Google Groups
Join To Get Blog Update Notices
Visit the Hickory Hound Group

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Words that keep coming up over and over and over again

Below are words that have frequently come up in the articles and text of what I have written and expressed. I hope that this will give you further insight and perspective about where the Hound is coming from.

- the ability, right, or permission to approach, enter, speak with, or use; admittance: We are all stakeholders in our government. So we all deserve access to its just and righteous cause.

Accountability - subject to the obligation to report, explain, or justify something; responsible; answerable. Our Elected officials and the Bureaucracy that they are responsible for hiring have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of the people they represent and not in their own specific interests.

Authoritarian - favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom: Our Elected officials and the Bureaucracy are supposed to work in the peoples' interest and not the other way around. Authoritarianism comes from leadership that is elitist and feels that they know all of the answers and have all of the solutions and they don't want input from the people. When this happens, it decreases ones Quality of Life.

Common Sense - sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence: Natural knowledge and instinct that give us an innate feeling as to whether specific instances are just, right, and/or truthful.

Consequences - the effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier: If certain things are done, then we should expect certain outcomes, especially where there is historical precedence to show us what is to be expected.

Credibility - capable of being believed; believable: Integrally related to honesty and integrity and built upon trust.

Expectations - to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of: My favorite example of this is when my grandparents would tell me that if I worked hard and did the right things that I would get ahead in life. Whatever happened to that premise.

Freedom - enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery: The condition of having opportunity and the right to make a choice as to whether to seize that opportunity. The more opportunity one has, the more choices they can make, and the more freedom they have. This increases one's Quality of Life.

Future - time that is to be or come thereafter. We cannot capture time and hold it hostage. Every action or reaction has consequences on the future. So the decisions we make today have a direct bearing on the future.

Innovation - something new or different introduced: We create new things as a result of evolution. Newness is brought about to improve the Quality of Life. This Progressivity helps to move society forward into the future.

Justice - The quality of being guided by truth, reason, justice, and fairness: In a just society; laws, regulations, codes, and ordinances are applied equally without regard to ones station in life. When this does not happen, then we are led onto a foundation that can't be trusted not to crumble. Lack of Justice leads to a lower quality of life.

Manage - to bring about or succeed in accomplishing, sometimes despite difficulty or hardship: This should not be confused with control. Control is a form of management by authoritarianism utilizing coercion, threats, or domineering action. We see ruling bodies trying to negatively control people and processes in every form of government in the current era. We do need to manage processes, but positively, by being just, accountable, and forthright and getting people to buy-in to the process, not by pushing them, whether expressively or inadvertently, away from the process. Good Management leads to a higher Quality of Life.

Perspective - the state of one's ideas, the facts known to one, etc., in having a meaningful interrelationship: Everyone senses things through their own being. People that truly bring an open-mind to the decision making process naturally have greater perspective in dealing with others.

Process - a systematic series of actions directed to some end: Every thoughtful action in life is brought into being by a Process. Good Processes based upon a firm foundation of justice, righteousness, and equality lead to good results, while Arbitrary Processes based upon personalities and special interests will lead to bad consequences.

Prosperity - a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, esp. in financial respects; good fortune. Prosperity is brought about by opportunity; whether you were born into it or it was presented to you by association or creation. Prosperity dwindles when economic conditions are put into a state of negative momentum. Progressive economic policies broaden horizons and opportunities, which increases the odds of someone obtaining prosperous circumstances - a rising tide lifts all boats. Many times it can be much better to accept being a smaller fish in an ever expanding pond, than to be the biggest fish in a shrinking pond.

Purpose - the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc. We all have a Purpose and in my opinion it is much better to have convictions that are real. How many people have you seen that join a cause because it is popular and not because their heart is in it. In the end, these types of people do more damage than good. Sometimes in life you've got to show a little backbone at all costs. Better to leave this earth on real terms to face the creator, than to leave behind popularity.

Opportunity - an appropriate or favorable time or occasion: Most people just want is to be presented with decent circumstances (odds) to succeed. Most of us don't expect things to be handed to us. We get more pleasure out of obtaining something we have to work hard for. If given a good opportunity to succeed, then it is up to us to make it happen.

Quality of Life - used by politicians and economists to measure broader social effects of policies. The Objectives of the Hickory Hound. Quality of Life is ambiguous, but to be true it should include positive progressive momentum economically, culturally, educationally, spiritually, and environmentally for all our citizens, not just those at the top. Special interest are selfish in the fact that they want an excellent Quality of Life for themselves and from their own perspective, but they aren't looking out for all of the citizens.

Results - to spring, arise, or proceed as a consequence of actions, circumstances, premises, etc.; be the outcome: In the end this is what we want from leadership, not excuses. People who expect to not be judged by results are telling us that they don't expect or deserve to ever be held accountable.

Transformation - to change in form, appearance, or structure; metamorphose. We need to move away from the needless attacks on people's personal being and a movement towards discussions of ideas and philosophies. Sometimes by winning, you can end up losing. The same ole people doing the same ole things will lead to the same ole results. This is not an attack on their personalities. It is taking the results of historical data and projecting them on the future. If we expect to change our economic circumstances and lack of progress, then we are going to have to change what we are putting into the system to move forward.

The Hound puts it all together
by saying that results are important. Common Sense tells us that the consequences of this area's lack of leadership have been years of decline for the average citizen in this area. The real unemployment number in this area is around 25%, if you include underemployment.

We have to see a real transformation in our leadership process, if we want to move forward. The expectations of the citizenry have not been met. Our leaders tell us to put them back in office and things will get better. There is no accountability in this statement and therefore there is no credibility either. Isn't it time that we hear about our leaders' purpose? Why do they want to be on the council or in government?

Our local leaders talk about how they want the area to support a good Quality of Life. I understand that we all come at this from a different perspective. I have never been rich and some will say that makes me bitter. All I want to see is a fair governmental process. A city devoted to justice for all will open doors of access and opportunity to everyone and not just the privileged few who are well connected.

An authoritarian system arbitrarily chooses who the winners and losers will be. This takes away our freedom and in the end leads to a lack of prosperity for those who are not chosen. This is inherently a prejudice system that wreaks of the ways of the old South.

In the future, we need to change the philosophy about how our leaders manage this area. We need people who expressly understand that we need buy-in to the process from all sectors of the public. Innovation knows no boundaries. It can come from the poorest part of this city just as easily as it can from the richest, and that ingenuity can get us out of this hole we are in. We need people who understand that they don't have all of the answers and that we are all in this together. Until that happens, I hate to say that I believe the Hickory area will continue to fall further and further behind.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Catawba County Unemployment Rate hits 15.5%

Article from the Hickory Daily Record - Jobless rates rise in Greater Hickory Metro

The Hickory Metro number was 15.4%, up from 14.9% in May and the Catawba County number is 15.5%, up from 15%. We are obviously back to where we were with the March numbers. We will soon see other dreadful numbers as college kids come home to find there are no jobs and no opportunities available.

Here is a quote from a lost soul that I read on the HDR website:
No, the problem is that there are to many people out there who don't want to have to go to work for 6.15 and hour because they can draw more on their unemployment check than they can if they go find a job. I have looked at the job search engines and there are some job out there for people with minimal skills, the problem is that no body wants to start over making 8 or 9 dollars an hour. I have heard people say why would I want to go work for that when I can make more sitting at home with my 3 kids and living of the government for a while. My husband has worked for 9.80 for 10 years and he is just thankful he has a job to go to everyday. More American's need to realize that they may have to start over and tighten their belt's. I have no sympathy for someone who will not take responsibility for themselves and their own choices.

