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Monday, September 19, 2011

Hickory's One Percent -- Silence DoGood


Quite often in the distribution of wealth, be it tangible assets (those things that can readily be converted to cash) or monetary value and cash on hand, we often hear of the top 1 percent. Those persons own and hold a sizeable portion of the wealth and value of the entire United States, 34.6% of net wealth and 42.7% of the financial wealth in 2007. When you consider that is just the top 1% of persons in the population and in 2007, that’s roughly 285,000 people who own a sizeable chunk of everything. So what I want to do here is examine this group and their sense of entitlement to the positions they hold.

I want to focus on that 1% and their sense of entitlement to be in the positions they hold in society and work consistently to maintain them. And here the question is first asked, “Who has power in America?” The na├»ve would say that the ‘people’ as a collective have the power. Alas, if this were only true. First of all, if it were true, it would denote an institution of Socialism in this country. Well, we know that can’t be possible or even true. Although this concept of people in control existed prior to the fomenting of the concept of Socialism as a formal understanding. However, power resides with those who own income producing land or businesses. So if you want to know who is truly in charge, who really wields great influence, who can get things done, now you know. Is this a recent development? Not really. If you look back across the history of the United States and before, you will see the bulk of those in power or positions of influence as being affluent in their time and held tangible assets that held sizeable value or could be used to generate sizeable income.

That cuts against your notions of what America is, doesn’t it? I know, me too. It doesn’t mean however that the social elites are in complete dominion over everyone else. But this class view of who they are cuts across the centuries and generations. The behaviors of these social elites takes it’s cue from the practices of the nobility in the countries from which many of us trace our roots. In that regard, I’ll offer you these points to ponder. The means by which these elites are educated, from the day or boarding schools starting in the lower grades all the way through the exclusive universities. The places these people live. The ways in which the elites socialize with each other at the members only country club, the debutante ball, membership in exclusive organizations such as the Junior League or a particular golf course. Each of those organizations are exclusive by virtue that they charge exorbitant fees to be a member, you much be voted on or sponsored by an existing member in many cases, and by virtue of those parameters, the organization can exclude people from membership. The elites live in certain older established neighborhoods, socially desirable downtown digs, or gated and secure communities in more rural environs. Each of these facets eludes to exclusivity and association only with their own kind or type of person in their social class. Newly wealthy are assimilated into the class. This is a small group of persons, remember? They know each other, and atypically only associate with each other. For those that have known success for generations, these families have intermingled, married, and entwined themselves and consolidated their holdings and status. And lastly, lest we forget, this same group of people also share a common viewpoint of the world and the things in it.


What does all of that have to do with Hickory? Just this. If you use that same percentage of 1%, that equates to 400 core people of influence in a population of 40,000. Now, when you factor a spouse, children, and siblings, that number can grow exponentially. If you conservatively figure that there are at least 3 other people in around each nuclear core person in the model of 400, that’s 1,600 people. The significance in that is, if you consider that is a core voting nucleus, in Hickory, that carries significant weight and influence. That is enough people to take any local election in Hickory when you consider the voter turn out in the off years. To illustrate that point, I’ve compiled tables of the municipal elections in Hickory since 1999. Look at the numbers and consider the implications of what I’ve just pointed out.


