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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Sometimes Going Back is Going Forward -- Let's Fix This!!!

Comment made in the previous article that I want everyone to see and see the response to:

The change in the 1960's was moving away from segregation and towards integration just as old ward style isolationist (kingdoms)elections progressed to the at large elections that we have today. The change took the City in the same direction as most Cities in NC are today-overwhelmingly so. It appears as though this referendum is moving the City back to the 1960 era. Not a good thing. It took a progressive Council and Mayor to make the change in the 1960's. Ok fire away Hound!

To the first anonymous. I am not attacking the messenger. I am "Attacking" (addressing) the message. I'd love to talk with this guy. The only thing I did was mention his name. He called what we are doing radical, thus inferring that we are radicals.

To the second anonymous. I appreciate your reasoning and it does fall in line with the argument made at the time of one man one vote, but the process and logic are very much flawed in my opinion.

We are the only city, our size, in North Carolina that has this Modified At-Large system, which is what the information that the city went and got from the School of Government shows. There are two cities our size that have the pure ward system. The other cities have Pure At-Large systems with no wards in the cities, so Hickory is doing their own thing.

You talk about kingdoms. Is the State of North Carolina a Kingdom? Last time I looked there is no one from South Carolina clamoring that they deserve to vote here and in Virginia and in Wyoming. The pure Ward system is best, in my opinion, because it allows people to deal with the issues in their community/neighborhood. Kingdoms are defined by Monarchy and Kings. We are talking about empowering regular ole people and having their representatives be accountable towards their communities/neighborhood's interests. That doesn't seem all that bad to me. It is grassroots participation at its finest. It keeps it to where a representative looks out for what is best for his community/neighborhood first, while fitting that (and plugging into) the needs of the overall City. That is the way this State and Country works.

DoGood made an excellent point. Elected City Officials claim that they Look at (have looked out for) the welfare of the entire city. This was the argument made back in the 1960s. What are they defining as the entire city? Seems like it is only the very center of Old Hickory.

Where are the big Economic Development and Revitalization projects in Southwest Hickory, Highland, St Stephens, and even Viewmont? Heck, they have allowed the people with degraded and abandoned properties in these areas to have free rein, thus depreciating the value of those properties that are taken care of. What if you bought one of these properties years ago and all of this degradation has subsequently occurred? What have you, as a property owner, done to deserve this fate?

It was stated back in 1967 that the going to an At-Large system would lead to machine politics and I believe it most certainly has. The Mayor talks about Horse trading under a ward system and that is what we have seen under the current At-Large system with the less wealthy wards being held hostage by the wards with more wealth and any monies towards economic development going towards the wealthy interests, while the middle class and poor are ignored. Give and take is going to happen under any system, but when ones neighborhoods are taken into consideration first that is a lot more noble than money interests coming first.

You can read about all of this. We haven't tried to hide anything, but we do provide opinion.

The logic and reasoning of the City Leadership in 1967 of one man/one vote was as wrong then as it is today with the 2012 City Leadership. If I can vote for my ward representative who lives in my community/neighborhood and then 5 people who never step foot in my ward come along and decide they know what is best for me, then we are diluting the voting rights of that ward. We are right back to the system that surrounded segregation all those years ago.

I believe that if you allow the wards to have representation that meets the dynamics (Culture & Socio Economic) of that particular neighborhood/community, then the people of that ward feel better about their representation and governance and they will participate in their governance. And if they don't like their representative and feel that they aren't represented by the individual, then it will be much easier to boot them out.

When all of the Wards are empowered and come forward and work together, plugged in - charged, on the City Council bench, then it will mean the empowerment of every crack, corner, creak, and crevice of this city and you will see revitalization and human energy come back to Hickory.

This City is not doing well folks. Most of us see that. Many of the most don't know what to do. This is what we need to do folks. What happened back in 1967 was a mistake. No name calling or insults are intended or needed. They were misguided. I understand the fears and motivations they had that caused them to go in this direction, but I believe those fears were unfounded... that what happened didn't benefit anyone and that what we can be, can be so much more.

That is the reason why I believe in the Pure Ward Voting System.

You know sometimes having the courage to admit mistakes in logic and reasoning and going back to your foundation, roots and reestablishing your mission is a good thing. Dead end roads don't lead to progress. In this case going back is going forward!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ward Referendum Voting Meeting - Patrick Beaver Library - July 28, 2012

This was a open meeting held on July 28, 2012. The public was invited and a diverse group of citizens attended the meeting. This discussion was an open discussion where Joe Brannock and Myself (Thom Shell) spoke to the issue of why we support the direct ward system. Jay Adams, a former Mayoral and City Council candidate and supporter of this issue, was asked to make an impromptu address of the group. Billy Sudderth, the discussion facilitator for the Citizens for Equity in Government also made some important points of discussion.

The Hound: We talk about the lack of participation.... Taking ownership of your personal lives and governance... The dynamics of the local governance... Ward Dynamics... The Dilution of your vote and influence in the ward you reside in... Gaining a voice for citizens... The Dynamics of the current City Council and City council meetings... Empowering Neighborhood Associations... Moving Citizens Requesting to be Heard to the front of the Agenda at City Council meetings... Wealth should not control the Power of Governance... Diverse people coming together for common interests... shedding the labels... term limits... 2,707 reasons for signing the petition... problems with the City Management form of Government.

*** We are the only city our size in North Carolina that has the Modified At-Large electoral system with Primaries in Wards leading to an At-Large General Election.

The following comment is about the meeting this past Saturday and a response to the Letter to the Editor in the Hickory Daily Record by Mr. Paul Byrd,  in which he labels those supportive of the Direct Ward Voting Movement as "Radicals." If believing that government belongs to the people, all of the people, and people should have input in their governance 365 days per year and people should be able to state an opinion for the record to their government. If that is "Radical," then I am 100% guilty.

This was a great meeting and I was encouraged by the diversity of those in attendance - black, white; republican, democrat - casting aside political and racial labels and coming to together to talk about an issue.

And this meeting was open to the entire public - as advertised. I'd wish Mrs. Fox had publicly advertised her little get together at the library instead of personally calling a hand-selected few people.

I certainly don't know what it is, but our City Council members are hell-bent against sitting down in a public setting and discussing this issue.

Hopefully, Mr. Guess will man-up, and accept the Greenpark Neighborhood Assoc's invitation to speak at a forum they are holding in August.

As with so many other things, only time will tell. I guess the only refreshing thought is that here lately, the chips have been falling in a manner independent of the City's control.

I can only imagine what the City will look like on September 19th - but I am very much looking forward to it!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

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

Chinese buying of U.S. business at record pace - CNN Money - Parija Kavilanz - July 26, 2012 -
.... Total Chinese foreign direct investment in the U.S. is on pace to reach at least $8 billion this year, according to the report from research firm Rhodium Group.........               That would top the previous record of $5.7 billion reached in 2010, said Thilo Hanemann, research director with Rhodium Group, which tracks all acquisitions and investments in manufacturing facilities, warehouses, labs and offices by foreign companies in the United States valued at $1 million or higher........                           Hanemann said this year's pending multi-billion dollar acquisitions include Dalian Wanda's $2.6 billion dollar bid for movie theater chain AMC and Chinese aerospace manufacturer Superior Aviation's $1.8 billion bid for Wichita, Kan.-based aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft.

