns or suggestions. There are other ways we can include more people more often. To just hear from the population once every two, four, or six years at election time is simply not a vibrant or healthy way to run a democracy in the fast paced world of today.

8) What is your overall philosophy of the development of this area? Where would you like to see us in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? The overall theme would be transformation and revitalization. The globalization of the economy, leading to the loss of furniture and textiles, has fundamentally changed our future. I would like to take the great land, climate, cultural community, proximity to beaches, larger cities, mountains, lakes, and the other great assets and attract creative, productive people that can work in the global economy from Hickory and bring their distinctive talents to the area. We need to stop looking back, lamenting the loss of the things we can't control anyway and look to what is desirable and possible. Now is the time to recognize that we have to rebuild and we have opportunities to rebrand Hickory as a unique blend of the friendly hometown culture of Americana and the limitless possibilities of the high tech, molecular economy we are moving into.

9) If you could define your Personal Legacy what would you like it to be? What would you like to be remembered for? My hope is that I would be remembered as a person that came through turbulent times in my personal life and as a member of our society in times of transformation and finished the race well. I strive to serve God by being faithful to Him and to serve others. Jesus said the greatest gift was Love and I would hope to show it by living as purely as possible and serving others.

10) How do you define Leadership? There was a god of ancient mythology named Janus. Janus had a head that was looking in two directions at one time. I think a leader has to be somewhat like this. A leader has to be a really good listener and be able to understand the situations, ethos, and stivings of people and work on the modalities to see people achieve what they want. At the same time, a leader can't just see which way the wind is blowing and jump out in front of it. Sometimes a leader has to be an innovator or a person who sees what the crowd doesn't see and take the initiative when it may cause personal stress and unpopularity in the short term. How someone balances these disparate impulses is a critical feature of leadership.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Future Economy Council Meeting (3) - 5/21/2009

I will go over this meeting chronologically, but I will let you in on the fact that this was another excellent meeting. This meeting got opened up and people just went with it on some new levels of innovative dialogue.

Welcome - Catawba County Chamber of Commerce President Danny Hearn started out the meeting by announcing that Rick Smyre has been named Chairman of the Gaston County Future Economy Council. Danny mentioned that several parallel processes have been taking place since the last time we met. Four new members joined the team including Mark Fleming, Congressman Patrick McHenry's Office; Andrea Surratt, Assistant City Manager, City of Hickory; Shane Pitman, Information Security Specialists; and Chuck Adair (Consultant). The Unifour Foundation grant will be decided upon during the first week in June.

Future's Communi-Versity: Speaker Joshua Cooper Ramo - Rick Smyre had the floor next and he spoke about the book that Danny has already sent us an e-mail about. The book is The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It . (Rick did not mention this, but the author was the man who translated events and was a guest commentator during the Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony on NBC). Joshua Cooper Ramo used to be an associate editor for Time Magazine. He lives in China and connects businesses to U.S. concerns. Ramo says, "We are in Revolutionary Times and We need Revolutionary Thinking." "We are living in a time when the ideas, the institutions, and the leaders are more attuned to an age that is 200 years ago." We are in a time of Civilization Change. Command and Control Management is no longer effective.

We need new skills. We need a new approach and a different Philosophical framework. We have to be able to identify weak signals. We are moving back to a new age of enlightenment. Rick believes that Catawba County's FEC is comprehensively setting up the initial conditions effectively. One concept that Rick mentioned was the idea of looking at our community and organizations and building in resiliency. We have to develop capacities in our thinking, skills, and leadership to be able to adapt quickly in an exponentially changing world.

Future Economy Council Website/ Hickory Hound Blog - Danny retook the floor and talked about our hopeful addition of an FEC website. He handed the floor over to myself to discuss the idea and a conversation that I had with Rick on Tuesday afternoon. The idea is to develop a subgroup that will in the end create a website focusing on the Creative Molecular Economy (CME). The steps to getting to the development of the website are 1) We need to obtain knowledge (concepts and methods of CME) about what we are doing. 2) We need to design the website after we have nailed down the concepts and have a connection of multiple websites to create a web based on that. 3) Basically, we need to identify individuals and small groups of intelligent knowledgeable people and I believe everyone in the FEC has something to offer.

He gave me a list of sites to check out that might be of interest. This will be like playing chess. We are going to have to think about multiple moves at one time. We can't afford to limit ourselves by thinking "This is the right move." If we all get together and go at this from a different angle, then when someone gets ahead of the game we can follow them. But, as in a horse race, when someone else takes the lead then we can slide on over and follow them. We need to go with whatever is the winning situation in this and that is how we are going to get ahead.

We are going to reference the minutes of our meetings, all of the references to books and websites, and interactivity of communication. This will essentially be the beginning of the communi-versity, where we don't have to have a physical building. We have the web and the virtual world to take care of, and obtain, knowledge from at any time.

Rick retook the floor and went over the meaning of the Creative Molecular Economy that he had spoken of at our last FEC meeting. He added that products being made in the future (some have already begun) and the processes in which they are made will be based upon biology. Our community's participation in this transformation will help us be at the cutting edge. The website will allow us to see what is emerging and Hickory is focusing on the idea of preparing for the CME. The website will create an access point that will 1) Bring attention to Hickory and help market our brand and 2) It will help build global connections to help access resources and other people.

I had to ask a question of Rick. "What is the syntax of the word "Molecular" in the term Creative Molecular Economy? We all know the definition of Molecular, but in this syntax are we talking about the processors and nanobiotics or are we talking about People?" There was a small discussion and in the end Rick said that it was both. Rick says that our education focuses on outcomes and content that think in either/or terms, but we need to think in and/both terms.

Houston Harris asked if "either/or" questions didn't give us the ability to prioritize? Rick said sometimes like in a city council situation you have to do this. He said however that many times these questions are formed wrong or put in the wrong context. Either/Or is necessary when you have to take control, but if you are trying to build new capacities it is the worst approach.

Future Citizen Teams: City and County Public Libraries: Mary Sizemore was given the floor and Danny encouraged her to address a library series being set up by herself, Karen Foss, Kim Whitmore, and Chuck Adair. There will be a feature learner group or book club that will meet once a month and come back for discussion. Hopefully this will grow. Mary addressed how this will be promoted by the Chamber and by the library. She hopes this will start this summer. Dates will be nailed down soon. Chuck Adair said he would like to have people on the FEC or their organizations participate in the series. He would like to see the transitional experience be a little more focused. Rick stated that Biological principle says that you can't have growth, evolution, or innovation without diversity.

Future's Institute/ Tranformational Leadership Training Site - Dean Bill Mauney of Lenoir-Rhyne was given the floor next. He has gotten together with Dr. John Brzorad and they are looking to make the Reese Institute at L-R a nationally known Futures Institute. The Reese Institute focuses on conservation. That provides all sorts of opportunities. L-R students are open to new ideas. Part of the Grant we are seeking as the FEC will seek to teach Master Capacity Building. L-R would be a regional center in that effort.

