Google Groups
Join To Get Blog Update Notices
Visit the Hickory Hound Group

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 Cliff Moone for NC House Seat (96th District)

Cliff Moone, a Hickory Democrat, filed today as a candidate running for the NC 96th House District seat.

“I am running for the North Carolina House for two simple reasons. Our public school budgets are under siege; the best community college and university system in America is being unnecessarily underfunded. It is shameful for North Carolina to be 49th in the nation in per-pupil expenditures. We must make adequate investments in education if our children and youth are going to be prepared for the emerging 21st Century job market. Cutting education budgets and teaching jobs is not the way to a better future.”

“While one political party (Republican) has essentially had a monopoly on elected positions in this area, our unemployment rate has remained the second-highest in the state. Time and again, they have run on the promise of jobs. Time and again, they have gone to Raleigh and focused on other issues. And the jobs have mostly gone elsewhere. I think we can do better. We must challenge the status quo,”

Mr. Moone is a semi-retired pastor who has a background in education as the original Head Master of the Hickory Christian Academy and a former director of the Sylvan Learning Center here in Hickory. He is currently an instructor at Catawba Valley Community College.

Mr. Moone has been active in community affairs as a Rotarian and as President of the Parson of the Hills Ministry Board. An active leader in the Democrat Party, he is currently the 10th Congressional District Democrat chairman.

“I make the citizens and families of the 96th District three promises. I will represent them with integrity: I will never lie to them nor vote in any way that compromises my principles or my character. I shall hold ‘Constituent Concerns & Care’ meetings throughout the district each month that the Legislature is not in session to actually listen to the citizens, not talk at them. Because I believe in the concept of a true ‘Citizen’s Legislature,’ I pledge to hold this office for no more than three terms. I am not looking for a political career, but for an opportunity to give back to a community that has been a blessing to my family and me for nearly 25 years."

Mr. Moone will be facing Hickory Real Estate Developer Andy Wells in the upcoming election.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bev Perdue's Associates Get Court Dates For Campaign Violations

Mr. Carrington has been all over this. Excellent Journalism. Real Journalism. The violations center around Morganton and the Chartered Flights originated out of Hickory Regional Airport - Profile Aviation.

Perdue Associates Get Court Dates For Fundraising Violations - Sitton, Stubbs will appear in March on felony campaign finance charges - The Carolina Journal - Don Carrington - February 27, 2012 - A former aide to Gov. Bev Perdue and a close friend of the governor have March dates in Wake County Superior Court to respond to felony charges related to their fundraising activities for Perdue’s 2008 campaign. A third person indicted on felony charges related to Perdue campaign fundraising has not had his initial court date scheduled. A fourth Perdue associate, Greensboro businessman Peter Reichard, worked out a felony plea in December.

(1.09.12) Questions Remain About Perdue Flight Operation
RALEIGH — The lieutenant governor’s office scheduled flights for official business for Bev Perdue from a list of “aircraft providers” maintained by the Perdue campaign. Providers were not reimbursed for official business. Perdue insists she was unaware of the program at the time.

(1.06.12) CJ Editorial: Flight Plan Clear As Mud
Even after four supporters of her 2008 campaign have been indicted for fundraising violations -- and one has been convicted -- Gov. Bev Perdue has refused to speak in detail on the charges.

(12.15.11) Convicted Perdue Donor Reichard Involved in Scheme to Hide Illegal Contributions
RALEIGH — Peter Reichard, along with three other Perdue associates, are implicated in two additional schemes to skirt campaign laws and deliver illegal funds to the governor’s election efforts.

(12.13.11) Indicted Perdue Supporter Hints at Defense Strategy
RALEIGH — Businessman Peter Reichard faces a felony obstruction of justice charge for accepting $32,000 from maxed-out campaign donor Charles M. “Mike” Fulenwider. Reichard used Fulenwider’s money to pay a portion of the salary of Juleigh Sitton, whom Perdue hired to run the governor’s western North Carolina office.

(12.01.11) Support Groups Vary For Indicted Perdue Team Members
RALEIGH — When high-powered political operatives get indicted in North Carolina they know they’re going to have to run a gauntlet of media types as they head to the local magistrate to get their mug shots taken.

(11.29.11) Grand Jury Indicts Three from Perdue’s Campaign Team
RALEIGH — A Wake County grand jury indicted three people on Monday for illegal activity associated with the financing of Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s 2008 campaign for governor.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- February 26, 2012

Silencing The Critics - - Paul Craig Roberts - February 20, 2012 -
Whose interests are being served by Washington’s endless and multi-trillion dollar wars? Certainly not the interests of the 50 million americans with no access to health care, nor the 1,500,000 american children who are homeless, living in cars, rundown motel rooms, tent cities, and the storm sewers under Las Vegas, while huge amounts of public funds are used to bail out banks and squandered in wars of hegemony.               The US has no independent print and TV media. It has presstitutes who are paid for the lies that they tell. The US government in its pursuit of its immoral aims has attained the status of the most corrupt government in human history. Yet Obama speaks as if Washington is the font of human morality.                The US government does not represent americans. It represents a few special interests and a foreign power. US citizens simply don’t count, and certainly Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans, Somalians, Yemenis, and Pakistanis don’t count. Washington regards truth, justice, and mercy as laughable values. Money, power, hegemony are all that count for Washington, the city upon the hill, the light unto nations, the example for the world.

Soaring oil prices will dwarf the Greek drama - Since last week's eurozone "grand summit", the headlines have been positive and, in the official photos anyway, the main players appear to be smiling. As such, the global equity rally goes on. - The Telegraph of London - Liam Halligan - February 25, 2012 - The International Energy Agency (IEA), the energy think-tank funded by oil-importing Western governments, tells us that crude demand is "declining remorselessly throughout the OECD [countries]". Given that the Western economies remain weak and the eurozone is heading for recession, the "advanced economies" are consuming less crude.             The fine print shows, though, that even IEA demand projections, which tend to be under-estimates, show OECD oil use falling just 0.9pc in 2012. Demand among the non-OECD countries, meanwhile, including the emerging giants of the East, is forecast to rise 2.8pc. Total global crude consumption, then, is still set to increase by another 1pc this year, mimicking the trend of 2011.             The "demand destruction" thesis is useful for Western governments desperate for cheaper oil – and it used to be true. Not so long ago, OECD oil use was so important that a Western demand slow-down was enough to lower global crude prices, so helping us recover. But rampant non-OECD demand now accounts for half the world total – and rising. Chinese oil consumption has recently surged at an astonishing 7pc-8pc per annum and the People's Republic is now second only to the US in terms of overall oil use. Misguided Western attempts to print our way out of trouble using QE are also boosting crude demand and pushing up prices, as savvy investors seek an "anti-debasement" hedge.             On the supply side, while attention focuses on geopolitical flare-ups, the important trends relate to geology and finance. Since the 1960s, the discovery rate and size of new oil and gas fields has fallen markedly. More than four-fifths of the world's major fields are beyond peak production. The output of the world's largest 580 oil fields is declining at a 5.1pc annual average. Strategic oil traders now worry aloud about falling pressure at Saudi's Ghawar, Cantarell in Mexico and other giants fields. The credit-crunch, meanwhile, severely cut investment in exploration and well development, which is likely to have long term supply implications.              While there's lots of hype about tar sands and shale fuels, these new technologies often expend more energy than they create, while causing horrendous environmental and water-supply problems. Conventionally-produced crude will remain absolutely critical, and demand for it will spiral, until mankind bans the internal combustion engine, outlaws ammonium-based fertilisers, dismantles the global pharmaceutical industry and learns to live without plastic. I can't see that happening anytime soon.                Geo-political issues are important, of course. A major Gulf conflict would obviously see oil prices spike. But crude is now expensive not due to political argy-bargy but because of the fundamental truths of demand and supply. Meanwhile, Western share prices keep rising.

