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Friday, February 26, 2010

This is Hickory, NC - Video by Pat Appleson - Pat Appleson Studios

Pat is an awesome Photographer, Videographer, and Spokesman in the field of marketing and promotion. He will do anything from Weddings to Benefits to Sporting Events to Commercials, Advertising, and Infomercials. Pat is a Veteran Broadcaster who worked for years in the Miami - Fort Lauderdale area. This man is one of the most creative people you will ever meet and if you have a need for any such services give him a call, because he is willing to listen and respond to any needs you may have.

Pat Appleson Studios

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Understanding and Mutual Respect

This is purely a commentary that flows off of something a collaborator said yesterday. This person talked about his frustration that certain interests in Catawba County have a mutual concern about the bad economy in the area, but there isn't mutual respect. Until you get mutual respect, he is really worried about whether we can change the economic condition in this county. He would not elaborate on the who's who that created this thought and from the way he addressed this issue one could surmise that this was more than a one time incident. This was a pattern.

We have all seen this happen in this area. If it didn't have serious ramifications on our lives, it would be hilarious, but we have people in this community who are in positions of power who seem to thrive on ego trips and they are holding us back.

I am studying a concept called "Master Capacity Building" and I know that it is going to be a lot of hard work for me to succeed in changing who I am and how I accomplish goals and work with others to accomplish goals. But one thing I can tell you is that I am not an ego tripper. I want to work with others. I love working with others, like myself, who want to see everyone succeed and they understand that if we make it easier for middle class people to succeed, then our community will thrive.

I am not a patient person. I don't like to watch the years go by and see things not getting done. It is neither good for me personally nor the vast majority of people in this community. It makes me sick to see instances where Big Fish want to control the small pond and don't want to see the pond grow. They love the status quo.

Many times we have seen things happen, and fall into place, where progress is sabotaged by personal interests. I have spoken of this before and I understand this is the food chain of money and power, but in the times we are living in, we cannot afford to destroy the lives of many of our citizens to protect small pockets of interests in this community.

The things that I deal with are real. A few years ago, I bought into the political games and marched in lockstep with people who talked a good game about the issues I believed in, but in the end these people didn't deliver on promises even when they had it in their power to do so. People like this don't care about us as individuals. They are there to represent their own personal interests and the special interests who own them.

My mother almost died last week and she is still very sick in the hospital. She had a perforated ulcer and was rushed into surgery, which she was in for over 4 hours. This is a story that personally haunts me, because I have seen her struggle up close.

My mother worked a lot of hours at a job that paid her relatively little money for all of the work she was doing. She was working 60 hours a week at a time when she was on the verge of eligibility to retire, but could not afford to. Piles of work kept being added to her tasks, in a truly hostile work environment, where she was given no raises for this additional responsibility. She was stressed out and finally decided that she had to leave. Years of loyal work for this company netted her zero, zip, nada for her service after she left. She felt these people had run over her and the truth of the matter is that they had. My mother has had a hard time finding a job because of her age and she has so much experience in management positions that it is insane that no one will give her an opportunity.

The other week I saw her and she was worried because this company had messed up her COBRA payment. My mother was personally paying an exorbitant amount of money out of her own pocket by taking the check to the former employer and they were supposed to in turn forward money to the insurance company. She was informed by the insurance company that they had not received the payment, even though the check had been cashed. She called her former employer and they promised that they had paid the money, but in the end it turned out that they had not. Supposedly it was finally straightened out due to my mother's persistence and due diligence. Wouldn't that stress you out.

This is how idiots in the government solve big issues. They push the problem down the road and let someone else deal with it. They brag about the creation of COBRA, which no one can afford, especially after they lose their job. My neighbor was laid off and he couldn't afford that outrageous COBRA payment. The idiots in the government will talk about portability like they have done you a favor, because they are clueless.

These are typical cases of suffering happening in this community and many of the people in the most prominent positions of power don't care, because it's just a game to them. People that have jobs don't really understand how bad the economy is, but many of them are a couple of steps away from where my mother and my neighbor are.

One of my collaborators made a spot on statement the other day. Roadblocks (Hindrances) to progress come from Control, Power, Egos and Taking things personally. What people better grab a clue about is that what comes around goes around. One day you may have it tough and Karma will be there to do to you as you have done to others (or allowed to happen to others). I know that I am not going to forget what I have seen over the last several years and I know many others that won't forget either.

We need to see cooperation and collaboration in these times. Petty interests are inconsequential. Sadly, people want you to respect them for what they already think. What if what they think is obsolete?

We need leaders who don't think they know everything and are willing to listen and learn. We need leaders who have empathy for the people they serve. We need to see leaders lead by example. We need to see interests work together and set aside their ego for another day. Your legacy will not be credited while you are alive. It will be credited by the lasting things you do and the relationships you forge in good times and bad that stand the test of time.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I have a Dream - A 21st Century Hickory

Mayor Wright has asked the Citizens of Hickory and the surrounding area to help support efforts to convince Google to select the Hickory area to bring a "gigabyte to the home." This is not a superfluous venture. Unlike efforts in the past, which were marketing and civic pride in nature, this effort holds real potential for tangible, dynamic economic development. This effort could truly change the economic momentum in such a way that it could transform this community for generations to come. If you want to do something for your children, and dream of leaving them a truly positive asset to build their future upon, this is it.

One year ago, Danny Hearn formed the Future Economy Council of Catawba County. I have been allowed to participate in that group and in doing so I have been allowed to form opinions of what can be done to create building blocks for our community's economy and quality of life. Most of us believe that these two ideals go hand in hand. In the past however, we have seen these ideals placed in silos, and some people seemed to state a belief that this was a zero-sum venture. It seemed that they were saying that Economic Commerce (and profit) had a detrimental effect on quality of life issues.

What we have learned from this community's struggles, over the last decade, is that you either grow or you wither, there is no maintaining security through the status quo. Maintaining current status leads to mediocrity, mediocrity leads to malaise, and malaise eventually turns to depression. Look at what we have seen and please tell me that this is not the evolution of what happened to Hickory in the previous decade.

And here we come to the game changer. One Gigabit per second data communication to the home would be 200 to 300 times faster than what we have now. It will allow an all encompassing web of communications between the average family, in the Hickory Metro, and people and entities throughout the world. It will allow you to do High Definition or even 3-D teleconferencing with people on the other side of the world. It will allow Doctors to do 3-D diagnostics of you and allow multiple diagnoses from the best doctors around the world, if you ever had a critical illness. It will allow real time transfer of schematics to develop and manufacture products world wide. This will even allow people to watch 3-D movies and sports from their home. The possibilities are endless and would have a direct impact on our way of life and the quality of our lives.

The best part is that this can easily be facilitated, because we have some infrastructure already in place. We can easily crank up the manufacturing and transportation of the fiber via Corning, Commscope, and Draka. Google can run the fiber-optic spine right down along the railroad tracks from their facility in Lenoir through Hudson, through Granite Falls, through Rhodhiss, down old 70, into downtown Hickory, right past L-R, down Highland Avenue, out through Conover, and Claremont, and right on down the line.

This could possibly enable incubators and other creative entrepreneurs to rehabilitate buildings along the railroad tracks. Lenoir-Rhyne University could take full advantage of its proximity to the fiber network. The Engineering Center, ASU-partnership, and possible ASU Millennial campus could surely take full advantage of the multi-dimensional, audio-visual and technological capabilities that this network would enable. The implementation process of the fiber could easily be expedited because minimal impact would be placed upon transportation and traffic as this fiber is laid. I think the possibilities of integrating this process with the existing rail corridor and other infrastructure in place makes Hickory an ideal candidate.

From this fibre-optic data spine, we could spread the cable to offshoots of the rail lines in Newton, Catawba and eventually to the 4 corners of Catawba County and hopefully the populated areas of the surrounding Greater Hickory Metro. This is real economic revitalization if we can make it happen.

The next step will naturally be the passenger rail announced a few years ago from Asheville to Salisbury and points beyond and also building a rail connector between Newton and Denver that gets us to connect to the High Speed rail line proposed between Raleigh, Charlotte, and Atlanta. Imagine students being able to ride a train to school at L-R. Imagine being able to ride the train to Raleigh, Atlanta, Washington, and Wilmington, while watching movies or working on you computer.

Imagine the possibilities, if you only believe in what we are capable of. Imagine what we can do if we will stand together and fully support this cause. Please spread the word, because I truly believe that we can make this happen and we need to get ahead of the curve on this issue. It is time to show the nation what Hickory is capable of when given the opportunity and the proper tools to succeed.

Broad Band!!!
Light Rail to Charlotte: One Investment Worth Making

Addendum: Google Fiber to Communities - We need your help in getting our voices heard on this issue. Click the link below to let Google know that you care about this issue and want this pilot program brought to our area. I will also place a link in the Problems and Solutions links at the top right corner of this blog. And please tell everyone you know. (Note - If you do not have a Google e-mail account or user name, then you will need to sign up for a free Google account to fill out the survey).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Puzzle Pieces: Stories of Economic Relevance

Fed bumps up rate banks pay for emergency loans - (AP - 2/18/2010) - The Federal Reserve decided Thursday to boost the rate banks pay for emergency loans. The action is part of a broader move to pull back the extraordinary aid it provided to fight the financial crisis.

