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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Put America's Interests above Parties -- 35 days until the National Election

We are now five weeks out from an election that it seems will swing heavily in the Republican's favor. Sure is a stark contrast to what was witnessed two short years ago. The Democrats were swept into power promising "Change we can believe in." Well, who believes them now? They have no one to blame but themselves. Sure, they promised to remedy the economy and the majority of the American public bought it, but we haven't taken a step towards solving anything. This country's current economy feels eerily reminiscent of Chinese water torture, but if the Democrats are swept out of power will we see any improvement?

In 1994, the GOP was placed in charge of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years, because they proposed a real agenda. Republicans wasted the opportunity to truly reform our bloated government. Instead of implementing “The Contract with America” one step at a time, they overreached and achieved very little other than welfare reform.

Over the next 12 years they compromised to the point of abandoning their core principles. While the current Republican Party is unrecognizable, the Democrats have kowtowed to the extreme elements of their party to the point where our country is economically stagnated by a sea of taxation, regulation, and litigation.

We have to get back to Innovation, Ingenuity, and allowing small businesses to thrive. This does not come about through convoluted tax measures and capital loan funds controlled by Wall Street and Washington. This comes from getting off of small business peoples' backs and reducing their cost of doing business. This comes from reducing their financial regulations that cost them ridiculous amounts of money, when they have to hire lawyers and accountants even to take the most simple steps towards growing their businesses.

We need to have Fair Trade, Capital liquidity, and we need to rebuild the infrastructure foundation of this nation before it is too late. We see problems with the roads, transportation system, waterworks, and electrical grid all of the time, yet little is being done to modernize these systems. Is the plan to ignore this problem and hope that it goes away? Why were these issues ignored by the stimulus boondoggle (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) passed last year?

We can’t grow our economy without energy. I’d love to do it with Solar Panels, Windmills, Hydroelectric, and Nuclear energy, but go do some homework and see who has stood in the way of those resources -- both parties. There have to be tax incentives and fast tracks to foster research and development. Tax incentives are also needed to make alternatives affordable to the average consumer. Will the shortsighted tax revenue lust and control issues of our bloated bureaucracy allow for this to happen?

In the meantime, Fossil Fuels are the lifeblood of our economy and our dependence on foreign oil and multi-national corporate interests is definitely a National Security risk. We have seen energy prices fall to reasonable levels compared to what they were over two years ago, yet what we have seen is that Oil prices have moderated due to a reduction in World demand and not because anything has been done to address the energy issues we face. The Oil Bubble only burst because the economic growth pressures that were inflating the price are no longer there.

We have also seen the tragic Oil explosion that occurred in the Gulf. I admit that I am a fool, because I trusted the corporations to have the interests of the American public in their mind and thought processes, when they decided upon practices they would exercise when exploring and extracting oil. Of course the Federal Government played a role in this mishap by not insuring that proper procedures were followed. I still believe that there are safe methods available to extract oil resources, and I believe that we must utilize these resources, while we build towards our future energy assets, but we must have proper and accountable checks in place to ensure that no situation such as occurred in the Gulf happens again. If you don't know what you are doing, then you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.

I would still rather be looking out for American National interests than sending millions of dollars to dictators. The Energy industry supports high paying, high tech jobs, whether it be current or future alternative resources. I believe that addressing our Energy Demands and infrastructure needs is integral to making our economy grow. If you truly want a bright future for generations to come, we must dispose of the rhetoric. Our nation's bomb and rebuild strategy is not only having a detrimental effect on the world stage. It is hurting our own society. I do not want to be an empire. I agree that we need to be more efficient in our energy usage, but we cannot conserve our way to the energy independence that would be best for our nation’s security.

The last thought I would like to leave you with is that this country is not about being a Republican or Democrat, it is first and foremost about being an American. The two-party system has been about politicians serving their own interests. You, the average rabble do not belong, all you are there for is to provide campaign contributions for their parties (pun intended), so that they can continue living the high life.

People get caught up in the team competition and the horse race. That is what they want you to do, because it puts you into an acceptance of an either/or fate. We must demand an and/both strategy. I am awake! I realize that neither party has a monopoly on right or wrong. I am unwilling to take the good with the bad and I think it is time to move away from Least Common Denominator politics. It is time for people to rise above the mud and mire that is American Politics and demand that we get back to the Objectives of the American Ideal!

Friday, September 24, 2010

8 steps to Self-Preservation - A Further Look

I originally posted the article 8 Suggestions for the Road Ahead -- Self-Preservation on February 23, 2009. That was 19 months ago. What we have seen since that time has played right into the scenario that I was addressing at that time. Today, gold went over $1300 an ounce. Silver traded at $21.46 an ounce. On that date, gold traded at $985.75 per ounce and silver traded at $14.36 per ounce. That means that an investment in gold at that time would've netted you over a 30% return on your investment and silver would've made you close to a 50% return on your investment in that 19 month time frame. The actions of our federal government and the Federal Reserve have been a key to this movement. You cannot print up all of this Monopoly money and cook the books without consequences. Below is the article with additional information provided. Please prepare, because nothing has been done to remedy the situation that we faced at that time and nothing has been done to solidify our future and get us back on solid economic ground.

I do not propose to be some sort of expert on survival, but we can all see that these are not normal times and it is time to prepare for the worst of times and pray that we never reach that destination. I have compiled some information about personal finance and personal responsibility. You can move as close to these targets as possible or you may ignore the advice. I only give you this advice, because my soul moves me to. In the end you are responsible for your own countenance.

1) Get out of short term debt - You should be in no more short term debt (credit cards) than what you can pay off immediately. I believe that 5% of your take home pay would be about the Maximum amount of debt you should be carrying in this recession. If you get laid off, then you can easily pay that off.

As inflation rises, the adjustable interest rates on short term debt will also rise. You could very well see 20%+ interest rates on credit cards (if not way higher than that). How would you ever pay these debts off, if that were to happen?

Credit-Card Rates Climb -- Wall Street Journal -- August 23, 2010 -- In the second quarter, the average interest rate on existing cards reached 14.7%, up from 13.1% a year earlier, according to research firm Synovate, a unit of Aegis Group PLC. That was the highest level since 2001.

Most cards now carry variable rates, meaning any increase in the prime rate is likely to be quickly passed along to borrowers. "Consumers will end up getting squeezed" when the Federal Reserve begins to raise rates as the economy recovers, says Ben Woolsey, director of marketing and consumer research at CreditCards.com.

2) Keep cash on hand and tuck it away somewhere that no one can find it. I am not saying that banks will go bust like they were in the 1930s, but on March 5, 1933 Franklin Roosevelt (the day after being sworn into office) called a 4-day bank holiday. The banks were closed and people could not withdraw cash from their accounts. Some people say that this same scenario nearly played out last September. What would you do if the bank was closed for a week or two? Remember the gas shortage last September and how everyone panicked?

More U.S. Banks Skip Latest Payment on Bailout Aid - (ABC News/Money - September 17, 2010) - More than 100 U.S. banks failed to pay an August 16 dividend on bailout money they borrowed from the U.S. government, signaling that the number of banks struggling to meet obligations under the program is rising.

While most major U.S. banks have paid off the government's temporary investment, roughly $130 billion is invested in more than 600 smaller banks. Smaller U.S. lenders are still coping with high real estate-related loan losses in the wake of the housing crisis. Profits have become a rarity, crippling the ability of banks to pay dividends to both private and government investors.

3) Put some of your money in precious metals. Most of us can't afford $1,000 an ounce gold, but we can afford $14.50 an ounce Silver or even cheaper Copper. These metals will hold there value during inflationary times. In 1980, during the last inflationary period in the U.S., the price of gold spiked to $850 an ounce in 1980 (an equivalent of $2,178.05 in today's dollars). The same year Silver spiked to $48.70 (an equivalent of $124.79 in today's dollars). U.S. Inflation Calculator Link

I am not saying that we will see those levels in the coming year, but unless our government gets its spending under control, I believe we will burst through those levels by the end of Obama's first term. At the end of the year 2000, the Dow Jones Industrial average was trading at 39.5 times the price of Gold and 2,345 times the price of silver. Today the DJIA is 7.17 times the price of Gold and 494 times the price of Silver. This has all been brought about by the tanking of the U.S. Dollar. Until our government starts reigning in the ridiculous spending and comes back towards fiscal sanity, it is time to get out of our currency and into something real.

Silver Futures Jump to 30-Year High: Gold Rises to Record, Topping $1,300 (Bloomberg - September 24, 2010) - Gold climbed to a record, topping $1,300 an ounce. Gold for immediate delivery rose to a record $1,300.07 today. Silver ended the day at $21.46.

Silver has jumped 27 percent this year, and gold has gained 18 percent, outperforming global equities, Treasuries and most industrial metals. Today, the dollar fell to the lowest level since February against a basket of six major currencies as the Federal Reserve keeps borrowing costs low and moves closer to easing monetary policy to bolster the U.S. economy.

4) Be Thrifty and quit wasting your money - Don't throw things away unless they have no value. Eat at home, use coupons, share meals with your friends and neighbors, look for cheap entertainment, turn that heat down, use the fan (instead of the AC), and consolidate your trips when driving. This is not the time to throw money around. It is time to spend wisely.

A good investment would be to buy dry and canned goods in bulk. Remember the price increases last year during the fuel run up? Buy these goods and store them for the rainy day. If that day never comes, then you can use them; but if a truly inflationary period does hit, then you will have bought yourself some valuable time.

Food Price Discounts May Dwindle As Commodity Costs Surge -- (Dow Jones Newswire - September 22, 2010) -- As prices for key inputs like wheat and sugar have surged, food companies like General Mills Inc. and ConAgra Foods Inc. have begun feeling the pinch. Both said this week they expect the intense promotions and price battles that have flooded grocery stores recently to ease in response to commodity price inflation.

A devastating drought in Russia has sparked a rally in grains prices. Wheat futures have surged 63% since June and now trade well above $7 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade. Corn has followed and gotten a further boost from indications of a disappointing U.S. crop. Corn prices are up 55% and the ubiquitous grain, which is used in a wide array of food ingredients, is above $5 a bushel.

5) Grow a garden. The only thing that this will cost is the money for a few tools, the cost of some seeds, and some labor. You will be handsomely rewarded. You'll have something to eat to get through the summer months and you can can, freeze, or dry this stuff to get through the winter. This will help you get outdoors and get some exercise. You can be basic or elaborate. That is up to you. The deal is that this will save you money, when your budget gets tight, and that is money that may be needed elsewhere. You can also barter these vegetables for other food or maybe to get something else. Growing a garden creates value.

6) Secure your house. Crime is naturally going to increase. You need to get deadbolt locks for the doors and hide your valuables in safe, secure places. Don't flaunt what you have. You need to be humble and thrifty. Be aware.

