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Monday, April 30, 2012

Now up to $420,000+ for the Tent on Union Square

I keep wanting to move past this issue, but the only way to do that is to capitulate and why should we do that? I know that city leadership banks on the people of Hickory being asleep at the wheel and so far that has been a winning game that allows them to do whatever they want.

Here is the latest per the Hickory City Council Agenda packet for May 1, 2012:
Request for Additional Funding from the Capital Reserve Parking Fund and Consolidate Public Service Department Expenditures into the Union Square Pavilion Project (Exhibit IX.B.3.)

The project scope broadened when the project moved into the engineering phase in January. The increase in the contract with Neill Grading is $58,852.00, and the consolidation of Public Services Department expenses is $59,288.00. The remaining cost is an estimate of $25,000.00 for outdoor furniture for the space.

Staff recommends approval on two readings for additional funding from the Capital Reserve Parking Fund and consolidation of Public Services Department Expenditures into the Union Square Pavilion Project in the amount of $137,940.00 for Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 21 and Capital Project Ordinance Amendment No. 1.

The initial appropriation for this structure was $285,976 and now add an additional $137,940 and that brings us to a grand total of $423,916. How are you (137,940/423,916=) 32.5% off on your initial cost structure for this project. It sure doesn't seem like the budget and accounting gurus had their I's dotted and T's crossed on this one. Of course they will say that I am Monday Morning Quarterbacking, but I dare you to go look and see what I wrote looking forward on December 20, 2011 and subsequently about this project.
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.
Now how much were those pools going to cost again? The city estimated that it would cost $850,000 (that's $425,000 per pool) to completely rebuild the two swimming pools and make them fully Handicap accessible. Of course we associated with the Hound were told and shown ways to get around the issues facing the pools and drastically reduce those costs. The city also never looked into competitive bidding to see ways to reduce costs. We believe that they wanted to come up with a big number to justify what they set out to do to start with and that was to completely shut down the City Swimming Pools.

What is the priority? This is pure and simple logic for anyone with a half a brain cell left. This is an apples to apples comparison. $425,000 for a pool for poor and middle class kids or $425,000 for the connected friends of Hickory City Leadership and you see how this works.

On one hand we had pools that the city never properly maintained and so they fell into disrepair and the city says shut them down and bury them asunder. On the other hand we had a fully functionable Farmer's Market that by all accounts was working and a stage and set up for Downtown events that by all accounts worked just fine. Yet, the decision makers associated with Union Square are demanding an upgrade and they expect the City to pick up the bill. And don't forget the people in the Ridgeview Community approached the city about taking over the swimming pools and running them through a non-profit. Have the property owners and businesses at Union Square offered to contribute to these upgrades on Union Square? Upgrades that if they play their cards right that they will directly benefit from.

More Points: What does Capital Reserve Parking Fund mean? How is this being utilized for parking. People complain about Washington this and Washington that. This is the exact same thing as the TARP boondoggle. Passed for one purpose and utilized for something completely different. If we are going to complain about it happening in Washington, then we need to complain about it happening in Hickory. It is pure and simply a slush fund folks. You might want to live in denial, it may personally benefit you, or you might not have the courage to admit what it is, but in the end it is what it is.

They spent this money in January and apparently they are doing it all off budget (with the parking slush fund) and this City Council sits back as if this is business as usual... Nothing to see here folks... move along, move along. They might play a shell game to justify this and my last name being Shell, I understand shell games, but anyone with any sense can see that this is unethical. Hello local news media... H-E-L-L-O!!! is there anybody out there?

There are many more questions that should be answered. Will there be a public discussion about this?

(P.S.) Is the naming of this structure being rigged in the favor of Alderman Hank Guess's son? If one goes to the Hickory Speaks website, they will see the first place name being "The Front Porch." 

Isn't there a cash prize associated with the naming of this structure? If an Alderman's son is awarded cash based on this little contest, would that not be an obvious conflict of interest? The name "Front Porch" came from Julia Rush's editorial in the HDR last year in which she stated that Hickory Alive wasn't a "Classy" event and that Union Square was our "Front Porch" and only classy events should be allowed to take place on Union Square -- The Front Porch.

You can't make this stuff up. 

(As of 5/5/2012 the name "The Front Porch" has been removed from the above site - Maybe local officials realized that the way it was introduced was an obvious conflict of interest - Thank You.)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- April 29, 2012

Does Believing in the Recovery make it Real - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - Charles Hugh Smith - April 28, 2012 - Basing a "virtuous cycle" on lies and propaganda is self-defeating.           Does believing in the "recovery" make it real? The propaganda policies of the Federal Reserve and the Federal government are based on the hope that you'll answer "yes." The entire "recovery" is founded on the idea that if the Fed and Federal agencies can persuade the citizenry that down is up then people will hurry into their friendly "too big to fail" bank and borrow scads of money to bid up housing, buy new vehicles, and generally spend money they don't have in the delusional belief that inflation is low, wages are rising and the economy is growing.                  In other words, the "virtuous cycle" of new debt feeding economic growth is based on conning (or brow-beating) the American public into believing that the "recovery" is real. Our "leaders" hope this baseless belief will spark a buying frenzy that then fuels a real recovery.                    Perception may seem like everything to our Delusionol(tm)-soaked "leaders," but reality still trumps the con. Real wages are declining and debt loads are still crushing, so the new cycle of borrowing and consumption the Fed and Central State want to create requires trillions of dollars of free money, either guarantees or subsidies from Federal agencies or trillions in monetary printing via "quantitative easing."             Everybody loves free money, but once again reality trumps fantasy, for guaranteeing lenders from loss leads to moral hazard, and distributing free money leads people to gamble it on speculation or other forms of unproductive mal-investment.                       So all the free money is squandered or gambled away, but the Federal government is left with the debt it took on to fund the trillions in give-aways. That means the cost of servicing all that new debt rises, which means either government spending on other programs has to be cut or taxes have to rise, reducing disposable income, savings and consumption.
Free money and guarantees incentivize speculation and mal-investment, so the money is squandered, leaving the immense debts behind to be serviced from now until Doomsday (December 21, 2021--the Mayan astronomer/sage was dyslexic.)