1999 Hickory Municipal Election

Candidate
Ward 1
Ward 2
Ward 3
Ward 4
Ward 5
Ward 6
Mayor
Jay Adams
1,743






37.7%
Hamilton Ward
2,893






61.9%
Write In
17






0.36%
Bruce Meisner

2,646





54.7%
Wilfred A. Wells

2,171





44.8%
Write In

25





0.52%
Danny Seaver


3,662




98.2%
Write In


69




1.8%











2001 Hickory Municipal Election

Candidate
Ward 1
Ward 2
Ward 3
Ward 4
Ward 5
Ward 6
Mayor
Pat Moss






2,653
43.1%
Rudy Wright






3,478
57.0%
Write In






22
0.00%
Z. Ann Hoyle



4,373



96.8
%
Write In



146



3.2%
Sally Fox




3,211


53.1%
Jerry Phillips




2,825


47.0%
Write In




12


0.00%
W. Grimes Byerly





2,880

49.6%
C. John Watts





2,930

50.4%











2003 Hickory Municipal Election

Candidate
Ward 1
Ward 2
Ward 3
Ward 4
Ward 5
Ward 6
Mayor
Brad Lail
2,457






97.1%
Write In
74






2.9%
Gary Ewing

1,486





44.3%
Bruce Meisner

1,868





55.6%
Write In

4





0.01%
Danny Seaver


2,465




98.4%
Write In


39




1.6%











2005 Hickory Municipal  Election

Candidate
Ward 1
Ward 2
Ward 3
Ward 4
Ward 5
Ward 6
Mayor
Jay Adams






2,105
42.1%
Rudy Wright






2,906
57.9%
Z. Ann Hoyle



2,822



59.5%
Larry Pope



1,921



40.5%
Sally Fox




4,178


100%








Jill Patton





3,151

63.5%
C. John Watts





1,814

36.5%













2007 Hickory Municipal Election

Candidate
Ward 1
Ward 2
Ward 3
Ward 4
Ward 5
Ward 6
Mayor
Brad Lail
2,095






58.2%
Nancy Willingham
1,496






41.6%
Write In
9






0.02%
Bruce Meisner

2,819





96.8%
Write In

93





3.2%
Danny Seaver


2,194




66.4%
Lee Wilson


1,106




33.4%
Write In


5




0.02%











2009 Hickory Municipal  Election

Candidate
Ward 1
Ward 2
Ward 3
Ward 4
Ward 5
Ward 6
Mayor
Rudy Wright






1,923
95.7%
Write In






86
4.3%
Z. Ann Hoyle



658



29.2%
Hank Guess



1,586



70.4%
Write In



9



0.04%
Sally Fox




1,753


97.2%
Write In




50


2.8%
Jill Patton





1,422

66.2%
Harry Hipps





721

33.6%
Write In





4

0.02%


What these tables demonstrate, at a glance, is that 20 persons, excluding write-ins have run for office in the last 6 municipal elections from 1999 – 2009, and:

10 or 50% were first time candidates and lost.
4 or 20% ran three times and won three times.
2 or 10% ran twice and won twice.
1 or 5% ran twice and lost twice.
1 or 5% ran twice and won the first and lost the second.
1 or 5% ran three times and won two and lost the third.
1 or 5% ran once and won once.


Now, think back to how this all started. Remember those power elites that hold and wield power with the shared attributes? How 1% of the entire population was quite probably deciding the outcomes of the elections, who is elected, and who will represent the entire city and determine the path the City and it’s population is to follow and the City’s vision for the future. Taking that 1% and expanding their span of immediate influence in just their own immediate families, you have 1,600 people that think, act, vote, and associate themselves in a like manner on an array of varying topics and political viewpoints. Look at the impact with citywide voting and the immediate impact that 1600 votes have. The weaker the turnout during any election cycle, the more power those votes yield. During the 2001 election cycle, which had the strongest voter turnout of the all the contests examined, there was a total of 22,530 votes cast for all candidates. Now in reality, that is probably about 6,200 voters that turned out. I say probably because the highest vote tally cast for any seat that year was 6,153 and I don’t have the exact voter turnout data. So in that scenario, those 1,600 votes would account for 26% of all the votes cast. Compare that to the weakest voter turnout election cycle, which was 2009. The same seats at stake in 2009 were the same seats up in 2001. However, while 22,530 total votes were cast in 2001, only 8,212 total votes were cast in 2009. Again, the total number of voters would be in the 2,275 range due to the largest number of votes cast in any one race this cycle were 2,253, and the approximations are for the same reasons as previously stated. The difference however is the effect of those 1600 core voters. The representative ratio just jumped 50% so that those 1600 represent 75% of the voters who went to the polls in 2009. Folks, that’s how you maintain control and keep the focus and the impetus on just those things that you deem important, relative, and you ensure that your interests are looked after and safe. You are making certain that the rules, if any are formulated, are in your favor. If you can maintain that hypothetical 75% ratio of the vote, even if there is decent, it can very quickly and easily be pushed aside and played off as a minor disgruntling or sore loser syndrome.

Now, is any of this scientific or empirical as proof of what is going on? I’m sorry to say no, it isn’t. But if you think about the who, the why, and the how of the way things work, who the repeat players are, and the successes of certain people and the falls from grace for others, patterns begin to develop. When you see those correlations between people, it’s not hard to draw reasonable inferences based on those correlations. That core group of people you and I will never see. They move behind the scenes to cloak their agendas and because they don’t want the associations mentioned here to be public knowledge. But they exist. The numbers can be quantified, but the persons will remain nameless, unless one of elites chose to break ranks and expose the charade of power. But there is no incentive to do that. However, there is hope.

The hope is in the numbers themselves. When you fail to vote, you are denying yourselves the representation that you so desperately demand and for which you cry out. If you do not get redress of grievance from the government that currently occupies the offices of your representatives, then it is time to replace them. We have the power of numbers and if you want change and a voice, then you have to exercise both. Those in power will listen or they will be replaced. We outnumber the power elite, but we have to exercise the power of superior numbers and never pause whenever an election is in contention. It is too late to do anything about 2011. No one found enough interest to file for any contest in the November election. If you want a voice, then someone has to stand up to be counted.

4 comments:

James Thomas Shell said...

I like this submission by DoGood. It goes right along with what I wrote as a follow up to the 2009 City Council Election.

I harbor no ill will toward Aldermen Meisner, Seaver, or Lail. I do have disagreements, but I think under many terms I have been on the same page as them when it comes to their business mindset, but I have had some firm disagreements about their social mindset. I fully supported these guys in the paper 4 years ago.