Broadband Connectivity - Terry Bledsoe next took the floor and displayed a Power Point Presentation. He stated that in the 1990s that Catawba County was a leader in the Fiber-Optic industry before losing much of that industry. Many people think that we are ahead of the game as far as Broadband is concerned.

What is the definition of Broadband? The legal definition was 256kb/sec download and 128kb/sec upload until March 2008. Now it is defined in tiers. Catawba County is defined as tier-4 on the scale (rated by e-nc). Terry said most studies say that we need 100mb/sec to the home by 2012.

In Europe, several areas have networks that are 100mb/sec to 1 gb/sec or higher. Public/Private partnerships have built most of this. Wilson, NC is offering 100mb/sec to the home and 1gb/sec to business. This $30 million plan is expected to only take 5 to 10 years to pay back. They are meeting resistance from Embarq and Time-Warner.

In Europe, the models are public-private to build the network out, then the companies can buy space on the fiber network. This has fostered more competition, a la carte service, and a better network.

There was an excellent discussion (and back and forth) by the group about capping of downloading usage and control of the internet by the private entities that offer the service. Terry said he doesn't know that we are even to that point, in the discussion, but he believes we are getting to the point of saturation. That is the point of the discussion. He stated that he does not know of any plans for 100mb/sec broadband to the home in Catawba County.

Terry showed some slides that show the average U.S. connection is 5mb/sec. Countries that had their networks installed later have obtained newer equipment and thus have better broadband. The U.S. were the innovators of the technology, but we have fallen behind as new equipment has been developed. The U.S. is paying on average $55/month or $11/mb. Japan is paying about $35/month. Wilson is paying $35/month for 10mb connections. Catawba County is going to have to move forward on this issue. We need to evolve with the technology. There are 30 counties in North Carolina with better broadband than Catawba County.

Another Lively Discussion Ensued about the possibilities of bringing Accelerated Broadband to Hickory. It was entertaining and informative. I'll tell you one thing. you better get Pat Appleson a gig connection soon (that would be an appetizer) or we might just see his head explode. I love his passion for technology.

Rick Smyre stated that he thinks we are going to see, because of the complexity of all systems, a move to public-private cooperation (in business). The ideological approach of the past isn't going to work in a time of constant change, interconnection, and increased complexity.

Jay Adams said that he believes that the thing we need to aim at, is that there is going to be a lot of money thrown at solving problems like this. The project is going to have to be well formed and well thought out, it's going to have to look good on paper, it's going to have to be comprehensive. After the implementation, the maintenance is what local government and businesses have to cooperate to maintain. Hickory, because of size and layout, is in a much better position to implement these kinds of things than a major metro area.

Danny asked Terry to continue more of this discussion the next time that we meet. He would like us to look more into what Wilson is doing and maybe bring in an official from CommScope.

Shane Pitman had an excellent statement that Internet Service Providers need to look to more than consumers, when trying to recoup costs. Consumers are downloading from Netflix and Hulu and the ISPs should be recouping part of the costs (of increased broad band) from those companies as well.

Houston Harris stated that if we solve the broadband issue, and move up two tiers, that doesn't solve our problem. It is an asset that helps us get to a real solution. This is about the economy. At the end of the day, we must be careful not to just focus on this one issue.

IT Training/Funding and Dialogue with Public School Teachers - Dr. Judith Ray spoke to the issue of "No Child Left Behind." She believes that it has strangled education. She wonders how we can bring more relevant instruction at a time when the schools are losing personnel (because of budget cuts). It is going to create more stress on the part of teachers and less receptivity to changing their teaching approach, because they have to have formative assessments. We are assessing the ability to regurgitate knowledge rather than think.

There have been a lot of strides in terms of hardware. She believes we have to look at small pockets, being able to get an initiative going. If we can find an outside entity to come in and talk and help partner with teachers, she believes it is an overwhelming task, but it must be done. Assessing current knowledge does not teach kids how to think. She said Rick asked how this will be received. Judith stated these are new jobs and they aren't replacing anybody, it is grant money, it is additional help, and it reduces class sizes.

Michael Neely spoke about the technology angle and teaching kids how to think. He sensed the urgency in education. He said his business depends on highly skilled people. He needs people that are skilled at more than one thing -- thinking and problem solving. Danny invited Judith to bring her counterparts to meet the council so that we may dialogue with them.

Danny Hearn then wrapped up the meeting. I truly felt like I learned a lot in that 1hour and 42 minutes. I think we all did. (Pictures by Pat Appleson)

The Future is Now
Time to Start Transforming Catawba County (1)
Transformative Leadership -- All Chips In. How 'bout You?
Future Economy Council Meeting was Awesome (2)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

10 Questions with Assistant Catawba County Manager Dewey Harris

Dewey is a Participant on the Catawba County Future Economic Council with 30+ other talented people and myself. I would like to thank him for his participation in answering these questions and I hope you enjoy getting to know what Mr. Harris is all about.

1) Can you give us some background and a history of yourself? (Where were you born? What is your educational background? Why did you come to or stay in Hickory? Tell us about your professional accomplishments.)

The article below was in the Hickory Daily record last summer. It responds to the question above with the exception of where I was born which is New Haven Connecticut.


One of Dewey Harris’s strengths is in project management and community leadership. In an eighteen year career in local and state government, he has been a leader in virtually the entire range of governmental services, from administration to budget and finance to emergency services, human services, and technology. He will soon be bringing that experience to Catawba County Government as one of its two Assistant County Managers.

Harris, who is presently serving as Interim Assistant City Manager in Wilmington, North Carolina, and has served as Director of Wilmington’s Community Services Department since 2002, has been named one of two Assistant County Managers in Catawba County. He will begin his new duties on August 25, 2008. Harris will succeed Joellen Daley, who left Catawba County in 2007 and is current serving as Human Resources Director in Evanston, Illinois.

“We’re very pleased to have Dewey join the County’s management team,” said Catawba County Manager, Tom Lundy. “He emerged from a rigorous process involving eleven department heads over two separate interviews. Dewey has significant experience in North Carolina local government. During his nine years with the City of Wilmington he has had responsibility for administrative services such as budget, technology, finance, emergency preparedness, community development, economic development, code enforcement, working with the film industry and the media. He brings a strong commitment to public service and experience in community engagement, having responsibility for implementing Wilmington’s strategic plan. We look forward to having Dewey, Sandy and their family as part of the Catawba County community.”

Harris will work as part of Catawba County's management team, with Lundy and Assistant County Manager Lee Worsley. Each member of the management team works on a day-to-day basis with specific County departments under Lundy’s direction. The entire team works closely with the Catawba County Board of Commissioners to carry out the goals and directives of the board.

"It was evident to me, during the interview process for the Assistant County Manager position, that Catawba County government is a leader in service delivery because of its dedicated employees,” Harris said. “I have been impressed with the commitment of County staff, and look forward to joining their ongoing efforts to enhance the quality of life for citizens".

