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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Trends for 2012

We have been at this for a while now. Including the original Letters to the Editor in the local Paper, we are entering the 6th year of providing information on all levels of government and society. We have grown fairly well over this time. Sure, I wish we could grow faster and certainly this sometimes feels like a daunting task, but through persistence and perseverance, we will continue pushing forward through 2012.

What worries me is people's denial. I don't mind being labeled, but folks what good does it do you to throw out simplistic labels with no definition. People with ideas that you don't understand aren't radicals. People that will kill you, maim you, and imprison you are radicals. People with ideas that you don't agree with are people with another point of view. They might have a different perspective. They might be prescient. They might be on the cutting edge. Maybe you are the person with the problem.

When I listen to others and look at all of the inputs, I have a feeling that if you feel that 2011 was a wild ride, well you ain't seen nuthin' yet. It doesn't look like the real economy is turning around. Sure they can spin the job numbers, but the number one trend that I see involving society is that paper means nothing. Paper is not a valuable physical asset. Go write an IOU to a friend and then tear it up. Promissory notes, Deeds, and anything that must be notarized is still paper and it can easily be deemed worthless if all hell breaks loose. When the Government provides you a promise it is only as good as their word and that changes with the wind. It is the same thing when any Incorporated Entity (Including the Government) provides you with statistical data... Garbage in, Garbage out... Liars, Damned Liars, and Fools. GET OUT OF PAPER!!!

The next piece of advice that you should heed is to quit getting your information from media who do not provide in depth information. If you come to me and tell me that you heard something from a television news broadcast, then I will consider it hearsay. Most information provided on this blog is multi-sourced. Local investigative information is sometimes not, but it is either eye-witnessed or comes from reliable sources who I have been able to trust. I also separate events from opinion. You don't get that, for the most part, from electronic media. My job as an information source is to point to subjects, hopefully  pique your curiosity, point to other sources, and hope that you will inform yourself and maybe become a source point for me and this network in the future.

Why do I think that the upcoming year will be a wild ride?

1) Election in chaos - Most people are not satisfied with President Obama. His approval rating is in the low 40% range and his disapproval is in the upper 40% to over 50% range. That should mean real difficulties for him with 7+ months to the Convention and 10 months to the election, but the Republicans have no clear frontrunner and most candidates down in the 20% range. People are very dissatisfied with their choices and this dissatifaction is going to lead to anger as the economy continues to faulter.

2) The Government can't paper over the Depression anymore. In the past 3 years, we have seen the National Debt increased by $4.5 trillion from $10.6 trillion to the current $15.1 trillion and Obama is asking for an increase in the debt ceiling to $16.8 trillion. The Debt Ceiling had just been increased by $2.4 trillion on July 31, 2011. So, we have basically blown through $2.4 trillion in 5 months. That should logically tell you when you add things up that we are running a $5.76 trillion dollar deficit (12months in a year/5 months since July* $2.4 trillion), at least...  And are you feeling any improvement in the economy? A Ponzi Scheme by any other name is still a Ponzi Scheme. We are on a Parabolic Curve of Debt with no purpose. In the end it will break our currency and it will leave the economy in tatters.

3) No control over the economy - What I expressed to you above should scare the living bejesus out of you, but what is even scarier is that the government which is supposed to represent us has no control over our currency, because it has no control over the monetary supply. The Federal Reserve can manipulate the currency in any way it sees fit and The Federal Reserve is not an Entity of the United States Government. It is a Cartel that represents the handfull of megabanks that basically rule the economic world. To understand where we are today go read Ben Bernanke's speech before the National Economic Club on November 21, 2002 entitled Deflation - Making sure it doesn't happen here. We are at the mercy of a man's self-fulfilling theory. He is debasing the currency upon exactly what is expressed in this speech.

4) If you can't control the economy, then you have to control the people - If Fed Chairman Bernanke's prophecy above is fulfilled, then you are going to see a debasement of the currency along the lines of the scheme pulled by the Federal Reserve in 1933 in conjunction with Franklin Roosevelt's administration. People were made to turn in their gold. On April 5, 1933, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6102, which ordered people to turn in their gold to the government at payment of $20.67 per ounce. Shortly after issuing his order, Roosevelt increased the price to $35 an ounce. That is a 69.3% debasement of the currency that happened in one fell swoop. We have already seen inflation take hold in commodities. Look at the increases in the price of food, precious metals, and fuel that have taken place over the last several years. You are the boiling frog. and the water is simmering. People are going to get angry and the government is going to attempt to control the dissent through their Homeland Security mechanism. They have taken advantage of the fear created after 9/11 and fostered it. They never cared about protecting the American people. They have only cared about protecting the government. Big Brother is watching over you. Does that make you feel better?

5) The World in turmoil - What happens with fuel prices if the fuse is lit with Iran. I see people everywhere saying that we should go ahead and fight Iran. What about the shaky situation with China. The United States and the mega corporations turned China into the giant it is today. Some of it was done to neutralize the power of the USSR, but much of it was done to offshore our manufacturing economy in the name of cheap labor and huge profits for the Wall Streeters. Now, China has made deals with Russia, India, and Japan to make direct economic trades without utilizing the US Dollar as a reserve currency. That does not bode well for the Dollar, but why should the Dollar be the Reserve Currency with the way it has been manipulated?

The Hound summarizes: It is hard to see from the darkness when you have your head firmly entrenched in your backside. I began the year by listening to an older gentleman waxing nostalgic about the glory days of yesteryear. How he liked the way things were and how we just need to tweak around the edges to get back to what we had. He didn't like the idea of transformation.

What this gentleman fails to realize is that we are not the transformers. What he is witnessing is evolution. We do not make the changes. We are chasing the evolution of the planet attempting to adapt in order to survive. We will either figure out a way to survive or we won't survive. It is as simple as that. So you can stand in the way of this evolutionary process, but if you fail to figure out how to ride this wave, then it is going to squash you like a bug. If you are scared, get out of the way. Do not impede the rest of us from trying to figure this thing out. 'Tis better to get in the back and ride than to drive us face first into the wave.

No Fear Baby!!! No Fear!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The top stories from the Hickory Hound in 2011

Stories Involving Hickory and the Metro Area

Governor Perdue's former assistant Morganton Attorney Juleigh Sitton indicted on Felony Campaign charges - November 28, 2011

Morganton Shenanigans - Wide Ranging & Far Reaching Implications - September 1, 2011

What is Going on at Hickory City Hall?!?!? - September 6, 2011

Do people even know? Hickory Airport Operators (River Hawk Aviation) in Bankruptcy - June 18, 2011

North Carolina Congressional Redistricting plan renders Hickory Irrelevant - July 6, 2011

Will Hickory Airport Operators be forced to liquidate -- and why is no one talking about this?!?!? - September 16, 2011

Legislative Issues/ Economic Outlook Forum - January 20, 2011 - January 23, 2011

WOW!!! - Greater Hickory Rated as the 6th Saddest Metro Area in the United States - March 17, 2011

The 4 categories of people who live in our area in relation to Politics and Power - October 10. 2011

City of Hickory takes over operations at Airport - River Hawk Aviation OUT - December 9, 2011

Stories of National and International Significance

Gadaffi's Stash - Money Laundering - U.S. MegaBanks - Business as Usual - March 7, 2011

An Economy Out of Control - February 21, 2011

The Food Crisis -- February 19, 2011 - February 19, 2011

The Impending Collapse of JP Morgan - March 5, 2011

Stories of a Non-Political Nature

Where are the UNC Board of Governors? - (Part 2) - Everybody knows "The Carolina Way" - July 1, 2011

Rick Barnes: NC State and Hickory need you to come home - March 20, 2011

My letter to the UNC Board of Governors about the UNC-CH Football Scandal - July 7, 2011

Catawba County's Bobby Lutz helping restore basketball Tradition at NC State - April 11, 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Subterfuge and Obfuscation by Hickory's Insiders -- Silence DoGood

I find it interesting that all of sudden there has been a flood of posts here at The Hickory Hound. Some of those posts have been quite critical of the stance and views expressed thereon. I find the timing likewise of particular interest given what transpired at the last City Council meeting and the level of derision attached to it.

