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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!



Anonymous said...

You have misrepresented Mr. Byrd's letter to the editor. He calls the Referendum "a radical change" not the people advocating for the change.

Silence DoGood said...

I think about the causes of this referendum in a different context. While numerous, I see it as being able to live in an area and being able to select one of your neighbors to represent you, your neighbors, and your neighborhood on some body politic, in this instance Hickory City Council. And even though the idea is to reach consensus for the good of all, too often interests vary among regions and neighborhoods on how to proceed. So that is where discussion comes in. There is nothing wrong with public debate and discourse. Let’s people know where you stand and what you think since it’s impossible to hide behind a fa├žade of rhetoric for very long when you do debate openly without a prepared script to follow. So the idea of selecting who will represent you, that they too have the same things at risk as well as the same ideals and values of the area which is being represented. In that regard, I fail to see where, why, how allowing the entire City to choose your representative is a good idea for the most people. When you have the ability to control votes on any elected board, you have the means to exert undue control and influence. You remove voices from the debate. You encourage compliance and not discussion, insulating your position at the price of everyone else’s. The ability to have your representative selected by the rest of a City, Town, or other incorporated entity is complete and utter power leveraging to control all aspects of life in that place, unless you’re from a small town where everyone knows practically everyone else and by small town I mean below 4,000 population.

I keep using the word representative for a reason. At all levels, ours is a representative democracy. In that regard, being able to select your representative from among your neighbors and peers is imperative. I also emphasize representative because ours is not a direct democracy. There is nothing wrong with participating in the political process. The people need and should remain informed and speak on issues that are controversial and actions of the council that are counter to the common good or contrary to the purpose of government, but to participate directly on every issue? Why would a governing board be necessary or desired in this instance? How would we amass enough people representative of our population to reach consensus or even a simple majority? And where would these Mammoth meetings to conduct public business and carry on with the affairs of the people be held? The will of the people is exerted through their representative. It is the duty of that representative to advocate for the good of those who elect him/her, balancing those specific interests with the interests of the common good and trying to reach consensus for the betterment of all. That is why I support this referendum.

I don’t know Paul Byrd. Is this a radical concept of potentially radical people? I guess it is. It was certainly a radical concept to demand independence from England. It was radical change to seek an end to the practice of one man owning another. It was radically new even to think that we could venture into space and put a man on the moon. So in this place where the majority of people are supposed to be seen and not heard, do as they are told, and not ask questions, I salute you, my fellow radicals!

James Thomas Shell said...

This "Radical" change was the way city council members were elected until 1970. Our founding fathers thought this "Radical" idea was the best system and 4 City Council members took it upon themselves to change something that had worked since 1913 when the Charter was first created.

Radical change is calling people who support this change radical. If you want to say this is extraordinary change, then that would be fine; but everyone knows why the word radical was chosen, but this is just going back to a system that we had prior to 1970. That doesn't seem like the "Radical" change y'all label it as.

I don't doubt that Mr. Byrd is a proxy for some of the people on Council who won't come out and address this issue, because they know that this issue has shown popular support, when they can get other people to go out and label it.

First, the Mayor said it was all about a few disgruntled people in Ridgeview, then it was Republicans versus Democrats, then we're just out to get Hank Guess... And now this "Radical" thing and next to say this would lead to crackpots being elected to council. We have faith that people in Hickory aren't out to elect crackpots.

Then council people hold a meeting at Beaver Library last week and didn't open it to the public. That is their right, but it says a lot doesn't it. They just called their friends and the same ole group who they always fall back on and expect support from. That says a lot. Is that where Mr. Byrd came from that with this notion of radical change?

At what point do we argue the merits of this issue. Why your side supports keeping the current system versus why our side wants to see the change.

I have begged for 3+ years to see Town Halls, now all of the sudden the Mayor wants to call the little controlled special meeting the other night a Town Hall.

Y'all seem to want to be disciples of the Frank Luntz school of political jargon. That only works for one person -- Mr. Luntz and his book sales. Why not come out from the shadows and play? What's it gonna hurt?

Silence DoGood said...

A MEETING? Do tell! Well, how about that! I find it remarkable and all the more telling, not unlike a flag flapping in the breeze indicating wind direction, the intent and scope of such a meeting in light of what is currently in motion. I find myself wondering why such a meeting is necessary if, after all, council has been working for the good of all the people under the current system of governance and for the betterment of all of Hickory, when the only change that seems to manifest itself finds its epicenter at Union Square and radiates a scant 200 meters in any direction from that point and impacts a very small portion of the populace of the entire city. If the current system is such a boon of equity and equality, why then is it not the standard of local governance across the state and nation, rather than being a minor exception in but a few places? Why does it woefully appear that a strategy meeting of sorts had to be held at the library among certain members of the sitting body politic? If the current system is so fair and equitable, why must secret and surreptitious support be garnered for the support thereof among a select few? Do I know the content of that meeting? Let’s assume that I don’t. Timing and the involvement of those in attendance are indicia of what is truly at stake in September and the lengths that some will go to in order keep control.