Harris earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business from Rutgers University and later earned a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. In the years since, he has continued his education in matters directly relating to government, including studies in international economics at Harvard University, a Municipal Administration Course provided through the Institute of Government at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and, in 2006, studies at the Senior Executive Institute at the University of Virginia. During those sessions, Harris met Catawba County Assistant County Manager Lee Worsley.

“I first met Dewey during our time at the Senior Executive Institute in 2006”, Worsley said. “I immediately was impressed with his character and commitment to public service – values that are important to Catawba County employees. Dewey’s vast experience in administrative areas and community services will be a great fit for our organization. I am excited about the addition of Dewey to the management team and welcome him and his family to Catawba County.”

Following his initial university education, Harris worked for the City of Pacific, Washington, and with the state governments in Oregon and Washington from 1989 until 1999. He was employed as a Senior Budget Analyst for the State of Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services from November 1989 to 1994 and then served as Assistant Director of the Accounting and Administrative Services Division of the Office of Financial Management of the State of Washington through March 1998, directly involved in financial management and policy in both of those agencies. As City Administrator in Pacific, Washington, from March 1998 through December 1999, he was responsible for providing direction and supervision to all departments and functions including administration and finance, human resources, public works, community development, municipal court services and operations, parks, community services, police, fire, and risk management. He also directed the enforcement of ordinances and policies; helped resolve complaints; established positive working relationships with the press; and represented the organization in intergovernmental relations, contract negotiations, collective bargaining, and major capital project development.

Harris moved to the City of Wilmington in December 1999 when he was named Director of Wilmington’s Administrative Services Department. His duties included many which touch on services provided by Catawba County, including direction and supervision of the budget, information technology, purchasing, fleet, and mail services staff supporting more than 1100 employees. In this role, Harris developed and implemented administrative policies; and coordinated emergency preparedness activities.

In May 2002, Harris was selected to establish a new department, with a staff of 100, for the City of Wilmington as Director of the Community Services Department. This department is charged with addressing strategic plan objectives to improve the quality of life in Wilmington. His responsibilities include working in economic development and redevelopment, including technical assistance to small businesses; improving the operating climate for businesses through enhanced understanding of City requirements; code enforcement (regulation of zoning ordinances, minimum housing codes, and public nuisance ordinances); enrichment programs for adults, seniors, and youth; and several parks and recreation facilities.

“I have represented the City of Wilmington in intergovernmental and community relations endeavors,” Harris added. “We have established positive working relationships with the media; helped increase the number of volunteers engaged in delivering services; and helped establish collaborative partnerships with private sector organizations, non-profit agencies, leaders in the faith community, and governmental agencies at the local, state, and federal levels.”
In addition to these duties, Harris has been serving as Interim Assistant City Manager since February 2008 and as Interim Human Resources Director since May 2008, assisting Wilmington’s City Manager in coordinating interdepartmental goals; establishing organizational policies and procedures; assessing City departments for performance; coordinating interdepartmental activities; meeting with civic and professional leaders; and representing the City Manager before groups on City plans, events, and activities.

Dewey Harris has also been very active in the Wilmington community. He has served as President of the New Hanover County Partnership for Children, which has a mission to develop, sustain and enhance health, family support, and early education services for children ages birth to five. He was 2005 Campaign Chair of the Cape Fear Area United Way, working with staff and volunteers to refocus fundraising strategy which resulted in new business development in a three-county area. He served as co-chair of a University of North Carolina at Wilmington Community Relations Task Force, establishing a standing committee consisting of state and local agencies, as well as students and residents, to identify and resolve ongoing quality of life problems in the University of North Carolina at Wilmington area; and is a member of the New Hanover County Cooperative Extension Advisory Council, through which he works with community leaders to develop and promote nutrition; 4-H; coastal management; urban forestry; and natural resource and environmental education programs to enhance economic prosperity, environmental stewardship, and improved quality of life in the community.

Harris said he has no firm goals as he gets ready to move to Catawba County, saying he will work to make a smooth transition to the area for his family and learn about the community issues in which he will be involved.

“My wife, Sandy, and I feel that Catawba County will be an excellent place to work, worship, and raise our 15 year old son and 11 year old daughter,” Harris said. “We love the outdoors. Catawba County is a beautiful area that we are excited about calling home".

2) Tell us about the accomplishments you are proudest of achieving in your life? Something besides having a family or raising children. We all recognize that those are common goals that we all aspire to. What’s the most exciting thing you saw/did/experienced/were a part of in your personal life? In your professional life?
Personal life: Living in different parts of the United States including relocating from the East Coast to the West Coast and back to the East Coast again. In doing so, I had an opportunity to appreciate the regional uniqueness of various communities in our country.

Professional Life: Establishing the Community Services Department in the City of Wilmington (North Carolina) which focused on “community building” through a myriad of programs which improved quality of life for residents. This was a challenge for me in that I had to figure out a way to work with staff to create a shared mission so that we could work with citizens to address issues of neighborhood crime, downtown improvements, affordable housing, support for groups engaged in visual and performing arts, town and university relations, and an aggressive program to create more parks.

3) If I were to ask people that know you to describe you what would they say? Knowledgeable and experienced with the ability to tactfully engage and share my thoughts in a positive way to build relationships and partnerships.

4) How much bearing do the opinions of the people around you have on your decisions? A lot of bearing, but I try to take a 360 degree view because over the years I have learned that there are several sides to an issue and by getting various perspectives I have made better decisions.

5) Can you tell us of a professional mistake that you have made that may have had an impact on who you are today? Does it still bother you? Can you share with us how you came to grips with that error? Early in my career, particularly as a manager, I made immediate decisions on personnel issues, but as I have matured, I find that I make better personnel decisions if I sleep on them.

6) If you were given enough money to tackle one project (think nearly unlimited) that you felt was important to the Hickory Area, what would that issue be? A program to engage teen youth in after school or summer employment that benefits our community while giving youth tools to be successful in work and/or college life after high school.

7) Let’s say there is no money available for the foreseeable future. What one project (priority) would you push as part of your agenda that can be done with little or no money? I think the Future Economy Council sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce would be my priority. I believe if successful, the benefits to this community would be significant.

8) What is your overall philosophy of the development of this area? Where would you like to see us in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? Compared to other places I have lived around the country, this area has done a very good job of planning in terms of water, sewer, and road infrastructure. I would like to see progress towards “infill development” of vacant residential lots and abandoned manufacturing with mixed use (increased housing density and retail style space) in urban areas of the County.

9) If you could define your Personal Legacy what would you like it to be? What would you like to be remembered for? Using the time, talent, and treasures the Lord has given me to help others.

10) How do you define Leadership? There are different kinds of leadership. My style is to serve the people who I lead by caring about their lives and creating an environment for them to lead as well by getting their input into decision making. I also like to deflect credit from myself and give it to others.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 19, 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 5/19/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by Robert Ford of Frye Regional Medical Center

Special Presentations:
A. Proclamation Recognizing the Hickory High Red Tornado Golf Team as the 2009 State 3A Golf Champions - The High School has won the state championship in golf 4 times since 2001 (2001, 2003, 2007, 2009). Link from Prep Insiders article.