Jitters over China’s waning taste for T-bills - (Financial Times - 2/18/2010) - If Chinese demand for Treasuries disappeared and it started selling, US interest rates would rise, analysts say. This could throttle a US economic recovery, damage Chinese exports, and also reduce the value of China’s existing vast holdings of Treasuries as yields rose and prices fell, damaging a key plank of its currency reserves.

Walmart suffers first US sales decline
- (Financial Times - 2/18/2010) - Walmart has suffered its first fall in quarterly sales at its US discount stores, underlining the challenges facing future growth in its home market as the economy recovers.

Jobless, price data fan concerns on economy - (Reuters - 2/18/2010) - The number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance unexpectedly surged last week, while producer prices increased sharply in January, raising potential hurdles for the economy's recovery. Another report from the department showed prices paid at the farm and factory gate (Producer Price Index) rose a faster-than-expected 1.4 percent from December as higher gasoline prices and unusually cold temperatures helped boost energy costs. (Hound - 1.4% monthly translates to 16.8% annualized producer inflation)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 16, 2010

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

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

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

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 2/2/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below

Invocation by Rev. David Roberts of Morning Star First Baptist Church

Special Presentations:

A. Announcement by Public Services Director, Chuck Hansen Regarding the City’s Public
Services Department Recently Being Recognized by the NC Main Street Center as “Main Street Champions” on January 28, 2010 in New Bern, NC for the Multitude of Services They Provide to Downtown.

B. Presentation By Community Groups Requesting Appropriations from the City Council During the Next Fiscal Year Beginning July 1, 2010. The Council will not take action tonight. Action will be taken when the Council considers the City’s annual budget in May or June. These presentations are made so Council Members can ask questions or make comments about the requests.
Organization - Presentation By - Amount - Requested

United Arts Council of Catawba County - Mike Thomas - $41,305
Jeff Neuvile subbed for Mr. Thomas in making the presentation. Mr. Neuville is the President-Elect of the Arts Council. The amount of money is based on $1 per capita. The city has funded the UAC since 1984. This funding is important to the quality of life and the economic development in the community. For every dollar granted by Hickory, a minimum of $4 is spent on arts, science, and history projects in this community by the UAC. The North Carolina Arts council estimates that $24 is spent locally for every dollar spent on the arts. Mr. Neuville went over several projects that these funds were used for. Grants totaled nearly $100,000 matched throughout the community.

The Salt Block Foundation - L.T. Thompson - $100,000.00
The SALT block has been in existence since 1986. 250,000 visitors come to the SALT block each year. City funds provide money for security guards and grounds keeping. The 1925 auditorium has just recently been renovated. The foundation operates three buildings on the SALT block campus. Provides a home for the Museum of Art, Science Center, The Choral Society, the Western Piedmont Symphony, and the United Arts Council. Pays building and Capital expenses. Along with the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library, these entities provide economically invaluable cultural resources for the entire Hickory region. Auditorium is used over 200 times per year. More money is requested for this year, because the endowment is suffering from the economy, and increased expenditures.

Hickory Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau - Bebe Leitch - $20,000.00
The HMCVB started receiving the 1% occupancy tax in October 2009. The Bureau has been brought under the umbrella of the Hickory-Conover Tourism Development Authority. The CVB will continue to be the marketing arm of the authority. They will continue to support and stimulate the local economy by tourism, business conferences, meetings, and sporting events. They are streamlining operations under the TDA. They network by attending meetings, advertising, and the internet. Generated $7.812 million in revenue from 5,888 room nights. The Convention Center was occupied 265 days in 2009, hosting 113 groups. Bebe told a story of people who have moved to the area after visiting the area and the CVB. She also talked of how Mayor Wright obtained the North Carolina Rose Convention locally in 2011.

Habitat for Humanity - Mitzi Gellman - $21,720.00
This is the 15th year the habitat has appeared before the council. Since 2000, the number of people living in poverty has risen 50%. 20% of those in poverty are children. 18 qualified applicants are currently on their list. The average worker in our area makes $8 an hour as of the 2000 census, yet it takes $20/hour to support a family. The mortgage payments from a Habitat House cost less than rent.

The first house built by habitat was in 1996. Over 100 sewer and water taps have been donated by the City of Hickory. 132 houses have been completed so far in Catawba County (99 in Hickory). Added property value is $9.7 million ($8.8 million in Hickory). Taxes paid in 2009 were $48,000 ($36,000 in Hickory). Houses are mainly in Ridgeview (100 houses and a solar house), Highland Avenue with 11 home owners, and the Blue Sky Neighborhood with nine lots remaining. Habitat closed on 12 houses last year. The foreclosure rate is 4% on houses since Habitats inception in the area. habitat is looking to do more renovation work in the area, which helps increase area neighborhood housing values. Habitat is the banking interest in the arrangements and the qualifiers have to have good credit. Qualifiers have to put 250 to 500 hours in building their houses. Habitat is putting more effort into making sure that they are building quality, energy efficient houses. Each house has $10,000 to $12,000 worth of volunteer labor in them. The money requested is about half of last years request and will be used to fund water-sewer taps.

Hickory Downtown Development Association - Connie Kincaid - $50,000.00
Addressed special events, the Farmer's Market, and Art crawls. Netted three new businesses this year.Connie spoke of two awards that the City received last year from the NC main Street Center. The Public Arts Commission for Art on the benches, which installed ten art benches downtown and received NC's Best Public Improvement Award and the Olde Hickory Brewery for Hickory Hops.

Connie expressed the HDDA's desire to encourage better pedestrian flow between businesses. Hickory Hops hosted 2,200 people with an economic impact of nearly $250,000 to the Area. Connie talked about Swinging under the Stars and Art Crawls. She spoke of WBTV doing its evening news on Union Square, she talked about Oktoberfest, candy crawl, tree lighting, Holiday events, and business development. She stated that 3 businesses expanded, 27 new businesses opened, with 12 closing, for a net gain of 15 new businesses in 2009. This led to a net gain of 42 jobs. Public investment was just over $270,000. while $1.8 million was invested in the downtown Business District.

Catawba County Economic Development Corporation - Scott Millar - $138,864.77

Greater Hickory Marketing - Scott Millar - Undetermined at this time

Scott talked about and commended the commitment of the city towards non-profits and its external agencies. The EDC's request for funding is the same as last year. He stated that we have more opportunities in the upcoming year than last year. They will continue the same role by trying to attract new industry through commerce with the Charlotte Regional Partnership and other external sources. They will continue to help solve headaches of existing industries by working along with city staff.

How can the EDC create new opportunities? They will continue, with Caldwell County, the Data Center marketing initiative. They are partnering with other's to Brand the area under the Data Center Corridor initiative. He stated that they need to have product (Multi-Jurisdictional Parks).
You cannot sell out of an empty train. They are working hard to create new shell properties and other properties. They are working on existing industry strategies, such as a regional supplier net, that will help local industries to identify products, services, and equipment that can be obtained locally via the internet.

Scott next went into opportunities that are available though Smart Grid technology. This area has been developing and making communications equipment for 35 to 40 years. When people think of Green Energy, they aren't thinking of the opportunities available through the Smart Grid. The EDC wants to figure out the niche in this Green Marketplace. They want to provide the smarts in the Smart Grid.

Reaffirmation and Ratification of Second Readings.
Approve Fire Protection Service Agreement With the Town of Brookford (First Reading Vote: Unanimous) - Upon second reading the council revoted with Lail, Meisner, Seaver, and Guess approving and Mayor Wright, Fox and Patton voting no.

The Hound thinks that this was a good vote by Mayor Wright, Alder Fox, and Alder Patton. I think this contract was rushed through. I think the better idea is to try to come to an agreement for Hickory to annex Brookford and then they would receive all of Hickory's services.

As I stated after the last Council meeting:
The Hound believes that Alder Patton made an excellent point here. Why is the cost to Brookford cheaper than that of the residents of Hickory. Like her, I fail to see the logic here. Nothing against Brookford, but the costs should come to equilibrium and there is no way that their costs should be a quarter of the costs to Hickory residents. Do you think that Hickory homes are four times more likely to catch on fire? That does not compute.

Also, the mentality of every community in this area is to hem and haw over what they can and cannot afford. What Hickory is basically doing here is providing insurance to Brookford. I know that it is my hope that I don't utilize any of my insurance policies to a great extent this year, but I have them for a reason. The costs of those policies were set by the providers and they were non-negotiable. I think the City undersold the costs of its service in this circumstance. This runs a little over $800 per call based on last year's events. Is it really that cheap to put out fires? Isn't Hickory basically subsidizing Brookford in this deal? If so, why?

Consent Agenda:
A. Resolution of Intent for Petition of W. Andrew Wells, Jr., President of Brown Operating Company, Inc. to Close a Portion of 6th Street Court, NE (Authorize Public Hearing for March 23, 2010) -

A Correction needs to be made here - I misunderstood what was being voted upon by council. This issue received unanimous consent from Council. What was voted on was a vote on the reaffirmation on the issue about Fire Service to the town of Brookford.

