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Monday, November 30, 2009

Animation explaining The Crisis of Credit (2 parts)

Part 1

Part 2

Excellent cartoon from 50 years ago - shows where we are today

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Muse: Uprising

"I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny imposed upon the mind of man." -- Thomas Jefferson

Muse: Uprising

The paranoia is in bloom,
The PR transmissions will resume
They’ll try to push drugs that keep us all dumbed down
And hope that we will never see the truth around
(So come on!)

Another promise, another scene,
Another packaged lie to keep us trapped in greed
And all the green belts wrapped around our minds
And endless red tape to keep the truth confined
(So come on!)

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

Interchanging mind control
Come let the revolution take its toll
if you could flick a switch and open your third eye,
you’d see that we should never be afraid to die
(So come on!)

Rise up and take the power back,
It’s time the fat cats had a heart attack,
You know that their time is coming to an end
We have to unify and watch our flag ascend

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

Hey .. hey … hey .. hey!

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

Hey .. hey … hey .. hey!

Friday, November 27, 2009

If you thought 2009 was great, 2010 is sure to be even better

Have you seen this? I think you should. Don't shoot the messenger:

Here are tangible examples of the Capitalization and Redistribution of Assets Project -- the C.R.A.P. plan at work - Tollcha!!!

After a flurry of stimulus spending, questionable projects pile up
By: Susan Ferrechio - Washington Examiner - Chief Congressional Correspondent - November 3, 2009

The $787 billion stimulus bill was passed in February and was promised as a job saver and economy booster. Here is where some of the money went:

- $300,000 for a GPS-equipped helicopter to hunt for radioactive rabbit droppings at the Hanford nuclear reservation in Washington state.

- $30 million for a spring training baseball complex for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.

- $11 million for Microsoft to build a bridge connecting its two headquarter campuses in Redmond, Wash., which are separated by a highway.

- $430,000 to repair a bridge in Iowa County, Wis., that carries 10 or fewer cars per day.

- $800,000 for the John Murtha Airport in Johnstown, Pa., serving about 20 passengers per day, to build a backup runway.

- $219,000 for Syracuse University to study the sex lives of freshmen women.

- $2.3 million for the U.S. Forest Service to rear large numbers of arthropods, including the Asian longhorned beetle, the nun moth and the woolly adelgid.

- $3.4 million for a 13-foot tunnel for turtles and other wildlife attempting to cross U.S. 27 in Lake Jackson, Fla.

- $1.15 million to install a guardrail for a persistently dry lake bed in Guymon, Okla.

- $9.38 million to renovate a century-old train depot in Lancaster County, Pa., that has not been used for three decades.

- $2.5 million in stimulus checks sent to the deceased.

- $6 million for a snow-making facility in Duluth, Minn.

- $173,834 to weatherize eight pickup trucks in Madison County, Ill.

- $20,000 for a fish sperm freezer at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota.

- $380,000 to spay and neuter pets in Wichita, Kan.

- $300 apiece for thousands of signs at road construction sites across the country announcing that the projects are funded by stimulus money.

- $1.5 million for a fence to block would-be jumpers from leaping off the All-American Bridge in Akron, Ohio.

- $1 million to study the health effects of environmentally friendly public housing on 300 people in Chicago.

- $356,000 for Indiana University to study childhood comprehension of foreign accents compared with native speech.

- $983,952 for street beautification in Ann Arbor, Mich., including decorative lighting, trees, benches and bike paths.

- $148,438 for Washington State University to analyze the use of marijuana in conjunction with medications like morphine.

- $462,000 to purchase 22 concrete toilets for use in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri

- $3.1 million to transform a canal barge into a floating museum that will travel the Erie Canal in New York state.

- $1.3 million on government arts jobs in Maine, including $30,000 for basket makers, $20,000 for storytelling and $12,500 for a music festival.

- $71,000 for a hybrid car to be used by student drivers in Colchester, Vt., as well as a plug-in hybrid for town workers decked out with a sign touting the vehicle's energy efficiency.

- $1 million for Portland, Ore., to replace 100 aging bike lockers and build a garage that would house 250 bicycles.

Sources: News reports, Office of the Senate Minority Leader, Office of Sen. Tom Coburn

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

John F. Kennedy speaks about the Evils of Secrecy - 48 years ago

This Prophetical speech was made by Kennedy in 1961. In my opinion, this is where we are today. A society where the 1st amendment and individual liberty are taking a back seat, where the press chooses not to report vital information that the public needs to make vital decisions, where important deals involving the public treasury are made behind closed doors, and where the goal of the government seems to be to shut down any ideas and/or communication that aren't consistent with their program.

Wake Up!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hickory and this year's Milken Statistics - (2008-2009)

The Milken Institute Statistics of the Best Performing Cities, for the past year, came out last week and I have looked over them. The numbers show that the Hickory metro improved very slightly. We are now ranked #185 out of the top 200 U.S. metros compared to #191 last year. Job growth and wage growth trends are still lousy, but High-Tech GDP output shot through the roof and shows to be an emerging trend.

Here are the rankings and trends since 2003:

Below is a presentation of Hickory's 2009 Milken rankings versus the rest of North Carolina:
What one sees is that the rest of North Carolina's Metro areas are coming back to the pack a little, but not severely. I would speculate that the one-year job growth trends are holding up in Raleigh, Durham, and Fayetteville, because of government jobs; everywhere else has trended down. Only Greensboro sees anything near the abysmal wage growth that we have here in the Hickory metro.

I would also venture to guess that Wilmington and Asheville are coming back to the pack, in the overall statistics, because the recession is having a negative impact on tourism, which is a major component of those area's economy.

The national trends show that 8 of the top 20 metros in the nation are in Texas. International trade with Mexico has had a major impact on the Texas economy, due to strategic location and the weakening dollar. On the negative side, out of the bottom 20 metro areas, 14 are in the Michigan-Indiana-Ohio corridor. That is a continuing trend that I have previously addressed, because Hickory is amongst these city's that are at the bottom of the statistics.

To get a good grasp on these statistics, you can look at the article Hickory - Time to put the Puzzle together. We can pretty much see that we are in the same position as we were last year, but we do see some promise in the infusion of monies related to the High-Tech sector. That is where the future lies and it looks like we are sowing the seeds towards that kind of future. That is promising.

I believe the key is the follow through. We have to make sure that these seeds are allowed to grow and we have to keep fertilizing them. I think energy and devotion towards these High-Tech goals are even more important than money. We all know what needs to be done, we just have to go do it.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Just some thoughts about Current Economic Realities

"A Truly Extraordinary Slump": Reports of Robust Recovery Premature, James Galbraith Says. I know, I know. The sky is falling is what I will be accused of; but it is not what I am espousing. I'm just saying that we all need to be prepared for some extraordinarily rough times.

This is my opinion. The realization of what is already known by many will be brought to fruition in March 2010. At that time is when the numbers will be reported for the last quarter of 2009. Retail Sales for Christmas season will be reported and they will be horrid. The third leg down on the Adjustable Rate Mortgage collapse will take place, as these rates are reset and more people default on these loans. Finally, the first wave of the Commercial Real Estate bubble will hit, because of the retail slump brought about by the terrible Christmas sales, which is the time of year when most retail stores come to profit.

It doesn't make sense that the U.S. treasury has printed all of this cheap money that the people of this nation aren't getting any of. All we hear about is this Healthcare bill that you better come to understand is going to go through. It will be passed in this Senate this Saturday (or after a show, at least by the end of the weekend), then it will be reconciled into a monstrosity, by agreement of both Houses of Congress, and it will not be good.

Where is the bottom in the Real Estate market? If there are 10 houses for sale around me and I decide I need to move to a place where there are jobs -or- I decide I can't afford my house anymore, how do I sell it? What do I get out of it? Look at Detroit and some of the places out West. They are selling houses for pennies on the dollar. It is a buyers market, but the banks aren't lending. A true conundrum indeed.