8 reasons why gas will hit $5 a gallon this year - MSNBC - By Paul Ausick and Douglas A. McIntyre, 24/7 Wall St. - Two warring trends are pushing and pulling gas prices. On the one hand, Americans now drive less than at any time in the past 11 years. On the other hand, gasoline and oil inventories are at very low levels around the world, and traders believe that supply will tighten significantly. The fact that Americans drive much less will not offset an interruption of supply from the Middle East, a decision by refineries to charge more to turn oil into gasoline, or higher demand from emerging economies like China and India.              24/7 Wall St. reviewed the major reasons that gas prices have risen in the past quarter and analyzed whether the causes will improve or worsen. We have estimated how much each factor could increase gas prices. Together, those increases would be enough to push gas prices up by another $1.50.           1)Strait of Hormuz     2)Iran       3) Refiners raising prices     4) Other geopolitical risks         5)The EU may save itself         6) U.S. Economic Recovery          7) Summer          8) Supply Risk

Gasoline Prices Are Not Rising, the Dollar Is Falling - Forbes - Louis Woodhill - February 22, 2012 - Unfortunately, the talking heads that are trying to explain the reasons for high oil prices are missing one tiny detail. Oil prices aren’t high right now. In fact, they are unusually low. Gasoline prices would have to rise by another $0.65 to $0.75 per gallon from where they are now just to be “normal”. And, because gasoline prices are low right now, it is very likely that they are going to go up more—perhaps a lot more......          In terms of judging whether the price of WTI is high or low, here is the price that truly matters: 0.0602 ounces of gold per barrel (which can be written as Au0.0602/bbl). What this number means is that, right now, a barrel of WTI has the same market value as 0.0602 ounces of gold.           During the 493 months since January 1, 1971, the price of WTI has averaged Au0.0732/bbl. It has been higher than that during 225 of those months and lower than that during 268 of those months. Plotted as a graph, the line representing the price of a barrel of oil in terms of gold has crossed the horizontal line representing the long-term average price (Au0.0732/bbl) 29 times.......            Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke uses a “core CPI index” that excludes food and energy to guide monetary policy. From Big Ben’s point of view, rising gasoline prices are not a problem. For the rest of us, they are becoming a big problem.......      Over the centuries, gold has been “the golden constant”. Eventually, all prices equilibrate with gold. This is why gold represents the best available standard in terms of which to define the value of a monetary unit. Forty-one years ago, when the value of the dollar was defined in terms of gold at $35/oz, WTI was selling for $3.56/bbl..........            During the 1970s, the toxic combination of a weak dollar, high tax rates, and onerous regulations introduced a new word into America’s economic vocabulary: stagflation. Reaganomics banished this word to the history books. Now, President Obama and Fed Chairman Bernanke are teaming up to give stagflation another try. It is not likely that Americans will like it any more this time around than they did 40 years ago.

GE “Forcing” Employees Into Chevy Volts - - Christopher DeMorro - February 20, 2012 - General Motors and General Electric are two companies that have been in the political crosshairs lately. GM stands accused of “crony capitalism,” while GE is under fire for paying no Federal income taxes in 2010. The two companies share more than that though, with GE placing an order for 12,000 Chevy Volts and other hybrid vehicles.               A memo leaked to Green Car Reports lays out GE’s plans for their new fleet of Volts, and as expected, it has some people crying foul.                    The memo, sent to employees of GE Healthcare Americas team explains that all sedan, crossover, and minivan purchases in 2012 will be replaced by the Chevy Volt. Only field engineers are exempt from having to drive a company Volt.                  GE will offer estimates for installation Level 2 Charging Stations, though all-gas use will be allowed when there is no electric option. Any employees who opt out of the Volt program will not be compensated for their expenses. Those who do choose to drive the Volt will be reimbursed for public charging and home charging costs, in addition to gas uses.

Lowe's offers buyouts to corporate staff - Company offers buyouts to staffers in Mooresville and Wilkesboro offices - Charlotte Observer - February 25, 2012 - Lowe's Inc., the Mooresville-based home improvement chain, is offering buyouts to corporate staff, as the retailer slows store openings, cuts costs and focuses on the digital aspects of its business. The buyout offer - known as a "voluntary separation program" - applies to corporate staff members at the company's offices in Mooresville and Wilkesboro. Lowe's gave buyout notices to eligible employees on Monday. Employees who take the buyout will receive a lump-sum payment, based on how long they've been with the company.           
The company did not specify how many employees it hopes will take the buyout, but Yenichek said "the majority" of corporate employees are eligible. Lowe's is one of the largest employers in the Charlotte region, with about 5,200 employees working at the Mooresville and Wilkesboro locations. Layoffs could follow if the buyout is not sufficient, Ausura's letter said. Lowe's has seen its earnings fall for three straight quarters, and its performance has lagged that of chief rival Home Depot. In Lowe's most recent quarter, the company's profit fell to $225 million, down from $404 million in the same quarter a year ago. Lowe's reports its fourth quarter and full-year earnings on Feb. 27.           The company has already eliminated about one manager in each of its 1,725 stores to cut costs. The company also announced last year that it was closing 20 underperforming stores, resulting in nearly 2,000 job cuts, and cutting the number of stores it plans to open by half over the coming years.

Roanoke mail processing facility to close - The Roanoke Times (Virginia) - Sheila Ellis - February 22, 2012 - The U.S. Postal Service will close its Roanoke mail processing facility, a union representative said tonight.            Lisa Kirkwood, chief steward for American Postal Workers Union Local 482, said workers were told at a meeting with Postal Service officials tonight that the facility will be shut down. It employs about 500 people. It's not clear when the closing will occur.                    Letters and packages will be sent instead to Greensboro, N.C., to be processed, resulting in slower delivery and the death of the Roanoke postmark.                    The Roanoke processing facility has been in jeopardy since last year, when the Postal Service, citing significant decreases in mail volume and a massive infrastructure, said it was considering closing 250 processing facilities, including those in Roanoke and Lynchburg.      U.S. Postal Service to Cut 35,000 Jobs as Plants Are Shut - By Angela Greiling Keane - February 23, 2012 

Who's announced most job cuts: Uncle Sam - MSNBC - Allison Linn - February 13, 2012 - asked outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas to compile a list of the employers that have publicly announced the most job cuts from the beginning of 2007 through the end of 2011. Challenger relies on public announcements and news reports to compile its data and checks those against government-mandated layoff notices when available.                  The U.S. government topped the list with 112,800 job cuts announced over the past five years, mainly at the U.S. Postal Service and in the defense sector. The government tops the list in part because it’s the nation’s largest employer. The government employed about 2.8 million workers as of January, so the announced job cuts would have amounted to only about 4 percent of the total.             Even if you don’t want to work for the Post Office or Defense Department, the prospect of making a career with the federal government may be waning. The Labor Department projects that federal government employment will shrink by 372,000 jobs by 2020.

The Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury gone rogue? Sounds like it.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Morganton's Elitist Newspaper - The News Herald - Guest Commentary

Another article relating to Morganton by a reliable source relating to The News Herald of Morganton:

Certain letters to the editor are thrown into File 13:
  1. Foxes were let loose (accreditation fiasco)   1/10/2012
  2. Shenanigans of Morganton Attorneys (involving school politics)  12/31/2011
MNH gave two excuses to trash these letters: 
Excuse #1
The new editor of the Morganton News Herald, Kyle Phipps, said he was checking the facts of the two letters; this was taking awhile because some of this information was two years old and Catherine Thomas' Barking in Burke blog had been taken down.
Obtain another set of the campaign finance reports and mail them to Kyle Phipps; simply call Catherine Thomas and ask her if she denies writing the accreditation article.

Excuse #2
Mr. Phipps said the publisher, Lamar Smitherman, would address whether or not the News Herald would run the letters. The 2/8/11 conversation went like this:
Letter-writer: What have you decided about the two letters to the editor I submitted last month?
Smitherman: I've decided we're not running either of them.
Letter-writer: Any particular reason why not?
Smitherman: The subject matter is two years old - (not relevant for today).
Letter-writer: I'm trying to remember the letter about accreditation - that issue....    you know, I guess I could argue with you about it, but I don't think anything I say would get you to change your mind.
Smitherman: You'd be right about that.
Letter-writer: Ok, well, thank you. click.

Issues are not Relevant for Today?
Obviously the "Foxes" accreditation letter is relevant as the SACS CASI monitoring review team just left town on 1/26/12; Burke County is anxiously awaiting their decision. How this mess began is, of course, pertinent. In fact, the News Herald frequently gives their version of how it got started in articles about the accreditation issue.

Actual Reason for Burying Letters: Protect Morganton's Elite
But, of course, there's no way Burke County's local newspaper would allow the viewpoint which purports the schools' touch-and-go accreditation troubles all began as a political maneuver to save former Superintendent's David Burleson's job. Any negative talk, in Burke County, directed in David Burleson's direction would be considered blasphemy. Strike One.