B. Approve Traffic Ordinance by Prohibiting On-Street Parking Along Both Margins of 11th Street, NW From the Intersection With 8th Avenue, NW North Approximately 400 Feet to the Intersection With 9th Avenue, NW - The Traffic Division recommends that the described on-street parking prohibition be approved due to observation of on-street parked vehicles impeding traffic flow to an undesirable degree, producing typical one-lane roadway safety concerns. This roadway is incapable of supporting on-street parking activity.

C. Approve Sanitary Sewer Easement for Property Owned by Larry Gene and Nancy Jane Hendricks, in Conjunction With the Cripple Creek Outfall Sewer Line Replacement Project - This 25 foot sanitary sewer easement is necessary for completion of the Cripple Creek Outfall Sewer Line Replace Project. In exchange, the City has negotiated a settlement of $35,000.00, which will abandon the original easement and attempt to preserve as many trees as feasible. This settlement is necessary due to the replacement sewer line being moved from the original alignment due to conflicts. Easement costs are budgeted in the project budget.

D. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 16
1. To budget a total of $55 of Library donations in the Library Books line item. Donations include a $30 honor book and a $25 book.

2. To increase reimbursement grant funds from the Governor Highway Safety Program-Traffic Unit grant project by $143,000 and to decrease Fund Balance Appropriated by $143,000. This grant provides 50% funding for 1 sergeant and 3 officers assigned to the traffic unit. The grant period of performance is October 2009 - September 2010. Since the positions were included in the original grant process, the available $143,000 will allocate back to General Fund Balance.

3. To budget a total of $4,775 of Parks and Recreation donations (State Employees Credit Union ($525), Humana ($1,000), Tenent/Frye Regional Medical Center ($1,000), Catawba Valley Medical Center ($1,000), Carolina Orthopaedic Specialists ($500), Hickory Orthopaedic Center, PA ($500) and Catawba Valley USBC Association ($250) in the Parks and Recreation Department Supply line item. The City of Hickory’s Park and Recreation Department coordinates the Senior Games and will use the donations to conduct the 2010 Unifour Senior Games.

4. To appropriate $38,100 of General Fund Balance and transfer it to the Clement Boulevard Connector Project Engineering line item. This amendment is necessary to pay TGS Engineering $25,100 for the preliminary engineering (surveying, design, bid document preparation and coordination with the City) and $13,000 for the construction engineering (construction surveying, verification of construction surveying and on-site construction inspection).

Grant Project Ordinance Amendment
1. To decrease the Cripple Creek Project Water and Sewer Fund-Proceeds from Financing by $969,000 and to increase the Federal Miscellaneous Revenues by $969,000. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 is funding $1,938,000 of the project cost of which one-half ($969,000) is Principal Forgiveness (Federal Grant Funds). Therefore a budget amendment is necessary to budget funds in the appropriate Federal Revenue line item.

Informational Items:
A. Report of City Manager Berry’s Travel to NC City County Manager’s Winter Seminar in Durham, NC From February 3 – 5, 2010; hotel - $156.98; registration - $300.00; per diem - $76.50

Public Hearings:
1. Petition 10-01 – Rezoning of the Property Located at 711 8th Avenue, NE From R-5 Residential to OI-2 Office and Institutional - This 0.52 acre property is located at 711 8th Avenue, NE and is owned by Stuart and Deborah Searcy. The property owners petitioned to have the property rezoned from R-5 Residential to OI-2 Office and Institutional. Due to the expansion of Lenoir-Rhyne University, the subject property is now directly adjacent to university property and also within ¼ mile of a proposed Neighborhood Core area via the Hickory by Choice update process. Therefore, the uses allowed in the OI-2 district could allow the property to serve as a transition between institutional and commercial uses to lower intensity uses. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission on January 27, 2010 conducted a public hearing and voted unanimously in favor of the rezoning. No one spoke in opposition of said rezoning petition. Staff finds the request to be inconsistent with Hickory by Choice, but recommends approval. Dave Leonetti made the presentation. He stated that the changing conditions of this area including expansion of L-R and the proposed neighborhood core in this area warrant the change. Andy Wells addressed the council in support of this property. He stated that he is glad that someone in town is growing and he hopes that council will support this request. Council unanimously consented.

2010 Legislative Issues - Discuss and consider legislative issues facing the City of Hickory and our region and to develop a final State and Federal Legislative Agenda following the return from the National League of Cities Congressional Conference in March, 2010. The Legislative Agenda is an important communication tool that guides staff and city leaders to successfully deliver the message on key issues.

Andrea Surratt went over the legislative agenda from 2009. Issues such a the Hotel-Motel tax for the TDA, opposition to Collective Bargaining for public employees, small changes to annexation laws, transferring of maintenance of roads to the local level, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act were topically discussed.

She talked about the North Carolina Legislatures short session that will take place in May. Concern lies with the economy and revenues collected by the State on the city's behalf. Some of these revenues could be in jeopardy. The State has to balance the budget and the city may receive less. Collective Bargaining is still an issue. The Road maintenance issue and annexation is still an issue. At the Federal level, collective bargaining is still an issue and an issue was brought up about Federal law possibly preventing local municipalities from collecting Hotel-Motel taxes from booking made online.

Andrea wanted the Council to state ideas of what they would like to see the city possibly pursue as part of the legislative agenda. City Manager Berry spoke about the issues surrounding the inter-basin transfer. The Mayor stated that he would like to see, on the state level, to push for continued and greater funding of efforts to expand Appalachian State's presence here. The mayor also stated that 4 city officials will visit Washington to talk to our representatives. mayor Wright stated that he doesn't like the idea that we may be asked to support other states that won't do the right thing. Alderman seaver talked about the online taxation issues and how strange some of them are.

The Hound thinks that we need to go after the state if they confiscate this city's rightful revenues. Why can't Hickory form a coalition with other cities, who have sound budgeting philosophies, to sue the state if they illegally usurp money that they are collecting on the local municipalities behalf. Is there something in NC General Statutes that prevents the local municipalities from pushing the State to legitimately put the State budget on a firm foundation?

Budgets are going to have to be cut (period). Many communities in this state have already had to bite the bullet. If the state is going to spend Hickory's rightful money and Hickory uses rainy day funds to make up the gap, then why save that rainy day money at all. If this is allowed to stand, then logically that means that we are saving rainy day money to help the State of North Carolina balance its budget. That doesn't seem wise to me. If this does happen, then I don't think Hickory should save rainy day money ever again.

I think that rainy day money would be better spent towards scholarships towards young people in need. Or a few thousand towards an Economic and Science Fair to foster innovation and ingenuity. Those are investments that will pay off. It is a lot better than letting money rot, so that North Carolina can continuously blow millions, if not billions, towards some of the things we have seen in the not too distant past. Why should Hickory worry about its economic integrity, when the State we reside in is not willing to do the same?

Approval of Resolution Rescheduling the March 16, 2010 Regularly Scheduled City Council Meeting
to March 23, 2010 According to Hickory City Code, Section 3.22. Quorum

***Under general Comments The Mayor addressed Google's announcement that they are seeking one of a handful of municipalities as pilot projects that can deliver 1 gigabit to the home. It will allow real-time 3-D medical imaging to a remote specialist. Corning has offered to enthusiastically endorse the application. They (the city) felt an obligation to pursue this on behalf of the constituency. They asked for a population of at least 50,000 and the Mayor stated that we couldn't get there with just Hickory or Hickory and the ETJ. So they have refined this to be all of the municipalities in Catawba County. They will call it "the Greater Hickory area" for simplicity and branding promotional purposes. They have appointed a committee consisting of the hospitals, educators, the EDC, and a lot of people who can build a case as to why Hickory should be a pilot project for this. They are excited, because there are geographic considerations, demographic considerations, and other factors that make Hickory ideally suited to get this project. The Mayor stated that the application website crashed, apparently due to people applying. They will keep us up to date, they have a representative from the Business Development Team on this committee and they are very excited about the prospects.

The Hound thinks the community should really get excited about the prospects of this happening. If you have not read my statement about this, you can here (City of Hickory - Thinking Big with a Gig). This is an issue that Catawba County's Chief Information Officer Terry Bledsoe brought to the forefront as part of the Future Economy Council nearly one year ago. The importance of this issue cannot be stressed enough. With the Data Centers and this possibility, it seems that we are in a moment of destiny, where our ability to transform this community rests squarely in our hands. If we are fortunate enough to land this or use it to capitalize on a similar opportunity, then I feel we will 100% change our economic momentum.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

City of Hickory - Thinking Big with a Gig

I will put out the City Council newsletter tomorrow - a lot more information than I had time to devote to last night. A very interest subject was brought to the forefront last night with the application, which the City of Hickory will take initiative on, to apply for a grant from Google to lay highspeed fiber-optic wire throughout the county. This network would bring 1 gigabyte connections to your home. That is 200 to 300 times faster than the fastest affordable connections we currently have (3 to 5 megabit). The Hickory Hound discussed this in an article entitled Broad Band!!! last July, 19 2009. In that article we discuss the need and what this type of network can do for our community.

Google is looking for communities with a population of 50,000 to 500,000 to implement this process and bring affordable highspeed connectivity to the home. I believe that we should be very proud of the whole City of Hickory government for taking the lead on this. Even if we did not receive this grant from Google, it gets us in line and lays the foundation for this happening sooner rather than later. That is the most important step. Recognizing that the need is there.

