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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Here comes the Truth - GDP down in 4th quarter

As I said, after the election is over and the swearing in ceremonies take place, then they are going to start pushing upon us just how bad it is to set us up for higher taxes and reduced services. This kind of massaging of reality is called lying by most of us. If your kid times the reality of conditions of honesty, trust, and integrity when communicating with you, then you call him out on it. When your government does it, you seem to think it's alright. Since I try to keep this forum as clean as possible, I'm not going to tell you exactly what I think. The problems don't really lie with these government people and their fake numbers and perspective. The numbers lie with the depth and breadth of a weak nation of Zombie Robots looking to be told what to do instead of telling their representatives what they expect.

What do I expect? The Truth.

The facts are that the economy has not grown in over 5 years now. The only "Growth" we have seen was through monetary fuel injection. When you subtract the real inflation rate from non-governmental Gross Domestic Product (GDP created by the Private Sector), then you see that we have had negative growth over the last five years. All of the Quantitative Easing and Stimulus has nearly doubled the Federal Debt over the last five years and if we continue these policvies, the debt will double again over the next 5. The government is telling you that the National Debt will only rise to $21 trillion by the end of 2016, where are they showing the increased tax revenues? Where are they showing the reduction in expenditures? It seems to me that they are carrying forward the same policies that they have been and those policies, as I have shown you, have nearly doubled the National Debt over the last five years. That means a National Debt, not at the projected $21 trillion. That means a National Debt of Approximately $30 trillion.

GDP Shows Surprise Drop for US in Fourth Quarter - AP through CNBC - January 30, 2013 - The U.S. economy posted a stunning drop of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter, defying expectations for slow growth and possibly providing incentive for more Federal Reserve stimulus.                     The economy shrank from October through December for the first time since the recession ended, hurt by the biggest cut in defense spending in 40 years, fewer exports and sluggish growth in company stockpiles.                                    The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the economy contracted at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter. That's a sharp slowdown from the 3.1 percent growth rate in the July-September quarter.

It is easy to see that these Economic Comptrollers haven't a clue about what they are doing other than cooking the books. I really don't think they are doing this on purpose. They just have a certain economic belief system and they are going to drive us to hell instead of admitting they are wrong, because there is no accountability in our governmental system. As a matter of fact we reenforce failure through back slaps and gladhanding. As Rand Paul said to Hillary Clinton about Benghazi last week, paraphrasing, 'I don't think you are a bad person or had bad intentions. I just don't think you understand or know what you are doing. And so therefore, If I were the President, I would have had you relieved of your duties.'

People keep being given these positions of leadership and they strut around like peacocks as if they are royalty, when they have a fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for the people they represent. And they are not doing that. They are representing a handful of people who line their pockets with cash and the rest of us be damned. There is no Honesty, Integrity, Honor, and Loyalty in the current political paradigm. It's just every man for himself and this is all going very, very badly. We can turn this all around by demanding Accountability and for some reason we have way too many people who seem to think that is a hard thing to do. Folks, demanding Accountability is the easiest thing we can do to begin to turn this economy around. The hardest part will be picking up the pieces of this shattered economy and putting them back together again.

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World

US economy shrinks 0.1 percent, first time since recession ended - Fox News - January 30, 2013

Google News on the shrinking of the U.S. Economy

The only chart you need on the GDP report
- The Washington Post - Dylan Matthews - January 30, 2013

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Richard Garrison about two Morganton Issues

From Richard Garrison in Morganton (January 29, 2012):

"I just heard that my interview about Grace Hospital will be shown on the WBTV 11 pm Newscast on Thursday night.
(1-31). If you can mention it on the 'hound' Wednesday or Thursday I would appreciate it."


"I spent a considerable amount of time with the NC Department of Water Quality and DENR on Monday, after researching the story here of an untreated wastewater spill, I learned the City of Morganton FAILED to follow NCGS 143-215.1c, and DID not issue a "Press Release" concerning this spill as required by statute. Morganton did pay for a "legal notice" published in the News Herald Sunday Edition which states, " An approximate 1,824,000 gallons of untreated wasterwater spilled into the Hunting Creek and then into the Catawba River. " I am waiting to see the fallout on this. This is one of the worst mistakes Morganton has made that I know of. Keep watching for updates."

