A major factor in what brought Mayor Rudy Wright into office was the spending by a previous City of Hickory Administration and officials at a restaurant in Philadelphia around 1999. As I recall, thousands of dollars were spent frivolously on a dinner by these officials during the visit to this renowned Philadelphia establishment including hundreds of dollars on single bottles of wine. When Rudy Wright ran for Mayor in 2001, he used this issue to beat Pat Moss over the head with and stated that he was going to cut out the waste in Hickory City Government.
Pat Moss was former (and in 2001 the current) Mayor Bill McDonald's hand picked successor. We know the parties that were involved in bringing Mayor Wright to office back then. That is public record. This Mayor said this morning on Hal Row's show that the issue about the Tent on Union Square was a partisan political issue and seemed to state that they had kept partisan politics out of City Council meetings until recently. Although the Mayor didn't explain this, the only conclusion that I could draw is that he is referring to the typical Republican versus Democrat politics. I don't think this has anything to do with Donkey versus Elephant issues. It has everything to do with the connected versus the disenfranchised in this community.
A legitimate question was asked about the tent on Union Square... about the cost overrun and the possibility that even more money will be asked for in the near future. The lady that called in (at the 5:30 mark in the presentation below) with concerns about cost overruns concerning the tent did not say a word about the pools, but the Mayor introduced the pool subject and said that this issue was all about the pools. The Mayor seems to believe that he shouldn't have to take ownership of the process involving the Union Square structure. He is the CEO of this city and as such everything has his stamp of approval. That is the common thread between the pools and this tent project on Union Square. That he, the Council, and City Administration own these processes. When this lady was talking about "Who is Auditing this tent on Union Square?" she was not asking who was doing the accounting. She was asking why wasn't someone keeping an eye on what was going on so that we didn't incur this additional $137,000 cost overrun/expenditure? That is obvious to anyone who listened to what she asked.
The Mayor opens up a lot of questions here. Who knew what when? You decided to move forward with this project on December 20, 2011. At what point did you find out that it was going to cost $423,000 instead. If you found out that it was going to cost $423,000, then why didn't you reassess whether you should move forward with the project? If you found out in January that you were going to incur this additional expense, then why have you waited until now to come forward and make this public? That sure seems like a Bait and Switch scheme to me.
When looking at the pools that the City Council chose to demolish, Hickory Citizens emphatically stated that they wanted Aquatic recreation and this City Council denied them their desire. Charettes, more like Charades, were held and people undeniably requested Aquatic Recreation for the public and wanted it throughout the city. Remember Mayor Wright standing in that swimming pool in the USA Today? And the City was basically dishonest in this process every step of the way for two years. First they would be only closed for one summer, then they come up with this huge cost number to justify them being shut down for the foreseeable future, and then they demolish them six months later under the guise that it was a liability safety issue. When people talked about alternatives they were shut out.
That in my opinion led to this closed process involving the tent on Union Square. The consent agenda process was abused to carry out the apparent directive that this be moved through without people being allowed to have input, discuss cost-benefit analysis, competitive bidding, alternatives and to top it all off we now see that there was no architectural or engineering design built into the original structure. Who came up with the original $285,000 budget for this project that didn't take proper factors into account? This is what happens with closed processes.
The common thread between both processes is that they were manipulated towards the desires of the Mayor, Council, and City Administration who are all of one mind.
The Mayor seems to think it is alright to take a fund created to build a parking deck in downtown and use it for anything other than its directed purpose. The money in that fund should be used for its intended purpose and then the fund should be decommissioned. The fund is not called "The Union Square Capital Project Fund" and it should not be used for that purpose. That is the definition of a slush fund - Chicago style. That is a bait and switch. That is what we complain about in Washington. Why is that okay in Hickory?
Here are some questions pertaining to this issue that would be asked by a responsible "4th Estate" media party pertaining to the Parking fund. What was the balance on the parking fund last year? What is it today? Is there money left to build a parking deck now? What else has it been used for? Could we have built that parking deck if this money had not been used for other purposes?
What we have seen are not Republican or Democrat issues. They are Hickory issues. We have members of both parties that are upset with this Mayor and City Council. If anyone has made issues partisan it is this Mayor and Administration with their dictates and insistence that everything be done the way that they want without question. Anyone who questions what they do has at some point in time been deemed a radical or a trouble maker or partisan. We are supposed to take for granted that they are operating in the interest of the public without scrutiny or accountability.
During this (Hal Row) show, the Mayor talked about businesses moving forward before all of the pieces of a plan had come together, as though that is what they had done. First of all, if you invest your own money then I get your point, but you are responsible for other people's money in this process, so you should have had those architectural and engineering plans and costs established from the get-go. You didn't have the very foundation of a plan in order. All you had was an idea and you threw dollars at the idea. That is the very thing that conservatives complain about when it comes to Big Government. Businesses who operate in this fashion end up out of business. That is alright when it is your personal risk. That is not alright when you are acting as a Fiduciary. That is what we have seen from the current lot of politicians of this era; privatize profits, socialize losses. Most of us don't want to go down that path.
When we look at issues of scrutiny and accountability, let's look back at the $25,000 spent on Graffiti (May 4, 2010 - Bottom). That was two years ago and they said that they were going to come back and discuss how the money was spent six months later. Again two years later and they still have never come back before the public to reconcile the money that was spent.
We look at the Rental Property Task Force that was created on September 7, 2010. Its recommendations were accepted by the City Council on December 7, 2010. One recommendation was that an additional Code Enforcement Officer be hired to deal with the issues of Rental Properties and Chronic Code Violations - ie Slum Lords. Code Enforcement officials were supposed to come back after a couple of months and address priorities and necessities and the task force was to be reconvened after six months to address the Council on whether the recommendations were working. So, a year ago the Rental Property Task Force was supposed to be reconvened and come back before the Council to tell the Council and Public whether its recommendations were working and that has not happened yet.
Those are a few examples of the issues that we see in this City. It boils down to accountability. No one is attacking the Mayor's personal being. What they are addressing are issues of representation and accountability. Who does the mayor represent?
At the end of this interview Rebecca Inglefield calls up (28:15 mark in the presentation above) and talks to the Mayor about when is a good time for discussion, as in give and take with the public. The Mayor never really answers and obfuscates the question.
The Mayor doesn't seem to understand that this is an issue of trust. He and the Council are in charge of Hickory's Public Trust. How many times over the last several years have we heard politicians decry that everyone was out to get'em? How many times was it about disenfranchisement, accountability, and trust? There seems to be a disconnect here. All anyone who is questioning all of this is asking is that local government be of, by, and for the people; instead of of, by, and for the chosen few.
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