Economy weak in second quarter, GDP grows at 1.5% rate - USA Today - Tim Mullaney - - July 27, 2012 - The U.S. economy slowed in the spring, with second-quarter growth barely half the pace it hit late last year, the government reported today....                     
Gross domestic product grew at an annual rate of 1.5% between April and June, down from 2.0% in the first quarter and 4.1% late last year.....                           More cautious consumers were the main reason. Consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of the economy, grew by 1.5% compared with 2.4% in the first quarter.......                       The report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis appears to include signs that other forces, from Europe's financial crisis to the impending "fiscal cliff" of tax-cut expirations and new spending cuts due to take effect Jan. 1, are also slowing the economy......                           Coming amid other signs of a weakening economy, the latest GDP report will increase attention on next week's meeting of Federal Reserve policymakers and what further steps the Fed might take to stimulate the economy..........                    Many economists believe the Fed will launch another round of bond buying at its September policy meeting. The aim is to drive long-term interest rates lower and encourage more borrowing and spending.

Economy: The U.S. Retail Collapse Accelerates - ETF Daily news - July 25, 2012 - Jeff Nielson: Less than two weeks ago I wrote “Crash Warning.” It outlined the current economic parameters of the global economy and explained that we were careening toward a particular form of economic Armageddon which I believe was first described by John Williams of, when he coined the phrase “hyperinflationary depression” nearly a decade ago....                         The debt-laden, fraud-saturated paper Ponzi-schemes of Western bankers are now all about to implode in a deflationary (debt-default) collapse – most notably all their fraud-bonds. Simultaneously, the rabidly excessive money-printing of these reckless gamblers is causing (and will cause) the prices for hard assets (i.e. assets which actually have value) to spiral upward, with the most likely final destination being hyperinflation......                     Because that previous commentary was describing a global economic paradigm, my analysis was necessarily abbreviated with respect to the apex of all economic ills: the United States. In particular, I spent less than a paragraph discussing the collapse of the retail sector in the world’s largest economy – a consumer economy....                      Before we examine this train-wreck directly, let’s take a moment to define the backbone of this consumer economy: the American consumer. The two charts below should be very familiar to regular readers, and describe the American consumer in stark but precise terms: poor and/or unemployed.


We see two things in the chart above on average American wages. First we see how (in real dollars) wages for the average U.S. worker have been falling steadily for more than 40 years. Those wages have now fallen by more than 50%, all the way down to the same levels as during the Great Depression. And we see how the U.S. government’s lies about inflation have almost entirely concealed this relentless collapse in wages. How convenient........                       Meanwhile, we see the percentage of Americans who are actually working also plummeting downward, to a 30-year low. The collapse in wages has been accompanied by a collapse in employment levels. Combined, it translates into a collapse in consumer purchasing power of well in excess of 50%.

Break Up Big Banks, Says Mega-Bank Pioneer - ABC News - July 26, 2012 - It’s nothing less than a remarkable about-face. One of the architects of mega banking is now calling for the breakup of the world’s largest banks. Sandy Weill, formerly CEO of Citigroup, told CNBC: “What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking, have banks be the deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail.” ........                      In the late ’90′s Weill was a global banking pioneer, building Citi into a financial supermarket. Now “I am suggesting that they be broken up so that the taxpayer will never be at risk,” said Weill, adding his voice to a growing chorus of regulators, and financial experts........                              “Our system has been hijacked and we need to change it,” says Neil Barofsky, former special inspector general in charge of oversight of TARP. Breaking up the banks, says Barofsky, “is widely accepted.” Barofsky, who makes his case in the new book, “Bailout,” claims “the only people who have not accepted this it seems like is the big banks themselves and the politicians they seem to affectively control in Washington.”

Stephen Roach Smokes Crack-Addicted Market "QE3 Is Not Going To Work" - Tyler Durden - July 25, 2012 - Is it any wonder that Stephen Roach is now ex-Morgan Stanley? Today's brilliant truthiness in his interview on Bloomberg TV is an absolute must-watch as the veteran market practitioner notes that the Fed is forced to act next week and while consumers are telling you that they want to pay down debt - which all the monetray stimulus in the world is not going to change - that QE is nothing but crack to a ridiculously addicted market. With 70% of the US economy in a balance sheet recession, the Fed knows this (which he notes is now run by WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath since what he prints must be adhered to by Ben for fear of market disappointment) and is "dangling QE in front of the markets like raw meat - but it has not worked and it will not work!" But critically, he believes, the euphoric response of markets will be tempered since they have become "used to the fact that all of this unconventional monetary easing by the central bank is just not what it is supposed to be."

New-Home Sales Drop 8.4% as Weak Growth May Slow Housing Recovery - MarketWatch - Jeffry Bartash - July 25, 2012 - Sales of new houses fell 8.4% in June after reaching a two-year high in May, suggesting that the slowdown in the U.S. economy might be making buyers more cautious.                        Sales declined to an annual rate of 350,000 in June and median prices of new homes also fell to the lowest level since January, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday.
Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast sales to rise to a 375,000 rate last month.              The pullback in June, however, was largely offset by a bigger increase in transactions in May than originally reported. Sales in May were revised up to an annual rate of 382,000 — the highest level since April 2010 — from 369,000. Sales in April were also revised higher.

100 Million Poor People In America And 39 Other Facts About Poverty That Will Blow Your Mind - The Economic Collapse Blog - Every single day more Americans fall into poverty.  This should deeply alarm you no matter what political party you belong to and no matter what your personal economic philosophy is.  Right now, approximately 100 million Americans are either "poor" or "near poor".  For a lot of people "poverty" can be a nebulous concept, so let's define it.  The poverty level as defined by the federal government in 2010 was $11,139 for an individual and $22,314 for a family of four.  Could you take care of a family of four on less than $2000 a month?  Millions upon millions of families are experiencing a tremendous amount of pain in this economy, and no matter what "solutions" we think are correct, the reality is that we all should have compassion on them.  Sadly, things are about to get even worse.  The next major economic downturn is rapidly approaching, and when it hits the statistics posted below are going to look even more horrendous.
When it comes to poverty, most Americans immediately want to get into debates about tax rates and wealth redistribution and things like that.                    But the truth is that they are missing the main point.                 The way we slice up the pie is not going to solve our problems, because the pie is constantly getting smaller.                      Our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted, the U.S. dollar is slowly losing its status as the reserve currency of the world and we are steadily getting poorer as a nation.                     Don't be fooled by the government statistics that show a very small amount of "economic growth".  Those figures do not account for inflation.                          After accounting for inflation, our economic growth has actually been negative all the way back into the middle of the last decade.                  According to numbers compiled by John Williams of, our "real GDP" has continually been negative since 2005.                 So that means we are getting poorer as a nation.                     Meanwhile, we have been piling up astounding amounts of debt.                40 years ago the total amount of debt in the United States (government, business and consumer) was less than 2 trillion dollars.                         Today it is nearly 55 trillion dollars.                    So we have a massive problem.                 Our economic pie is shrinking and millions of Americans have been falling out of the middle class.  Meanwhile, we have been piling up staggering amounts of debt in order to maintain our vastly inflated standard of living.  As our economic problems get even worse, those trends are going to accelerate even more.
So don't look down on the poor.  You might be joining them a lot sooner than you might think.
The following are 40 facts about poverty in America that will blow your mind.... (Follow the Link to the 39 facts).

The Creature from Jekyll Island - G Edward Griffin -
Harry Reid has promised that there will not be a vote in the Senate for 'Audit the Fed', despite his past support for an audit in 1995. Contact Harry Reid now, and tell him to AUDIT THE FED: 202-224-3542. In addition call your senators and tell them to vote to Audit The Fed!