That is the "It's better than nuthin" motto that I have been talking about. How does this person expect to pay for ever escalating costs like healthcare, fuel, taxes, food, clothing, retirement... That is the type of least common denominator attitude that has killed this city and this area. Do you really think that people would rather be on unemployment? -- Please.

One of my best friends was laid off from a job where he was making over $15 an hour. The sales had slowed, because what the company sells is directly effected by the housing market. He liked the job, so he has hoped that he will get hired back. He is good at the job. but others had more seniority. His unemployment benefits aren't going to last forever and I have seen the emotions that he is going through and I promise you he isn't lazy. He is an excellent worker and if/when I am able to start a business up, he would be one of the first people I would hire.

Our city officials think it's just great to turn this area into a restaurant and retail center. Well, the local City of Hickory officials have weaved such a tangled web in their dealings with developers, that the developers are taking business to the fringe areas of Hickory -- Granite Falls, Conover, Catawba. Remember that Wal-Mart that was going to be off of Kool-Park Road? Poof, it went to Conover with all of the tax revenue that would have come along with it. So Hickory's sales tax base is now getting split with other communities, because certain city officials would rather have no businesses, than to have what they call Big Box stores. Hickory's former stranglehold on the local retail sector is disappearing faster than a rabbit in David Copperfield's hat.

I personally have seen my lifestyle hurt by the Black Ice Management we have seen devour our employment capacity over the last 8 years. All of the people that once worked in manufacturing are now being pushed into the restaurant business sector, in what has become a game of survival. The successful restaurants in this area are now catering to budget meals, which means constant cost cutting measures, lower quality food, lower profitability, and lower wages for the staff. Owners of Fine Dining restaurants are hanging on by their fingernails and the Country Clubs in the area are going in the hole. Yep, sure sounds like a direction local leaders should be pushing us into (sarcasm).

The question is, are people going to continue to accept the area's status quo or are we going to say enough? There are things that we can do to turn our situation around, but is our city government worried about job creation or public relations?

Last week in the Hickory Daily Record, I read about Operation No Vacancy. I am all for this type of activity, but how many jobs will it create? Our city has been spending way too much time on these marketing tools in a time when job creation should be our focus. This report on Operation No Vacancy is another in a long list of our city's efforts to obfuscate what is Hickory's most defining issue -- JOBS.

Focusing on all of these awards and fluff should be monikered "Operation J.O.B.S." Whenever our city officials think about J.O.B.S., they aren't thinking about putting people to work, they are thinking about Justifying Our B.S.

It is time to shake up the structure around here. We have got to have people in city hall that will "eat, drink, and sleep" putting people back to work. Dabbling around the fringes isn't going to accomplish this. We have systemic problems and we need to change our mindset. Are we going to get there by maintaining the Status Quo? In the end, do these awards and certificates matter? Did that All-American City award produce what was promised by city officials?

The only award I want to see is 5% to 7% unemployment and positive economic growth. I know that is a tall order with our current national economic picture, but let's be honest, we can do better than we have been doing. We should have higher expectations. We are in the bottom 5% of employment numbers in the whole country. It took years of "No Control" management to get us where we are today. We have to change our mindset or we will continue to languish.

Right now we have negative momentum, when it comes to the economic opportunity of the average citizen in Hickory. No plaque, award, or certificate puts food on a citizen's table or money in their pocket. The only thing that does that is a JOB. As long as we have the same ole people, doing the same ole things, then we should expect the same ole results. Why not try the opposite? Maybe it's time to think about bringing some fresh faces, who will bring some fresh ideas into the picture, and then we might start seeing some positive momentum.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Opportunity and the Quality of Life

In this mission that I have been on over the last couple of years to find out where things all went wrong for this area on the economic front, I have had the fortune of meeting many fine people. What I have discovered is that I am not out here alone in the wilderness.

In this journey, I have met people who feel the whole spectrum of thoughts, emotions, and action in dealing with our plight. There are people that think as I do about Hickory's state of affairs and they speak up about it. There are those who know our economy is in the dumper, but they try to put on a brave front. Others are in complete denial that anything is wrong and they think people aren't spending money for psychological reasons. And then there are those that don't care -- "Where's my next brew."

I am sure that there are other characteristics and combinations of all of the above, but I sure have witnessed a lot of angst in this community about what the future holds, both in the near term and long term. One thing is certain, the status quo just ain't gonna cut it.

This community is going to have to change, if we are ever going to get back ahead of the curve. I am not talking about change for the sake of change, like some half-blind punch drunk prizefighter flailing away at something he can't focus on, but change with purpose. I am not talking about words. I am talking about action.

Some people in my personal life wonder why I am doing this. They wonder what the payoff is. Many people think that if you aren't getting paid to do something or it isn't purely recreational, then one is wasting their time. But, I truly believe in my heart that this is the time for the Hound to be my purpose.

I remember the Mayor on Hal Rowe back in December talking about how he was disappointed in our economic picture, but he wasn't losing any sleep over it. Well, I wish I could say the same, because I have had trouble sleeping since 2005 and though a lot of it has to do with anxiety issues, let's just say this economic uncertainty hasn't done my sleep habits any favors.

I have never been able to be like the little girl Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, "Dad-Day, I want a golden ticket!!!" I have had to work and be thrifty like the vast majority of people in Hickory. So I have never expected, nor have ever wanted, anything to be handed to me. I have met several people like myself in this process.

I had a phone conversation with a person that has joined my circle over the last month and I started going into my dissertation about how I can get alot of this Hound, FEC, and other stuff done, because I'm averaging 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night. He said he couldn't sleep at night either. He worries about sales, his baby, his family's future, and what action he is going to personally take to remedy the situation. He drives his wife crazy, because he gets up in the middle of the night and jots notes to try to systematically analyze his problems.

This person talks about the lack of opportunity. That it doesn't look like this generation and subsequent generations are going to have the opportunities that our parents and grandparents had. He doesn't want anything handed to him. He is willing to work for his expectations, but he deserves to be fairly compensated and he deserves broad horizons of opportunity. And once given that opportunity, then it is up to him to make the most of it. No words have ever rung truer to my ears and I knew I had a comrade.

I have also heard the Mayor state that he wants people to have one job, if they want one job, and two jobs if they want two. There was a saying back during the Clinton Administration that this person knew the Clinton Administration had created a lot of jobs, because he was working 3 of them. Mr. Mayor, you have personally told me that Quality of Life is important to you. What is a person's Quality of Life, if they are working two jobs just to make ends meet? They are wearing themselves out and they're not getting to enjoy their family. Seems to me, that that is important to ones quality of life.

I don't brag to people about how educated I am. When I enter crowded rooms, I understand that I am not the smartest person in that room, but I did achieve the requirements to get my college degrees. Yet, I have struggled from the get-go in this community. A couple of years ago I wanted to get out of the restaurant business, I sent in resumes and/or applied for over 150 jobs. I received 3 interviews. Does that not speak volumes about the opportunity available in this area?

I have a lot more to offer than just cooking. 20 years ago when I graduated from UNC-Wilmington with a degree in Finance, I never thought I would have struggled as mightily as I have. Twelve years ago, when I graduated with a 4.0 GPA in Culinary Arts, I would have never thought I would still be basically doing the same job I was doing then. You know Hickory's motto rings in my mind as it constantly drones on, "It's better than nuthin."

It's all about opportunity. Folks, the status quo is not working, it's not working, ittt's notttt Working!!!! We have got to move in a new direction. We cannot stand idly by and blame others for our problems. We are as much contributors as they are! That is the reason why I started this blog to get the message out. For years this community has been doing the same old thing and falling further and further behind. Isn't it time to change direction?