That being said, It says a lot n(negative) about this community when no one runs against them, but do people in this community who would like to join into our process of governance feel that they stand a chance of being elected.

It costs at least $2,000 to run a city wide campaign and that is on a shoestring budget. Add to that the hours that one has to spend engaging the public. Even in doing that, empirical evidence shows that less than 10% of the registered voting public will even bother to vote.

The people who could make positive change in this community are those are hungry for growth and moving the community forward economically. This will not come from those entering retirement age, who are winding down in life, or those that don't understand the plight of the working class.

I love entrepreneurialism and believe that it will help the community, but not everyone can be a business owner and the community should not be 100% devoted to business owners. We need a workforce and we need to look out for the interests of the average worker just as much as the business man. We need balance. We need both in order to establish a dynamic community.

That is why I endorse the Direct Ward Electoral process. It brings the local government back to the people. It will not lead to cronyism as Alderman Meisner stated last week on the radio. What we have now in this community is a terrible crony structure. It is the complete opposite of what Ald. Meisner talked about on the radio. We have three precincts (St. Luke's, Holy Trinity, and Neill Clark) representing 1,400 out of approx. 2,300 total votes. Why should three precincts determine who represents all of the wards in Hickory?

James Thomas Shell said...

The Mayor talked about this being a money issue and that this special election would cost money. In this upcoming election, you would only have to have precincts open in the three wards that are running. We could also get rid of the "Primaries" and have elections where anyone with a super-majority (40%) in a more than 2 candidate election would win. That would be a big money saver there. Would it not?

It would also mean that all of the wards would have representatives that would bring their interests to the table and areas of South Hickory and West Hickory would no longer get the brush off and the real interests and issues of those neighborhoods would finally be forced to be sanctioned by the Council Bench. It would truly empower those neighborhoods and that in and of itself would bring more interest in those neighborhoods to the table.

What about the idea of holding city elections when other state and federal elections are happening? If you wanted to save money, would that not be the route to take? Would that not increase voter participation?

There are some real questions that deserve to be debated here and trying to block the petition process goes against the grain of our democratic/Republic form of government.

Let's be honest and lay the cards out on the table. When I was a kid, growing up, we were taught in school about how in the Soviet Union they had contrived elections. They weren't based on party, because there was only one party. When the election took place, the "Chosen" leader would either be running unopposed or the odds were stacked firmly against any challenger to the point of intimidation. Is that not what we are seeing under this current structure on the local scene?

We are told that our elections are non-affiliated, but come on, let's be honest for once. There are certain sections of this community that are given the golden route and others that are completely ignored and when those that are not represented speak up, then they are labeled as trouble makers or ignorant or unstable. Maybe we (hmmm hmm -- you -- cough cough) need to take a second look at all of that!!!

James Thomas Shell said...

Press Release Contact: Billy Sudderth

September 20, 2011 (828) 308-4669

“Why City Government Must Change”

In 1970 the City of Hickory changed from a pure ward system to modified at-large or blend system for electing City Council members. This meant that council members were nominated from their wards through primaries but had to be elected city-wide. This change created an electoral system which has eventually led to the under-representation of lower income and minority citizens in elected positions.

A group of concerned citizens from various wards in the city has initiated a petition to bring about a public referendum on this issue. These citizens believe that each of Hickory’s six municipal wards should have a representative on the City Council elected by the people of that ward. They would also favor having the Mayor and two or three Council members elected at-large.

Our petition requests the Hickory City Council to change its present electoral system of the “At Large” system to a “Pure” ward system, a system that will let citizens of each ward elect their own representative.

Other advantages of a pure ward system are that the City Council and city government in general would become more responsive to local neighborhoods and more voters would want to participate in elections. Furthermore, the pure ward system is more efficient and less costly than our present system. Above all, it brings government closer to the people and therefore is more democratic. Studies of cities where representatives are elected by wards have borne out these facts.

Our questionnaire asks:

Are you registered to vote in the City of Hickory, NC?

Have you signed this petition with one of our members? (Signing this petition more than once doesn’t help, but actually hurts this cause.)

Please print your name, home address, city, and birth date as seen on your state issued ID card. Please sign your name.

Spouses cannot sign for the absent spouse. Each has to sign their own name, but please give us a time that the absent spouse will be available.

Citizens of Hickory interested in supporting this petition can contact Citizens for Equity in Government at (828) 308-4669.



There will be a press conference held at City Hall (The Julian Whitener Building) at 2pm Tomorrow, September 20, 2011. The public is invited.

Silence DoGood said...

I have only one rebuttal comment. Someone entering retirement age could be a terrific advocate for those people. They have but to care and pick up that banner. They have the time to devote and aren't beholden to someone else for the means of their subsistence. Every thing else is spot on.