7) Get to know your neighbors and look out for one another's well-being. This goes hand-in-hand with number 6 and maybe even number 5. One thing that we have lost in the age of gluttony is that sense of community. Neighborhood Watch will be very important if times get tougher and we will need to look out for the elderly, who will become very vulnerable as their fixed incomes are attacked by inflationary dollars.

8) Pay attention to what the Government is doing - It is time that people figure out that the condition our economy is in today is a direct reflection on the economic choices that have been made by our leaders and the bureaucracy over the last 40 years. No one expects perfection, but we also should not expect utter incompetence and/or corruption either. It is time for accountability.

There you have it. Time to get onboard and start doing the right things. You cannot help others without shoring up your own personal being to start with. It is each of our responsibility to be Self-Reliant and these suggestions will move you in that direction.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of September 21, 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 right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

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 9/21/2010 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 E. Roberts of Morning Star First Baptist Church

Special Presentations:
Presentation of Proclamation to Deputy Fire Chief, Steve Moore Declaring the Week of October 3 – 9, 2010 as “Fire Prevention Week” in the City of Hickory

The Mayor recognized the fire department. The city reached 15 years with no fire deaths, but this year a homeless man died here in Hickory. The mayor stated that our good record has occurred, because of education, fire staff, as well as our citizenry that here in abide by good safety practices.

Roughly 3000 people die as a result of home fires and burns. Two thirds of a home fire deaths resulted from from home fires which no smoke alarms were working along this were present. Working smoke alarms cut the chance of dying in a reported fire and a half. Weavers of the Hickory fire department recommend at least one smoke alarm on each level of the time, outside of all sleeping areas and bedrooms.

The goal is to take personal steps to increase fire safety. The theme of this campaign is smoke alarms a sound you can live with works to motivate Hickory residents to implement smoke alarm recommendations and the home.


Consent Agenda:
A. Approval to Enter Into an Agreement With Host Agency, Sherrills-Ford/Terrell Fire Department for Ten 800 MHz Radios to be Purchased Through the Assistance to Firefighters Act Grant Program - City Council in May 2009 approved the Hickory Fire Department to be a part of the grant process to purchase ten (10) portable 800 MHz radios through the Assistance to Firefighters Act Grant Program. As a participant of the Catawba County Public Safety Information Committee, it was determined to pursue the grant for portable radios with Sherrills-Ford/Terrell Fire Department as the host agency. Hickory’s cost share for the ten (10) radios would be $1,250.00 or 5%. Sherrills-Ford/Terrell Fire Department has prepared an agreement that once the radios are received through the grant, Hickory will be the owner of the radios and will coordinate with the host agency.

B. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs -
The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program:
Peggy Hunter Amount Not to Exceed $20,000.00 31 28th Avenue, NE
Betty Hairston Amount Not to Exceed $10,000.00 259 10th Avenue, SE
Funds are budgeted through the City of Hickory’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2009 and/or program income received through the Community Development Block Grant Program. Applicant, Janet Noblitt of 313 20th Avenue, NE is being recommended for assistance under the City’s 2009 Urgent Repair Program for emergency-related repairs not to exceed $5,000.00. Funds are budgeted through the City’s Community Development
Department funds received in FY 2009-10.

C. Award Bid to Amick Equipment for the Purchase of Two Replacement Hook Lift Crew Cab Trucks in the Amount of $139,850.00 - The City’s Street Division uses hook lift crew cab trucks on a daily basis for both the maintenance and construction crews. These two trucks will replace Unit #2200 and Unit #2604. A total of three (3) bids were received and Amick Equipment came in with the low bid while meeting our specifications in the amount of $69,925.00 each or for a total of $139,850.00. Funds are budgeted for FY 2010-11.

D. Approve Resolution to Discard Library Materials to the Friends of the Library for Their Annual Book Sale on October 7 – 10, 2010 - The Friends of the Library collect donated books and other materials throughout the year for their book sales. The donated books and materials are out of date, in poor condition or are no longer needed to meet the collection development goals of the library. There are 4,507 discarded library materials to be donated. The proceeds ultimately benefit the library, which is an appropriate means of disposing of unneeded materials.

E. Proclamation Declaring the Week of September 17 through 23, 2010 as “Constitution Week” in the City of Hickory

F. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 5
1. To budget $167 of Local Government Revenue in the Police Department Overtime line item. This revenue is payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.
2. To budget a $1,563 insurance claim check from State Auto Insurance Company in the Water and Sewer Pipes, Hydrants and Meters line item. This payment is for damage sustained to a fire hydrant on 08-02-10.
3. To budget $11,119 of State Revenue and $2,224 from the Recycling Division fuel and motor oil line item in the Recycling Division Non-Asset Inventory line item. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance has awarded the City of Hickory a grant to upgrade one of the existing Recycling Drop Off Centers existing dumpsters with hook lift style containers. This will allow the City of Hickory to collect and transport different types of materials to the recycling facility with one trip thereby saving time and fuel. The cost of the replacement dumpsters is $13,343. The Grant Contract has a state participation commitment in the amount of $11,119 with a $2,224 required local match.
4. To appropriate $299,803 of General Fund Balance and budget in the Clement Boulevard project Construction line item. Funds are needed to complete the Clement Boulevard extension project including construction of the railroad crossing as well as the remaining utility and electrical work. We anticipate the new road will be opened mid October.

IX. Informational Items:
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to Washington, DC from September 13 – 14, 2010 to attend the 2010 Washington Perspective Fly-In; hotel - $308.01; airfare - $302.90; per diem - $78.75; mileage - $52.00; taxi cab & parking fees - $49.00 (Exhibit IX.A.)

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Resolution and Order for Petition of the City of Hickory to Close City-Owned 60- Foot Right-of-Way in the 4200 Block of 9th Street, NE - The City received a petition from Public Services Director Chuck Hansen on behalf of the City of Hickory to close a portion of a City-Owned 60-foot Right-of- Way in the 4200 block of 9th Street, NE in order to allow the proposed residential subdivision of the property in this same area per the Recreation Master Plan. Staff review did not yield any comments against this petition. This public hearing was advertised on August 20, August 27, September 3 and September 10, 2010 in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area.

Chuck Hanson made the presentation stating that this is a cul-de-sac, this is a remnant of an old subdivision. This will close the cul-de-sac and allow for the possibility of a future subdivision on the property. This will close the right of way and clean the property up for the possibility of the new subdivision. The Council unanimously consented to the resolution.

2. Ordinance Authorizing Moratorium on New Electronic Sweepstakes Establishments in the Zoning Jurisdiction of the City of Hickory - On September 7, 2010 City Council authorized a public hearing be held for consideration of an ordinance authorizing a moratorium not to exceed ninety days on development approvals; including the issuance of building permits and zoning compliance permits for future electronic sweepstakes establishments as well as development approvals of requests to expand any current establishments. Session Law 2010-103 was recently enacted by NC Legislature which bans the use of electronic machines and devices for sweepstakes purposes which becomes effective December 1, 2010. The gaming industry is seeking an injunction to prohibit the act from taking effect and has brought suit against a number of cities who enacted privilege license fee schedules. According to NC General Statute 160A-381(e) Council may adopt a temporary moratorium on development by ordinance, which must set out four (4) specific criteria. While the injunction is being litigated, it is possible new establishments could occur in Hickory without there being any zoning regulations to affect their locations and operations. The moratorium will apply to future electronic sweepstakes establishments as well as development approvals for requests to expand any current establishments. It will not affect or apply to any current electronic sweepstakes establishments in operation within the zoning jurisdiction of the City of Hickory, as they are grandfathered under the existing Land Development Code. During the moratorium staff will revise a proposed text amendment to the Land Development Code for consideration by the Hickory Regional Planning Commission and City Council.

City Atty. Crone made the presentation. There are opinion lawsuits across the state of North Carolina challenging this new law passed by the legislature. If these lawsuits are successful, that would leave a gap as far as Hickory is concerned. The new proposed ordinance that will be brought forth will better reflect some of the definitions of the legislation and add some other restrictions that Atty. Crone felt he was hearing some of the Council voice that they would like to see in the ordinance. The proposed ordinance will be presented to the Council at some point during the 90 day moratorium. This ordinance will stay in place at least or until December 1. Were the legislation deemed to be unconstitutional, then they will have the ordinance in place to close the gap should that happen. Alder Patton asked within the hearing would take place? Atty. Crone stated that this would be heard sometime in latter October or November. The council consented unanimously to the moratorium.

The Hound has addressed this issue several times since it was brought up at the end of 2009 and since it has been deliberated over this year. I am glad the city has finally taken some action on this issue.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Designation of Voting Delegate and One Alternate Voting Delegate for 2010 Annual North Carolina Annual Business Meeting on October 25, 2010 in Winston-Salem, NC. - Under the NCLM Constitution and the voting procedure established by the League Board of Directors, each member municipality sending delegates to the Annual Conference is required to designate one voting delegate and one alternate voting delegate. The vote of each municipality at the Annual Business Meeting on October 25, 2010 may be cast only by a designated voting delegate or alternate voting delegate. The council unanimously voted to approve Mayor Wright as the voting delegate to this annual meeting.

Currently Mayor Wright and manager Berry are the only representatives from Hickory that will attend this meeting. Mayor Wright stated that he hopes that more members of Council will attend this meeting. He stated that his good networking and this is good to attend. City has not always faithfully attended this meeting but once they started having the meeting in Hickory every few years he felt that there needed to be a somewhat visible attendance to this meeting. We sell others on how great this meeting is going to be and that they should come when this meeting is in Hickory, so he would encourage others to come. It is close by. He stated that city staff is on top of the subjects that will be discussed. He added that there is no substitute for someone who puts their name on the ballot who will come back and report.

Citizens requesting to be heard -- Larry Pope addressed the Council about public events controlled by the city. He stated that he had an incident that occurred with him a month ago where there was a foot race in downtown Hickory on Saturday morning. He walked to Post Office BBQ to eat and when he was finished he was headed to Professional Dry Cleaners downtown. As he came across a railroad tracks, he headed down the street and made a right-hand turn along the sidewalk near the Elk's Lodge and old Duke Power building. As he was traveling down the sidewalk he walked into a truck and a car that were parked on the sidewalk that should not have been there. There was a crowd of folks and he asked for some assistance to get around the vehicles. A gentleman stepped forward and assisted Mr. Pope.

Mr. Pope asked for the man to help him get to the Bank of Granite parking lot. The man took him to the Bank of Granite Plasa parking lot and let him go. Mr. Pope found out that he was not where he wanted to be and stopped and asked for assistance again, because he heard a crowd of folks that were standing there. Another person helped him to the Bank of Granite parking lot and there was a crane in the middle of the road that was there for the race.