Did anyone happen to notice how the level general to specific pattern of information and how quickly that matriculated in the threads of December 21st and 22nd? Did anyone notice how all of a sudden the base topic of discussion was suddenly not about how the meeting of December 20th played out and how a presentation suddenly became a budget amendment and a project adoption to spend $300k of taxpayer dollars, but about how someone had endured personal hardship while erstwhile comparing themselves and how they endured without public transportation, supporting a non-working husband for several years, and raising a family. How the owner and primary author of this blog site was chastised for not being involved in committees and boards. How Thom Shell has some misogynistic tendency and I have yet to understand where or how that comment interceded itself in that entire exchange. How money for a pool for poor people was a waste of funds and according to the poster, would only be utilized by a “couple dozen” kids. Then argues the placement of the Farmer’s Market was strategic to serve those same people. Then this same writer goes on to talk about specific budget appropriations for something as archaic as sidewalks. How would Anonymous know that? How would Anonymous know what Fund that money is appropriated in to, out of, and how it is broken out to specific communities, since in a standard line item budget, it isn’t appropriated in that manner, but in lines under generalized headings. To learn of specific spending projects, one would have to read the Manager’s budget message to council. How would Anonymous know that the vendors participate in a survey to determine quantity and type of vendor to be allowed into the Market itself. Did anyone else notice? Was anyone else as confused by this diatribe as I was?

Well you know I don’t mind criticism. I don’t mind being wrong, if in fact I am proven wrong; I just don’t like being wrong. I don’t even mind opposing points of view, since a singular perspective is one dimensional. I find it odd that Thom and others are told how patently wrong they are by an Anonymous person on a completely unsupported basis. I find it odd that Anonymous must make this about them and interject self into the debate with no relevance whatsoever. I find it peculiar that Anonymous uses the present location of the Farmer’s Market to foment the opinion that it is accessible to the people who need the foods and services being sold and then, argues that building a pool for a couple of dozen kids is a waste of money a few blocks to the south. It would likewise seem that, according to Anonymous, the majority of citizens are opposed to public transportation as well. Really. According to whom? What poll or survey are you quoting to substantiate that premise?

I’ve shopped at the Farmer’s Market and enjoyed the experience. Most of the actual farmers share in the same kinds and types of fruits and vegetables. But I’ve also made other observations. While fresh flowers is certainly farming of sorts, I’m curious as to who, in that target market Anonymous speaks of, buys fresh cut flowers? Or little do-dads and gee-gaws and what agricultural process it is that produces said do-dads and gee-gaws, particularly those of the porcelain and glass variety. I’ve also wondered how many of those vendors take or accept EBT cards. Since more and more people are out of work these days and are forced to rely on alternative means for the basics of subsistence, like food, how many of those vendors accept that type of payment, since all of the ones I’ve dealt with only accept cash. Too, there is the paradox of cost. Do you pay 2 bucks a pound for fresh tomatoes or do you buy two 15 ounce cans of tomatoes on sale at a Grocery Store for much less?

No, it isn’t about allowing those folks spoken of by Anonymous access. One has but to canvass the parking lot on Wednesday afternoon and Saturday morning to gain a sense of who is utilizing the Farmer’s Market and in what areas their domicile is located. I likewise understand that in political parlance, it is very often popular to say one thing, all the while intending something else. Ala, Farmer’s Market downtown. Limited space, access, and parking coupled with absolute control of the vendors and the wares. Any expense of which is offset by the taxpayers. Who is this a good deal for again? If you’re one of the selected vendors, it’s not a bad deal. If you’re one of those who frequent the market during growing and harvest season in pursuit of those things organic and home grown, it’s not a bad deal. But if you’re poor, then your options are typically to get the most you can with the amount of money you have. That means lots of starchy foods, prepared and processed foods, and sugary foods. I’ve not seen that stuff being hawked by the ‘Twinkie’ vendor at the Farmer’s Market.

I was really going to lay it on hard over the comments made by Anonymous across Wednesday and Thursday of last week. But in reality, it’s not altruistic to condescend pathetic. I think that those that read here on a regular basis know the questions being posed are insightful and relevant. I think the viability of those questions stand as testament to the duplicity with which Anonymous wrote in her series of posts. I guess I should add that there is no way of my knowing the same person posted them across the two days, although given the logic of the argument, that is certainly a reasonable conclusion.

In the final analysis, let us not lose sight of what it is being called into question. The way that the sitting council can spend money carte blanche without public hearing, insight, or giving anyone an opportunity to speak, pro or con, on an issue prior to adoption or action on that matter. The fact that the Mayor may and often does, in his/her capacity, make their own motions, only to be seconded by another board member and then rubber stamp voted into action. The fact that this council chooses to hide behind the rules when it suits the opinions held by them and ignore them on the same premise.

No Anonymous, it’s not about a pool, or a Farmer’s Market, per se. It’s about procedure, it’s about compliance with State law, and it’s about doing what’s right. Realizing that what’s right isn’t about what’s right only for the majority, or the well-connected and affluent.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- December 25, 2011

The Economic Lessons of Bethlehem - Lew - Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. - December 24, 2011 - At the heart of the Christmas story rests some important lessons concerning free enterprise, government, and the role of wealth in society.

Let's begin with one of the most famous phrases: "There's no room at the inn." This phrase is often invoked as if it were a cruel and heartless dismissal of the tired travelers Joseph and Mary. Many renditions of the story conjure up images of the couple going from inn to inn only to have the owner barking at them to go away and slamming the door.

In fact, the inns were full to overflowing in the entire Holy Land because of the Roman emperor's decree that everyone be counted and taxed. Inns are private businesses, and customers are their lifeblood. There would have been no reason to turn away this man of royal lineage and his beautiful, expecting bride.

In any case, the second chapter of St. Luke doesn't say that they were continually rejected at place after place. It tells of the charity of a single inn owner, perhaps the first person they encountered, who, after all, was a businessman. His inn was full, but he offered them what he had: the stable. There is no mention that the innkeeper charged the couple even one copper coin, though given his rights as a property owner, he certainly could have.

It's remarkable, then, to think that when the Word was made flesh with the birth of Jesus, it was through the intercessory work of a private businessman. Without his assistance, the story would have been very different indeed. People complain about the "commercialization" of Christmas, but clearly commerce was there from the beginning, playing an essential and laudable role.

And yet we don't even know the innkeeper's name. In two thousand years of celebrating Christmas, tributes today to the owner of the inn are absent. Such is the fate of the merchant throughout all history: doing well, doing good, and forgotten for his service to humanity.

Clearly, if there was a room shortage, it was an unusual event and brought about through some sort of market distortion. After all, if there had been frequent shortages of rooms in Bethlehem, entrepreneurs would have noticed that there were profits to be made by addressing this systematic problem, and built more inns.

It was because of a government decree that Mary and Joseph, and so many others like them, were traveling in the first place. They had to be uprooted for fear of the emperor's census workers and tax collectors. And consider the costs of slogging all the way "from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David," not to speak of the opportunity costs Joseph endured having to leave his own business. Thus we have another lesson: government's use of coercive dictates distort the market.

Moving on in the story, we come to Three Kings, also called Wise Men. Talk about a historical anomaly for both to go together! Most Kings behaved like the Roman Emperor's local enforcer, Herod. Not only did he order people to leave their homes and foot the bill for travel so that they could be taxed. Herod was also a liar: he told the Wise Men that he wanted to find Jesus so that he could "come and adore Him." In fact, Herod wanted to kill Him. Hence, another lesson: you can't trust a political hack to tell the truth.

Once having found the Holy Family, what gifts did the Wise Men bring? Not soup and sandwiches, but "gold, frankincense, and myrrh." These were the most rare items obtainable in that world in those times, and they must have commanded a very high market price.

Far from rejecting them as extravagant, the Holy Family accepted them as gifts worthy of the Divine Messiah. Neither is there a record that suggests that the Holy Family paid any capital gains tax on them, though such gifts vastly increased their net wealth. Hence, another lesson: there is nothing immoral about wealth; wealth is something to be valued, owned privately, given and exchanged.

When the Wise Men and the Holy Family got word of Herod's plans to kill the newborn Son of God, did they submit? Not at all. The Wise Men, being wise, snubbed Herod and "went back another way" – taking their lives in their hands (Herod conducted a furious search for them later). As for Mary and Joseph, an angel advised Joseph to "take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt." In short, they resisted. Lesson number four: the angels are on the side of those who resist government.