That is the reason this blog was started. We aren't here to demonize personalities, but when ideas are leading this community in the wrong direction, then we need to start openly debating those ideas. Once ideas are fully vetted from every angle, then we can come up with better alternatives and solutions. When ideas are conformed to personalities, it limits the scope of knowledge and stifles creativity and innovation.

I want to see more of our citizens brought into the local philosophical arena. I want more voices to be heard. I don't care who they are or what their agenda is, because the next big thing could come from that mind or from a collaboration of all of our minds. I am also tiring of seeing all that has been going on behind closed doors in this city. It is time that the light gets shone on what our city government is up to. After all, they work for the citizens of Hickory, do they not? Do the citizens of Hickory not have a right to know what their employees are up to?

In closing, I hope that we see a lively campaign with many debates, newspaper articles, radio appearances, public dialogue and discourse. An informed and educated electorate will make a decision in which they feel personally invested and in turn those subsequent elected officials will be more accountable for their actions, because there will be more scrutiny towards the decisions they make. This only equals one step, but that would be a great leap towards a brighter future for Hickory.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Harry Hipps Media Press Release



I am announcing my candidacy for Hickory City Council in the upcoming election. I live in Ward 6, currently represented by Jill Patton. Hickory is in dire need of leadership on the economic development front. Our growth and job rate have been dismal since the turn of the century and has been lagging the State even in good growth years. My main focus is to make Hickory more business friendly and stop the micromanagement and arbitrary decision making that has characterized our government. Unless we can attract jobs and increase the tax base our quality of life will continue its steady decline.

Furthermore, I will work to create a more vibrant democracy in Hickory. Too often small groups of insiders work to take care of special interest groups first and the needs of the average citizen are an afterthought. To move our city forward, we need buy-in from the entire city. I will work to increase citizen participation by using the internet to inform people of upcoming issues and get feedback, from those interested, to make better informed choices. We need to increase the political talent pool to ensure we have capable, informed leaders for the future. More competition, in future elections, will be the measure of our success in this.

I have studied the issues facing our City and feel I have some intelligent and creative ideas to bring to the table that can move this city forward. I am devoted to a solutions based government that utilizes innovation to represent all citizen's interests. I will work diligently, tirelessly, and honestly to transform and reinvigorate Hickory. We can emerge from these tough times and have the prosperous, vibrant, enjoyable quality of life we all desire. I only ask for the opportunity to present my case, so that I may prove to you that I am worthy of your vote.

Harry Hipps

Monday, June 22, 2009


For years now I've seen our morals decline, the Constitution being ignored, the rule of law eroded, the powerful enrich and empower themselves while the working class works harder to stay in place. More and more people are willing to trade the freedom and responsibilities of democracy for a mediocre security. Last year my Mom was in the hospital for a month with a severe infection that finally took her life. During that month, Mom was often confused, thinking sometimes we were back in the 50's or 60's. Sometimes she thought I was actually my Dad, Harry Sr. instead of her son, Harry. She spoke to me about her aspirations and life and God gave me the blessing of knowing her in a way most children don't have the opportunity to.

During that month I had a lot of time to think. We've all heard about the "Greatest Generation" that lived through the Great Depression and WWII, but I never really realized the depth of character and moral strength my Mom had. I also realized that my silence in the face of the monumental challenges in the world today did not speak well of my character. I am not especially fond of public scrutiny or going out of my comfort zone. But that month with my Mom brought me to the realization that my time on this Earth is short and my comfort zone is not at all important. I made up my mind that I wanted to live courageously and try to leave a world behind that carried on the greatness of the Country I grew up in.

Our City is not an island. We are all interlinked today, and we have to deal with all kinds of issues just as we do on the national level. Hickory has formidable challenges. Our economy has been devastated structurally by the globalization of textiles and furniture. Telecom valley is on hold. We have challenges in education, the environment and the resources we have here, and many other things as well. Sadly, our City government has been slow to recognize the transformational times we are in and respond accordingly.

Citizen participation is scant. The politically connected still get the lion's share of the attention and resources. Our dreams and expectations are dimming and we have become like rabbits in a trap - not liking the trap, but scared to move out of it. For too long, many have wanted to ignore the situation and hope it gets better on its own. Some are scared they will get blamed. Many just want the State government to build a new economy for us or maybe Obama will throw us a bone. Where are the bold leaders like some of the ones in our past that took the initiative and built great companies with hard work and determination? Our ancestors and founding fathers would be shaking their heads.

I am announcing that I will be running for Hickory City Council in the upcoming election. I have studied City issues for some time now and believe that my ideas, ethics, willingness to work and learn and my judgment will be an asset to Hickory. My interest is only in the progress of Hickory for all, regardless of wealth, status or party affiliation. I will work to develop our economy, expand participation in City government and decision making, be good stewards of our natural resources and our cultural amenities. Please join me in transforming and revitalizing our great City so generations to come may live, prosper and raise families in a great area.

Thank you,
Harry Hipps

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Future Economy Council Meeting #4 (6/18/2009)

I will go over this meeting chronologically, In my mind, this meeting showed a paradox of several different visions that this group is going to have to deal with over time. There are issues that must be dealt with in short order (i.e. Grant Monies) needed to help initiate start-up guidance and the requirement that the FEC develop a mission statement defining tangible goals and priorities that will lay the framework needed to develop credibility, which will foster buy-in from the community.

Welcome - Catawba County Chamber of Commerce President Danny Hearn started out the meeting by giving a general overview of what the structure of this meeting would entail. Danny addressed that Lenoir-Rhyne wants to be the site for a Master Capacity Builder Series.

Danny spoke to the fact that he feels he has done his job and we are organized and understand the gist of what this (the FEC) is about. We are functioning and have things in place. He made the recommendation that Terry Bledsoe be the Chairman of the FEC. The Council enthusiastically supported this decision.

Special Guest: Jim Hyder, Davidson, NC Creating a Diaspora for Catawba County - Mr. Hyder spoke to the issue of Diaspora. He spoke of his friendship with Rick Smyre. Mr. Hyder was born in Hickory. He spoke of his connections to Hickory. Mr. Hyder stated that he is interested in Hickory.

Mr. Hyder said he has kept up with Hickory issues and wants to help. He addressed the issue of people who have connections to Hickory that might also want to help get Hickory back on track. We need to reach out to these connections and see if they might be interested in helping. He doesn't know what he is to do. This is a work in progress. Maybe we could get School Principals to point to former successful students that might have a connection and want to help.

Rick Smyre stated that as we evolve this concept that there are people who may be interested in helping. He talked about Twitter and the impact it has had over the last few days (Iran). The connections of people throughout the world that may have an interest and empathy, in Hickory, is a wonderful opportunity to give us support. This can open up resources by creating ping pong effects. He said that where local people might not buy into what we are trying to accomplish, that a person from outside of the community may be able to bring a new perspective to the discussion and may change those people's minds that are stuck in the old ways of thinking.

Terry Bledsoe talked about Catawba County's utilization of Facebook. The idea was to gain participation from locals to get (county government) messages out. Unintentionally it was discovered that people all over the world have signed up for the page, because they want a connection with Catawba County.

Chuck Adair addressed the historical context of what the original Diaspora was about. The original diaspora was the displacement of the Jews from Jerusalem by the Romans.

Photo by Pat Appleson Studios

Special Guest: Gene Anderson, Entrepreneur from Gastonia Master Capacity Builder Trainee -
He stated that his whole life he has been growing into the person he is now. He grew up poor in Globe, Arizona, because the city died during his formative years. He obtained 83 merit badges, while being in the Boy Scouts. This helped broaden the context from which he made decisions. This helped him in school, because he had information (context) that was broader than what the school offered. He loved to learn. This made decision making much easier.