Here is the message from Google entitled Think Big with a Gig.

Here is an article from Rick Smyre of Communities of the Future in which he discusses how important these Broadband connections are and the type of innovations in the pipeline resulting from from 100 megabit+ connectivity - Identifying Weak Signals 2.

At a point in time in the future, Google is going to want input from the local citizenry on this issue. They will want to judge the need and desire for the implementation of this network. I will most certainly keep you informed. If this community ever had vital subject matter to rally around, this would be it. This is one process we need to focus our energy on.

In my opinion, we have Google, we have Apple, and now the implementation of this network will decisively make us a leading technology hub in this region, if not the nation. This could be the momentum shift that we have needed to turn our economic momentum around. This isn't a dream. This is truly something to be excited about!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gerald Celente, Head of the Trends Research Institute - 2/10/2010

Gerald Celente is the head of the Trends Research Institute and puts out a newsletter called The Trends Journal.

Perspectives from listening to these interviews:
1) Ross Perot Quote - Now the average citizen can't relate to a billion or a trillion. A million dollars in thousand-dollar bills is a stack of $1000 bills, four inches high. A billion dollars in $1,000 bills is 300 feet high. A trillion dollars in $1,000 bills extends from the top of [this] table to 63 miles out in space.

*** So $1 trillion worth of $1oo bills would stretch 630 miles from Hickory south to West Palm Beach, Florida or North to Albany, New York.

2) Greece's Budget Deficit is 13% of GDP. The United States Budget Deficit is 11% of GDP.

3) The Internet revolution pulled us out of the 1990s recession. The problem is that we exported our productive capacity through globalization, because labor forces were equalized. Jobs were shipped to better educated workforces who were willing to work cheaper. Had the U.S. kept up its educational standards, we would not have lost the jobs. This is not a fait accompli. We can rebuild our economy if we improve our educational system through innovation.

4) Current Events form Future Trends. They (the G20) are pulling in the stimulus. January was a bad month for the economy. This time when the economy crashes, they are going to devalue the currency.

5) The stock market is a rigged game. Invest your money in yourself. Investing in Gold isn't about speculation. It is about investing in your future. The best financial newspaper is The Financial Times.

6) China is about to overtake Japan as the world's second largest economy. Gerald says that he doesn't support a (China) Totalitarian government. If you buy Chinese items, then you are supporting Totalitarianism.

7) Newspapers are failing because they have become junk that shill for Democrats and Republicans. Gerald says that the Trends Newsletter is looking to become a magazine with no advertising. Art will take the place of advertising. Gerald wants to instill a spirit of a new American Renaissance. He says that the best days of America can come about again.

Be Prepared!!!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Hickory By Choice Workshop: 5th meeting (2/9/2010 )

Tonight's meeting was about residential Types and Densities. Bill Grimes of Studio Cascade addressed the attendees about the process and past workshops that have taken place during the past year. He stated that the overriding planning principle is walkability to services that they need. It isn't feasible for walkability to be universal.

Bill went over the aspects of the past workshops
WS 1) Evaluation of walkability and walkable centers
WS 2) Corridor and Core Management and Development
WS 3) Policy Alternatives
WS 4) Applying Zoning Districts to Cores and Corridors

The Advisory Committe has been looking into
Industrial Districts - Reduction of industrial land in the community. We have more than we need.

Revitalization Areas - Brownfield assessments mostly in areas along the railroad tracks. Classic Industrial area. much of it is environmentally challenged

Residential Districts and Densities - Lowest (Single Family Housing/1 unit per acre) to highest (High Rise Apartments)

***Bill stated that we have been looking at policy and land use direction in the abstract, but a principle objective in this process is to update the zoning map to tie the Land Development Code will reflect and embody the concepts that the comprehensive plan is promoting.

The idea of this meeting is to manage the zoning map so that it is consistent with what the community wants. The existing zoning map and the Hickory by Choice land use map are totally inconsistent. The HBC map shows 15+ pod developments while the actual zoning map does not show that this has occurred. The commercial centers have become elongated strips.

Bill went over what happened at the October Workshop. The issue of commercial development with a where and how context.

The Land Development Code will be simplified
Residential Districts - Looking to have 3 or 4 types
Mixed-Use Development - Retail and Residence mixed often in the same building. Community Commercial designed to serve significant portions of Hickory and Neighborhood Commercial looking to serve a 1/2 mile radius around the center.
Commercial Use - Right now there are around 100 possible uses. This will be simplified to administer and understand.

Residential Character - People live here because they like the area. What they are really trying to nail down is what makes the neighborhoods work and how do we keep the characteristics in place.

Residential Zoning Districts (Simplified)
Low Density - Suburban - Ultra Low density = diverse housing options, buts requires abundant land. Small and Large lots are both available. Detached and attached housing can both be located here. Automobile oriented. Opportunities for common open space. Cluster subdivision principles are encouraged to maintain natural resources and recreational opportunities.

Medium Density - Variety in Type = allows accommodation of many types of housing. Area will offer smaller lot sizes. Allows for attached and detached houses. Small scale multi-family development. Increase access to commercial/retail services in addition to greater availability to cultural and civic resources.

High Density - Pedestrian District = High Rise apartments. Offer a variety of housing choices. Smaller building lots for more compact development types. Roads should be pedestrian friendly. Provisions for open space. Neighborhood services within a 1/4-mile walking distance. Larger scale multi-family residential will also be found in this area. Schools and public institutions should also be found in this area.

Mixed Use Centers (A real Challenge) - Rather dense core in the center and less dense surrounding the core. Want to have an economically viable core where citizens can walk or bike conveniently. People are worried about the character of the neighborhoods surrounding these mixed use centers. Don't want to compromise the integrity of the pleasant qualities of the neighborhoods, so they are trying to modify the transition from the core to the outlying neighborhoods.

Offers a combination of retail, commercial, and office uses with residential compatibility. Structure include residences on upper floors. Schools and other public assets found near these commercial centers. Public soaces found throughout this kind of development. Alternative transportation modes are encouraged by design, where the street network accomodates bikes, pedestrian travel and transit. Streets offer pedestrian-friendly atmosphere through curbside parking, landscaping, reduced traffic speeds, sidewalks and crosswalks.

The exercise tonight centered around where the participants would like to see residential development take place over the next 20 years. The population is expected to increase by 12,000 people during that time period, which would encompass 5,000 households.

The conceptual landuse map shows the challenges we face. The area around Highway 70 is utilized for commercial purposes, there is a lot of Industrial land, and there is also a lot of publicly held land. There is a lot of land that is off the table and can't be used for residential purposes.

A lady asked a question about the availability of plenty of commercial land? To which Bill stated that there was plenty of Industrial land available and it may not be suited to for that purpose any longer. It may be suited for professional offices and keeping with the town's economic future.

I asked about the rail corridor and if it played a role in their thought process. Did it enter into their equation about fuel prices going through the roof or did they just look at today's affordable fuel prices? Bill stated it definitely played a role, but they had to balance the market out over the 20 year horizon. Bill mentioned that the past uses around the rail corridor haven't necessarily been very clean. It can be very costly to clean up the areas that have been contaminated. so that these areas can support residential development along there. To make these areas residential, a lot of investment will likely have to go into that property. I asked if we were talking hundreds of millions of dollars? Brian Frazier answered that there have only been a half dozen Phase 1 Brownfield assessments that have taken place and there are a couple that are moving to Phase 2. The costs of the Phase 2 assessments are tens of thousands of dollars. Brian stated that they would know as soon as the Phase 2's are completed and the costs could be next to nothing up to millions of dollars. Bill stated that once targeted use becomes residential use, then the threshold goes up to the highest possible level. Brian also stated that the State can place deed restrictions on property that is severely contaminated. Right now they haven't found any that would preclude them from becoming residential, houses of worship, or playgrounds.

A question was asked about dense housing and are we going to make sure greenfield areas are designated for that property? She is worried that developers in the past haven't taken this into consideration. It's stick it in and get the most out of it and to Hell with what anyone else wants.
Bill stated that he was going to get to that.

The next question was asked about projected population growth and what is driving those numbers? It is based on population growth. He stated that he didn't know how much is jobs driven and how much is quality of life driven. These numbers came from the Western Piedmont Council of Governments.

Bill talked about the earlier question about Greenways. He stated that in the exercise he wants people to attach notes about what they would like to see done with these properties in their development.

The first group focused on areas that also have some potential for business development. The McDonald Parkway - Springs Road junction is already a small shopping area, so maybe someor moderately priced apartments or condos can come into this area along with It needs to maintain some area for parks or outdoor activities for growing families.

Along Lenoir-Rhyne and Hwy 127 mixed use would be more appropriate, because of the walkability function and the fact that less parking spaces will be necessary, available, and required. There need to be more apartments available to college students available to students who don't live on campus.

Along 29th ave NE around Lowe's grocery, the consensus more apartments (and townhouses) to expand upon already existing apartments. The highway is going to be expanded so medium density seems to be more appropriate. Industrial area will be more appropriate for apartments and more greenspace. The Springs Road area is more of a blank slate and will be easier to develop, such as the already mentioned Springs Road - McDonald parkway junction, the Kool Park - Springs Road junction, and the areas out and around Catawba Springs.

