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Monday, November 1, 2010

Hickory - The lowest well being in the United States of America

The following article was pointed to me from a good friend and a mentor. Someone that I didn't think I had a lot in common with until sitting down to chat almost 2 years ago. What I realized was that this person is very much like myself. We don't agree on everything, but I would say that we agree on 90% of everything.

I think we have both learned a lot from one another, but I think he has a lot more to offer than I do. I enjoy his perspective and his intellectual capabilities when it comes to explaining himself in detail. I am not going to name this person, but he is someone that is well thought of by the people who are working to fix the problems in this community.

Tonight he sent me an article from the Herald-Sun of Durham from October 28th entitled Raleigh has one of highest well being in U S Hickory N C has LOWEST .
Despite the economy, residents at Raleigh, N.C., say they are thriving and have the best of all worlds, reporting one the highest Well-Being Index in the country, with an overall ranking of 16, according to Gallup and Healthways.

Yet less than 200 miles away, residents of Hickory, N.C. are suffering. So much so that according to the Gallup and Healthways’ Well-Being Index, the city of Hickory scored dead last at — 185 — among American cities when it comes to Life Evaluation and Emotional Health.

The Well-Being Index is the largest behavioral economic database ever created and measures Americans’ physical, emotional and financial well being in real time. Since 2008, Gallup and Healthways have been taking a snapshot of America’s well being.

While unemployment likely plays a significant role in how the communities feel (Hickory’s unemployment rate tops 12.6%), other factors, such as access to health care, location, and public resources also play a role.

The Hound wants to ask how many of these surveys do we have to rank at the bottom of until everyone who is a supporter of the Status Quo has their Come to Jesus Moment?

This survey ranks us dead last in well-being. Well-Being is defined as a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare.

There are people in this area that are still doing well, but the majority of people are stressed because the system we are living in is failing. If one looks around they can see the relative state of unhealthiness of most of the citizens in this area. Look at what they eat. Look at the foods that are available to our citizens and look at the restaurants that are busiest in our area. Do people eat junk, because it is what they demand or because it is what is available?

We need to find out what is going on around here with people's health. Do they exercise. If the obesity epidemic is caused by a lack of exercise, then what is the reasoning. Is it because of a lack of education on the issue, lack of availability of fitness opportunities, lack of time???...

The City of Hickory has already displayed an unwillingness to create an affordable facility for Aquatic recreation, which most healthcare professionals believe is the best form of aerobic exercise for all ages. The Mayor this morning on Hal Row's First Talk show on WHKY basically gave it a thumbs down by saying that we couldn't afford it and poo pooing a survey that he asked to have administered. Apparently he didn't like the way the questions were asked. Do we not see this exact form of manipulation and heavy handed administration with all of the Boards, Commissions, and Task Forces.

The information that I have been provided in regards to Hank Guess's Rental Property Task Force is that attempts have been made to derail it by some members of the City Council and Administration. People who were appointed to look at this issue have attempted to subvert the process and end any furtherance of the proceedings. Those involved in this subversion know who they are and their attempts wreak of individuals looking to protect the good ole boy network of special interests who do not want to adhere to the property code structure laid out and set forth by Council, administration, and staff. We have a local elected official who is an out and out slumlord and he owns dilapidated rental properties inside the city limits of Hickory.

What bothers me is that this violates the fairness that I have constantly railed about. I am tired of having to talk about the fact that certain people in the City of Hickory are not expected to respect the law, because of their status. That assessment has been verified by action and inaction pertaining to certain people and groups over and over again. Those closely associated with local governance should not only follow the rules, but they should be held to a higher standard.

We have seen administrative problems time and time again with tin eared cooperation over the years. The Airport Task Force, The Stormwater Task Force, the handling of the Drinking Establishment Ordinance in relation to the Cercil Brothers, the Randolph's situation... There are plenty of situations under this context that I have not exposed and I am sure even more that I have not been made privy to.

I have appreciated a lot of what Mayor Wright has said over the years. I like what he says about the Fair Trade issue. I like the way that he has shown a willingness to adapt to new ideas when information shows that the old contexts aren't cracked up to what they were thought to be. I think we are on the same page when it comes to moving away from the Retirement Village concept. I appreciated his energy and passion when it came to the Inter Basin Transfer.

I just hope that others will come to the table and realize that this community has headed down the wrong path on many issues. Some of these people are associated with local governance and others are considered Prime Movers in the community. The bottom line is that we are all stakeholders in this community, not just the hoity-toities.

The saying goes "Pride cometh before the fall." There have been too many special interests and individuals who are proud and think they are better than everyone else and their specialness means that they don't have to follow the rules. Well, the statistics and surveys show that this community is not doing well. You can live in denial, but in the end the amount of evidence is overwhelming and makes one look delusional to argue against it. So the best thing to do is join those of us who are looking for outside the box solutions in this fast paced, exponentially changing World.


Anonymous said...

What is surprising, Hound, is that you are surprised by the special interests.

Go back to Hickory by Choice in 1999 – Sally Fox appeared at ever single meeting and, until she was backed off by then City Manager Gary McGee, Mayor McDonald and the other members of the council, attempted to run the process through intimidation and over-involvement. The committee was not free to engage in open discussions without being presented her point of view and input, which she expected to be implemented no matter how ridiculous it was. What we got as a result was a largely unworkable system that was overly complicated and has done much to contribute to the decline of our local economy.