In the Gospel narratives, the role of private enterprise, and the evil of government power, only begin there. Jesus used commercial examples in his parables (e.g., laborers in the vineyard, the parable of the talents) and made it clear that he had come to save even such reviled sinners as tax collectors.

And just as His birth was facilitated by the owner of an "inn," the same Greek word "kataluma" is employed to describe the location of the Last Supper before Jesus was crucified by the government. Thus, private enterprise was there from birth, through life, and to death, providing a refuge of safety and productivity, just as it has in ours. - December 22, 2001

The speculative scrum driving up food prices - Bankers, hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds are gambling on hunger by speculating on food supply - Global regulators should step in to stop them -   The Guardian - Frederick Kaufman - December 20, 2011 -  Last year, the price of global food floated high as ever. That's bad news for most of us, but not for those who trade commodities. In fact, 2011 was a great year for the traders, who thrive on bad news, currency woes, drought, flood, freeze, fire and all other manifestations of imminent apocalypse.                 2011 was a wild ride. One spring morning, cocoa futures dropped 12% in less than a minute. Corn ascended to all-time peaks and sugar fluctuated more in one day than it used to in a month. Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, railed against speculators in coffee, while PepsiCo forecast its own medium-term commodity cost increases to exceed $1bn. All of which meant a bumper crop for the world's commodity exchanges – even those that used to be backwaters, like the Kansas City Board of Trade and the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, both of which recorded their highest electronic trading volumes in history.                    It was a volatile year, and the volatility posed problems for the food industry. Faced with a high-stakes game of price-shifting basic ingredients, the world's largest food processors and retailers put out the call for maths PhDs and economic modellers to theorise and implement ever-more complex risk-management strategies just so they could keep up with the second-by-second spikes and dips of grain and livestock futures. In the meantime, high-frequency traders and momentum-driven hedge funds made it their business to speculate on food.....

Fed’s Once-Secret Data Compiled by Bloomberg Released to Public
- Bloomberg - Phil Kuntz and Bob Ivry - Dec 22, 2011 - Bloomberg News today released spreadsheets showing daily borrowing totals for 407 banks and companies that tapped Federal Reserve emergency programs during the 2007 to 2009 financial crisis. It’s the first time such data have been publicly available in this form.
To download a zip file of the spreadsheets, go to For an explanation of the files, see the one labeled “1a Fed Data Roadmap.”           The day-by-day, bank-by-bank numbers, culled from about 50,000 transactions the U.S. central bank made through seven facilities, formed the basis of a series of Bloomberg News articles this year about the largest financial bailout in history.
“Scholars can now examine the data and continue the analysis of the Fed’s crisis management,” said Allan H. Meltzer, a professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the author of three books on the history of the U.S. central bank.                           The data reflect lending from the Asset-Backed Commercial Paper Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Term Auction Facility, the Term Securities Lending Facility, the discount window and single-tranche open market operations, or ST OMO.
Bloomberg News obtained information about the discount window and ST OMO through the Freedom of Information Act. While the Fed initially rejected a request for discount-window information, Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, filed a federal lawsuit to force disclosure and won in the lower courts. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to intervene in the case, and the Fed released more than 29,000 pages of transaction data.....

A $4 MILLION vacation: Separate flights, luxury hotels and plenty of golf... the price of Obama’s annual Hawaiian holiday soars - Mike O'brien and Mark Duell - December 19, 2011 -
  • Obama's Air Force One flight estimated at $3,271,611
  • Total travel costs for Hawaii holiday are $3,629,622
  • Housing comes to $151,200 and hotels at $72,216
  • Hawaii Reporter estimates total cost at $4,113,038
Barack Obama’s annual vacation in Hawaii this year is likely to be his most expensive ever - and the majority of it is being funded by the taxpayer.                    The President will travel separately to his family this time because he wants resolve the payroll tax cut issue before leaving Washington D.C.
First Lady Michelle took their children this weekend in a flight that cost an extra $100,000 - and her husband’s round-trip journey will be $3,271,611.                      

Courtesy of Zero Hedge:
VIDEO President Ronald Reagan's Christmas Address,12/23/1981)

Obama Signs NDAA Martial Law - December 17, 2011:

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas 2011 - Remembering last Christmas 2010

Last year was the last Christmas that I spent with my Paternal Grandmother Martha Shell. She was a great role model who was admired by the community, because of her qualities. I think about her every day and miss her greatly, but I do ok, because I appreciate everything she did for me through my life and she is still with me in my heart.

I share the ride over to my other Grandmother's Mattie Padgett during last December 25, 2010's White Christmas. Looking back and knowing it was the last Christmas that I would spend with my Grandmother makes it an even more special memory that I will always treasure.

I hope that you will look to Christmas to see what it is really all about. It isn't about material trinkets and rituals. It is about bonding with those that you hold dear. You can't take for granted that they will be here next year, so you better enjoy them while they are here.

This is Mammaw not understanding the little ritual of the Padgett family like it even makes a difference. Personally, I thought it was funny since I never liked the ritual to start with.

God Bless you all and I hope that y'all have a wonderful Christmas and a great 2012

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 20, 2011

 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 12/20/2011 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. Bud Zehmer, Church of the Master

Special Presentation:
A. Presentation by Tracy Nestor, Oktoberfest Event Director, Thanking City Council for Their
Support and to Report on the Success of the 2011 Oktoberfest -  Ms. Nestor has served as the head of Oktoberfest since the year 2000. She stated that 98,000 people were welcomed to Downtown Hickory during the 3-day festival, which is always the second weekend in October. The WPCOG estimated an economic impact of more than $7 million this year. This year vendor participation was expanded with 12 local businesses located on the flag court. Local businesses stated that Oktoberfest was their best sales day of the year. 62% of commercial vendors were from the Hickory metro area. 46% of craft vendors were from the Hickory Metro area. 100% of non-profit vendors were from the Hickory Metro Area. Food vendors are carefully selected each year to fit the German theme. 42% of food vendors were from the Hickory area.

Many of these vendors have become a tradition at Oktoberfest. She talked about the maps and directional signs that are used during the festival to help visitors find their way around. She talked about the kid’s fest area. She talked about the variety of entertainment with 5 live stages throughout the weekend. She went over the various entertainment genre associated with each stage. She talked about the roving accordion player and roving German music that was played throughout the festival. The Castle of Cans supported by the Hickory High Key Club and various Boy Scout troops received 16,000 pounds of food that was distributed to 8 Catawba County Agencies through the Second harvest Food bank. This is double the amount of food received in 2010.

She next went into the Oktoberfest foot race which is sponsored by Carolina Orthopedic Specialists. 320 runners participated. This was up from 166 in 2010. $6,000 was contributed to the four county area hospices that came from the foot race proceeds.

1,432 volunteer hours were logged. She talked about the partnership that has been established with Lenoir-Rhyne University. This is the second year their homecoming has been coordinated around Oktoberfest. They do a pep rally on Friday night on the main stage. A Greenway shuttle was coordinated from L-R to the event. 414 riders took advantage of the shuttle.

The Hound appreciates the growth that this festival is seeing. What I appreciate more is that Ms. Nestor has significantly improved the presentation of the summary of the event. This is the fourth time I have sat through one of these Oktoberfest presentations and I truly appreciate that she brought out relevant information without grandiose fluff. When one looks at the fact that areas of participation doubled over the last year (Examples: The foot race and the Castle of cans), then one can see the obvious growth taking place. I think that when one hears about participation statistics that it is many times much more relevant than money statistics that can always be embellished. Congratulations to those who have made this event a success and here is to hoping that it will continue to grow.