The supporters of David Burleson simply had no where else to turn when the 2009 school board and their attorney declared his contract ended on June 30, 2009.  The County Commissioners put financial pressure on the school board which led to school board suing the Commissioners, and Burleson's supporters tried calling the NC School Boards Association, the State Board of Education and State and local legislators.  But, each said they had no jurisdiction over the matter of the Superintendent's contract.

Many community members signed petitions, attended (and disrupted) school board meetings in record numbers, held rallies and a prayer service, boycotted businesses owned by board members, their families, or their supporters, placed "We Support David Burleson" signs and "Resign" signs in their yards and business windows... but only one board member resigned.  Four school board members, a majority, firmly insisted Mr. Burleson would no longer be BCPS' Superintendent as of July 1, 2009. Burleson sued for breach of contract.

So on 6/30/09, Burleson and the board settled their dispute for $126k, ten thousand of which was covered by the board's insurance policy, and Burleson resigned.
The only agency who took notice and acted on the citizens' pleas for help was AdvancED/SACS-CASI.  The "Foxes were let loose" letter exposes daughter-of-wealthy-business-owner/corporate-attorney-turned-board-member Catherine Thomas' involvement with getting this accreditation ball rolling. Strike Two. Hence, the Morganton News Herald's refusal to print the "Foxes" letter.

Local Attorneys' Political Actions are not Currently Relevant?
As you'll see in the buried Shenanigans letter, the WPCC appointment of former Superior Court Judge Claude Sitton just happened at the end of June 2011; the letter was originally submitted after Christmas of the same year.

Attorney John Ervin's difficulty in following campaign finance law is similar to Morganton attorney Juleigh Sitton's current legal problems.

The issue about Larry McMahon representing the County Commissioners is, of course, pertinent since the school board will probably sue the county over funding again this year; they're already haggling over money. Also, as it happens, McMahon is currently representing Scott Carlton in his libel/defamation lawsuit; this issue involves school political rumors.

As for Sam Aycock -- how a school board appoints the board attorney and community college trustees are always relevant, especially if the local media has never exposed the appointees' campaign donations and board members' refusal to recuse themselves from the votes.

We know the publisher's excuse that the issues are "old news" is hogwash since we all know 
"those who learn from history are doomed to repeat it", 
"we have to remind ourselves of the history of our county, state, nation and world and the unjust actions that have taken place. It’s too important to be forgotten."

The first quote was, of course, from George Santayana. The second? Astoundingly, this quote is from Morganton News Herald's very own editor, Kyle Phipps.

The Real Reasons for Burying the Viewpoints
First, at all costs: protect Morganton's Elite.  Secondly, Burke County's only newspaper does not want their readers to know and understand the past; it's much better if the sheeple remain in the dark, swallow what they dish out, and vote accordingly.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 21, 2012

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 2/21/2012 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  Bill Gerrard United Methodist Pastor

Special Presentations:
A. Recognition of Gloria Farr, City of Hickory’s NC 2011 Main Street Champion - The proclamation was read by the Mayor: Gloria Farr's business may not be located downtown, but that is where her heart lies. An active volunteer in the Hickory Downtown Development Association, she served on the Board of Directors as Design Committee Chairman for a decade. She has brought her sense of style to downtown Hickory. Gloria was instrumental in a number of design projects, including the installation of "Destination Downtown" banners, which included soliciting donations from downtown business owners, coordinating design, and receiving approval from the appearance commission. She single-handedly raised money to purchase "Farmer's market" and "Shop, Dine, and Explore" banners. She spearheaded the acquisition of new downtown Hickory Christmas decorations. She initiated Hickory Union Square's first tree lighting celebration. She worked with city landscaping crews to refurbish planters. Having once said to her committee, "if it is going to get done we are going to have to do it," Gloria exemplifies the type of individual that gets things done. Hickory Downtown Development Association and the City of Hickory are fortunate to have such a volunteer as Gloria Farr, 2011 North Carolina Main Street Champion.

The Hound thinks Gloria Farr should be commended for her work and devotion towards downtown. She has a passion about seeing this city look nice. She doesn't have to do what she does and she isn't personally financially benefiting from these projects that she is working on. She does it because she cares.

B. Presentation By Community Groups Requesting Appropriations from the City Council During the Next Fiscal Year Beginning July 1, 2012. The Council will not take action tonight. Action will be taken when the Council considers the City’s annual budget in May or June. These presentations are made so Council Members can ask questions or make comments about the requests. Presenters will be allotted no more than five (5) minutes to make their presentations to Council.

Organization - Presentation - By Amount - Requested
Catawba Co. Economic Development Corporation - Scott Millar - $140,999 - Scott stated that we have had a pretty good year, but we could stand a lot more prosperity around here. A couple of the projects that they have worked on include Turbo Coating, Fairmont Designs - a reinvestment by a foreign company that has Chinese roots, Punker LLC is a German company that is coming in with the energy sector that is going to drive the analysis and opportunities that they think are going to provide good job opportunities in the next few years. Stewart Superabsorbent's and Shurtape Technologies with a new office facility in a surprising location.

Turbo Tech Products which has expanded further into Fairgrove Business Park. He also mentioned Convergys and Fiserv which are both continuing to hire and exceeding expectations that they have had. He complemented the new branding initiative by the city.

There (EDC) plan of work certainly includes some rebranding itself. What they are doing is taking an analytical and marketing approach to try and rename some of the opportunities such as the new Multijurisdictional Park. It originally has been named the Data Center Park Number Two, but some people from outside the area may not like the name. Data Center Park Number One is the Apple data center. People from outside of the community may not like the concept of Data Center Number Two, so the park will now be called the North Carolina data campus. New Multijurisdictional Park opportunities will come forward in the upcoming year. The first one is about to get its legs and will provide opportunities in the near term.

He sees a lot more opportunities in the energy field with Progress Energy and Duke creating the largest US-based utility in Charlotte and providing opportunities for companies like Turbo Coating and Punker that will be located nearby Charlotte, but prefer not to locate in the high-cost Charlotte area. He sees this as a great opportunity for advanced manufacturing and the EDC will provide marketing to attempt to lure companies from around the country and the world. What they are simply trying to do is create jobs and tax base here in Catawba County.

The Mayor asked what percentage of the money for Mr. Millar's Budget is provided by the City of Hickory. Mr. Millar stated that about 28% of the budget is provided by Hickory and 52% of the budget is provided by Catawba County.

Downtown Development Association - Connie Kincaid - $75,000 - In 1995 when the HDDA filed articles of incorporation, a mission statement was adopted. The partnership with the City of Hickory has produced positive changes downtown. In 2007, the HDDA hosted downtown's first community vision forum and next Tuesday they will host the second community vision forum. The community will come together and revisit the shared vision for downtown. The vision forum is free for all participants, but does require advanced registration.

The 15 member volunteer Board of Directors develops an annual program of work. It follows MainStreet USA's four point plan of approach to downtown revitalization. Downtown Hickory is known for its award-winning festivals. During last month's North Carolina Main Street conference, Hickory was awarded for its art crawls, which were recognized for an award of excellence. Hickory's Oktoberfest welcomed 100,000 people over the three-day event and generated $7 million in economic impact. Hickory Hops was attended by 2,262 people and generated $305,000 in economic impact. Other special events (Art Crawl, Candy Crawl, Swing under the Stars,and Hickory Holiday) target Hickory residents more than out-of-town visitors, yet the economic impact of these events was estimated to be over a quarter of a million dollars. This year, downtown is coordinating sales with the Farmer's Market that occurs on Wednesdays. These will include sales campaigns, in-store promotions, marketing and special event coordination. These contribute to the exposure of our diverse mixture of retail businesses. Our established commercial businesses are our downtown destination.

We have been told numerous times by downtown business and property owners that their biggest challenge is helping people to find their way downtown. And as you can see, it is time to repair our existing directional signs. The committee plans to reflect our city's wayfinding design with our existing wrought iron signs. We also coordinate the seasonal exchange of downtown banners. We're working with the public art commission to continue implementing the art walk. That will get us closer to reaching our goal of connecting downtown with Frye Regional Medical Center, the Salt Block, and Lenoir-Rhyne University to make them more pedestrian friendly.

Even during the downturn in the economy. Downtown has witnessed new private investment. Building renovations have been completed On 4th St SW and continue at the 1912 Depot. The Council House bed-and-breakfast is on the market, and they (HDDA) are hoping to promote the property in hopes that it will remain a bed-and-breakfast. Downtown Hickory has 23 buildings that are currently completely vacant or have some percentage of square footage that is currently unoccupied. Although we're currently maintaining an 87% occupancy rate, there are opportunities for business and property development with investment cost determined by the condition of the real estate. We are planning to host an open house of available downtown properties to assist property owners with filling their empty storefronts.