One of the ladies that was part of this group, Erin Seiling who is an Assistant Director from the Reese institute at L-R, talked about the Carolina Thread Trail and how it might be instituted as part of development in this area when it comes to the issue of walkability. This is a greenway system that works its way all the way down through Charlotte. She believe that there could be housing next to these greenways that take advantage of the walking path.
higher priced single or smaller family dwellings.

The second group had similar ideas putting mixed use along the rail corridor in the Green Park area and out main Avenue to Hwy 321. Vacant space can be used for this purpose of High and Medium density to provide walkability to downtown near amenities. Medium density could go out in the Old lenoir Road area where the Y (road forks) is near Northwest Drywall near the Nursing home. medium Density would be great around the airport and there are some beautiful views out there. Along 29th ave NE, medium density. Cloninger mill would be good for low density and Downtown would be good for high density where the old warehouses are (could even be used for medium). They agreed with group 1 about the L-R are. They believe it is necessary to ensure that there is greenspace attached to any development. The group also addressed the area around CVCC and the need to expand housing options for that area near Catawba Valley Boulevard.

They stated that somewhere in the South section of the city investment must be made, but they couldn't place the dot, because it will be a risk. In addressing the demographics of this area, one needs to ask what can we do with that? Bill Grimes asked should the City Foster or Respond to facilitate development in this area? Sally Fox stated that the Police Department being located on 2nd ave SW and 4th street SW stabilized the Southwest area.

***Bill stated that Todd Hefner with the city addresses affordable housing as entry-level housing.

The third group consisted of mainly developers. They had single family focused on the Mountain View, River Road, and Star Town areas. The river down there is an underutilized area for canoeing and kayaking. They had single family placed along McDonald Parkway and one behind Cloninger Mill Road. They do have higher density along Sandy Ford and 29th ave. Over near the airport they see high density and medium density, because of the 321 corridor. And they also see availability for Medium density around the three drug stores at Mountain View. Mountain View needs to be tightened up, but they believe that is just market forces at work. There are medical services available in that area. In the Robinson Road area they would like to see some more development. In the Lenoir-Rhyne area, along 29th ave NW, and up Springs Road they see the need for medium density housing.

***Bill Grimes addressed the issue of energy costs and the cost of transportation and what was brought up about Springs Road. The strip development pattern is very land intensive and very sparsely developed commercial. This may or may not stand the test of time. At some point it may evolve into something other than what it is today. Spings Road, Hwy 127, and Tate Boulevard are hinting that something is going to change down the line. This plan is going to have to find a way to anticipate and plan for this now or help the city when it comes time to plan for its future.

Group 4 concurred with group 2 and 3 in many ways. They see opportunities available aroun CVCC. We need to proceed with what had been planned, but hasn't been built - "Just Build It."The student enrollment at CVCC is 20,000 so we need to see density in this area. Mountain View should be low density further out, but medium and high density should be incorporated here. The Lutheran Home west has been scrapped, but is prime for an alternate usage. Hwy 127 north where Belle Hollow is located should have the preapproved area behind Walgreens developed with buffer housing, between the low density housing and the Walgreen's project.

Cloninger Mill and beyond, if the infrastructure is there, then use it. Around Snow Creek Elementary further development of low density can take place all the way out to around Catawba Springs. We need to see Annexation and Consolidation of these areas take place by bringing these areas into the city boundaries and let the growth go where it is planned. The falls project, 250 units of housing are planned at the junction of Cloninger Mill and sandy Ridge Road. We are on the right course. We need to follow through. The old St. Stephens Elementary needs to be a mixed-use site with medium to high density housing. What they envision is high density, but sprinled with park and walking area and medium density.

*** Bill stated that it was great that the groups recognized that Hickory is not an island and we are influenced by what is going on around us. There is an opportunity in the outlying areas of the city to capitalize on. We need to find ways to Cluster residential uses into higher density of mixed uses in Centrallized Areas. One thing that we need to keep in mind is that a long range plan can't account for what is going to happen with transportation costs. What we must plan for is a more populated town must be better served by utilizing public transportation. We must accommodate people who choose other ways to get around than just a car. Concentrating development allows one to make walkability more viable and makes use of land more efficient. Just by default it makes public transportation more viable.

The targeted draft rollout of the HBC 2030 comprehensive plan will be in April along with the draft LDC. Hearings will take place soon thereafter. Then it will be passed off to the city. The planning commission will go over it and then pass it to the City Council hopefully for adoption shortly thereafter.

The Hound believes that we have to create our Future. I am not however saying that we need to micromanage our future. I think that many times the micromanaging issue has come from egos who are not willing to accept natural evolution, because they are vested in the original byproduct of planning. When that happens, then problems become magnified beyond any intended point.

What are the weak signals that are out there facing this community. Transportation and fuel costs, an aging populace, replacing our brand, re-assimilating towards new job skills, consolidation of the City of Hickory's boundaries into a viable community... Those are the issues that we face today, but how will the evolution of this world in 20 years effect each one of those subjects?

I like what Studio Cascade has talked about so far. I like that they aren't placing layers of gobblety-gook on what we already have. They are simplifying development so that it can be understood by everyone and thus won't be arbitrarily interpreted in the future. I truly believe that Hickory's Planning Department is utilizing Studio Cascade positively. The main objective in this plan is to not let vested interests take us off track, because this sort of forward thinking plan can be destroyed by the forces of those rooted and vested in the realities of today.

The world around us is changing. It is great to question how we as a community will change in the upcoming years, but it is not ok to create roadblocks towards change. In the end we have to have viable economic commerce in order to survive as a community. That creates jobs and thus sustainability. I love initiatives that are comprehensive in scope and take into account quality of life issues, but we will not have a good quality of life without quality, good paying jobs in this community.

I believe that I have espoused how we can move towards sustainable goals in this blog. Jumping all over quick fixes, like moving retirees in here, is not going to solve anything. The foundation for our future will come from sowing seeds. That does not mean that the outcome will be exactly as we intend today, but I like this plan, because it will give us the chance to sow positive seeds. I do believe that we will be closer to that goal, if we create this truly all encompassing plan.

Links to past meetings:
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 4th Meeting
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 3rd Meeting - (Unable to attend this meeting)
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

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Working on the Hickory By Choice Workshop from 2/9/2010

Once again an interesting meeting. I think the city did an excellent job when they chose Studio Cascade. I believe that this city is definitely headed in the right direction on future development issues, as long as we follow the plan and it isn't compromised by arbitrary processes. Brian Frazier definitely is laying a solid foundation for the city's future with what Studio cascade has proposed thus far.

This meeting was about Residential (Housing) development headed into the future. I hope to have this completed by tomorrow night.

Links to past meetings:
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 4th Meeting
Hickory By Choice 2030 Workshop: 3rd Meeting - (Unable to attend this meeting)
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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

2009 Hickory Metro still losing jobs - Job Spreadsheet

The following is the job's spreadsheet ending in December 2009. This is a statistical abstract of population and employment statistics in this area. Some estimated extrapolations have had to be assumed. The numbers show the following details and a continuation of the articles:

The Relevant Issue: 34,294 JOBS lost since July 2000 in the Unifour
- July 6, 2009
24,493 Jobs Lost in the Unifour since June 2000 - December 8, 2008

The past 7 months saw the workforce shrink by 1,792 people in Catawba County; of those we see that 1,022 fewer people are accounted for as unemployed, but we have actually lost 768 jobs during that period. The numbers include a rounding error based on carrying out the percentages.

This time period saw the workforce actually grow by 70 people in Caldwell County; but there were also 467 people added to the unemployment docket and there were 397 jobs lost during this period.

In Alexander County, the workforce decreased by 636 people; of those we see that 452 fewer people are accounted for as unemployed and 184 jobs were lost during that period.

This time period also saw the workforce shrink by 765 people in Burke County; of those we see that 347 fewer people are accounted for as unemployed, and 418 jobs were lost.

Carrying the four county numbers out, we see that the workforce shrunk by 3,123 people in Greater Hickory Metro; of those we see that 1,356 fewer people are accounted for as unemployed, but we have actually lost 1,767 jobs during that period.

The Hound goes by the numbers. Things aren't better and they aren't a whole lot worse. Even though the unemployment numbers are down about 1% from their peak, we still see that we have lost more jobs since the last time we checked in with May's numbers.

I have already addressed the U-6 unemployment numbers several times on this site. At first, people assumed that I was piling on the doom and gloom, but now you can see the direct effect. You can't lose jobs, have the workforce shrink, and legitimately have unemployment go down. That does not make sense. It is just the way that the government tries to put a happy face on bad numbers.

Sifting through the numbers, I think that we can see that the unemployment rates have plateaued over this 6 to 7 month time period, but I think we will soon see the next leg down. The legitimate unemployment/underemployment rate is around 25% in the metro. There is just too much negative economic momentum and really no productive capacity that can turn things around. What value do government and private service economy jobs create?