Incidentally, attempts to go after derelict buildings were all the rage during the period from 1999 through 2009 or so – unless they were owned by friends of council persons. One example -- Sally managed to safely deflect attention from the old theater downtown – which was falling down and rat infested for years – by squelching any types of enforcement efforts. There are lots of others around town, if you know where to look to see them.

The Airport Task Force was subverted by Rudy Wright’s efforts to keep his friends holding their one-sided lease on the airport which sucks off the City’s reserves and essentially gives nothing back. How many private planes are now based at Statesville or Morganton simply because of the lack of customer service and the attitude of Profile Aviation? And why didn’t the City take that back when it sold, when they had the chance to do so and avoid a punitive agreement that should never have been approved?

Of course Rudy poo-poo’d the survey on the swimming pools when it didn’t give the results he wanted. Rudy’s figured out that he doesn’t have to court Ridgeview to be re-elected any more, so he’s given up on that. Everyone seems to have forgotten how he was having a convicted felon over to his house for breakfast during his first term in office in an attempt to court the African-American vote - something he had to do because none of the upstanding citizens of Ridgeview wanted anything to do with him!

Jill Patton rode the rails in on the Lowe’s Hardware hysteria – which proved completely untrue. Incidentally, why didn’t we hear that same gloom and doom about the grocery store of the same name that went in next door? I believe they have higher traffic counts, and if I had to pick who I want driving next to a high school, I’d rather have a contractor who’s looking to pick up his stuff and get the hell back to work rather than some soccer mom with three screaming kids in the back seat who’s talking on her cell phone. Interesting that we didn’t hear about that little project until it was already a done deal. Anyone think that there wasn’t a bit of under-the-table influence going on there??

Hank Guess may have some good ideas about the property task force, but nobody seems to talk about how the Code Enforcement folks have been transferred to the police department. This may sound good, but the primary reason is to allow them to go into places that the police don’t have a warrant under the guise of “code enforcement”. Talk about the erosion of our rights! Oh, and the sidebar to that little transfer – our most experienced and qualified inspectors have gone other places to work. We’re left with a couple of nimrods who couldn’t inspect their way out of a paper bag. The sad reality is that Hank will put a lot of effort into it, then he’ll realize that those on the council will double-cross him and vote against it at the last minute if they feel that their ox is being gored.


Anonymous said...

We have a City Manager intent on creating a Mormon Theocracy in municipal government (Don’t believe me? Check how many new hires are graduates of Brigham Young University and go to Mr. Berry’s church – and how quickly the puppies have been promoted over long term, qualified employees), and have seen a complacent council that has allowed virtually all of the progressive programs created under the prior administration dismantled. Add to that the fact that volunteers for boards and commissions are no longer forthcoming – other than those who are puppets for the Council Members and special interests – because they see their efforts ignored and overruled with predetermined decisions and you end up with a low standard of living.

People tend to get the type of government that they deserve. The people of Hickory continue to elect unqualified individuals who are interested only in their friends and their own wallets. Until they get so cocky that they are caught up in some scandal that causes everyone to be thrown out of office – and hopefully some of them to go to jail where they belong – Hickory will continue to deteriorate. The unfortunate fact for the citizenry is that it could be a decade or more before that happens. In the meantime, things will keep going downhill. Our Quality of life is not going to get better in the immediate future.

Our choices are to either hunker down and deal with it or move elsewhere. As it is, though, too many qualified, civic minded people who would otherwise be willing and able to contribute to the efforts to make Hickory a better place are simply deciding to put their efforts where there might actually be some results instead.

James Thomas Shell said...

I want to thank the poster above for the most succinct and thorough analysis of what our community is facing. I really do appreciate such contributions that tie up the loose ends of the subject matter that I have introduced the last 2 years.

If you need to understand any of this go back and look at what has been laid out:

Making Chicken Salad out of Hickory City Government
Response to comments about Chicken Salad

You are correct that the people get the government that they deserve, which is a government run by a local cabal that has no regard for what is best for the community at large and only operates towards the personal interests of a few. The disparity between the haves and have nots is widening drastically in this community. The only thing keeping many of us out of the ditch is the social safety net of the Federal Government and I hate that.

If most of the Redneck type Republicans (and I am a Republican) have their way, that is where most of us will be headed. Let's be realistic, they all superfluously state that they want low taxes to create jobs, but how many local small business owners in this area are willing to pay their employees a living wage, offer benefits, and a retirement plan? If you gave them a tax cut, how many would pass a red cent of it on to their employees? How many are looking out for the long term welfare of their workforce?

What I see many times over are small business owners living elite lifestyles and trying to get away with compensating their employees with as little as possible -- and I would like to heavily emphasize the word "Little". That once again gets back to the fairness issue.

Evidence shows that when local companies couldn't get their labor costs to their desired lower levels, they brought in illegal immigrants and/or offshored the jobs. This was not done to lower prices to compete, but to increase the profit margin for themselves. The Race to the bottom then ensued.

The Mayor talked about Convergys yesterday on Hal Row's show. I have been told by several people that they have had a very, very high turnover rate in their 2 years that they have been located here and that management there pushes a high pressure sales environment.

Maybe my expectations are unrealistic and that environment is what is to be expected with this line of work, I do not know, but it does not seem to me that that will lead to any expectations of stability that most of us seek when we look to positively develop the quality of our lives.

I've probably said too much here, but I have a lot more to say about all of this and eventually I probably will, because I am fed up with so much of this "stuff."

harryhipps said...

I don't see Hickory changing or prospering for a long, long time. It may be a generation before we see a vibrant City like we had 15 years ago or so. If you really want a future do what many have done: MOVE. And let the petty fiefdoms enjoy their mediocrity.