In 2011, we experienced 16 businesses opening, while six closed for a net gain of 10 new businesses, which created 46 new jobs. Total new investment in 2011 was $1.6 million. Since 2007, the combination of public and private investment in downtown has been more than $8 million. For more than a decade Hickory Downtown Development Association has requested the same amount of money. As with most organizations, the cost of doing business has challenged our imaginations to do more with less. This year will be more difficult for us. The stage will no longer be used on Union Square, which will in turn reduce revenues due to the loss of stage rental fees at the same time the cost of police protection during special events has increased by 8% and the cost of utilities from Duke Energy has risen by 7%. Subsequently, the cost of providing lighting for public parking and on city streets in several of the areas of downtown has risen. The services that we provide for the City of Hickory encompass a variety of projects. A few of them are administering the Main Street program, coordinating the downtown parking task force, collaboration of special events and distributing weekly updates of public inquiries of marketing construction on Union Square.

Habitat for Humanity – Water Taps - $22,850 - Mitzi Gelman was not present. The mayor spoke about this association. He stated that the city has for years donated water and sewer taps for Habitat homes. Habitat for Humanity has built over 120 houses in Catawba County, greatly enhancing life for probably over 600 people in this community. This gets property on tax rolls, helps people build equity, and pursue the American dream. This helps to improve properties that need to be enhanced or may be sitting idle.

Hickory Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau - Bebe Leitch - $20,000 - Bebe Leitch was not present. The Mayor stated that city likes the work that the Convention and Visitor's Bureau does.

The Salt Block Facility Improvement - Mark Sinclair - $100,000 - LT Thompson is the treasurer for the SALT Block, and he presented the information. The SALT Block is home to six important and dynamic organizations, including the Catawba Science Center, The Hickory Museum of Art, Hickory Choral Society, The Western Piedmont Symphony, United Arts Council, and the Patrick Beaver Memorial Library. The mission is to pay for the cost of the physical facilities for all of the organizations, except for the library. The foundation pays for the lion's share of utilities, heating and cooling, cleaning, building management and capital replacement. This allows the resident organizations to concentrate on providing wonderful exhibitions, programs, and activities that enrich all of our lives without worrying about the roof over their heads. This is an economic and cultural asset to our community, collectively serving over 300,000 people per year including students from every Hickory public school. Including the library, they serve over a half million people per year. The city provides security guards and ground maintenance for the organization. For the past three years, the city has provided monies for capital refurbishment of the buildings. This year, funds were used to help refurbish the second floor of the West Wing building, which was constructed in 1956 and had been largely untouched since that date. This cost over $800,000 and provides a community room, an atrium, new office spaces for the SALT Block foundation and United Arts Council, and refurbished bathrooms. Last year, the funding was used to replace roofs on two of the SALT Block buildings. Two years ago, the HVAC units were replaced.

United Arts Council of Catawba County - Lynn Loehr - $40,010 - Kimberly George, the President of the United Arts Council of Catawba County made the presentation. Since 1984, organizations that contribute to our quality of life and economic development in our community have been able to provide educational and arts programs. The strength of our cultural programming is a key part of the recruitment of new businesses and professionals to our community. The active arts council, the Hickory Museum of Art, the Catawba Science Center with its planetary and aquarium, the Hickory community theater, the Western Piedmont Symphony, Hickory Choral Society, The Hickory Landmark Society, and the Hickory History Center help set our city apart from other communities our size. Organizations seeking grants must contribute dollar for dollar. Each dollar contributed by the city translates to a minimum of four dollars spent in our community. The North Carolina Arts Council estimates the number is $24 spent locally for every dollar granted to the arts. In this fiscal year, the dollars have helped fund projects such as the Lenoir-Rhyne visiting writers series, the Lenoir-Rhyne friends of music series, a bilingual planetarium show for Catawba Science Center, folk art displays for children at the Hickory Museum of Art... In 2010-2011 project grants totaled $165,049. Operation grants totaled $240,000. Together that adds up to $405,049 spent and matched in our community. Again they ask for one dollar per capita.

Hickory Community Theatre - John Rambo - $50,000 - John Rambo made the presentation. Mr. Rambo stated that the partnership with Hickory was started by Kay Johnson, who work for the Department of Recreation. The city offered the use of the auditorium and the Hickory Community Theater has only once performed outside of its current location, when the boiler had to be replaced. The boiler replacement spurred the renovation that took place in 1986. The city contributed 50% of the cost. Since that time, the city and the theater have partnered for the upkeep of the building. The city and the theater worked together to restore the awnings in front of the building in 1994 to return it to its original appearance and following that the city and the theater co-authored the application for national registry status in 1999. The theater hosted the debates for the Mayoral candidates in 2005. When the city received All-American status in 2007, the theater hosted the city's screenings of the presentation for the competition...

At this time the theater has undertaken a capital campaign for extensive renovations of the facility and updates, and the goal is $1.2 million. This the first time this has been talked about in a public forum and the theater will be going public in April. Currently the theater has raised $500,000 of the $1.2 million goal. They are requesting the city's assistance for $50,000 of the first phase of the renovations which include an elevator to make the building ADA compliant and renovations to the restrooms to enhance their compliance with the ADA and also their capacity. Especially the women's restroom.

The volunteers for the Hickory Community Theater acknowledge with gratitude the support and contributions of the City of Hickory in making available old City Hall. As of the end of the Christmas season, 11,000 visitors have come to see the Hickory Community Theater productions.

The Hound was glad to hear some of these items. Usually there is a template that is followed and you just fill in the numbers. Of course the HDDA presentation is what caused my ears to perk up. The positive note is that they are looking to incorporate the SALT Block, Frye Regional, and Lenoir-Rhyne into a sculpture walk to make Union Square more pedestrian accessible and friendly. To that I say kudos. As I always have stated Downtown is and must be considered more than Union Square. As Rebecca Inglefield later states when she speaks during Citizens Requesting to be heard, the Ridgeview Library has a sculpture and it too should be considered as part of the pedestrian path.

I think that all of the art and cultural items are worthy endeavors. We receive a lot of benefit for those dollars. We have an excellent community theater and the SALT Block is one of the best cultural centers in this State. I also think Scott Millar does an excellent job with the EDC. He is one of the few people holding the cards close to the vest that I trust and that is because I see how much effort he is putting into attracting businesses to our area. The man is everywhere. 

Consent Agenda:
A. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from David Lee Brittain and Wife, Erin Brittain to Daniel Edgar Brittain in Oakwood Cemetery

B. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from Daniel Kirk Brittain to Fonda Kay Brittain in Oakwood Cemetery

C. Special Event Permit Application for Hickory Crawdads St. Patrick’s Day Party Scheduled for Saturday, March 10, 2012 from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm at L.P. Frans

D. Special Event Permit Application for Grave Marking Ceremony for Clinton Cilley, Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor (Civil War) by Catawba Valley Chapter of the North Carolina Sons of the American Revolution to be held at Oakwood Cemetery on April 21, 2012 from 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

E. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance to Eliminate “No Parking Any Time” Requirement Along 18th Avenue Place NE Between 15th Street Place NE and 14th Street Place NE - A petition was signed by four of six homeowners along 18th Avenue Place NE to remove the “No Parking any Time” signs. When the signs were erected, there was a dispute between the neighbors about parking along the street. The dispute has since been settled, and the residents would like for the signs to be removed. A week-long parking study was performed by the Traffic Division, and it was found that only two vehicles were parked on the street, and that was at separate times. There is adequate lane width for thru traffic. Staff recommends that the “No Parking Any Time” signs be removed.

F. 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 February 2, 2012:
• Tara Byrd, 712 3rd Street SE, Hickory, was awarded a City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan in 2005. The current balance of the loan is $4,155.91. Ms. Byrd is in need of a roof. The Citizens’ Advisory recommends loaning her an additional $5,000.00 for her much needed roof.

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.
• Dorothy & Hosea Merrill, 357 8th Avenue Drive SW, Hickory

G. Grant Project Ordinances
1. To budget a $13,950 Federal Grant award from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services thereby establishing the 2010 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program project. This Grant will allow the City to fund a part time position which will manage the installation of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors for target groups throughout the jurisdiction. The grant is fully funded with the exception of the $1,068 FICA benefit; therefore a transfer from the operational budget is necessary and is accomplished through BOA # 15.