He called the police department, and the dispatcher did not know who he was and told him that they could not send an officer to help him and he lost contact with the dispatcher thinking that they had hung up. The Lieutenant on duty sent some help to help him get around a crowd of folks and the barricades that were downtown.

Mr. Pope later met with Major Deal and Manager Berry to let them know what had happened and his concerns. Mr. Pope stated that he was told by Manager Berry that no event downtown will change. Mr. Pope stated that there is a law in place that sets out what is proper and what is not proper when it comes to travel areas for people with disabilities. He stated that Manager Berry does not own the sidewalks and cannot make determinations about what will and will not be done. He met with Attorney Dula on the 27th of August to provide her with a copy of the law and told her that he was tired of fighting with the city of Hickory when it comes to his rights. The Americans with disability act is specific about what the city government must do when the council grants permission for these events to happen. Larry stated that he asked Atty. Dula what downtown development will do and what the city will do pertaining to Oktoberfest. He stated that if anyone violates his rights that he will see them in court.

He expects a letter from the Downtown Development Association and the City of Hickory to spell out what they plan to do, as the law requires them to do certain things under the law of the ADA. If they choose not to do it, he stated he will be back and he will do what ever he has to do to protect his rights and other people's rights in the city of Hickory who have a disability. He stated that if Mick Berry is going to make decisions for the Council without informing the council what they should be doing, then he will say to the Council and Manager Berry that he needs to resign his position and they need to fire him (Mr. Berry).

The Hound can sympathize with what Mr. Pope goes through as an individual dealing with a handicap. I know that it has to be a struggle to live independently and be as productive as Mr. Pope is. These ADA issues need to be taken seriously by our government and by all accounts I believe the city of Hickory does take these issues very seriously. I don't believe anyone meant any harm to Mr. Pope on the morning in question and I do believe that the city should hold community events downtown that enhance the quality of life of the city. Sometimes things just happen. I don't believe that vehicles should be parking on the sidewalk and proactive steps need to be taken to ensure that the sidewalks are not blocked.

This issue cuts both ways. Mr. Pope needs to understand that not everything will always be perfect. We cannot always fault our city government for issues that are just part of the process of life. I believe that the city does take Mr. Pope seriously when it comes to the issues of his handicap. There is no desire to slight him over the issues of his physical limitations.

I don't think that any of us should ever make fun of Mr. Larry Pope for addressing the City Council. Citizens need to be listened to when they have concerns, whether you agree with them or not. These issues are important to Mr. Pope. This is not trivial. This is not a joke and I would like to think that anyone who addresses our city government will find representatives of the city government that are responsive, caring, and represent the needs of all of the citizens of the City of Hickory. If you think that this is not something that should be taken seriously, then think about the next time when it might be something that is important to you. Will it be a joke then?


***Mayor Wright spoke about the Chamber of Commerce "Fly In" that he attended last week. He stated that we were one of 34 chambers that attended this event. He stated that he heard several things about the progress of the war and about research going on at Chapel Hill involving the ability to substitute oral medications for chemotherapy that will utilize nanotechnology to fight cancer cells. He stated that it was a good meeting that allowed them to ask a few questions. He talked about an editria he authored in Sunday's Hickory Daily Record that discussed the subject of collective bargaining relating to local municipalities. Mayor Wright stated that he asked a couple questions that were evaded and stated that the people in Washington are trying to dodge the questions and are going counter to the will of the people of the State of North Carolina. He lamented the actions of representatives in Washington related to voting, such as cloture.

The Mayor's Editorial in the Hickory Daily Record: Mandatory collective bargaining counterproductive

The Hound agrees with the Mayor on this issue. First and foremost, we are in economically difficult times. This has nothing to do with our local government workers. I have met several of them and I believe that for the most part they want to do good work and do what is best for our community. The fact remains that the government continues to grow at an exponential pace. If one looks at the pay of government workers, for the most part, they are the only sector of our society whose pay has not decreased during these economically stagnant times. Yes, I understand that our local government workers have not had a raise in two years, but there are a lot of people who are out of work, have had their hours cut, or have seen cuts in their pay and benefits. That is the reality.

I understand the desire of workers to want to ensure that they are fairly represented when it comes to compensation. Most of us don't enjoy such a luxury and we are not responsible for the public trust. The government can basically hold the people over a barrel and demand increases in pay -- look at Congress. We have seen federal elected officials continue to vote themselves pay increases, while statistics show the average citizen has fallen further and further behind. This is one of those balance issues that needs to be dealt with. And as the Mayor stated the federal government is attempting to institute this measure against the will of the people. These issues that are implemented against the will of the people must not stand.

***Alder Patton wanted to add a comment about a sales event taking place this weekend called the Viewmont Street Strut. A group of about 30 businesses have gotten together to market this event. She hopes that people will take the time to head out to Viewmont and support local businesses.

A Conversation about Conover Station and Economic Development

Conover Station -- An Economic Development and Multi-Modal Transportation facility.



Donald Duncan is the City Manager of Conover. Danny Hearn stated that (the Chamber) wants to bring us creative economic development, entrepreneurial driven projects that can give us some optimism and some positive news to look forward to. This project, that is being presented, is something that Conover has been working on for several years.

Don stated that this is a very large project that they have been working on for five years. At that time, when Don took the city manager job, they had no idea what they would do with the Broyhill building. Today they have $5.7 million in grants that are dedicated to this project. Last week they presented to the North Carolina Green conference.

Currently the Conover site is the lead project for the North Carolina Brownfield’s projects. He stated that none of this was planned and this has been hard work. They have had more failures than successes, but they have turned the failures into assets. The goal has been to turn every liability into an asset, into cash assets, increase property values, or turn properties into something no one ever thought they could be.

Don showed a 3-D rendering of a project that was designed by the 1996 Atlanta Olympic committee. This sketch up concept cost tens of millions of dollars. This Olympic Committee was represented by many members who were not technologically savvy. The average age of these individuals was 55 years old. This was a crude walk-through of what the Olympics stadium would look like when it was finished. The members of this Olympic Committee were in awe of what they saw from that crude 3-D rendering.

People could never visualize large scale developments such as this on paper. These types of Visual Media (3-D Renderings) help to sell things. This shows what they have done with the properties associated with the Broyhill property. This had such an effect on people that Don had to calm the people down, because they were so excited by the prospects of what could be done with this property. The problem is that sometimes the media is the message and you have to be careful with that. Sometimes people don't realize what they're buying into.

What they started out what with was a 27 acre site that backs up to Conover's downtown. The site has a footprint of approximately 400,000 sq. ft. Most of these properties come from the early part of the 20th century. It was cobbled together. There were 650,000 sq ft of total building beyond that footprint. There were stone foundations and multiple floors. These buildings were uniquely put together utilizing technology from the early part of the 20th century.

Don stated that Broyhill was a good environmental steward and the sites were very clean. There were buried tanks in the ground that were removed in the early 1980s when the EPA wanted this taken care of. There is some ground contamination and they are currently handling that with a $200,000 cleanup grant from the EPA. They're using new innovative technologies to attempt to remedy this and to remove any of the ecological problems on the site.

The site has a creek that is bisecting the middle of it. 20 years ago they would have covered it up and put a plant on it. They are going to utilize the creek as a water feature and they will utilize the property for storm water. The storm water basin will be used for the downtown area and encompasses 70 acres. This is a liability that has been turned into an asset. The city will own the storm water treatment facility and this allows the full use of all of the property. Tax dollars will maintain this. This would have been wasted land, but instead it will be utilized as a park. There will be walking trails and a passive park. This will be a 3 1/2 to 4 acre park.

The whole site will be integrated into the neighborhood that surrounds it. Modern construction and modern development techniques and standards will be utilized to bring together this site, the neighborhood that surrounds it, the industrial area across Highway 16, and downtown Conover.

What do you do with 1800 feet of railroad? There is a lot of railroad infrastructure located at the site. There used to be a parallel track located on the side. There is a switch where you cross Highway 16 and there is a WPA bridge on the south side of the property, which is architecturally significant.

The Western Piedmont Passenger Rail Committee supports passenger rail and the possibility of bringing it back to the area. Hickory has sold its depot and there is no designated spot located in the Catawba County area. Conover has worked in conjunction with this group to put together a plan to present to the State Department of Transportation. This led to Conover being designated as a stop on the Western North Carolina rail line. Catawba County is the most populated area in the western North Carolina area besides Mecklenburg County. The Department of Transportation is fully supportive of this idea.

Nothing has been done that is antagonistic towards any other community in this area. Work still needs to be done in conjunction with the owners of the railroad. This is not something that will be done overnight. No one knows when the rail could possibly come into existence. There is the possibility that this could come into existence in the next 10 years, because of the stimulus money that has been spent to enhance rail options in the state of North Carolina. Asheville is the number one requested stop in North Carolina by tourists in studies done by Amtrak.

The largest military concentration in the world is located in southeastern North Carolina. The military needs to be able to get goods and military personnel in and out of that area. Every dollar they get spent in western North Carolina will be spent in eastern North Carolina. The goal is to make the ports stronger and have a more expeditious way to move people and equipment in and out of North Carolina. Gov. Perdue is completely behind us.

Stimulus money says that all of this has to be engineered and studies have to be done before the high speed rail is finished. Environmental work is being done on both the eastern and western side of North Carolina. If money is available this will entail 5 to 6 years of time for construction. You're looking at a minimum of 7 to 8 years for this to occur. The state legislature has passed laws to help facilitate development of properties along the rail lines. The railroads are required to respond to any development proposals within 90 days of their submission and this is required by law. If they do not ,then you are allowed to do what you need to do on the property in question as long as you are not inhibiting rail traffic.

I (Thom Shell) asked if this was all existing track that needs to be reconditioned? Don answered yes. This must be upgraded for higher speeds. Freight will run at 50 to 55 mph. Passenger rail will run in the 70 mph range. On the western side of Conover freight will run at 35 mph, while passenger rail will run at around 55 mph. There are topographical issues that prevent high speed rail. Past the Old Fort (NC) area you can only go 15 to 20 mph.

I asked if this was a passenger and industrial link or the western side or just an industrial link? Don stated that this was mainly meant for freight rail. The idea is to have two or three passenger trains available per day for this proposed rail service line. They do not want passenger trains interrupting freight rail. This is looked at as an expensive proposition, but with a cost of $150 million, the cost is less than $1 million per mile. This compares favorably with development of projects on the highways and interstates that cost 10+ times that amount.