It's getting ready to be state budget time and boy isn't that going to be fun to watch. We have all of these people that have been unemployed for a year, that has been putting a real drain on the state budget -- they aren't putting money into the system, but they are surely taking it out. You know that our state is obligated towards a lot of expenses, because it accepted those Stimulus dollars from the Federal Government. Where is that money going to come from? Last year they used spit and chewing gum to put the state budget together. This year I believe they will be coming to raid the local rainy day piggy banks. Things certainly are looking to get interesting in short order.

One of the proposals to rectify the state budget is to privatize the ABC package stores. I think that will be a great idea, if they guarantee that they can't go to foreign interests. But, the windfall from this will be a one time thing. Yes, the state will continue to get licensing fees, but the big impact will be from the initial franchising.

The big picture is that the government is choking private enterprise with its capital consumption. The government and the people are going to have to become more self-reliant and frugal. I do believe that the government needs to foster and work on real infrastructure issues like energy and transportation. That could help get people back to work.

It is time for some New Deal type projects to take place to change the momentum in this country. I also believe that we have to see some tariffs on foreign goods coming from third world countries and it's time to reign in the multi-national corporations. It is time for fair trade. The monies that come from these tariffs can go towards Economic Revitalization.

The one thing that I certainly know is that we cannot continue on the path that we are on. It is past the point of sustainable or unsustainable. It is past the point of deciding whether we need to act. We Need To Act!!!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When the Super Bowl is over, let's wake up

When I was a child I was a little hyperactive and I would be into everything. My mother worked and when the baby sitter was taking care of us, I could get lost very easily. I'd wander off and play with my GI Joes in the mud puddles and things such as that. That is how my passion for sports came to be. My grandmother figured out, when I was four years old, that I would sit still and be mesmerized watching football, basketball, or baseball and I wouldn't be into everything while the games were on.

I always had this passion and even participated in some sports until we moved to Conover when I was twelve years old, but that is another story. I still loved watching sports and I was obsessed with the statistics and the who's who of it all. Although my love of all things sports has waned over the years, I still love professional football. I watch several hours of football during the 26 weeks the seasons lasts.

Now that football season will be over tonight, I can turn my passion towards other pursuits. It is time to start sowing seeds that will reap tangible benefits. It is time to start laying the groundwork towards a better future. In these tumultuous times, we will reap what we sow and if we don't lay that foundation, then we will continue to be mired in this dust bowl.

Folks, I know that I have a great deal to do with my failures. I chased trivial pursuits and I was not intellectually nimble. In the age of exponential change that is upon us, you have to be able to adapt to circumstances quickly. We all need diversions from time to time to refresh our minds, but we cannot allow these diversions to consume our lives. I am awake now. I am alert.

I know that most of the people that have visited this website stand together with me in this consciousness; to that I say Thank God. We can't afford for people to remain as lost as they are. I see all of the dependency issues and other craziness that is ripping our society apart. This is the reality of so many people. All of the denial and lost potential contributes greatly to the hemorrhaging of our economy.

People have to change. They have to gain some perspective. I watched Mark Dice on YouTube where he is talking about people boycotting the Super Bowl. He is controversial, but he does make some valid points here; and listen to the studio sportsguy brainiac. When Mark Dice says, "turn the television off and read a book," the sportsguy arrogantly shouts "I disagree!!!" Does that not sound stupid. Listen to how the sportsguy lambasts reading a book. If the sportsguy says people do need to read, but you can take a 4 hour break and watch the Super Bowl, then that is acceptable.

Stupid has become the new smart. How many times do we hear the statement, "The less I know, the better off I am." Our society has been led towards ignorance and stupidity. The general population has been fed garbage on the TV until they aren't intellectually curious about anything. Anyone who questions the standard message or propaganda is looked upon with disfavor. Think about all of the cover-ups that have been exposed in the past. If those few people had not stepped out of their comfort zone and questioned the status-quo opinion, then we would have never found out the truth.

I don't think the Super Bowl is the problem. Last year (2009) 98.7 million people watched the Super Bowl. In a nation of 300 million+ people, that means that only 1 out of 3 people watched the game. In 2008, nearly 120 million people voted in the Presidential election. That shows you that a great many people in this country aren't going to care, no matter what the subject matter is. To me, ambivalence seems more of an issue in this nation than distractions. You can't really pinpoint any cultural issues that the majority of Americans are interested in. The only general interest seems to be disinterest. People just don't seem to care about anything.

To finish this commentary, I would hope that you understand that we, the caring, are going to have to pick up the slack for the general population. In doing so, we have to be bold and let the truth out, even when we know the message won't be popular. Do not be afraid to be condemned. This is not a popularity contest. If your convictions are from the heart, then in the end you will be justly rewarded. The truth will set you free.

Let's wake up and wake some people up.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Top-Down or Bottom-Up

I just want to explain my feelings about what I am seeing with governance on the local level. Many of the people in this area, known as Hickory, walk around with a swagger exuding artificial confidence about their independence and how no one is going to tell them what to do. What I am seeing is that nothing could be further from the truth. The system of governance in our area is fully vested in a simple bureaucratic system that is crippling ingenuity and entrepreneurship.

Look around, the real mindset is that we control nothing and we don't control our own destiny, but folks we do. We put the shackles on ourselves. We are only as strong as the people of this community and the ambivalence of the general populous is what has brought us down. At this point we are down for the struggle and we are enduring this negative economic momentum, but in the end there will be no badge of honor that comes along with enduring the struggle. We are sacrificing for nothing.

You know that my philosophy is "of, by, and for the people." But as many have stated to me, "the people don't care." And I tend to agree to a certain extent, but while we can't make everyone care, we have to make more people care, because if we don't we lose -- even the people who care lose.

I was a great admirer of Ronald Reagan, because he made me feel good about my country. No politician has made me feel good about this country the way that he did. In the events following 9/11, I felt that the people in this country were coming together for a common cause, but now it seems that was a brave front which was created out of shock in the immediate aftermath of the vulnerability that was exposed from those events. That was false swagger, much like this community still displays today, because of the state of our economy.

The Reagan era came about from Jimmy Carter's leadership of malaise. I was ten years old when Carter came into office and fourteen when he left. Those years remind me a lot of what we are going through now, but this era feels worse.

We had terror then. I remember worrying about the Soviets and the menacing scowl of Leonid Brezhnev or the Iranian Hostage Crisis. I remember Gold, Silver, and Oil shooting up. Inflation was high and Interest rates were ridiculous.

But then, we felt like we had control of the government. When America tired of Vietnam, we sent a message to Lyndon Johnson that it was time to pack his bags, When Watergate happened the American people did the same to Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter was sent packing after four years of no control. The common thread between all of these events was the way these men had people from their own party say enough is enough and remove them from office. We don't see that today.

The Reagan era brought about a lengthy period of prosperity and comfort. The admiration that many people had for Reagan got average people to buy into the Federal government, while Reagan talked about decreasing the size and role of the government, but the results over the long haul were that government continued to grow in size and scope. And Bush 41 put the government on steroids.

What Reagan espoused was Supply-side economics, what is derogatorily referred to as trickle-down economics. I truly believe that Supply-side economics works, but I think trade policies and multi-national corporate greed have not allowed the average American to enjoy the fruits of such a policy, because the owners of the methods of production have continuously sought to cut the costs of production at all costs, no matter what. The individuals at the top of the economic food chain have done everything they can to expand their wealth, so that those at the bottom do not reap any benefits from the increased production. On the macro-economic level, I think that is what has gotten us to where we are today. That is the main reason we have seen the chasm develop between income levels.

I am certainly not a socialist. I don't believe the government should be in the business of spreading the wealth. The government created the rulebook that moved us in the direction that we saw above through its convoluted tax structure. Under the current tax, the rich hire their attorneys and accountants to walk away from tax liabilities and the poor are absolved from paying taxes and many people even get back more than they put in through the Unearned Income Credit. They call the tax structure progressive, but in the end the true middle class is taking the hit. Look at the data about the Middle Class Squeeze.

I know you are thinking what does this have to do with local governance? Well, I believe that we are living in extraordinary times and to succeed in these times we are going to have to see extraordinary leadership. If local leaders want to see ingenuity and innovation, then they are going to have to display it themselves and at the very least they cannot afford to stand in the way of it, by trying to impose their self-imposed limitations upon everyone else by telling us what we can and cannot do or what will or will not work. If you have no imagination. then you have no business limiting anyone else's. Every major technological innovation we enjoy today was thought to be impossible at one point in time.

This city is famous for picking winners and losers, not by example, but rather by friendship and favoritism - sure sounds like Washington to me. I laughed when an associate talked about one of this area's major problems being TFB's (Trust Fund Babies), but over the last few years I have been brought to the fire on this subject. No one should earn a position of prominence just because of their name or who they know, everyone should be recognized on their own merits. An Aristocracy within a Republic will only lead to the destruction of the Republic.

We have to empower our local citizenry. We can do that with the Economic and Science Fair I have proposed. We can do that with Micro-Lending. We can do that by upgrading our Information Technology infrastructure. We can do that by trying to move towards a viable public transportation infrastructure that should include a Rail connection to the proposed Highspeed Rail Eastern Seaboard line, which will adjoin us to the Raleigh-Charlotte-Atlanta Megalopolis. We must do this by helping the PEOPLE in the poorer sections of Hickory.
We have continued to see efforts to invest in the same people, the same projects, and the same efforts. Logically, you cannot change the downward direction of our economy by heading in the same direction. If trickle-down economics hasn't worked on the national level, then it isn't going to work in Hickory either. I truly believe that this city's viability rests in the strength of its middle class. I am not saying that anyone should be sold out. What I am saying is that it is time that everyone who wants to participate be invited to the party.