Budget Ordinance Amendment
1. To appropriate $3,045 of General Fund Balance to the Legal Services line item. This appropriation is necessary to pay Smith, Rodgers, and Strickland for legal services and support to the Hickory Police Department. $3,045 represents Police State Reimbursement balances from previous years (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010) that have rolled into Fund Balance at year end, therefore an appropriation is necessary.
2. To budget a $500 Police Department donation from the New Life Authentic Christian Community in the Police Department Departmental Supply line item. Funds will be used to purchase educational supplies for Ridgecrest and Ridgeview children's weekly meetings and supplies for working with youth
3. To transfer $1,068 of Miscellaneous Grant Reimbursements to the 2010 Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program project. The City has received a $13,950 Federal Grant award from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to fund a part time position. This position will manage the
installation of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors for target groups throughout the jurisdiction. The grant is fully funded with the exception of the FICA $1,068 benefit; therefore a transfer from the operational budget is necessary.
4. To transfer $37,900 of Contingency to the Code Enforcement/Nuisance Enforcement line item in the Code Enforcement Division’s budget. This transfer is to provide funds for physically securing Southern Desk property. A lien will then be placed on this property for the expense to secure it. (removed from the consent agenda) - Alder Patton inquired about the timeframe. Manager Berry stated that in the agenda. The money has been appropriated in the second reading. Alder Patton and asked if this would take a week or so, to which Manager Berry affirmed. Alderman Guess asked about an inferred potential buyer, to which Manager Berry stated that they never got any information that anything took place on that and it has become such a hazard that they must move forward to demolition.
5. To increase Powell Bill Revenue by $28,500 and budget in the Street Division Contracted Services line item for priority maintenance to the Falling Creek Bridge. This repair project is a short term solution; however a long term plan for additional work is under review. The $28,500 increase in the Powell Bill fund
represents actual over budgeted revenue thereby providing the funding source for the work.

New Business - Public Hearings
1. Resolution Confirming and Levying Assessment Along a Portion of 8th Street NW – Petition No. 01-12 - The City Clerk received a petition from the owner of property along 8th Street NW to install curb and gutter along a portion of their street per Section 29-2 of the Hickory Code of Ordinances. The City Council adopted a Resolution Directing that Street Improvement Project Be Undertaken on October 4, 2011, and the work was completed on December 19, 2011. The Preliminary Assessment Roll for Petition No. 01-12 has been prepared based on the curb and gutter constructed along 8th Street NW. Staff recommends that Resolution Confirming and Levying Assessment be approved. Council approved unanimously.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Second Reading - Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 15, Item 4 - To transfer $37,900 of Contingency to the Code Enforcement/Nuisance Enforcement line item in the Code Enforcement Division’s budget. This transfer is to provide funds for physically securing Southern Desk property. A lien will then be placed on this property for the expense to secure it. Staff requests that this item be approved on second reading in order to expedite the project. Council approved unanimously.

Citizens Requesting to be Heard

Larry Pope came to the podium and spoke about two issues. One, he wrote a letter to the city asking about direct travel for himself, as a visually impaired person, from the parking lot on Union Square to Union Square itself. Since that discussion, he has met downtown with two representatives from the city, because there seems to be a misunderstanding about what he is asking for. Larry noticed about a week after that a fence went up around the new Farmers Market facility that is being constructed, and it has narrowed down the walkway even more, and it has made it more difficult to get from point A to point B. And he knows that either we are going to have to come to a compromise or it leaves him no choice but to move forward as he normally has to when dealing with the City of Hickory.

The second item that he wants to address is about a meeting he had with the Mayor (Complaint prompts audit of Hickory Public Housing Authority) and one of the Assistant City Managers and the staff attorney some months ago, and he was told that during that meeting that the city has no control over an agency that is established through City Council and that there is nothing that they can do. He knows for a fact that last Monday or Tuesday, "You" called wanting to speak to the executive director of that organization because you had received a phone call from the media. When I met with you and the others from the city. I was hoping to settle what my concerns were about the organization, and it was not so.

I left that meeting, with no choice but to file a formal complaint with Washington HUD office and Greensboro HUD office. As you know, they immediately sent representatives and did an investigation and as you know, that decision is coming down probably somewhere in the middle of March. I made another phone call today, because there was an assault on a worker by the executive director, which is pending in court and comes up on this coming Thursday. When the person that was assaulted went to meet with the assistant DA yesterday, they were told that that case would be dropped. I am of the opinion that... I have no proof, but because of the city's wanting to protect that individual that committed the assault, I am of the opinion that the DAs office received a phone call asking them to dismiss the case. I hope that that is not what has happened, because I once again contacted HUD in Washington and in Greensboro and what their response was that... It seems like nothing is going to be done about the assault. And if the city, and those commissioners that you appoint to that board doesn't wish to do what's right, I will say to you in this open meeting, I hope that all of those individuals, including city officials that need to be arrested and prosecuted by the federal government will be done and it will happen, because it has been given more than one opportunity to resolve the issues. There was a meeting on February 10 with the board of commissioners, and none of them appeared to hear the complaints of those individuals who have been threatened, assaulted, or intimidated; which is against the personnel policy of both the local office and the federal office. They have a zero tolerance for that type of behavior. So I hope that sometime about the first or middle of April, I will be back here and I'll say I told you so.

The Hound says Wow!!! It will be interesting to see how this turns out.

Meg Locke, who is the owner of Groucho's Deli on Union Square, came to the podium. We're speaking tonight in direct relationship to the funding request that we put before you and I am speaking on behalf of a large number of business owners, merchants, and individuals who are faced with dramatic financial consequences due to a number of factors. It is our collective opinion that the health and welfare of our downtown depends on creating a new downtown business association that functions under the guidance and direction of the City of Hickory, under the City Manager's office with the Assistant City Manager of Development.

Over time, we have witnessed the steady decline in the marketing and promotion of the heart of our community. The Main Street program is absolutely imperative to our success and yet the present organization is faced with declining membership, fractured leadership, and a lack of commitment to the fundamental guidelines necessary to reach a large number of citizens and visitors to our area. We know that we have a phenomenal opportunity with the city, but the facts are as follows; currently over 60% of the HDDA's budget supports staff salaries and benefits. Less than 20% of actual members are active in the HDD and we believe that we have an alternative, and we respectfully request that you consider it.

Only those who will risk going forward can find out how far one can go. It is difficult to embrace change and yet risk and change are not only necessary but can create hope. I have personally advocated for downtown Hickory since 1995 when my family and I moved here. My business will celebrate its seventh anniversary in March. I have been a member of the current organization and actively involved in a number of levels. I can no longer afford to wait for the promotion and marketing of downtown. Because we do not market collectively, I have spent in excess of $25,000, and I am but one example in the last five years of what I have personally spent; when in fact, we could be marketing collectively. If we had one voice dedicated to the city' brand director, we would have greater success. Our proposal, and we are asking, and we would like the opportunity to talk to you further about this because we are a new organization.

Our funding request will also be for $75,000. $25,000 would create a new special events coordinator under the direction and leadership of the City Manager's office. This person would work with your brand director to coordinate all existing events, while working with the newly appointed committee modeled after the Business Development Council to create new diverse family oriented events to bring other visitors and tourists back downtown, that will benefit our merchants and our downtown businesses. We believe that the revenue that has previously been generated will not be lost, but only be enhanced by this new alternative. We will ask that the $50,000 be used as a line item to market our brand to follow what you have so assiduously done by marketing the entire city "Life Well-Crafted"... "Downtown Well-Crafted." We need a united voice in a united brand, and we need the help of the City Manager's office, and we need your help as Mayor and the Council to help us get this done.

Collective-bargaining, coordinated Branding, and the prudent use of funding will ensure the success of our requests. After years of inertia and frustration. We are committed to creating an organization whose focus, energy, and vision reflect our best and bring forest and citizens alike to the heart of our community.

The Hound can't see giving Union Square businesses any more money. They were given what they wanted with the Mainstreet organization. Go read the minutes from the early 2000s. This was going to galvanize downtown and that is when the city agreed to pump $50,000 per year into downtown. There have been multiple millions of dollars spent on Union Square. Is the city going to help market Springs Road? Southwest Hickory? 127?