Chart Of The Day: Change In Q1 American Debt And GDP - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - April 27, 2012 - Presented without much commentary, because little is necessary: the only ratio that matters for the US economy, the change in US public debt ($359.1 billion) and US GDP ($142.4) in the first quarter, hit 2.52x and rising. It takes $2.52 in new debt to "buy" $1 of economic "growth"

Epic Fail Part 1 - The Burning Platform - Jim Quinn - April 23, 2012 - The first fact that can’t be ignored is how many Americans are actually unemployed today. Here is some truth you won’t get from a politician or media talking head:
  • There are 243 million working age Americans.
  • There are 142 million employed Americans.
  • Only 101 million of the employed Americans are working more than 35 hours per week. This means that only 41.6% of all working age Americans have a full-time job.
  • According to the government drones at the BLS, 88 million Americans have “chosen” to not be in the labor force – the highest level in U.S. history.
  • The percentage of Americans in the workforce at 63.8% is the lowest since 1980 and down from a peak of 67.1% in 2000. The difference between these two percentages is 8 million Americans.
  • The BLS reports there are only 12.7 million unemployed Americans in the country, down from 15.3 million in 2009.
  • The BLS reports the unemployment rate has dropped from 10% in late 2009 to 8.3% today. Over this time frame the working age population grew by 5.7 million, while the number of employed Americans grew by 3.6 million. Only a government drone could interpret this data and report a dramatic decline in the unemployment rate.

Cooling Job Market Takes Toll on U.S. Confidence: Economy - Bloomberg - Timothy R. Homan and Shobhana Chandra - April 26, 2012 - More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week and consumer confidence declined by the most in a year, signaling that a cooling labor market may restrain household spending.             Jobless claims fell to 388,000 from a revised 389,000 the prior week that was the highest since early January, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index declined to minus 35.8 from minus 31.4 the previous week.              “There has been some slowdown in the labor market,” said Yelena Shulyatyeva, a U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York, who correctly projected the level of jobless claims. “That makes consumers feel less confident, and makes them more cautious about their spending. We could see some weakness in April payrolls.”

US Economy Grows at Tepid 2.2% Pace; Misses Estimates - Reuters through CNBC - April 27, 2012 - U.S. economic growth cooled in the first quarter as businesses cut back on investment and restocked shelves at a moderate pace, but stronger demand for automobiles softened the blow....               Gross domestic product [cnbc explains] expanded at a 2.2 percent annual rate, the Commerce Department said on Friday in its advance estimate, moderating from the fourth quarter's 3 percent rate.             While that was below economists' expectations for a 2.5 percent pace, a surge in consumer spending took some of the sting from the report. However, growth was still stronger than analysts' predictions early in the quarter for an expansion below 1.5 percent.

Insight: Falling home prices drag new buyers under water - Reuters - Tim Reid - April 26, 2012 - More than 1 million Americans who have taken out mortgages in the past two years now owe more on their loans than their homes are worth, and Federal Housing Administration loans that require only a tiny down payment are partly to blame.                      That figure, provided to Reuters by tracking firm CoreLogic, represents about one out of 10 home loans made during that period.                     It is a sobering indication the U.S. housing market remains deeply troubled, with home values still falling in many parts of the country, and raises the question of whether low-down payment loans backed by the FHA are putting another generation of buyers at risk.                 As of December 2011, the latest figures available, 31 percent of the U.S. home loans that were in negative equity - in which the outstanding loan balance exceeds the value of the home - were FHA-insured mortgages, according to CoreLogic.                    Many borrowers, particularly since late 2010, thought they were buying at the bottom of a housing market that had already suffered steep declines, but have been caught out by a continued fall in prices in wide swaths of America.                 Even for loans taken out in December - less than four months ago and the last month for which data is available - nearly 44,000 borrowers, or about 7.5 percent of the total, now find themselves under water.                          "The overwhelming majority of the U.S. is still seeing home prices decline," said CoreLogic senior economist Sam Khater. "Many borrowers continue to be quickly wiped out."....

U.S. Firms Add Jobs, but Mostly Overseas - Wall Street Journal - Scott Thurm - April 27, 2012 - Thirty-five big U.S.-based multinational companies added jobs much faster than other U.S. employers in the past two years, but nearly three-fourths of those jobs were overseas, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.             Those companies, which include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., International Paper Co., Honeywell International Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc., boosted their employment at home by 3.1%, or 113,000 jobs, between 2009 and 2011, the same rate of increase as the nation's other employers. But they also added more than 333,000 jobs in their far-flung—and faster-growing— foreign operations. (Subscriber Article)

The Family Farm Is Being Systematically Wiped Out Of Existence In America - The Economic Collapse Blog - An entire way of life is rapidly dying right in front of our eyes.  The family farm is being systematically wiped out of existence in America, and big agribusiness and the federal government both have blood all over their hands.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farms in the United States has fallen from about 6.8 million in 1935 to only about 2 million today.  That doesn't mean that there is less farming going on.  U.S. farms are producing more than ever.  But what it does mean is that farming is increasingly becoming dominated by the big boys.  The rules of the game have been tilted in favor of big agribusiness so dramatically that most small farmers find that they simply cannot compete anymore.  Back in 1900, about 39 percent of the U.S. population worked on farms.  At this point, only about 2 percent of all Americans now live on farms.  Big agribusiness, the food processing conglomerates, and big seed companies such as Monsanto completely dominate the industry.  Unless something dramatic is done, the family farm is going to continue to be wiped out of existence.  Unfortunately, it does not look like things are going to turn around any time soon.                 The way that the farming industry is structured today, it is simply not economically feasible to operate a small family farm.  According to Farm Aid, every week approximately 330 farmers leave their land for good.                 Many old timers are trying to hang on for as long as they can.  A very large percentage of family farmers are in their fifties, sixties or seventies at this point.  Today, only about 6 percent of all farmers are under the age of 35.
Most young people these days are not too eager to choose farming as a career.  A lot of young adults that grew up on family farms have decided that investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a business that requires you to work 12 hours or more per day most of the year for very meager wages is simply not worth it.             In recent years, many family farmers have been forced to find second jobs in order to support their families.  Many farm families are constantly on the verge of financial ruin.  It is a really tough life for many of them.             Sadly, less than 25 percent of all farms in America bring in gross revenues in excess of $50,000.  The following comes from the EPA website....

‘Prison complex one of the fastest growing industries in US’ - PressTV - April 26, 2012 - “The prison industrial complex is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States,” according to Randy Short, a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Baltimore, who spoke to Press TV on Thursday.                   Describing the exploitation of inmates in the U.S., Short said, “American prisons now have industries that run from high tech to furniture, so there’s a large amount of products being made for even fortune 500 companies in particular, I would mention Microsoft and Mr. Bill Gates who everyone thinks is such a wonderful humanitarian.”                  “If you look at who’s being arrested and who’s being put in prison for the longest terms, this has always been the way the United States has made it,” Short said.                     The Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest private prison company, has offered to buy nearly all the nation’s state prisons. “To ensure their profitability, the corporation insists that it be guaranteed that the prisons be kept at least 90 percent full.”