The worst part is that the Financiers are able to take the money that has been printed and borrow it at artificially low rates of interest, set by the Federal Reserve, and invest it in foreign countries for a profit - (From Reuters: the Carry Trade). So the Wall Streeters and Foreign entities are profiting on free money that we, the American people, are going to have to pay the price for. Will the Financiers pay the price for the collapse of this bubble? Do they ever?

I ain't no Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. But American Consumerism is on its death bed. I honestly believe that whatever way you can be thrifty, you better start practicing those habits, because we are in for a ride.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 17, 2009

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.

At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, you will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 11/17/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below

Invocation by Rev. Susan Smith of Exodus Ministries

Special Presentations:

A. Presentation of the North Carolina League of Municipalities Green Challenge Award Designating the City of Hickory as a Green Challenge Advanced Level Municipality. Mike Bennett made the presentation. The city earned this award by earning points for introducing green initiatives such as having an energy management position, an internal recycling program,a high density development land use plan, a tree preservation program, a water conservation campaign, and biodiesel and compressed natural gas vehicle usage.

B. Video Presentation of the Extensive Firefighter’s Training Recently Undergone by the City of Hickory Fire Department’s Newest Recruits. Deputy Chief George Byers made the presentationThis is the second largest graduating class of recruits in history. The approval of this grant came July 2, 2009. These extra people will allow the city to implement a second fully staffed ladder company. The firefighters are bound by core values of communication, innovation, and customer service. In June 2008 the grant was submitted and in January 2009 it was approved. There was a hiring process. The recruits came on board July 1, 2009 and 140 days later they have completed their recruiting. They graduate tomorrow. Article from the Hickory Daily Record.

With the grant the certifications for EMS, EMT, Basic Training, and Rescue Training has to ne done in 2 years, but it was done within the 140 days. Deputy Chief byers thanked Catawba Valley Community College and recognized Dr. Garrett Hinshaw and Tim Chewing for helping with funding and to get these people trained. He recognized Elaine Seaver also. I was stated that 14,960 hours were consumed to train these individuals.

Consent Agenda:
A. Adopt Resolution to Accept State Revolving Fund Loan for the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant Sewer Project in the Amount of $17,500,000 - The City of Hickory has been offered a State Revolving Fund (SRF) loan for the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant (NEWWTP) project and has obtained permission from the North Carolina Local Government Commission to accept and utilize these funds. This is a 20 year loan at 2.5% interest.

B. Approve Application for the Use of Union Square by the Hickory Downtown Development Association for the “A Hickory Holiday” Event to be Held on December 10, 2009 from 5:30pm – 9pm

C. Approval of Fourth Annual “Food for Fines” Amnesty Week at the City Libraries From November 30 – December 6, 2009 - Staff requests that overdue fines be waived for library customers who donate canned food items at either of the City’s libraries during the week of November 30 - December 6, 2009. One can of donated food will cancel $1 in overdue fines and the donated items will be given to the Cooperative Christian Ministry. Last years’ event received over 1,000 food items, which helped the Cooperative Christian Ministry fill their shelves during a critical time of the year.

D. Approval of Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs
The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan Program:
Andrea Graybeal 1300 14th Street Drive, NE - Approved for up to $5,000
Lue Lee and Joua Yang 1664 Treadwell Lane, SE - Approved for up to $7,500
Teresa Robinson 3271 Blue Sky Court, SE - Approved for up to $6,500
Gloria Williams 825 3rd Street Place, SW - Approved for up to $6,500

The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program:
Michelle Dula 717 1st Avenue, SE - Amount not to exceed $10,000
Cynthia Moon 933 4th Street Place, SE - Amount not to exceed $5,000
Bonnie & Ruth Williams 946 8th Street, NE - Amount not to exceed $5,000
Stefanie Fortuna & Jovan Hoover 428 3rd Avenue, SW - Increase Loan to $8,099
Charlton Seaver 838 7th Avenue, SW - Increase Loan to $12,999

Funds are budgeted from the above through the City’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2008 and/or program income received through the City’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s Urgent Repair Program:
Daisey Brooker 335 3rd Street, SE - Amount not to exceed $5,000
Emily Futrell 110 6th Street, SW - Amount not to exceed $5,000

Funds are budgeted through the City’s Community Development Department funding received in FY 2009-10. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval of all the above.

The Hound has seen loans go through to immediate relatives of council twice over the last year. Personally, I don't think this is right. The largest grant above went to an alderman's family member. I don't care if it is standard operating procedure, I believe it to be a conflict of interest and the practice needs to be brought to an end.

For one thing, these grants aren't widely known to the public and are too easily accessible to members of the city government. Think of businesses (such as TV or radio stations) that have contests or giveaways and they do not let employee's family members participate. In these hard times, I can think of a lot of people who don't have connections, that could certainly use these grants. When it comes to these issues, the appearance of impropriety is impropriety. I believe an ordinance should be passed to prohibit this practice in the future.

E. Approve Vacant Building Revitalization Grant “Operation No Vacancy” to MSM Real Estate, LLC for Property Located at 1070 Main Avenue, NW in the Amount of $25,000 - The Vacant Building Revitalization Grant Program was established by City Council in September, 2008 whereby the program provides matching funds up to $25,000 for projects seeking to renovate and rehabilitate vacant buildings and the demolition of substandard buildings. MSM Real Estate, LLC has applied for such a grant in the amount of $25,000 to assist in renovating the exterior of the facility for use by a plumbing contractor. New downspouts will be installed, window repairs and painting, replacement of dock doors, paving of gravel driveways and parking areas, along with landscaping, new dumpster enclosure and loading dock repairs. The Redevelopment Committee reviewed the application and recommends approval.

F. Award Bid and Contract to Municipal Emergency Services for the Purchase of One - Hundred Sixteen Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Sets for the Hickory Fire Department in the Amount of $227,277.64 - The Hickory Fire Department requests replacement of the fire department’s PPE structural turnout gear. The current gear was purchased in FY 2000-01 and its intended service life is approximately ten years. Recently it has been noted through seminar participation that PPE gear should meet the latest National Fire Protection Association safety standards. Therefore, proposals were submitted and two bids were received. Municipal Emergency Services was the lowest bid at $1,959.29 per set at $227,277.64 for one-hundred sixteen PPE sets.

G. Approve AIP Grant Agreement With North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Division of Aviation to Rehabilitate and Overlay Taxiway “A” in the Amount of $30,153 - This Grant Agreement is for the State’s portion in the amount of $30,153 of the previously approved AIP #23 Federal Grant. This grant project is part of the continuing maintenance program of the Hickory Regional Airport’s runway/taxiway systems mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Taxiway “A” is Hickory’s primary taxiway and the only taxiway designated for use by an air carrier and larger charter aircraft. This project will enable the primary taxiway to handle larger aircraft and require less maintenance. Funding for this project includes a 95% FAA share of $1,145,824, a 2.5% State share of $30,153 and 2.5% local share of $30,153.

H. Approve Contract with J. T. Russell & Sons, Inc. to Rehabilitate and Overlay Taxiway “A” at the Hickory Regional Airport in the Amount of $1,070,298.15 - The approval of the contract with J.T. Russell & Sons, Inc. is to rehabilitate and overlay Taxiway “A” at the Hickory Regional Airport. The FAA is requiring Hickory to undertake Airport Improvement Program (AIP) project #23 to overlay/strengthen and rehabilitate Taxiway “A” which will rehabilitate the surface and increase the load carrying capacity comparable to main Runway 6-24. The project will further improve the airfield infrastructure for years of service. J.T. Russell is unable to begin work on this project in 2009 and by letter dated August 14, 2009 will honor their bid unit prices through the spring of 2010. FAA funding is 95% in the amount of $1,016,783.24, NCDOT share of 2.5% at $26,757.46 and the City’s share at 2.5% in the amount of $26,757.45.

I. Approve Contract With Talbert & Bright for Work Authorization for the Construction Administration Services of the Taxiway “A” Project in Conjunction With Airport Improvement Program Grant AIP #23 – in the Amount of $130,832. The Contract with Talbert & Bright will provide construction administration, observation, quality assurance testing and as-built survey during the repaving of Taxiway “A”. The cost will be funded from AIP #23 Grant funds which were issued through the FAA at a 95% level in the amount of $124,290, with NCDOT obligation of 2.5% and the City’s obligation of 2.5% ($3,271).