He spent 11 years in the Army. The military understands that culture and sociology matter. He moved to Gastonia about 13 years ago. In 2001, he put his four children in a charter school and he joined the board of that school. That is where he met Rick Smyre and a discussion took place about preparing the children (of the school) for the future. Gene stated that he wanted to prepare the children for their future, not for "our" future, because I was prepared for my future and I found that preparation to be lacking.

The assumption that the board knew what the children's future would be was thrown out real fast. With the help of Rick, it was decided that they needed to help the children develop a capacity to handle the future, whatever that future might be. The real core issue became development of the capacity to help operate and thrive in a constantly changing environment. Over a five year period they worked with the board of directors and teacher's groups and started putting the techniques into the classroom, beginning in kindergarten. There are 12 to 15 core philosophies. One is and/both thinking. Another is listening for value in what the student is saying. This allows the teacher to take disparate ideas and focus them back into the direction that the class needs to be going.

The traditional problem solving function is too limited to carry people into the future. Master Capacity Builders have techniques that can expand the capacity of others. Capacities can be developed a little bit at a time. Developing it too fast can cause one to lose the access point into an organization or individual. Developing capacity is gradual, from several different directions, and often done obliquely. The goal is to help people deal with more complex issues in the future.

In the question answer phase, Gene stated, "We model how to connect disparate ideas and once those thought patterns are activated and one begins connecting disparate ideas, then one increases the capacity to increase disparate ideas." Followership is as important as leadership. Their are techniques that help achieve those capacities and help to teach that everyone has value and everyone should have input.

Thomas Jefferson Quote (about the University of Virginia) - "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it."

Photo by Pat Appleson Studios

Futures Institute/Master Capacity Builder Training (Brzorad/Mauney) - A Lenoir-Rhyne University Partnership Effort -
Dr. Brzorad and Bill Mauney have both met with Danny and Rick a couple of times. They have a couple of professors that seem like they would be interested in doing this. They want people to self-select for this. This will build up speed in the next month or so. There are a lot of implications in this pertaining to energy and the environment. This fall we should see some action taken on this.

Foundation Grant Project Updates:
1. Future Trends Dialogue Groups: Hickory Library- 7/9/2009 from 7:00 – 8:30 PM - Catawba County Library SW Branch in Mountain View, 7/10/2009 from 10:00 – 11:30 AM (Sizemore/Foss) - Council Members are encouraged to participate and an editorial will be in the paper on Sunday.

Photo by Pat Appleson Studios

2. Broadband Video Conference in August with Wilson, NC (
Bledsoe) - This hasn't been confirmed, but Terry expects it to work. The City Manager or Technology Director will speak with us. Terry stated that one of the good things about the FEC, is that just having the discussions have moved things through the community. Some of the providers have come to Terry about Broadband concerns in our community. That is a good thing.

Baker's mountain now has better coverage. A company is looking at expanding options by using some 0f the (federal) stimulus money. Gaffney, South Carolina is looking to have fiber to the home in the next couple of years. The U.S. has fallen from 16th to 22nd in Broadband speed. Australia has a plan to get 100mb/sec connection to 90% of the country's homes. Finally, In Isse, France they have fiber in most homes and Wi-Fi throughout the city. 57% of their business is Telecom.

Photo by Pat Appleson Studios

3. FEC Web Site (Shell)
- Project 3P - the Progressive Productive Proton Project - is the name of the blog that I have created. It is a play off of the Idea of the Creative Molecular Economy.

The words have a lot of meaning when it comes to what we are trying to achieve here:
1) Progressive – I’m not thinking politically here. I am thinking of the ideal definition. Favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are. The status quo.

2) Productive – having the power to produce, generate and/or create. Folks, we have to make things happen or we can choose to be roadkill on the highway of life. My choice is to leave a lasting positive legacy for the future generations of people who inhabit this area: whether I enjoy the fruits of this labor or not. This is the big picture.

3) Proton - a positively charged elementary particle that is a fundamental constituent of all atomic nuclei. The people in this room have voluntarily chosen to be part of this project. We are the bright lights in this community. We are going to be those positively charged molecules that bring the positive force that will lead to the ingenuity and innovation that will turn things around in this community.

The first step was to create the Blog and the address is
I have also purchased the domain isn’t available. It seems to be an underutilized home design blogging webpage.

I want to turn the website into a php message board in the near future. The idea being an accessible, user friendly forum that will take on an organic life of its own and evolve in whatever path it chooses to take. I honestly believe that open source contributions will be where innovation and development will come from. Ramo calls it mash-up - the collision of separate, distinguishable entities into something unpredictably new. And isn’t that what Evolution is all about?

4. Communi-Versity Series: “100 Most Creative People in Business”- Dr. Anthony Atala, Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine?(Hearn) - Danny says that this series is about future trends, weak signals, bringing in futurists, and talking about new technology. These are things that can change our future in medicine, economic development, or education.... He is saying Dr. Atala is an example of someone that our local Universities could reach out to. Since he is so close, we can call on him and ask him to come speak as a part of this series. Dr. Brzorad was very receptive to the idea and stated that he will definitely look into this opportunity.

Unifour Foundation Grant Update - Turned Down
Danny stated that we did not receive the grant. He said he was very disappointed and explained what the consequences of not obtaining the grant would mean to our group. This does not mean that the FEC will not move forward, but it is going to make the process much harder.

Dr.Brzorad said this leaves us two options. Go find another funding source or come up with the money on our own. We would be taking even more ownership if we fund it ourselves. Dr. B said the grant was good even though we didn't get it. I asked if we couldn't tweak it ourselves and apply for other grants? Danny said yes, but where will we send those grants to?

We had a thorough and lively discussion that followed.

Jay Adams had a solid statement - People will invest in things that they believe that they can get a return from and that's the bottom line. Until this group can demonstrate credibility, we are just begging. You've got to give some credible indication that putting money into it (the FEC) is going to generate a real rate of return. People are looking for results or a high likelihood of results.

Terry Bledsoe said he had asked Danny Hearn, in the beginning, what is this group really all about. We haven't set any goals. Is this just a thinktank? Are we just trying to get information out to the people? What are we going to produce? Terry's summation is that we have one product on the table and that is with Lenoir-Rhyne and the Master Capacity Building Program. There is a great program with the Chamber called Leadership Catawba. He believes that the two could be merged. Maybe we could get funding that way.

Steve Ivester said there are places (Morristown, NJ; Silicon Valley; Research Triangle Park) that are hot houses and businesses are just blossoming. If we have a goal, it should be to cause and create this process in Hickory. Making Hickory an incubator of lots of new businesses and investment opportunities. We're a little to early to say that you should invest because of it.

Harry Hipps said we need to communicate by e-mail and create a mission statement. We have discussed some tangible assets, such as Master Capacity Building and Broadband.

Danny's Summation for the day - When people say, "who is the beneficiary?" He can't go to someone and say give me $10,000 and you will get this in return. This is not that investment. We are selling the invisible. If we continue to take this economy in the direction that we have always taken it, we aren't going to get anywhere. The Economy has totally changed. What we had prior to 2000 is gone. We have to reinvent ourselves. If we don't do that, then we are in big trouble. It is the thinking of elected officials, business, and education of changing the way we do things and that investment can't be shown. The community better embrace it and understand it. We can't even get our local officials (hmm hmm I'll say it Rudy) to read a document about Mobile Governance that Rick wrote. There are (forward thinking) investment ideas out there, that no current elected official will look at, but people (I'll say it - not lost in yesterday) who are prone to understand this and reach outside of their comfort level and try to embrace it, all of a sudden, an idea that a traditional thinker will not do, we might. Those ideas are achievable.