Saturday, April 28, 2012

TEDx Hickory April 21, 2012 - Part 3 - Crumpler & Inks and Hartman

Jonathon Crumpler and Zach Inks teach Computer Science courses in Morganton at Western Piedmont Community College.

Carol Anne Hartman is a photographer, art instructor, and initiator of Hickory Arts -- a ccenter of multi-faceted artistic endeavors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

TEDx Hickory April 21, 2012 - Part 1 - Horan and Brzorad

TedX Program and Notes - April 21,2012 - Hickory Hound

TedX Program Guide - This is a guide to all of the people who made presentations and TedX and what the TedX Hickory Event is about.

The Hound's TedX Notes - (PDF File) - These are the notes that were taken in relation to each presenter at the TedX Hickory Event.

One at a time over the next few days I will be putting out the audio of each of the presenters. I know that Alan Jackson and the Media Guild will soon be putting out Video from the event. It was a very exciting event with 150 people in attendance. The attendees were limited because this was the first year of the event. This event was awesome and I would highly suggest that you attend next year's presentations.

Often  the Hound is criticized for putting out negative information. The information is what it is. This information is very positive. It relates how entrepreneurs-innovators-artists are making a go of it in our area. These people aren't making a killing, but they are in charge of their long term destiny and they are pursuing their passions.

So I hope as these presentations are released to the public that you will afford yourself the opportunity to find out about the leaders in this community -- The Doers and Makers.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- April 22, 2012

Competing Narratives In Our Economic Outlook - The International Forecaster - Bob Chapman - April 18 2012: The deception continues, silver manipulation, a criminal enterprise in the gold and silver markets, pension needs underestimated for an aging population, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo grilled by analysts, competing narratives in the market.               Deception continues, as we are told unemployment (U-3) is 8.3%; without a mention that (U-6) is 14.9%. That means if you eliminate the birth/death ratio you come up with an overall unemployment number of 22.4%.              As we mentioned earlier we expect the administration to try to attempt to push U-3 down to 7.5% before the election. Whether they will be successful in that endeavor remains to be seen. In reality almost 1/5th of working Americans are either unemployed or underemployed.             In a recent issue we included a link of an interview with the head of commodities for JPM, Blythe Masters. What she had to say concerning the silver market was very interesting. At least over the past five years even speaking about manipulation on CNBC has been forbidden. This latest encounter was staged in order for Morgan to officially cover its tracks in what the CFTC has allowed to become a rigged, manipulated market. JPM for the first time in Ms. Masters, answer has admitting silver manipulation.

FoodStamp Nation - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - April 20, 2012 - The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service released a new report on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as Food Stamps) earlier this week with some fresh data on the program. Given our earlier note on Mr.EBT, we thought the following brief clip from Bloomberg TV on the $82bn-per-year program would provide some rather shockingly sad insights and then Nic Colas' recent focus on the SNAP report provides some much more in depth color.  First and foremost, there are 46.5 million Americans in the program as of the most recent information available (January 2012), comprising 22.2 million households.  That’s 15% of the entire population, and just over 20% of all households.  Moreover, despite the end of the official “Great Recession” in June 2009, over 10 million more Americans have been accepted into the program since that month, and the year-over-year growth rate for the program is still +5%.  The USDA’s report is, not surprisingly, very upbeat on the utility of the program.  Fair enough.  But what does it mean when 20% of all households cannot afford to buy the food they need for their families?  To our thinking, it highlights an underappreciated new facet of American economic life – one that will be felt everywhere from the ballot box to the upcoming Federal Deficit debates.

Russia Stunned After Japanese Plan to Evacuate 40 Million Revealed - The European Union Times - April 18, 2012 - A new report circulating in the Kremlin today prepared by the Foreign Ministry on the planned re-opening of talks with Japan over the disputed Kuril Islands during the next fortnight states that Russian diplomats were “stunned” after being told by their Japanese counterparts that upwards of 40 million of their peoples were in “extreme danger” of life threatening radiation poisoning and could very well likely be faced with forced evacuations away from their countries eastern most located cities… including the world’s largest one, Tokyo.
The Kuril Islands are located in Russia's Sakhalin Oblast region and stretch approximately 1,300 km (810 miles) northeast from Hokkaido-, Japan, to Kamchatka, Russia, separating the Sea of Okhotsk from the North Pacific Ocean. There are 56 islands and many more minor rocks. It consists of Greater Kuril Ridge and Lesser Kuril Ridge, all of which were captured by Soviet Forces in the closing days of World War II from the Japanese.
The “extreme danger” facing tens of millions of the Japanese peoples is the result of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster that was a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the To-hoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011.
According to this report, Japanese diplomats have signaled to their Russian counterparts that the returning of the Kuril Islands to Japan is “critical” as they have no other place to resettle so many people that would, in essence, become the largest migration of human beings since the 1930’s when Soviet leader Stalin forced tens of millions to resettle Russia’s far eastern regions.
Important to note, this report continues, are that Japanese diplomats told their Russian counterparts that they were, also, “seriously considering” an offer by China to relocate tens of millions of their citizens to the Chinese mainland to inhabit what are called the “ghost cities,” built for reasons still unknown and described, in part, by London’s Daily Mail News Service in their 18 December 2010 article titled: “The Ghost Towns Of China: Amazing Satellite Images Show Cities Meant To Be Home To Millions Lying Deserted” that says:

There Is Not Going To Be A Solution To Our Economic Problems On The National Level - The Economic Collapse Blog - For those waiting for our economic problems to be solved, you can quit holding your breath. There is simply not going to be a solution to our economic problems on the national level. So why is that the case? Well, it is because the economic policies of both major political parties are very, very similar when you take a close look at them. Yes, that statement may sound downright bizarre to many Americans, but it is true. Both major political parties supported the Wall Street bailouts, both of them fully support the job-killing "free trade" globalization agenda, both of them have dramatically increased the national debt when in power, both of them fully support the currency-killing policies of the Federal Reserve, and neither major political party would get rid of the income tax and the IRS. And that is just for starters. Yes, there are some minor differences when it comes to taxing and spending between the two parties, but the truth is that they are a lot more similar on economic issues than they are different. What we desperately need on the national level is a fundamental change in direction when it comes to economic policy, but we simply are not going to get that from either the Democrats or the Republicans. That means that there is no hope that the economic storm that is coming will be averted.               So why are the Democrats and the Republicans so similar on these issues? Well, a big reason is because of who they are trying to please.                 The reality of the matter is that most politicians do not really care about what you or I have to say. Instead, what they are really concerned about is getting as much money for their campaigns as possible so that they can keep getting elected.             When you take a close look at the results of federal elections over the past several decades, it quickly becomes apparent that the candidate that raises the most money almost always wins.                    So most politicians have learned to please those that fund their campaigns so that the money will keep rolling in.                Yes, there are a few candidates that are willing to rebel against "the system", but they are few and far between and the major parties tend to marginalize them.               Once again in 2012, political races will overwhelmingly be won by those that raise the most cash...