There are plenty of businesses located throughout the city that aren't catered to by the local government. Once again we see the "Too Big To Fail" syndrome brought down to the local level. It seems that the more money directed towards Union Square, the more that they want. Where does this end? "If you don't do this we are going to go out of business, so you need to pay for our advertising, broadband, security. parking, events, event marketing, etc." You can go on FOREVER!!!

I can get ultimately vitriolic about this, but I am going to try not to. I think this is going to be a major issue in the next Citywide Election. You have just seen hundreds of thousands of dollar directed towards the big tent on Union Square. You see City Workers doing the work on this project, which means that there is cost that is being hidden. You see that this Council has shut down Hickory Alive and hear Connie Kincaid talking about the loss of revenue.

I agree that their needs to be an organization of Union Square business and property owners, but the city should not have any tentacles in such an organization. The city can take care of infrastructure, but should have nothing to do with the costs of doing business. Work with Connie Kincaid. If you want more revenues, then work out the details of a BID tax.

Al Spainhour next came to the podium and his presentation was short and to the point. He talked about the former Spainhour store, which belonged to his family, which was associated with downtown since 1929. He worked in the business for over 40 years, and he still currently works in downtown Hickory and he has seen the transition from the time of Beemer Harrell to the present day. Based on what he has seen and experienced in the last few years, and what he continues to see, the new downtown organization may well be able to deal with the current issues, and he endorses the plan of Meg Locke.

Dawn Giosi, who owns a business downtown called Welcome Home Furniture and Home Decor, spoke about the $11,000 she has spent since July to promote her business and help advertise locally. She can no longer do this. She is confident that the ideas to restore downtown can succeed with the help of the brand director.

Atty. Rebecca Inglefield next came to the podium. She passed out information to the City Council. She spoke about a book by Septema Poinsette Clark who married a man from Hickory and was a leader and pioneer of the Civil Right's movement. Another person, she has had fun learning about is Hickory's native son Chris Hughes. One of the founders of Facebook. He was born at Frye Regional and went to Oakwood Elementary and then Hickory High School. He is a public school product from this area. What we talk so much about in our area is jobs, and she cannot imagine anyone better than Chris Hughes to give us some advice. Chris Hughes wrote a letter to our state that appeared in the Raleigh News and Observer on September 9, 2011. This was an open letter to our General Assembly.

She read the letter:
Facebook Co-founder Chris Hughes Comes Out Against NC's Proposed Anti-Gay Amendment

She talked about Dr. Gail Long, who is from Conover, has created a group to help make schools safer for people who are gay. She next talked about the survey from Newsweek and the happiest and saddest cities in the United States. Hickory ranks at the bottom of both of the surveys. She talked about the book called The Coming Jobs War... every decision that you make now needs to consider the impact on good jobs. The Rise of the Creative Class is a book that was written 10 years ago, that is still really relevant to read... here's Hickory again at the bottom of this survey. So if someone is looking at this town considering moving here.... we're at ground zero, and this is a wonderful time for innovation, and that is what The Coming Jobs War talks about. We can't do things the old way. A good way to start is to create a resolution that says that we don't want that amendment.

She stated that she puts a lot of questions on the city's Facebook page, and she doesn't get any answers to her questions. She asked of anyone answers or sees any of the questions that are posed on Facebook. The Mayor answered that he does not know and that was the only question that he would answer. She stated that if the Mayor doesn't look at the City's Facebook, Who knows and who cares?

She stated that she was excited about the sculpture walk. It will help with diabetes and heart disease and make it a really fun city. But she knows that there's a sculpture at Ridgeview and it needs to be included. She is saddened that the city has lost its track team. The city had a track team and for some reason it has gone away.

She next talked about the fact that we have businesses in the area that produce awnings. Some of the best awnings made in the world and she believes that since we are at ground zero it would be a good time to stop the tent downtown and see if we can't use local awnings. We didn't have any competitive bidding, and no one understands that. Have some fun with that money and have some competitive ideas of some challenges with each other. And she understands it's not a time for discussion and she appreciates the city allowing her the time.

The Hound thinks the above presentation was awesome, because it gets at the crux of what I have been addressing. The decisions that this Council makes have a direct impact on our ability to grow the local economy. You have to look at the big picture. You have to think about the consequences, intended or unintended, when you make those decisions. And many times you have to put what is best for the community above your personal self interests and preferences. Can we do that in Hickory? I don't know, but I hope so.

Matters Not On The Agenda

The city has chosen to go to PC-based agendas. The Mayor announced that he may run for state auditor. He is not committing to that, but he is given some very serious thought to it. He does not intend to step down as mayor. He will try to be here for every council meeting. Atty. Crone went into the process of replacing the mayor, should he run and win.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Addressing Mayor Mel Cohen's Morganton -- Guest Commentary

Another article relating to Morganton by a reliable source:
On February 1st, 2012, Morganton Mayor Mel Cohen gave his annual "State of the City" address to both Burke County AARP and Burke County Rotary Club in which he talked about several topics, and what Mayor Cohen feels will be the future of Morganton.

After reading this report, I find several problems including things like 'conflict of interest' and just plain improper conduct by Mayor Cohen. In the Election's Information section of the report, Mel Cohen was questioned by a reporter and quoted in the Morganton News Herald as saying "The city has experienced some criticism of its election and election runoff method with an October election date. The method requires a candidate receive 50 percent of the votes cast plus one in order to be declared the winner."

The method mandates that if there is not a winner, a runoff election can be requested and scheduled in November. The runoff election would occur on the November election day that over 500 cities and towns currently use under the plurality method of local elections. The story continues saying the October local election is the same used by 17 other cities in the State, including Raleigh, Shelby, Statesville, Monroe, and Rocky Mount. Mayor Cohen adds, "I've heard some argue that we could save money by holding the city election at the same time as the county elections, or by going to a plurality election where the candidate who gets the most votes in the initial balloting is the winner," Cohen said.

"There have been some figures thrown out, and every time they get thrown out they seem to be different. Mayor Cohen continues saying, "I believe that elections are the foundation of our democracy. Like the foundation to your house, I would ask, 'Do you want it built the cheapest way?" This is perhaps one of the most ridiculous comparisons I have ever heard, because the cost of the election is in no way tied to or connected to the cost of building a strong foundation for your home. This is stupid !!

The fact is that ALL Burke County towns and the Burke County School Board use the plurality method and hold their elections in November as more than 500 of the 700+ municipalities in North Carolina do. This results is an average cost in conducting local elections of about 1200 hundred dollars per town. Since Morganton chooses to hold a seperate election in October and the Burke County Board of Elections handles that election, taxpayers must find and cough up 20 THOUSAND dollars to pay for the privilege of electing local officials every two years.

The cost is so much higher because Morganton holds a SEPERATE election from all other municipalities in Burke County and the seperate election must be paid for as a SINGLE election instead of being SHARED with other towns when holding local elections and electing their leaders. As to elections, the plurality method is the most cost effective way for citizens to decide on who they want to be mayor or elected to their town or city council. The fact that North Carolina allows a local election process that only has 17 towns and cities is a reason to believe that these areas including Morganton are not getting true representation because most people who vote if not all voters look for first Tuesday in November as the time to select local, state or national leaders. Many registered voters in Morganton never vote in city elections because they are CONFUSED as to when and where to vote.

Mel Cohen continued arguing the plurality method can result in a candidate being elected who has received a smaller percentage of the overall vote. Cohen also said holding elections in October, rather than November, keeps them from getting lost in the shuffle of deciding county-wide issues. Just look at last year's elections. The county elections in November saw a turnout of 10.4 percent of registered voters, he said. Morganton's October election had a turnout of 14.6 percent. Cohen said he believes the city will have to go back to a single polling place for city elections in 2013.

Let's look at these statements. First, this country has had more than one election on a national level to be decided by either a single vote or a few votes. In 235 years the idea has been whoever gets the most votes wins. We as voters and taxpayers may not always agree with that or not always be happy with the election results, but when should taxpayers be forced to pay exponentially more to hold an election at a time other than in November to somehow provide that candidiates and incumbents have an opportunity to be elected without being affected by other possible contested elections?

If you have what voters want and you can articulate to the electorate that you will do what is in the best interest of the voters, you shouldn't need a "training wheel" so to speak such as a seperate election to prove that to voters. Next, Mayor Cohen's comparison of the "county election in November" and Morganton's election in October is really comparing 'apples to oranges' since Burke County has more than 52 thousand registered voters and Morganton has a little more than 10 thousand registered voters. So the difference in voter turnout is not the same using simple math and comparing the end results.

