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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Conversation with the Ridgeview Community

To the people of Ridgeview, I have been asked by Jason Jett to address your community. The first thing I would like to say is that I would like to extend to you an early Happy New Year!

I truly hope that this will be a blessed upcoming year 2011 and it is my hope that the people of the Ridgeview community will have a positive and prosperous upcoming year. I know that most of us are going to struggle in this economy, but we must understand that we are the majority and there are many others that are in this boat with us and if we work together and strive towards excellence, then we will be in a better position in the future from which to obtain a better quality of life.

Quality of life is not about material possessions. It is about having a comfortable and secure environment from which to live life. This includes your home, your work, your business, and your relationship with others. I myself include a spiritual relationship with the God, but to those who feel threatened by such aspirations, I do not wish to harm you. I only express my love for God to show how I seek inner peace and contentment. That does not mean that I have inner peace and contentment, but I am striving for it, and this is the way that I can tolerate the imperfections and injustices that take place in this human world.

What we're seeing on the local level is what Catherine Austin Fitts termed "the Race to the Bottom." We are not striving for excellence in this community. We are striving to be cheap. Our local officials want to turn this into a retirement community where retirees can live on the cheap at the average person's expense. The average person will be turned into a servant in such a culture for the people that they would like to bring to the area termed "active retirees." I just don't understand why they think affluent 50 and 60-year-olds would want to come to an area where the local government refuses to invest in its infrastructure and it's people. Local officials continue to focus on the areas that are already doing well. Do they not know that these people who take a look at this area will eventually venture into the abandoned parts of town? What will those people think then.

I liked what I heard one lady say at that last City Council meeting. She stated, "We need to take care of our own first. Why are we worried about a marketing initiative, when so much of our area is not marketable?"

I agree with much of this. As the expression goes, "you can't put lipstick on a pig." I do agree that we do need to reach out and utilize the Internet as a way to make connections. I do believe that we need to network with other communities throughout the United States and beyond. But, I also think that we have to start resolving some of the issues that we face on the local front when it comes to the less privileged areas of Hickory.

A community is a body and the body is only as healthy as all of its parts. If your brain is functional, but your heart isn't, then you will die. The same goes vice versa. If you have cancer in one of your extremities, but you fail to take care of it, then eventually that cancer will spread throughout the body and you will die. What am I getting at? You have to take care of problems or eventually they will devastate you.

I don't believe that we strive for excellence in this community. I believe that we have individuals who strive for excellence, but the community as an entity does not strive for excellence. As an individual, the failure to aspire to be the best that you can be rests upon you and you alone. If you don't care about your performance as a human being, then the problem lies with you. As a community, we have to trust our leaders to take us in the direction towards excellence. I honestly have not seen this from our leaders. I have seen a least common denominator attitude; that the average people of this community should accept and do with less (it's better than nuthin"), while those who have relationships with our local leaders are taken care of. Do you think I like to say this? I hate to say this. It hurts to say this.

I truly do believe that the City Council has an us versus them attitude. That is the reason why they don't communicate well with others. They don't trust the people of this community. They think they know what is best and that everyone else is stupid or ignorant of the facts. Well, we wouldn't be ignorant to the facts, if they wouldn't always be trying to hide information. And that information belongs to the people of this community. If they received a report card on their ability to work well with others, they would receive a failing grade. Again, it hurts to say this about those who we depend on to be the leaders of this community.

The bottom line is that as average people living in this community, we are going to have to learn to operate in the system as it exists today. Eventually, we are going to have to persevere and endure the direction in which our local government is headed. If they insist that they remain obstacles to growth, then we will have to find a way to progress around them. That is what plants do. That is what any living organism has to do. It has to adapt to its environment.

With this understanding, we can waste our energy bemoaning the injustices that have taken place or we can look at the capabilities we have and the positive energy that we can create and we can move forward.

A fact that was brought to me today, that I really hadn't thought about was that the neighborhood associations on the South side of the tracks and in the Highland area are a lot more active than the neighborhood associations in the more affluent sections of Hickory. Why is this? It is because those neighborhoods (areas) have had to fight to get things done in the neighborhoods where they reside, while the more affluent neighborhoods have had the issues that they deal with proactively giftwrapped to them by the decision-makers with the City of Hickory. Have you noticed this?

I really believe that the local neighborhoods need to empower themselves more. If you feel disenfranchised, then why empower the people who have disenfranchised you? The best thing to do would be to operate your local neighborhood association outside of the realm and the power of City Hall. The City of Hickory does not own your local neighborhood association.

What am I getting at? We need Ridgeview to show the way for the regular folks in this community. I know that there are a lot of selfless wonderful people that do excellent community service in Ridgeview. Those are some of the best leaders in Hickory and most people don't have a clue of the contributions that these people have made to Hickory. We need Hickory to know these examples and the challenging circumstances they have faced and successes they have had. Most of the people in Hickory only hear about the bad things that have happened in the Ridgeview area. It is time people learn about the good things that have taken place in your community.

One thing that this pools issue has done is to apparently galvanize your community. It has given your community a focal point in which to express grievances about injustices that have taken place in the relationship between the City of Hickory and the Ridgeview community. But, like Billy Sudderth has espoused, this is not just about the swimming pools. This is about equity in governance.

Bravo! as it should be. This can't be just about the pools. This needs to be about the duplicity when it comes to city finances, development, and vision. Your community needs to learn that you may lose battles, but in the end it isn't about the battles, it's about the big picture. The Ridgeview community needs to figure out its goals and priorities and set forth a plan of action to implement and achieve those objectives.

When I addressed the Council, I pointed to the fact that only 77 people voted in the Ridgeview precinct on city election day in 2009. I have since been told that some people voted early at the Highland precinct. But even if you doubled the number, it means that Ridgeview was not fairly represented in the last citywide election and that lies fully in the Ridgeview community's hands. No one got out the vote. There was no energy for that election. And as Harry Hipps states, "if you keep doing what your doing, then you're going to get what you've got."