Jay Adams pointed out interstates carry a lot more people. Don stated that there are commuter possibilities between Old Fort and Salisbury. From Conover to Raleigh you could be in Raleigh and 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Jay pointed out that this could be a good tool for businesses located on the western side of the state. We want to have our (Industrial) plants dispersed. The rail corridor is a great way to move people and materials between facilities. Don pointed out that there has not been much investment in the rail system since World War II. We have gone from the greatest rail system in the world to the worst rail system in the world in a period of about 30 years.

I asked if there was a vision of this possibly becoming a commuter line in the near future? Don stated that he didn't believe that there was a possibility in the near future. Not until the passenger line is completely reinstituted. In the long-term this might happen. This will not be possible for short trips, but this is a possibility to Raleigh or Marion or Old Fort.

I asked if there was any possibility that there could be a direct connector to Charlotte? Don stated that that is the question that is most often asked. He pointed out that there are existing lines that run through Maiden and there are lines existing in Gaston County to Belmont and into Lincoln County. These lines have been abandoned and property owners have been uncooperative. The Carolina Thread Trail is looking to procure this right of way. He does believe that this is a key. He stated that he does hope that this will happen. He stated that the State has not put enough money into this and Norfolk- Southern has abandoned the tracks.

I asked if the key contingency was the price of fuel? He stated yes. This is the major factor. When we see $4 a gallon people will be screaming for more rail. Rail is just one component of the Conover (Broyhill) site.

Don showed pictures of the main existing infrastructure on the site, this especially includes the Warlong building, which was built at the beginning of the 20th century. This was the most sound building on the site. There is a lot of history to this building. Don went into the specific architecture of this building.

When viewing and discussing the techniques of how these buildings were originally built, Houston Harris asked if we have lost the ingenuity to just make things happen?

Don showed many features of the site, which includes a walkway with a pedestrian bridge and this is dead even with the track and leads to a rail platform. He does not know when this will be done, because the state will build all of these at one time. Money has been designated by the state for this.

Over $2 million will go into the process of renovating the Warlong building. One-third of this building will be utilized as a waiting area for future passenger rail. This building will also have a section devoted as a library. This will be one of the nicest libraries in Catawba County. Another part of this building will be devoted to the transit authority of the area. That is what makes this building a multi-modal facility. People need a way to get around when they get off of the train. This will be a fixed route bus system. There will also be a community facility in the building. This can be utilized for conferences, receptions or other public needs. The community room expands into a patio area.

The Manufacturing Solutions Center hopes to eventually be located at this site. Those developments are still open ended because of funding issues that are currently being addressed. Don stated that they don't want to promise something that they are not going to be able to deliver. The idea of a partnership between the city of Conover, CVCC, and the Manufacturing Solutions Center is to get the facility (MSC) out of the educational environment and make businesses realize that the focus is on business. They want to do things at the speed of business to help business. There is an advantage with the library for research issues and this is proposed to be associated with N.C. State University. The community center can also be used as a conference facility for purposes related to the Manufacturing Solutions Center.

There is also a residential aspect to this community. But, under current circumstances the market is flooded and currently this is only a fallback plan. What he is trying to accomplish is a more viable downtown. People say that Wal-Mart killed downtown, but Don stated that he believes the interstate system killed downtown. The idea is for this to be a development where people can take a 10 minute walk and go utilize multiple services. They are just trying to get back to what existed 100 years ago.

Jay Adams pointed out the great product that Conover has to offer. He talked about the terrific assets and a community that is optimizing those assets; and he complemented Conover on taking the negatives and turning them into positives. He stated that in his business that this type of mindset creates enthusiasm on both sides of the equation.

There will be a new website which will be launched next month. Michael Neely is the developer of this site. Don basically stated that there is no idea that they have not listened to and no possibility that they have dismissed. They are willing to listen to any and everyone about anything that is proposed.

I asked about what appears to be loose reigns and I stated that it appears that they have not been micromanaged. What created this environment in Conover? Don stated that there is a lot of give and take and it takes a lot of vision and a lot of different personalities have to get along. The city's team has had to learn to understand the needs of one another. There has been a lot of changeover on the Conover City Council. He stated that this was neither good nor bad, but the previous Council did not want to put the money into what it would take to be a developer. They did not want this development to be a drag on the town. The present council wants this development to be a gift to the city and a help to the city.

The political connotation of this development is that if it fails everyone attached to its neck is in the noose. Many people (governments) don't want to take that sort of risk. There has already been a changeover on Conover City Council, not all of it related to this issue, but maybe some of it. This could lead to more turnover if it were to fail. Many average citizens do not understand the site.

The city has not hired professional PR people to promote this site and its development. Don has taken it upon himself to go personally address small groups to bring them into the loop on this issue. The average citizen cares mostly that taxes are kept low and the city delivers services that are expected to be provided smoothly and efficiently. Other than services, this is the number one priority of the city of Conover. As long as those services are running smoothly and efficiently this is the number one focus.

Patti Thompson stated that she had to admit that she had never heard about this until she attended a graduation presentation in which it was addressed. She stated that she was excited about this project, but she thought it was a mall and she really didn’t understand what the entire project encompassed, it is still somewhat of an intangible.

Jay stated that the real activity will come when you interface with the development community. They will create the housing, office buildings, and retail. They are excited when that they see things such as this. It is about making the connection. Don asked, “How many communities are willing to take on this type of liability?” As a municipality, Conover has had a lot of leverage with regulatory agencies. This has helped a lot. Regulatory agencies are used to dealing with private developers and not with public entities.

I stated that economic development does not happen in the past or present, it happens in the future. Don said he disagreed. It starts today. You will not see the fruit of the labor until 5 or 10 years later. He talked about the Apple development. He said that it took Duke Power damming the river and the loss of industry in order to have the excess energy capacity available that is needed for this facility. So it took 100 years for the circumstances to be right for this development take place. He talked about the IBT (Inter-Basin Transfer). This is not the huge deal today, that it will be in the future.

Most governments will not take the risk that is necessary for this sort of development. He joked that this was kamikaze approach. Don stated that it is a necessity not to overstate what they are doing with this site.

Kevin Spencer talked about the hurdles that Conover has had to jump. He pontificated about, “…can you imagine if an independent entity were to try and do something like this, not a city.” Jay stated that Don has plowed a garden to create economic development. Kevin stated that an individual would not be able to do this. A business would not be able take on this kind of risk. Jay stated that businesses appreciate when they see this. Kevin said we have got to overcome that and stated that there is not another community in this area that would be willing to do this. Businesses will say it ain’t worth it. Jay laughed and stated that his attitude was, “Let’s go to Conover.”

The success of Conover will force other communities to take a look at what Conover is doing. Don asked that we not compare Conover to their contemporaries. He stated that government's responsibility is to take the obstacles out of the equation. That is what government is for. Don stated that you can have all the vision in the world, but if you don't take action then it is nothing but a dream.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

State of North Carolina University System -- We've Got a Problem Here!!!

To my family and friends associated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I am sorry for what is going to have to be said here, but it is time. I truly don't understand why what is happening down there is being allowed to drag on in the manner that it is being allowed to drag on in. I would love for someone to explain why this spectacle is being allowed to develop and come to the fore in the manner in which it has, but I can assure you that it most certainly can and should be handled better than what we have seen thus far.

It is time that the Board of Governors of this State set aside the biases and move forward in cleaning up this mess, What we are seeing at the oldest institution in the UNC system can best be described as CRAZY. There is a definite Lack of Institutional Control and no excuse is going to cover up the lack of forthrightness from Chancellor Holden Thorp and the Board of Trustees in charge of the Academic Integrity of that institution.

What we have seen cannot be explained away by crying about rogue Sports Agents and Representatives. Who let someone like this Chris Hawkins character to have access to UNC-Chapel Hill facilities and access to its players without checking him out or seeing what he was up to. Who could not have known about Marvin Austin's travels and lifestyle, when he was posting it all over the internet. And the nail in the proverbial coffin on the Academic Integrity front is the Tutorgate issue and the lack of forthrightness in which it is and has been being handled. Reports are that University Administration is manipulating the Honor Court System. It is visible to anyone who is not closely tied to the University that there is definitely a systemic problem involving UNC-Chapel Hill. The reports of 13 visits to the campus by NCAA investigators, since the investigation's inception, should help you understand that.

The Raleigh News and Observer has taken some time to get moving forward with its investigation of an issue that came to light in late May and Early June, but an article this morning certainly does bring some important issues forward. The article is authored by the News and Observer's Executive Editor John Drescher and is entitled UNC's Heels must be held to the fire:

When UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp appeared before the Faculty Council last week to discuss investigations into the Tar Heel football program, the scene was set for the faculty to blitz him with questions.

Thorp signaled serious problems a few weeks earlier in opening a news conference by saying, "To anyone who loves this university, I'm sorry about what I have to tell you." Shortly after, 13 players were kept out of the season-opening game in Atlanta.

So how many questions did Thorp get last week from the Faculty Council? Two. Not 22. Two. One more than one. The number of points the other team gets for tackling you in your end zone.

Steven Bachenheimer, a microbiology professor, asked whether UNC has relaxed its standards in seeking football glory. Tom Linden, a journalism professor, asked why UNC agreed to pay the associate head coach $74,500 in severance as he left UNC one step ahead of possible NCAA sanctions.

Good for them. But there were more than 75 council members in attendance. Here are a few questions the others should have asked:

1. You are investigating whether a tutor employed by the university to work with football players gave inappropriate aid. That tutor also worked for coach Butch Davis and tutored his high school son. Is it appropriate for a tutor to work for both the university and the football coach?

2. You have indicated that academic misconduct might have occurred. If so, who is ultimately responsible?

3. If the NCAA hadn't investigated football players and their relationships with agents, would UNC have learned of the possible academic cheating? If not, isn't that a problem?

4. Some players used social media to discuss their travels and possible contact with agents. Shouldn't UNC's compliance officers closely monitor Twitter and Facebook?

5. Will you conduct a sport-by-sport review to see whether other athletes might have received inappropriate academic aid?

6. Should the $70 million expansion of Kenan Stadium be cancelled or scaled back, depending on the results of the investigations?

7. Is UNC admitting more football players who don't meet typical UNC admission standards than it did five or 10 years ago?

8. Are you satisfied with the oversight of the athletic department?

9. Is it possible to have a winning football team and maintain top-rate academic standards for all students?

10. What have you learned about operating a Division I football program since starting your job as chancellor?

The Faculty Council missed an opportunity, but it will have another when it meets with Thorp next month. Our reporters will work to get answers to these questions.

The underside of big-time college sports isn't pretty. A university needs the faculty to be its conscience. At UNC, faculty members need to get engaged on this issue. They need to get in the game.