The Hounds Take is that the general consensus is we are going to develop a core subgroup of FEC people that will design a mission statement. This mission statement should entail a project that has a high likelihood of succeeding and the group should apply to funding sources that might achieve a real rate of return as a result of investing in the group that supports that project.

Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 3rd Meeting

This meeting is to be held tonight at the Highland Recreation Center starting at 6:30pm. Due to a conflict with my work schedule I will not be able to attend. I hope that anyone who reads this blog and is able to attend will send me any interesting information or details that will be brought forward at this meeting. You can e-mail me at

Here are articles that relate to the past meetings.

Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 2nd Meeting
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

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Rick Smyre is our Catawba County Future Economy Council Guru. He might not accept such a label, but I am going to give it to him anyway. Rick has been a Futurist for years and has spoken at many conferences on Futurism. Rick is the President of the "Communities of the Future" organization.

Below is an article that he has written about "Mobile Governance." I hope that you are willing to give it more than a quick glance. This article deserves to be read a couple of times. You know how sometimes you will listen to a new album and think it isn't good, but you give it a second try and then another as you start to enjoy its nuances. I believe that this is that type of article. I would love to have a thorough discussion of this article in the comments section. So without further ado, here is a new dynamic governing philosophy called "Mobile Governance."

We live in a time of great historical disruption and transition from the Industrial Age to what some are calling the Connected Age, where a new language will be needed to identify ideas and methods not a part of present reality. No longer will traditional thinking and action be able to adapt to a society and economy that is constantly changing, interconnected and increasingly complex.

Nowhere will this need to anticipate a different type of future be more important than in the area of governance for a democracy. It is my contention that we are reaching the upper limits of representative democracy that is based on checks and balances. We need to begin to dialogue about a new concept of democracy that utilizes the emerging connective technologies that will allow citizens to provide their existing knowledge and opinions and enter into decision making from any place at any time. At the same time, growing groups of citizens capable of identifying weak signals and emerging ideas, and conversant with new knowledge and able to use emerging mobile technologies will be required for the next phase of democracy to be successful.

Our representative system of democracy originally was established on certain assumptions. One was that those who were the most talented would be elected and not those who had the most wealth. A second was that virtue would be at the core of those who were elected. A third was that wisdom in the sovereignty of the people would provide the common sense needed for effective decision making for democracies. A fourth was that checks and balances would prevent power from residing in only one branch of government.

Over the years, this traditional approach has served us well until recently. With the advent of technologies that connect people and growing challenges in real time from throughout the world, the interlocking complexity of issues have reached a point where the knowledge of experts is not enough, and, at times, counterproductive. This is especially true when any emerging challenge requires new knowledge based on what is in the process of developing and not what has occurred in the past.

As a result, it is my opinion that we are on the brink of a true transformation in democratic governance that will exploit the potential of new technologies when combined with new capacities of leaders able to facilitate new processes that can access the opinions and ideas of a broad, diverse, knowledgeable and interested pool of citizens. What will begin to dawn on people is that there are no experts in a time when the very undergirding ideas and methods that made traditional society effective are no longer valid. We are in a time of such historical transformation that we will need the interest, involvement and knowledge of many people working in collaboration to deal with the congruence of major challenges such as climate change, peak oil and shift of energy systems, biodiversity loss, population growth and the interaction and impacts of multiple new technologies. We are entering an age of societal research and development that has historical implications….none less so than rethinking how democracy may evolve and be aligned with the needs of a new type of society that is more distributive and organized around interlocking networks.

With this in mind, there is a weak signal that I see beginning to appear in various areas of the country. It is becoming more and more obvious that many local leaders are not familiar with trends and weak signals, and, as a result, are not able to ask appropriate questions and help facilitate effective strategies for emerging issues. As a result there is a new process beginning to emerge that I think will become more and more important…..a process I have dubbed "mobile connecting" that links those interested locally (especially non-leaders) in a search for key people anywhere in the world to bring new ideas and weak signals to the attention of existing key local groups responsible for making decisions for the present and the future. With the advent of smart phones and GPS systems, we are entering a new age that will reshape how our society operates and that will allow citizens to have the flexibility to connect their needs to the common good. In fact, in an interconnected, systemic age, self-interest and common good become one.

This will become more and more important in my opinion, and eventually lead to a new concept ,"mobile governance," where those elected officials and staff members, especially of medium size and smaller communities, begin to realize that they are not able to keep up with new ideas and methods. These leaders will develop new "knowledge connection" processes that will utilize the community members (especially the millennials under 32) to find cutting edge ideas and send them to their existing organizations as well as build new local and regional interlocking networks as appropriate . This will be one of the most important outcomes of this type of process....leading eventually to a shift of the norm from radical individualism and turfdom so rampant in our society, to levels of deeper collaboration.

Ultimately, a transformational governance and decision making structure will emerge, in my opinion, due to mobile technologies in which as many people in the community as are interested are involved in research and development ( of ideas and projects ). The weak signal of this emerging systemic change is seen in the way President Obama and his staff are utilizing the Internet for multiple purposes of citizen involvement. These purposes will be as diverse as searching for new knowledge, identifying key issues and emerging ideas, developing collaborative strategies, and participating in real time decision making for those who want to be involved. There may even be a new connection between governance and economic development in the way revenue streams are created for local people who identify emerging ideas and methods that are adopted by the community.

What is being realized by more and more people is that in this age of emerging systems, creating dynamic connections among people, new ideas and networks will be the lubricant and the glue to insure vibrant and sustainable democracies in a different kind of future. The age of representative democracy will slowly fade into the dimming glow of Industrial Society. It has served us well, but is too limited and too slow to anticipate and adapt to constantly changing conditions. What is emerging from the mist of the future is unknown at this time, but I Phones, smart mobile technologies, cloud computing and a different kind of leader able to facilitate connections and ask appropriate questions, will be key factors in the emerging next phase of democracy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of June 16, 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 6/16/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below.

Invocation by . Bill Garrard of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church

Special Presentations:

Presentation of Proclamation Declaring June 16, 2009 as “Tabernacle Christian School Girl’s Basketball Day” in the City of Hickory. The Tabernacle Christian School has won 4 straight state championships in there division and 3rd straight national titles. The Mayor commended them on their competitiveness, sportsmanship, and strong devotion to academics.

Consent Agenda:
Proclamations - Declare 6/6/2009 as “Mr. & Mrs. Bliss Teague Day” in the City of Hickory Recognizing Their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Declare 6/7/2009 as “The Reverend Doctor Randolph Curtis Ferrebee Day” in Hickory as He Retires as Rector from St. Albans Episcopal Church With Thirty-six Years of Service.

Resolution Approve Resolution to Accept American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 Funds and Loan Regarding the Cripple Creek Outfall Sewer Line Project in the Amount of $1,938,000.00 – The annual interest rate is not to exceed 0%, with half of the loan principal to be forgiven. The financing term shall not exceed 20 years from closing. The Resolution authorizes the Finance Officer to execute and deliver any financing documents and to take all such further action as they may consider necessary or desirable to carry out the financing of the project as contemplated by the proposal and this Resolution. The City has permission from the NC Local Government Commission to accept and utilize these funds.

