From the Hickory Daily Record on August 26, 2012
Vote no to sustain unity
To hear it from the perspective of James Thomas Shell, you would think that Citizens for Equity in Government is the new Rainbow Coalition. Mr. Shell also believes that it is divisive to point out some of the cast of characters that CEG has brought in to disenfranchise me and the voters of Hickory by stripping away 5 of our votes.
Frankly they have no room to talk.
Mr. Shell and CEG brought in the radical group Democracy N.C., whose organizer Robert Dawkins has on many occasions taught courses on how to register felons to vote. CEG also managed to secure the endorsement of the Catawba County Democratic Party for a yes vote on this referendum. CEG also brought in Larry Pope to their efforts knowing that he is among the most divisive individuals in Hickory. Mr. Shell himself runs a blog, which I will not name in this family newspaper, which attacks in the most profane ways the mayor and other figures of city government.
Combined with this petition drive, it seems to me that CEG are the ones attempting to divide and disenfranchise this city. The No Steps Backwards Coalition at least brings in people of all political affiliations in a high minded tone that seeks to preserve good government for Hickory. Tell CEG and their divisive politics no on Sept. 18.
The Hound - I'm not going to get into a back and forth with this guy in the Hickory Daily Record. How has this blog been profane towards Rudy Wright?
I haven't seen Mr. Bolick at any public functions, so I don't really know him and he doesn't know me and I don't think he knows Larry Pope or the man from the DemocracyNC group, who seemed like a nice guy to me, but these people want to make out like he's Van Jones or something. Mr. Bolick won't tell us the merits of the current system. He only assassinates the character of Larry Pope, the virtually anonymous guy, and myself.
I was accused of secretly recording Mr. Rudy Wright the other day, by Mr. Wright, at a Republican function, which was an open meeting. I made no secrets about recording the meeting. I pulled out the recorder in front of everyone and started it. Maybe a few people didn't know what it was, but I assumed this was a public meeting and a public debate and it was alright to record it, but then Mr. Wright went and fussed at people in the Republican Party and I pulled the recording down, because the head of the Republican Party asked that I do so. What did Mr. Wright say that he didn't want people to hear?
Mr. Wright says I was an "uninvited, but not unwelcomed guest." Who the heck is Rudy Wright? I was invited by the guy he was debating, Joe Brannock, and no one made any negative comments towards my presence. I felt I conducted myself in a respectful manner towards these ladies. They were gracious ladies and they even invited me back. The only person who had a problem with my being there is more than obviously Rudy Wright and I don't think Mr. Wright is in charge of the Republican Party.
Mr. Wright came across as attempting to spread fear. He used the words "Scorched Earth" in relation to the supporters of this Referendum. His presentation was very aggressive, and frankly where he insinuated that we told non-truths, I can tell you that he told some whoppers. Stuff like that the guy from DemocracyNC spent all of his time speaking about how to get convicted felons registered to vote. I have a recording of that meeting and Mr. Wright is telling and out and out lie. The man did speak for a couple minutes about how to register people who had served there time and were free and clear to vote again. You do know that in this State that once free and clear of the legal system, then you may once again vote. The DemocracyNC guy never talked about signing up people in the penitentiary.
The other week, on Hal Row's show, Mr. Wright said it was "sinister," what I had said about Hickory being the only city in its peer group that has this modified at large system. That information came from the School of Government and it was information brought forward at the Hickory City Council meeting and it is indisputable. Now, Mr. Wright seems to have backed off and now says, "Hickory has the best way, because of the foresight and wisdom of the Councilmen in 1967."
Mr. Wright may not know this, but I have met Oren Cline and spoken with him on a couple of occasions, when he was brought to eat at my Aunt's restaurant and I cooked for him. The man is a very nice man and he is about 97 years old. He has nothing to do with this referendum. One of his sons is a friend of mine and I have never said a bad thing about Mr. Cline or Mayor Whitener or the others. I don't agree with the way they changed the system, but it was a different world in 1967 than what it is today. For one thing, Hickory had less than half its current population back then.
The fact is that what we have seen with the current Modified At-Large system makes it virtually impossible for a ward to have a direct impact on who represents them and therefore there is no direct accountability to your ward. With incumbency, if the incumbent is unopposed, then you stay in. If two run, you are guaranteed a city wide campaign. If three people or more run, then you have to end up in third place and to my knowledge that has only happened one time since this system was implemented in 1970. So in 42 years and 60+ city council races that has happened one time. Those are long odds for a ward to have a direct impact on who represents them. The result is that the Council will represent the Bloc that brings the most votes from wherever and not their ward.
I honestly can get into a long oratory about some of the things Mr. Wright has said and done over the last several years, but frankly this is not about Rudy Wright. Mr. Wright said the other day that "this is just about the tent and the pools," but he is wrong again. This is all about accountability. Mr. Wright can use all of his diatribe and do whatever he wants and frankly I don't care any more. This is about City Council representation. I just honestly feel that this Ward Voting System change is in the best interest of the whole of Hickory and certainly term limits would help too, but one thing at a time and it is time to move forward.