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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

North Carolina Congressional Redistricting plan renders Hickory Irrelevant

The redistricting proposed by the North Carolina legislature splits the immediate vicinity around the City of Hickory into three different districts. This area will now be represented by the current 5th District - Virginia Foxx, 10th District -Patrick McHenry, and 11th District - Heath Shuler.

Caldwell County and portions of Burke County will move from the 10th district to the 11th district, about two-thirds of Hickory, but excluding Longview will move to the 5th with Watauga and Alexander. The balance of Catawba County stays in the 10th and will now be associated with Asheville and Gastonia.

Some people have pointed out that this will cause our area to lose political clout. My argument is that we don't have any political clout to begin with. Look at the fact that the local "Formal" media is more interested in mixing articles with advertising in relation to local Professionals and businesses, instead of doing any investigative reporting about what is going on around here in relation to local governance. Has anyone heard anything about this issue on WHKY or in the Hickory Daily Record?

In my conversation with Harry Hipps, related to this issue, he quoted the Ted Turner book, "Lead, Follow, or get out of the way." Hickory's political leadership has proven itself to be all to unwilling to exercise any initiative on anything that would be considered innovative or outside of the box thinking, because that would be considered too risky. Another serious problem is the arrogant attitude of our leadership that seems to feel that the City of Hickory is entitled to be the focal point of the attention of this area through infinity without taking action to express the City's importance. This dissolution of the current electoral paradigm will neuter Hickory as far as being a politically viable cog in the wheel of North Carolina politics; at least for the time being.

We have zero political clout, because we don't stand for anything. We have zero in the way of leadership on the local level politically. Our local political establishment is defined by glad handing and status. Tell me where there is a game plan on getting some things done?

Every time we have a local election people talk about how they don't want it to be too partisan or vitriolic. In my opinion, in Hickory that is the reason why you have that Status Quo, all of one mindset governance and that is the reason why all of this is happening.

The thinkers have a gameplan, but the thinkers aren't in office. Critical Thinkers aren't allowed a seat at the table. They are labeled trouble makers for asking too many questions of the establishment. The people who are in office have to be "Doers" and because of the rules that I set forth above, the leaders aren't going to be challenged and if they aren't going to be challenged, then where is the energy that forces them to do anything going to come from? Where is the accountability going to come from?

Look at the Hickory Daily Record and WHKY, one or both have been expressly given stories that they will not touch. I don't understand the thought process, but empirical evidence shows that they will not report on anything that could shape a political thought process. They will report on murder and mayhem and fluff, but anything that could affect political decisions they will not touch.

Personally that is the reason why I have moved away from writing opinion pieces to the HDR. I am sorry, but I don't look at what they do as being a valid news organization at this point. I beg them to change and become more involved. It is like a colleague has stated that they are usually the only "formal" presence at Hickory City Council meetings, but what have they really discussed? All they seem to do is take the City's information from the meetings and run with it in different blurbs over the week following the meeting. There is no in depth analysis and it leaves the public ignorant of the facts of what is happening in the community.

That is part of the multi-level negligence that I describe above. They have been given the story related to the malfeasance at the airport. They haven't ever talked about the bankruptcy of the operators of the airport. They were given details of interest related to the rental property task force. They will not devote diligence on the issues related to downtown. No one from the HDR showed up to the proceedings of the Hickory By Choice meetings. They barely touched the issue of the redistricting of the wards in the City of Hickory and won't touch ward specific elections with a 10 foot pole. There were factual discrepancies that tilted towards city management in relation to the pool issue.

It surely seems that when someone tries to hold an elected official's feet to the fire in our area, you have one of their buddies toting their water and making excuses for them and they don't have to lift a finger to defend their record. And that is a big problem. The apologists need to stand down and let us have a real election for once, instead of another processional pageant where no one participates, because the fix is in. We need to have a series of real debates and serious dialogue where the people who have the best ideas can get their message out, because from ideas we get action and from action we get things done!!!

What implications will this Congressional Redistricting hold for our area? The goal is what Congressman McHenry pointed out a couple months ago in the Politico article from May 4, 2011 entitled Race politics hit North Carolina redistricting. In this article the Congressman states:
“It’s politically probable that there will be a new minority influence district. … It’s logical based on the demographics of our state,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who has become the point man in Congress for the state’s redistricting.