Approval of the North Carolina Records Retention and Disposition Schedule Prepared by the NC Department of Cultural Resources Dated 5/19/2009 - Prepared by the NC Department of Cultural Resources - updated in accordance with the provisions of Chapters 121 and 132 of the N.C. General Statutes. The schedule allows such records to be destroyed or otherwise disposed of by the official having custody of them without further reference to or approval of either the City of Hickory or the NC Department of Cultural Resources. If not approved by City Council, the City is obligated to obtain the Department of Cultural Resources’ permission to destroy any record, no matter how insignificant. This schedule was last updated and approved by City Council on 8/15/1997

Approval to Apply to US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 Grant - Applying for the grant would be in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and will focus on revitalization of 8th Avenue Drive, SW (Ridgeview and Green Park area). The grant is for local governments facing problems related to housing foreclosure and abandonment. HUD has made funds available under the Title III of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 and the City is eligible to apply for a minimum of $5 million. The funds may be used to acquire land and property, demolish or rehabilitate abandoned properties, down payment and closing cost assistance to low to moderate income homebuyers and creating land banks. HUD encourages partnerships between local government and non-profit agencies that specialize in housing activities. Grant guidelines state that applicants must target areas of high poverty. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval.

Approval of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs. The following applicant is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan Program:
Carlos & Jenny De Los Santos 513 12th Avenue, NE Approved for up to $10,000.00

Funds are budgeted through the City of Hickory’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2008. The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s 2009 Urgent Repair Program for repairs not to exceed $5,000.00:

Delilah Oliver 852 7th Street, SE
Mary Rippy 516 F Avenue, SE
Sible Sims 1721 10th Avenue, NE
Sharon Watts 1115 12th Street, NE

Approve Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement With Aids Leadership Foothills Area Alliance, Inc. for FY 2009-2010 in the Amount of $7,883.00 - 2 public meetings were held on 1/28/2009 and 2/4/2009 to meet with non-profit organizations regarding their funding requests for the upcoming year. The funding will be used for ALFA to continue to provide case management and client services for people living with HIV/AIDS and to offer HIV prevention education to the community

Approve Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement With Greater Hickory Cooperative Christian Ministry, Inc. for FY 2009-2010 in the Amount of $7,883.00 - 2 public meetings on 1/28/2009 and 2/4/2009 with non-profit organizations regarding funding requests for the upcoming year. The funding is to be used for the GHCCM to continue to provide medical services for the City’s lower income citizens.

Approve Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement With City of Refuge for FY 2009-2010 in the Amount of $11,825.00 - 2 public meetings were held on 1/28/2009 and 2/4/2009 to meet with non-profit organizations regarding their funding requests for the upcoming year. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee approved funding for in order for them to continue to provide after school programs and summer enrichment camps to school-aged children.

Approve Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement With Exodus Outreach Foundation, Inc. for FY 2009-2010 in the Amount of $11,825.00 - 2 public meetings were held on 1/28/2009 and 2/4/2009. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee approved funding for them to continue to provide shelter, counseling and rehabilitation services to chronically dependent and homeless men and women. Part of the funding includes an Employment Coordinator to assist in securing job training and employment.

Approve Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement With Hickory Soup Kitchen, Inc. for FY 2009-2010 in the Amount of $7,883.00 - 2 public meetings on 1/28/2009 and 2/4/2009. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee approved funding in order for them to continue to provide meals to the City’s homeless and/or low income population.

Approve Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Agreement with Inter-Faith Housing Development Corporation for FY 2009-2010 in the Amount of $30,000.00 - 2 public meetings on 1/28/2009 and 2/4/2009 The Citizens’ Advisory Committee approved funding in order for I-FHDC to continue to assist lower income families in the purchase of a home through the City’s First-Time Homebuyer’s program that began in 1986 and has assisted approximately 165 families to achieve their dream as a homeowner.

Award Bid to Public Works Equipment and Supply, Inc. for the Purchase of a Compressed Natural Gas Powered Street Sweeper in the Amount of $246,972.00 - The street sweeper will be used for the sweeping of City streets and the cleaning of storm drains. The CNG street sweeper will replace a 1989 sweeper and will be one, if not the first, CNG powered street sweeper along the east coast. The City has qualified for a Clean Air Grant in the amount of $80,000.00 from the State of North Carolina. The City has been notified of the grant award and will go before Council in July for acceptance. This grant is a reimbursable type grant. 2 companies provided bids and Public Works Equipment and Supply, Inc. was the lowest bidder while meeting the specifications. Brad Lail asked that this be removed for further clarification. The grant covers the cost between the cost of a diesel vehicle and this unique vehicle. It gained unanimous content. The Hound is glad this was pointed out and I feel that this is a good investment.

Approval to Apply for a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the Amount of $48,250.00 - Funding has been offered to the Hickory Police Department based upon the Uniform Crime Reports. If the grant application is approved and awarded, the City’s Police Department would be awarded $48,250.00 with no required match. The City of Hickory and Catawba County received notification of approval to receive a combined allocation of $64,563.00 under the 2009 JAG program. Each city or county are awarded funds based on their crime statistics. JAG funds can be spent on virtually any purpose that benefits law enforcement. The City has agreed to serve as lead agency in the grant application process. These grant funds will be used to purchase workout equipment, speed measuring devices, additional shotguns, tasers and tactical equipment.

Approval of Quitclaim Deed for Property Located at Main Avenue Way, SE and Highway 127 - Upon surveying this City owned property, it was discovered that a small strip of land was not covered by any City of Hickory deeds. A search was performed at the Catawba Register of Deeds without revealing any deed to the City or to any other individual. The City has used, mowed and maintained this small parcel strip as if it were City-owned property for twenty-plus (20+) years. Thus, giving the City rights to the strip through adverse possession under North Carolina State Statutes. Therefore, to clearly establish a chain of title, a quitclaim deed from the City of Hickory to the City of Hickory is needed.

Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 21 - (Due to the closing of FY 2008-2009, a second reading is requested during the 6/16/2009 meeting.

and budget a total of $1,962 of Local Government Revenue in the Police Department Overtime line item - time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients for the months of April ($430) and May ($1,532). Appropriate $40,625 of Transportation Fund to Transit Equity. Appropriate $50,000 of the Insurance Fund to Insurance Fund Workers Compensation - used for any additional claims in the Workers Compensation budget prior to the end of the fiscal year.

Proposed Amendment to Hickory City Code, Chapter 2, Article VII, Section 2-211 “Public Art Commission” - Discussion was previously held by City Council on 6/2/2009 regarding amending the ordinance governing the Public Art Commission by adding an additional at-large seat. The Public Art Commission was established by Article VII of Chapter 2 of the Hickory City Code and must be amended by Ordinance. The proposed amendment would increase the number of at-large members from 5 to 6 members. Adding another at-large member will help resolve some attendance issues by increasing the Commission’s membership while keeping quorum at 6. Staff Attorney Arnita Dula addressed the issue. The commission was established by ordinance and originally consisted of 10 seats - One seat appointed by each Ward, 3 at-larges by the Mayor, and 1 youth council member. Amendment in 2004 added 2 additional at-larges to be appointed by the Mayor. This would add another at-large to be added by the Mayor. This would mean that 6 members would be appointed by ward and 6 would be appointed by the Mayor.

Phil Barringer, the co-chair of the committee said that he was against adding another member. Adding another member will not solve the quorum issue. He said most of the members on the committee were opposed to doing this. He stated that they had a small, but hard working, active group and they would like to keep it that way. They have sent out notes about attendance and are going to keep council abreast of the situation. This will not solve the problem.

Z. Anne Hoyle said that she has spoken with an individual (who she appointed) who felt liket they were not being heard. She said that if the committee is expanded, that you will still have that same issue. This individual feels that the commission does a good job, but they don't clearly represent everyone that is on the commission. She stated the Mayor having 5 or 6 people on the commission will only represent his point of view. The Mayor said that was a bad example, because he doesn't even know who his representatives are, but he does understand her point.

Jill Patton said it is Alder's responsibility to see that their own wards are well represented by their appointees. It shouldn't be up to staff to decide whether an absence is excused or unexcused keep up with attendees and it isn't the responsibility of staff to do this. They want people that are committed and a wonderful group... We need to make sure that people are committed to it. It is not right to abdicate the responsibility of our very own wards.