Mel Cohen continues and is quoted as saying he believes the city will have to go back to a single polling place for city elections in 2013. The fact that Morganton devised a contract with Burke County providing that Burke County Board of Elections will conduct ALL future elections in Morganton is proof enough that under state election law, the ONLY thing Morganton can do is select the method of local elections, non-partisan / runoff, plurality, etc. but the Burke County Board of Elections has the legal authority to decide the number of polling places to be used in every two-year election cycle in Morganton's City elections.

Finally, Mayor Cohen stated to the reporter, "The multiple voting sites and the method of notifying voters used by the elections board were confusing and we won't be using that in the future," he said.

It should be noted here that on election night, October 11, 2011, while results were being completed and the election staff was very busy, Mayor Cohen called and demanded to speak to the Director of Burke County Board of Elections, Debbie Mace. Mayor Cohen reportedly told her that "the city election went so well, WE can probably start using only one polling place in 2013." Director Mace responded to Mayor Cohen, "What's this WE stuff ? When Morganton contracted with Burke County in 2011 to hold future elections, Burke County Board of Elections is required to do the job itself, not with any assistance from Morganton. Director Mace told mayor Cohen, "That's what Morganton is paying Burke County to do".

The Director further told Mayor Cohen, "You don't have a say in the matter other than when you want us to hold your election". Mayor Cohen repeated that he believed Morganton would be better using a single precinct to which Director Mace responded saying "Morganton's election would have to conducted as state statutes require, and using one polling place will not meet the statute requirements of conducting Morganton's elections. Mayor Cohen responded and said "Let me contact the State Board of Elections" "I can get it changed."

Director Mace said "The State Board of Elections won't talk to or discuss this with you, and if they did they would be violating the law." From this in October to the February "State of the City" address in which Mayor Cohen continues to talk about changing things OUTSIDE of his authority, but continuing to CONFUSE voters as to when and where they vote. Every two years in Morganton after local elections are held in October, for about 1 to 2 weeks many citizens will question the local officials saying "When do we vote for Mayor" or "When do we vote for city council." Many who would vote in city elections are just confused as to when and where they should go to vote for mayor or city council members.

Hopefully those of you that read this will see just how "messed up" things are in Morganton, and it is because a dictator runs the city and everything in it, Mel Cohen has been mayor since 1985! for more than 26 years !! Maybe one day Morganton voters will wake up and realize they have been manipulated and led to believe Mayor Mel is a good mayor, when just the opposite is true, Morganton has missed many good opportunities over the years because Mayor Cohen acts as though he is a KING and Morganton is his Monarchy in which to rule and do as he has stated in public many times "Whatever the Hell I want to, and no one can do anything about it"

Proposal to Hickory City Parks & Recreation Department Commission and the Hickory City Council - Dr. Joseph Inglefield

The Hound: Two weeks ago at the February 7th Hickory City Council meeting, Dr. Joseph Inglefield and his wife, Attorney Rebecca Inglefield addressed the Hickory City Council about the issues regarding Aquatic Recreation in Hickory. I asked Dr. Inglefield about a plan that he had helped put together nearly two years ago to try to solve these issues in a positive manner.  The Doctor and his associates were summarily ignored without even the courtesy of a discussion. Without further adieu, I present Dr. Inglefield submitted message, which I believe speaks for itself.

It has been recommended that a proposal for an aquatics facility be made based on the recent public hearings and City of Hickory Aquatics Assessment Survey.

There are numerous citizens of Hickory who are very interested in aquatics facilities at this time. With the closure of the Ridgeview and West Hickory pools the last two summers, there has been an increasing demand for public aquatic facilities. At present, all other aquatic facilities in the Hickory area are private. Based on the city’s survey, aquatic recreation compares favorably in terms of the agenda for the Park & Rec’s department. In the survey only Police, Fire and Library Services surpassed it. Only 5.8% of citizens feel that no aquatic recreation is necessary.

The recent Gallup and Healthways Well Being Index poll ranked Hickory as being last in the USA, is quite a surprise considering Hickory’s being named an All American City. Construction of an Aquatics Center also fits with the ongoing effort of the Business Development Committee to market the City to existing and potential entrepreneurs including young professional couples, middle managers and telecommuters. Aquatics are an area where Hickory is clearly behind similar and competing cities. It is also consistent with our standing charter to attract retires who need a pool for recreation, exercise and medical rehabilitation.

The need to provide aquatic recreation for the public health and well being, safety, and protection of our citizens would be the primary motivation of building an aquatic facility. However, there are numerous other organizations and citizen groups that would be interested in the development and success of aquatic recreation in the public sector of Hickory.

Uses of such a facility include family swim and recreation times, swim lessons for all ages, and water safety lessons. Also, team training including swimming, water polo, and synchronized swimming, scuba diving, kayak training, police, fire and rescue training, medical rehab and water aerobics, obesity remediation. This would involve all age groups and citizens within the community.

Other groups that would have interest and could benefit from a public recreation aquatics facility include Lenoir Rhyne University, Frye Hospital, the YMCA of the Catawba Valley, economic development council, local developers, city and county schools, home schoolers, Western Piedmont Council of Government, hotel/motel owners, transportation agencies, local merchants and restaurants and eateries. The ability to attract regional competitive events and even national events is possible with the facility we suggest.

Collaboration with these organizations as well as philanthropic groups within Hickory would be strongly urged. These include the various foundations and philanthropists in the Hickory area.

With all this in mind and after careful review and attendance at the public hearings, we would recommended on behalf of the citizens of Hickory:

1) That we use local expertise in aquatics that can provide knowledgeable up-to-date information regarding aquatics facilities
2) The aquatics facility should be a minimum of 25 yards by 50 meters with a minimum depth of 60 inches. The initial construction would include bath house and adequate parking provided or available for immediate and future applications. This pool should be up to current standards and recommendations in terms of water filtration and handling with supplementary solar heating panels and blanket water cover to allow the facility to operate at least six months of the year. Deck space/room for future bleachers for swim meets and planning for possible seasonal enclosure might also be provided as the concept develops.
3) That the facility have adjacent land for expansion including at some point in the future a warm-up or teaching pool of a smaller size planning that this facility would be enclosed at some point in the future either by a seasonal inflatable bubble type structure or a permanent building.
4) We would recommend that this pool be placed adjacent to the Ridgeview area which is central to the city of Hickory, preferably very close to downtown, or even adjacent, where the facility would be an attraction for the entire city and would attract developers of the area surrounding the swimming facility such as hotel, restaurants and other support businesses.

We are available to answer questions to give guidance and recommendations regarding this basic facility which will serve the needs of the Hickory citizens for many years to come.

This proposal, the $30k survey on aquatics, 3 public hearings were all ignored by City Council and the recreation department. The sneaky destruction of the pools approved over the holiday, just like the "Big Tent" , followed. We need new leadership. Pure ward voting would help!

The Hound: If you think that a city should operate through obfuscation, charades, and without public discourse or input then you are in the right place. If you think there is something wrong with this style of authoritative governance, then please think about signing the petition to have an election about the way that Hickory City Council Representatives are elected

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- February 19, 2012

Gas prices are highest ever for this time of year - AP - Chris Kahn - Energy Writer - February 18, 2012 - Gasoline prices have never been higher this time of the year. At $3.53 a gallon, prices are already up 25 cents since Jan. 1. And experts say they could reach a record $4.25 a gallon by late April..           
High oil and gas prices now set the stage for even sharper increases at the pump because gas typically rises in March and April.  Every spring, refiners suspend operations to switch the type of gasoline they make. Supplies of wintertime gas are sold off before March, when refineries need to start making a new formula of gasoline that's required in the summer.          That can mean less supply for service stations, resulting in higher gas prices. And summertime gasoline is more expensive to make. The government mandates that it contain less butane and other cheap organic compounds because they contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone, a primary constituent in smog. That means more oil, a costlier component, is needed to produce each gallon.            The Oil Price Information Service predicts that gasoline could peak at $4.25 a gallon by the end of April. That would top the record of $4.11 in July 2008.           The national average for gasoline began the year at $3.28 a gallon. The average price for February so far is $3.49 a gallon. That's up from $3.17 a gallon last February, a record at the time. Back in 2007, before the recession hit, the average for February was $2.25 a gallon.