What is news? What is the business model of the News Media? What is the responsibility of news organizations? In the end, who is the Media responsible to, Corporate or Community Interests?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- January 27, 2013

CHART: The Real Inflation Rate Is 11% According To CPI Calculations From 1980s - The Daily Bail -

History of the CPI - By John Melloy - Executive Producer, CNBC's Fast Money - ...Since 1980, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has changed the way it calculates the CPI in order to account for the substitution of products, improvements in quality (i.e. iPad 2 costing the same as original iPad) and other things. Backing out more methods implemented in 1990 by the BLS still puts inflation at a 5.5 percent rate and getting worse, according to the calculations by the newsletter’s web site,

Compound Inflation - The Hickory Hound

How to Get America Online - The New York Times - Susan Crawford - January 23, 2013 -  Although Julius Genachowski, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has challenged the country to build additional gigabit fiber networks — about 100 times faster than most residential connections today — his words won’t advance our digital future unless they are backed up with the leadership necessary to enact pro-growth, pro-innovation and competition-enabling rules.
                        At the heart of the problem lie a few powerful companies with enormous influence over policy making. Both the wireless and wired markets for high-speed Internet access have become heavily concentrated, and neither is subject to substantial competition nor oversight. Companies like Time Warner Cable routinely get their way when they seek to prevent local officials from encouraging competition. At the federal level, Verizon Wireless is keeping the F.C.C. in court arguing over the scope of its regulatory powers — a move that has undermined the agency’s authority.
                     As a result, prices are too high and speeds too slow. A third of Americans opt not to buy high-speed Internet access at home, often because they can’t afford.               Incumbents like Comcast and Verizon Wireless (now cooperating in a joint marketing venture) claim that their market is characterized by robust competition. But where is the competition when 94 percent of new wired high-speed customers bought service from their local cable distributors during the third quarter of 2012? Not surprisingly, America lags behind almost every other industrialized country in high-speed access — even France, the bĂȘte noir of American free-marketeers, has better and cheaper Internet access.              ( The Hound: If you ever want to get a deer in the headlights look, talk to a politician about the need to upgrade the internet infrastructure. First of all, they can't do it because they have been bought off by the telecoms and other media corps. and second they don't understand it, which makes it easier to control them through part one.)

Goldman Sachs Made 400 Million Betting On Food Prices In 2012 While Hundreds Of Millions Starved - The Economic Collapse Blog -  ...Goldman Sachs made about 400 million dollars betting on food prices last year.  Overall, 2012 was quite a banner year for Goldman Sachs.  As I reported in a previous article, revenues for Goldman increased by about 30 percent in 2012 and the price of Goldman stock has risen by more than 40 percent over the past 12 months.  It is estimated that the average banker at Goldman brought in a pay and bonus package of approximately $396,500 for 2012.  So without a doubt, Goldman Sachs is swimming in money right now.  But what is the price for all of this "success"?  Many claim that the rampant speculation on food prices by the big banks has dramatically increased the global price of food and has caused the suffering of hundreds of millions of poor families around the planet to become much worse.  At this point, global food prices are more than twice as high as they were back in 2003.  Approximately 2 billion people on the planet spend at least half of their incomes on food, and close to a billion people regularly do not have enough food to eat.  Is it moral for Goldman Sachs and other big banks such as Barclays and Morgan Stanley to make hundreds of millions of dollars betting on the price of food if that is going to drive up global food prices and make it harder for poor families all over the world to feed themselves?                                This is another reason why the derivatives bubble is so bad for the world economy.  Goldman Sachs and other big banks are treating the global food supply as if it was some kind of a casino game.  This kind of reckless activity was greatly condemned by the World Development Movement report...

So clucked up! Chicken wing prices up ahead of Super Bowl - Life Inc. - Allison Linn - January 25, 2013 - Last summer’s drought has come home to roost in the price you’ll be paying for those Super Bowl party chicken wings.                           The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Thursday that chicken prices were up 6 percent in December, versus a year earlier. That's more than triple how much overall food prices have risen over the same time.                        Food economists had been warning that the price of foods such as meats and dairy would likely rise because of the summer’s severe drought.                     In the case of poultry, the drought led to a rise in prices for the grains that are typically used to feed animals such as chickens and turkeys. That, in turn, has pushed up the price of the chickens.

GOP Moves to Suspend Debt Ceiling Until May - CNBC - Eamon Javers - January 22, 2013 -
House Speaker John Boehner indicated Tuesday that Republicans will vote on an extension of the federal debt ceiling to allow Treasury to borrow money until mid-May. The move would reverse the order of a series of expected debt and spending fights in Washington, an effort designed to put the GOP on more sound political footing.                       The Speaker said the measure would be tied to a provision that would suspend the pay of lawmakers if they do not agree to a budget by April 15th. A vote is expected Wednesday.                             "I think the American people understand that you can't continue to spend money that you don't have," Boehner said.                      At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney indicated the president would likely sign the measure if the Congress passes it. "The House Republicans made a decision to back away from the kind of brinksmanship that was very concerning to the markets, very concerning to business, very concerning to the American people," Carney said.                            Extending the debt limit for a few months without demanding specific spending cuts means the next moment of high political and market drama will occur when the so-called "sequester" or automatic across the board spending cuts, kicks in on March 1. That deadline is itself the result of another temporary maneuver by Congress on New Year's Day to avoid the fiscal cliff. (Hickory Hound - Splat!!!)