Fewer U.S. states report job gains in March - Associated Press via USA Today - Christopher S. Rugaber - April 20, 2012 - The Labor Department says that 29 states reported job gains in March, while 20 states lost jobs. That's worse than February, when 42 states added jobs.          Still, the unemployment rate fell in most states: 30 states reported lower rates in March while 8 reported increases. Rates were unchanged in 12 states.         Nationwide, the unemployment rate fell to 8.2% in March from 8.3%. But employers added only 120,000 jobs, half the pace of the previous three months.               That dip in hiring, along with recent increases in the number of people seeking unemployment benefits, has raised some concerns that job gains could slow in coming months.

U.S. Previously Owned Home Sales Unexpectedly Fell in March
- Bloomberg - By Lorraine Woellert - Apr 19, 2012
- Sales of previously owned U.S. homes in March unexpectedly fell for the third time in the last four months, showing an uneven recovery in the housing market.                      Purchases dropped 2.6 percent to a 4.48 million annual rate from 4.6 million in February, the National Association of Realtors reported today in Washington. The median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg News survey called for an increase to 4.61 million. In January, sales at a 4.63 million rate were the strongest since May 2010.             Residential real estate remains the economy’s soft spot, challenged by stricter lending standards, lower home values and the threat of more foreclosures. An improved labor market and mortgage rates near historic lows have yet to stoke bigger gains in demand.

Future Economy Council - America ’s Aging Workforce Crisis - Hickory Hound - April 20, 2012 - The Future Economy Council yesterday - Thursday, April 19th at 8:00 am - at the Chamber of Commerce discussed the issue of  “America’s Aging Workforce Crisis.”  This is not a weak signal but a future trend that will change the way American business recruits and retains their employees. Starting in January 2011, we began the largest human capital demographic change in American history. Boomers are retiring at record levels and the XYZ Gen’s that follow are not enough to fill the vacant jobs. This is a very important issue that needs to be discussed and prepared for. This is a present day issue already affecting our area and it will either lead to opportunities or once again find us vulnerable to the laws of nature.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Future Economy Council - America ’s Aging Workforce Crisis

The Future Economy Council yesterday - Thursday, April 19th at 8:00 am - at the Chamber of Commerce discussed the issue of  “America’s Aging Workforce Crisis.”  This is not a weak signal but a future trend that will change the way American business recruits and retains their employees. Starting in January 2011, we began the largest human capital demographic change in American history. Boomers are retiring at record levels and the XYZ Gen’s that follow are not enough to fill the vacant jobs. This is a very important issue that needs to be discussed and prepared for. This is a present day issue already affecting our area and it will either lead to opportunities or once again find us vulnerable to the laws of nature.

You may follow this link to download the document - America's Aging Workforce Crisis

This document is authored by Sarah Sladek the CEO of XYZ University which is one of the only management consulting firms in the U.S. solely focused on helping organizations stay relevant to, and engage the talent of, Generations X, Y, and Z and Bob LaBombard of Gradstaff which is involved in the Entry Level Professional Job Market.

Danny Hearn mentioned today that Mrs. Sladek will be coming to Catawba County and arrangements are being made for a presentation to be held at Lenoir-Rhyne University in the very near future. I will keep you abreast with the details as they come out.

You can read the article at the link provided, which allows you to sign up for further information on this subject. And below is the discussion of the Future Economy Council based upon this subject material.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of April 17, 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 4/17/2012 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 Rev. Bob Thompson, Pastor, Corinth Reformed Church

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of Proclamation Honoring Hickory High School Key Club`

B. Presentation of Proclamation – Catawba County Partnership for Children – Week of the Young Child

C. Presentation of Proclamation Honoring Kate Griewisch – Most Decorated Athlete in the History of Lenoir-Rhyne University

Consent Agenda
A. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from City of Hickory to Billy Heath in Fairview

B. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from City of Hickory to Judy Ingold in Fairview Cemetery

C. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from City of Hickory to Glenda McCorkle in Southside Cemetery

D. Transfer of Cemetery Deed from William H. Tallant, Jr., by and through his Attorney in Fact, Donna T. Heavner, to Florence C. Davis in Oakwood Cemetery

E. Special Event Permit Application for Skintimate Girls on the Run 5K Scheduled for Saturday, May 5, 2012 from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm at L.P. Frans Stadium

F. Approve Pyrotechnic Display Permit at Iron Thunder Saloon Located at 2022 13th Avenue Drive SE on June 30, 2012 - Blue Ridge Harley Davidson has submitted a request to obtain permission to conduct a
public fireworks display at Iron Thunder Saloon located at 2022 13th Avenue Drive SE on June 30, 2012. The Fire Prevention Bureau will inspect the pyrotechnics display area prior to the event to ensure compliance with all guidelines.

G. Future Annexation Agreement – Jerry and Wenona Sowers – 1212 Beagle Lane in the Fox Chase Development- Jerry and Wenona Sowers have requested connection to the City’s water and sewer
system without being annexed. They have agreed to be annexed at some time in the future when the City finds it economically feasible to do so. The property is located at 1212 Beagle Lane in the Fox Chase Development. A portion of the development was annexed by the City in 2006; however, the subject property was not a part of that annexation. Three other properties on Beagle Lane have been granted sewer connections by means of future annexation agreements. In previous analyses, Staff determined the properties along Beagle Lane were not economically feasible for the City to annex at the present time, and that determination still holds true. Staff recommends approval of future annexation agreement.