Consent Agenda:
A. Proclamation Honoring Joab Cotton for his Service to the Hickory Board of Education

B. Proclamation Honoring Gloria Hemphill for her Service to the Hickory Board of Education

C. Transfer of Cemetery Deed From City of Hickory to Donald R. Barger and Wife, Camellia C. Barger and Doris Y. Barger, Widow in Oakwood Cemetery

D. Transfer of Cemetery Deed From City of Hickory to Faith Canterbury in Oakwood Cemetery

E. Community Appearance Grant to the Hickory Elks Lodge – Non-Residential Property Located at 356 Main Avenue NW in the Amount of $5,000 - This non-residential property, owned by the Hickory Elks Lodge, is located at 356 Main Avenue NW. The proposed renovations include the removal of old pebble board which covers the existing windows, the replacement of six windows with bronze frame reflective windows, brick infill around the replacement windows, and new paint for the fa├žade and fire escape. In all, the applicant plans approximately $30,000 worth of interior and exterior improvements to the building. The portions of these improvements involving the building’s exterior, which are eligible activities, are estimated to be $27,000. Being that both estimates exceed $10,000 in value, the proposal would be eligible for the full $5,000 Community Appearance Grant. On November 28, 2011, the Community Appearance Commission unanimously voted to recommend grant funding in the amount of $5,000.

F. Community Appearance Grant to Michael and Nora Perkett – Non-Residential Property Located at 813 Main Avenue SW in the Amount of $5,000 This non-residential property, owned by Michael and Nora Perkett, is located at 813 Main Avenue SW. They have converted the property into a bed and breakfast and desire to utilize the requested grant funds to paint the existing structure and install decorative and security fencing. The amount of the improvements is estimated to be at $11,300, which qualifies the application for the maximum grant amount of $5,000. On April 25, 2011, the Community Appearance Commission unanimously voted to recommend grant funding in the amount of $5,000.

G. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - The following requests were considered by the Citizens’ Advisory Committee at their regular meeting on December 1, 2011:
• Pressly Development was awarded a City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval for assistance not to exceed $20,000 for an 84-unit senior apartment community. Assistance would be in the form of a 2% interest loan. Funds are budgeted for these items through the City of Hickory’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2009 and/or program income received through the City of Hickory’s Community Development Block Grant Program.
Each of the following applicants is being recommended for approval for assistance under the City of Hickory’s 2011 Urgent Repair Program. This program provides qualified low income citizens with assistance for emergency-related repairs not to exceed $5,000.
• Barbara Byrd, 117 8th Avenue Drive SW, Hickory, not to exceed $3,215. (Used $1,785 in URP10 funds)
• Frank Byrd, 1441 4th Street SW, Hickory
The Citizens’ Advisory Committee considered these requests at their December 1, 2011 Meeting and recommends approval of the above applicants.

H. Request Approval to Purchase 1.42-Acre Vacant Lot from the James Ray Simmons Estate Located at 2104 6th Street, NW in the Amount of $40,000 - This 1.42-acre vacant lot is located at 2104 6th Street NW and is opposite and just past the entrance to Glenn C. Hilton, Jr. Memorial Park. Hilton Park experiences a great deal of use throughout the year and has limited parking available in comparison to the number of people that visit the park. Due to the vicinity of this property to the park, the property should be acquired and set aside for future parking. Preliminary engineering estimates indicate that 42 parking spaces could be constructed on the site. The property is zoned R-2, which allows the property to be used for this purpose. The property owners have accepted the City’s offer to purchase in the amount of $40,000. Staff recommends approval.

I. Municipal Agreement Between NC DOT, City of Hickory and Town of Granite Falls for TIP Project U-5204 in Caldwell County - This municipal agreement is for the new two-lane roadway from SR 1751 (Grace Chapel Road) to SR 1764 (New Farm Road) and the extension of Alex Lee Boulevard to the new
section of New Farm Road in Caldwell County. This agreement defines that NC DOT is responsible for any environmental permits and to construct the project in accordance with the plans and specifications. NC DOT is also responsible for all traffic operating controls and devices and will be responsible for maintenance of the road once completed. The City of Hickory and the Town of Granite Falls will be responsible for the environmental/planning document, design, and any rights-of-way needed for the project. The cities will be responsible for removal of any obstructions, encroachments or any hazardous or contaminated materials that may be found. Hickory’s responsibilities have been completed and funded previously with the exception of any obstructions or hazardous materials found during construction. Staff recommends approval of the municipal agreement.

J. Proposed Clarifications to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Program - City Council established the Vacant Building Grant Revitalization Grant Program in September, 2008, which provided matching funds of up to $25,000 for applicants seeking to renovate and rehabilitate vacant buildings. In February, 2011, City Council suspended the program and asked Staff to propose modifications to the program that would better protect the City’s investment and improve the effectiveness of the program. In November, 2011, City Council reinstated the program to provide grants of 15% of eligible project costs up to a maximum of $30,000. Staff recommends approval of the proposed clarifications to the Vacant Building Revitalization and Demolition Grant Guidelines.

K. Budget Ordinance Amendments -
1. To budget $1,050 of Miscellaneous Revenue in the Fire Department Departmental Supply line item. These funds were received from Mountain Recycling, Inc. for the sale of salvaged metal from surplus Engine 14.

2. To transfer $16,572 of General Fund Contingency to the L.P. Frans Stadium Maintenance and Repair of Grounds line item. This transfer to pay for the installation of a sidewalk behind the clubhouse a requested by the Hickory Crawdads and Texas Rangers. The total cost includes a 5% contingency to
allow for any increases that may occur with rising concrete costs.

3. To appropriate $40,000 of Capital Reserve Parking Fund to the Parks and Recreation Capital Land line item for the purchase of a 1.42 acre vacant lot located near the Glenn C. Hilton, Jr. Memorial Park. This property purchase is for future parking for Hilton Park. It's estimated that 42 parking spaces will eventually be constructed on this site.

4. To transfer $8,000 from the Police Department operational Non-Asset Inventory line item to the Governor’s Highway Safety Program Grant project Non-Asset Inventory line item. The City received a $24,000 Federal award from the State of North Carolina Department of Transportation which allows for the purchase of four (4) lidars and four (4) pole mounted radar systems for a total cost of $32,000. The grant pays 75 % of the cost ($24,000) and the remaining 25% ($8,000) is the required local match. Therefore an $8,000 transfer to the Grant project is necessary.

5. Through the order of a Federal Bankruptcy judge, on December 9, 2011 the City of Hickory assumed FBO operational responsibilities at the Hickory Regional Airport. This budget amendment will establish a new “FBO Division” within the Airport’s budget which will cover the City’s FBO related expenses for the remainder of the fiscal year (December 2011 – June 2012). Through this amendment, the City will add 4 full-time and 5 part-time employees to provide FBO services. The expenditures in this amendment are offset with projected FBO revenue of $207,584 as well as a $90,000 appropriation of fund balance for equipment purchases needed for operational start-up.

The Hound sure sees this in a different context than was reported in the HDR on 12/17/2011. In that article it was stated, "The Hickory City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposed amendment that will carry Hickory Regional Airport through the remainder of the budget year."

This sure does seem to be a bastardization of the term vote to me. Will the HDR do a follow up? To plunk down something in a Budget Ordinance Amendment with no discussion of how we got to this point sure does reek of something being done to keep things under the radar. Why hasn't there been a discussion about what has been going on at the airport? Doesn't the public deserve to know? What is being hidden here?

Informational Items
A. Report of Mayor Wright’s travel to Charlotte, NC to appear on “Charlotte Today” at News Channel 36 Studios (mileage - $62.37)

New Business -  Public Hearings
1. Approval to Enter into an Economic Development Agreement with Punker, LLC - Punker, LLC is a European market leader in developing and producing fan wheels for the HVAC and exhaust industries, and has chosen to locate their first US manufacturing operation in Hickory, NC. Punker was founded in 1954 and currently employs over 300 people in Germany. The company will locate a manufacturing operation at 914 25th Street SE in Hickory, investing $4,584,000, and creating a minimum of 62 and up to 80 new jobs over the next 5 years. The economic incentive grant would be a total of $59,150. The State of North Carolina will be giving Punker a $78,100 grant from the One North Carolina Fund. The City of Hickory grant will be for 60% for 4 years and an additional year at 75% should they reach 80 jobs. If 80 jobs are not met, then the fifth year will not include an incentive amount. Catawba County is providing the same incentive. This project meets and exceeds the minimum requirements of the City of Hickory Economic Development Assistance Guidelines. The improvements are expected to increase the City’s tax base by a related amount and result in the creation of at least 80 new, permanent jobs paying a total average wage of over $35,000/year. These jobs will pay above the county average wage ($34,000). The company will also provide health insurance, dental insurance, a 401K, and profit sharing will be available.