B. Presentation of Transforming Local Government Award Received From the Alliance for Innovation for the City’s “Operation No Vacancy” Program - Andrea Surratt, Warren Wood, Dave Leonetti, and Alder Sally Fox represented Hickory. An award was presented to Hickory for Outstanding Achievement in Local Government Innovations. It was 1 out of 12 presented. The Idea was proposed by Mrs. Fox at the council retreat in 2008. Mrs. Fox stated how proud she was of the team that traveled to Texas with her.

C. Hickory Community Appearance Commission Regarding Presentation of Budget Amendment in the amount of $10,000 - Steve Bowman made the presentation in which he stated that he wanted to transfer monies budgeted for a Duke Energy Pilot Program to study underground utilities. He mentioned that the money would be reallocated to a Friends of Hickory Pilot Project. The FoH concept would allow the CAC budget dollars earmarked for Downtown and City Wide improvements to be increased. They also want to give Community Minded Individuals and businesses an opportunity to make contributions to those improvements Downtown and match contributions. He stated that he wasn't going to go into elaborate detail. They want to make dollar for dollar contributions.

Mr. Bowman addressed the Farmer's Market as a good pilot project. He states that the representatives of the Farmer's Market were very enthusiastic about this idea. Alderman Meisner asked how they intended to spend money on the Farmer's market? Mr. Bowman stated that what they intended to do was to create a FoH subcommittee under the CAC commission and the Farmer's Market wants a Permanent Structure. The CAC-FoH would take the $10,000 and use it for marketing materials to solicit volunteers and donations. He said the concept has not been totally refined. They want to see if they can get budgetary dollars to pursue this. He believes that the Farmer's Market Marketing materials will only cost $8,500.

Mayor Wright asked how much (of this money) would account for the budget. Mr. Bowman said that this would be just to ensure the success of the budget process. If this works they would like a line item in the budget each years. Donors in subsequent years could use cafeteria of specific choices to select where they would like their money applied. There are questions about deductability. Alderman Lail asked if they are asking for 08-09 budget dollars. Mr. Bowman said they were attaching this unspent item to the 08-09 budget He stated...not to spend the money frivolously, but it will take months to do this. They want to do this professionally.

Alder Patton asked where the volunteers would come from? He stated that they would look to business and community leaders -- Folks that have demonstrated an interest in Hickory. City Manager Berry stated that this is an awkward situation considering the restrictions on spending and managing costs. Mr. Bowman said that the Farmer's Market would be a good project to pursue to prove the validity of the project. The Mayor stated that there is no downside to the Farmer's Market, but he is surprised about any changes to the Farmer's market. Mr. Bowman stated that they have solicited design input to build a permanent structure for the Farmer's market and it is going to be very expensive and they don't have the budget available to pursue the project. Mr. Bowman mentioned an amount of $350,000.

Alder Fox said that she would like to look at a city like Salem, Virginia and she doesn't think they spent that kind of money for covered shelters. That is a hefty figure and she cannot imagine smaller community's spending that kind of money. Mr. Bowman said that he didn't know whether the Farmer's Market would endorse that money, but they are a candidate. Alderman Lail said he is worried about spending unspent monies. Manager Berry said that Warren Wood has sent out an edict to cut off spending for the rest of the fiscal year. Alder Hoyle said that this is a good project, but City Employees should come first. Mr. Bowman said he understands the predicament the city is in.

Alder Meisner made a motion to put this under advisement. The council unanimously carried the motion. The Mayor stated that the CAC does great work, their just caught up in the same budget as everyone. Mr. Bowman stated that he understood.

The Hound cannot consciously comprehend
this proposal. Where is the CAC coming from. This sounds like the pontifications from a cocktail party. That is all fine and good, but folks if you aren't going to bring more than the napkin you wrote this on before council, then don't waste people's time.

May I explain. The country is broke. The only money available from the Federal Government is being cranked out on printing presses with no legitimate backing. The days of printing this Monopoly Money will soon come to a grinding halt. The State of North Carolina is broke and they are known to rob the treasury when they get desperate. We need to pray every day that Raleigh doesn't pillage and plunder our city's financial solvency. So the only money this city has available needs to be used in the most judicious ways; where we will get a return on our investment and the most bang for the buck.

I would like the Mayor, City Manager, and Warren Wood to call all of these groups in and give them a presentation on economics, finance, and accounting. I think these groups are important to our city and they should be appreciated for their volunteerism. I just can't understand where they think all of these matching dollars are supposed to come from. They just can't understand the reality.

I like the idea that Harry discussed briefly with me. I think it would be nice to spin off the CAC as a private entity. I don't think their ideas always mesh with what is best for the city as a whole. Merging the CAC with the Downtown Development Association and setting them free to go get their own money would be a wonderful exercise in Capitalism and Free Enterprise.

It is obvious to everyone involved that the CAC only cares about Downtown. Expand Downtown to the vision I have talked about. You have to include Kenworth, Green Park, Ridgeview, Oakwood, Claremont, and the Salt Block. The core will be Union Square. Let a privately funded DDA-CAC work towards raising the funds from the private business owners that should relish that independence.

Facades are not the problem with Downtown's development. The problem is security and the marketplace. Put some private security guards on patrol at Union Square along with that new video surveillance security system and you will see an immediate improvement. All the people associated with Downtown need to put some money where their mouth is and apply logic. I am not against Downtown, but I am weary every time I see them roll up before council. Cha-Ching, Cha-Ching, if you know what I mean.

D. Presentation Community Appearance Commission (CAC) Regarding Appearance Grant to PS Property Holdings, LLC for Property Located at 8 2nd Street, NW in the Amount of $14,465 - Chairwoman Jennifer Helton of the CAC made the presentation. It is going to be a law office. She showed pictures of the former jewelry store. The entry way is being changed to make it more appealing. The grant was originally $5,000, but upon review and discussion, the commission voted unanimously to up the amount (to the above). The CAC felt that the amount of work being done on the building and the economical and architectural merit allowed for the enhanced financial consideration. Overall the project will come to about $500,000.

In light of the tight economic times, the CAC felt strongly in supporting this positive change to the downtown area. Alder Fox asked if most of these grants are $5,000. Have any of these grants been in excess of $5,000. One building (the RPM building has received an excess grant). Alder Fox stated that the RPM building was a total renovation. Ms. Helton stated that this (building) was too. Ms. Helton admitted that the original grant was for a facade. The costs for the facade restoration was $38,123. She admitted that they didn't originally realize that they could ask for this amount.

Alder Patton asked if anyone else was asking for any money? Ms. Helton stated no. Alder Patton said she questioned spending money just because it is in the budget and we need to be prudent about that at this time. Ms. Helton says she understands that. The CAC has always been encouraged to spend money on facade grants and landscaping grants. In the past, when the money wasn't being spent the CAC solicited neighborhood associations because of the importance of knowing that the money is out there to be used by the community.

