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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Items of Relevance going into Tonight's Referendum Forum

Tonight's Referendum forum is being held at the SALT Block auditorium five minutes after the City Council meeting ends. The City Council meeting will begin at 7:00pm and should end around 7:30pm. The SALT Block Auditorium is located at the right hand side, along 3rd Avenue NE, of the building as it faces Highway 127.

Below are articles of relevance related to issues that have previously been posted on the Hickory Hound and may give you a context of how we have gotten to where we are today.

A contention has been made by Rudy Wright and some others that the Elite statement relates to anyone and everyone who visits or works on Union Square. The people I have spoken with don't seem to construe it in Mr. Wright's fashion. The Elite, some would prefer Cabal, relates to Interest Groups, Council Members, Property Owners, and Business Owners who feel this City should revolve around their needs, interests, and desires.

As I have stated, I have no problems with Union Square itself. I used to go down there and hang down there all the time when I was a kid. I remember being a 4 year old and going to the Christmas parade. I was born on the 75th anniversary of First National Bank's opening and received a $75 bank account as a gift because of that. Therefore, I was born with a Union Square Bank account. I was even invited to go to the opening night when the new building opened, which is now Wells Fargo.

My grandfather worked at the Hickory Station Depot as a switch operator and I was there the last day that a passenger train came through... I believe it was 1975.

I have nothing against Union Square. What I have a problem with is bringing the "Too Big too Fail" mentality to Hickory. We seriously need to rethink the way that Union Square operates. We have thrown millions of dollars at Union Square since the beginning of the new millennium without measurable results. And the Powers That Be say "No Change!"

It is time that we start looking at the whole of Hickory. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. For the most part what we are seeing from the No Change! group is that it is supported by people of older generations who have wealth. And they have spread fear related to Evolution.

That is what has gotten us behind in this community. The people at the top of the food chain are satisfied with the Status Quo and their actions keep everything frozen in place and that is where we see the cronyism take shape. They don't know that it is a Crony culture, because that is the way things have always been done around here when it comes to the people on top.

It isn't about pools, tents, and/or Larry G. Pope. It is about Conflicts of Interest versus Accountability and how that relates to Hickory City Council representation. That has an effect on your every day life. You will have to decide which side you are on.

So I present articles below that address these very issues:

Solutions to the Problems that Hickory, Catawba County, and the Unifour are facing -- We Want Your Input - October 30, 2008 - Read the comments from this article from 4 years ago. You can see that people have ideas, but there isn't anyone that is willing listen to them

- Harry Hipps - November 20, 2008
- It's time to change the city ordinance to make a clear statement on ethics. This is an article related to when Council should recuse themselves when taking votes.

Tax Money Spent on Downtown Interests from 2002 to Present (2008) - November 26, 2008 - The link to the stats spreadsheet is no longer available, because Google has changed reference points which allowed such linking, but the stats are still valid for the timeframe...                By looking at the numbers, we can see that the vast majority of these grants and studies were done for the benefit of the area in the immediate vicinity of Union Square. 41 of 47 of these grants (87.2%) have been made within 4 blocks of the geographic center of the city.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of February 17, 2009 - February 17, 2009 - This meeting entailed the City Council looking towards giving the HDDA $3,000 to utilize towards graffiti removal. This money would have been in addition to the $50,000 that the HDDA received at the time for their operations from the city - subsequently that figure has risen to $75,000 per year. Harry Hipps originally addressed this issue in an article entitled SHAKEDOWN BY DOWNTOWN COMING - (February 15, 2009).  Harry spoke with the Mayor about this issue and came to an agreement with Rudy and Rudy went into the meeting and tabled the issue. 
The Mayor asked for more information about this request. City Manager Berry said the CAC has the funds, but they would like a costiary program of a 50% matching funds up to $250 to pay for the removal of graffiti. Mayor Wright asked if this was only for Downtown. Asst. City Manager Surratt said that it was decided during CAC discussions that it was best for this to be citywide. Alderlady Hoyle asked about requirements. Ms. Surratt stated that a police report would have to be filed, it would have to be photographically documented, and obtain the cost for removal. Alderman Seaver asked if they would apply to the CAC for the grant. Ms. Surratt said they would and the staff would review it.