J. Approve Updated Tax Collection Agreement with Catawba County - Tax Collection Agreements with the County and various municipalities were originally signed in 1981 and through the years have undergone numerous amendments. It has become increasingly difficult to interpret the agreement due to all the amendments and therefore, the updated Tax Collection Agreement is intended to reflect its current function between Catawba County and the City of Hickory. The County will continue to bill and collect ad valorem, motor vehicle and gross receipt taxes; both current and delinquent. The cost per bill does not change from the current fee of $3.64 ad valorem bill. The fee is 1 ½ percent of the amount of motor vehicle and gross receipts taxes collected.

K. Proclamation Honoring Sarah Talbert for Her Years of Service on the Hickory Board of Education and Declaring November 23, 2009 as “Sarah Talbert Day” in the City of Hickory

L. Budget Ordinance Amendment
1. Appropriate $2,137 of Local Government Revenue to Police Department Overtime. This revenue is payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.

2. Appropriate $53,397 of General Fund to the Multi-Year Recovery Act-Justice Assistance Grant Fund. Needed to provide the additional funding required for the upgrade to the Police Department’s firing range and target system. The Justice Assistance Grant provides $23,256 toward the total upgrade cost of $76,652.96; therefore an additional $53,397 is required. The appropriation from General Fund Balance represents a portion of the remaining Police Federal Reimbursement balances from prior years that have rolled into Fund Balance at year end.

3. To appropriate $25,000 of General Fund Balance and budget in the Planning Department's Vacant Building Revitalization. This appropriation provides matching funds to assist MSM Real Estate, LLC in the renovation of a building located at 1070 Main Avenue NW. Plans are to renovate this facility for use by a plumbing contractor. MSM Real Estate, LLC plans to invest approximately $50,000 to renovate the exterior of the building, pave gravel driveways and parking areas, landscape, repair loading docks and provide a masonry dumpster enclosure.

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Resolution Directing Street Improvement Project be Undertaken Along a Portion of 12th Street, SW – No. 01-09 - The City Clerk has received a petition from the owners of property along a portion of 12th Street, SW to install curb and gutter per Section 29-2 of the Hickory City Code. The signatures on the petition represent a majority, greater than 50% of the property owners and property footage. Sixty-seven percent of the property owners signed for the petition and Thirty-three percent signed against the petition, which represents 67% in favor of the petition and 71.3% of total footage in favor. A 10-foot wide alleyway representing 1.5 percent of the footage will be the responsibility of the City of Hickory. The City Clerk has certified that the Preliminary Resolution adopted by the City Council on November 3, 2009 was mailed by first class mail on November 5, 2009 to the owners of property subject to assessment should the project be undertaken. Kerr Sand Company, the petitioner, will provide all concrete materials for the entire project at no cost to the City. There will be no cost to the property owners since their portion of the cost will be covered by Kerr Sand Company. The City will design and install the curb and gutter and Kerr Sand Company is providing the concrete. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on November 5, 2009. Chuck Hanson stated that the one property owner, who owns two sections of property, in this area won't be charged per the agreement. Council Consented Unanimously

2. Approval of Resolution Supporting Urban Progress Zone Re-Designation Within the City of Hickory - The Urban Progress Zone program provides three types of tax credits to eligible taxpayers that undertake qualifying activities in North Carolina. Tax credits are used to attract certain types of businesses and to foster certain types of businesses in North Carolina. Areas designated as Urban Progress Zones must meet the poverty level threshold of 20% of its population being below the poverty level according to the most recent federal decennial census. Some eligible businesses include call centers, company headquarters, information technology and services, manufacturing, research and development, warehousing and wholesale trade. Todd Hefner made the presentation. The Mayor asked how many people have received these tax credits. Mr. Hefner said it was a good question, but people call on a regular basis to ask if they are in this area. Alder Fox asked if people who fall under Operation No Vacancy can apply for this also. Mr. Hefner stated that they can. Alder Fox stated that this could be an additional incentive. Mr. Hefner said that that was a good point. Council Consented Unanimously

3. Consideration of Economic Development Agreement With Fiserv, Inc. - This Economic Development Agreement is between the City of Hickory and Fiserv, Inc. to be located at 2415 Century Place, SE. Fiserv, Inc. is a technology provider to banks, credit unions and financial institutions with more than 16,000 clients worldwide. Fiserv, Inc. is requesting economic development incentives in the amount of 75% for seven years from the City totaling $130,243 in property tax grants. This amount is based upon an investment of approximately $4,975,923 and 419 jobs with an average wage of 110% of the median hourly wage of Catawba County. This project meets and exceeds the minimum requirements of the City’s Economic Development Assistance Guidelines. Average annual wage with Fiserv, Inc will be $25,368 a year, excluding the benefits package. Fiserv, Inc. has already received a grant from the State of North Carolina in the amount of $800,000 and is under consideration by Catawba County Commissioners for economic development incentives. Due to Agreement stipulations, staff requests two readings be held on November 17, 2009. Andrea Surratt introduced the Public Hearing to talk about the agreement and the incentives. She intoduced Economic Development's Julie Pruett. Mrs. Pruett stated that Fiserv is a Fortune 500 company that employees 20,000 people in 250 locations worldwide. They provide technology, e-commerce, and financial services, such as data processing directly to banks, credit unions, and lending institutions. They propose to lease the Adevco Speculative Customer Service Center on McDonald Parkway for 10 years. They will be upfitting the building at a cost of $3 million and the cost of furnishings and equipment will be. $1.975+ million. They will be creating a minimum of 419 new jobs in the community. 40 of these jobs will be above the average county jobs. The remainder of the jobs will be paying 110% of the average entry level wage documented by the Employment Security Commission. These jobs will be created over a period of 3 years. 279 of these jobs will be created by the end of 2010. 72 jobs will be added by 2011. The full 419 will be reached by 2012 with an annual payroll of $11 million. The incentives equate to $18, 660 per year for seven years. It will be contractually and performance based. There will be performance thresholds for both investment and job creation. there are clawbacks if Fiserv fails to meet and maintain the thresholds. Lance Beck of Fiserv made a few comments about how excited they are to be becoming a part of this community. He wants to create an organization that treats employees well. Council Consented Unanimously

The Hound is glad to see these jobs come forward and
be facilitated. What Mr. Beck and Economic Development's Julie Pruett talked about sounded like a great company to work for. I think this is an excellent opportunity and I hope this company can succeed in every way. This is a Fortune 500 company and I hope that we will do more to go after such recognized firms now and in the future. These are the types of Information Technology jobs that we can use to firm up our foundation.

I have heard people are upset because they are stringent about potential hire's credit ratings and worthiness. I understand that people have had issues because of the current economy, but I totally understand why a firm that deals in credit issues cannot hire people who have bad credit. You better get used to it, because I can assure you that this is the wave of the future. Don't take it personally, instead think about the people who handle your money. You just can't take chances when it comes to these issues.

If your credit has been reported as bad, because of mistakes on your credit record or fraud, you can clean that stuff up and I believe this company will then move you through the hiring process. If you know otherwise, please let me hear about it.

Public Hearings - Departmental Reports:
Charter Communications Petition for Special Relief With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) - Charter Communications is currently under a local Franchise Agreement with the City of Hickory which expires on June 30, 2017 which includes yearly franchise fees to the City in the amount of $80,000. Charter Communications recently filed a petition with the FCC stating that Charter faces “effective competition” in the Hickory, Granite Falls, Lenoir and Rhodhiss franchise areas. Under FCC rules, cable TV rates may be regulated only in the absence of effective competition. Charter alleges it has effective competition from DirecTV and Dish Network. Should the FCC grant Charter’s petition, cable rates in the franchise area are no longer subject to regulation and the City would lose the $80,000 in revenue. Staff believes the filing of the FCC petition is Charter’s first step in moving to terminate its franchise agreements with Hickory and the other municipalities. General Statute 66-355 (a)(2)(a) and (b) state that a termination of a franchise agreement becomes effective at the end of the month in which the cable provider files notice with the affected city or county. The affected cities/counties have sixty days to review the evidence regarding Charter’s franchise termination and obtain possible injunction.