Alderman Lail said that we don't want to routinely consider more than $5,000. We can get into a mess. What is the exceptional architectural merit? Ms. Helton said they were trying to take the downtown up a notch. Grants are a big strong part of the (CAC's) budget and sometimes it sends a message to others that we are open to these improvements and it is important to the people of Downtown and others in Hickory that appearance is what we are looking for.

The Mayor stated that he knew of at least 10 other people that are looking for more than the $5,000. Ms. Helton said that this has been brought up and people had wondered why this had not been done before. The CAC believes that in these trying economic times, this is an opportunity to continue to bring businesses Downtown to improve that area.

The Mayor stated that these grants were originally intended to motivate people to do something that they otherwise wouldn't have done. He is concerned the dye would be cast. He admires what they are trying to do. There is more than just downtown to worry about. He is worried about the precedent that this would set. How would we say no to the next one?

Ms. Helton said that this is part of coming up to the appearance commission. She disagreed with the Mayor. This addition to the city is the extra step. She brought up the FoH and that is where it is time to think outside of the box. $5,000 doesn't get you anywhere. We need to build up the funds. The attempt is not to exhaust the budget.

Alder Fox asked why the owners didn't go for Historic tax Credits? Pete Zagaroli stated that the original developers didn't pursue these credits and they can't be pursued once work is started on the building. He stated that there is an 18 month waiting period to get on the register. He asked if the money doesn't get spent does it go away? Mr. Zagaroli stated the costs inherent in the facade development of this building. He says these people have made the extra effort and deserve the extra reward, especially if the money is just going to go away.

Mr. Meisner stated that the money doesn't just go away. It is allocated to other parts of the budget. The Mayor said the reason why the city's finances are so strong is because we have held the budget line, even on people that are way under the budget. Manager Berry said that this would be a consent agenda item if it was a $5,000 grant. Alder Fox stated that she would go for the motion of the $5,000 standard. She thinks they will have a tough time explaining to the people that spent more than they ever thought they would. That is the standard unless it is a complete renovation. The motion was seconded and council unanimously approved.

THe Hound wants you to read what I said above. This is the reason why I just don't think these people get it. In these trying economic times it is a terrible idea to throw money around for anything other than a necessary expense. I'm all for Zagaroli's projects. The man is a top-notch developer, but the money was going to have to be spent on these renovations anyway. These people can recoup their investments by running a solid business. They don't need a bonus $9,000+ from "the people's" money.

I understand the need for appearance, but come on, where does the appearance need to be uplifted? Downtown? Or some of the other blighted areas of the city?

I totally agree with what the Mayor said here and was surprisingly pleased that Mrs. Fox made the propositions she did. These grants were originally instituted to make it desirable for businesses to improve the outside appearance of their property at a cost that would be more affordable, not to subsidize everyday renovation expenses.

Going over the standard grant would most assuredly open up Pandora's Box and from there where would you close it? $14,000 this time, $25,000 next and then trying to explain it to others that don't get that benefit. That would create all kinds of dissension and animosity. The city just cannot afford to be all things to all people.

Again this is where a retooled DDA-CAC could steer people in the right direction. It isn't the city's fault that Historic Preservation Grants were not applied for. A retooled DDA-CAC could help guide developers down the proper path and make sure that they get the most bang for their buck. The best part to me is that the marketplace would pay for it.

Our city's primary role should be to facilitate infrastructure responsibilities and security to all citizens. The businesses Downtown need more skin in the game. The city's role should not be to pick winners and losers. The city has a fiduciary responsibility to invest the citizen's capital wisely. The Mayor and Council's comments reflect that they understood that in making the two decisions above. Kudos to the Council.

Consent Agenda:
Business - Call for Public Hearing of Fiscal Year 2009-2010 City Manager’s Recommended Budget on June 2, 2009. Voluntary Annexation of the Property Owned by Moore’s Ferry Associates, LLC Located at off of 42 Avenue Drive, NW Immediately Adjacent to the Moore’s Ferry Development.

Establishment of New Council Priorities and Action Plan for FY 2008-09. Approve of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs

Approve Amendment to Engineering Contract With The Louis Berger Group, Inc. Regarding the Grace Chapel/US 321 Connector Road in the Amount of $7,550 - The original was approved by City Council on July 15, 2008 - This amendment in the amount is for the limited subsurface exploration and analysis as required by NCDOT for the major stream crossing installations. The engineers believe that the investigation performed by this work will allow for a clear span design for the two major stream crossings, eliminating environmental work that could cost in excess of $350,000.00 and preserve the stream area environment. The NCDOT will enter into a municipal agreement with Caldwell County to pay for this work and Caldwell County will reimburse Hickory for the cost of the engineering amendment fees.

Approval to Apply for a Energy Efficiency & Conservation Block Grant for Installation of New Energy Efficient Lighting and Retrofit Materials for 14 City Properties - This grant application will be submitted through FedConnect utilizing $209,300 allocated for the installation of new energy efficient lighting and retrofit materials. An estimated 30-35% reduction in electrical lighting energy costs is projected for replacing the older lighting equipment.

Approve Resolution Authorizing Electronic Advertising for Bids - Currently a small legal advertisement costs in excess of $60. By posting advertisements on the City’s web site, we can increase exposure for bids as well as reduce cost to the City. Electronic advertising will allow more detail to be placed in the ad without cost increases and will save an estimated $1,000 annually. Approval of electronic advertising will require modification of the City’s web site.

Approve Contract With Clark & Associates, Inc. for Project Observation and Administration Services for the Cripple Creek Outfall Replacement Project in the Amount of $78,000 - (Originally approved by City Council on February 5, 2008). The contract also Grants Quarterly Reporting to the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) Board required by the grant contract. The City has been awarded 50% of the original project or $1,162,000 toward the project in grant funds. In addition to the CWMTF funds, this project will also receive $1.9 million in grant and no-interest loan funds from the State of North Carolina as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This project should be completed by October 2010.

Award Bid and Approve Contract With Hickory Sand Company, Inc. for Construction of the Cripple Creek Outfall Replacement Project in the amount of $2,250,000 and Approval of a Contingency Fund in the amount of $600,000 - The Public Utilities Department has been pursuing completion of this important outfall replacement project since the late 1990’s. The outfall is approximately 100 years old and serves as the main sanitary sewer collection line for Downtown Hickory, a large portion of NW Hickory and portions of NE Hickory. The Public Utilities Department has reported 24 overflow events from this line in the past 5 years. Funding has been applied for through the Clean Water Management Trust Fund 5 times since the 1990’s. In July, 2008 the City was awarded a $1,162,000 grant, which was based on covering 50% of the projected cost at that time. The City also applied for funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 in which the City was awarded $1,938,000. One-half of the ARRA amount, ($969,000) will be principle forgiveness (Grant) and the other half will be a zero percent interest loan to be paid back over a 20-year period. The project includes replacement of approximately 14,300 linear feet of 21-inch clay pipe with 24-inch PVC and/or Ductile Iron pipe. The total estimated cost is $2,850,000 including construction costs, contingencies, engineering and construction inspection. The project has received $2,131,000 in grant funds and $969,000 in a zero percent interest loan. Establishment of a Contingency Fund is necessary due to the potential of unforeseen conditions that may exist.