The Mayor
asked if only graffiti would be included and not vandalism. Ms. Surratt said it would just be graffiti. The Mayor said that he thought insurance would cover this after deductibles. The Mayor asked if the CAC used up all of its grants for beautification projects. The Mayor said he didn't want to get involved in what deductibles businesses were paying on their insurance. He said that this program would only reward businesses with high deductibles and businesses with first dollar deductibles would receive nothing. Mayor Wright wants to push for a victim's fund that will be built by true work by the perpetraitors. He understands the good intentions of the HDDA and the CAC, but he isn't certain any buildings will be cleaned, because they qualify for $250. They will either clean it or not clean it. The Mayor motioned that the issue be tabled until some of the issues that he brought up can be explored and worked through. Motion carried unanimously.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of May 4, 2010 (Departmental Report Item 4) - May 4, 2010 - Less than 15 months later the Mayor does a 180 degree turn and decides that we should not only put $3,000 into graffiti removal, the council ups the ante to $25,000 into this graffiti removal program. To this day, we have not been given the promised update, seen who received the funds, or seen any accountability benchmarks to ensure that measurable value was gained from this fund and effort.

My Presentation to the Council during the February 16, 2009 City Council Meeting:

Thank You Council for allowing me to voice my concerns about this city’s investments in the Union Square area. You may notice that I am saying Union Square, because I believe Hickory’s downtown to include a lot more area than what was described as Downtown by Connie Kincaid in Sunday’s Paper.

I have read transcripts of every meeting that go back to when the City first started placing the minutes of Council meetings on the internet. I have seen what I construe as a waste of city funds, when it comes to investing in Downtown. I am sure tenants of other sectors of this city would like for you to repair and enhance their property the way you have in the immediate vicinity of Union Square.

In the comments section of today’s editorial in the Hickory Daily Record, an owner of a local Bike Shop had a comment that addresses this issue.

He stated “Hickory should promote businesses throughout the Hickory metro area, not simply downtown. I don't mean give businesses money or tax credits, it's up to the business owners to provide their own capital. The downtown merchants seem to think the city should provide them with funding to promote their businesses. If you can't take the pressure of building up and promoting your own business with your money, go do something else. But please, take your hand out of my pocket. Customers decide where they want to shop, if they are not coming to your store maybe they don't care for your products.”

I have been told that Mast General Store looked into possibly locating a store downtown, but they were micromanaged in their dealings with “the powers that be downtown” to the point that they said they would never locate here if they had to deal with certain individuals.

A former tenant told me why he is no longer downtown, He said he didn’t mind the competition that was brought by a major variety retailer, such as the former Woolworth’s. He said it only enhanced his business.

He stated and I quote, "silly decisions by the big fish in downtown's small pond (too many bars, no variety stores, the closure of the Fresh Air, parking stupidity, the downsizing of the cops' presence just when drunks took over nights) killed downtown's traffic and my business."

I am not here, just to talk about problems. If we are honest with ourselves, we know what the problems are. We need to help Ms. Hoyle enhance the Ridgeview area, because that is downtown. We need to spruce up the Southeast and Southwest sections of town, because that is Downtown. If you want to throw around $50,000 every year toward developing downtown, then that is where it should go.

What needs to be realized is that "Downtown" is more than just Union Square and a couple of blocks surrounding it. We cannot have upscale anything downtown, until the blighted areas surrounding the epicenter of Hickory are addressed. The last Downtown grocery store was robbed out of business.

Mr. Mayor, Council, I am not here to take pot shots or lob bombs. My interests aren’t here to tear this city down. We are here to build this city up, but if we find that there are cracks in the foundation, then we must be willing to tear it down to rebuild it on a stronger, more resolute foundation. We must quit trying to restore downtown from the inside-out and start doing more to develop it from the outside–in.

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