Anonymous said...

So attack the messenger not his message which speaks to your efforts to TAKE AWAY the citizens right to vote for their elected officials?

Anonymous said...

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!

James Thomas Shell said...

To the first anonymous. I am not attacking the messenger. I am attacking 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.

James Thomas Shell said...

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.

Silence DoGood said...

Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954). Anyone remember that case? The United States Supreme Court decided that States that provided separate schools for black and white students was unconstitutional. How long did it take Hickory, City of to comply with that court case? Ridgeview High School was finally merged with Hickory High School at the start of the 1966-67 school year. What has that got to do with this? Timing. If the ‘fathers’ of Hickory were such forward thinkers as to provide for equality in things government, why did it take 12 years to comply with the law? No, this decision came on the coattails of integration of the schools. It was old school protectionist dealings of the first order. You can rationalize it any way you see fit bub, but you can’t deny the timing. When all the other wards combined can control who is going represent the traditionally minority ward, that is hardly progressive. So you can bend it, twist it, and make it up however you see fit, doesn’t make it true or right.

Swing and a miss, strike one Anon.

Anonymous said...

I want to address first Silence DoGood and then Mr. Shell.
When you have an opinion on an issue and do not have the courage to put your name to it, then you marginalize everything you say. You say that you don't know me. The real problem is that we don't know you because you hide behind the skirt of anonimity provided by this electronic postings of dreamed up issues. All this talk about secret meetings and you won't even reveal your name, so in the name of transparency, fess up. Find some courage. It might make you feel good.
As to the dreaded word "radical", let me clarify this position. If you would bother to look in the dictionary you would see that radical in politics pertains to a person who advocates sweeping and speedy changes in laws and government to cure alleged evils in social conditions. Two points here: I actually paid you a compliment but because of what you perceive the word to be and what it actually is, you make a feeble attempt to spin this into an insult to the community. Secondly, go back and read the word "alleged". It is very relevant to the issue. So, I read how desperately you attempt to focus on one word and ignore the issue. This is called SPIN. Is that all you got?
The community is being duped by your movement. You promise all this sunshine reform that you know you can't deliver. You have done nothing in the past other than cry about everything and you expect the people of Hickory to follow you down the rose path as you experiment with our government. I notice you post a lot of economic charts. Well, just like in the mutual fund prospectus, it plainly says that past performance is no indication of future results. You and Silence have no past performance and excuse me if i don't sit back and wait for you to take my right to vote away from me. As for you blog, I have noticed that since you started your rant about my letter, there are about nine responses, so don't give up your day job. Will see you on the first day of early voting.
Paul Byrd

Anonymous said...

Mr. Byrd by claiming that your right to vote is in danger of being taken away aren't you admitting that my right to have my vote for my ward representative was infringed upon when Council voted in 1967 to change the system? Also, please answer me this - was the way Council went about changing the process back in '67 the correct way or should they have sought out public input? If not a voter referendum, then at least a public hearing would have been nice. And lastly, the change in the voting system didn't take effect until 1970. Given that fact, why was it necessary to rush through approving the change within a 48-hour period in March of 1967? What would have been the harm in approving it at two regularly scheduled mCouncil meetings? Why the need for a special meeting on the Monday morning before the regular Tuesday meeting?

As much as this referendum speaks to what Council did in 1967, it also speaks to how 4 men (not the entire Council) were able to impose their will on Hickory citizens without any recourse from the public.

Anonymous said...

And when does the council have to make unamimous votes? I can't go back to 1967 and build up an Oliver Stone movie on this, but i will tell you, I am not claiming that my right to vote is being taken away. That is a FACT and not a claim if this goes through. I have earned my right to vote and anybody or group trying to manipulate that is my opponent. The very proposals that the true ward system will be fellowship and harmony and Hickory will move on to great things sounds good, but talk is cheap. Hickory has been slammed by the recession. There have been recent reports of larger municipalities having to resort to paying employees minimum wage. I have access to every council member on any issue I want to bring,and i have the right to vote for a person of color that decides to run in a ward that is not mine. If this nation can elect a Catholic as President in 1960, a peanut farmer in 1976 and a B movie actor twice starting in 1980 and you want new people in office then organize a campaign, spread the word, collect the funds, and promote a candidate for office but don't ask 40,000 people to roll over and give up voting rights.
paul byrd

James Thomas Shell said...