Staff Attorney Arnita Dula made the presentation and went over the aspects of the City's agreement with Charter. Currently, the city is receiving 5% of Charter's gross revenues. the city also receives Telecommunications and Programming Services taxes from the State of North Carolina. In 2006 an act was passed to promote consumer choice and establish uniform tax guidelines. It became effective on January 1, 2007. This Act grants the State's right to exlusive franchise authority for local cable service providers. The local cable provider can terminate local agreements under three circumstances 1) if there is another provider in the area 2) if there is more than one provider and more than 25% of households can file for termination 3) or if company provides wireline competition can be provided by a means that does not require a state franchise.

If the agreement can be terminated, then all obligations end. That includes the franchise fee. Ms. Dula states that resistance is futile. In March of 2009, Charter filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. On September 25, 2oo9, Charter filed a petition with the FCC declaring that Charter faces effective competition in this area. The circumstances of "effective competition" include, if the area is served by two unaffiliated multi-channel video programming distributors (such as Dish Network and Directv) and the number of households served by these distributors is higher than 15% in the area. If the FCC grants this provision to Charter, then Charter's fees are no longer subject to regulation. This would potentially lead to rate hikes.

Ms. Dula stated that where this will lead is a termination of the local franchise agreement and Charter will apply for a State charter immediately. Hickory will no longer receive the franchise fee. There is basically no time given. The notice of termination is only 30 days )or to the end of the month). Charter has already filed for State charter's in 25 municipalities here in North Carolina. She believes that most of these also involved franchise agreement terminations. She made a joke about resistance is futile, because the communications she has had show that no one has successfully challenged such a termination.

Alderman Lail made some points 1) no one has a State franchise in this area at this time. 2) they (Charter) can terminate if someone else competes and has 25%+ of the business 3) the only way they can terminate is under option C. What is the definition of wireline competition. They are stating that they face effective competition because of Satellite providers, how can that be considered wireline communication? That needs to be answered before we can figure out what to do. Ms. Dula stated that they may not do anything about the franchise fee, but want to follow through with the FCC request, then they are deregulated and can raise rates any way that they wish. Alderman Lail stated, then that is the free market at that point.

The Hound thinks that the consumer should be the biggest interest in this scenario and no one was representing the consumer in these arguments. The amount of money lost, because of the franchise fee, would be $6,666 a month or around $2/annually per citizen of Hickory Proper. Is that worth saving for the opportunity to increase competition and most likely product quality here in Hickory?

I know that Bell South is offering Fiber Optic television in Conover. I think the more options, the better. Let Charter break this contract. They are withering anyway, and with their bankruptcy, I don't see them getting up to speed on the 21st century technology that this area needs to separate from the pack. This is one of the reasons we need to push the envelope on the broadband issue.

Hello, this is an Information Technology issue. If you can't deal with this, then marketing the area to the technology sector is moot. I fear that Hickory's meandering on technology issues is going to keep us behind the eight-ball, when the new world is beckoning and demanding that we act now.

Monday, November 16, 2009


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Constructive Criticism helps us build towards a better future

From the Washington Post - November 10, 2009 - In N.C., damage not easily mended

I have heard that people have had a problem with the article above. My question is why?

This article doesn't really support my point of view, that we have caused much of our economic woes, but it does discuss valid and significant theories about what has caused the plight we are in today. In the Wall Street Journal article from last January, Mayor Wright said that our Economic Plight is out of our control. Well, is that not what this article espouses? That much of our plight is out of our control, because of foreign trade?
As the Obama administration defines its stance on foreign trade, it has been besieged by complaints about the legions in Hickory and elsewhere who have lost their jobs to overseas competition...But as interviews with a few dozen people here show, much of the damage to the affected workers is not so easily mended...
Look at this quote from Allen Mackie, who is the head of the Catawba County Employment Security Commission:
"The people in the think tanks keep saying we are going to become -- what's the term? -- an 'information and services' economy," said Allan Mackie, manager of the North Carolina Employment Security Commission office. "That doesn't seem to be working out too good."
That quote questions me, and others such as myself, who believe that we need to take advantage of the Information and Technology sector and center our future on opportunities and realities brought forth by Google and Apple. You won't see me bow up and whale that I have been besmirched, because someone else questions my thinking or where I stand. If someone doesn't understand my position, then it is my job to clarify my position and point to what I have said in the past. It doesn't threaten me or hurt my pride or esteem.

The article goes on to point out:
But while the assistance has been used to win passage for more international trade agreements, its effects on workers have been rarely studied. The GAO analysis from 2000 found that 75 percent of displaced workers in TAA found jobs. Of those, only 56 percent earned 80 percent or more of their previous wage.
Personally, I believe this occurred because the jobs that were lost were not high skilled labor jobs. We all know people that went to work straight out of High School and after a few years they were making $40,000 ten years ago at the height of the manufacturing boom. I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings and I truly believe that most of these people recognize that they were being overpaid at that point in time. These people were making those high salaries because we were at full employment and it was an employee's market.

All through the late 90s we were between 2% and 3% unemployment. You could virtually walk out of a job one day and into the next one the next day without skipping a beat. That was an employee's economy, where the employee could name there price and things have certainly changed over the past decade.

The heyday of the late 90s led to where we stand today, because those companies had to become more competitive and, whether right or wrong, they honestly believed that they were paying too much for what they were getting for their labor dollars. So now we have seen the pendulum swing in the completely opposite direction, where the labor market is completely in the employer's favor and they can name their price. If the employee doesn't like the workplace conditions, there is somebody ready to replace them if they step out of line.

So that leads us where we are today. From top to bottom we have to separate ourselves from the pack. As a community or as individuals, we are going to have to justify ourselves and be accountable. There is no kicking back and relaxing in the competitive world that we now live in. You have to constantly sell yourself and display why your product is better. And you are doing this on a global stage. We can't turn back time and we can't reminisce about 40 years ago and the quaint little village Hickory used to be. It is time to compete or wither and the world is ambivalent about our choice.

That is the reason why we have to shed the caste system, the nepotism, and the clique. We need the best ideas to win out, no matter where or whom they come from . We need the newcomers to this community to feel welcome and get past the old South structure that has defined this area. It's time to reach out to others. Instead of making people figure out how to assimilate into the local system, it is time to facilitate connections and help people fit into the community. We have to grow and that is the only way that it will happen; working in everyone's best interests, instead of towards our own personal interests.

I know that I have stepped on some toes with the way that I have addressed some of the issues on this blog or in other media sources. I have hurt some people's feelings. Well, believe it or not, in my weakest moments my feelings have been hurt also, but does that even matter. Anyone that puts their feelings forth in a public platform, or arena, must grow some thick skin. Criticism humbles you and makes you stronger. It also helps you understand the issues better and will either firm your resolve, when you reflect and find out you are definitely right, or it shows you where you are wrong and where you need to readjust your thoughts or philosophy.

Do you not want Hickory ever mentioned nationally? People fussed about the Wall Street Journal article, railed against the NBC news segment, and are now upset about a Washington Post article that fully supports the contention that City of Hickory has been making for years. Do the people who are upset think, "Shhh, if nothing is said then everything will get better." Well, it won't. We need people to know all of the aspects of what is going on here. We need it discussed high, low, front, back, and center; because from that morass of publicity, people will be able to come up with solutions that will enable us to solve the problems. And if you aren't trying to come up with real solutions, then you are part of the problem.

Frankly, people are sick of the fluff and kumbaya propaganda that is put forth by public relations officials. Remember Baghdad Bob? Did he save Iraq? People would have you believe that if they talk about sunshine and lollipops, then in the end that is what you will get. Propaganda doesn't make people feel better. It makes them feel worse, because they lose trust and faith in their leaders.

Let me relate a personal issue about this blog. Over the past year, I have had five individuals contact me and say that they appreciate this site, because they are getting a fair assessment of what is going on in this area. These people's livelihood is at stake, so they are searching the web to make an educated decision about whether to move here or not. They have all stated that they have reservations because they have seen the challenges we face. Y'all say I am negative, but I have related to these people why I love my hometown and I answered their questions to the best of my ability or passed them along to someone who could.