The first thing we need to do is change our mindset. I constantly hear what we can't do. I say Think Big. I love that new saying, "Go Big or Go Home." Quit with the piddly stuff that is only going to make your buddy happy. That creates a sense of emptiness. Think of the thrill when something major gets done and we're all in it together. We all know the difference between the two.

The writing is on the wall that the next leg down in the national economy will take place by the end of this quarter. If anyone is going to turn it around, then why not Hickory? Why can't we take the lead? Why?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 2, 2010

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

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

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

Here is a summary of the agenda of the 2/2/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below

Invocation by Chaplain Robert Ford of Frye Regional Medical Center

Consent Agenda
A. Request From Charity Chase Committee for Use of Union Square for the Charity Chase
Half Marathon on June 5, 2010 from 4:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

B. Approve Fire Protection Service Agreement With the Town of Brookford - The Fire Protection Service Agreement is to provide fire service protection and medical related services to the Town of Brookford for a period of five years beginning April 1, 2010 thru December 31, 2014. During the term of this agreement the Town of Brookford will pay the City of Hickory $9,900.00 annually. The Town of Brookford does not have an established fire department and the City of Hickory is incorporated and is therefore chartered to provide fire protection to areas in Catawba County located outside the corporate limits of municipalities within the County that do not have established fire departments. Alder Patton asked for this item to be removed from the agenda. City Manager Berry explained the contract negotiations with Brookford. Alder Patton asked why Brookford (Population 427) is paying less per citizen ($23) than citizens of the City of Hickory (over $100 per resident). What is the Logic behind this and at what point will there be any more compensation for the services provided and maintained. manager berry stated that we have a good neighbor relation with Brookford and in the interest of public safety the two cities back one another up from time to time. There is a mutual aid agreement with the Mountain View Fire Department. It is very customary for communities to have mutual aid. We already have the relationship and respond with backup. Hickory's professional fire department often gets there first and volunteer departments (ie Brookford) provide support.

From a cost standpoint, the city already has the fixed costs, Base 7 is very close to Brookford. Brookford had 12 fire calls last year. The city ran the marginal costs of the fuel and expenses and Brookford stated that is all about all they could afford to pay. Manager Berry stated that it was fine because we would be running the calls anyway. It is a benefit to Hickory at no significant additional costs. Alderman Guess asked why they (Brookford) didn't go back to Mountain View. Manager Berry stated that he didn't know the background there. He didn't know whether Mountain View wanted to charge more or couldn't provide the service. Alderman Guess asked if Mountain View would provide backup. manager Berry stated that there was still mutual aid between Mountain View and Hickory. Motion carried unanimously.

The Hound believes that Alder Patton made an excellent point here. Why is the cost to Brookford cheaper than that of the residents of Hickory. Like her, I fail to see the logic here. Nothing against Brookford, but the costs should come to equilibrium and there is no way that their costs should be a quarter of the costs to Hickory residents. Do you think that Hickory homes are four times more likely to catch on fire? That does not compute.

Also, the mentality of every community in this area is to hem and haw over what they can and cannot afford. What Hickory is basically doing here is providing insurance to Brookford. I know that it is my hope that I don't utilize any of my insurance policies to a great extent this year, but I have them for a reason. The costs of those policies were set by the providers and they were non-negotiable.
I think the City undersold the costs of its service in this circumstance. This runs a little over $800 per call based on last year's events. Is it really that cheap to put out fires? Isn't Hickory basically subsidizing Brookford in this deal? If so, why?

C. Request to Reject All Bids Received Regarding the Traffic Signal System Upgrade Project Due to Insufficient Funds and to Authorize Modification of Plan to Reduce Cost and Rebid Project - Bids were open by the City on January 14, 2010 for the Traffic Signal System Upgrade Project, with four (4) bids being received ranging from $2,834,531.95 to $4,446,117.95 with an engineers estimate of $2,345,154.63. Total project funds available are $2,500,000.00. Due to these being Federal funds, there is no process of negotiation with the low bidder due to Federal regulations. We propose to reduce the scope of the project by removing some signal corridors that will not negatively affect the over all results of the project, which should reduce the over all cost of the project and bring it within budget. Staff recommends rejection of all bids along with authorization to modify said plan to reduce cost and to rebid the project.

D. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 15
1. To appropriate $104 of Local Government Revenue and budget in the Police Department Overtime line item. This revenue is the January 2010 payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.

2. To appropriate $25,924 of General Fund Balance to the Police Department Training, Meals and Lodging line item ($7,524) and Specialized Equipment line item ($18,400). This appropriation is necessary to purchase two canines, and for travel and training for two officers to attend a six week school at Global Training Academy in San Antonio, Texas. $25,924 represents Police Federal Reimbursement balances from previous years (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002,
2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) that have been rolled into Fund Balance at year end, therefore an appropriation is necessary.

3. To appropriate $2,272 of General Fund Balance to the Police Departmental Supply line item. This appropriation is necessary to purchase DARE t-shirts for children upon their completion of the DARE program. The DARE program is taught by Hickory Police Department School Resource Officers within the Hickory School System. $2,272 represents a part of the remaining Police State Reimbursement balances from previous years (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) that have been rolled into Fund Balance at year end, therefore an appropriation is necessary.

4. To budget a $20,000 Library Services & Technology Act Planning Federal Grant in the Library’s Professional Services line item. The Grant funds will be used towards supporting the library's long-range strategic planning project approved by the Library Advisory Board for their 2009-2010 workplan. Mr. Bill Millett of Scope View Strategic Advantage will assist the library staff and planning committee with the systematic review of current services, collection holdings and programming. The City Council accepted this grant during the January 5, 2010 City Council meeting.

5. To appropriate $10,000 of Community Development Block Grant Fund (Federal Funds) and reimburse the General Fund $10,000 for invoices paid from New Sidewalk Construction and Supplies/Sidewalks line item. Funds were used for the curb and gutter project located off 9th Street and 13th Avenue NE.

6. To budget a $1,292 insurance claim check from Erie Insurance Exchange in the Water and Sewer Pipes, Hydrants and Meters line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a fire hydrant on 10-31-09.

E. Grant Project Ordinance Amendment No. 7
1. To budget $34,935 of North Carolina Finance Agency Fund revenue and $6,378 of Consortium Home Program revenue in various expenditure line items. The administrative cost is to budget money for salaries for the URP09 (Urgent Repair) grant that the city received and has to match 50/50. The other revenue is being allocated so it is available to reuse back to first-time homebuyers and/or housing rehab.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Update of Hickory by Choice Review Process - The Hickory by Choice Advisory Committee has been meeting since February 2009 with the City’s Planning Department and consultant, Studio Cascade, Inc. to formulate revisions to Hickory by Choice and the Land Development Code. This update will provide Council with a brief overview of what progress has been made up to this point. Brian Frazier addressed the council about the process that has taken place so far. Brian showed the map of the old Hickory By Choice (pictured below). It was all about mixed use development -- walkability, sustainability. There were 15 growth nodes scattered throughout the city. Brian stated that was where development was scheduled to take place along major transportation intersections. After 10 years there weren't many, if any, changes to the land use plan with the exception of a half dozen thoroughfare plan changes. Studio cascade, staff, and the HBC advisory committee have the beginnings of a "work in progress" map shown below.

It has reduced the nodes to the Hickory Proper and the ETJ areas. This is the third or fourth revision. Notable changes will be a true comprehensive plan addressing old HBC topics of land use and transportation along with additional subject areas to include demographics, housing, economic development, public infrastructure and utilities, parks and recreation... Other changes include designating a true central business district, designating specific revitalization areas, simplifying residential classifications, and refining General Business and Industrial Areas to reflect demographic and market changes.
The number of mixed use areas will be cut back by nearly half -- down from 15. They are looking to be extremely realistic with this plan.

There will be various commercial divisions, while simplifying the residential designations. People have been confused by the various classifications. Residential areas will be classified will be low, medium, and high population distinctions. Industrial areas will reflect true demographic market changes. The industrial areas will reflect current economic times.
The Land Development Code will be simplified and hopefully become more user friendly by utilizing graphics and illustrations. They are going to say what they want and take subjectivity out of the process. This will become a more black and white process.

They want the definition section of the LDC to relate to the text.
Commercial will be split into regional commercial, community commercial, and neighborhood centers. Neighborhood centers will serve existing neighborhoods and promote walkability and small car trips. Regional commercial will serve people in the neighboring counties and area. Community commercial will serve people throughout the community who might want to run across town to a grocery store or other such facility. Big Boxes will be permitted in the Regional Commercial, Smaller Boxes will be allowed in the Community Commercial, and Box stores will not be permitted in the neighborhood centers. It is based upon scalability. They are trying put in high density along corridors and in the centers. It has been disseminated all over town ovcer the past 10 years. They are trying to focus the development around the centers, which have been reduced in size substantially from 15 in the original HBC.