H. Airport Concession Agreement with VisionAire Jets, LLC for Office Space Located in the Airport Commercial Terminal Building - VisionAire Jets, LLC desires to relocate their aircraft development business, currently located in Newton, NC, to the Hickory Regional Airport commercial terminal building (old airport administrative offices that have recently become vacant). The 776-square foot space is to be leased to VisionAire Jets, LLC for a three-year period. The Lessee will pay the City $250.00 per month for the first three months, and the rent will increase to $500.00 per month for the next three months. Thereafter, the monthly rent will be at the full rate of $1.00 per square foot, or $776.00 per month, until said lease expires. This is a startup partnership between the City and VisionAire Jets to provide a viable, long-lasting relationship, and the Airport Staff feels that VisionAire Jets will be a good addition to the
Hickory Regional Airport with ties to the aviation world. This lease is in line with the recommendations of the Airport Task Force in promoting the airport’s goals to promote assets and increase revenues.

I. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance Through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - The following request was considered by the Citizens Advisory Committee at their regular
meeting on April 5, 2012:
• Kenneth Knight, 1149 15th Street SW, Hickory, was awarded a City of Hickory’s Housing Rehabilitation Loan in the amount of $8,000.00. The Citizens’ Advisory Committee recommends approval to increase his loan by $1,500.00 for the costs of the repairs.

J. Change Order No. 8 to Contract with Pizzagalli Construction Company in the Amount of $69,121.00 for the Northeast Wastewater Treatment Plant (NEWWTP) Upgrade Project - The NEWWTP Upgrade Project was initiated in July, 2010 at a cost of $21,569,382.50 for a complete upgrade of the facility. The current contract amount for this project is $22,123,422.50 which includes previously approved Change Orders Nos. 1 – 7. This project was established with a contingency fund in order to address unforeseen expenses that may arise, and Change Order No. 8 consists of 8 items related to unanticipated conditions and/or design omissions during the plan modifications prior to the start of the project. The single largest item that is included in this change order is $64,617.00 for construction of a hot box enclosure at the influent bar screen pump station. The second largest item was for $19,500.00 to add freeze protection at the grit system, odor control, exposed plant water lines caustic tank and lines that were eliminated from the design modification. This change order also includes 3 items that are credits back to the project
for work that was modified or eliminated. Contract change order total, including Change Order Nos. 1 – 8, is $623,161.00, or 2.89% of the original project contract. The revised contract total to date will be $22,192,543.50. Staff recommends approval.

K. Budget Ordinance Amendments
1. To budget $365 of Library donations from several donors in the Library Books line item.
2. To budget $3,400 of Unity Fair donations in the Unity Fair expenditure line item. The Unity Fair is part of the International Spring Fest.
3. To budget a $1,500 International Council donation in the International Council expenditure line item got the 2012 International Spring Fest.
4. To appropriate $4,378 of the Insurance Fund Balance and transfer to the General Fund Legal Services line item. This appropriation is to pay for legal expenses related to the Glenn Edward Chapman pending litigation.

 Informational Items
A. Report of Mayor Rudy Wright’s travel to Greensboro, NC to attend the NC Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (Mileage - $104.50).

B. Report of City Manager Mick Berry’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (room - $175.90, per diem - $71.87; parking - $58.40)

C. Report of Mayor Rudy Wright’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (room - $175.90; per diem - $71.87)

D. Report of Alderman Bruce Meisner’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (room - $175.90; per diem - $71.87)

E. Report of Alderman Danny Seaver’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (room - $175.90; per diem - $71.87)

F. Report of Alderman Hank Guess’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (room - $175.90; per diem - $71.87)

G. Report of Alderwoman Sally Fox’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (room - $175.90; per diem - $71.87)

H. Report of Alderwoman Jill Patton’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (room $175.90; per diem - $71.87)

I. Report of City Attorney John Crone’s travel to attend the Special Council Meeting in Greenville, SC on February 23 – 24, 2012 (per diem - $23.81; parking - $4.00)

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Report on Catawba County Gang Initiative The Catawba County Gang Initiative is a collaboration of nine Catawba County Law Enforcement Agencies to create an environment that helps reduce gang/group related violence and crime in our communities. Seasoned offenders identified with a history of gang/group related violence and crime are notified of the community’s intent to stop illegal activity through an offender notification meeting, also known as a “Call-In”. Service providers, faith-based leaders and law enforcement from local, state and federal agencies give a concise message to offenders that the violence and crime will not be tolerated. Family and community leaders inform offenders about the willingness of the assembled resources to assist those willing to commit to positive community behavior, while also clearly stating that refusal to take heed to this official warning will result in suppression consequences to the full extent of the law. This strategy seeks to offer options to change their behavior while holding them accountable for their actions. The funding to launch this comprehensive strategy was provided by the
NC Governor’s Crime Commission in 2009.

This is a collaboration of nine law enforcement agencies in Catawba County... Hickory, Brookford, Catawba, Claremont, Conover, Maiden, and Newton Police Departments and the Catawba County Sheriff's Department. A two-year grant from the Governor's Crime Commission funded a crime analyst/community resource coordinator, software and over time for law enforcement staff. Activity started in 2010.

The initiative's primary focus is to identify potential gang/group members and criminal offenses that may be gang or group related. The crime analyst/community resource coordinator, who is Charles Mackie, gathers extensive intelligence through Street Cops, Probation Officers, etc. on both networks of individuals involved in the group/gang community and individual patterns of criminal behavior to identify the worst offenders with a potential towards violence. The crime analyst/community resource coordinator also identifies a community resource base of service providers, faith-based and community leaders willing to offer assistance in changing behavior. Once identified, these individuals are notified of the community's intent to stop the violence and are summoned to a notification meeting Known as a "Call-in."

The Chief stated that it was initially hard for him to wrap his arms around this effort, but this effort has worked in High Point, NC. The ultimate goal is to reduce the violence in our communities. During the Call-in, Law Enforcement gives a stern message to the offenders that these offenses are going to stop or they will be fast tracked and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (Federal or State). He stated that it may not stop all crime, but the focus is on Homicides, Robberies, and Home Invasions. This includes voluntary compliance; the individuals except resources offered by service providers and become productive citizens in the community. This also may include these individuals are being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law when necessary through the federal or state criminal justice systems in the individuals being fast tracked through the process.
Law enforcement members who participated in the meeting included Michael White of the FBI, Dana Washington of the US Atty.'s office, the DA, the 25th District Attorney's Office, and nine local law enforcement agencies.
Resource provider stated "we except you but not your behavior. We are not going to tolerate the violence any longer. We're here to offer you help." Help us for them but also the members of their group. It was stated that the participants should not make promises that they can't keep. The service providers included CVCC, the employment security commission, the Hickory library, manpower, job link, chick-fil-a, and more.