Agents (and/or Agent Runners) may be threatened with Prison and agents have gone to prison before over these types of issues we have seen involving this scandal. If you are utilizing a client as a runner (look up Kentwan Balmer's association to this scandal) to facilitate the transfer of money, then that does constitute money laundering. If you are wiring coaches cash (the allegations against John Blake)to steer a player, then that is money laundering. It is money laundering, because you are utilizing cash to skirt the technical merits of the law. Not only that, but it is a way to evade taxes.

Agents (especially runners) will be given some form of immunity to come clean and spill the beans. The agents are not going to go to prison to help save a University’s image. They will drag the University down with them. The coaches and players at any rogue university athletic programs would have to willingly participate in any such operation (scheme). The Money laundering and tax evasion issues make this a Federal offense, which brings in the FBI, along with the issue of interstate commerce. This means that the power (and ability) of the full force of the Federal Government can be utilized to track all of the money trails.

As far as the Academic scandal, the tenured professors should be insulated from any possible intimidation by any overzealous leadership looking to cover up what has been happening in athletics. So, why is there silence? I would be afraid, as a member of the faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill, that people would construe that the lack of academic integrity is not limited to the football team, that the lack of academic integrity is not limited to the athletic department, and/or that the lack of academic integrity is not limited to a couple of tutors and perhaps a rogue professor or two. The question begs to be asked, has this lack of academic integrity permeated the entire institution. Is it an integral part of the Chapel Hill culture. Are the Administrators and Faculty in Chapel Hill only paying lip service to academic integrity? Are they a part of the problem?

I believe that the silence from everyone with close ties to UNC-Chapel Hill, including the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors of the UNC system, is a sign of trouble within the institution itself. The only solution for the corruption is to bring in an outside group to independently investigate the entire structure of the university. There are just way too many conflicts of interest in this investigation. It has been obvious for years that there have been two sets of rules when it comes to the UNC system, those for Chapel Hill and those for everyone else. This structure needs to be brought back to its roots with a focus on real integrity. The silence and lack of openness suggests a dark undercurrent that must be exposed and eliminated.

I believe that the Alumni of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill need to step forward and say enough! And I believe the Alumni of the other Universities in the North Carolina system should also demand action. This scandal has already tarnished the image of UNC-Chapel Hill to a great extent, whether certain people want to live in denial about that reality or not. If this investigation into this corruption is allowed to drag out to its inevitable conclusion, without the admittance that there have been problems, then it is going to devalue a degree from Chapel Hill.

The Bottom Line is that there is no way out for UNC-Chapel Hill. They should do the right thing and plead mea culpa and throw themselves at the mercy of the NCAA, but is there a pervasive arrogance that makes them think that they are going to get away with this? Can they not see the shadow of the hammer coming down upon them. Are they willing to get themselves fried?!?

I love sports, but when it comes to sports it has been obvious that the tail has been wagging the dog for a long, long time down in Chapel Hill. The pushing the limits and win at all costs mindset has been fully exposed. People have gotten their identity wrapped up and intertwined in the success and failure of the athletic program to the extent that they forget the purpose of the university is to educate our future leaders, do vital research that will improve the quality of our lives, and act as an economic driver that progresses the vitality and sustainability of our State’s economy. Those priorities should never take a backseat to Athletic Entertainment.

This is not going to go away until some real action is taken. It is time to do just that.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The War on the Middle Class




Gold Rises to Record on Increased Demand for Wealth Protection - Bloomberg - By Pham-Duy Nguyen and Nicholas Larkin - Sep 16, 2010

*** Gold is a real asset. The increase in the value of Gold and Silver directly correlates to the value of the dollar. In the early 2000s the U.S. budget was nearly in balance, on April 2, 2001 Gold had fallen to $255.91 at the closing bell. Here at 1:30am on 9/17/2010 it has spiked to $1,278.50 and many investors that I follow believe that Gold could reach $1,500 by year's end and Siver is headed to $28 in that same time period.

The cause for this is the wreckless and aimless spending of our government and the aimless monetary policy implemented by the Federal Reserve. What is the method to all of this madness? What is the endgame?

If I reverse engineer what I am witnessing here, I would swear that the Federal Reserve is going to devalue the dollar to reduce the debt that we are in. They think that moderate inflation can kickstart the economy and reduce the value of the national Debt that has been accrued. I don't think they can control such policy and we are going to see more substantial inflation than they want.

If the consensus policy of the Federal Reerve (the controllers of the Money Supply)towards the Consumer Price Index (Inflation/Deflation) is admitted to be 10% inflation next year, then it would relate to a desire for a real inflation rate of 20%, because the numbers the government uses are cooked. If this is attempted, I believe that we could easily see double that and real inflation (Staple Goods and Services) would be around 40% for Fiscal Year 2011. Gas would be back at over $4 per gallon, by the end of 2011 and food would see a substantial run up. Discretionary Goods and services will hold steady, because consumers will not be able to afford them, because their dollars will be eaten up by the necessities of life.

Yen hits 15-year high vs dollar - Reuters - 9/14/2010

Foreclosures Rise; Repossessions Set Record - CNBC - 9/16/2010

***Under all of these scenarios, it is the Middle Class that gets hammered, because the rich can afford precious metals as a hedge and the poor are receiving hand delivered entitlements from the government. Can one not see that the vast majority of the middle class are already living on the edge? They are the real losers. Those with less than $150,000 annual household income are generally considered middle class, because of taxes. The poor may think families with combined income of $150,000 are rich and some of these people may even think they are wealthy. Well that theory is going to be tested, if we start seeing the kind of inflation that I point to above. That type of inflation would test the fabric of our society.

I will leave you with this:

Here Are 13 Signs That We’re Actually In A Depression Right Now - Gregory White
Business Insider - 9/7/2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Base-Dynamics - Base-Dynamism

The other day I had lunch with some friends who discussed what is going on with the economy on the local scene. In that discussion I touched on the necessity to basically create something out of nothing or as little capital input as possible. I addressed this as Base Dynamism.

Maybe I created a new term there, but here is what I was getting at:

Base - the bottom support of anything; that on which a thing stands or rests: a metal base for the table.

Dynamics - Physics . the branch of mechanics that deals with the motion and equilibrium of systems under the action of forces, usually from outside the system.

Dynamism - any of various theories or philosophical systems that seek to explain phenomena of nature by the action of force.

Base-Dynamism in this terminology is a realization that the structure of our community is no longer viable. Hence, we are no longer going to be able to rely on the current structure that has been in place for generations to create, generate, maintain, and sustain commerce, productivity, wealth, and economic growth.

The core of our community has been and still is being torn down to its foundation (base). We were a furniture and textile hub and because of globalization, we cannot compete when it comes to the production of these material goods.

Local furniture and textile manufacturers offshored their production of these goods in order to maintain expected profits, but what they failed to realize is that this was the most temporary of fixes, because once the production of these goods move offshore, then these company owners no longer control the product. They complicate the production, distribution, and intellectual property chains of command involving their rights to their product. Essentially the product can be nationalized and/or someone else can decide to produce the product, thus cutting the product owner and other existing middle men out of the loop. So basically this short term fix has resulted in these company owners giving away their industries. The Chinese say Thank you very much!

In this community, the people from top to bottom seem to have a sense of entitlement. They think that something is going to be handed over to them like they are running a relay race. The Trust Fund Babies expect Grand Daddy's legacy and money to get them to the finish line in life and the average people in the community expect there to always be a job waiting on them that will provide a living wage, benefits, and retirement funds. We are living in an age of transformation where no such guarantees will be provided.

Most of the people I have seen think they should be rewarded just for breathing. We have cracks in the foundational principles upon which this community was built. If we do not restore a solid foundation, then anything we do will crumble to the ground. We need a "Habitat for Humanity" type of effort to restore the foundation of this community. What does that mean?

It means that we need the skilled people in this community to be willing to volunteer to help start-up businesses get going. We need people to open their minds to industries and businesses that don't even currently exist in any tangible form. Some of these businesses aren't presently located in our area and some don't exist anywhere on God's green Earth.

There are ways that such efforts can reward you, but there are no guarantees that they ever will. I know people that are working creatively towards such efforts. They are willing to do work in which there is no guarantee that there will ever be a payoff, but they understand the big picture. I am one of those people.

Such efforts will get us on a path and get us moving again. From this path other avenues of opportunity will open. That is how dynamic growth will take place and has the possibility of growing exponentially, but it all starts from baby steps. All we need is one breakthrough accomplishment, one tangible success, and from there we will begin to become a credible entity and be on our way to being a credible community. As one of my mentors stated. Credibility comes from telling people what you are going to do and doing it.

We are going to turn this community around. We are going to bring High-Tech industry to Catawba County. We are going to become a Creative Community. We are going to begin growing again and we are going to have Exciting, Interesting, and Intelligent people become interwoven into the fabric of Hickory. If you aren't willing to roll up your sleeves to help, then please just get out of the way. Don't tell us what we can and cannot do. There is a Force of Determination at work here folks. We are going to make things happen. Bank on it!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

September Rant -- Visionary or Dreamer? It's all the same

What I am trying to do with this blog, and the other works I am involved in, is gather as much information as I possibly can and utilize available resources to project what I see happening in the future.

Over time we have seen a lot of local focus on "feel good" initiatives, such as the All-American City Award and Tennistown USA. The Google initiative had many positive attachments related to it, but in my opinion it was a no-brainer to chase that one. What I don't believe we have seen are any extraordinary steps taken towards outside of the box development. We have always followed the path of least resistance and picked the low hanging fruit.

I think that this area needs to change its focus. I keep hearing what we were and it is good to know our history -- our real history, not the propagands. This area used to be a hotbed for entrepreneurs. Look at the evidence along the railroad tracks and down Old Highway 70. The question isn't how do we get those specific industries back, but how do we get that Wild West economic gunslinging mindset back.

What is it that we want to be? We can't sit back and wait for this to develop or wait for investors to come to us, we have to create an environment. Nothing is going to fall into our laps. We have to get out front and lead on these economic development issues. What we should have learned by now, is that playing follow the leader will get us scraps and that is if we are lucky.

You know when we will know that Hickory has turned around? When other Municipalities and Industrial leaders are coming here to look at our successes!

And the trends show that we are going to have to learn how to deal with Global interests. I am for Fair Trade. I truly believe we should fight hard for Fair Trade, but the reality of today is that if we are going to make any economic progress, we are going to have to play with the cards we are dealt.

There are opportunities out there. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wanted to get back home to Kansas, so she got on the path to Oz. We want to get back home to prosperity and standing pat is not doing that. Identifying some opportunities and moving towards these goals is not going to pay off today, but we have to get on the path or it will never happen.

An example is Visionaire Jets. I had a person close to me say that Jim Rice, the CEO of Visionaire Jets, is a dreamer. It ticked me off, because Mr. Rice has been very open with me relating to the Visionaire project. If you ask him a question about the history of this project, he is very much forward about what has happened and his involvement in the project over the years. He'll tell you right up front that this project carries inherent risks and it isn't guaranteed, but if you allow him to demonstrate how this project is sequenced, structured, and the attention to detail devoted to it, then you know that the project is doable.