One recent individual is a medical specialist who would be a wonderful addition to this community, but he related that he doesn't want to come to a community if the economy isn't going to be put on solid ground, because he can't build a practice based on medicare, medicaid, and the uninsured. He wanted statistics that would help him make his decision, so I pointed him in the right direction and asked that source to just give it to this doctor straight up and let the chips fall where they may.

Many of you seem to think that we should sell these people fluff to sway their decision. Well, if you do that and they move here and things don't go well, then they are going to resent the information source and this community. Further, they are going to spread the negative word. But, if we build a firm foundation that will help these people succeed, then we will grow this community in a wonderfully positive direction.

The key is to not shoot the messenger. If you think someone is wrong, then boldly challenge them with unmistakable facts, not hyperbole. Step forward with solutions and facilitate ideas. Don't take public policy criticism personally. Step back and recognize where criticism is valid and then deal with those issues to help build towards a better future. If we are receiving bad economic publicity, then figure out ways to create tangibly positive economic publicity.

We are in search of a firm foundation. Thank You Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NBC, Charlotte Observer, and anyone else who finds our plight relevant and cares enough to report on it. The greatest feeling in the world will be when the national media comes back to report on our renaissance and resurrection.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Hickory 9/12 Project Town Hall Last Night with Congressman McHenry - November 10. 2009

The following are links to the Town Hall meeting last night that was held at Lenoir-Rhyne's P.E. Monroe Auditorium. There were between over 150 people that attended this meeting which featured Congressman Patrick McHenry as the keynote speaker. below are the links, questions, answers and comments that were posed. Each Segment is linked to a downloadable recording.

Segment 1 - Reggie Saddler led the invocation and then the leaders of the local chapter of the 9-12 project had comments. Billy Pitman the Chairman of Lenoir-Rhyne's Young Republicans made a short speech.

Segment 2 - Reggie Saddler - This guy was great and his message was very relevant to what we are seeing in our lives today. He leads a Gospel group called the Reggie Saddler Family. He starts around the 6 minute mark of this segment. I was truly motivated and inspired by what he had to say. He was awesome. He talked about not doing anything rash and about getting involved.

Segment 3 - Congressman McHenry starts at around the 2 minute mark and made his opening comments. His opening remarks last around 13 minutes.

Segment 4 - The first question involved medical interventions going against the separation of Church and State. The second question was what do people do who disagree with the House of Representatives Health Care Bill. The third question was about whether the Congressman has had enough time to read the 2,000 page healthcare bill. The fourth question was about how the new law will effect doctors and nurses. The fifth question was about about sponsoring a bill that would make the Congress utilize the same insurance that they create for the public.

Segment 5 - The first question of this segment was about the National Debt, the GDP, Foreign Debt ownership, and defaulting on the Debt. The second question was about Seniors getting a Cost of Living increase based on inflation and is loading the healthcare bill based upon trying to get it through the Senate.

Segment 6 - The first question of this segment was about the defunding of ACORN; was it only for the month? The next question came from a student from L-R who wanted to talk about our system versus the European system and why don't we worry about our system and quit trying to push a European system. The third question was "How will this bill effect people who get their healthcare from their job?" The fourth question was about hurting future geneartions with our national debt - "It seems like we have hit the accelerator on Big Government."

Segment 7 - The first question of this segment was about whether you would need any special qualifications to be a nurse under this bill. The next part was more of a rant than a question where the gentleman talked about being disenfranchised and how what the government is doing is hurting his family. The next question was from a young lady who asked about what would happen to her and future generations if we spend all of this money. The fourth person in this segment talked about Tri-Care and how it is supposed to be an example of great healthcare and he uses it and it isn't good. He says the Democrats are trying to overwhelm the system and he doesn't understand why the Republicans don't do the same thing. The Congressman stated that their are 53 Republican healthcare bills that have currently been proposed and people think that none have been forwarded. The next question was about mythical problem versus the real problems we face, such as Global Warming.

Segment 8 - The next segment started with a lady from Europe who stated that Europeans look at Healthcare as a flaw in the American system. She asked about private healthcare companies denying people coverage and what is good about that. The next statements and questions pertained to who wrote this current healthcare legislation. The lady talked about how confusing this bill is. She then asked how they expect the average doctor's office to understand this bill. The lady then asked if the congress doesn't understand that we don't have any more money. The next lady asked, pertaining to the Fort hood incident last week, what Congress was going to do about issues of Political Correctness in our military. The next question came from a young man who asked about Czars and how we can change what is happening.

Segment 9 - The first question came from an older gentleman who asked about abortion and the conflicts of laws that deal with when life begins. Then the same gentleman asked about term limits. The next man stated that he was in Washington on 9/12/2009 and he wanted to know if the people in Congress "heard them." The next gentleman of the night talked about how campaign Finance reform has done nothing to fix the syste. The last gentleman of the night talked about how the National Healthcare program is insidious because it make people budget items. He also stated how upset he was that no mention of Ronald Reagan was during the ceremony of the tearing down of the Berlin wall. He also wanted to talk about "what a crock the global warming issue is." The Congressman said people should look up Marsha Blackburn and how she questioned Al Gore during his testimonial before her committee.

The Hound thinks that these town halls are when democracy functions at its best. There were only 150 to 200 people that showed up at this Town Hall meeting, but it was open to the public and it wasn't about political affiliation. I guess since it wasn't a FOX moment that the minions didn't get riled up enough to attend. Personally, I wonder if the people around here get it. No matter their affiliation, people were presented with an opportunity to participate in a civic process. I guess since 15 minutes of fame weren't at stake, and the TV wasn't talking about it, that they didn't feel like being bothered.

I truly worry about the direction we are heading in. The questions I reflect on are because of current policies. When the dollar finally succumbs, how are people going to react. Do you think it will be calm and rational. Think of Roosevelt's bank holiday in the 1930s, how would people react to that today? How would people react if grocery stores were closed or if electricity became spotty in Winter's cold or Summer's heat? What if they couldn't get gas for their cars?

I certainly hope that we, as a nation, get it together; because right now it is more than obvious that we are obsessed with Pop Culture instead of real issues. The issues we face could become perilous, if not dealt with very soon. As individuals or as a nation, we cannot spend our way to prosperity. We have traded the viability of our future for comfort now.

No one can guarantee you your health. They are taking away your liberty. Do you think you will be able to keep on with your vises and have someone else paying for your healthcare? They are going to tell you what you can do and when you can do it. What if you are an alcoholic? They might decide to arrest you, if you don't stop drinking. If you smoke pot, lawmakers might decide that the government can drug test you during mandatory physicals or even perform random drug testing on you. Heck, they might even decide whether you can carry a baby to term or not. You want the right to choose? OK, as long as Big Brother agrees with your decision.

You think you are going to get something for nothing? Nothing is free, especially your freedom!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Forget about Brain Drain. How about Brain Gain!!!

(From Wikipedia) - Brain drain or human capital flight is a large emigration of individuals with technical skills or knowledge, normally due to conflict, lack of opportunity, political instability, or health risks. Brain drain is usually regarded as an economic cost, since emigrants usually take with them the fraction of value of their training sponsored by the government. It is a parallel of capital flight which refers to the same movement of financial capital. The term was coined by the Royal Society to describe the emigration of "scientists and technologists" to North America from post-war Europe.

Brain drains are common amongst developing nations, such as the former colonies of Africa, the island nations of the Caribbean, and particularly in centralized economies such as former East Germany and the Soviet Union, where marketable skills were not financially rewarded.

The Hickory Metro's Economic Statistics correlate highly with those of Michigan, Ohio, and the rest of what is called America's Rust Belt. That area is also seeing a great loss of the younger demographic as manufacturing capacity and economic opportunity continue to decline. Here is a link to an article about how Detroit is addressing its issue of Brain Drain - Stopping Detroit's Brain Drain. There are a lot of other interesting subjects that are part of this CNN Money Series - Assignment Detroit. Although I don't think Hickory is to the level of Economic decay Detroit is, nor the scale of size, there are definitely some ideas here that our city should consider.