I know that we may not agree on all the issues. I cannot pretend to understand the plight of the African-American community. But, I do know that the people of Hickory are going to have to come together in the end, if we are to start making positive progress towards the future. We have not been doing that in this community. All over Hickory, the people have allowed themselves to look to others to show them the path to success. As individuals, in the end, it is our responsibility to empower ourselves. If we as individuals operate from a position of strength and success, then we can help others.

There are too many people that don't understand that if somebody else has success, then it doesn't mean that I am a failure. If someone else obtains wealth, then they aren't taking for me. It's not a zero-sum game folks. What we want to do in this community is start to grow the pie. We want everyone to have more. If my neighbor is successful financially, then that helps me. We want our environment to improve. We don't need to settle old scores. We don't need to settle any scores. What we need to do is look to strengthen our position in life. That takes focus and not allowing yourself to get derailed by needless issues, emotions, and egos. Things aren't always going to go your way. Life is always more failure than success, but many times those failures eventually lead to successes.

Myself and many other people in this community want to help strengthen the less affluent areas in Hickory. I need your help and I need your ideas and I need to understand your issues. I need people from the less affluent areas of Hickory to show up to every City Council meeting, not just the ones that effect their personal issues of interest. The City Council needs your presence. Let them know you are there and hanging on their every word.

Let's communicate and figure out how to get the average, regular folks in this community to participate in taking this community into a positive direction. I have laid out the Objectives of the Hickory Hound and we will look forward to learning about the Objectives of the Ridgeview Community and the Objectives of Citizens for Equity in Government and how we can work together to achieve some of our mutual goals.

Goodnight and God bless,
James Thomas Shell

Citizens for Equity in Government - Pool Protest at City Hall

It was good to see all of the people that showed up at City Hall this morning to protest the decision to tear up the pools and fill them in. There were over 30 people that participated at various times this morning in temperatures that were in the lower 20s, if not colder.

In reading some other comments from other websites, I have been disheartened to read some petty, shallow comments related to this issue. It should not be necessary that it has to be said, but the people that showed up to City Hall this morning were some of the finest citizens in our community. You read some of these comments from these people who define themselves as "Conservative" and you would believe that the people who are protesting this decision about these pools are a bunch of derelicts. The conversations that I had with the diverse participants showed that the people understand the issue and they have fully thought out what has happened in this process.

I think that is an idea that has been fostered by some of the leaders of this community. They take the low road on some issues. If you don't agree with the company line, then there is supposedly something wrong with you. Honesty, Integrity, Honor, and Loyalty are the most important codes that we should live by, in order to build a bond of trust with others. Without espousing to these ideals, one cannot be a good leader on any level. Obfuscation, Duplicity, and Abandonment do not engender trust.

I carried a sign today, which is something that Gerald Celente has espoused over the last year. My sign stated, "City Council votes No to Justice. Yes! To just-us." All people want is justice and equity from our leaders. When leaders choose winners and losers, then whether you understand it or not, you are a living under a tyrannical form of government. No one is going to expressly state that you are living in tyranny. It is a feeling and it speaks for itself.

I am tired of shallow politics. I'm sure that most of you understand that I am not a shallow person. I am by no means perfect, and I make and have made plenty of mistakes in my life, but I always aspire to excellence, while trying to remain humble. Sometimes I demand too much of others, because of my own ways. I am sure that others aspire to excellence in some regard related to their personal life, but I feel they lose sight of the important things in life.

Last week, at the City Council meeting, I saw a man get very emotional about the process that he was witnessing City Council move forward with regarding the pools. He had no idea that this issue was on the agenda. He was at the meeting as part of a presentation to the Hickory Landmark Society. He ended up addressing council on this issue. You could understand that the Ridgeview pool had a significant meaning in his life. He basically begged them to table the issue. I doubt they even understood what he was saying. To the Council, the City Council meetings are just a ceremonial show. The real decisions are figured out well before the pageantry presentation to the public.

I have seen a hollow, matter of fact, lack of compassion come from this group on many occasions over the last few years. I can't figure out whether they are tone deaf or lack cognitive skills. There are consequences for actions that one takes, and one cannot absolve themself from their input in the public decision-making process. That is the reason why those who take on government roles, whether elected or bureaucratic, are supposed to be thought of as public servants; because their role is to serve the public. Not the other way around.

There is a club mentality with Hickory's City Council. Remember the last city election. The Mayor stated that he would like to see the Council re-elected, "because they are all of one mind" -- then they proceeded to throw Z. Anne Hoyle under the bus. There is an us versus them mentality when it comes to the council's relationship with the people of this community. It is almost a type of divine right mentality, as has been displayed by royal figures in the past. Another comment that I heard from Gerald Celente, in the past few weeks, mirrors what comes to my mind in relation to this issue. "Marie Antoinette said let them a cake. Our leaders say let them have nothing."

You may think this is extreme, but I don't. Who is still going on trips and vacations? Who still has benefits? Who is still not taking a major hit to their lifestyle? Who is still enjoying the amenities of life?... And the working-class people of Hickory can't even have a pool anymore!

There is a resentment that is building in this community. In these hard times, our community should be coming together, and yet it is falling apart. Whose fault is that?

The people of the South side of the tracks are looked down upon by the "Powers that Be," and their community is being stripped down to nothing. Is this some sort of master plan? Is there something behind this? I have seen a lot of people suffer, because of the city's abandonment of the South side of the tracks. This has gone on for a long, long time.