Sally Fox said it is incumbent upon council to check the reason that they missed. She would like the ordinace left as is -- and Alder Patton seconded it. The Mayor said he would like to see further discussion. The Mayor asked if Alder Patton wanted to do away with excused absences? Alder Patton stated no, she said it was an unfair burden on staff to write whether an absence was excused or unexcused and how to make the call. The Mayor asks who makes the call.? Alder Patton said they are just absent... They are their or they're not. It is up to the alders to look at attendance and find out if there is a problem.

Alderman Meisner stated that the good that has come out of this is that they are aware or will become more aware of the problem of attendance. Alder Patton stated that this gives them impetus to fill unfilled positions. Sally Fox said that one of the beauties of the excused absence is that the member has to call in advance, so that a body is going to know in advance, if they are a no-show, the we're back where we started from about absences.

Alderman Lail asked if it would be appropriate to convene all of the members of the boards and commissions and talk about duties and responsibilities. The Mayor stated that that was for new members. Alderman Lail said this would be a way for these group to get together and network. He doesn't believe that that would be all bad.

The Mayor asked, How about bwe have abscence with notification and absence without notification? We want to treat these people like adults. Alderman Seaver said that we need to remember that these people are volunteers. The Motion to vote against was unanimous.

The Hound thinks that the energy spent on this issue was a colossal waste of time. Once again we were back to fighting the windmill argument that it is council members responsibility to make sure that their appointee shows up to these committees. I agree that our elected officials do have a responsibility to make government work, but is that really the most important issue or are we going to see the structure of Commissions and Committees addressed?

Once again, look at all of the Commissions, Committees, and Councils we have in this city: Brownfield Advisory Group, Community Appearance Commission, Community Relations Council, Hickory International Council, Hickory Regional Planning Commission, Historic Preservation Commission, Library Board, Parks & Recreation Commission, Public Arts Commission, Recycling Advisory Board, Youth Council, HBC 2030, and the new Small Business Task Force Council.

Will the issue, that we might have too many of these entities ever be addressed or is it always going to a be a process of slapping another band-aid on Frankenstein? Further, I have heard the same argument made that Mrs. Hoyle brought up. Why would anyone want to serve on a committee where they are actually not allowed any input, because they aren't part of the "in" group. I am not saying there is anything definitely wrong with the shaping of directives from these committees, but they definitely need to be audited occasionally to make sure that their mission is functioning properly.

In my last newsletter about the council meeting of 6/2/2009, I addressed my concerns. I appreciate what Alderman Lail proposed about getting the groups together and discussing the mission, but I also think that it might be time to step back and look at the mission statements of these committees and assess whether or not we are just adding more layers to a bad onion.

You shouldn't insist on keeping these committees the way they are just, "Because that is the way that we have always done it." It is time to ask, just because we have done it this way, is that the best way to do it?

It seems to me that this proposal was going to lead to subtraction by addition. We have already seen this attempted once, according to Attorney Dula in 2004, Maybe we should see the opposite happen? Let the student council member participate in a mentor-protege role, but they shouldn't receive a vote, then through attrition lose those 2 added at-large members that were added in 2004. With addition by substraction ( a consolidated group), we would see a more effective group in my opinion.

But, what I would truly prefer to see is a consolidation of the entire board and commission structure in the city. I do not see all of this plethora of volunteer candidates that Mrs. Fox and Mrs. Patton claim are waiting in the wings. I think that the council has been begging a lot of people to participate and if the passion is not there, then the current structure will collapse under its own weight, as evidence suggests.

New Business - Public Hearings
1. Second Reading - Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 21

2. Report on Community Development Block Grant Loan Portfolio - The City of Hickory housing loan programs began in 1980 with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds being their source of funds. In 1980 this program started with 5 loans and has grown to 108 loans and a portfolio of $1,579,191.70. Due to the present economic climate, loan payments have decreased and delinquency rates have increased. Staff will continue with collection efforts. Todd Hefner addressed council. He stated that the budget for the upcoming year is $455,373. The total of loans in the portfolio are 97 and they equal $1,561,527.75. Of the loans in the portfolio, 80 are to Homeowners for = $835,745.77, 10 are for rental units = $365,042.14, and 7 are for renovations = $360,739.84.

37% (actually 36%) of these 97 loans are delinquent, of those 24 are in arrears for 90+ days, which is 65% (actually 67%) of the delinquent loans. Mr. Hefner further broke down the loans in several different ways according to several criteria. Several questions were asked. Alderman Lail said that it appeared that many of these delinquencies were homeowners. Mr. Hefner concurred. The Mayor said the delinquent numbers were the (arrear) payment amounts and not the loan balances are much higher. Mr. Hefner concurred.

Mr. Hefner further showed that $1,505, 956.61 of the loans were current and $55,571.24 were past due. 96.4% of loans are current. 3.6% are in arrears. The Mayor stated that the important aspect is the loan balance. We may need to push harder for collections. Mr. Hefner stated that the city tries to collect through phone calls and what has proven to be most effective is collection through (liens on) state taxes. Anyone delinquent for more than 90 days is (and will be) referred to Family Guidance Center for debt counseling. Mr. Hefner stated the average of these loans is $15,000 to 20,000. Hickory chose loans and the housing rehab system is self supporting.

Mayorstated that most of these aren't bankable loans. Under normal conditions, these people would not be receiving a loan. Mr. Hefner stated that they were able to receive these loans due to their economic status. The Mayor stated that these people aren't going to be able to get any bank to do a second mortgage for them. The Mayor is glad we are doing loans instead of grants. More people have benefited from the hel -- because the money is paid back and then loaned again.

Sally Fox asked how many of these people with delinquent loans are currently receiving guidance and Mr. Hefner stated presently none, but they are recommending the 24. Alderman Lail said that it might be good to get these people involved with the Western Piedmont Council of Governments. Mrs. Fox stated that she is a softy and foreclosure should be a last resort, there are other avenues. Alderman Seaver asked how flexible these loans are. Mr. Hefner stated that the loans are 3% over 20 years. (And further) Many of the people who are 90+ days over due have seen that happen over several years, not at one time. They may have missed 1 payment per year over the last 3 years. The Mayor said we are not harrassing these people. and we don't want Mr. Hefner to.

The Mayor and Council made a few remarks and then went into closed session.

The Hound once again believes that this is an issue of the current economic times in this area. The discussion seemed to be a little Twilight Zonish to me and it didn't focus on the issue at hand. Ignorance is not a calamity unless it is used for action.

As Mr. Hefner and Mayor Wright surmised, these people aren't going to usually receive a regular loan from a bank, so it should be naturally expected that you will see a higher rate of default. That is the reason why, many times, you see people from this socio-economic level paying higher percentages for credit, be it bank loans or credit card debt.

The city is going to have to assess a greater percent of interest on these loans to factor in the risk-return ratio associated with defaults. Otherwise you may as well have debt forgiveness for those who can't pay back the loan, because let's be honest, some people are just not going to pay back loans and that is why they have bad credit. You certainly can't argue that a 3% loan is exorbitant.

I like the debt counseling idea. It may truly help some who just don't know how to budget. But, it certainly must be realized that you can't bleed a turnip in these times of economic hardship. Those that have shown a good faith effort to pay back their loans should definitely be worked with, given a grace period until times get better, and have their payback period extended without penalty.

It is easy to tell which group these loanees belong to by auditing their finances and I hope that is the first course of action that is taking place. Call the people up and ask them to visit with a city official to develop lines of communication to assess what the problem is. Counsel them that we understand the plight and make sure that they understand the purpose of loans like these. By not paying back the loan they are hurting others that could also use the help, so paying back your obligation is important.