This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on December 8, 2011. The presentation was once again made by Julie Pruett of the EDC.

Punker produces fan wheels that provide superior operating characteristics, such as high energy efficiency and low noise levels. Punker also manufactures blowers and ventilation systems. They have a 1,000 customers worldwide such as Trane and Carrier. They currently employ 360 people. Existing U.S. business will be transferred to the facility here in Hickory and this will also allow them to expand their market in the U.S. The EDC has been working on this project since June. Punker looked all over the Southeast and Ohio. The facility they are leasing was used by Turbotech until Turbotech moved to their current location. This is a Green Business in the most favored business model. This company represents two targeted business markets for the -- EDC.Green Energy and Advanced Manufacturing. This is a performance based incentive. If they don’t meet the requirements, they don’t get the incentive. They will follow the requirements of Education Matters in their hiring criteria/practices. The rising incentives over 5 years will encourage Punker to do more (and grow) and create more jobs in order to receive the incentives. This will net a positive payback to the city immediately.

Alder Fox asked about how we go about monitoring job creation. In the Charlotte Observer there has been negative information about communities that have not monitored job creation. Ms. Pruett stated that before the EDC provides any agreements to them that they must prove their investment and their job incentives and their average wages and the EDC uses the employment filings that they do each year. The EDC does monitor and they don’t receive the incentives until they actually make sure that they hacve created the jobs. Alderman Guess asked if they would be relocating people from Germany here. Ms. Pruett stated that no they would be hiring people locally. That they want this to be a U.S. run company.

2. Resolution Confirming and Levying Assessment Along a Portion of 5th Street, SE– No. 01-11 -
The City Clerk received a petition from the owners of property along 5th Street SE to install curb and gutter along a portion of their street as per Section 29-2 of the Hickory Code of Ordinances. The City Council adopted a Resolution directing that Street Improvement Project Be Undertaken on May 17, 2011, and the work was completed on August 29, 2011. The Preliminary Assessment Roll 01-11 has been prepared based on the curb and gutter constructed along 5th Street SE. Staff recommends that Resolution Confirming and Levying Assessment be approved. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on December 8, 2011.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Farmers Market Proposal for Union Square - A presentation will be made by Pete Zagaroli on a proposed permanent structure for the Farmers Market on Union Square. He will provide detail at the meeting on the design, engineering, and cost of the project that will replace the temporary white tents used each year for the Farmers Market. This structure will provide an architectural feature to Union Square that will enhance the attractiveness of downtown. Incorporated into the design are a low platform/stage and a seating area that will replace the existing portable stage. The proposal will be distributed at the meeting.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 20, 2011 -- Addendum on Union Square's largest Awning yet - $285,000

This is how the Action Agenda reads – *Council unanimously approved the concept presented and proceeding with the proposed budget of $285,976.00, through a budget amendment at the January 3, 2012 City Council Meeting, to construct the permanent structure and amphitheater for Union Square that will serve as the home for the Farmers Market and many other exciting events in downtown Hickory.”

Listen and see if what you hear correlates to that summary. They took action and are going through these convolutions to make all appear to be above board. Folks, you gotta call ‘em like you see ‘em.

 This is after Mr. Zagaroli finishes his presentation. Notice Ms. Surratt's opener in this sequence. The time frame is critical. Straight out of the Rahm Emanuel playbook. Create a crisis point and seize an opportunity to take quick action before anyone can respond.  At around the 3:40 mark. "...Either a budget amendment should you choose tonight or we can bring that back on January 3rd." At the 8:06 mark the Mayor makes a motion to adopt this plan, which is seconded by Mrs. Patton, then they unanimously consent and Larry Pope stands up to protest.

As I have stated. I have never seen the City Council make an motion related to a Departmental Report. That is why they are called Departmental Reports. What does adopting the plan mean, if it doesn't mean that you are sanctioning the expenditure? So they can tap dance all day long, but in the end it is what it is. My guess, empirical evidence shows,  is that this is something else that goes into the Consent Agenda on January 3, 2012. I don't believe there will be a discussion with the public.

Closed Session Per NC General Statutes 143-318.11(a)(1)(3) to consult with the attorneys regarding the following: (Action on these items, if any, will occur in Open Session)
A. Approval of Closed Session Minutes of November 15, 2011 – NCGS §143-318.11(a)(1)
B. Approval of Closed Session Minutes of December 6, 2011 – NCGS §143-318.11(a)(1)
C. Discussion Regarding Pending Litigation Matter – Profile Aviation Center, Inc. – Bankruptcy Case No. 11-50642 – NCGS §143-318.11(a)(3)

The Hound once again wants you to see that they are continuing to discuss the airport issue in closed chambers.

Matters not on the Agenda
Mayor Wright thanked the entire Hickory Staff – starting at the top and throughout the entire Hickory coworker group – for making the Mayor and Council Members look good all year. He also thanked City Attorney John Crone. He cited a couple of examples of City Staff going above and beyond to get the job done. He stated he moves around enough to know that Hickory truly has the best staff in the United States.

Alderman Meisner cited another example whereby someone broke into his neighbor’s house at 8:30 this morning, and the thief was caught by 1:00 p.m.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 20, 2011 -- Addendum on Union Square's largest Awning yet - $285,000

A presentation will be made by Pete Zagaroli on a proposed permanent structure for the Farmers Market on Union Square. He will provide detail at the meeting on the design, engineering, and cost of the project that will replace the temporary white tents used each year for the Farmers Market. This structure will provide an architectural feature to Union Square that will enhance the attractiveness of downtown. Incorporated into the design are a low platform/stage and a seating area that will replace the existing portable stage. The proposal will be distributed at the meeting.

Andrea Surratt and Pete Zagaroli made the presentations to City Council. Andrea stated that tonight she wanted to be part of a presentation from Pete Zagaroli. A concept for a multi-purpose facility that will house the farmer's market. She went into the components of Union Square and the relocation of the Farmer's market snd talked about the re-energized market.

The farmer's market board approached the city about making the current location a permanent location. They have put together a team to think about another location and possibly improve upon the location. There is a lot of congestion around the parking area. The city called upon Pete Zagaroli who she stated, "has had wonderful ideas about redevelopment, understands Hickory very well, and is an excellent designer." She next showed a GIS layout of Union Square. She explained that this would move the market from the East side of the Square to a more westerly location of the Square.

Pete Zagaroli came to the podium and thanked the city for the opportunity to get involved. He talked about how this was a scenario where the city came to him, instead of him "coming here with some hairbrained idea." The thought in putting this together is creating congregation space. It is meant to be multi-use. We have a traditional downtown with a few contemporary storefronts. This is fabric architecture. It is a flowing structure. It is a little progressive and contemporary. (The Hound: There was a picture provided, but I have a technical glitch with my camera. And the drawing was basically a 2-D drawing that gave no detail about what this structure will look like.)

Alderman Lail asked about the Northern limit of the structure towards the storefronts. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it is the grass area. The stage will be in the area of the old stage and they will potentially use reclaimed lumber to build the stage. It is literally just a deck. He stated that the stage will be a Nautilus look in nature with large sails on top of it. He emphasized this being more of a work of art concept than a building. He talked about Union Square being underutilized and how Asheville just spent $8 million doing the same program downtown.

Alderman Meisner asked about acoustics to which Mr. Zagaroli stated that he hadn't done studies on acoustics, but it would be no different than before. Alderman Guess asked about the durability of the fabric to which Mr. Zagaroli stated that it has about a 10-year range. Alderman Guess asked if it was a canvas. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it is a PVC product and it is white. This is a stretched material and it needs to be very versatile.

You need protection from the sun, yet you need light. With festivals it needs to be neutral (color). Alderman Guess asked about weather durability? Mr. Zagaroli stated that this is a permanent structure. It is engineered to withstand all current wind loads we have here. the footers are 3 feet by 3 feet and 6 feet into the ground. It is smooth taut surface.