I am not trying to be contentious by pointing to the obvious. I have seen hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on downtown. I have seen a once thriving airport brought to its knees. An airport that could be thriving and is currently hemorrhaging cash due to the malfeasance in relation to a contract that was negotiated and signed under very unusual circumstances. I have heard the rumblings about legal cases where the city has had to negotiate their way out of trouble through settlements, which end up totaling a ridiculous amount of money.

I have been made privy to alternative solutions offered by private citizens, which could remedy this pools issue. I know for a fact, because I know the people involved, that an Olympic size swimming pool in the City of Hickory is a definite possibility. I know that an Olympic style sports facility was on the horizon for Hickory until our local government botched it. Yet, we hear nothing about this from our local media. The Mayor and the City Manager are given Carte Blanche and an open mic to say whatever they want when they stand before the media. And no one ever demands anything more.

The things that have been going on around here just do not add up unless you have had the privilege to gain a broad understanding from those who understand the undercurrent of the history of the "City of Hickory" and its effects on the surrounding area.

In the upcoming year, it is my hope to dig deeper and bring to you some of the wise, diverse voices of the local area who can give you the knowledge that you need to understand what is happening in this area, and how we got to this point. If the people in the public, who care about this community, begin to communicate with one another and put behind them the contentious, shallow politics offered by the Republican and Democrat parties, then we can move this area forward. We've got to start working with one another. In the end, we all want the same thing -- a better Hickory!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Charlotte Observer covers the City Pools issue

Hickory to get rid of pools - The decision angers some, who say the city is ignoring poor and minority residents.

The Hound thinks City Manager Berry's obsession with all things related to the city's bureaucracy is a MAJOR(!!!) problem. I have the whole history of this issue at my blog -- the Hickory Hound. The Ridgeview community has asked for action on this issue for 2 years and they have been railroaded at every step. Harry Hipps had it as part of his platform during the last City Council election.

City directives always focus on the Haves (Downtown and Northwest Hickory). Nothing substantial is ever done to uplift the Have-Nots (Southeast and Southwest quadrants) of the city. There is no equity in our governance. It is all about Tinkle Down Economics. Our forefathers built these pools as a way to show respect and increase the Quality of Life of the working class people in this community. The current lot talk about Quality of Life, but whose quality of life are they talking about.

We don't strive for excellence in this community. We are part of the Race to the Bottom. We are at the bottom of almost every ranking. Gallup-Healthway, Milken, Forbes, "Brainiest",,, This story is not about the City's challenges. It is about a City Government with no Vision!!!

I hope that you will study the history of this issue, because I believe that it will change a lot of perceptions about it. This issue is a microcosm of what has been happening around here for a long, long time. Manager Berry said the other night that this issue has been being debated for 6 months. Uhh-Nope! This issue has been debated for almost 2 years, since the pools were originally closed (2009) and you promised to get them opened for the next season (2010). Manager Berry stated that the Insurance company sent a letter addressing the Liability issue. My question is, did the insurance company send the letter voluntarily or did Mick Berry request the letter as a way to mollify those who have not been privy to the way that this city has operated over the last few years?

Karen Hoyle stated that the pools have been closed for two years and no one has been stating that they are a nuisance. The Parks and Rec Commission comes forward with its recommendation and all of the sudden we get a letter from the Insurance company stating that the pools are a nuisance and a liability. Very convenient wouldn't you say?

Were the City pools a nuisance in the fall and winter of the years that the pools were in operation? Are you going to go after the YMCA, because someone could jump that fence? Are you going to go after Lake Hickory Country Club, because someone could try skateboarding there? Will there be equity of justice? Will the City be going after every homeowner in the city who owns an outdoor pool, because their pools aren't being used currently and they are more dangerous, because they are full of water!!!

I think the nuisance is a City Government rife with self-interests and conflicts of interest. A Council that constantly goes against the will of the majority of Hickory's citizens. A Council that appears to serve at the pleasure of a City Manager, instead of the way it's supposed to work. An autocratic City Manager who constantly tries to evade and skirt our legitimate system of governance through obfuscation of issues and frequently slipping major decisions under the radar at the last minute through the City Council's Consent Agenda. A mayor who is conspicuously absent when a very contentious issue is deliberated at a City Council Meeting held just a few days before Christmas...

Are you beginning to get the picture... It seems we have what appears to be an abuse of Power on many levels in this community!!! Do our eyes deceive us?

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 21, 2010
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 21, 2010 - Addendum to Decommission and Permanently Secure Ivey and Ridgeview Pools
Why We Must Act! - Citizens for Equity in Government
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 16, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City Pools
City Pools issue displays Local Officials' Myopic Views
REBUILDING & EMPOWERING FROM THE BOTTOM UP -- Citizens for Equity in Government

Citizens Of Ridgeview address the City Council about the City Pools Issue

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of July 20, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City Pools
More than Pools
Hickory City Pools -- Told You So 8)
Continuing the Rant - The City of Hickory's Budget
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of June 15, 2010
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 4, 2010
HDR Editorial - Hickory council needs a member with vision
The City Council Candidate Forum Last Night - 10/29/2009 - (Audio Available)
From the Hickory Daily Record - Election issues discussed at forum

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry White Christmas 2010 - Hickory, NC - 12/25/2010

The first white Christmas since 1947 in Hickory. I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed this event that has been very rare. I remember it snowing a few times on Christmas, but nothing that lasted and nothing that accumulated to this degree. It began snowing around 9am and it has not let up since.

My Travels down Geitner road to my Grandmother's house:

The National Weather Service Forecast -
Winter Storm Warning for Catawba, NC

Issued by The National Weather Service
Greenville-Spartanburg, SC
9:45 pm EST, Sat., Dec. 25, 2010











Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 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 12/21/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

Please remember that pressing Ctrl and + will magnify the text and page and pressing Ctrl and - will make the text and page smaller. This will help the readability for those with smaller screens and/or eye difficulties.