Cleared out Council Chambers. Picture taken by James Thomas Shell for the Hickory Hound.

Exciting Times Coming Over the next few Weeks

City Council tonight (Last one of fiscal year 2008-2009) - Report by tomorrow AM

Future Economy Council meeting on Thursday morning - Report and the implications and impact of what we are doing by Friday AM.

Expansion of the Hickory Hound and Project 3P projects are continually happening with lots of new and original content to come. So I hope that you will keep checking out the Hickory Hound and spreading the word.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Document Links for Project 3P are now available

See what we have been up to in trying to move this community into the future:
Document Links and Agendas for the Future Economy Council of Catawba County

Just Remember Folks, "It's the Climb" - bwahahaha!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hickory needs Real Transformation

I just finished reading Joshua Cooper Ramo's book - The Age of the Unthinkable - Why the New World Disorder Surprises Us and What Can We Do About It. Rick Smyre, our Future Economy Council Mentor, suggested it as a way to gain comprehension of the current context of the world around us and the role we play in it.

After reading the book, I decided to jot down some thoughts on how this book might relate to the current state of Hickory. I think that our leaders can get a lot out of this book. You do have to cut to the chase after winding through the soliloquies of Mr. Ramo's travels, but the message is consistent. As he states in his summaries towards the end of the book, "There are moments, and this is one of them, when we are not spectators to history but participants." We do not have to choose to be passive participants in this world, as individuals we can make changes and when those changes are made, they will lead to results that are greater than the sum of their parts.

I truly believe that Hickory's leadership has tried to do what they believe is best for the community. They have been very innovative in ways that they have limited expenses in our city's budget. During the drought, they promoted and began selling rain barrels as an alternative way to water vegetation, they used leaves and other refuse to create a composting facility, and they have consolidated the region's interests in our water resources by becoming the regional operator and provider of water.

But, for years many of these same leaders have gone too far, by trying to hoard control and that has, in my opinion, stifled the creative and innovative energies that are needed to progress. Many of these individuals seem to think that their answers are best, their solutions should be policy, and that if the regular folks will just fall in line, then we can move forward. What they fail to recognize is if no one follows, then they aren't leading. We need leaders that will get local citizens, who have felt disenfranchised and are therefore ambivalent, to buy into our transformation.

As Ramo states, "We owe everything to Human Creativity." "We need to empower as much of the world as we can, even if at times that means encouraging forces that make us uneasy at first glance." Our leaders need to decentralize the power in this area and I know that it is going to be hard to get some people to buy into that philosophy. It seems that we are not trusting the average person in this area, that they are basically being called uneducated or ignorant. I just ask our leaders, "Do you really think you have all the answers?"

I have read and listened for months about how the Hickory Metro Area's problems are not our fault, we have no control, that it is all caused by Raleigh and Washington. I think that there is nothing wrong with a leader (or anyone) admitting that they don't know what the solutions are, but there has to be something that can be done. We cannot afford to spend endless years of abrogating the issues we can control involving our economic plight.

You want an example. Last month we heard the Mayor, City Manager, and City Council talk a good game about this Small Business Job Growth Team. Why has this not gotten off the ground yet? This was discussed at the City Council Meeting on May 5, 2009. It sure seems to me that this admittedly great idea has been a ruse. If this is so important, then why is it taking upwards of six weeks to get the people onboard to get it started. It is just sad that this seems like it is not being taken seriously -- One word, ACTION!!!

Once again we apparently can't find people to serve, why? Could it be that we have too many of these commissions? Could it be that the upper echelons of Hickory's leadership want to fully control the process and its outcome? Could it be that when they agree to their findings that the City Officials don't act on them and go off in their own direction of personal self interest? How many times have we seen exactly that happen before?

I have personally been flat out told that the reason people don't serve is because City Officials are not willing to listen. They basically want people to wrap their (the leadership's) views up in a neat little package, so that they can present them as "The People's Idea." When the leadership does not like the task force's findings, and then they take the ball and run in a different direction, then the participants feel disenfranchised and no longer want to participate in any city processes. That folks, is what has led to the ambivalence we find amongst the go-getters and movers and shakers in this community. Have you noticed that our developers are taking their monies and influence to the fringes of Hickory (Granite Falls, Conover, Claremont). Hmmm, I wonder why that has happened?

It is time to get people to buy in. Joshua Cooper Ramo displays, in this book, ways that we can get people to buy in and collaborate. It is not a blueprint, because innovation cannot be defined and the future is naturally ambiguous. There are no magic bullets and we cannot shape life into the neat little package that we want, but we can have influence over it. That influence can be good or bad. There are reasons why this community is in desperate economic straights. We cannot see our community at the bottom of unemployment numbers in the nation and absolve ourselves of any blame.

Past and current leadership has laid the foundation that we now stand upon. Not all of it is bad and some of it is excellent, but we most certainly need to improve the structure. It is time to build a new foundation and there are ideas out there that will help us do that. I hope that you, as individuals or as a group, will get this book and think about the implications of what Mr. Ramo espouses. We must renew the Can Do spirit that originally built this community and unleash its full potential as we work to rebuild a more sure footed and stronger foundation designed for a brighter and more positive future.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Easley's - The Hits just keep on coming

From the (Raleigh) News and Observer - Records: Mike Easley involved in hiring - New documents show that the Mary Easley job at N.C. State University was orchestrated at the highest levels of state government, and included the direct involvement of then-Gov. Mike Easley.

From the (Raleigh) News and Observer - N.C. State chancellor resigns - In his resignation letter Oblinger said the university would be releasing e-mails that showed he was involved in her hiring, something he had denied.

**(Added) From the (Raleigh) News and Observer - Trustees eliminate Mary Easley's contract - The trustees said that the duties of Easley's $170,000-a-year job no longer exist and that her departure from N.C. State would be in the best interest of the university. The trustees, along with UNC system president Erskine Bowles, met this afternoon.

Forma Gubna Mike Sleazy and more tangled webs
(fixed link) -
Where do our local leaders stand on The Mike Easley Issue? - (5/15/2009)

The Hound thinks
that the State now has the grounds to fire Mrs. Mary Easley (added - Done Deal). This hiring has now been shown to be an act of pure political patronage. I also believe that Mr. Oblinger and Mr. Nielsen should be disassociated from North Carolina State University. Chancellor Oblinger did not come forward with these documents until he was point blank forced to. If he had plead Mea Culpa from the beginning, I believe that he would have deserved to stay on. But, all of these actions and documents show that he was knowingly dishonest during this entire investigative procedure.

I believe that it is time that our local "Hickory Metro Area" leaders demand answers and accountability for the tawdriness that has been on full display during this whole episode. It sure seems that they are throwing around a lot of unethical (and probably even illegal) money down in the state capital, while we continue to suffer through 15% unemployment.

This whole mess is an embarassment to NC State and the entire North Carolina University System. I believe this whole scheme should be fully investigated and that anyone who had knowledge of it, without exposing it, should be fired from the University system. If there have been illegal activities that have taken place, then I expect the people to be held fully accountable. Being less than forthright about this situation should play a major role in actions taken against them.

This whole situation reinforces my opinions of the Good Ole Boy network in this state. We will not begin to recover economically or culturally, in this state, until Justice and the Rule of Law are applied equally, to and for all citizens, no matter who they are or what they do.

**Everyone of us, especially the products of the North Carolina University System, need to flood Mr. Bowles and the NC Board of Governors to stop the proliferation of political patronage in our University System. The system should be about educating tomorrow's leaders, and not about corruption. (Board of Governors Directory).