The following is from Hal Row's First talk program and is the Monday Morning Meeting with the Mayor. I put the broadcast online so that you can go listen to it yourself. If you have a difference of opinion with the text below, then by all means tell me where I am wrong. Yes, some of it is my opinion and my supportive biases, but I don't think any of it is wild-eyed conjecture or what could be labeled as misinformation and mischaracterizations, which are a couple of words that have been proliferated these days by certain status quo forces in our community.
In the first and part of the second segment, the tent on Union Square was discussed. Hal and the Mayor gave it there all to promote it and sing its praises. The Mayor several times said, "Hickory deserves this." He said he wished the sails were taller and the many of the ad hominems he utilized to characterize the structure left me thinking, though there is no body language with radio, that behind the scenes he isn't exactly thrilled with the design. It ain't exactly the Opera House at Sydney. Besides the Sails being taller statement, there was the, "it looks different from the left and right side of the street."... "People say it looks interesting." He seemed to be searching to find comfort with his supportive statements and kept talking about what others said. Hal seemed a lot more enthused than the Mayor did. I think that most of us look at it and say, "THAT" cost $450,000+? And how much City Labor Man Hours were put into this. That has never been factored into the costs that have been released to the public. We have also never been given the names of the 17 people who were part of the committee to name the structure. That naming system changed several times, including after it was expressly stated that the Hickory Speaks site would name the structure, but that didn't go to the liking of the City Propaganda machine.
In the rest of the second segment, the Mayor spoke about the Referendum saying the "No Steps Backwards" coalition opposed the petition and he is part of that group. He labeled the statement that Hickory is the only city our size that has the modified at-large system as sinister and said that the council in 1967 had the wisdom and foresight to institute the system we have today. He never debated the point that we are the only community our size that has this system. He said this NSB group is absolutely committed to maintaining the current system.
It actually sounded like the Mayor is "THE" driving force behind this effort. It sounded like HE is THE effort. He's calling the shots with this group folks. Hal asked about the Mayor's involvement and then just sat back and let the Mayor have the mike. The Mayor said something awkward when he stated that the change in this system, if it were to occur, wouldn't affect him, but would affect the future Mayor. There are several questions that could be asked about that.
Most of the third segment was taken up by a live infomercial with comedian James Gregory. I left that in the presentation above because Mr. Gregory and the Hickory Community Theatre deserve the support.
At the end of this segment, Hal stated that he is going to give the Citizens for Equity in Government time on his show. The Mayor educated us all about the meaning of No Step Backwards. He then at the end of the segment said that the Direct Ward system would lead to Machine politics.
In the last segment, the mayor talked about misconceptions and spoke about the swimming pools. He seems to want to make this an issue about the pools -- Tent great... Pools bad... -- and an issue about race -- The Redistricting of the wards last year. By the Mayor's logic, it is up to the CEG to explain what the City's position was on the redistricting, when the city owns the process. The Mayor continued on with other broadbrushed statements about how the current system is best because you are accountable to your ward and to the city at-large. The problem with this statement is that the ward has zero input in its representation, if 2 or fewer candidates run for that ward position on the City Council and in several cases the ward has elected a candidate that the city at-large has rejected. It is also multiple times more expensive to run for those seats on the City Council and to get your message out against incumbents when you have to run a city wide campaign. So when these representatives are elected city wide they only answer to the people from where the majority of there votes come. Most of those votes currently come from a handful of precincts and those areas draw the attention of City officials. That is what has led to much of the disparity we have seen in this community.
The Mayor finished up by saying that a Ward system would lead to patronage and machine politics and it wouldn't necessarily lead to more turnover on the council. We see where the current modified at-large system has led us. We already have a machine. The current system is a machine and has patronage to their family and friends. The city's recreation committee has two council's family members currently serving and more have served in the past. The Mayor fails to mention that one of the guidelines of the City's request about redistricting was that the redrawn ward lines must also keep Planning Commission members in their current ward. What was behind all of this? Control? and Patronage?
The movement towards a Direct Ward system will bring back governance to the grass roots level. It will empower the neighborhood associations. The Mayor talked about outsiders and political muscle as though he isn't an expert on both. Several thousands of the dollars he raised campaigning for Mayor came from outside of Hickory and the Mayor should be given his just due for the political machine and electoral effectiveness he has had through the years. The problem is that he has never moved from electoral effectiveness to leadership responsibility.
Now, make no mistake, I am for the referendum, because the goal is to get people to take personal responsibility for their governance. The other side says the Status Quo is great. Everything is working as it should. They have no interest in looking at the common man's perspective. I believe one of the biggest issues we face in this community is that the middle class is not doing well and their issues need to be addressed. I haven't seen many people in leadership positions take an interest in that subject. We have no sinister plans or influence peddling interests. We are not the conspiratorial forces in this community. We don't go back behind closed doors to make decisions. We hold public forums and attempt to engage the public constantly.
Ask Yourself... Are you in favor of the way the system was changed in 1967? The modified at-large system was rushed through in 36 hours, but didn't take effect until over 3 years later. No public discussion or input was allowed.
We went out and gathered 2,707 signatures which is way more than the number of people who voted in the last two elections. We have engaged people from every area and demographic of this community and they have joined us... White, Black, wealthy, poor, men, women, Republican, Democrat... We have held public gatherings and made public statements fully divulging our intentions and what our goals are. And then there is the other side... The Elite side... The side that knows best... What have you gotten from them?
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