Invocation by Rev. Bill Garrard, Retired Pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church

Special Presentations:
A. Patrick Dailey, Executive Director of the Hickory Landmarks Society to Present to City Council the Newly Published Book by Author Leslie Keller Titled “Lost Hickory: A Compendium of Vanished Landmarks”

Consent Agenda:
A. Approve Proposal From Tharrington Smith, LLP for Legal Services Regarding Redistricting of the City of Hickory and Hickory Public Schools in the Amount of $10,000 - The City is required to analyze the population changes in its wards upon the completion of each Federal Census. In 2000 the City partnered with Hickory City Schools and enlisted the legal services of Tharrington Smith to develop a redistricting plan. Staff recommends accepting the attached agreement, approving the requisite budget amendment and authorizing the City Manager to enter into a contract with Tharrington Smith of Raleigh to provide redistricting services at a fixed cost of $10,000. It is anticipated that work will begin in spring of 2011 as census data is completed and made available.

B. Proclamation Recognizing the Romanian Baptist Church Choir for Their Christmas Performance at the Arts and Science Center Auditorium on December 4, 2010

C. Approve Future Annexation Agreement From Virginia Allison for Property Located at 2235 19th Avenue, NE - Virginia Allison has requested to be connected to the City of Hickory’s water and sewer system without being annexed into the City limits and agrees to be annexed in the future when the City finds it economically feasible. The Allison property is located at 2235 19th Avenue, NE, which is identified on the Catawba County tax maps by PIN 3713-12-97-8399, abuts the Parkview Subdivision and is adjacent to the existing city boundary.

D. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - Exodus Homes requests refinancing of their current five (5) loans for separate properties by deferring all payments for one (1) year with no interest and paying the total amount due at a 3% interest rate for a 20 year period. The 1st and 2nd lien holders have agreed to the deferral. The City of Hickory is the 3rd lien holder, whereby the City assisted with the down payments on these properties. The total balance of the five (5) loans is $129,822.61.
Marcie Moore Franklin of 3309 7th St Dr, NE requests to subordinate the City’s second mortgage to BB&T due to refinancing of first mortgage
Richard Hamilton of 1724 14th St Pl, NE requests to subordinate the City’s second mortgage to Wells Fargo due to refinancing of first mortgage
Applicant, Whitney D. Payne of 1134 13th Av, NE is being recommended for assistance under the City’s First-Time Homebuyer’s Assistance Program for down payment and closing costs in the amount of $6,500.
Applicants, Howard and Debra Ikard of 565 9th Av Dr, SE and James and Nellie Lackey of 1031 6th St Ct, SE are being recommended for assistance under the City’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan Program for repairs to their homes not to exceed $10,000.

The following applicants are being recommended for approval for assistance under the City’s Urgent Repair Program:
Bessie Austin Amount not to exceed $5,000 30 40th Ave Ct, NW
Lydia Saunders Amount not to exceed $5,000 824 4th Ave, NW

E. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance by Designating Approximately 100 Feet Along the West Margin of North Center Street From the Intersection With 14th Ave, NW South to a Point Being Near Existing On-Street Parking Spaces, Currently Available as Unmarked, Unrestricted On-Street Parking, as an Exclusive Loading Zone Restricted to 30 Minutes Duration - The above described change would eliminate some unorganized on-street parking capacity currently between the street corner and several marked on-street parking spaces with an existing fire hydrant near the corner. This request was made by an adjacent property manager. Following the Traffic Division’s evaluation, it was concluded minimal on-street parking capacity would be diminished and that a desirable loading zone would be created.

F. Approve Change Order No. 1 With Pizzagalli Construction Company Regarding the NEWWTP Upgrade Project in the Amount of $23,608 - The Northeast Waste Water Treatment Plant Upgrade Project was initiated in July 2010 and is necessary due to the age of the facility. The City has contracted with Pizzagalli Construction for the upgrade in the amount of $21,569,383 with a contingency fund being established for unforeseen expenses. Change Order No. 1 consists of six (6) items including credit to the City of Hickory for McGill Associates, PA fees to modify existing erosion control permit; soil end bearing capacity testing; unsuitable material at lab building; excavation, removal and disposal of debris, hazardous materials at 6” WL and scrum pump station 2, totaling $23,608. No budget amendment is required.

G. Approve Change Order No. 1 With McGill Associates, PA Regarding the NEWWTP Upgrade Project in the Amount of $23,300 - The Northeast Waste Water Treatment Plant Upgrade Project was initiated in July 2010 and is necessary due to the age of the facility. McGill Associates, PA was selected to perform construction administration services for the project in the amount of $787,000 with a contingency fund established for unforeseen expenses. Change Order No. 1 consists of four (4) items including revisions and modifications for erosion control permit; landscape plan; post-construction storm water calculations and building permit revisions, totaling $23,300. No budget amendment is required.

H. Approval to Decommission and Permanently Secure Both Pools, George Ivey and Ridgeview to Alleviate Existing Safety Concerns and Liability Issues - Upon a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission, City Council recently decided that the City should pursue alternative avenues of aquatic activities. Staff now recommends that the City take the appropriate action to remedy the existing safety concerns and liability issues associated with these two vacated pools by decommissioning and permanently securing them. Parks and Recreation staff and Public Services staff have worked together to develop a plan to permanently remedy all safety concerns and liability issues associated with these pools. This work will include the removal of pool infrastructure and filling in the ensuing void. All work will be performed inhouse, with each pool taking approximately one week for

Pulled from the agenda and discussed at the end of the council meeting - Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 21, 2010 - Addendum to Decommission and Permanently Secure Ivey and Ridgeview Pools - (Click for DETAILS)