So that is what I want to relate to the open-minded people who follow this blog, because I believe that you are intelligent enough to understand this. All entrepreneurs are visionaries. They are people who are willing to take a risk, because they envision and believe that there is a need for a product or service that their mind and soul compel them create and be involved in.

When it comes to business, especially pertaining to innovation and ingenuity, it seems that people who are trying to lay a foundation to start a creative endeavor are labeled "Dreamers." And this label has a negative connotation. Only when entrepreneurs have found success are they labeled "Visionaries." But in the end are they not one and the same? You can be a dreamer who fails on your first four attempts, but if you succeed on the fifth, then you are a visionary and the first four failures get lumped in with he overall "Vision."

I want this area to become a hotbed of innovation and in order to make that happen we have to get past just talking about that as a desire. One of the key ingredients necessary to do that is to change people's thought processes and perceptions when it comes to business. I think we have turned businesses off (and away), when they witness the risk averse mindset that has permeated this area -- the same people who are quick to label people dreamers. Did those past generations who started the furniture and textile businesses in this area have that mindset?

If people want this area to move forward, then they are going to have to invest in upstart companies who are willing to be located in the Hickory region. I know that people don't have the equity that they had 5 to 10 years ago, because the value of their property has fallen, money market interest rates are ridiculously low, and the stock market has gone nowhere over the last decade. But, I think that lessons can be learned from all of this.

People have been all to willing to invest their money in blind faith and not have a direct interest in their personal assets. First things first, our economy has moved from Bubble to Bubble to Bubble with no real stability for a long, long time. Middle Class wealth was invested in banks who used it for Casino Style Derivatives that created no value and thus no wealth. All it has done is dilute the value of the dollar, further diluting individual net worth. The only people who have enjoyed success are Financial Administrators who can't lose. They make a percentage on the way up and they make a percentage on the way down.

Wall Street has taken your money and offshored it. They got their big bonuses and you saw a temporary uptick. They continued to get their bonuses and U.S. companies started to fail. The bonuses kept rolling, foreign companies started growing, and you lost your job, and started having to dig into your investments to survive. They still keep making their bonuses, the value of your assets have fallen, and now many people have nothing left.

But the people who do have assets need to take them away from Wall Street and the Mega-Banks and start investing it in the local community. That is what creates Base-Dynamism. That will get you a better return on your investment. We are to the point in this country where the Middle Class does not have much money left to invest. What capital we do have left is going to have to be invested wisely. I honestly feel that the wisest place to invest your money is in the local community.

I won't get into that today, but I would love to see a local micro-lending fund made up from local investors. I'd love to see a local stock market for local upstart companies. All of this would be done with signed guarantees that entrepreneurs would reinvest back into this community. That would create jobs in our area. That would create wealth and value for our community. That is my vision of what could be, which is a lot better than the vision of where I see us headed.

May God's Peace be with us all.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Reason to buy Local -- Gerald Celente

The Hounds pre-text Commentary: I have spoken many times of the voices that I follow and who I am learning from. These people include Catherine Austin Fitts, Gerald Celente, Bob Chapman, Warren Pollock, etc. All of these people tell you not to take their word for the gospel. They say that every person needs to figure things out for themselves and take care of themselves and the people close to them.

These people have a common thread. They believe that the American people need to detach themselves from the Mega-Corporate grid as much as possible. The Corporatocracy is poisoning us with the additives that they put in food, beverages, and even the water supply. These chemicals are taken into your system. Open you mind! Maybe the reason why you feel bad is because of the shortcuts and additive chemicals that are being put into your food! Maybe?

Food and Drinks are chemicals. We all know that if we take care of our property, think house or car, that it will last longer. Then why don't we take care of ourselves in much the same manner?

I see many locally owned restaurants that are currently struggling. People want cheap food and there is a cost to pay when you go that route. These corporate restaurants take short cuts. They use cheaper grades of food and mass produce their own food and ingredients. Most of it is convenience food. What many of us in the business call Frankenfood. Their wholesale food cost is 15% cheaper than Small-Business restaurants. That is hard for a small business to compete against. The Mega-Corporate restaurants' prices are going to be cheaper, but these corporate restaurants send their profits to Wall Street and Wall Street sends it offshore. Small businesses keep money in the community! I want you to remember that the next time you go out to eat. Buying local may cost a little more, but when you do so, you are investing in your community and thus your neighbors!


Gerald Celente : ...People are finally looking and seeing for themselves what's going on the second American revolution is under way , we call it the twenty percent solution ...twenty percent of the people out there , they do not buy corporate food they do not eat eggs from these factory farms ..that are like concentration camps for chickens the Auscwitz Farms mass produced , mass consumed mass murder.... Do Not go to Wall Mart , Cosco , support your local Merchant break the chains , literally and metaphorically , twenty percent can break the back of all the chains ...do not take another sip of Coca Cola , Pepsi Cola ...do not go to MacDonald do not go to Burger King , eat local support your local restaurant ...the country will turn around...



Celente says that by 2012 America will become an undeveloped nation, that there will be a revolution marked by food riots, squatter rebellions, tax revolts and job marches, and that holidays will be more about obtaining food, not gifts.

“We’re going to see the end of the retail Christmas….we’re going to see a fundamental shift take place….putting food on the table is going to be more important that putting gifts under the Christmas tree,” said Celente, adding that the situation would be “worse than the great depression”.

“America’s going to go through a transition the likes of which no one is prepared for,” said Celente, noting that people’s refusal to acknowledge that America was even in a recession highlights how big a problem denial is in being ready for the true scale of the crisis.

Celente, who successfully predicted the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis, the subprime mortgage collapse and the massive devaluation of the U.S. dollar, told UPI in November last year that the following year would be known as “The Panic of 2008,” adding that “giants (would) tumble to their deaths,” which is exactly what we have witnessed with the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and others. He also said that the dollar would eventually be devalued by as much as 90 per cent.

The consequence of what we have seen unfold this year would lead to a lowering in living standards, Celente predicted a year ago, which is also being borne out by plummeting retail sales figures.

The prospect of revolution was a concept echoed by a British Ministry of Defence report last year, which predicted that within 30 years, the growing gap between the super rich and the middle class, along with an urban underclass threatening social order would mean, “The world’s middle classes might unite, using access to knowledge, resources and skills to shape transnational processes in their own class interest,” and that, “The middle classes could become a revolutionary class.”

In a separate recent interview, Celente went further on the subject of revolution in America.

“There will be a revolution in this country,” he said. “It’s not going to come yet, but it’s going to come down the line and we’re going to see a third party and this was the catalyst for it: the takeover of Washington, D. C., in broad daylight by Wall Street in this bloodless coup. And it will happen as conditions continue to worsen.”

“The first thing to do is organize with tax revolts. That’s going to be the big one because people can’t afford to pay more school tax, property tax, any kind of tax. You’re going to start seeing those kinds of protests start to develop.”

“It’s going to be very bleak. Very sad. And there is going to be a lot of homeless, the likes of which we have never seen before. Tent cities are already sprouting up around the country and we’re going to see many more.”

“We’re going to start seeing huge areas of vacant real estate and squatters living in them as well. It’s going to be a picture the likes of which Americans are not going to be used to. It’s going to come as a shock and with it, there’s going to be a lot of crime. And the crime is going to be a lot worse than it was before because in the last 1929 Depression, people’s minds weren’t wrecked on all these modern drugs – over-the-counter drugs, or crystal meth or whatever it might be. So, you have a huge underclass of very desperate people with their minds chemically blown beyond anybody’s comprehension.”

The George Washington blog has compiled a list of quotes attesting to Celente’s accuracy as a trend forecaster.

“When CNN wants to know about the Top Trends, we ask Gerald Celente.”
— CNN Headline News

“A network of 25 experts whose range of specialties would rival many university faculties.”
— The Economist

“Gerald Celente has a knack for getting the zeitgeist right.”
— USA Today

“There’s not a better trend forecaster than Gerald Celente. The man knows what he’s talking about.”
- CNBC

“Those who take their predictions seriously … consider the Trends Research Institute.”
— The Wall Street Journal

“Gerald Celente is always ahead of the curve on trends and uncannily on the mark … he’s one of the most accurate forecasters around.”
— The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Mr. Celente tracks the world’s social, economic and business trends for corporate clients.”
— The New York Times

“Mr. Celente is a very intelligent guy. We are able to learn about trends from an authority.”
— 48 Hours, CBS News

“Gerald Celente has a solid track record. He has predicted everything from the 1987 stock market crash and the demise of the Soviet Union to green marketing and corporate downsizing.”
— The Detroit News

“Gerald Celente forecast the 1987 stock market crash, ‘green marketing,’ and the boom in gourmet coffees.”
— Chicago Tribune

“The Trends Research Institute is the Standard and Poors of Popular Culture.”
— The Los Angeles Times

“If Nostradamus were alive today, he’d have a hard time keeping up with Gerald Celente.”
— New York Post

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of September 7, 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 right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

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 9/7/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below

Invocation by Cindy Jordan, Spiritual Advisor Formerly of Catawba Valley Medical Center

Consent Agenda:
A. Proclamation Declaring the Week of September 12 - 18, 2010 as “National Assisted Living Week” in the City of Hickory

B. Approve Airport Concession Agreement With Teresa Rozzelle to Operate Restaurant Located in the Hickory Regional Airport Terminal Building - Teresa Rozzelle desires to locate Wingo’s at the Hickory Regional Airport Terminal Building; previously occupied by Froggy Pete’s CafĂ©. Said tenant will pay the City 6% of gross proceeds in excess of $30,000 annually and the lease will be for a term of three (3) years. With no commercial airline service currently at the airport, the commercial ramp outside the terminal can be used by private aircraft to access the restaurant. No significant changes have been made to the lease from the last three (3) tenants occupying this space. The tenant agrees to have the restaurant open during normal breakfast and lunch hours five (5) days a week. Two readings are being requested during the September 7, 2010 meeting so as to reopen the restaurant in a timely manner for the aviation community.

C. Approve Dedication of Right of Way to the NC Department of Transportation for Driveway Permit Located at the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant - Said dedication of right of way is requested in association with the construction of the new Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant project, located at 310 Cloninger Mill Road. This will allow for the required new driveway permit. The existing driveway will be eliminated due to the new plant site layout. There is no cost or revenue associated with this dedication.