In Russia, Putin allies sharpen anti-American attacks ahead of elections - The Washington Post - Kathy Lally - February 16, 2012 - A nasty spate of anti-Americanism set off by Vladimir V. Putin has grown into waves of attacks aimed at the new American ambassador and Russian opposition leaders, raising questions about the future of U.S.-Russian relations. The attacks started just before the December parliamentary elections and have intensified as the March 4 presidential vote approaches. Although widely viewed as aimed primarily at a domestic audience, they have grown shriller and more aggressive, provoking debate about whether Russia is deliberately giving a cold shoulder to President Obama’s effort to promote more productive relations.

Exclusive: 2nd N.C. Mother Says Daughter’s School Lunch Replaced for Not Being Healthy Enough - The Blaze - February 17, 2012 - North Carolina officials have said there was a misunderstanding when a preschooler’s homemade lunch was sent home for not meeting certain nutritional requirements, but now a second mother from the same school has come forward exclusively to The Blaze to say the same thing happened to her daughter.       Diane Zambrano says her 4-year-old daughter, Jazlyn, is in the same West Hoke Elementary School class as the little girl whose lunch gained national attention earlier this week. When Zambrano picked Jazlyn up from school late last month, she was told by Jazlyn’s teacher that the lunch she had packed that day did not meet the necessary guidelines and that Jazlyn had been sent to the cafeteria.        The lunch Zambrano packed for her daughter? A cheese and salami sandwich on a wheat bun with apple juice. The lunch she got in the cafeteria? Chicken nuggets, a sweet potato, bread and milk.         “She never eats breakfast or lunch at the school,” Zambrano said of her daughter during an interview with The Blaze. “We always wake up early and make her lunch.” It happens “every so often”        That day, Zambrano said she picked Jazlyn up from school and asked if she ate her lunch.“She’s not picky about food but you have to be on top of her,” she explained.                    When Jazlyn said she didn’t eat what her mother had made her, Zambrano went to her teacher and demanded to know what happened. She said the teacher told her an official had come through that day to inspect students’ lunches and that those who were lacking certain food groups were sent to the cafeteria. After she received her cafeteria food, the teacher told Zambrano, Jazlyn was told to put her homemade lunch back in her lunchbox and set it on the floor. Zambrano said the teacher told her it was not the first time student lunches have been inspected, and that officials come “every so often.”

Price hikes catch up to U.S. food makers - MarketWatch - Matt Andrejczak - February 18, 2012 - U.S. brand-name food makers raised prices throughout 2011 and it’s starting to catch up to them. On Friday, General Mills (GIS +0.37%) blamed “weak volume performance across U.S. retail food categories in December and January” for cutting their fiscal May 2012 outlook to between $2.53 and $2.55 a share from $2.59 to $2.61.          Lately, General Mills and other brand-name food makers have faced softening consumer demand, calling into question exactly how financially strong the U.S. consumer really is despite rising employment numbers...            General Mills is yet another sign brand-name American food makers continue to fight an uphill battle to win over U.S. shoppers, who have been very price conscious during this period of stagnant wage growth. Shoppers have been enamored with cheaper store-brand foods. Campbell Soup (CPB -0.55%) , which Friday beat Wall Street’s profit view for its quarter ended Jan. 29, said shoppers pulled back on food purchases following the winter holidays. On Friday, H.J. Heinz (HNZ +4.49%) also highlighted the mindset of U.S. consumers.                   While reporting strong sales for its namesake ketchup in emerging economies like China and Russia, Heinz said volumes fell 2% in North America after it raised prices for ketchup, Ore-Ida frozen french fries and Classico pasta sauces.

S&P 500 Q4 Profit Margins Decline By 27 basis points, 52 basis points Excluding Apple - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - February 18, 2012 - What a difference a quarter makes: back in Q4 2011, in light of the imploding global economic reality, the only recourse equity bulls had to was to point out that corporate profitability was still at all time highs, and to ignore the macro.....       America's self-delusion skills are legendary. But when it comes to corporate profit margin math, things are all too clear: the corporate profitability boom is over. As Goldman points out: with the bulk of companies reporting, in Q4 corporate profits have now declined by a significant 27 bps sequentially, and an even more significant 52 bps excluding Apple.......                 While we won't comment on the fact that Apple is accountable for half the margin delta in the S&P (or that the entire InfoTech space ex. Apple would have recorded a 2% EPS Growth and 8% sales growth instead of the 19% and 16% in EPS and Revenue otherwise reported), it is now clear that the "record profit" story is well and truly dead. As a result, the only "upside" case is for the delusion-driving US decoupling to continue, until such time as Europe is "fixed." Then again, since Europe's capacity for self-delusion is also quite impressive, it is not unrealistic to expect the continent to onboard the hopium pipe with the reckless abandon... of America.

Definition of 'Basis Point - BPS - A unit that is equal to 1/100th of 1%, and is used to denote the change in a financial instrument. The basis point is commonly used for calculating changes in interest rates, equity indexes and the yield of a fixed-income security.

20 Signs You Might Be A Typical American Worker
- the Economic Collapse Blog - Once upon a time, anyone that was relatively competent and willing to work hard could go out and easily get a job that would enable that person to financially support a family. Unfortunately, that is simply no longer true anymore. Well paying "middle income jobs" are being rapidly replaced with "low income jobs" and part-time jobs. As the economy crumbles, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the typical American worker to survive from month to month. The number of companies that provide benefits such as health insurance has fallen steadily over the past ten years, and paychecks have not been keeping up with the rising prices of food and gas. Average American families are seeing their budgets squeezed like never before, and many of them are going into huge amounts of debt in order to make up the difference. Sadly, this is a problem that has developed over an extended period of time and that is not going to be reversed overnight. Over the past four decades, the ratio of wages and salaries to GDP in America has fallen dramatically. The typical American worker is not as valued as much as he or she used to be, and if current trends continue even more of us will be working part-time jobs or "low income jobs" in the years ahead.

In this economy, a good paying full-time job is incredibly precious. If you still have one, you should consider yourself to be very fortunate. Check out the following chart. It is a chart that shows the level of wages and salaries as a percentage of GDP in the United States since the late 1940s. As you can see, the slice of the pie being taken home by American workers has been dropping like a rock since about 1970....

Is that a clear trend or what?   And it is going to continue year after year as long as we continue to pursue the same foolish economic policies.      As our politicians continue to allow millions of American jobs to be shipped overseas, competition for the jobs that remain inside this country is becoming extremely intense.    Back in 1967, 97 percent of all U.S. men with a high school degree between the ages of 30 and 50 had jobs.  Today, that figure is down to 76 percent.   As you read this, there are hordes of hard working American workers sitting at home staring at their televisions as they wonder why nobody will hire them.     Right now, if you gathered together all of the unemployed people in the United States, they would constitute the 68th largest country in the world.        That is absolutely insane.

But even if you do have a job that does not mean that you are in good shape.  The percentage of "low income jobs" just continues to climb.  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.
Many Americans work as hard as they can and still find that they must turn to the government for financial assistance.  According to author Paul Osterman, about 20 percent of all U.S. adults are currently working jobs that pay poverty-level wages.

 Since the year 2000, we have lost 10% of our middle class jobs even though our population has increased by more than 30 million since then.  In the year 2000 there were about 72 million middle class jobs in the United States, but today there are only about 65 million middle class jobs.
The lack of good jobs in America has some very real consequences.  In particular, our young adults are really feeling the pain of not being able to find quality employment.

Foreclosure abuse still rampant across U.S., experts say - Report found 84 pct of San Francisco disclosures illegal - Reuters - Tim Reid - February 18, 2012 - A report this week showing rampant foreclosure abuse in San Francisco reflects similar levels of lender fraud and faulty documentation across the United States, say experts and officials who have done studies in other parts of the country.
The audit of almost 400 foreclosures in San Francisco found that 84 percent of them appeared to be illegal, according to the study released by the California city on Wednesday.           Across the country from California, Jeff Thingpen, register of deeds in Guilford County, North Carolina, examined 6,100 mortgage documents last year, from loan notes to foreclosure paperwork. Of those documents, created between January 2008 and December 2010, 4,500 showed signature irregularities, a telltale sign of the illegal practice of "robosigning" documents.               Robosigning involves the use of bogus documents to force foreclosures without lenders having to scrutinize all the paperwork involved with mortgages. The practice was at the heart of the foreclosure scandal that led to a $25 billion settlement between the U.S. government and five major banks last week. The banks have never formally admitted any wrongdoing.

20 Lies Every American Should Know!