The Hound read where Manager Berry spoke of this being an open process in the Hickory Daily Record article covered by Larry Clark. I think the HDR covered this issue very well in that article, but I also think they need to ask some real questions of the Mayor, the City manager, and the Council on this issue and several other issues. It is time that the HDR quits carrying the water for Top City officials and starts carrying the water for the regular people of the Hickory area - its readers and subscribers, because people deserve both sides of the story. When City officials do good, then they should be lauded with praise and when they do bad, then they should be called on the carpet.
Open - (Definition) - relatively free of obstructions to sight, movement, or internal arrangement
Look at the definition above. This has been anything but an open process. It has been a charade. Addison Fox (Sally Fox's son) and Elaine Seaver (Danny Seaver's wife) sit on the Parks and Recreation board. Want to guess how they voted? NO AQUATIC RECREATION AT ALL IN THE CITY OF HICKORY, EVER!!! And that is what you've got! No plan for the future, no alternatives, and the sentimental landmarks destroyed!

This thing was a railroad job from the beginning. Just like most of these commissions, councils, and boards; when an important study is on the table, the fix is in. Wonder why they can't get people to participate and accept appointed positions? Because the important positions go to family and friends and everything else is scraps.

The Charrettes were nothing more than charades. The "Powers that Be" thought that Joe Budweiser (representing the people who only want a La-Z-Boy, a six pack, and a ball game) was going to be against anything that cost money, but those people don't care about the community and they don't participate in any community activities of interest. People who care about this community are the people who showed up and participated in these directives. They care about the well-being of the community and they have vision. They can see the big picture. And as times get worse, more and more people are going to wake up to what has happened and is happening in our area.

Stop the Demolitions of Our Pools - The Citizens for Equity in Government is sponsoring a Demonstration and Picketing at the City of Hickory’s Government Center 76 North Center Street, on Tuesday December 28,2010 from 7:30 – 9:30am. Please support our efforts.

Contact : Billy Sudderth (828-308-4669)

New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Consideration of Proposed Text Amendments to Sections 7.1, 7.2 and 16.01 of the Land Development Code Pertaining to Electronic Gaming Operations - Due to the increasing number of Electronic Gaming Operations in North Carolina and the City of Hickory, the Planning and Development Department began conducting research by direction of the City Manager’s office. Staff found other local governments within NC were taking both proactive and reactive approaches to these establishments. There are currently eight to ten electronic gaming operations in existence within Hickory’s planning area. The proposed amendment would grandfather the existing operations due to the enactment date of the proposed amendment. A total of three (3) amendments are being proposed to Section 7.1, 7.2 and 16.01 of the Land Development Code. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission voted unanimously on December 1, 2010 in favor of said amendments. Staff finds the proposed amendments are consistent with Hickory by Choice and recommends approval.

Cal Overby made the presentation to the Council and went through the information provided above. In addition, he gave more detailed information. The First Amendment would allow a special use permit to be granted in the city’s C-4 and C-5 zoning districts. The second amendment would develop use standards. These use standards would mandate the number of machines per establishment (20) and the number of feet away from other types of businesses or facilities, such as 1,000 feet away from another electronic sweepstakes business, child care center, schools, residential zoning district... This would also limit the hours of operation from 8 AM to 10 PM. The third amendment would adjust the definition to fit within the land development code. This amendment will mirror the law passed by the General Assembly during the last session. In hindsight, after consulting with the city’s legal staff, it was recognized that the language of the general assembly should be added to the City of Hickory's language. The planning commission does recommend approval.

Ald. Lail asked a question about if the planning commission would sit as a quasi judicial board and determine if a special use permit is appropriate, would they use the criteria in the third amendment. Mr. Overby answered yes or and they would follow that in addition to the general standards for a special use permit.

Atty. John Crone stated that he wanted to add briefly that the types of electronic gaming that are contained in the city's definition are the same as those in the General Assembly Statute. Basically those types of electronic gaming have been banned in the State of North Carolina, effective December 1. There are pending challenges to the law that the General Assembly has passed. As such, they felt that it was necessary to recommend that if any types of gaming are allowed, that is pursuant to the city of Hickory's ordinance, it is the goal to earmark the location of them and designate where the machines can be and cannot be. That is the purpose of the ordinance.

Ald. Lail added additional comments about the possibilities of further establishing moratoriums to keep the city's language in concert with the General Assembly and judicial bodies. The Council passed the ordinance unanimously.

The Hound is glad to see that the City finally move forward with its Plan of Action regarding this form of legalized gambling. It truly needs to be regulated at the very least. As I have already stated, these machines are usually located in the poorest sections of town to prey upon those who can least afford the losses. At the very least, the machines should be regulated to make sure that there are fair payouts. We don't need one-armed bandit machines robbing people who don't understand mathematical odds and other factors that make these machines ridiculously profitable for their owners. Personally, I feel that these machines are a rip off and when people lose their money playing them, then they start crying about it. I have seen gambling habits ruin lives.

Departmental Reports:
1. Acceptance of Hickory Public Library’s 2011-2013 Strategic Plan - In January, 2010 Hickory Public Libraries received a $20,000 grant to develop a strategic plan to guide library services for the next three (3) years. Scope View Strategic Advantage was retained to facilitate the planning process undertaken by a committee representing the business and education community, the Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Library Board and staff. Several meetings were held and a citizen survey was administered. On November 11, 2010 the Library Advisory Board approved the strategic plan which defines goals and measurable objectives to assist staff in its decision making for both City libraries.

Judy Ivester, who is the chair of the library advisory board, made the presentation to Council. The board hired Bill Millett for his expertise in the area of economic development. Because of the financial crisis, they decided to restrict the plan to a three year time horizon. The new mission of the library is to encourage the exploration of new ideas and support local education; enhancing the economic vitality of the region and strengthening the sense of community, while enriching the quality of life for all.