FAIR USE NOTICE: This video may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only. This constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Meeting about the True Ward system -- July 28, 2012

I will be there to listen at 2pm at the Patrick Beaver Library. Hope you will be. People coming together with an open mind. The new Hickory being built on a solid foundation and inclusive to all people and ideas. How refreshing. I will report on the proceedings for those who can't make it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Box

I went to a meeting, which was basically a brainstorming session last week. This meeting was a give and take discussion that attempted to discuss the issues of where we are in Hickory and Catawba County and what's it going to take to kickstart the area back towards economic progress and prosperity.

I thought that much of the discussion was very constructive.  There were some things that I really to my core disagreed with, but most of what was discussed was on target. What disappointed me a little was that it seems like we are still talking about issues from three and four years ago and some of the ideas were firmly entrenched with what I perceive as an inside the box perspective. I mean people were still talking about the four year university thing. Might as well talk about Santa Claus while we're at it.

I interjected a point about the lack of capital in our area and the mediator of the discussion asked if there was a lack of capital and some people chimed in that there wasn't a lack of capital, but a lack of access to capital. Well, I'm sitting there thinking, what the heck did they think I was talking about. I know that you can call these empty buildings sitting along the railroad tracks a capital investment, but do they have any substantial current value and is their value increasing as we speak? Under current economic conditions can you turn them into substantial cash assets?

Of course I was talking about the lack of access to credit. I personally know businesses that had credit lines that were cut off even though they were in good standing. I know people and businesses that can't get a loan without putting up substantial amounts of assets or equity, in comparison to the loan amount, as collateral. That makes it hard to get new businesses, or ventures, off the ground. There is no guaranteed investment in a good or bad economy. There is always risk associated with any investment, but it sure seems that investors demand guaranteed results these days in a manner that they didn't demand in the past. There was an excellent comment made that Historical Regional Capital is gun shy and shell shocked! And I believe that comment cut right to the core of the biggest issue we face in this community, when it comes to getting back on track economically.

Another excellent point was made that we have lost the Old Timey paternalism, where business leaders used to take care of the community and their employees. Local industry used to be family owned. During the Depression of the 1930s, this area weathered the storm better than others, because business owners took care of the community and invested in the community. It is my personal perception that this is true. I was taught an abbreviation a few years ago, TFB; which stands for Trust Fund Baby. These are people who inherited property, assets, and income associated with people who owned major companies. Many of these TFBs of late haven't seen any worth in investing in this community and many of them have left town and cut all ties with the area. Many of the abandoned buildings in the area are associated with TFBs who have an out of sight, out of mind attitude towards their financial interests/obligations towards this community.

There was a summation that some of our economic woes are self perpetuating. We dug ourselves into an economic hole and it's hard not to keep digging sometimes. If we were more positive that things will get better. I look at some of the current marketing initiatives that have so far failed to gain traction. I will be told that they need more time. I'm looking at traction and momentum and there currently is none. I talked with a friend about what this marketing campaign is all about. It is about instilling confidence. But, the people behind this campaign have to be very careful, because those who push confidence without substance (delivering goals/accountability) are eventually looked upon as confidence men -- ie Con Men -- and this leads to a loss of trust and hampers any such efforts in the future. We have to demand tangibility and accountability.

I think I have proven myself to be a patient man and I am patient about all of these initiatives, but we need some definable goals. Some of the statistics I hear cited are based upon government numbers that we know are cooked. The real unemployment rate is not 8.1% nationally or 10.5% here in Catawba County. The real numbers are much higher than that. I can speak of people I know who are late fiftyish to sixty-something and could work, but are unemployed, as in not earning income from employment and they are not counted in these stats. Or what about sole-proprietors whose businesses are no longer viable. There are a lot of folks out there like this or caught in the crossfire in some other manner.

People say things aren't that bad. In the Great Depression there were soup lines and people were starving. The modern day soup kitchen is the WIC food program (Food Stamps). If this program weren't there, and I am not an advocate per se, but these people would be forming the soup kitchen line or starving.

Here is a look at the civil labor force here in Catawba County -

The statistics above do not show progress in employment. Since 2009, the civilian labor force has actually dropped by over 3,000 people. That is 3,000 people that aren't working. In February 2001, the labor force was 82,245 people in Catawba County. Now it is 73,250. That is the lowest number since May 1991 (although the numbers were similar all the way up until 1994).

I just go by the numbers. I do gain value in what these guys say. I get the perspective of people who live inside the box. I told Harry, who was present at this meeting, that I got the feeling that most of that discussion was "Inside the Box" talk and wondered why they were still looking to the box to solve the problems we face. Harry said it is because they own the box. That was a simple, but enlightening, comment. The problem that we face here in Hickory and Catawba County is that the decision makers have a vested interest in protecting the current system (the box) that brought them to power and continues to empower them.

It reminds me of a meeting a year and a half ago where a participant stated that he liked Hickory as it is. Yeah, we have some problems, but it's coming back. We just need to tweak a few things. Hickory was great back in the 1960s. We just need to get back to that. That is pretty much the gyst of what a lot of our older citizens in the community believe. Now, think about being African-American or Hispanic and some semi-retired business owner on cruise control is telling you that we just need to go back to the 1960s or even 1950s. That would scare me to death, wouldn't it you?

No, I believe that we need to move towards the modern realities of the 21st century. I have heard talk about helping and protecting existing local businesses. I hope to god we aren't talking about a bailout for these folks. If directing capital towards existing businesses were the answer, then we wouldn't be in the shape that we are in today. What we need to do is work towards starting new businesses and industries in our area. I'm not saying that we should abandon existing business, but I don't see where we get by funneling resources their way, when I haven't seen any accountability mechanisms built into these processes yet.

You know these businessmen, that were at this meeting and others like this, are looked at as being stakeholders and so their thoughts are brought to the front of the table, but as someone pointed out, look at the lack of diversity in that room and look at the age. I think that it will take a generation to fully fix the current and near term issues we face. In a generation, I will be 65 years old and many of the people in that room will be upwards of 80 years old. All of these instituted policies are going to affect people who are kids today. We need to think about their interests and not our own. They are the true stakeholders of these initiatives, aren't they?

Maybe I'm wrong. It is just my personal perspective, but it seems that much of the leadership in our community are stuck with mindsets cemented in the realities of today and this contorts their vision of what is headed our way in the future. We need to think about what the pertinent issues are going to be down the road and create objectives and figure out endeavors to address the issues we face 5, 10, 20 years down the road.  If we do this, we can get ahead of the curve and wholly profit by doing so.

I do believe that we can get back on the road to growth, sooner rather than later, but we have dug a deep hole and it is going to take time to get back to prosperity. People are seeing their resources dwindle and they don't like it. Most people are looking towards stop gap measures, not real growth. I just don't see substantial growth happening in the short term... would be awesome, but it isn't realistic. If there are short term fixes, then by all means let's do it; but in the end, we need to fix the systemic issues that we face and you and I know that is a long haul. But, what is certain is that we have to have a community wide effort to move forward and the sooner, the better.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

We've got your back Ulysses

When it comes to our friend Ulysses Long's performance last night on America's Got Talent, most of my friends and family are truly upset with the way that he was treated by NBC. No, they shouldn't lay out a red carpet for him to the finals, but I think a lot of what happened last night could be laid at the feet of the Producers of that show.

The Ulysses I know isn't a TV theme show singer. He has a repertoire of thousands of songs. And he uses instruments as melody, not as the primary focus of his performance. The music drowned out his voice and the dancers detracted from who Ulysses really is. The only mistakes I saw that had anything to do with Ulysses choices were the Hair thing and the suit. Sorry, but that suit was not Ulysses. If it were up to me, and I know it isn't, He'd have worn a flat black silk suit with a white shirt and black tie and he would have been singing a soft melody from Paul McCartney or something more uptempo from Stevie Wonder or Billy Preston.