Here is a link to an article that was in this past Sunday's Parade Magazine entitled "A City for Entrepreneurs." The article is about how Cleveland, Ohio is attempting to foster start-up businesses in the city. Cleveland was once a platform where Standard Oil and General Electric's Lighting Division were started; but like many other manufacturing hubs, Cleveland has seen a precipitous decline in jobs from the manufacturing sector over the last 20 years.

A few items from that article really have relevance to Hickory's situation and what we have addressed here on The Hound. Here is a great quote from Ohio Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher - “Every large company started in someone’s garage or basement. Why shouldn’t it be in Ohio?”

We have spoken of this need to start a garage economy here in this area. This is where our old school Manufacturing companies (textiles, furniture) got there start. Somewhere along the line, we have lost our way. Many of us have heard the story about how Art Viles personally sold stock to start Superior Cable, which became Siecor and then Corning Cable Systems. That led to Commsope and Alcatel (which is now Draka) coming to the area. Why couldn't we go back to that entrepreneurial spirit that once thrived here? Who can stop us other than ourselves?

Here is an excellent town hall meeting that John Kasich and Mike Huckabee held at Ohio State University on October 13, 2009. This does have political moments, but the message is truly valid.

John Kasich talks about the issues of leadership in the face of adversity and how Ohio is going to have to do it themselves. Whether you are conservative or not this message is valid. Mike Huckabee talks about Government being the facilitator of Free Enterprise, instead of the complicator of Free Enterprise. Kasich talks about how Ohio has driven the best and the brightest away and how they are going elsewhere -- sound familiar?

Huckabee talks about the challenge of being a good leader and not allowing the status quo to dominate. He says people don't expect perfection, but they expect integrity and authenticity. Leaders need to speak the same message to every audience, instead of delivering messages that you think people want to hear. People expect high standards and accountability.

Kasich talks about the tea parties and how people are sick of broken promises. He says he would rather lose than do that. People are losing faith, because of the broken promises. He says he has already developed a plan.

Huckabee talks about having people job ready and raising the standards. You have to keep score and make people accountable. Jobs flow like water. If it is difficult to set up jobs, then companies will go elsewhere. Third, he says that you must have a desirable culture where people want to live and be a part of.

Further discussion devotes time towards the creative economy and idea teams.

The Hound: Look at the National studies like the Milken Institute numbers and the Forbes numbers and you will see an objective view of what investors think about our area. We have to change the paradigm. Some people want to talk about quality of life issues. Well, in my opinion, the number one factor that will determine the quality of your life is the quality of your occupation. And at the same time what is the largest and most integral facet of a company's operations? LABOR!!!

A few issues that truly need to be addressed in this area:

1) Get rid of the concept of Low Hanging Fruit - Kept hearing this during the intra-city visit / Revitalization Conference. Lazy approach, bad approach, and not even a valid analogy, because fruit ripens as fast at the top of a tree as it does at the bottom. This is what has been stated when it comes to developing Hickory's retirement community. Honestly, talking about Low Hanging Fruit is very depressing.

2) Hickory's unofficial motto - "It's better than nuthin" - Are we supposed to lower our life expectations? I hear people addressing the underemployed in this area by telling them that they should be happy that they have the job they are overqualified and/or underpaid to perform, because it's better than nothing. I am sick of people adapting down and not expecting excellence in this community. We must demand excellence. Will we be better off than our parents? Will future generations be better off than us? Should we not expect and demand progress?

3) Cheap begets Cheap - In my opinion that is what has led to the economic implosion that we have seen in this community. You can cut your costs to zero, but it doesn't mean you are going to make a penny. Instead, we have devalued our product (Hickory) to the extent that no one looks at us as providing value anymore. This has created a domino effect. We may even be beyond the tipping point on this issue. If so, then we will have to work twice as hard to rebuild our infrastructure and this is going to be hard to do when people have a mindset where they would rather live in squalor than spend money, even when it obviously needs to be spent.

The Hound knows that one can honestly compare our area to some of the most challenging economic environments in the modern world. That is what has caused the Brain Drain. We have a substantial disparity in incomes in this area, both within the community and vis a vis the nation at large. People can easily move here from more affluent metropolitan areas and live twice as good, but our area's indigenous inhabitants can't afford to move to these other metro areas.

Think of people from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, or Seattle moving here. They can live like kings. Think of one of us trying to move to one of these cities. Most of us would have to live in extreme poverty if we tried to make that transition on our current income and assets. We seem to wear our affordability as a badge of honor, but I believe that it is one of the issues that is truly killing us.

We have got to start growing this economy again and creativity is the only way to do that. That will not come from people who are winding it down. That takes energy and energy comes from young people who want to enjoy the future that is still ahead of them. Young people are a community's seeds. We all benefit when our community sows seeds and lays a path of opportunity for young people to be creative and innovative. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can make this happen and start moving in a truly positive and sustainable direction.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Retirement Communities Ain't No Panacea

Erickson Retirement Communities files for Chapter 11 - Article from the Baltimore Sun
Erickson's real estate arm, which acquires land for campuses and builds projects, has been hurt by the recession, as seniors who couldn't sell existing homes put off moving to continuing-care communities....... The economy has hurt the entire retirement community industry, prompting many companies to offer incentives just to move in, experts said. Many new developments have been delayed because of the tight market. But continuing-care facilities such as Erickson, which allow seniors to progress from independent living to assisted living, have suffered more, experts said..... People who move into assisted-living facilities usually don't have a choice, said Rick Grimes, president and CEO of the Assisted Living Federation of America. "The problem that Erickson seems to be facing is that they're not getting as many people in on the independent-living side, so they're not getting people into the cycle."
You're only as secure as the retirement home - Excellent article from the Washington Post that is related to the above article about Erickson Retirement Communities.
Ingleside's trouble was that the cost of caring for its residents was outstripping the fees they were paying. "There was a business model here that wasn't sustainable," said Richard Woodard, chief operating officer of the nonprofit....
Retirement Communities Respond to Housing, Market Drops - from U.S. News and World Report - (11/10/2008)
Primary residences are the greatest source of wealth for most retirees, and the sale of those homes is the most common way to generate retirement-community entrance fees, which range from $100,000 at the low end, upwards of $500,000 and much more at the highest-end communities.

Income from pensions and investments is a major source of monthly maintenance payments across the spectrum of senior housing. Financial support from children and other family members often enables retirement home occupants to make ends meet.

All sources are now being sharply compromised. And while it's too early to see the full effect of the impact, it's clear it will be extensive.

Elderly Forgo Move to Assisted Living Because They Can’t Sell Homes - From the Website Senior Living Solutions (5/29/2009)
The housing crisis has kept thousands of older Americans who need support and care from moving into retirement communities or assisted-living centers, effectively stranding them in their own homes.
The Hound: I know that the new context has been put in place when area leaders try to change to the new paradigm called "Active Retirees." It truly sounds great in theory, that we are going to bring these early retirees, typically in their late 50s and early 60s in here and they will work and contribute to our economy, while enjoying all of the amenities Hickory has to offer. They will all be millionaires who play golf by day and desire Dom Perignon and lobster at night. The only problem is that economic realities are a speed bump that precludes this from happening.

How do we market this area to these folks? We tell them it is affordable. In other words, we are telling them we have cheap housing, cheap food, cheap retail, and cheap services... By riding down 29th avenue NE, one can see what the vision has been for quite some time. We have a couple of gated retirement communities, several moderate to upscale assisted living centers, and even a funeral home right in the midst of it all. This is exactly what the company above, Erickson Retirement Communities, has tried to do. These companies want to get the older generations into the pipeline and move them from the gated communities, to the assisted living centers, then to the nursing home, and finally to the funeral home.

This vision was laid out long ago in this area and it was done at the expense of balance. All of the cards were laid upon the table, all chips are in, and one would have to be blind not to acknowledge the implementation. This community is geared towards Seniors come (you know where) or high water. Is it true that Seniors get a discount on their property taxes? If they do, does that make sense? What would justify that?