Community voices stated that the community wants the violence to stop. The ideas of the street code or false. You are valuable and important to us. Please accept the help being offered. Spokespeople included the Rev. Anthony Spearman of the Clinton tabernacle AME Zion church, Chris Johnson of young people of integrity, and Addie Shuford, who is a grandmother of a victim of murder.

The issue of essentials of success, as in employability skills was addressed. Participating service providers offered individualized assistance from participating agencies. The targeted participants must attend 10 different full sessions of lectures and labs on anger management, real-life success, right attitude and thinking, resume/letter or explanation, discuss for success, interviewing skills, power of volunteering, and work plan it placed success. The targeted participants will receive a certificate of completion. Ten other communities in North Carolina have taken this approach and only two of those have taken the county wide approach.

The Hound believe that this is a good and well thought out program. Kudos to these law enforcement officials for taking a stand with a way out and no excuses for offenders.

2. Quarterly Financial Report - Presentation by Assistant City manager Warren Wood -
The General fund summary with 75% of your complete shows that we have received 84.07% of our budgeted revenues, compared to the five year average of 81.17%. We have spent/encumbered 71.3% of our targeted expenditure can pared to the five-year average of 70.38%. Revenues over expenditures equaled $7,087,569 compared to the five-year average of $6,474,595. Water and sewer fund, with 75% of your complete shows that we have received 69.88% of our budgeted revenues compared to the five-year average of 68.26%. We have spent/encumbered 67.95% of our budgeted expenditures compared to the five-year average of 61.52%. Revenues over expenditures equaled $917,391 compared to the five-year average of $1,875,738. He says that when monies taken out for spending on infrastructure is accounted for, then the city is right where it should be.

Warren stated that the positives so far with this year's budget are that revenues have stabilized and become more predictable. By taking proactive steps to prepare for the fiscal year 2013-14, we know there will be revenues losses, but we have prepared for that through budgetary reductions. The city is this in a solid fund balance position. Three months of expenses set aside in cash. Increases in fuel related expenses have been accounted for. The capital improvement plan has been funded. Funds set aside for fuel cost increases. The general fund will be debt-free in seven years. No property tax rate increase in 17 years and it looks to be 18 years. The bond rating of the City of Hickory was reaffirmed in 2011 by S&P at AA. The city is very competitive and water and sewer rates.

The challenges ahead include the fiscal year 2013-14 budget. Stable but stagnant revenues. The state of North Carolina undertaking tax reform. New or expanded services, must have new revenues. Expenditure pressures: fuel. and street resurfacing. Economic development and redevelopment. The State is looking into regearing privilege license fees. The Mayor stated that he believes it will be revenue neutral. Alderman Meisner stated that it was a very political tax.

Citizens Requesting to be Heard

Frank Fisher addressed and asked questions about the Farmer's Market. He asked about the costs of the structure being built downtown and that he believes that the costs have exceeded what has been stated. He would like to see a line-by-line budget of the expenditures made public.

Walter Witherspoon apologized for a misstatement that he made during the previous address about the group involved with the structure being built on Union Square. He vstated that he still stands for the things he said. He met with Manager Berry on April 16 to talk about the questions he had asked at the previous Council Meeting. Manager Berry did confirm that City Workers were being used for the construction of the site. Mr. Zagaroli is the architectural designer of the site. Mr. Zagaroli was paid a fee to design the site. The City is involved in the construction of the site and he didn't know that from the beginning. He dug a little deeper (then he quoted minutes from a previous meeting) to make sure of accuracy. He then pointed to the fact that during the City Council meeting of December 20, 2011 that it was remarked upon that the Farmer's Market Board approached the City Council members and they next engaged Mr. Zagaroli. Mr. Zagaroli worked with members of the Hickory Farmer's Market Board and the Downtown Development Association. Mr. Witherspoon misinterpreted that the city was giving Mr. Zagaroli $285,000 and he was going to be responsible for the construction. He didn't realize that this was going to be done in-house and this is what caused the confusion... and this is the reason why there was no bid... It is hard for City Council members and farmer's market members and Downtown Development Association members and he does understand that some of you guys (city council) sit on some of those boards and then you have to come back and change hats and vote on that and he admires their objectivity and he has questions about that. You have a job and I'm still not clear about that kind of involvement there and on the Board of the city. Alderman Meisner asked Mr. Witherspoon about saying that Mr. Zagaroli was the architectural head of that and stated then stated that Mr. Zagaroli is not an architect. Mr. Witherspoon stated that he was the architectural designer and that is why he brought his quotes, because he waanted to get it correct and didn't want people in the audience to get the wrong impression.

Larry Pope said his question is he would like to ask about the contest naming the facility and he would like to know about the committee who would be choosing from the applications to name the facility. He would like to know their names, addresses, and diversity of those individuals; because he believes in diversity. He wants to know if those individuals have a connection to City Council and what their connection is to City Council. Whenever you respond to me in writing on those questions, every voter and household needs to know that information. Citizens need to know by whom and how those selections are being made, because what his experience is is that 9 times out of 10 City Council members are appointing family members, friends, and neighbors who are a rubber stamp for what they want nto sit on various boards, commissions, and committees and he hopes that will be different this time, because he believes that whatever committee is established should be as diverse as possible and should be citizens who do not normally serve in those positions. The Mayor instructed Asst City manager Wood to provide that information and asked him to use judgment, about whether it would be proper to include addresses in the information.

The Hound wonders why the Mayor asks about judgment in relation to providing addresses of the people who serve on this commission, but when someone requests to be heard during these segments he asks that they state their name and address for the record. Is that consistent? If you are stating your name and address for one public purpose, then why would you not do it for another?