Glad to see Mr. Byrd come to the blog and make a statement. Hate to see that Mr. Byrd has chosen to be a name caller and denigrator. And we should not stoop down to name calling in relation to this issue.

Mr. Byrd were you against the petition process? I know you didn't sign the referendum. Are you against the referendum note being allowed to take place?

And Mr. Byrd, people are entitled to anonymity. I choose not to be anonymous, but it does me no favors, because I haven't gone along to get along with the PTB. If this were a blog lauding the praises of Propaganda in Hickory, they might just give me an office in the Whitener Building to do my work.

Many have chosen to remain anonymous, because of fear of our government. Sometimes I have supporters who are anonymous and sometimes they are detractors. It cuts both ways just like when we are in the offline world.

Mr. Byrd the gobblety gook about not quitting my day job, please explain. I read what you had to say and this makes absolutely no sense, maybe for my thin mind you can make it easier.

Now, after these comments, it absolutely does make sense that you 100% defined us as radicals and that we are somehow looking to dupe the public and not very intelligent. That type of arrogance is something we day jobbers have always faced in this community. People thinking they know what is best for the working class folks and subverting their voice. In my opinion, it is one reason why this community is failing economically.

You can question my character and intelligence, that's fine, but I will tell you that you are barking up the wrong tree and wasting your energy. I have no ill intentions towards you or anyone else. I am not associated with a group looking to take your vote away. I am associated with a group that is looking to keep you from having influence in areas that you have no interest in. I am associated with this group because it will make the playing field more level when it comes to city politics in the future.

And we will definitely see you when it comes time for this election.

James Thomas Shell said...

Mr. Byrd, no need to be vitriolic, You do have a right to vote. No one is stopping your right to vote. But sir, you have no given right to vote in every election that takes place throughout this country.

You CAN NOT vote for the Mayor of Conover,Newton, or Lenoir. You CAN NOT vote for the County Commissioners in Caldwell, Alexander, and Burke Counties. And depending on where you live in Hickory you aren't going to be able to vote for one of the House of Representatives members that represent Hickory proper (and we have 3).

We aren't saying that votes have to be unanimous. We are talking about how this was passed in 1967. A special meeting was held on a Monday morning and this was passed on a Tuesday evening -- 4 to 3. And the public wasn't allowed a voice. A referendum was asked for and those 4 members of the city council denied it. We aren't saying it wasn't within their legal jurisdiction to do such, but was it ethical?

The City Council in 1967 gave you a privilege to vote in other ward elections. They gave you a privilege to influence the other wards. They actually took away the ability of those wards to keep out undue influence of their wards from people who have no interest in their ward. Most of the people who live in the privileged areas never step foot in these areas that they claim they have a "right" to influence.

If you want to search for some debating points here is the information. We have nothing to hide.

Sorry you are late to the game. That isn't our fault. Your friends on the City Council didn't think we could get the petition signed and/or certified. They don't take us seriously. I think they consider us a joke. I don't think it is fair to take that out on us.

1961 -

1967 -

The documents -

Hal Row Show -

And there is plenty more on here. We have been very upfront with this issue. We haven't been boisterous or in your face about it. We have just plodded along and tried to inform the public about the issue. That is the American way isn't it? That is our right isn't it?

Silence DoGood said...

Mr. Byrd, (if in fact you are Paul Byrd, or a reasonable facisimile and there is a real living person so named)

Yes, in your mind, I guess it does cheapen the discussion. Just like it cheapened what Benjamin Franklin had to say and write about when he used the same nom de plume. Or when Alexander Hamilton wrote a series of papers later combined with those James Madison and John Jay that became known as "The Federalist". That cheapened the argument as well. You can't attack the words or the reasoning, so you attack the writer. Bravo. I feel just fine and apparently, I'm not too far off the mark. I'm the only one that has talked of secret squirrel meetings. So what "all this talk" of secret meetings you're referring to is, well, intriguing. Hit a nerve? Afraid someone in your inner circle is not quite as committed as you are? C'mon, ain't we friends any more?

No one, not one single solitary person is trying to deny you of a thing. The people associated with this have way too much character. They only want to elect the representative they choose from their own ward, not have the rest of the city select who that is. If the rolls were reversed, you yourself would be squawling the loudest demanding the very same thing that is being sought now. To restore equality to the process. Equality that was stolen and removed from the process in 1967 by a one vote margin.

So you can caterwaul as you please. It doesn't change the facts of this issue.