Now we are seeing the beginning of what I addressed to you earlier this year. We are going to see Socialized Healthcare. Congress passed the initial bill, which will soon be reconciled in the Senate. I don't think there is any way to stop this. So medicare is going to be cut for seniors and we all know how much seniors rely on medicare. As the economy continues to implode, the local area is going to be expected to pick up more of the tab for these seniors who cannot make ends meet. It is a vicious never ending cycle and it will be exacerbated unless we begin to try to restore balance to the demographics of this community.

Once again, Hickory is dealing with a Monoculture. We are moving from a monoculture of manufacturing to a monoculture of "retirement community." Honestly folks, can we afford to put all of our eggs in one basket again? We must stop this skewed growth in its tracks and insist on balanced demographic marketing and development. If we don't, then we may be seeing the fatal blow to Hickory's economy that it will never be able to recover from.

Say we were successful in marketing to the active retirees. How long will they stay active. Retirement = Winding it down. This is not the way to grow the community. So, if you are going to stay here, then you have to accept that your life's potential will be limited. I know that this reality can be viewed negatively, as though I am picking on the senior demographic, but there are plenty of resources that have been provided on this blog and elsewhere that will help you objectively ascertain a conclusion and I believe that it will be similar to my own.

Links to past articles involving this subject:
Hickory, North Carolina 2009
Fixing Hickory - A Demographics and Marketing Discussion Panel
Fixing Hickory - Narrowing Our Focus Economic Stimulus Package for Catawba County Finalized (The Finale)

Hickory - Time to put the Puzzle together

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 3, 2009

This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.

At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, you will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 11/3/2009 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below

Invocation by Rev. Cindy Jordan of Spiritual Care Catawba Valley Medical Center

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of Proclamation to Sue Huttman, Women’s Resource Center Outreach Coordinator Declaring the Month of November, 2009 as “Nonprofit Awareness Month” in the City of Hickory - The Mayor made the presentation and talked about how Non-Profits - Link to the Proclamation - Link to the Homepage

The Hound thanks these women in these times of need and hopes they are successful in their efforts of outreach to our local community.

B. Proclamation Presented to Nancy Compton, President of Waverly Book Club Proclaiming November 3, 2009 as “The Waverly Book Club of Hickory, NC Day” in the City of Hickory - The Mayor said he had the delight in meeting these people a couple of weeks ago. In 1909 a group of women formed an embroidery club. At three course luncheons, the group would do their embroidery, while one of the ladies would read chapters from a current book. In 1925 the Waverley Book Club was formally formed to reflect the groups strong interest in reading. The group was named after Sir Walter Scott's Waverley Novels. The group reflects high standards of Citizenship, Patriotism, and Altruism. Early membership included Msr. LP Franz, Mrs. AL Shuford, Mrs. George Ivey, Mrs CL Mosteller, and Mrs. AJ Moretz. Present membership is limited to twelve members. They are committed to the promotion of literacy and cultural improvement.

The Hound believes that any organization that has survived over 100 years is awesome. I hope that this group can survive for generations to come. Look at the fact that this group has survived through two World Wars and the tumult of many hard economic times. A group like this is the tie that binds the strong foundation of a community at large. These are the types a traditions that one can truly appreciate and a community can hang its hat on.

Photo of a collection of bookmarks, some around 100 years old, made by members of the Waverly Book Club of Hickory. - Boyd Family Genealogy and Local History Room at the Patrick Beaver memorial Library - Hickory, Catawba County - 375 3rd Street, Northeast Hickory NC 28601-5126

Consent Agenda:

Call for Public Hearing Regarding Consideration of an Economic Development Agreement with Fiserv, Inc. to be Located at 2415 Century Place, SE (Authorize Public Hearing for November 17, 2009)

Approve Application for the Use of Union Square by Girls on the Run of Catawba Valley/YMCA of Catawba Valley, Inc. for the Girls on the Run 5K Event to be Held on December 12, 2009 from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Transfer of Cemetery Lots in Oakwood CemeteryFrom Eric Avant Brown, Personal Representative of the Estate of John W. Brown to David M. Dauler. Transfer of Cemetery Lots in Oakwood Cemetery. From Robert R. Yoder to Paul R. Dickinson and wife, Patricia M. Dickinson

Approve Fourth Amendment to Lease Agreement With New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC for Lease of Ground Space at the City’s Water Plant for Location of Communication Equipment - Staff recommends approval and 2 readings.

Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 9
1. To budget a total of $32 in donations ($26-Catawba County Hispanic Ministry and $6 Cash) to the International Council line item for sodas at the Health Fair.

2. To appropriate $78,153 of General Fund to the District Court Capital Reserve account. This appropriation represents the amount of funds remaining from their FY08-09 budget.

3. To appropriate $101,130 of General Fund to the Multi-Year Grant Fund. This amendment represents the City of Hickory’s 50% matching funds required for year 3 of the Governor's Highway Safety Program grant award.

Grant Project Ordinance No. 8
1. To accept and budget a $101,130 transfer from the General Fund and to budget $101,130 of Multi-Year Governor's Highway Safety grant funds in several Police Department line items. The Governor’s Highway Safety Program-Year 3 grant provides funding to pay the salary for three (3) Officers, one (1) Sergeant and equipment. Equipment to be purchased will include hand held lasers, crash zone software, crash data retrieval system, software for retrieval system, travel and printed materials.

Grant Project Ordinance Amendment No. 5
1. To decrease Restricted Intergovernmental Revenue from Caldwell County by $30,000 and the Right of Way Acquisition expenditure line item by $30,000. Caldwell County will share 50/50 with the City of Hickory in the purchase of the right of way for the US 321 to Grace Chapel Road Connector. However, this will not be a reimbursement payment from Caldwell County to the City of Hickory for their portion. Therefore a $30,000 decrease to the Restricted Intergovernmental Revenue line item and the Right of Way Acquisition is necessary.

Informational Items:
A. Report of Alderwoman Hoyle’s Travel to the 2009 NCLM Annual Conference in Greenville, NC - From October 24 – 27, 2009; hotel - $384.18; registration - $494.00; per diem - $59.50; mileage - $270.60

B. Report of Mayor Wright’s Travel to the 2009 NCLM Annual Conference in Greenville, NC - From October 25 – 26, 2009; hotel - $112.86; registration - $400.00 (Mayor Wright reimbursed the City $50.00 for golf fee); per diem - $8.50; mileage - $282.70

New Business - Departmental Reports:
New Cingular Wireless PSC, LLC is the owner of a cellular tower and other ground equipment located at the City’s water treatment plant off Old Lenoir Road a/k/a Horse Farm site. Initially the City entered into an agreement with Gearon & Co., Inc. in August, 1996, who subsequently assigned its rights to BellSouth Carolinas PCS. In November, 2007 the City and New Cingular executed the third amendment to the agreement which extended the term of the initial agreement and outlined other provisions. The fourth amendment will be with New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC and provides for alternative utilization of space on the tower along with other changes. As part of its radio rebanding and upgrade projects, the Hickory Police Department will need to locate a public safety antennae and other equipment on the cell tower. There is additional space on the tower for placement of other public safety communications equipment. The City will pay for any necessary improvements to the tower so the structure will support the equipment. In exchange for the reserved space, New Cingular will be relieved of certain prior maintenance oligations at the site. Due to time constraints for the Hickory Police Department’s installation of equipment, staff requests two (2) readings on November 3, 2009.

1. Second Reading - Approve Fourth Amendment to Lease Agreement With New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC for Lease of Ground Space at the City’s Water Plant for Location of Communication Equipment. Due to time constraints for the Hickory Police Department’s installation of equipment.

*** General Comment by Alderman Lail - Veteran's day is celebrated on the eleventh day of the eleventh month and in the eleventh hour. In the City of Hickory, the Hickory Elk's Club has a tradition of remembrance that is held at sunset (5pm) at Oakwood Cemetary. The service will be held at the site of the tomb of the unknown soldier. The public is invited and he encourages everyone to attend. This year they will be recognizing a fallen soldier, who was killed in Afghanistan in January of this year.