Approve Issuance of a Certificate of Necessity to Party Xpress for Operation of 2 Passenger Buses for the fiscal year of 2009-2010. This business has never applied for or been issued a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity.

Audit Committee’s Recommendation of an Auditing Firm for FY2009 Audit - recommend Martin Starnes Associates - Dixon-Hughes will no longer be able to complete the City’s audit this year due to staff reductions and layoffs.

Housing - Hickory’s First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan Program:
Barbara Byrd 117 8th Avenue Drive, SW Approved for up to $6,500.00

Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program:
Donna Brown 55 31st Avenue, NW Approved for up to $5,000.00
Shirley Gray 744 7th Avenue, SE Approved for up to $5,000.00
Lucille Peterson 245 6th Avenue, SW Approved for up to $5,000.00

Approval for Loan Subordination recommended by the Citizen's Advisory Committee which would place the NC Housing Finance Agency Loan in a lower order in liens. The loan for the Nadine Roseboro of 232 8th Avenue Drive, SW was done under the Single-Family Rehab Program in 1998. This will help Ms. Roseboro do a loan modification to lower her monthly payment.

(Removed from the Consent Agenda and will be presented to the council on a later date) Approve Resolution Declaring Property Unfit for Human Occupation and Authorization to Remove or Demolish Structure Located at 990 C Avenue, SE, Hickory - The structures were inspected by Code Enforcement Officer Bobby Baker and were determined to be dilapidated; exceeding 50% of the tax value to repair, and also poses an imminent threat to health and human safety. This case was opened on January 27, 2009 and the Order to Abate was issued on February 11, 2009. The property owners, Mr. & Mrs. Thia Lo have attempted to relinquish ownership through foreclosure with RBC Centura, but RBC Centura is not interested in ownership or liability of the property. Numerous violation notifications have been sent to both the owners and RBC Centura. The property owners have indicated they have no intention or funds to abate the violations and no longer consider the property their responsibility. Notice of Intent to Abate violations were sent to the property owners on February 10, 2009. Code Enforcement Officer Baker met with the property owners on February 11, 2009, March 30, 2009, March 31, 2009 and April 30, 2009 explaining the violations and the abatement process. These structures are unoccupied and are creating a blight in the neighborhood along with providing shelter for vagrants. The community surrounding the property has petitioned to abate the violations. Staff Attorney Dula has reviewed the case and concurs that proper procedures have been followed. J.W. Grading, who is currently under contract with the City for demolition will prepare an estimate for demolition and therefore will become a lien against the property.

Budget Ordinance Amendments
Budget a $25 library memorial donation for Mollie the “Paws to Read” dog in the Library book line item. A children’s book for beginning readers will be purchased and placed at Ridgeview Library. Budget $1,000 in the Departmental Supply line item to cover expected overages in this area. Budget $1,300 of International Springfest donations ( from Hendrick Motors-$500, Bethlehem Pharmacy-$500, Wayne Powell- $100, and Piedmont Ob/Gyn-$200) for International Council expenditures.

Transfer $7,000 from Economic and Community Development Expenditures to pay for the City’s (20% of $35,000) share of funding for the Multi- Jurisdictional Park property survey performed by ALTA. Transfer $29,000 of Current Year Tax Collections to Tax Collection Services. Catawba County reported that several discoveries were recently made, thus our fee for Tax Collection services is higher than anticipated. Therefore the cost of the discoveries will be paid with the additional tax monies that were collected.

Grant Project Manager approved the pre-award costs for the EPA Region 4 New Grantees Workshop on 07/25-07/26/07 in Charleston, SC. Since the Grant paid for the workshop these funds will not be needed and Fund 049 is returning $1,117 back to the General Fund. However the purchase of food for the Brownfield Advisory Group meetings was not an eligible expense or grant reimbursement; therefore the City of Hickory will be reducing the June drawdown by two previously reimbursed refreshment expenditures in the amount of $288. This brings the reduction of General Fund contribution to $829.

Decrease General Fund $2,680 and increase the Transfer from Transportation Capital Projects by $2,680. This is necessary to close AIP #21 and transfer remaining funds to original funding source. Decrease General Fund Balance Appropriated by $313 and increase the Transfer from Transportation Capital Projects by $313. This is necessary to close AIP #22 and transfer remaining funds to original funding source.

Appropriate $680,034 of the Insurance Fund Balance to the Insurance Fund Workers Compensation line item. This appropriation provides funds to balance the Workers Compensation budget for the end of year.

Appropriate a total of $62,939 of N.C. Housing Finance Agency Revenue and Budget in the First-Time Homebuyers ($20,000), Salaries ($5,439) and Rental Rehab ($37,500) expenditure line items.

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Approve Nomination of the Dr. Glenn R. Frye House to the National Register of Historic Places - The Hickory Historic Preservation Commission recommends approval of the request by property owners, Dr. & Mrs. De La Garza, of the Dr. Glenn R. Frye House, located at 539 North Center Street to be added to the National Registry of Historic Places. The house was built in 1937 and is an impressive two story Colonial Revival Style house. It is a unique structure that is constructed of slate from a quarry located in Spruce Pine, whereby most stone structures in Hickory are of granite. The building is currently owned by Dr. and Mrs. De La Garza and they would not be required to have renovations approved by the Hickory Historic Preservation Commission with this designation. The City is currently working on the expansion of the Claremont Historic District and this home would be within those boundaries. On April 28, 2009 the Historic Preservation Committee held a public hearing and recommended approval of the nomination. The North Carolina Register Advisory Committee will make the final decision on the nomination once it goes thru the process. The Council Unanimously approved

2. Approval of Substantial Action Plan Amendment for FY 2008 Community Development Block Grant Action Plan - The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires the City, as a 2008 CDBG entitlement funding recipient, to submit a Substantial Action Plan amendment to the City’s approved FY 2008 CDBG Action Plan due to an additional allocation of funds in the amount of $85,649.00 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These funds were directed to be distributed by The Recovery Act to CDBG grantees that received funds in FY 2008. The funds will be used to develop City of Hickory owned property in the Green Park Neighborhood for an affordable subdivision. The funds will be combined with the $75,000.00 of CDBG 2009 funds allocated for the Green Park Subdivision. Plans for the Green Park subdivision are in preliminary design and the timing for the development will depend upon the market demand for new housing. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval. The council unanimously approved. The Mayor mentioned how enthusiastically that the Kenworth area felt about this plan. Alder Fox mentioned that this was part of their long range plan.