Howie Mandel is the one that pushed this whole  TV show theme from the beginning. He isn't a novelty act and that is what is being foisted on the public. Ulysses was great in that first show, because he was allowed to present himself without preconceived notions of who he is. Ulysses is a tender, compassionate, lovable person and he is a man who can think for himself and he doesn't need to be handled by a bunch of clowns and the producers last night did not present the Ulysses Long that we all know and love. They don't know him and we do. You saw the real  Ulysses when they critiqued him at the end. He stood there and took it like a man.

This thing isn't necessarily over. There was voting and maybe he made it through, because he really wasn't all that bad and the viewers have a lot of input in that show. If it is over, Ulysses can come on home and we will show him the love he deserves, because as we have already said, we've got your back.

Ulysses can go to facebook and other sites and see all of the people who have expressed their support and he has that to fall back on the rest of his life. Ulysses is always a winner with us!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Catawba County Board of Elections accepts City's Referendum Date and Language - July 24, 2012

Today the Catawba County Board of Elections accepted the City's Election Date and Language for the upcoming Referendum on Ward Specific voting. The Date is set for Sepember 18th with early voting beginning August 30th. Last day for voter registration so you would be eligible for this issue is August 24th.

I asked the question about if the language for the referendum had already been written, the answer was no. Further, I asked who would write the language and the answer was that the City would write the language. I asked about challenging such language if need be. Mr. Hood stated that they were not there to give legal advice, which was understood, but stated that would be a question to ask the CEG attorney. There was also a discussion about PAC's directly pertaining to the financial support and advocacy of this issue.

For the document below, Click on the document, then right click view document, the click the magnifier. Or you can CTRL+ the original screen to magnify.

Referendum Language

Referendum Calendar

Add caption

Referendum Precincts

1967 Charter Change to Modified At-Large System

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Realities of the Hickory Marketplace - Silence DoGood

1. Falling Back on What you Know. The Cheap China market is falling apart. While the labor was cheap, the end product coming out of that market was even cheaper in material and workmanship. I’m talking specifically about furniture. The area was one of the largest furniture manufacturing regions in the world and it was known for that. That base was built over time and utilized semi-skilled labor to produce. The infrastructure for that base still exists in the buildings and the people who can still produce those products. How does that help the region and the people? Not a great deal except that it does put people back to work. Furniture would be a decent manufacturing base for the region again.. if the people that owned it didn’t try to short shift people on wages. Pay a decent wage. Pay what the job is worth, not what you can get by paying. Does it add to your production costs? Less than you might think and the stability and demand for quality would make the price factor negligible. I’m not arguing for or against, it is an option. From reading between the lines of what has been written on The Hound, I’ve got a feeling those speaking in meetings you have attended might be thinking along the same lines of what I just said, or perhaps a variation of it. I’ll also bet you they are planning on taking advantage of the depressed conditions to pay just as little as they can. That is merely going to start the cycle again.

2. Change isn’t Cheap. The people have been forced, for lack of opportunity, investment, or anything else, to educate themselves for jobs that haven’t really materialized. So they’ve been trained for careers that aren’t available, unless you trained in the medical field. So in that regard, here is where investment is crucial. So while those that made money here off the conditions that were prevalent, they have made no investment, no diversification, and no plans to do so. They have elected to wait. Change from the outside? Can you remember when there was no chain restaurant in Hickory? I mean National Chain, not local or regional. McDonald’s at South Center and US 70 was the first. I guess we could say Dairy Queen on 1st Avenue was, but it is unique in that they use DQ merchandising, but I don’t know how embedded they are in the chain. My point here is, Hickory is very isolationist. Change, from an outside change agent, won’t be forthcoming, the insiders won’t allow it. That goes back to what you said in your comment and what Harry confirmed. (The Hound: There were chains here in Hickory in the 1970s, but they were nowhere near as prevalent as they are today. Before McDonald's was Hardee's and Holly Farm's Chicken out here at Spring's road and there was Burger Chef and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Viewmont - speaking of which, remember the arguments about widening 127 in Viewmont in the late 1970s?)

3. Entrepreneurial Enterprise. Just like furniture and socks, it won’t sustain a regional economy by itself, in my opinion. An active and viable aspect? Certainly. An amalgam of niche ventures that fulfill needs, supply products, and perform services that a broad industrial base can’t satisfy, but through existence, creates the demand for those kinds of needs, products, and services.

4. Our region has never been big on brain power. Sad, but true. There have always been intelligent and smart people here. Tragically, intelligence didn’t fit the mold for what those in power wanted to accomplish. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” - Upton Sinclair. The Captains of Industry that shaped the basis of what Hickory, Catawba County, and the Catawba Valley was to become ensured their steps were firm based upon everyone else’s being shaky, albeit slightly slippery. Those that recognized the tenets of that premise upon which everything was based left to go where they could make a decent living and wage. They took their intellectual capabilities with them. Why give back to an area that has no interest in you, what you can give, and values you at a subsistence rate with no prospect of success?

5. No Skilled Trades or Heavy Industry. Machinists, metal smiths, skilled trades, master carpenters, master cabinetmakers, actual mechanics and not technicians. These folks, blue collar, knowledgeable, skilled with their hands and their heads. They don’t exist in Hickory for the most part. These people were/are the crux of the middle class in most of America. The majority of these people would be small business owners, or worked their way into the trade through apprenticeship if not trade school. Sure there are a few, but disproportionate to the population.

6. Political and Industrial Overlap. Those in charge of business also seem to be in charge of the politics. Consequently, that means those holding the money run things. How convenient can that be and protectionist! Let me count the ways! Those being elected to be representative are certainly not representative of the majority of the population. They can’t be elected though without the votes of those they hold in contempt, except during election cycles.

Just some thoughts. I’ve been thinking quite a bit of late, I just haven’t written a lot. Sorry about that. I didn't post this under comments, because I didn't want to generate a lot of outside distractions. Take care and best wishes always.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

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

12 Signs That The Next Recession In The United States Has Already Begun - The Economic Collapse Blog - Michael Snyder - Is the U.S. economy in a recession right now? Has the next recession in the United States already begun? Unfortunately, there are a lot of economic numbers that are pointing in that direction. U.S. retail sales have fallen for three months in a row, U.S. manufacturing activity is contracting and there are numerous indications that the labor market is getting weaker. Of course there are some economists that will argue that we never even left the last recession. For example, the percentage of working age Americans with jobs fell from above 63 percent in 2007 to under 59 percent during the last recession. Since the end of the last recession, that number has not gotten back above 59 percent. In fact, it has been below 59 percent for 34 months in a row. In addition, we have continued to see poverty and government dependence steadily rise during this "economic recovery". Since Barack Obama became president, the number of Americans living in poverty has risen by 6 million and the number of Americans on food stamps has risen by 14 million. So it would be really hard to argue with anyone that wants to say that the last recession never really ended. However, the latest economic numbers indicate that things are about to get even worse for the U.S. economy, and that is not good news at all. The following are 12 signs that the next recession in the United States has already begun....