The Hound thinks that we need to begin to recognize the sacrifice that the people make who serve in this country's armed services. We really cannot afford to take these guys for granted the way we do in this country. Veteran's day was traditionally observed as Armistice day after World War I. Armistice day was originally a recognition of cessation of hostilities along the western front in Europe. That happened November 11, 1918. Approximately 20 million people died during that war.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I want to thank Thom for his help and his friendship in the election. While I am disappointed that I lost, it was indeed a postive experience. I was able to put some ideas on the table, change some minds, meet numerous great people, and hopefully the campaign made some difference. There are too many people to thank here, but it's been a pleasure to have lived through it.

This city has a tough road ahead, and if there is one great negative about the election it is that few came out to vote, and fewer of them took the time to really do the work of citizenship in a democracy. We, as a people, have to learn that elections are about governance, not just a horse race, personality contest, or any personal animosity that may exist. It's a shame that people only turn out (as in the Burke Co School Board race), when there is a fight. We need to adopt a mature attitude towards vision and policies and not just let adrenaline determine if we are going to vote or not.

Government is the vehicle for doing the people's business. Whether we like it or not our money is being used to provide for needs and regulate resources and people. The decisions we made in years past have put us where we are now. And the future is constantly being shaped. I wish the Mayor and Council the best and pray that they will diligently work to improve our lot as Hickoryites.

Again thanks to all . Harry Hipps

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Congratulations Rudy, Sally, Jill, and Hank

It was a forgone conclusion that Mayor Wright would be reelected and Sally Fox would once again represent Union Square for the next 4 years.

Jill Patton has won over Harry Hipps in overwhelming fashion by a 2:1 margin in Ward 6 as has Hank Guess over Z. Anne Hoyle in Ward 4. The only precinct that has not been reported is Sandy Ridge, in which only 38 votes were cast.

Here is the breakdown of the totals:

The Hounds Objective point of view
- This city is what it is. It is a city where ideas take a backseat to status. In my opinion that is what has led to the malaise. Look at how we keep electing Republicans to state positions just because they are registered Republicans, when they have done nothing to promote our area's cause in Raleigh and people are told to wait their turn.

These candidates are the winners and they will be our leaders for the next four years. They probably think the Hound's over and this whole thing was geared towards this election. Well, there is always a silver lining, because now Harry is going to be able to help me more with this blog and I have had another person come forward that wants to help also. So now I can work on some even more complex issues. It ain't about the horse race. It's about governance.

Look how many RINOs we have in this area. Real Republicans believe in individual freedom. That is the reason why the Republican Party is dead, because the GOP wants to pick winners and losers based on a caste system. We used to be a Meritocracy, now it's about nepotism, cronyism, and out and out corruption. Look at the comments from people on this blog, where people state that this city is so Status Quo. Clue 1 - It ain't only me folks.

My true feelings about this election
- Someone said that Jill Patton wasn't running against Harry. That she was running against me. It takes a really lower IQ for someone to think that. Harry Hipps is one of the smartest people I have ever known. To think that he was espousing my ideas alone, belittles him, insults my integrity, and shows a truly simple mind. Look to the right of this blog and see that he is a listed contributor.

When it comes to Mrs. Patton, I know that I have been overly critical of her at times. I have allowed her to voice her grievances with me. She is approachable and does listen to those people at the neighborhood meetings and I think they supported that today. But, she is going to have to become a leader with her own ideas, agenda, and stand out on her own sometimes.

Come on out here on the plank with us sometime Jill and feel it. It can be more stress than one can bear, but avant garde has so much more meaning than status quo. That is why 1% of us look at this city as clueless, but 1% ain't gonna win no elections, and 7% ain't gonna get anything substantive done (that total equals the 8% who even care enough to vote).

Harry Hipps has been a close friend to me for 25 years - through good times and bad. If the knuckle dragging rich elite in this community can't figure out that we are just as intelligent as them, then that is their loss. We are victims of your Steak 'n Shake, Chick-fil-a, Bojangles, fast food economy. I heard some elitists say that Harry's just a Pretzel Maker. Harry has run that store for over 5 years and has grown the company in double-digit percentages annually since he took it over. How many businessmen can say that in this area. And the rent in that little space he works in is over $5,000 per month. He does honest work and no one like that sits on that council, so the average person once again goes unrepresented.

Harry did work for Brett Self at Stone Hearth Bakery before that. Brett is a graduate of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America for the Brain Challenged Bourgeois). Brett couldn't make a go of it, because people can get the Cream filled Krispy Kreme donuts so much cheaper than them thangs he called Cannoli's. So Brett had to move away to Atlanta. Typical talent loss here in the home of "It's better than nuthin." People in this area want Fat (I mean Fast) Food. That is how L-R got that grant, because we have instituted the Golden Corral, J&S mentality as part of our culture, which is no culture.

Look at myself. I never talk about my own educational achievements on this blog. I have a degree in Economics and Finance from UNC-Wilmington. Folks, that isn't an easy degree to obtain. And I have a degree in Culinary Arts from Central Piedmont Community College, which is one of the best Community College Culinary programs in the country. My cumulative Grade Point Average in obtaining that degree was a perfect 4.0. I earned a Presidential (as in United States) honor during my time there for my academics. That ain't braggin', It's just the facts.

Yet, here in Rudyville I can't utilize my skills, because no one wants anything other than fast food. You know your Country Clubs, fast food, whether you like hearing that or not. And anyway, there isn't anyone here that I really care to work for any more, because they don't want to pay you a living wage. They don't respect chef's here in the Chicken Wing and Ranch Dressing capital of the world. (Sorry I had to digress for context, back to the subject)

I love talking politics and life with Harry, because he is a well rounded person, who is comfortable in his own skin. He is a statesman. Anyone who speaks with him will understand that. He, like myself, isn't only a listener. And folks we are definitely not of one mind. He is an assimilator. He draws off of what others say and their experiences to increase the own contexts of his human being. Talking with him tonight, he chalked it up to an experience and a life lesson. He would like to have won, but as he said, "it is what it is." I like when he says, "If you keep doing what your doing, you're going to get what you've got." Hickory, your reality awaits you.

Frankly, I don't have a good feeling about this City Council and it isn't because Harry lost. I meant what I said. These people look at being on that Council as a position of status and not a position of leadership. There are a couple of people on there who have leadership capabilities, but they weren't up for election this time, and capabilities aren't necessarily abilities. These people don't even seem to care that only about 1 in 12 registered voters turned out, as long as they won. That's all that matters to them and to me that is sad.

It is upsetting to me the way that the Mayor said this Council was all of one mind, which most of us who pay attention interpreted as "in it together" back in July, when they all announced at the same time. It wasn't long before some of them just threw Z. Anne Hoyle under the bus with no support. That shows their principles. Look at how Mrs. Patton supported Hank Guess in a very public way and I also have been told that Mrs. Fox was talking him up in public. I honestly do appreciate how Mayor Wright stayed above such purely political posturing. I think that is going to always stick out in my mind, because I think that Ms. Hoyle is a very kind lady. Even if she was going to lose, she deserved better treatment than what she got in the end. Mark my words that that is always going to be remembered. If you weren't going to support Ms. Hoyle, then state it from the get-go.

Hank Guess is a hot commodity, the golden boy, but is he going to be able to live up to the billing. I can promise you that if he follows in the footsteps of Sally, like Jill has, then he is going to really hate being an Alderman, because he is going to be called on it from some of his most ardent supporters. Hank says he wants to represent all of the Ward. Well Hank, you are supposed to represent the whole city. Soon, feet may be meeting fire.

I have been in lockstep with no Alder and I have admitted where I agree and disagree with each of them. But, I do not pretend to be one of them and this isn't about my relationship with any of them. It is about their governance of Hickory. We need real jobs and economic development in this area and anything that goes against that will not work. "Buy Local" doesn't work if we aren't producing things locally and this city is not going to be revived on Mom and Pop retail stores. We need ingenuity and innovation. Will Hank and company help foster a New Hickory or will he fall in line with Old Hickory's entrenched interests and clique mentality?

To be continued....