It was decided to focus on five primary service areas: Adult services, youth services, senior adult services, the library as a community center, and the library as a driver of economic development.

This is not the plan that she originally envisioned in February of this year. She stated that in some respects this plan breaks her heart, but this plan is realistic and achievable and reflects conditions in which the library is operating. City revenues have decreased and there is a hiring freeze. The library begins the year with three key positions frozen: the reference librarian, who is also a trainer; the head of youth services; and programming and marketing coordinator..

The goal is to continue to provide excellent services, but the library is unable to offer all that they did when they were awarded high ratings in the 2008 community survey. The library is now open 32 fewer hours per month; some services have had to be cut because the staffing is no longer available to handle the demand.

Even though 61% of small businesses state that libraries are important in helping them get started, we can no longer support the fast track new venture program or other entrepreneurial business classes. This plan provides flexibility. If the economic situation is to improve, the library will be able to quickly move towards a higher level of services.

When developing a plan it was important to recognize the following truths. According to the Gate’s study, one third of all Americans use library computers to look for jobs and fill out applications, to connect with friends, to do homework, or complete online classes. 35% of the population of Hickory are now 45 years or older. Our graduation rates are too low. If the Hickory area is to compete for jobs effectively, then we must have an educated and up-to-date citizenry. Many citizens do not understand the role of the modern Library.

It is important to the retention of our citizen base, it helps to attract active retirees to the area, and it is important that we try to recruit professionals and potential entrepreneurs to the area. Quality of life is critical to large corporations like Apple and Google, when they are looking at facility expansion and for relocation purposes. Our library is an integral part of the quality of life package of the Hickory area.

Technology plays a bigger role inside and outside of the library. The board is committed to keeping the library technologically current. The library will promote the use of self checkout machines. The goal is for the library to have 25% of total circulation be handled by machine. The software program that handles the public computers has major deficiencies. If we cannot get the deficiencies corrected, we will find an alternative product. Today, 9,000 to 10,000 people use the libraries 51 computers each month. The 10,000 figure does not include people who come into the library every day with their own laptop to utilize the library’s wireless network.

Younger patrons get their information from and communicate by social networking. The library will continue using Facebook and Twitter. The library is also looking into the capability of texting. In 2012, the library will upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010. Debit and credit cards will also be accepted as a means of payment. The library also intends to add a couple of fax machines at both facilities. This will not require additional staff to maintain.

The library intends to give the patrons a redesigned website, which will support economic development and facilitate research. It will have such features as a business page which will help entrepreneurs start new businesses and establish businesses to improve and to grow.

By rearranging the computer area at Ridgeview, the library will be able to accommodate additional seating of wireless users. The library will partner with Job Link to help patrons who are seeking jobs.

Technology Garage: The Library made a start earlier this year by purchasing equipment for patrons to experiment with and learn how to use. Technology classes have been sellouts. Mary Sizemore and her staff will continue to pursue grants to allow the garage to be kept current with the latest technology that our citizens need in order to keep current.

The library is committed to providing computer technology that supports homework assignments, as well as educational gains. The library will offer and promote “Learning Express” online test preparation resources, as well as “North Carolina Live” and homework related resources for students.

The library has almost completed a much-needed 20 seat conference room. This project was funded by the “Friends of the Library.” They plan to offer a coffee bar operated by an outside vendor. Coffee and sandwiches will be available at the library for SALT block employees and visitors. The library must find available space for storage needs for outreach services, which are growing exponentially.

The library is looking to conduct an annual security audit in conjunction with the Police Department in order to assure the safety of patrons and staff. The library will maintain sufficient staff, who are well-trained and customer focused. The library will recruit and train volunteers to help with the homebound services, senior outreach, and performance of routine library functions.

Because of staff shortages, the library has had to decrease the number of adult classes offered from 200 to 95. The library is committed to providing programming that supports educational endeavors or skill set development; and enhances the economic vitality of Catawba County, fosters a sense of community, or encourages the exploration of new ideas.

In these difficult economic times, it is smart business for the library to join with other institutions to bring us programs that people cannot afford on their own, but the library no longer has the resources to handle. This plan encourages partnering, wherever feasible. One of the valued partners “Prime Life Adventures” that brought the Environmental film Festival and taught technology classes has recently been eliminated by Appalachian State University.

Mrs. Ivester closed by addressing the library as an economic driver, since this is a newly developing concept and many are not familiar with this as a library role. This says that the library will provide resources to ensure that our residents are fully prepared for life in a time of rapid change. Libraries have become important resources in the hunt for jobs at new business creation. Gov. Purdue has chartered the state's libraries to offer a program called job search strategies to help put the community back to work. The library will keep its career enhancement center up to date. If the Hickory areais to compete for jobs effectively, then we must have an educated and up to date citizenry. Library cardholders are offered a training tool called “Learning Express.” This provides training tools that enable participants to study for college entrance exams and the GED. It can also be used to train for a number of vocational certifications and advanced tests.

The library will also examine utilizing outside presenters to provide regular computer classes. It will also investigate utilizing foreign language instruction software programs on the public computers. Currently Spanish classes are offered with CVCC twice a year. We all recognize that our graduation rates are low, and it has an impact on our ability to attract industry. The Library is committed to supporting the business and education community in its efforts to increase graduation rates. Institutions with superior youth programs like the library, the Art museum, the Science Center, as well as the Western Piedmont Symphony youth orchestra can be used to show that kids who participate in these efforts will have a good chance of getting into the college of their choice. We need to tell the story.

The library will participate in efforts to promote the Hickory area and will support major initiatives targeted at active retirees, including professionals and attracting businesses to the area. They will also work with the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation to create brochures and a PowerPoint and other information that is important in promoting and attracting individuals to relocate to the greater Hickory area.