D. Approve Resolution and Interlocal Agreement in Support of Western Piedmont Council of government’s Acquisition of Real Property to Construct Office Facility and Secure Financing - The Western Piedmont Council of Government’s (WPCOG) Policy Board recently approved the Interlocal Agreement and gave authorization to receive approval from their member local governments so as to purchase real property and secure financing. Said agreement is intended to demonstrate to the NC Local Government Commission that WPCOG is a stable organization, capable of repaying the financing being requested from the US Department of Agriculture. This is not intended to be a legally binding commitment by local governments, but simply a statement of intent which collectively provides the Local Government Commission the needed assurances.

E. Approve Resolution Honoring Our Local Police, Fire, Emergency Services and Military Personnel to be Presented on September 11, 2010 at Lenoir-Rhyne University

F. Request From Hickory Downtown Development Association for Use of Union Square for 2010 Oktoberfest on October 8 – 10, 2010 from 7 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

G. Acceptance of 2010 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) in the Amount of $43,366 to Purchase Various Police Equipment - The City of Hickory and Catawba County have received notification of approval to receive a combined allocation of $57,921 under the 2010 JAG Program, which utilizes Uniform Crime Reporting statistics of all law enforcement agencies to determine eligibility for direct federal grant awards. Catawba County is eligible for a $14,555 grant and the City of Hickory is eligible for $43,366 with no match required. The City of Hickory has agreed to serve as lead agency in the grant application process. The grant funds will be used for a polygraph activity sensor seat, Crime Zone software, replacement camera and laptop computers, digital cameras, protective earmuffs, Lidar speed detection, Universal Forensic Extraction device and replacement treadmills.

H. Award Bid to Armstrong Ford in the Amount of $145,306 to Purchase Seven (7) Police Replacement Vehicles - Hickory Police Department requests approval to award bid to Armstrong Ford for the purchase of seven (7) 2011 Ford Crown Victoria specialized police package emergency vehicles in the amount of $145,306. These are rear wheel drive vehicles at a cost of $20,758 each. It has been determined that the Ford Crown Victoria best suits the needs of the department in order to operate the large number of electrical devices contained in the police vehicles. Armstrong Ford was the only company to submit a bid by closing date. Funds are budgeted for this item.

I. Approval to Award a Community Appearance Grant to Rick & Judy Greenhill for Property Located at 561 11th Street, NW in the Amount of $5,000 - The subject property is owned by Rick & Judy Greenhill who desire to improve the general appearance of their property by renovating and/or installing new roofing, exterior paint, gutters, lighting, doors and other related items to the structure. The cost of said improvements is estimated to be between $15,926.20 and $16,608. On August 23, 2010 the Community Appearance Commission unanimously voted to recommend grant funding in the amount of $5,000.

J. Approval to Award a Community Appearance Grant to Gavin Mitchell for Property Located at 15 2nd Avenue, NW in the Amount of $5,000 - The subject property is owned by Gavin Mitchell who desires to improve the general appearance of his property by replacing 30 windows and installing new vinyl siding to the structure. The cost of said improvements is estimated to be between $16,650 and $16,781. On August 23, 2010 the Community Appearance Commission unanimously voted to recommend grant funding in the amount of $5,000.

K. Approval of the FY 2009 – 2010 Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report (CAPER) - The US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development requires the City, as a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement funding recipient, to report on CDBG monies spent within the previous fiscal year. This report evaluates the effectiveness of the use of resources in addressing identified goals and objectives cited in the Annual Action Plan, which is prepared before the fiscal year begins.

L. Approve Vacant Building Revitalization Grant “Operation No Vacancy” to Maximum Investments, Inc. for Property Located at 1545 Hwy 70, SW in the Amount of $25,000 - The Vacant Building Revitalization Grant Program was established by City Council in September, 2008 whereby the program provides matching funds up to $25,000 for projects seeking to renovate and rehabilitate vacant buildings and the demolition of substandard buildings. Maximum Investments, Inc. has applied for such a grant in the amount of $25,000 to assist in the renovation of the building by repaving the parking lot, replacement of the roof, painting the exterior while replacing and adding windows. The applicant’s total investment is estimated to be $57,400 and the renovation is planned to be used for a real estate and property management company along with a car dealership. The Redevelopment Committee reviewed the application and voted to recommend approval of $25,000.

M. Award Bid to Neill Grading & Construction For Construction of Green Park Subdivision Along 5th Avenue, SW in the Amount of $272,000. - Habitat for Humanity of Catawba Valley purchased 4.68 acres from the City of Hickory for an affordable housing subdivision along 5th Avenue, SW; Green Park Subdivision. The City is to install roadway, sewer, water, curb, gutter and sidewalks for said subdivision. Eleven (11) homes will be constructed at this site, ranging in size from 1100 to 1400 sq. ft. valued at approximately $112,000.. The bid process was advertised on July 27 and August 10, 2010. Five (5) bids were received with Neill Grading and Construction Co., Inc. coming in as the low bidder at $272,200.

N. Amend the Traffic Ordinance by Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 7th Ave, NE From the Intersection With 3rd St, NE East Approximately 1,670 Feet to the Intersection With 5th Ave Pl, NE, 4th St, NE From the Intersection With 7th Ave, NE North Approximately 660 Feet to the Intersection With 8th Ave, NE and 4th St, NE From the Intersection With 7th Ave, NE South Approximately 640 Feet to the Dead End - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along 7th Ave, NE as indicated above and primarily serving the Combford Park residential area. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired. The petition packages were received and were determined by Staff to be valid and met the 75% signature requirement.

O. Approve Piggyback Purchase of Cab, Chassis and Refuse Body by Resolutions From Southern Truck Service in the Amount of $124,167 and From Carolina Environmental Services in the Amount of $56,600 - Adoption of these Resolutions will allow the City of Hickory to piggyback purchase a cab, chassis and rear loading refuse body from a prior Town of Cary bid award pursuant to NC General Statute 143-129. The units purchased by the Town of Cary are the same specifications desired by Hickory Solid Waste Division. This in turn will save the City time in not having to go through the bid process. Southern Truck Service has agreed to a price decrease from the Town of Cary due to year-end incentives for the cab and chassis in the amount of $124,167. The refuse body will be purchased from Carolina Environmental Services in the amount of $56,600 for a grand total of $180,767. Funds are budgeted in the FY 2010-11 Solid Waste Budget.

P. Accept Grant from Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance (DPPEA) to Upgrade Recycling Convenience Center in the Amount of $11,119 - Acceptance of this grant from the DPPEA would allow the replacement of front loader dumpsters used to collect recyclables with hook lift dumpsters located at 1060 1st Avenue, SW, which is the City’s Transfer Station site. Replacement would cut the number of dumpsters to three (3) and still provide the same recycling options, while reducing the number of trips made to the GDS MRF and saving approximately $5,887.44 per year in fuel and labor. The City’s portion of said grant would be $2,224.

Q. Approve Contract With North Star Destination Strategies for Branding and Marketing Project in the Amount of $88,000 - The Business Development Committee recommended and City Council approved entering into a contract with North Star Destination Strategies to develop a comprehensive branding and marketing campaign for the City of Hickory. City Council will have final acceptance authority of the work performed and will be engaged periodically throughout the project for feedback. The project will focus on five (5) key elements to achieve the City’s objective through demographic data, marketing data, competitor data and interviews. The project will also include development of new logos for the CVB and EDC which will compliment the City of Hickory’s new logo. Both entities will contribute to the cost of the contract. Due to time constraints, staff is requesting two readings be held on September 7, 2010. A budget amendment is required.

R. Approval to Issue Pyrotechnic Display Permit to Lenoir-Rhyne University for Saturday, October 9, 2010 - Lenoir-Rhyne University requests permission to hold a public fireworks display to be presented by Pyro Shows Incorporated on Saturday, October 9, 2010 following the homecoming football game. The Fire Prevention Bureau has reviewed all required documentation and will inspect the display area prior to the event to ensure compliance with all guidelines.

S. Request From Spiritual Counseling Network for Use of Union Square for Spirit Fest 2010 on September 18, 2010 from 9 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

T. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 4
1. To budget a $100 memorial donation in the Library Books line item for Ridgeview Library.
2. To budget a total of $400 of the Airports multi-purpose room rental Sales and Services Revenue in the Airport Department Supplies line item.
3. To appropriate $7,500 of General Fund Balance Appropriated and budget in the Administration Contracted Services line item. This appropriation is to pay Catawba County Chamber of Commerce $7,500 for the Portal Website Development.
4. To appropriate $88,000 of General Fund Balance Appropriated and budget in the Economic and Community Development Other Miscellaneous Expenditure line item. This appropriation is to pay North Star Destination Strategies, as recommended by the Business Development Committee (BDC), to develop a comprehensive branding and marketing campaign for the City of Hickory. The project will focus on the City seeking to grow its population through recruiting active adults, professionals and ntrepreneurs.
5. To re-appropriate $12,069 of General Fund Balance Appropriated and budget in the Parks and Recreation Maintenance and Repair of Grounds line item. These funds are for the Hilton Gazebo project; however funds rolled into Fund Balance at the end of FY2010 and need to be re-appropriated for the new fiscal year.
6. To budget a $1,092 insurance claim check from Trident Insurance Company in the Parks and Recreation Maintenance and Grounds line item. This insurance claim is for lightening damage to the Henry Fork Park gate on 07-17-10.
7. To budget $1,818 of Local Government Revenue in the Police Department Overtime line item. This revenue is payment from Catawba County Mental Health for a portion of an Officers time spent when accompanying involuntary commitment patients.
8. To budget a $3,381 insurance claim check from GMAC Insurance Company in the Police Department Maintenance and Repair of Vehicle line item. This insurance claim is for damage to Police vehicle on 08-21-10.
9. To accept and budget a $29,578 materials reimbursement check from the Bethlehem Water District in the Water Lines account code. This reimbursement is for the payment of waterline materials used for the Teaguetown Rd Waterline Extension Project. The City of Hickory has completed the engineering design,
obtained permitting, and will perform the construction.
10. To increase the Transfer to Multi-Year Grant for the Brownfield Grant project by $156 and decrease the Economic and Community Development Department Supplies line item by $156. The Brownfield Grant does not cover food expenditures; therefore an amendment is necessary to cover the cost.

New Business - Public Hearings:

Proposed Ordinance Designating Hickory Station as a Local Landmark by Recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission - OHB Properties, LLC purchased Hickory Station, located at 232 Government Avenue, SW, from the City of Hickory in 2007 for a proposed restaurant. A deed restriction was placed on the purchase stating that the property was to be treated as a local historic landmark and all exterior changes would require a Certificate of Appropriateness to be issued by the Historic Preservation Commission, pursuant to Exhibit B, Section 3.f.2 of the Economic Development Agreement approved by City Council on August 7, 2007. Formally designating the property will help ensure the property owner’s due process rights and assist staff in administering the deed restriction in addition to allowing a 50% property tax deferral for the property owner pursuant to NC General Statute. On August 24, 2010 the Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the proposed Ordinance.