They will hold another public workshop on February 9, 2010 and another in late March or early April. They are looking to publicly roll out the plan in early to mid April. They will look for a recommendation from the advisory committee. Then there will be a public hearing with the planning commission, there will be a series of meetings, and then there will be a recommendation brought forth to council. Brian encourages public participation in this process and hopes that people will show up next Tuesday.

In answering a question from Alder Fox, Brian stated that all of the 15 centers were geared toward community commercial to support mixed-use (residential and commercial). An example is Belle Hollow, staff and the advisory committee does not see opportunity for high density residential to go there. They have conceded that this is a commercial center and will be for the foreseeable future.
They would like to see a one year revisement and a five year rewrite. That is what was talked about when HBC was first implemented, but for financial reasons it has not happened. They are really scrambling to go back and fix what needed to be addressed over the last ten years.

In answering a statements from Aldermen Lail and Seaver, Brian reiterated the fact that it would have been best to do a five year revision. He stated that in times, like this economic slowdown, there is no better time to plan for your future. This will help deal with the issues of residential density and some of the mixed use, because the original HBC wanted to concentrate growth in the cores, but there were 15 and it was greatly dispersed. It wasn't concentrated the way it should be, so you have limited success stories and they stuck with that model for ten years. The realization is that there were some successes, but some did not work out at all. So they are trying to retool and be ready not just for now, but be clairvoyant for the next twenty years. That is difficult with a changing marketplace and demographic changes.

Alderman Seaver stated that the realization is that there will be things we haven't heard of or imagined over twenty years. Twenty years is a very long time to plan in this day and time.
Alder Fox stated that she was going to hold Brian Frazier to the idea of user friendly. That was what they were told with the original HBC. The theory of the original HBC was great. It's just how we go about getting there. There was a great deal of public participation with the original HBC. She was concerned with this process at first, but the last meeting made her excited, She hopes we can get that number at this next meeting. Alder Patton stated that she believes the use of illustrations will be of great benefit and providing a visual will help.

This is the map of HBC 1999:

This is the map of HBC 2030:
The Hound has stated it before and we will state it again. I like this plan and it cannot happen soon enough. Brian Frazier, Studio cascade, and the HBC advisory committee are streamling one of the most important governmental processes that will play a role in our economic development. The current Hickory By Choice is typical government. Layer after layer of bureaucratic mess were heaped on top of a bad structure to begin with until it became totally useless.

This is truly addition by subtraction. I totally agree with what Brian states above. There were way too many of these neighborhood cores. What we see is realistic because it has naturally occurred around market forces. I also agree that you can't force a round residential core into a square commercial hole, such as what has developed around Belle Hollow-Harris Teeter. Although it doesn't fit the perfect theoretical structure of a neighborhood core, it does serve a common sense purpose. That area is highly successful, because the residential area blends in perfectly next to the commercial and public access points. I think the core areas that are shown on the new map have this in common. These are commercial areas that are already successful, now we need to build collateral residential support for those areas.

What all of this shows is that market places bring people together. It isn't the buildings. It is that common marketplace and interest. That is the reason why cities formed to start with. Cities are trading posts and that is what these nodes have to be. Our city originally centered and focused mainly on factories. Those factories were part of the marketplace. We need to understand that neighborhoods do not form, if there aren't common interests. Integration of work, play, the market, and residence have to come together to have a successful community and I believe that Mr. Frazier and Studio cascade are moving us in that direction.

2. Ranking of Priorities - Following City Council’s December 7th retreat session, staff condensed the list of ideas brainstormed by City Council into eight items. These items were discussed at the Council work session on January 28th and Council expressed a desire to further rank the eight items. At the February 2nd meeting staff will provide Council with the results of the ranking process for further discussion and/or approval. City Manager Berry went over the cities priorities according to the ranking process. The number one priority was to invest in revitalization efforts for specific areas and existing buildings. Highway 70 is the city's designated revitalization area that they talk a lot about. They will budget funds to help property owners update properties and support various big structures.

The next was to invest in properties and partnerships to spur new development in targeted locations such as Cloninger Mill Road and a multi-jurisdictional park. The third priority was to position Hickory to become the major technology hub for the Southeast. Manager Berry stated that as you look at the three their is some interplay between the three. Alder Patton stated that he top priority was to invest in property and land to give Scott Millar something to take out and peddle and bring in another business. She hopes that they will always have an inventory available for him so that he has something else in his pocket to pull out and can be something for people to invest in. Alderman Seaver stated that we have seen leadership headed in that direction already and that would be logical.

Alderman Lail stated that his recollection is that they would take that first one however the numbers turned out and work on it. He thought number two was number one, but the group conscious was revitalization and he;'s ready to go to work on it. He believes that as far as revitalization they might be able to create some bait for Scott Millar to utilize. Alderman Guess stated that maybe instead of focusing on just one, they can focus on the top three, because he feels that are all related. Alderman Lail stated that he was all in favor of that. Mayor Wright stated that this was a little like the planning document. It is going to be somewhat fluid depending on the opportunity that presents itself, something may become much more attractive. He would also like to give this to the Business Development Committee and the EDC as not the final word, but the direction they would like to head in. Alderman Lail stated that this was particularly relevant to the Business development Committee. Mayor Wright stated that he would like to encourage staff to accept the top three priorities and to develop short and long term plans to position us accomplish these. The Mayor stated that the other priorities may still happen, but the top three will be the priorities.

The Hound thinks the top three priorities need to be Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs, I just don't understand how revitalization is the top priority. I am happy that Alder Patton, Alderman Guess, and Alderman Lail addressed the issue of developing bait for Economic Development. That is what I like to hear, because that will create jobs.

There are a lot of things that will be done in the name of revitalization that will have very little impact on the job picture, but playing hand in hand with Scott Millar's Economic Development strategies will give you the most bang for the buck.
Once again, it is not about buildings. I think some of our leaders have a co-dependent relationship with these buildings.

Many of these buildings are standing in the way of progress. We should not hold these buildings up as some sort of temples, because they are the furtherest thing from that. The same people that decry the area's big box retail stores act like they want to tie themselves to the dilapidated big box factory buildings, as if they were a tree in the virgin Redwood Forest, if you propose tearing them down. We seriously need to address which of these places are dumps and we need to facilitate their removal. Why place this burden on future generations?

The Business Development Committee
was appointed with members being Ryan Lovern, Mark Huckabee, Bijon Byrd(?name), Dave Gissy, Dave Pace(?name), Lauren Hoover, and Alan Jackson. Sorry if the names aren't spelled correctly.

The Hound knows that Alan Jackson in a group is a good thing. The man has impeccable standards when it comes to data, statistics, and his passion for this community. The others I don't really know, but hope that they succeed in their mission.

Persons requesting to address the council - Larry Pope once again addressed the council about snow on the sidewalk. He last addressed this subject on January 5, 2010. Larry thanked Chuck Hansen for finding the information out from Newton about what they do with their sidewalks. He stated that our population has become an elderly population and city ordinances state that it is a citizen's responsibility to clean the sidewalks in front of or next to their property. That is not going to work and if people don't do it, then what are they going to do to enforce the city ordinance.

Larry recommends that they go back and look at the ordinance and do what is fair for all of the citizens of the city. On Sunday, Larry paid a young man to scrape his driveway and sidewalk. They walked from his house to the police department, the post office, and then to Ridgeview. The sidewalks in front of the police department were covered in snow. They walked in the roadway all of the way. Walking to City Council tonight he couldn't use the sidewalk.

There is a North Carolina Ordinance that states that sidewalks must be kept clear of all debris, rubbish, and trash. He would like to meet with Mick Berry, Chuck Hanson, and whomever to see what can be done to come up with some type of workable agreement. They talk about creating jobs. Why not pay people minimum wage to do these sidewalks and make some money. You (City Council) talk about creating jobs, but yet you don't want to use what is available to you.

If the seven of you can't make a decision, then (Larry) is forced to do what he does a lot. He needs to find twelve people and a judge who can make the decision for them. The Mayor instructed City Manager Berry and Chuck Hanson to talk with Mr. Pope. Alderman Lail stated the city workers did an excellent job cleaning the streets. Living in the South you cannot organize your public works department of such a scope to deal with what are somewhat rare events. manager berry stated that they love it. Mayor Wright stated that he traveled to Youngsville, NC and our staff does it faster, harder, and quicker.

The Hound can certainly see Larry's point on this issue. Is this not the same council that wants to see walkability built into our future infrastructure? What was Brian Frazier talking about during this meeting? Does walkability not have to be addressed for all seasons and all occasions?

As Harry Hipps and I rode home, we noticed that snow was pushed up onto the sidewalks on Hwy 127. I truly do believe that the city's Public Works Department did do a great job and they
did go above and beyond. I do believe that these last two events have been abnormal compared to what we have seen over the last 15+ years. That being said, the city has to have contingency plans if events such as these are to occur.

In a city where drivers do not respect pedestrians, it is irresponsible to expect people to walk in the streets, especially along thoroughfares. It is bad enough for average citizens to be forced onto the streets, let alone a blind man. This is a timebomb waiting to go off and it should be addressed in a thorough manner as soon as possible.

The Mayor displayed a half ounce Gold piece that was presented to him and he accepted it on behalf of the City of Hickory -- to be displayed