Alder Patton stated that she would like to commend the library and Friends of the Library for the collaborative effort to leverage our assets and she believes that they have done a fabulous job. Ald. Lail said that he can see that the board has worked very hard and the library is an important part of what you (Mrs. Ivester) do. The reality is that in this crisis, we can take some solace in the fact that we have some fabulous facilities. Mrs.Ivester interjected that Mary Sizemore and her staff is killing themselves. This plan not only retrenches, but in a lot of cases the staff is adding new stuff, because of the staff that they have. Ald. Lail added that a lot of things that the library has added are things that we need most desperately right now. Computers, technology, and adding space.

Ald. Patton asked if there was a time limit on individual use of computers. Mrs. Ivester stated that there is. Patrons used to be able to come to the library and utilize a computer all day, but that was not satisfactory. About two years ago the library went to a two-hour limit per day. This can be overridden for an important project. Alder Fox complimented Mrs. Ivester and stated that she thinks that this is a marvelous example of one of our commissions that have citizens that are very committed and roll up their sleeves and spend many hours looking at how we deal with the tough economy, and yet offer excellent services and our community is blessed to have two very fine libraries and a staff and commission that have a good understanding of their role.. The council voted unanimously to accept the libraries 2011 that 2013 plan.

The Hound can appreciate the job that Ms. Sizemore and Mrs. Ivester are doing with the programming of the library. The library is one thing that this community can be proud of. Mrs. Ivester gave an excellent presentation again. This is a thorough accounting of the mission and goals of the library. The lady left nothing out and there is no ambiguity in her statements. What you see is what you get and I think we all appreciate it when a presenter doesn't beat around the bush and try to serve up sunshine and lollipops.

Our library faces some severe challenges, but the library is in good hands. The people that I know who have utilized its services have given excellent reviews. The technology classes have helped many people become comfortable with gadgets and stick a toe in the water and become more comfortable with the technology before investing a lot of money in a product. And the library is leading the way in a new paradigm of education. I hope that the leaders of the library are left alone to continue its success.

2. Staff Report Regarding Function of Animal Control Advisory Board - The Animal Control Advisory Board was established by City Council in June 1988 by Resolution. Since the Board’s conception, the Hickory Police Department now utilizes an updated animal control ordinance revised in 2006 in order to have a more comprehensive way to address animal control issues that were not previously included in Chapter 4 of the City Code. In addition to enforcing Chapter 4 of the City Code, the Police Department continues with the spaying and neutering program along with vaccination clinics. Staff recommends adoption of Resolution to dissolve the Animal Control Advisory Board and to discharge the current Board members. Unanimously approved by Council.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 21, 2010 - Addendum to Decommission and Permanently Secure Ivey and Ridgeview Pools

Approval , George Ivey and Ridgeview to Alleviate Existing Safety Concerns and Liability Issues - Upon a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission, City Council recently decided that the City should pursue alternative avenues of aquatic activities. Staff now recommends that the City take the appropriate action to remedy the existing safety concerns and liability issues associated with these two vacated pools by decommissioning and permanently securing them. Parks and Recreation staff and Public Services staff have worked together to develop a plan to permanently remedy all safety concerns and liability issues associated with these pools. This work will include the removal of pool infrastructure and filling in the ensuing void. All work will be performed inhouse, with each pool taking approximately one week for completion.

Mayor Pro Tempore Alderman Brad Lail lays the ground rules for Public Address of Council and City Manager Mick Berry gives the reasons for decommissioning the pools. Karen Hoyle addresses Council about City officials dividing the city.

Walter Witherspoon - I'm sick of it! The people need to work on solutions and not put trust and faith in the council. The council is not listening. Why have the surveys and charrettes, if you aren't going to follow through? What about the rule of law. This was not one of the six options. This is a new agenda.

Jimmy Davis - A summary of how we got to where we are now. The pools weren't maintained and the council is going against their own words and actions.

Larry Pope - The city has not lived up to it's commitments. If you won't listen to the taxpayers, then you need to resign. There are a lot of conflicts of interest on this council. Larry raises cain at the 4:19 mark. Sam Hunt gets sentimental about what the Ridgeview pool means to him. Thom Shell (Me) The race to the bottom. We aren't striving for excellence. When people show pride we take it away from them! We need to work together as a city.

Final Comments: Billy Sudderth about the cancellation and later movement of Kwanzaa from the Ridgeview Community Center. We are powerless. This should not have taken place. A Ms. McNeur (sp?) - Council member stated that she wasn't very smart if she threw her lot in with Ridgeview. Ridgeview and west Hickory are the two largest neighborhoods in Hickory and are the two poorest socio-economically. Patricia Wilson Johnson spoke about how the city has taken things away and not replaced it with anything. How can we be great, if our community isn't great. We want to bring people into the community, but first we need to take care of those here.

The Council voted Unanimously to approve the motion to Decommission and Permanently Secure Both Pools. Several people stormed out of council chambers shouting No Justice No Peace.

The Hound hopes that this is the wake-up call and education that people need to understand how our local government is working (or isn't). It is hard for me to believe that the good people of this community and the vast majority of those within local government can support this type of governance. I guess it is all about the paycheck. Will the regular people in this community ever have a say in how the city is governed, instead of this Boss Hogg crapfest!

My heart just cannot believe what my brain has taken in over the last several years. How can you run a government this way. I have been told by members of the Ridgeview community that no one contacted them to let them know that this issue was being worked on, much less decided upon. There is no way that this item should have ever been placed on the consent agenda. It shows that members in the Whitener building have a total lack of respect for the people in the less well-to-do sections of Hickory, but I am alright with this, because this lays it all out there for everyone to see. They believe the people of this city are their subjects.