#1 U.S. retail sales have declined for three months in a row, and that is a very bad sign.
#2 Manufacturing activity in the mid-Atlantic region has declined for three months in a row.
#3 Overall, the U.S. manufacturing sector contracted last month for the first time in almost three years.
#4 Sales of previously occupied homes dropped by 5.4 percent during June.
#5 Initial claims for unemployment benefits rose to 386,000 last week
#6 According to one survey, only 23 percent of all U.S. businesses plan to hire more workers over the next 6 months.
#7 The Philadelphia Fed's employment index indicates that there is bad news ahead for the labor market....
#8 Unless Congress acts, the U.S. Postal Service is going to financially default for the first time ever on August 1st.
#9 The Conference Board's index of leading economic indicators fell by 0.3 percent in June.
#10 A Washington Post survey from April shows that 76% of Americans believe that the U.S. is still in a recession.
#11 According to AARP, 600,000 American homeowners that are 50 years of age or older are currently in foreclosure.
#12 The unemployment rate in New York City is now back up to 10 percent.

63% of laid off South Florida workers forced to live off retirement savings, new study finds - Sun Sentinel (Miami, Florida) - Donna Gehrke-White - July 19, 2012 - Some laid-off South Floridians are going to social service agencies, complaining they have raided savings and retirement accounts just to stay afloat – a trend seen nationally.                 Almost two thirds of laid-off workers who had a 401(k) retirement account at their last employer withdrew money to pay bills, according to a nationwide survey by the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.                   The survey found middle-aged displaced workers are at the greatest risk because of their low amount of retirement savings. Those in their 40s and 50s had only an estimated median retirement savings of $2,300 left in their 401k accounts, according to the survey. The average 401k balance is $71,500, up from about $50,000 when the stock market tanked in 2008 during the onset of the Great Recession, according to Fidelity, one of the largest 401k providers.              South Florida social workers say they have had to teach many of the jobless how to apply for food stamps and obtain other services after they have exhausted savings while trying to find new work. The job search can take months – if not years. There are more than 5 million long-term unemployed in the United States who have been looking for work for 27 weeks or more......

More Americans Put Off Medical Care as Costs Rise - CNBC - Jennifer Leigh Parker - July 21, 2012 - The sluggish economy is prompting more Americans to put off medical tests, prescriptions and so-called elective procedures-like knee or hip replacements-and related health care companies are feeling the pain.                 Many patients are deciding to delay testing or treatment either because they lack insurance, face higher out-of-pocket costs or are afraid to take time off work, health care analysts say. .....                                               Bird says both doctors and patients are cutting back as new rules from Obamacare-formally known as the Affordable Care Act - have everyone more concerned about rising costs.                    The impact was clear this past week when companies that specialize in diagnostics (the industry's broad term for disease detection and treatment) reported disappointing earnings. Orthopedic implant maker Stryker (SYK) posted second-quarter earnings that fell short of analysts' expectations. The company attributed the miss to a weaker euro, which hurt overseas sales.

Student loan defaults mimic subprime woes, study shows - NBC News -July 20, 2012 - Borrowers who took out private student loans in the run-up to the financial crisis are facing higher levels of default, reflecting the risky lending practices at the time, the Obama administration said in a new report.                The Department of Education and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said private lenders have since cleaned up some of the worst activities, but lawmakers should still work to improve the private loan market and enhance protections for students.               CFPB Director Richard Cordray said.                               Student loans fall into two main categories: Loans directly from the government and those offered by banks and other private financial companies. The report focused on private student loans, which spiked from $5 billion in loans originated in 2001 to more than $20 billion in 2008. After the financial crisis, as lending standards tightened, the market shrank to $6 billion in 2011.                         The report said students taking out private loans may not have fully understood the loans they chose and may have unnecessarily been subjected to more expensive terms.                       The two agencies said they were required by the Dodd-Frank financial oversight law to study the private student loan market and determine if gaps existed in consumer protection.                Federal and private loans do not have to be repaid while the borrower is in school, and both types offer deferment for students seeking post-graduate degrees. But unlike some private loans, federal loans have fixed interest rates and offer adjustments for borrowers who struggle to make payments.                Companies also gave loans to borrowers with lower credit scores during that period, the report said.                    Student loan defaults have since risen, likely due to risky lending as well as a weak labor market. There are now more than $8 billion in defaulted private loans, or 850,000 distinct loans in default.                           "Subprime-style lending went to college, and now students are paying the price," said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, whose department produced the report.                       Duncan said the government must do more to ensure that people who received private loans enjoy the same protections as those who borrow from the federal government.                After 2008, lenders began requiring co-signers for more loans, increased school involvement in securing private loans and tightened credit standards for loans, the report said.
Cordray and Duncan said Congress should step in to prevent private lending from growing risky again in the future. They want lawmakers to ensure that schools are involved in the private student loan process and find ways to offer relief to struggling recipients of private loans.                Congress should take a special look at a 2005 change to bankruptcy law that makes it more difficult to get out of private student loans, Cordray said. The change has not resulted in lower prices or better access and should be revisited, he said.                       Duncan said his department plans to release a financial aid "shopping sheet" that schools can provide to help students and parents understand the aid and loan packages available to them.                        "What we don't want ... is for a student to feel like the first time they really understood how much debt they were in was when the first bill arrived," Duncan said.          (Study: Student loans went to people who couldn't repay -  Daniel Wagner, Associated Press through USA Today - July 20, 2012)

What Recovery? Home Prices May Hit Roadblock Soon
- CNBC _- Diana Olick - July 12, 2012 - The recent growth in U.S. home prices may hit a roadblock in the coming months, thanks to a new supply of distressed properties hitting the market.                          Banks are moving more delinquent loans through the pipeline at a faster pace, according to a new report released Thursday by foreclosure sale website RealtyTrac. The number of homes starting the foreclosure process for the first time grew for the second month in a row on an annual basis.                    Just over one million properties received some kind of foreclosure filing in the first half of this year, an increase of two percent from the previous six months, according to RealtyTrac.                       The numbers are still down 11 percent from a year ago, largely because banks were still in settlement talks over the so-called, “robo-signing” foreclosure paperwork scandal. After a $25 billion settlement early this year, the banks began moving loans again.                         While negative equity is largely centered in the sand states (California, Nevada, Arizona, Florida), other states are not immune. 37 percent of borrowers in Georgia are “underwater” on their mortgages, 35 percent in Michigan and 28 percent in Illinois. Negative equity prevents many borrowers from refinancing their loans to today’s record low rates. The 30 year fixed rate mortgage fell to just 3.56 percent on the Freddie Mac weekly survey.
Borrowers in a negative equity position are also more likely to default on their mortgages.  While new delinquencies have been falling, lackluster growth in the job market puts that improvement in a precarious position. The new wave of foreclosures hitting the market will likely turn home prices down again before they can hit a real bottom.                        Investors in distressed properties, hoping to cash in on the hot rental market, have been frustrated lately at the current lack of supply of foreclosed homes for sale. That, in turn, has pushed home prices higher, as they compete for this small supply. So much of the current market has been made up of these sales, that this supply drain could cause a big drop in overall home sales over the summer.                  Home prices on a national level may look as if they’re growing, simply because the share of distressed homes selling will drop and the share of non-distressed, higher priced properties, will grow, skewing the averages artificially. We saw that in the National Association of Realtors’ May home sales report.                                   If this theory holds, their June report could show a big drop in sales and a rise in prices, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this housing market is unlike any other.