McHenry and other North Carolina Republicans defend their redistricting efforts, saying the Tar Heel State’s booming population and the surge in Republican voters — not to mention the fact that Democrats drew the current districts — justify a new map that could give the state nine Republicans and four Democrats in Congress.

“Republicans should pick up three seats under any fair and legal map,” McHenry said. “That is huge. No other states in the nation would gain as many Republican seats. This would be in a state that Barack Obama won in 2008 and where we have had a Democratic governor since 1992 — the longest such period in the nation. A 9-4 delegation is pretty good and would attempt to avoid the risk of a bad year for Republicans. Clearly, Reps. Kissell and Miller are serving their final term.”

The swerving of our Congressional district lines serves multiple purposes. It most likely puts a Democrat seat out of the reach of Heath Shuler, because they are going to add Republican strongholds to the 11th district, while taking away Asheville and sacrificing some of the wide two-thirds support that McHenry now receives in the 10th district. Congressman McHenry also remembers that he had a tough go against Daniel Johnson in the City of Hickory in 2008, while he blew him away in the rest of the district. For that reason, I can see why as a strategy he doesn't mind trading in the City of Hickory. It also helps Virginia Foxx maintain the current wide support in the 5th District. Her district seems to be the least affected district in our area with only modifications affecting sparsely populated areas north of Winston-Salem, while allowing her to keep her centrifugal force centered around North Wilkesboro. IIt is also going to most likely spell doom for Larry Kissell, because the heavily Republican area in south Iredell County moves from Congressman McHenry's district to his 9th district. (EDIT: My mistake - Sue Myrick is the 9th District representative and inherits South Iredell from McHenry, while giving up parts of Gaston County, which is McHenry's home county. Kissell inherits parts of Rowan, Davidson, Randolph, and Robeson County, which I presume to be more Republican and loses some constituents to Mel Watt's gerrymandered minority district. Still making it harder for him to be reelected. The results of my hypothesis still don't change.)

The effects on Hickory, I believe, are related to our bad economy here. These Congressional representatives don't want the Hickory Metro's bad economy hindering their personal political efforts; so why not split it up? It can be good for Hickory if we find some leadership, because we would have three advocates for our interest, if we could ever focus on a gameplan. The one thing that I believe is that it essentially renders it nearly impossible for a candidate from the City of Hickory to ever be viable, because Hickory is on the fringes of all three of these districts and its population is split amongst those districts. In general, I believe that most candidates come from the heart of their district or the most populated areas within their district.

There is also the fact that our metropolitan area is taken for granted, because for the most part it automatically supports the Republican candidate. We do not have a valid two party structure in our area. We are the milk cow of North Carolina politics. Two-Thirds of the people here can be counted on to go in and vote straight Republican. I doubt that most of these people can even tell you who they are voting for. If we are going to not even have any expectations, then why shouldn't we be ignored. As the old saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. The only time we have ever squeaked was in relation to the Inter-basin transfer from the Catawba River. We took notice on that issue, but have never chirped on the issues related to the loss of our local industry due to "Free for All" trade and the devastating effects it has had on our area.

So, in the end, we are getting what we deserve. This cannot be good from the standpoint that our Metropolitan area is being sliced and diced by Raleigh and Washington. Essentially they are saying that our metropolitan designation is unfocused, irrelevant, and not politically significant. As my colleagues have stated and I have conveyed in this blog, Inaction is an Action and that is what we are guilty of from the top to the bottom of our area.

Whether people are scared of retaliation or whatever the excuse, the fact is that there isn't much getting done around here. There isn't much movement, much less energy. People are scared to rock the boat and if you don't rock the boat and make waves, then you aren't going to get moving. That is where our problem lies. This is just another in a long list of  issues that can be labeled as "the same ole story, the same ole song and dance, my friends."


Silence DoGood said...

I'm know I'm alone in this viewpoint, but I find it both entertaining and amusing, at the same time! Like you said, Hickory and Catawba County can be counted on for a 67% straight Republican vote every time the polls open. Why commit anything to the area when you don't have to. You reap what you sew.

harryhipps said...

I think this should be re titled. Hickory rendered itself irrelevant. The redistricting is just formal acknowledgement of that.

Anonymous said...

We hve a semilar issue in Union County. We were split up to make up for other county lack of Republican. County leaders dont understand that influence is being deminished