Do you remember when the forces aligned on the Lowe's Home Improvement project issue. Alder Fox was vehemently opposed to the construction of that business, as was the Mayor in the beginning, and Alder Patton came to office because of the position that she took on that issue. Those political forces that aligned in that instance created a power struggle, which changed the makeup of the city council to where it is today. I am not pointing to this as a way of chastising anyone. I am pointing to this, because I want you to see that these sorts of forces of action do have consequences.`

People said that John Watts did not listen to the will of the people and he lost in a landslide, because people rallied around how that process formed and was executed. If John Watts had communicated with the public better about that issue, then he is probably still on council today. Many say that he turned a deaf ear towards concerned citizens, especially those from his ward. It does not matter, what we have seen in the subsequent years, and how that project has uplifted the area. In the end John Watts was right about that project and the positive effects it would have on the economic development of that area. What cost John Watts was the fact that he did not communicate well with the people of his ward or the people of the city of Hickory in general.

What comes around goes around. The people on the Council still have not learned that lesson. They refuse to listen to the people. It is a shame that the person who benefited most from that lesson seems to have no clue about this or has she forgotten? It is not only that the council refuses to listen to the people, because sometimes that is a necessity with leadership. The problem is that they have refused to communicate with the people over this issue. Who formed the charrettes and the surveys? Who directed city funds, and those supposedly sacred tax dollars, towards the implementation of these directives?

If I am the shareholder of a company that has wasted this sort of money on, and this much time on, a charade, then I would want everyone involved in this fiasco fired; no compromises, no ifs, no ands, no buts.... It is time that people express their loss of confidence in the leadership of this community's leaders, because there is none. They think the city's government is their toy to use and abuse as they see fit. This is not high school. This is not some kind of popularity contest. This is a results oriented business, and we have not seen any results for a long, long time.

What we're seeing is the race to the bottom with a City Manager, Mayor, and City Council with their foot to the floor board. They are always talking about "Quality of Life." Just whose quality of life are they referring to?

As I have shown you on this blog. We are ranked in the bottom 10% by just about every analytical survey done by national entities. The Gallup-Healthway survey that was released a couple of months ago ranked the Hickory Metro area with the lowest well being in the United States in most categories, that they studied. This study included 185 metropolitan areas throughout the nation. The Milken Institute ranked Hickory as the 197th best place to do business in the United States and Forbes magazine ranks the area as the 179th best place for business and careers. What does this say about what has been going on around here. Where is the sense of urgency?

It is not the average person who should be facing the consequences of this ineptitude. It is shameful to see the level of hubris related to our local governance and leadership (or lack there of). The people who should be facing the consequences are the people who have made the decisions that led us to this point. Yet, it is the poor people who keep getting less and less. We're told that the city is doing what it is supposed to do. The garbage is getting picked up, fires are being put out, and police are responding to calls. With this race to the bottom, how long will it be until our city leaders look to justify not providing city services to the South side of the tracks.

You say that is impossible. What if we got into a time machine and went back to 1995 and told the people of Ridgeview that by 2009 there would be no pool. This would have occurred after assurances several times in the early 90s that there would be an upgrade to the pool and/or a new pool was on the way. Would they not have thought this current situation was impossible then? I wouldn't put anything past what I have seen from this crew!

It is really getting old, and it is obvious that people just don't get it. We're always applying for some superfluous award like All-American city, Tennis Town USA, or something else that doesn't amount to a hill of beans. I don't care about plaques or trophies or photo ops. When we will know that the city is turning around is when one of these national surveys show us climbing the ladder and making real progress. These surveys lay a road map for what we need to do and number one on that list is to invest in your community's people.

The latest embarrassment of surveys was provided by (Yeah, I knew about that one too). It ranks us as the 193rd out of 200 brainyist cities- Here is the PDF Link. Another notch in the belt. And the people at the top continue tinkling, because they won't admit that we need to invest in the people in our area in order to get out of this predicament, because that costs money. That is the Audacity of Ignorance. Cheap begets Cheap!

Let these pools serve as a reminder and a metaphor of the Old South style of culture that has brought us to this point, "As long as my clubs open, screw you. (Snap, Snap)Hey Johnny go fetch me another sweet tea."

Our city leaders don't want to work with anybody, unless it serves their personal interests. The people that used the pools and the kids, who would've had the opportunity to use those pools, will go by them every day and the story will be told, and the story will be spread. We all know that this is not over. This could have shown how a city can come together and do what is in the best interest for everyone from all walks of life. Instead this issue will continue to divide this community and those railroad tracks that run through the center of our city will continue to show the extreme disparity between the haves and have-nots in our community.

I really feel sorry to think of the legacy of the people who originally built Hickory. What was once a thriving and prosperous community will continue to head towards nothing unless we turn the corner very soon and it might already be too late. People who don't get it never will get it! No Justice, No Peace!

Stop the Demolitions of Our Pools - The Citizens for Equity in Government is sponsoring a Demonstration and Picketing at the City of Hickory’s Government Center 76 North Center Street, on Tuesday December 28,2010 from 7:30 – 9:30am. Please support our efforts.

Contact : Billy Sudderth (828-308-4669)

Why We Must Act! - Citizens for Equity in Government
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 16, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City PoolsCity Pools issue displays Local Officials' Myopic Views
REBUILDING & EMPOWERING FROM THE BOTTOM UP -- Citizens for Equity in Government

Citizens Of Ridgeview address the City Council about the City Pools Issue

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of July 20, 2010 - Addendum on the Hickory City Pools
More than Pools
Hickory City Pools -- Told You So 8)
Continuing the Rant - The City of Hickory's Budget
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of June 15, 2010
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 4, 2010
HDR Editorial - Hickory council needs a member with vision
The City Council Candidate Forum Last Night - 10/29/2009 - (Audio Available)
From the Hickory Daily Record - Election issues discussed at forum