The Hickory Daily Record requests that submissions for Letters to the Editor be limited to 400 words. Below is Harry's initial submission before edited. This submission is in today's May 11, 2012 Hickory Daily Record on page 4. Please print this out for your friends who may not have the internet and pass it along for them to read and fully understand that Harry's problem is not the structure per se. It is about the process that led to the structure and the problems associated with it. Harry would like to thank the HDR for allowing him the opportunity to express himself to the public in their forum.
THE MAYOR’S POSITION ON FIRST TALK
Much of the First Talk with Hal Row show on WHKY this Monday morning pertained to the tent being erected on Union Square. In time, we will see if this “investment” is worth the cost. It’s not what I would have done but I’ll keep an open mind until things come to fruition. What I see, though, which seems to be the source of a lot of the acrimony is how the City goes about selecting and implementing where funds will be spent.
Mayor Wright stated that there is now a partisanship in Hickory politics that hasn’t been there in the past and in his view is “a shame”. I find scant evidence that partisanship, that is to say Republican and Democratic party involvement is at work here. There may be some, and probably everyone on Council or attending meetings has some party affiliation, but does that make it partisan? There’s none that I can see.
The Mayor may have been referring to the fact that there are now more people looking at Council’s actions and modus operandi and not liking what they see. Well, grow up. Competition of ideas and aspirations are usually present in a healthy democracy, and it’s long past due in Hickory. For too long the Council has done whatever they wanted with virtually no checks on their actions. Most citizens do not vote in municipal elections due to apathy. The local media is very weak and in my opinion are mostly tied together with the status quo. It’s time people start taking notice and speaking up. It’s a good thing.
The City was embarrassed at the last Council meeting by not knowing about the instructions for citizens removing items from the consent agenda THAT HAS BEEN THERE FOR YEARS. Why has it been there for years and it is just now an issue? Because no one has spoken up before now and Council runs partly on auto pilot and they obviously don’t even read their own publications. Now people are becoming aware and it’s a positive development. The Mayor has stated that they are reviewing the process on this issue and will make it more democratic, not less. I trust he will do what he has stated.
Beyond this, we should also have televised meetings like other municipalities have on cable government channels, records and transcripts should be on the internet within days. Public documents should be on the internet and a citizen shouldn’t have to travel to City Hall and grovel for staff to access a document for them. Closed session minutes aren’t released in a timely manner. And the agenda should be published on the internet with enough time for citizens to review it and plan to comment if desired. In short, it’s time to join the 21st century.
The City has a history of not listening to the public and showing citizens disrespect. A survey was taken years ago about the farmers market. A majority wanted the Springs Rd area, it went downtown. A survey was taken on the pools, the majority said they wanted pools in each quadrant of the City, the Council said no. People from neglected areas of the City have sought some efforts at revitalization but to no avail. While I want a nice downtown area, as most do, there seems to be scant concern for the whole city and there seem to be conflicts of interest on downtown issues. So it’s not a surprise that there is not unanimity of opinion on City issues.
Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, these projects seem to come off the cuff. We need a strategic, long term plan to get Hickory back to good health again. The Mayor is on record, on the First Talk show, going back years stating that he thinks "this is going to be Hickory’s year. Things will soon be turning around." It seems that we are just drifting and hoping something will turn up if we just put a little more money into downtown development. There is no cost/benefit analysis done, little or no public vetting or input, and no review after the fact to see if, in fact, public dollars did lead to a positive return on the investment. A little more professionalism and public dialogue would go a long way to getting the public to buy in and less acrimony. Partisanship is not the problem, a government that is not adapting to the 21st century is.
Rudy Wright's and this Council's Philadelphia moment?