Request to Speak by Carol McConnell and others, Lakeside Condominiums, 2200 6th Street NW, regarding dredging of Horseford Creek Cove - Keith Rossi, 2200 6th Street, NW, was present to represent Lakeside Condos, and presented photos of the cove to the individual Council Members. There has been an issue for years with the cove gradually losing depth. The City dredged the cove once before about 15 years ago, and got it to a depth of about 15 feet. As of 2 to 3 years ago, it was down to 2 to 3 feet of water again. Obviously, it creates problems for boaters, fishermen, and wildlife areas drying out -- becoming a pollution problem. It is a daily occurrence for boats to get stuck in the cove. Property owners took it upon themselves to have the channel dredged and spent over $50,000 this year when they got nowhere with the City Engineer saying that it is a natural occurrence and there is nothing the City can do. He stated they felt that a precedent has been set since it has been dredged once before. There are several issues at the park where runoff is not being addressed as well as some of the pollution issues that come into the cove. He asked for guidance as to whom the property owners can speak with to help address the issues and what they might be able to do to work together with Duke Power, the City, Riverkeepers, environmentalists, etc. to help keep the cove and the lake healthy. Duke Power owns the lake, and they say there is nothing that they can do. The solution is for property owners to spend money out of their own pockets to maintain the lakefront property.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- April 15, 2012

China's economic growth falls to nearly 3-year low - AP - Joe McDonald - April 13, 2012 - China's economic growth fell to its lowest level in nearly three years in the first quarter but analysts said the economy should rebound in coming months.               Growth in the world's second-biggest economy declined to a still-robust 8.1 percent in the three months ending in March, data showed Friday. That was down from the previous quarter's 8.9 percent and the weakest rate since the second quarter of 2009.            China's rapid growth has declined steadily since 2010 as a slump in global demand battered its exporters and Beijing tightened lending and investment curbs to cool an overheated economy and surging inflation.

Major Economists Everywhere Are Freaking Out Over The Scarcity Of Safe Assets - Business Insider - Simone Foxman - April 13, 2012 - Amid elevated market uncertainty, investors have been clamoring to get their hands on so-called "safe assets," privately and publicly issued securities with little risk used to hedge against more volatile investments.               Of primary focus has been sovereign bonds. U.S. government Treasuries, Japanese government bonds, and German bunds are trading at record highs, yielding little profit for investors.
But the scarcity—and thus the high price of these securities—has been exacerbated by central bank measures taken to mend the troubles of the crisis.                     Since the financial crisis, quantitative easing has essentially given banks in the U.S. and U.K fast cash in exchange for Treasuries and gilts, and immediately freed up funds to put money in riskier places that would spur corporate growth.
However now investors are worried that the long-term effects of driving up the cost of safe assets will make it harder for institutional investors like investment banks and hedge funds to meet the stricter standards of new rules put in place to ensure financial stability.           PIMCO's Mohamed El-Erian expressed this anxiety in a speech to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis yesterday. "In the last three plus years, central banks have had little choice but to do the unsustainable in order to sustain the unsustainable until others do the sustainable to restore sustainability," he said. "In the case of three institutions in particular (the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and the Fed), they also change the balance between “safe” and other assets in the financial system."

Thieves Stealing Plaques, Vases From Plots At Plain Lawn Cemetery in Hicksville - CBS New York 2 - April 11, 2012 - HICKSVILLE, N.Y.  –  For the past few days, Adele Meyer has spent a lot of time thinking about her deceased aunt and uncle, and that’s because the Freeport resident recently learned that one of her family’s cemetery plots was robbed.               “I had come to decorate the graves for Easter,” Meyer told CBS 2′s Elise Finch on Wednesday, “and I turned around and noticed that the plaque wasn’t there. It was just dirt where their names used to be.”             A large brass plaque with Charlie and Virginia Bailey’s names on it was ripped out of the ground.                 Over the past few months thieves have ravaged the tiny Plain Lawn Cemetery in Hicksville. They’ve stolen almost every bronze vase on the property and at least seven brass plaques , each of which is valued at $1,700.

Principal forgiveness on mortgages gains appeal
- USA Today - Julie Schmit - April 11, 2012
- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could save $1.7 billion if they forgave principal on some distressed mortgages, new analysis shows.            The Federal Housing Finance Agency— which regulates the mortgage giants — may decide in the next few weeks about whether to use principal forgiveness as a foreclosure prevention tactic, said Edward DeMarco, acting director of the FHFA while speaking Tuesday at the Brookings Institution...                
Principal reduction "is clearly getting more traction" as a foreclosure prevention tactic, says Laurie Goodman, senior managing director of Amherst Securities. The recent $25 billion mortgage settlement requires loan servicers to do at least $10 billion in principal reduction. That doesn't cover Freddie or Fannie loans.             Principal forgiveness supporters say it'll lead to fewer foreclosures and help stabilize housing prices. FHFA's new analysis — and DeMarco's discussion of it — signals that a change is likely, says Ira Rheingold of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

88 Million (That’s One In Three Americans) Are Invisible to Government Employment Statistics - - Mac Slavo - April 13th, 2012 - With recovery in full swing and unemployment dropping to an Obama administration near record low of 8.2%, the US economy seems to be bouncing back stronger than ever. Unless, of course, you look at the numbers no one in mainstream media, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, or the administration is talking about. As many of our readers already know, the official unemployment rates released monthly by the BLS (U-3, U-6) fail to account for one very key figure – those individuals who are no longer in the labor force.
Were it not for people dropping out of the labor force, the unemployment rate would be well over 11%.
Over the past several years people have dropped out of the labor force at an astounding, almost unbelievable rate, holding the unemployment rate artificially low. Some of this was due to major revisions last month on account of the 2010 census finally factored in. However, most of it is simply economic weakness.

In the last year, the civilian population rose by 3,604,000. Yet the labor force only rose by 1,315,000. Those not in the labor force rose by 2,289,000.
The Civilian Labor Force fell by 164,000.
Those “Not in Labor Force” increased by 310,000. If you are not in the labor force, you are not counted as unemployed.
Those “Not in Labor Force” is at a new record high of 87,897,000.
Source: Townhall Finance

The number of those folks – the ones that don’t matter anymore because counting them would hinder the President’s reelection bid – is absolutely staggering for what is supposed to be the engine of the global economy and the world’s only super power:

Federal Funds to Train the Jobless Are Drying Up - New York Times - MOTOKO RICH - April 8, 2012 - ... Across the country, work force centers that assist the unemployed are being asked to do more with less as federal funds dwindle for job training and related services...              
The Labor Department announced on Friday that employers had added only 120,000 new jobs in March, a disappointing gain after three previous months of nearly twice that level. But with 12.7 million people still searching for jobs, the country is actually spending less on work force training than it did in good times.             Federal money for the primary training program for dislocated workers is 18 percent lower in today’s dollars than it was in 2006, even though there are six million more people looking for work now. Funds used to provide basic job search services, like guidance on résumés and coaching for interviews, have fallen by 13 percent.                Political fights have focused primarily on extensions of unemployment insurance, while the cuts in funds for training have passed with little debate and little notice.                    At the peak in 2000, the federal government was spending more than $2.1 billion a year in today’s dollars for training programs aimed at dislocated workers under the Workforce Investment Act. Stimulus funds added close to $1.5 billion over two years, but now annual spending has receded to about $1.2 billion...              In his latest budget proposal, President Obama also requested an additional $2.8 billion a year for job training over the next decade. “Even in this very tight budget,” said Gene Sperling, national economic adviser, “the president felt that there was an imperative to call right now for a more simplified and effective training system” that also had an increase in funds.                Whether Congress is willing to consider more aid is uncertain. The federal budget endorsed by House Republicans calls for reductions in a broad category that includes job training.