Dave Leonetti made the presentation. The building was constructed in 1912. It was the third building constructed for rail and the second devoted to passenger rail service. It was in operation until approximately 1970. The city purchased the building in 1972 and it was renovated for use as a restaurant in 1977. The building has been vacant since 2005. Their is a deed restriction on the building that states that the owners must receive permission to make any exterior changes to the building. The building fits the historical criteria, because it is associated with events that have contributed to the city’s history.

Alderman Seaver asked if there have been any further discussions about rail service? City Manager Berry stated that a group within NCDOT that works on passenger rail. There has been planning done for a passenger rail line from Salisbury to Asheville. He stated that it would be more of a touristy type of thing as opposed to commuter rail and that it would be very expensive. He stated that the people at DOT think that it will never happen. Alderman Seaver stated that he had seen where President Obama wants to build 4,000 miles of railroad as part of a nationwide infrastructure fix. He stated that at one time we were actively involved in having a stop there (at the old depot). Are we still going to try to use it? Manager Berry stated that in the deed restrictions that if passenger rail ever does materialize in Hickory that the owners (of the depot) have to make accommodations for the rail depot. Manager berry stated that that is not in the foreseeable future.

Alder Fox stated that the challenge 9is not with the owner. She stated that the challenge is to get our name back up in sight. Alderman Meisner stated that right now we are number 2 in the county – Conover. Manager Berry stated yeah, the state has these convoluted criteria for how they choose where stops will be and it has become a political process, if you will. He stated that the State would have to make concessions between Conover and Hickory and we have pushed it about as far as you can push it. He further stated that in talks with the COO Jim Trogdon of the DOT, that funding would not be coming down for that ever. Council Unanimously Consented.

The Hound certainly hopes that this will kickstart whatever the plans are for the Station. The place has been empty for way too long and I believe that it is a focal point of Downtown. As I have heard from Mrs. Fox before, we need to worry about the appearance of our entry points in the city. I will carry that thought process a step further. We need to worry about the appearance of our Historical Heritage Landmarks in our City. That building standing empty is a metaphor and representation of business and economic activity downtown. It always has been.

As far as Manager Berry's assertions involving possible passenger rail in this area. That boat done sailed!

What we see here is the total lack of vision that is Hickory. Always looking at the reason why we couldn't, shouldn't, and wouldn't do something. Any opportunity to ever get passenger rail -- part of our heritage -- back in Hickory has been p-tossed away. And I saw the angst in the body language from Mr. Seaver, Mrs. Fox, and Mr. Meisner when they discussed this issue.

Conover has the vision. everyone sees what they are doing at the old Broyhill plant. That is strategic proactive planning. Not some defeatist-defensive mindset. That is the Can-Do spirit that Hickory better get back to, if it wants to ever get out of this quagmire of malaise that we have been rolling in over the last decade.

I think the majority of people in Hickory want to see some form of rail come back. Vision = Dream. I don't agree with anyone who says that it will never happen. I can't believe anyone says never about anything. You always need to have contingencies. I believe it most certainly will happen. Not today or tomorrow, but in the next 20 to 50 years it will definitely happen and that all depends on where we head with fossil fuels and the automobile. It is about the necessity of a transportation network and the current system is unsustainable.

I have also been told that the Asheville to Salisbury route is supposed to connect people to Amtrak. Saying that it is touristy is like saying that airplane flights are touristy. That may be a component, but to infer that it wouldn't have any relation to commuting is ridiculous. And the airline industry isn't fairing so well these days, is it? It isn't only the elasticity of the cost of fuel, but it is also about population growth and the maintenance of roads and vehicles in relation to individual personal income. People want convenience and independence when it comes to travel, but there are aspects of rail travel that incorporate those ideals also. Is it convenient to drive a car to Atlanta or Washington and then have to arrange to park it everywhere you go? What about the time and cost factor involved in that?

It is more than obvious that we have governance so attached to personal feelings that they are not looking at the trends that surround them. It isn't about what we want to impose as individuals. It is about the evolution of the collective culture and our relationship as individuals to that collective culture. And that does not mean giving up ones individual rights. It means enhancing and empowering ones individual being. As long as we are striving for excellence, then we will move closer to that goal, but if we choose to strive towards the Least Common Denominator, then we will eventually get to the Least Common Denominator, which is nothing.


New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Second Reading - Approve Airport Concession Agreement With Teresa Rozzelle to Operate Restaurant Located in the Hickory Regional Airport Terminal Building. - Two readings are being requested during the September 7, 2010 meeting so as to reopen the restaurant in a timely manner for the aviation community. Council Unanimously Consented.

2. Second Reading - Award Bid to Neill Grading & Construction For Construction of Green Park Subdivision Along 5th Avenue, SW in the Amount of $272,000 - Two readings are being requested to be held on September 7, 2010 to allow construction to be completed prior to any possible winter weather delays. Council Unanimously Consented.

3. Second Reading - Approve Contract With North Star Destination Strategies for Branding and Marketing Project in the Amount of $88,000 Due to time constraints, staff is requesting two readings be held on September 7, 2010. Council Unanimously Consented.

4. Authorize the Western Piedmont Council of Governments (WPCOG) Submission of EDA Grant Application on Behalf of the City of Hickory for Construction of Parking Deck at the Greater Hickory Metro Convention Center in the Amount of $1 Million - On August 4, 2009 the City adopted Resolution No. 09-25 enacting an additional 1% occupancy tax to become effective October 1, 2009. Said occupancy tax increase was sought to create funding for a parking deck at the convention center. Due to expansion in 2005 the convention center became capable of handling larger and more concurrent events. Temporary parking was established but a parking deck was determined to be necessary long term. The estimated cost of the parking deck is $4.3 million and would be constructed to look like an extension of the existing facility. The $1 million EDA grant is critical to the convention centers ability to fund the parking deck and create private sector jobs and investment. The $3.3 million balance would be borrowed by the City as the owner of the convention center and repaid by the occupancy tax, being completely independent of general City tax revenues.

Bebe Leitch, President of the Tourism and Development Authority made the presentation. The convention center is completely self-supportive. She stated that they are excited about their location and they are a great corridor for people and business to pass through. She showed the original facility which in the year 2000 had 44,000 square feet of space. In 2005 the Center was expanded by 25,000 square feet. In 2006 additional parking space was added. There have been several businesses which have located in the area surrounding the convention center including Carmax, Harley-Davidson, Restaurants, and hotels.

The reason why they need a parking deck is because there is no space available for parking expansion. There are 42 events currently held that do not have adequate parking. They are turning away events and cannot do multiple events. There are limitations that can be eliminated. She showed pictures of the proposed parking deck. This will afford a nice entrance and open area. This will allow easy access and availability to walk in the front door. The facilty will look like a structure with windows. She stated that this will be an icon for Hickory. It will provide a WOW effect. This will allow an increase of 327 spaces from the present 700. She feels that the niche market for this area is 400 to 600. This will give the opportunity to recruit more events and multiple events. Currently there are 700 hotel rooms located around the Convention Center. There are a total of around 1,900 in Hickory and Conover.

The TDA is not authorized to take out a loan. The City of Hickory takes out the loan and the TDA repays the loan on a monthly basis.The debt on the original structure will be paid off by 2019. The debt on this loan will be repaid by utilizing the monies collected from the increased occupancy tax and increased event revenues She also stated that if they do not get the grant, then they will step back on the size of the parking deck Alder patton asked about the timeframe of the grant. Mrs. Leitch stated that they would like to submit it at the end of October- beginning of November and then they would have 2 years to spend the money..

The Hound can only say good things about what I have seen from Mrs. Leitch and the direction of the TVA. we definitely need to try to expand our interests in the Tourism and Convention business sprectrum. It is obvious that there is not enough parking space for all of the activity taking place in that area and since it will essentially pay for itself, it is a no-brainer. You have to admire the vision of Mrs. Leitch and the people invoilved with the TVA. Look at what has taken place in that area from its inception up until now. If we could have growth in the rest of Hickory like we have seen under Mrs. Leitch's direction, then we would have no issues with our local economy.

5. Call for Public Hearing to Consider the Adoption of Ordinance Authorizing a Moratorium on New Electronic Sweepstakes Establishments in the Zoning Jurisdiction of the City of Hickory (Authorize Public Hearing for September 21, 2010)This issue has been discussed several times over the last year. This Moratorium will last for 90 days. During this time no new establishments will be allowed to open and this will give the city time to tweak the ordinance. A revised ordinance will be submitted to Council through the Planning Commission during this time. This is a contingency in case the legislation is not allowed to be administered on December 1st. This ordinance will address the issue and would fill the void if the law is not allowed to stand. If this action is not taken, then there could be a gap between December 1st and the time any ordinance action could be passed. Council Unanimously Consented.

6. Review and Consider Adoption of Proposed Ethics Code Required by North Carolina General Statute - North Carolina Legislature passed NC General Statute § 160A-86 requiring all North Carolina cities, counties, local boards of education, sanitary districts, unified governments and consolidated city-counties to adopt a resolution or policy containing a code of ethics, to be adopted by January 1, 2011. The Ethics Code must address five (5) areas:
The need to obey all applicable laws regarding official actions taken as a board member.
The need to uphold the integrity and independence of the board member’s office.
The need to avoid impropriety in the exercise of the board member’s official duties.
The need to faithfully perform the duties of the office.
The need to conduct the affairs of the governing board in an open and public manner.
The proposed code also incorporates the existing Conflict of Interests Policy previously approved by City Council. Staff Attorney Arnita Dula addressed the council on this issue. Council Unanimously Consented

RENTAL PROPERTY TASK FORCE - (Terms expire December 6, 2010)
Objective: Recommend approaches to City Council which will assist rental property owners in knowing and responding to illegal and nuisance behaviors being perpetrated by tenants. Recommend approaches to assist neighbors of rental property in reporting problems and understanding the City and rental owners’ response to concerns. Recommendations should be as simple and straightforward as possible and take into consideration impact on city staff and property owners, and the rights of citizens who rent property. This objective is to be completed in 90 days and will be assisted by City staff and the analysis of
crime and nuisance data. Council announced the people who will fill these positions.

Recognition of Persons Requesting To Be Heard - Jim Davis and Larry Pope readdressed the Ridgeview and Ivey Weaver Pools Issue
Citizens Of Ridgeview address the City Council about the City Pools Issue

Footcandle Film Society - screening Thursday night (9/9/2010) - "Please Give" - 7pm, Carolina Theater, Downtown Hickory. A well-reviewed film followed by and optional discussion. $5 at the door or free to current society members. All are welcome - spread the word!