New Business - Departmental Reports:

Approval of Community Development Block Grant Budget Amendment - The Community Development Department has program income funds which must be budgeted for use. The NC Housing Finance Agency Rental Rehab program has a revenue balance of $62,939. Of this the Department wants to budget $20,000 towards the NCHFA Homebuyers Program, $5,439.00 towards Program Administration and $37,500 towards Owner/Rental Rehab, for a total of $62,939.00. At least 51% of these funds will provide benefits to lower income individuals in the City of Hickory. On 5/7/2009, during the Citizens’ Advisory Committee meeting, it was recommended that the Projected Use of Funds for year 2008 be amended. The Council approved Unanimously

Approve Proposed Revisions to the City’s Vacant Building Revitalization Grant Program and the Commercial Revitalization Map - The Program was originally approved by City Council on 9/16/2008, which is designed to assist owners of vacant and under-utilized property to make improvements that will result in the occupancy and reuse of buildings. Matching funds of up to $25,000 per project are available. The proposed revisions will assist in clarifying the guidelines and ensure that the Redevelopment Committee has adequate guiding standards in place when reviewing grant applications, and to ensure that the projects approved by the committee will have a positive economic impact on the surrounding area as well as the City’s tax base. Dave Leonetti addressed the Council. There will be new criteria (tweaks) that will give a few extra things to look at when looking at these proposals. 1)The impact on the tax base 2) Number of Jobs created 3) Crime Reduction 4) Site Appearance Improvement 5)Appropriateness and Compatibility of use to the surrounding area. 6)Funding Eligibility Exclusions - General storage and Warehousing, Non-Profits, Buildings outside the City Limits, and Adult Businesses. The area has been expanded in a few limited spots. The Hound wants you to know that this is available at the city's website. The Council approved Unanimously

Friday, May 15, 2009

Where do our local leaders stand on The Mike Easley Issue?

It is imperative that we have trust in our state government. I know the way that we have been treated in Catawba County and the surrounding area has left many of us cynical, especially when we see the way that the area around Raleigh has had money lavishly spent on it, whether it be all of the belt loops around Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill or the money spent at the Research Triangle Park.

What I have often wondered is where have our local area's leaders been? Most of them are Republicans and most of the cronyism that we have seen has been from the Democrat ranks. It just seems that the leadership of the Republican Party in this state is incompetent. It is especially disheartening when our local area State Representatives and Senators say nothing about the corruption that has gone on for years. I truly feel like we have been abandoned by our representatives in the Hickory Metro Area.

Here are more links to the continuing saga and fallout from the wake of the revelations set forth by the News and Observer on Saturday and Sunday:

NCSU provost resigns amid Easley issues - Dr. Larry Nielsen is the man who hired Mary Easley at NC State. A job where she has done little if anything and is earning $170,000 a year. - (From the N&O article) - A report in Sunday's News & Observer showed that Nielsen hired Mary Easley in May 2005 while he was interim provost -- and was about to be replaced. A public search process involving four other candidates began on the same day that Mary Easley faxed her resume to Nielsen. Nielsen waived a job search, created a new position and hired Mary Easley for it two weeks later.

NC State Chancellor James Oblinger's statement about Larry Nielson's resignation - What I would like someone to explain is how Mary Easley is qualified for the position that Chancellor Oblinger described as "leading the creation of a new academic center for law enforcement and first responders." What is her expertise in this field? And is it worth $170,000 of the State of North Carolina's money?

Ex-N.C. Gov. Easley says son's car was campaign vehicle. What about this SUV that Easley's son drove for years? Records show that neither Easley nor his campaign made any payments on the Yukon – until this month. Asked last month about the car, Easley had said in an e-mail message that the vehicle was leased. Easley said on March 27 that the car driven by Mike Easley Jr. "was a lease car and I paid the residual instead of turning it back in since he's on his [own] in a year."

But title, registration and tax records show it was never part of a lease. Instead, the car was owned and insured by Bleecker Olds Buick GMC, a dealership in Red Springs owned by Robert F. Bleecker. The dealership also made all the personal property tax payments on the vehicle in Robeson County.
(Full article from N&O - 4/21/2009).

Finally, we have the Senate GOP Leader Phil Berger (Represents Guilford and Rockingham Counties) asking on Thursday for an independent prosecutor to ensure any probe is free from political pressure. Attorney General Roy Cooper is a Democrat.

Bowles wants NCSU chairman out -
(Added) - The president of the UNC system has asked McQueen Campbell, the chairman of the N.C. State University board, to resign immediately after learning this week that Campbell played a role in hiring former N.C. first lady Mary Easley. And apparently the chancellor has been less than forthright. Adios Mr. Oblinger? "The head of the UNC system says McQueen Campbell (right) has admitted talking to N.C. State's chancellor about Mary Easley. Campbell previously denied any role in her hiring." - The Hits from the N&O just keep on coming.

Campbell resigns as NCSU board chairman
(Added from N&O) - In a letter addressed to Gov. Beverly Perdue, Campbell said: "I am not resigning because I have acted inappropriately. Both the chancellor and the provost have communicated publicly and independently that the hiring process of Mary Easley was free from any improper influence." Seems to me that this thing has sprouted wings.

FBI subpoenas Easley travel records
(Added from the N&O) - The FBI issued two subpoenas today to the state Highway Patrol and a key member of former Gov. Mike Easley's protection unit, ordering the agency and a captain to produce all records related to private air travel of the Easley family. The subpoena requests documents relating to 1) Payments made in exchange for the air travel. 2) Communications with the Easley family regarding the private travel. 3) Communications regarding public inquiries surrounding the air travel. 4) The state Highway Patrol's records retention policy. 5) The retention or destruction of records related to travel by the Easley family.

FBI Looks Into Ex-NC Gov. Easley's Air Travel -
From CBS News - (Added) FBI Wants More Information About Ex-NC Gov's Travel, Subpoenas Highway Patrol For Information - The subpoena is part of a grand jury investigation, but does not reveal the specific nature of the probe.

The Hounds Opinion - Once again it comes back to the fact that we are supposed to be a land of laws and not of men. The former governor needs to answer for his actions. We cannot convict him here, but we sure do deserve some answers.

This man was the lead representative of this state for 8 years. It sure looks like he put his personal interests over that of the people he was supposed to represent. Personally, this is not about party affiliation. This is about right and wrong. This is about fairness. In my opinion this state will have a dark cloud hanging over its head until the issues of corruption are resolved.

For years we have seen our taxes in this state become more and more burdensome. During that time, we have seen elected officials reep and enjoy perks and privileges daily that many of us rarely, if ever, enjoy. That is fine and understandable to a certain degree, but it is more than obvious that whether legal or not, circumstances show Mike Easley has (and others have) lost touch with reality along the way. It is time to bring him (and his cohorts) back to reality, by making him explain his actions and by holding him accountable where those actions have broken the law and harmed the citizens of our great state.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

10 Questions with James Thomas Shell

This is a new feature that I hope will grow into something special. The questions will be the same for everyone and they are the ones I have answered below. I would like for the Movers and Shakers in this community to get to know one another. I believe that "10 Questions" will help facilitate that endeavor.

1) Can you give us some background and a history of yourself? (Where were you born? What is your educational background? Why did you come to or stay in Hickory? Tell us about your professional accomplishments.)
I was born on July 15, 1966 at the former Hickory Memorial Hospital. I was raised in Hickory went to St Stephens Elemenatry, then Webb Murray, before moving to Conover in 1978. I graduated from Newton-Conover in 1984. I then started out a Lees-McRae College before attending UNC-Wilmington where I received a B.S. in Finance in 1989.