Market-Rigging and Price-Fixing - Daily Reckoning - Eric Fry - Laguna Beach, California - July 19, 2012 - “Markets are so rigged by policymakers that I have no meaningful insights to offer.”
That’s what Nomura International’s Investment Strategist, Bob Janjuah, griped five months ago.               Since then, policymakers have stepped up their market-rigging, while new revelations of past market-rigging have also come to light.                  It’s starting to feel like the financial markets are all rigging and no ship.                    “I am simply stunned that our policymakers seem so one-dimensional, so short-termist, and so utterly bereft of courage or ideas,” Janjuah remarked last February. “It now seems obvious that in response to the financial crisis that has been with us for five years and counting, we are being told to double up on these same policy decisions [that have failed]. The crisis was caused by central bankers mispricing the cost of capital, which forced a misallocation of capital, driven by debt/leverage, which was ultimately exposed as a hideous asset bubble which then collapsed, destroying the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of relatively innocent people.”                 For many years, the Federal Reserve dabbled from time to time in the Treasury market. But almost never in large size or for very long. After the 2008 crisis, the game changed. The Fed aggressively ramped up its purchases of Treasurys — initially in an effort to provide liquidity to the financial sector and later to suppress interest rates [i.e. fix prices].                       The Fed conducted these purchases via its infamous “Quantitative Easing” initiatives, followed up by “Operation Twist.” At the end of all this easing and twisting, the Fed became the largest single holder of Treasury Securities — even larger than China, the former #1.

The Libor Scandal In Full Perspective - Paul Craig Roberts - July 19, 2012 - The article about the Libor scandal, coauthored with Nomi Prins, received much attention, with Internet repostings, foreign translation, and video interviews. To further clarify the situation, this article brings to the forefront implications that might not be obvious to those without insider experience and knowledge.                              The price of Treasury bonds is supported by the Federal Reserve’s large purchases. The Federal Reserve’s purchases are often misread as demand arising from a “flight to quality” due to concern about the EU sovereign debt problem and possible failure of the euro.                   Another rationale used to explain the demand for Treasuries despite their negative yield is the “flight to safety.” A 2% yield on a Treasury bond is less of a negative interest rate than the yield of a few basis points on a bank CD, and the US government, unlike banks, can use its central bank to print the money to pay off its debts.                As the Federal Reserve can create money, theoretically the Federal Reserve’s prop-up schemes could continue until the Federal Reserve owns all dollar-denominated financial assets. To cover the holes in its own balance sheet, the Federal Reserve could just print more money....                   Some suspect that the Federal Reserve, in order to forestall a declining dollar and thus declining prices of dollar-denominated financial instruments, is behind the sales of naked shorts every time demand for physical bullion drives up the price of gold and silver. The short sales--paper sales--cancel the impact on price of the increased demand for bullion.                   Some also believe that they see the Federal Reserve’s hand in the stock market. One day stocks fall 200 points. The next day stocks rise 200 points. This up and down pattern has been ongoing for a long time. One possible explanation is that as wary investors sell their equity holdings, the Federal Reserve, or the “plunge protection team,” steps in and buys.            Just as the “terrorist threat” was used to destroy the laws that protect US civil liberty, the financial crisis has resulted in the Federal Reserve moving far outside its charter and normal operating behavior.              To sum up, what has happened is that irresponsible and thoughtless--in fact, ideological--deregulation of the financial sector has caused a financial crisis that can only be managed by fraud. Civil damages might be paid, but to halt the fraud itself would mean the collapse of the financial system. Those in charge of the system would prefer the collapse to come from outside, such as from a collapse in the value of the dollar that could be blamed on foreigners, because an outside cause gives them something to blame other than themselves.

Ex-FDIC Chief Bair: Geithner-Led Fed Didn’t Do Enough in Libor Scandal - Newsmax (Money News) - Forrest Jones - July 20, 2012 - Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner should have probed banks more for allegedly fixing interest rates when he was head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York back in 2008, said Sheila Bair, former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.                     "Looking at those emails, it looks like they had pretty explicit notification of some very bad behavior, and I don't understand why they didn't investigate," Bair told CNBC.              "I think they deserve some credit for trying to suggest some reforms. Even those reforms did not attack the core problem, which was that it wasn't a transaction-based survey. It was a judgment survey. But I don't understand they didn't investigate given what they were being told. I don't understand it, and they did have the authority to do that."

Failing to Break Up the Big Banks is Destroying America - Zero Hedge - George Washington's Blog - July 22, 2012 - ... Indeed, the Obama administration has made it official policy not to prosecute fraud.                    Top economists, on the other hand, completely contradict Geithner and the rest of the administration ... saying that fraud caused the Great Depression and the current financial crisis, and that the economy will never recover until fraud is prosecuted.                  Top economists and experts on fraud say that fraud is not only widespread, it is actually the business model adopted by the giant banks. See this, this, this, this, this and this.                 Therefore, unless the big banks are broken up, financial fraud will grow exponentially like cancer, and the economy will be destroyed.         Their Size Allows Them to Rig the Market              - The "father of free market economics" - Adam Smith - knew that monopolies hurt the economy.                  As the Libor scandal shows, the size and concentration of the biggest banks allows them to commit massive manipulation in the world's biggest markets, and to engage in insider trading on a scale never before seen in history.               In addition, Richard Alford – former New York Fed economist, trading floor economist and strategist – showed that banks that get too big benefit from “information asymmetry” which disrupts the free market.                      Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz noted in September that giants like Goldman are using their size to manipulate the market.                                       The giants (especially Goldman Sachs) have also used high-frequency program trading which not only distorted the markets – making up more than 70% of stock trades – but which also let the program trading giants take a sneak peak at what the real (aka “human”) traders are buying and selling, and then trade on the insider information. See this, this, this, this and this. (This is frontrunning, which is illegal; but it is a lot bigger than garden variety frontrunning, because the program traders are not only trading based on inside knowledge of what their own clients are doing, they are also trading based on knowledge of what all other traders are doing).                       Goldman also admitted that its proprietary trading program can “manipulate the markets in unfair ways”. The giant banks have also allegedly used their Counterparty Risk Management Policy Group (CRMPG) to exchange secret information and formulate coordinated mutually beneficial actions, all with the government’s blessings.                      In other words, a handful of giants doing it, it can manipulate the entire economy in ways which are not good for the American citizen.                     And the political system. No wonder Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman thinks that we have to break up the big banks to stop their domination of the political process............

Matt Taibbi : LiborGate Explained

Matt Taibbi talks about the Libor Scandal at NatGat : LiborGate is the nickname given to the largest Bankster fraud perpetrated upon the entire planet. Rolling Stones Financial Reporter Matt Taibbi stated, "Because the scale is just mind-boggling. Every town and municipality in America probably has investment holdings that are pegged to LIBOR. I think The Wall Street Journal calculated $800 trillion of financial products. So if there's cartel-style corruption that is affecting the LIBOR rate, it is just impossible to imagine a financial corruption scandal that is bigger in scope than this." This is not just a crisis, or a's the greatest fraud every perpetrated. Period. Every American needs to understand what is happening, especially if you dislike hearing the "boring financial stuff , The people who are sucking our system dry are counting on the masses to be ignorant about their outright thievery. Their jargon is a disguise. The mask needs to be removed and the monster beneath must be killed if we are to survive. There are 7 billion people on this planet. The Banksters are outnumbered. It's time for us to overwhelm them with people-power.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Money Tree of Hickory Politics

I debate with myself constantly whether I want to display the list of contributors who brought certain people to office in the local area. It is these people's right to support whomever they wish and I harbor no ill will towards people making political investments in the system afforded them. As much as it is their right to make these political investments, it is my right to go research the public information records and see if it tells a story and it certainly does. If I need to show the information in this forum I will, but what the information shows is that it only takes the support of a few wealthy contributors to buy ones way into office. But the question becomes whose interest are you representing? And who controls the city?