Alderman Seaver asked about seating area to which Mr. Zagaroli stated that it would be no higher than the brick there already and no more than a step up. Alder Patton asked about seating in the back. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it will be a bench that run along the back just to definition and give people a place to sit. It allows chairs to be sat up in front of it and for areas to dance. Alderman Seaver asked about the elevation of the stage area. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it would be raised two steps or about 16 inches. He states that this is more than enough for what they are doing there. He stated that this will be very progressive for Hickory.

Mr. Zagaroli stated that this is a new look and needed desperately. For the cost of what this is, it is an incredible value. It serves an immediate need for the farmer's market, Oktoberfest and future craft fairs. Alderman Seaver asked about the sale of the drawing relating to height. Mr. Zagaroli stated that it was to height and at the lowest point it will be 10 feet and at the highest it will be 14 feet. There will be a lot of room under there and it will not feel like a tent.

Alderman Guess stated his desire that Hickory's Logo be a part of the structure. Mr. Zagaroli talked about the desire to not create anything to permanent. He said the area can be enclosed with curtains. That Logos can be put behind the stage. He personally believes that logos should not be part of the structure. Accessory items can be used for branded images. Alderman Lail alluded to the openness of the structure being nice for the visibility of the signs on the buildings. Alder Fox stated that their is an openness right now and there are days when there aren't 5 people on Union Square. She talked about the positive of the farmer's market.

Mr. Zagaroli stated that he is asked the question over and over again how we get people downtown and he answers why? What is it that is going to bring people downtown other than our shops. We have to provide a space, an environment that encourages the congregation of people. This is functional, artistic, and sophisticated. Alder Patton added that it is a real win because the farmer's market and people eating and buying locally. Alder Fox talked about the fact that since we have decided not to put the streets back in place that we have a 1970's Urban Renewal Plaza. Other communities have reverted back the other way. They have come up with a plan to create a memorable space. Communities all over are looking at their cores. She went to Statesville today and she spoke about
the work they are doing on their streetscape.

Alderman Seaver asked if the pricetag includes the additional accessory items and Mr. Zagaroli sated that it would not, but those items can be produced and bought locally and this would be a nominal expense. The company they are working with is out of New Zealand.

Ms. Surratt came back to the podium stating that the timeframne is critical. It will take 14 weeks to finish this project, which will be done by the end of March. They want to be done in time for the Farmer's market can be open in mid April. There are major things that need to happen such as the right brick, buying the poles and setting them correctly. She stated that the cost will be $285,000 with $163,000 for steel, sails, engineering, design, and installation. The rest of the money is for site work, creating a change area,installing wood for the stage and seating area. She continued to advocate for the costs and art effect of this structure on the area. It does require a budget amendment. The Mayor asked if this would limit the ability of the market to expand. Ms. Surratt stated that there would be the ability to still add 5 more booths, 8 to 10 maximum. Alderman Seaver asked if this added more space for parking. She said it does and it doesn't take spaces away that people are vying for on the east and west sides and it doesn't impeded traffic. The Mayor had a public conversation with City manager berry about public initiatives. Manager Berry stated that this is low hanging fruit. The farmer's market has been successful and in relation to some of the other initiatives the price tag is relatively small.

The council went ahead and voted on this issue giving it a 7-0 unanimous consent. Citizen Larry Pope stated that he thought this was a public hearing. The Mayor and other council members stated that no it was not. Mr. Pope questioned how the city could vote on this issue without a public hearing and citizen's being allowed to voice whether they are in favor or against it. You are going to move and do what you want to do without input from the community? The Mayor stated that they were absolutely permitted do that and that is what they have just done.

Mr. Pope stated that he wants the record to show that there is a conflict of interest with Sally Fox and Jill Patton as part of the Downtown Development Association Board (Mrs. Patton is actually on the farmer's Market Board), members of that group and also have businesses on that square. The Mayor stated that Mr. Pope was out of order. Mr. Pope responded that he didn't care. "You do what you want to do and I will do what I want to do, which is be heard." The Mayor stated that they are going to ask for people to be heard at the end of the meeting like they always do. Mr. Pope responded, "yeah but then it will be too late." The Mayor once again admonished Mr. Pope that he was out of order. The Mayor stated that they had already made the decision and voted for it. Mr. Pope stated that he would see them in court, because this is not right and he will get an injunction through the courts.

The Hound says that this is just the same ole, same ole... I'm not saying that this is a bad project, if it is supported by the private interests on Union Square, but to think that Hickory Tax revenues should be allotted once again towards the enhancement of Union Square's private economic marketing interests without any mechanisms for payback or accountability is getting more than old. The same ole story the same ole song and dance, my friends.

And Larry is totally in the right. I certainly wish this city wasn't filled to the brim with the feckless cowards that will complain, but won't stand up for what is right and just. How could the City Council vote on this without a Public Notification? Was this not supposed to be a Departmental Report? I have never seen this happen in the 3 1/2 years I have been attending these meetings or read or heard about any such processes ever taking place. Yeah, they would have done what they were going to do, but at least they could follow the standards and practices of the law. They continue to make the rules up on the fly.

Then we once again see the blatant conflicts of interest. Alders Fox and Patton sitting on boards that directly benefit from this project. I don't argue that a farmer's market is a good thing, but no one has explained why it has to be a centerpiece of Union Square economic activity. They talk about cities investing in their core. Union Square is not the core of Downtown. It is just one piece of it. They want to pigeon hole it into being that, but there is nothing that says that it absolutely positively must be. Go to any city in North Carolina and you see communities that don't center their economic activity on what amounts to a two block area, except little one stop light towns.

Then I am befuddled by my logic, because I can't believe the audacity of our local governance and the lack of respect they have for the people of Hickory. They think we are plain out stupid. They go on these little junkets to Burlington, Asheville, and Chattanooga to "study" their downtowns and how we can enhance ours and low and behold they get back and talk to Zagaroli who just happens to have architectural plans drawn up on this very issue... Shazzam, what a coincidence... Well, GOLLLEEE!!! Ain't that amazing.

We see it once again. They have had this planned out for months. I have to admit that their aspiration towards full-fledged fascism is awe inspiring. They pick the winners and losers around here. I have nothing against Zagaroli. He has nothing to do with this conversation. He's probably suffering due to the Real Estate Depression. I understand that local developers, brokers, and constructors are having to hustle to make a buck, but I don't see this making a big difference on Union Square when the same ole people are making the same ole decisions. Alder's Fox, Patton, and Guess are still going to want to tell us who can and can't use the facilities the tax payers are paying for. The parking funds that are supposed to be used to build a parking deck are once again being redirected towards another use. And this is going to limit the growth potential of the farmer's market. We hear about how the Federal government is helping the Too Big Too Fails privatize profits and socialize losses. That is the same thing going on in Hickory.

Too many decisions are being made in closed session and through a telephone call chain of command. You don't have to have a quorum to figure out which way the wind is blowing. Unofficial votes are being tallied behind closed doors and on those phone calls. Staff, under the direction of Mr. Berry, is leading the Council in directions the staff wants to take them. The problem is staff are unelected and not accountable to the public interest. In a good system, the staff would stay out of the political process. They would remain independent, neutral, and objective. I think what we have seen is that some staff are having a tough time not getting personally involved in some of these issues.

Why weren't multiple designer/developers brought into this process? Why wasn't contract bidding brought into this process? Are we sure that this is the best design and are we sure we are getting the best price. This is what I am talking about when I talk about Competition versus Qualified Competition. They are picking winners and losers folks. "You can compete as long as it isn't against me or my friend."

Isn't it ironic that we can't come up with $400,000 (city government estimated cost) that can be amortized over multiple years to build a pool, but we can come up with $285,000 Johnny on the spot to put up these structures and Zagaroli states that the fabric has a lifespan of 10 years. One issue for the poor and one issue for the connected, which one wins? Who wants to bet that a decent pool could have been built for less, but this structure and the ancillary expenses are going to cost much, much more.

No one looks at the big picture. You can hear the compartmentalizers now:

"Why is Larry so upset. They were going to pass this anyway. He's such a trouble maker. They needed to get it done. I don't know why he thinks they should wait two more weeks and then they get behind schedule." -- Even though there was no notice and the public wasn't given a voice. This is a big budget issue. The only voice the public has is the convoluted election structure that takes place every two years and no one respects that. Thus no one respects the general public.