Keeping up with the 1 percent - Reuters - Chrystia Freeland - March 23, 2012 - We know now that trickle-down economics doesn't really work — the past decade in the United States has seen incomes at the very top soar, while the earnings of the middle class stagnated or declined.                 
But a growing body of academic research is suggesting that this benign force's wicked stepsister, a phenomenon two economists have dubbed "trickle-down consumption," is having a powerful impact on the economy and politics of the United States.                   The idea is that income inequality has a significant impact on the 99 percent: It drives the rest of us to consume more, whether we can afford to or not...

Lower U.S. Crop Reserves Raising Food Costs in Election Year - Bloomberg - Jeff Wilson - April 9, 2012 - U.S. corn stockpiles are poised to be the smallest in 16 years by August and soybean reserves will be lower than the government expected, potentially accelerating food-price inflation in an election year.             The U.S. Department of Agriculture may say tomorrow that corn inventories on Aug. 31 will be 37 percent lower than a year earlier at 715 million bushels (18.2 million metric tons), the average of 32 analyst forecasts compiled by Bloomberg show. That compares with a projection of 801 million bushels last month. Soybean stockpiles will be 242 million bushels, down from a March prediction of 275 million, the survey showed...         “U.S. supplies are going to be tight and that means we need good weather this year to improve inventories,” said Shawn McCambridge, the senior grain analyst for Jefferies Bache in Chicago. He said reserves before the harvest will fall to 626 million bushels, or equal to 4.9 percent of consumption, below the record low of 5 percent in 1974.             The U.S. was the world’s biggest shipper of corn, soybeans and wheat last year, USDA data show.              The country’s wheat surplus on May 31 may fall to 794 million bushels, compared with 825 million estimated by the USDA in March and 862 million a year earlier, according to the analysts surveyed. Futures in Chicago rose 0.7 percent today to $6.43 a bushel.

Damon Vickers : NWO, Surveillance, & Investments Coast to Coast AM - April 11, 2012 -
NWO, Surveillance, & Investments Coast to Coast AM - 11.4.2012 with Guest : Damon Vickers . Damon Vickers, author of The Day after the Dollar Crashes and managing director at Nine Points Management and Research, speaks to Coast to Coast AM about what he believes to be the looming crash of the US dollar.This is why China is telling its citizens to buy gold and silver--to prepare for the day in which all heck brakes loose upon telling the USA "no more treasury purchases.

Greg over at Backburner news was kind enough to share his video footage of Max Keiser and Reverend Bill Masters on Mott Street 4/12/2012. Max covers some important issues including fraud in the markets, Wall Street, the role of collateral, Jamie Dimon, JP Morgan, crap deals of JPM, congress, Goldman Sachs, fraud, ECB, IMF, Greece, Spain, Ireland, Germany, derivatives, financial terrorism, global raping-destruction of nation states, toxic securities, credit default swaps, and silver. This video is both entertaining and important.

Reverend Billy of OWS here on Youtube

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blue Ridge Harley Davidson - A Visit with the New Owners - Hickory, North Carolina

I was invited to attend a viewing of the re-opening of Blue Ridge Harley Davidson, which has been bought by a new management group. This new management group has expanded Blue Ridge Harley Davidson's territorial footprint to include Gastonia, which nearly doubles the size of the store's marketplace. Below is a press release sent by the group to me this week.
BLUE RIDGE HARLEY-DAVIDSON UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP & MANAGEMENT, TO OFFER MORE SERVICES AND PRODUCTS HICKORY, NC – April 2, 2012 – Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson is excited to announce they are now officially part of the Scott Fischer Enterprises family of Harley-Davidson stores. In addition to Blue Ridge, Scott Fischer Enterprises owns and operates four additional Harley-Davidson stores in the United States. Kicking off the change, Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson will be holding a Grand Reopening Customer Event on Saturday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The public is invited to attend and meet the team, learn about what’s coming up this year, and enjoy great, free food and live entertainment.

Attendees will meet the new management team and learn about all the exciting things to come. Try out the “Jumpstart,” an actual, running Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a specially-designed, stationary support stand. There will be something for everyone, including a drawing for a free t-shirt every hour and one grand prize drawing for a $250 Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson gift certificate!

“We are thrilled to be a part of this community and look forward to growing this successful dealership even more,” commented Ron Hall, newly appointed General Manager of Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson. “We’re keeping the core Blue Ridge’s success was built on and adding SFE’s experience to achieve even more for our employees and customers, while giving more back to the community through our charitable endeavors.”

Those that can’t attend the Grand Reopening are welcome to stop by any day. Soon you’ll start seeing more rides, more events, more gear and just a general increase in activities for our customers to participate in at the store. Check out the changes and enjoy the soon to be opened Refueling Station Café where the coffee, soda, and snacks are always on the house!

ABOUT SFE: Scott Fischer Enterprises has been serving the motorsports community for over 20 years. Founded and operated by Scott Fischer, SFE owns and operates stores in Alabama, Florida, New Mexico and now North Carolina. SFE operates with the clear mission of selling, servicing, renting and riding Harley-Davidson Motorcycles while sharing a passion for the riding lifestyle. All locations are full line authorized Harley-Davidson dealerships with new and used motorcycle sales, service, parts and  accessories, plus clothing and collectibles. For more information, please visit

ABOUT BLUE RIDGE HARLEY-DAVIDSON: Built in 2003, Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson® is located in the beautiful foothills of North Carolina near the renowned Blue Ridge Parkway. Inside: stone columns; lots of natural light shining through the many windows and dormers; and wood plank and stained concrete floors add to the store’s lodge-like feel. Outside, visitors can park their bike along the 8,000 square foot covered porch. Guests are welcome to relax on the large sheltered deck and visit the in-store Refueling Station Cafe.

Blue Ridge Harley-Davidson is located at 2002 13th Avenue Drive SE in Hickory, right next to the convention center. Please visit or call (828) 327-3030 for details on this and other dealership activities.

Blue Ridge Harley Davidson's Management Team Speaks

Dyno Room

Nice Bike

Inventory Room

Show Room Floor

Show Room Floor 2

The Shop

Show Room Overview

Showroom Overview 2

Showroom Overview 3

The Owners

The Store