That is one of the reasons why we are pushing this Ward Specific system. The average person cannot afford $10,000 to run a City Wide campaign against people who hold office for 3, 4, or 5+ terms. I know through the experience of campaigns in the past that it is very difficult to get ones message out. The local radio station and newspaper are only going to afford you one small chance to get your message out and most local groups won't sponsor a debate unless it is a member of the organization or represents their specific interests. Yard signs don't do squat to help one gain name recognition or get a message out. They are necessary wasted money. You have to have them, because your opponent has them, but they aren't going to help beat a recognized name without a vigorous discussion of issues.

The Ward Specific voting process will empower the local neighborhood associations. The areas that don't currently have them will see the necessity of them going forward should this referendum pass. Jill Patton and Sally Fox have stated many times the importance of the function of these Associations.  With these meetings, you can attend and speak to specific issues involving the immediate vicinity of where you live. Well, these associations don't currently have teeth, because the alders aren't tied to their area. You can guarantee if this referendum passes that your ward representative will attend these meetings, because if they don't, then they won't be reelected. And at these meetings they will have to have dialogue with their constituents about the ward's best interests.

These neighborhood associations will hold debates when the election cycle rolls around. In a town of 40,000 people you can't get enough signs out there throughout the city. That is $1,000 to $2,000. You can't get to the people of the entire city. In a ward of 6,700, you can meet most of the people. People are more likely to personally recognize you. And at the same time, you are going to have to have a better critical thinking process to discuss the issues of your ward constituency versus the overall interests of the City at large. It will bring governance back to the wards. It will be cheaper and less time consuming to run a campaign and get your message out there. You can go door to door in a ward. This renewed Democratic process will enable better ideas to rise to the top through citizen input. Is it good to only have wealthy people representing this city? Isn't it time for a broader perspective?

The ward specific system will lead to better city council meetings with more vigorous discussion, questioning, and give and take. The Ward Specific Representatives are still going to represent the City as a whole. The Council will have to be more professional in their performance standards and engagement with City Staff. This system will demand more vigorous discussions with the staff and fellow council members about how the specific ward's needs fit into the City's overall plans and objectives.

I have seen where the Mayor is campaigning on the issue through facebook; good for him. He has been the lead opposition on this issue. Funny thing is that it doesn't affect Hickory's Mayoral electoral process, because he would still be elected throughout the city, but it will most certainly affect the way a mayor governs and brings the mayor position more responsibility. Right now the Mayor is only a glorified Council member. The True Ward System would empower the Mayor, while at the same time demanding a Mayor that can bring people together through positive coalescing. I would hope that the Mayor would come out from the shadows and debate this issue in public, if he feels that strongly about it, and I think it is high time that current council members state their positions.

I would like to reiterate, all we are trying to do is make participation in local government more user friendly. Whether you are Black, White, Rich, Poor, Woman, Man, Baptist, Lutheran, or whatever, it isn't about labels. It is about the stake you have in this community. Everyone has something to contribute. This issue brings everyone together. It brings everyone in this community to the decision making table. It makes the representatives on City Council responsible and accountable to the people closest to them. It makes them attentive to the 6,700 people in their ward, instead of diluting that representation to a bloc of people outside of their ward. That will not dilute the interest of the City as a whole. We believe it enhances it. Ward empowerment is not a plus and minus affair. It is a plus and plus affair.

1961 -- A lesson in Hickory's History

1967 - How we got where we are today

The History of At-Large voting in Hickory - The HDR articles and Council Minutes Documents

Hal Row's First Talk - CEG discussion about Ward Specific Voting - The Interview

Help Bring Fair Representation Back to the City of Hickory

Mayor Wright - Hal Row - Ward Specific Elections

Remember Next Saturday:

Friday, July 20, 2012

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of July 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 7/17/2012 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. Mark Andrews, Lead Pastor, St. Lukes United Methodist Church

Special Presentations:
A. Presentation of Retiring Members of Volunteer Boards and Commissions - The Mayor passed out plaques to the retiring members of the boards and commissions as he does annually about this time. He stated that we get valuable input through these organizations. 1/2 percent of Hickory citizens serve in these organizations.

B. Presentation by Court Hogan regarding Purple Heart Homes and the work they are doing
For a Hickory, NC veteran - Derek Pope a veteran of the Marine Corps and National Guard was awarded money to help with his house. Mr. Pope was injured while serving. A group of carpenters from Goldston, NC helped with construction on Mr. Pope's roof. Mr. Hogan is asking the City to help with veterans in the community who need assistance. They can help with contacts. Hickory can become a Purple Heart Homes Community. This group has been approved by the League of Cities. Mr. Pope served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield and spoke about how he wanted to get the word out to Hickory of what this group does.

Consent Agenda:
A. Request by Hickory Police Department for Approval to Apply for a Grant from the US Department of Justice to Assist in Funding the Purchase of 30 Bulletproof Vests - Hickory Police Department requests permission to apply for a grant from the US Department of Justice to assist in funding the purchase of bulletproof vests for police officers. If awarded the grant, the City will receive up to 50% of the cost (30 vests @ $675 each). Hickory Police Department is committed to improving officer safety and has a “mandatory wear policy” in effect, with monies being budgeted annually to purchase vests. HPD will be notified after July 1, 2012 if awarded the grant.

B. Renewal of Taxicab and Other Passenger vehicles for Hire Franchises Company Taxicabs Passenger Vehicle for Hire
Mile High Enterprises - 0 - 5
Yellow Cab - 12 - 1
Diamond Cab Company - 3 - 0
Select Car Service - 0 - 1
Hickory Limousine - 0 - 3
Total - 15 - 10
Annually, these companies apply for a renewal of their Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the operation of taxicabs and other vehicles for hire.

C. Special Events/Activities Application for United States Flag Retirement Ceremony by Gene Baker, Commander of Post 544, Sandy Ridge American Legion Post 544, on Saturday, September 22, 2012 at L.P. Fran Stadium from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Veterans Groups in Hickory will dispose of flags.

D. Special Events/Activities Application for NC Nursery & Landscape Association/ NC Urban Forest Council Networking Dinner by Cody Lewis, NCNLA Director of Operations, on
Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at Ivey Arboretum Carolina Park from 8:30 am to 10:00 pm

E. Approval to issue a pyrotechnic display permit to Hickory Motor Speedway - Kevin Piercy, General Manager of the Hickory Motor Speedway, has submitted a request to obtain permission to have a public fireworks display on Saturday, July 28, 2012, with a rain date of July 29, 2012. Zambelli Fireworks Company will conduct the fireworks display.

F. Offer to Purchase Contract between Clay H. and Jennifer Gosnell and City of Hickory for the Purchase of Approximately 0.7 Acres of Property Adjacent to the Northeast WWTP Located on 1st Street Place, NE in the Amount of $30,500.00, City Council approved the purchase of this property in the Regular Council Meeting held on June 5, 2012.

G. Consideration and Acceptance of a $2000 Grant from the National Recreation and Park Association and the Coca-Cola Company to Refurbish the Outdoor Basketball Court at Southside Heights Park - The NRPA partnered with the Coca--Cola Company to manage the “2012 Sprite Spark Parks with Lowe’s Promotion.” The program is a grant opportunity to refurbish outdoor basketball courts in public parks. After voting took place by shoppers at Lowes Foods throughout May and June, staff was notified on June 28th, 2012 that Southside Heights Park is a potential $2000 grant winner. Official notification will be given upon NCRPA’s receipt of a Memorandum of  Understanding from the City of Hickory within 30 days of June 28th. The funds must be used to construct, refresh, and/or refurbish the outdoor basketball court at Southside Heights Park. No matching funds are required. The project must be completed by December 31, 2012.