"It is alright if Sally and Jill push this because they are my friends and they have done a lot for people." -- It doesn't matter that the groups associated with downtown are running their interests through a pipeline that most of us don't have access to. These people don't understand what we outsiders are fussing about, because they are in the clique. Just the High School mentality 30 to 40 years later. What we see would be considered conflicts of interest and insider trading in a real business environment. In Hickory, it's Standard Operating Procedure. Wonder why we are having a tough time attracting new business?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Hickory, we need Advocates not Politicians

In looking over the issues that this community has faced over the last several years, what has disturbed me the most is when local leaders talk about politics and label themselves as politicians as though it is a good thing. In Hickory, we don't need politicians. We can't afford the gamesmanship, manipulation, and controlling elements that seek to obtain power many times through negative means, such as obfuscation.

What we need are advocates. We need people who are passionate about issues, who are capable of cutting through the mire and teaching people about issues. We need people who are constructive, who are able to bring people together through positive means and build consensus.

We need people who believe in themselves. I am not talking about cockiness or self-conceit. I am talking about self-assuredness in the realm of having confidence that if they persevere, with the help of others, that they can accomplish goals. This person must have the humility to keep a level head, otherwise they will most assuredly eventually lose their way and thus their effectiveness.

You see, I am not politicking for advocacy. I am advocating for it. In my association with the Citizens for Equity in Government, one of the issues that the African-American participants have constantly brought to the fore is that they feel like they aren't being represented by anyone on the City Council, much less the Alder from Ward 4, which has historically been the predominant area of concentrated African-American interests. I am sure that they understand two years into the current paradigm that there is no guarantee of representation by the City Council. And a majority-minority elected official will be labeled as a quota and will only be one vote to stand against the continuation of the entrenched establishment.

Where am I taking this? Simply, we have got to build a bench of future civil servants in this community. The African-American leadership and constituency is not the only cultural demographic where we don't see participation in community issues. As Joe Brannock stated last week on Hal Row's Show, "There doesn't seem to be an entry point into that pipeline for service" ... in the City of Hickory.

Look at the various Boards and Commissions that are supposed to form the Architecture below the City Council and act as liaisons in association with the City Bureaucracy and thus our Governance. Except for the prestigious Planning Board, the Community Appearance Commission, the Art Commission, Parks and Rec, and the Historic Preservation Commission, these positions many times go unfilled. And they are only filled by Council's family members, friends, and members of the Club. If you read this blog on a regular basis you will understand this after hearing from Reverend Cliff Moone a couple of months ago at a City Council Meeting relating to the Community Relations Council. If one does look at those who serve on these Boards and Commissions, one will see that the participants are skewed towards the older demographics and where allowed the participants have become entrenched.

The leadership of this community is playing politics and trying to control all angles of outcomes towards some interest that I don't think they could ever define. It has no means to an end. It is all about suiting some personal fancy. I will once again state, We cannot afford this in this community. This system has failed and needs to evolve towards something fruitful.

We need a plan and an agenda towards the fulfillment of goals. We need to build a bench of people who will advocate for the best interests of the population of Hickory in its entirety.  That means that it is the personal responsibility of the people of the varying cultures and demographics to empower themselves by finding individuals to push forth to serve this community. We need fresh people with fresh ideas and the barriers to entry need to come down, but they are only going to come down by tearing them down. Folks, there are cracks in that wall. It has eroded through the complacency of the status quo and the tone deafness of the entrenched powers. That wall wants to come down. Let's get out the sledgehammers!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- December 18, 2011

Airport needs $207,584 - City Council to get proposal for funding Hickory operation - Hickory A tow crew from the new - Hickory Daily Record - Larry Clark - December 16, 2011 - The Hickory City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposed amendment that will carry Hickory Regional Airport through the remainder of the budget year. Assistant City Manager Warren Wood will recommend a $207,584 budget amendment that will fund Fixed Base Operator functions through June 30....            The FBO was a source of revenue for the city through property lease agreements and fuel sales. Wood said Riverhawk still owes Hickory more than $150,000 in revenue payments...                 Warren said revenue from Riverhawk to the city averaged about $200,000 a year, a small percentage of the total FBO income.
He said some details probably will be ironed out in court – perhaps in federal bankruptcy court, but most likely in North Carolina courts. Some Riverhawk creditors have indicated they will claim a portion of future FBO revenue should be used to pay off Riverhawk’s debts because the company apparently used future income to gain credit in some instances. Hickory officials reject the notion. Wood said the city never signed or verbally agreed to any deal that obligated fuel sales or other FBO services to creditors, and it was never a co-signatory on Riverhawk loans. Riverhawk’s status as a lease holder and because of the concession agreement between Hickory and Riverhawk, it’s the city’s position that future FBO income is off limits to debt claims, as are airport assets. “It is our intention to provide stability at the airport and build back its reputation,” Wood said. “Hickory has a huge investment in the airport.” The city owns the terminal and the tower and maintains firefighting equipment and personnel at the airport.

If you would like to read this article without paying the ridiculous subscription fee that the HDR desires for what little real news they produce, then you have two choices. You can cut and past the article into a word precessing program such as Microsoft Word before the annoying pop up pops up or you can quickly scroll to the bottom of the screen and wait until the annoyance pops up and then read through the gray matter.

The Hound: I think it is wise that they put Warren Wood out as the spokesman on this issue, because I don't think he had much to do with the mistakes that took place 4 years ago. Mayor Rudy Wright and City Manager Mick Berry were at the forefront of allowing the transfer of the deed (Lease Arrangement) from Profile Aviation to River Hawk Aviation to go through even though the Aviation Attorney hired by the city recommended that they not go through with the deal. A deal that they were blind to until after it was already consummated.

Alders Sally Fox and Jill Patton were dead set against this deal going through four years ago. If city revenues from the contract with River Hawk were $150,000 in arrears, and total revenue was around $200,000, then that means that River Hawk hasn't been paying bills (to the city) for over 9 months and I have been told that this problem has been going on well back into 2010. Why did the city wait so long to deal with this issue?

A good thing is that the prices for aviation fuel at the Hickory Airport have come down substantially since the takeover by the city. The prices at Hickory Regional have now gone from being some of the highest in the region to being some of the lowest. That is what the Hickory Regional Task Force told the City would happen in their recommendations from 2006. This puts the Airport in a very good position competitively.

My only hope is that those who made the terrible decisions in 2007 will revisit their thought processes and understand the flawed logic so that the same flawed logic won't correlate to more bad decision processes related to other endeavors moving forward. This is a city that is continually managed in a risk averse manner and yet they were willing to move forward with a shaky arrangement (the deal with Profile) into another shaky arrangement (the deal with River Hawk) and this was done against the advice of an attorney the City had hired and a Task Force they had implemented. Are you starting to get the picture?

City of Hickory takes over operations at Airport - River Hawk Aviation OUT- 12/9/2011

Mind Blowing - The City's Mismanagement of the Hickory Regional Airport - 9/30/2009

Do people even know? Hickory Airport Operators (River Hawk Aviation) in Bankruptcy - 6/18/2011

Will Hickory Airport Operators be forced to liquidate -- and why is no one talking about this?!?!? - 9/16/2011

MF Global Told CME It Used Customer Funds: Timeline
- Bloomberg - Matthew Leising and Silla Brush - Dec 16, 2011 - MF Global Holdings Ltd. used about $700 million of customer funds to “meet liquidity issues” in the days prior to its bankruptcy, according to CME Group Inc. (CME), which had auditing authority over the failed futures broker.             CME Group detailed its dealings with MF Global in documents released yesterday by the oversight panel of the House Financial Services Committee. Christine Serwinski, chief financial officer for North America at MF Global, and Edith O’Brien, a treasurer, told Mike Procajlo, an exchange auditor, at around 1 a.m. on Oct. 31 in Serwinski’s Chicago office that the customer money was transferred on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28 and possibly Oct. 26, according to a CME Group timeline.              About $700 million was moved to the broker-dealer side of the business to meet liquidity issues in a series of transactions on Thursday, Friday and possibly Wednesday,” Serwinski and O’Brien told Procajlo hours before the firm filed for the eighth-largest bankruptcy following record quarterly losses and $6.3 billion in trades on European sovereign debt.             The timeline, the most detailed account yet of what may have happened to as much as $1.2 billion of missing customer money, was released as Jon Corzine, the firm’s former chairman, chief executive officer and architect of the European trades, faced his third congressional panel in the past week. The former senator and governor of New Jersey said he doesn’t know what happened to the money. New York-based MF Global’s failure marks the first time a futures broker’s bankruptcy has led to the loss of customer funds, according to Terrence Duffy, CME Group’s executive chairman.