I graduated from UNCW while the Savings and Loan Crisis was going on. Banks weren't hiring so I went to work for my Aunt Jane Moore at 1859 Cafe and that is how I learned the ropes in the restaurant business from the bottom up. After a while I realized that I needed to legitimize myself in the restaurant business, so I went to Central Piedmont Community College where I studied Foodservice Management - Culinary Arts. It was probably the happiest period of my life, because I was around people that loved food and strived to do it in a professional way. I graduated from that program in July 1997.

I then moved to Southport to work at Bald Head Island. That was a great experience, although the compensation wasn't great for the amount of work put in, but I did learn a lot about life. In the 15 months I was there, I probably did a legitimate 2 years worth of work.

My Grandfather was diagnosed with terminal cancer in November 1998 and I wanted to be near my family, so I moved back home and have been here since. I have worked at 1859 Cafe, Rock Barn, Adult Life Programs, and Backstreets in the years since.

2) Tell us about the accomplishments you are proudest of achieving in your life? Something besides having a family or raising children. We all recognize that those are common goals that we all aspire to. What’s the most exciting thing you saw/did/experienced/were a part of in your personal life? In your professional life? I can't think of any personal awards or accolades that I have received during my professional career, but 1859 did receive restaurant awards that I feel I contrubuted work towards while I was there and the same can be said about Rock Barn.

I served many of America's Who's Who when I worked at Bald Head Island. I won't drop names on this forum. I have had exciting moments when people have personally enjoyed my culinary creations and it has always given me great personal satisfaction, when I can please someone, see their body language, and they have personally thanked me. I really do appreciate people that appreciate people.

3) If I were to ask people that know you to describe you what would they say? Eccentric. Can be the nicest person in the world and can be a mean SOB. Loyal, trustworthy, determined, nervous, dourer, pessimistic, intelligent.... But, if a task needs to be accomplished go get Tommy.

4) How much bearing do the opinions of the people around you have on your decisions? It depends on whose opinions they are. I am willing to listen to anyone, but some people's opinions carry more weight than others. I am trying to change this and not prejudge what others say before (or while) they are saying it. My public speaking professor said that the most important facet of communication is the ability to listen and comprehend... That had a profound effect on me, because before that I would shut people out if I disagreed with them. I'm still not perfect, but I am halfway there.

5) Can you tell us of a professional mistake that you have made that may have had an impact on who you are today? Does it still bother you? Can you share with us how you came to grips with that error? I can live with the many mistakes that I have made, because they are part of my being. I will readily admit that I have made several by chasing after personal dreams instead of taking the steady path. Every mistake I have made has bothered me, but I can't go back and change them.

I wish that I would have been wise enough to start out in a teller position at a bank when I graduated from UNCW. I wanted to work in a loan department and those jobs just weren't available during the S&L crisis or the recession of 1991. After that it was too late. But, I don't mind the restaurant business. I just hope that one day that I can do my own thing. I will leave it at that.

6) If you were given enough money to tackle one project (think nearly unlimited) that you felt was important to the Hickory Area, what would that issue be? People tell me that I am a dreamer about this, but I truly would like to see a light rail system connect Hickory to Charlotte -- Light Rail to Charlotte: One Investment Worth Making. That would make us more connected literally and figuratively to Charlotte's modern economy. Throw in with that the possible reopening of the rail line between Asheville and Salisbury and you might really see an upsurge in alternative transportation in this area.

I just know that part of our future growth, development, and economic circumstances are going to rely on alternative transportation. It won't be tomorrow, but it is time to start thinking about those alternatives.

7) Let’s say there is no money available for the foreseeable future. What one project (priority) would you push as part of your agenda that can be done with little or no money? To make accessibilty to sources of knowledge user friendly. The resources are already there. It is just leading the person to them and getting their curiosity piqued . Those resources include books, computers, the arts, and/or mentors.

We should have zero-tolerance towards illiteracy; be it composition, literature, math, or finance. These are the building blocks of successful societies. Many of the problems that our community faces today are due to functional illiteracy.

8) What is your overall philosophy of the development of this area? Where would you like to see us in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years? I hope that we get Hickory By Choice right. I hope that we don't have people become entrenched over personal philosophies. I believe in personal liberty. I don't believe in the "Greater Good," but I am not going to shut someone out because they bring that type of mindset to the table.

In 5 years, we should be looking at the development of the Hickory Metro Area. I would like to see an awakening of the entrepreneurial spirit in this community. I would love to see some cutting edge technical manufacturing brought in here -- not home runs, just building blocks. I would really like to see our community take the lead in new routes of education and see an emphasis towards cultivating some bright young people that want to help develop Hickory. I hope that we will start seeing some growth from the Appalachian State relationship and a true expansion of Lenoir-Rhyne into a premiere private University. I would like to see some "outside the box' degrees to be offered from our educational institutions.

In 10 years, we should have moved on to thinking along the lines of the region (all of Western North Carolina). I would like to see the investments we have made in knowledge and education begin to bear fruit. I think this would begin to cement our community as the geocenter and hub of western North Carolina. I would like to see that light rail line started by then. I would like to see a primitive physical transportation connection (and accessibilty) to areas within Hickory, the Hickory Metro, and nearby Metro Areas. This "Transportation Web" is important to the synergistic development of this region.

In 20 years, I would like to see this area be a vital cog and core of a retooled and respirited America. I would like to see the light rail systems well on their way to completion. I would like to see a modern city enjoying the fruits of forward thinking development. I know that we will have grown more urban by then and I am hoping that it is done in an efficient, consistent, systematic, and relevant way. I think Hickory with 60,000 people can still have a non-urbanized feel, if developers are given the proper tools to work with.

9) If you could define your Personal Legacy what would you like it to be? What would you like to be remembered for? I would like for people to think that I contributed to pulling us out of this malaise that we have been in for nearly 10 years.

I would like for people to say that my biggest asset and my biggest liability was my loyalty. "He would stick it out even when everyone else had abandoned ship -- He drowned doing that (Bwahaha)." I think people will realize that patience turns into procrastination. At some point in time you have to take action. Sometimes you have to prod people along to that action. Just because something is against the odds, doesn't mean that it mustn't be tried. Sometimes there is no alternative.

I wasted many a year waiting on the "Leaders" of this community to get it together. It was time to speak up, not for the connected, not for the socialites, not for the intellectuals, or inheritors. It was time to speak up for the forgotten people. I think the well to do in this community lost touch with reality. Sure they weren't doing "as-well," but relatively speaking they didn't have to worry about ending up out on the streets.

I would like to be remembered for bringing the conscious back to this community.

10) How do you define Leadership? Leadership is 50-50 mind and heart. It's a lot easier telling you what it isn't. It certainly isn't polling a focus group, trying to be all things to all people, or doing what is politically expedient. I just sense when someone has leadership skills. I will never be one to blindly follow, but I certainly can be inspired.

Here is a link to my Alphabet of Leadership. The Alphabet of Leadership.