H. Request from Hickory Police Department to Award Police Badge and Service Weapon to
Retiring Lieutenant Floyd Yoder - By authority of NC General Statute §20-187.2, City Council may award the service weapon and police badge to retiring Lieutenant Floyd Yoder upon his retirement from Hickory Police Department on August 1, 2012 after completing 30 years of service with Hickory Police Department. Upon approval from City Council, the police badge and service weapon will be declared surplus and removed from the city’s fixed asset inventory.

I. Offer and Acceptance and Resolution for State High Unit Cost Grant Account of the Water Infrastructure Fund for Random Woods, Sherwood Forest and East Woods Subdivisions Sanitary Sewer Lines - This project includes construction of approximately 25,100 linear feet of 8-inch PVC sanitary sewer lines. Serving three subdivisions, Random Woods, Sherwood Forest and East Woods consisting of approximately 226 homes. The application requesting $2,946,043 which represents the entire anticipated construction cost including contingencies was approved for award. Maximum award available for project from this program is $3.0 Million. The Engineers estimate for the project is $2,780,000. This grant offer represents award of grant funds with no match required.

J. Resolution for Three year update to the Solid Waste Management Plan - In accordance with NCGS § 130A-309.90A, The Board of Commissioners adopted an updated Ten Year Solid Waste Management Plan, as submitted to the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources originally in FY 1989-90. The Plan must be updated every three years. The Plan update runs July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2022. A copy of the plan can be found at Catawba County Utilities & Engineering Department and the County’s eight incorporated municipalities have prepared this three-year update. Its purpose is to meet Catawba County’s solid waste disposal and waste reduction needs as well as protect the public health and environment. The planning areas include Catawba County and the Cities/Towns of Brookford, Catawba, Claremont, Conover, Hickory, Long View, Maiden and Newton. The ten-year Solid Waste Management Plan update presents a look at recent and current solid waste disposal and waste reduction practices in the County and provides for the future management and reduction of solid waste.

Informational Items
A. Report of City Manager Mick Berry’s travel to Town Hall Day, in Raleigh, NC on June 6, 2012 (Meals - $9.83, Gas in city vehicle - $37.41) (Exhibit IX.A.)

New Business - Public Hearings

1. The Historic Preservation Commission’s Design Review Guidelines - The Design Review Guidelines assist staff and the commission in determining whether projects are in general harmony with adjacent properties and the district as a whole. The update aims to clarify the document and address unforeseen situations where there is no guidance in the current document. The Historic Preservation Commission voted unanimously to approve the proposed changes.Presentation by Dave Leonetti. Planning Department has been working on this for 6 to 8 months to update these Guidelines that came into existence in 1994.

The Guidelines were created to ensure that changes to historic properties are in harmony with the district and the particular property. One new section is being created to deal with additions to historic homes. Current guidelines have 8 pages pertaining to new construction and building new homes within historic districts. Currently there are 6 vacant lots within historic districts. Much of the guidance will be tailored towards the "additions" issue. Currently there are 115 designated historic properties in the city (Claremont, Oakwood, and Kenworth along with 14 historic landmarks). This will take guidelines down from 13 sections to 6 - Introduction, Site and Setting, Changes to the Building Exterior, Changes to the Building and new Construction, Relocating and Demolishing Historic Structures, and an Appendix. This will be easier to navigate.

The first section is a basic overview of Historic Hickory and the design review process. Site and setting is everything that happens outside the building walls. They have changed issues about signs and fences to be more contextual in nature. They should be in Harmony with properties in the vicinity. Changes to building exteriors. There is basically one change pertaining to utilities and retrofitting that addresses applying artificial siding to a historic home and additional guidance pertaining to utilities retrofitting - storm doors, awning condition. Additions and new Construction - Current Guidelines address decks and additions. New Homes must meet setbacks and placement of homes. In Relocating and demolishing the issue of salvaging building materials is addressed. Demolition cannot be prohibited, but guidelines help to delay that demolition, up to one year, to negotiate and try to save the structure for sale or relocation. Appendix has resource info with maps and a work matrix. Minor work can be approved by staff. Major Work has to go through the Commission.

New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Appointment of Inspiring Spaces Plan Advisory Committee Members - To appoint members of the community to the Inspiring Spaces Plan Advisory Committee. This is the first step in a city-wide planning process to develop a list of construction projects, their associated costs and implementation schedule for improving the appearance and functionality of streets, parks and public areas of Hickory.

City Manager Berry went over the Initiative. This was addressed earlier in the year by City Council and is related to the junkets they made late last year. He says that these communities have done a lot with their public spaces that the city has control over. He talked about a plan to make these areas more appealing and aesthetically pleasing. He talked about attracting people and economic development. 13 individual were named and they will meet once a month over the next 6 to 8 months. He says the plan will address specifics and budget numbers and the council will know the price tag of things. Judy Harris, Elvie Shuford, Meg Jenkins Locke, Mary Boone, Mike Johnson, Nancy Zagaroli, Paul Kercher, Scott Mitchell, Steve Shuford, Steve Mull, Thelma Harold, Rick Berry, and Don Norwood. It was added that a couple more members could potentially be added. It was basically admitted during the comments that they came up with a big list and each approached a couple of people.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 1, 2012  - No. 2 Departmental Report

The Hound can't wait to see how this Worm turns. I have always found Great Leaders/Mentors to be more Inspirational than Streetscapes, Light Poles, and Benches. None of these people are commoners. Don't shoot the messenger. I just think having some regular citizens and some younger people whose future is at stake on board with initiatives such as these helps with perspective and buy in. Sorry, but I get the sense that this is going to be another shove it down your throats, Good Ole Boy/Gal, process.

Recognition of Persons Requesting To Be Heard
A. Natalie Carroll requests to speak to Council regarding recreational services for people with developmental disabilities. Ms. Carroll has lived in Hickory for 10 years. She is a Special Ed teacher and an advocate for people with developmental disabilities. She has worked in this endeavor for 32 years. She has a Bachelor's degree in special education from Appalachian State, a Master's from Western Carolina, and is national Board Certified. She would like to see more Recreational activities for people with Developmental Disabilities. She Grew up in Brevard County Florida and they have had such activities for 50 years. It is for regular citizens as well. She provided a calendar to the City Council. She was seeking information and asked if there has ever been any such recreational activities here in Hickory. She stated that her church (Northminister Presbyterian) has provided outreach for these activities, but they haven't had a large turn out.She would like to use Neill Clarke Recreation center for this endeavor. She talked about Brevard County Florida's website and how easy it is to navigate. She has tried to find such information at the Hickory Website and Catawba County Website and you find fragmented pieces of information. The Mayor wanted her observation on the website issue and wanted her to meet with Parks and Rec. Alderman Guess talked about Zahra Baker's playground and the Police department involvement in Special Olympics.

B. Harry Hipps on Council's Leadership role
At the end of the regularly scheduled City Council meeting,  Harry Hipps addresses the City Council by asking about where they stand on the Ward Specific Voting issue. He talked about this process being Participatory Democracy Well Crafted. He thinks it is time for Council to take a stand. Political bodies are here to debate and inform the public. He doesn't see the intellectual rigor and things are done in a southern genteel way that never allows issues to see the light of day. He wants to see a vote by council on this issue. He hopes there is a diversity of opinion on this issue. Hickory's issue isn't frivolity. It is apathy and disenfranchisement. Council should weigh in on this issue so that there is a public record for the council to be accountable to.

Oops! - Caption says Hal Row Show, but it is the Harry Hipps presentation to Council

Link below to the Special Meeting on the "Ward Specific Voting" Referendum issue:

Special Meeting on Ward Specific Voting Referendum

City Council should arrange forum on ward issue - Hickory Daily Record - July 18, 2012