“A statement that $700 million was taken implies a rule violation,” said Ronald Filler, who was a managing director in the global futures business at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. for 16 years. “That is not a permitted use of customer funds under Commodity Futures Trading Commission rules,” said Filler, who is now a professor at New York Law School, specializing in derivatives and futures brokers issues.

Once customer money is moved from the customer segregated accounts to the broker-dealer unit of a broker it can lose its designation as protected funds, Filler said.               “No one knows it belongs to the customer” and treasury officers may mistakenly think the funds are available for general use, he said.
Investigators are attempting to determine which transactions involving customer funds were illegitimate, Jill E. Sommers, the senior CFTC commissioner overseeing the investigation said in a telephone interview this week.                   If a transaction that was legitimate in the beginning “becomes illegitimate” later in a chain of transactions, then the chances of recovering the funds could be slim. “It may be gone,” Sommers said.

50 Economic Numbers From 2011 That Are Almost Too Crazy To Believe - The Economic Collapse - December 16, 2011 - Even though most Americans have become very frustrated with this economy, the reality is that the vast majority of them still have no idea just how bad our economic decline has been or how much trouble we are going to be in if we don't make dramatic changes immediately.  If we do not educate the American people about how deathly ill the U.S. economy has become, then they will just keep falling for the same old lies that our politicians keep telling them.  Just "tweaking" things here and there is not going to fix this economy.  We truly do need a fundamental change in direction.  America is consuming far more wealth than it is producing and our debt is absolutely exploding.  If we stay on this current path, an economic collapse is inevitable.  Hopefully the crazy economic numbers from 2011 that I have included in this article will be shocking enough to wake some people up.

At this time of the year, a lot of families get together, and in most homes the conversation usually gets around to politics at some point.  Hopefully many of you will use the list below as a tool to help you share the reality of the U.S. economic crisis with your family and friends.  If we all work together, hopefully we can get millions of people to wake up and realize that "business as usual" will result in a national economic apocalypse.

The following are 50 economic numbers from 2011 that are almost too crazy to believe....
#1 A staggering 48 percent of all Americans are either considered to be "low income" or are living in poverty.

#2 Approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are living in homes that are either considered to be "low income" or impoverished.

#3 If the number of Americans that "wanted jobs" was the same today as it was back in 2007, the "official" unemployment rate put out by the U.S. government would be up to 11 percent.

#4 The average amount of time that a worker stays unemployed in the United States is now over 40 weeks.

#5 One recent survey found that 77 percent of all U.S. small businesses do not plan to hire any more workers.

#6 There are fewer payroll jobs in the United States today than there were back in 2000 even though we have added 30 million extra people to the population since then.

#7 Since December 2007, median household income in the United States has declined by a total of 6.8% once you account for inflation.

#8 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 16.6 million Americans were self-employed back in December 2006.  Today, that number has shrunk to 14.5 million.

#9 A Gallup poll from earlier this year found that approximately one out of every five Americans that do have a job consider themselves to be underemployed.

#10 According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

#11 Back in 1980, less than 30% of all jobs in the United States were low income jobs.  Today, more than 40% of all jobs in the United States are low income jobs.

#12 Back in 1969, 95 percent of all men between the ages of 25 and 54 had a job.  In July, only 81.2 percent of men in that age group had a job.

#13 One recent survey found that one out of every three Americans would not be able to make a mortgage or rent payment next month if they suddenly lost their current job.

#14 The Federal Reserve recently announced that the total net worth of U.S. households declined by 4.1 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2011 alone.

#15 According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent.

#16 As the economy has slowed down, so has the number of marriages.  According to a Pew Research Center analysis, only 51 percent of all Americans that are at least 18 years old are currently married.  Back in 1960, 72 percent of all U.S. adults were married.

#17 The U.S. Postal Service has lost more than 5 billion dollars over the past year.

#18 In Stockton, California home prices have declined 64 percent from where they were at when the housing market peaked.

#19 Nevada has had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for 59 months in a row.

#20 If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.

#21 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 percent of all homes in the state of Florida are sitting vacant.  That figure is 63 percent larger than it was just ten years ago.

#22 New home construction in the United States is on pace to set a brand new all-time record low in 2011.

#23 As I have written about previously, 19 percent of all American men between the ages of 25 and 34 are now living with their parents.

#24 Electricity bills in the United States have risen faster than the overall rate of inflation for five years in a row.

#25 According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, health care costs accounted for just 9.5% of all personal consumption back in 1980.  Today they account for approximately 16.3%.

#26 One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

#27 If you can believe it, one out of every seven Americans has at least 10 credit cards.

#28 The United States spends about 4 dollars on goods and services from China for every one dollar that China spends on goods and services from the United States.

#29 It is being projected that the U.S. trade deficit for 2011 will be 558.2 billion dollars.

#30 The retirement crisis in the United States just continues to get worse.  According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, 46 percent of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement, and 29 percent of all American workers have less than $1,000 saved for retirement.

#31 Today, one out of every six elderly Americans lives below the federal poverty line.

#32 According to a study that was just released, CEO pay at America's biggest companies rose by 36.5% in just one recent 12 month period.

#33 Today, the "too big to fail" banks are larger than ever.  The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.

#34 The six heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton have a net worth that is roughly equal to the bottom 30 percent of all Americans combined.

#35 According to an analysis of Census Bureau data done by the Pew Research Center, the median net worth for households led by someone 65 years of age or older is 47 times greater than the median net worth for households led by someone under the age of 35.

#36 If you can believe it, 37 percent of all U.S. households that are led by someone under the age of 35 have a net worth of zero or less than zero.

#37 A higher percentage of Americans is living in extreme poverty (6.7%) than has ever been measured before.

#38 Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007.

#39 Since 2007, the number of children living in poverty in the state of California has increased by 30 percent.

#40 Sadly, child poverty is absolutely exploding all over America.  According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 36.4% of all children that live in Philadelphia are living in poverty, 40.1% of all children that live in Atlanta are living in poverty, 52.6% of all children that live in Cleveland are living in poverty and 53.6% of all children that live in Detroit are living in poverty.

#41 Today, one out of every seven Americans is on food stamps and one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#42 In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7% of all income.  Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.

#43 A staggering 48.5% of all Americans live in a household that receives some form of government benefits.  Back in 1983, that number was below 30 percent.

#44 Right now, spending by the federal government accounts for about 24 percent of GDP.  Back in 2001, it accounted for just 18 percent.

#45 For fiscal year 2011, the U.S. federal government had a budget deficit of nearly 1.3 trillion dollars.  That was the third year in a row that our budget deficit has topped one trillion dollars.

#46 If Bill Gates gave every single penny of his fortune to the U.S. government, it would only cover the U.S. budget deficit for about 15 days.

#47 Amazingly, the U.S. government has now accumulated a total debt of 15 trillion dollars.  When Barack Obama first took office the national debt was just 10.6 trillion dollars.

#48 If the federal government began right at this moment to repay the U.S. national debt at a rate of one dollar per second, it would take over 440,000 years to pay off the national debt.

#49 The U.S. national debt has been increasing by an average of more than 4 billion dollars per day since the beginning of the Obama administration.

#50 During the Obama administration, the U.S. government has accumulated more debt than it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that Bill Clinton took office.

Of course the heart of our economic problems is the Federal Reserve.  The Federal Reserve is a perpetual debt machine, it has almost completely destroyed the value of the U.S. dollar and it has an absolutely nightmarish track record of incompetence.  If the Federal Reserve system had never been created, the U.S. economy would be in far better shape.  The federal government needs to shut down the Federal Reserve and start issuing currency that is not debt-based.  That would be a very significant step toward restoring prosperity to America.

During 2011 we made a lot of progress in educating the American people about our economic problems, but we still have a long way to go.

Hopefully next year more Americans than ever will wake up, because 2012 is going to represent a huge turning point for this country.

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