My master's wasn't worth it - Be careful what you study. Going to grad school isn't always worth the time, effort and money. - CNN Money - Annalyn Kurtz @CNNMoney - Last updated January 24 2013

Older smokers priced out of Obamacare? - AP through CBS News - January 25, 2013 - Millions of smokers could be priced out of health insurance because of tobacco penalties in President Obama's health care law, according to experts who are just now teasing out the potential impact of a little-noted provision in the massive legislation.                       The Affordable Care Act — "Obamacare" to its detractors — allows health insurers to charge smokers buying individual policies up to 50 percent higher premiums starting next Jan. 1.                       For a 55-year-old smoker, the penalty could reach nearly $4,250 a year. A 60-year-old could wind up paying nearly $5,100 on top of premiums.                         Younger smokers could be charged lower penalties under rules proposed last fall by the Obama administration. But older smokers could face a heavy hit on their household budgets at a time in life when smoking-related illnesses tend to emerge.

Manufacturers cutting white-collar jobs now, too - By BERNARD CONDON, AP Business Writers; PAUL WISEMAN, AP Business Writers through - January 24, 2012 - Manufacturers have been using technology to cut blue-collar jobs for years. Now, they're targeting their white-collar workers, too.                      Factory Automation Systems makes machines that help companies cut, bundle and load products faster and cheaper than humans can. But it didn't realize how much technology could help its own business until the Great Recession hit.                       To save money, the Atlanta company cut nine workers doing administrative tasks, like booking flights, answering phones, managing employee benefits and ordering parts and supplies.                        "I had to lay people off to survive, then I noticed it's not such a big deal" to do things myself, President Rosser Pryor says. "When I'm buying something, I can go online. I don't need a buyer."                                    Pryor says do-it-yourself software means he doesn't have to rehire though business has rebounded.                        Other manufacturers are using technology to avoid hiring blue-collar workers when business improves.

Let the Banks Fail - President of Iceland

Friday, January 25, 2013

Governance - Silence DoGood

Recently I was reviewing some older work and saw where I had used some references of present relevance that I’d like to share. The following quotes are pulled from a single letter written by Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. The letter was written to the Federal Convention in and for the State of South Carolina that was then meeting in Charleston on May 14, 1788. Insofar as who Charles Pinckney was and his prominence in the birth of this nation, I’ll leave that to you the reader, suffice to say however that his role was instrumental in helping shape this nation. In pertinent part and to that end, I proffer the following:

“It seems to be generally confessed that, of all sciences, that of government or politics, is the most difficult.” Indeed. How many systems and forms of government have been used, implemented, morphed, imposed, practiced, and instituted through the ages of people trying to formulate a means of order under which all may live and prosper? We find theory and practice intertwined through time. Monarchy, theocracy, democracy, oligarchy, and all the various forms thereof under which people have lived, suffered, prospered, sometimes flourishing and sometimes suffering under the weight of oppression. What is the complexity and dynamic of physics in comparison? What we know today of the hard sciences today never change in their base forms and remain absolute. In mathematics, two plus two always equal four. What does change in the hard sciences is the amount of what we know and understand. But in government and politics, the base dynamic is constantly evolving and changing because of the people factor; the chance factor.

In our current world, there are those that look and gesture back toward Europe as the model that we should strive to be like. “In reviewing such of the European states as we are best acquainted with, we may with truth assert that there is but one among the most important which confirms to its citizens their civil liberties, or provides for the security of private rights…we have been taught here to believe that all power of right belongs to the people; that it flows immediately from them, and is delegated to their officers for the public good; that our rulers are the servants of the people, amenable to their will, and created for their use. How different are the governments of Europe!” How different indeed. That one “European state” so referred to by Pinckney was in fact England.

The same nation with which we had just waged a war of independence and yet it was seen and viewed by many as a model by which we should mold our form of governance. A nation led by a monarch who refused to give representation to the colonies, hence therein lies the rub. “From the European world are no precedents to be drawn for a people who think they are capable of governing themselves.” In other words, the models for democracy that exist today in Europe were copied from our own quest for Freedom. And yet, there are those that say today that we should exemplify the European model; they copied it from us! While there existed in the Europe of that time parliaments that ‘represented’ the people, they were still subservient to the will of the monarch. “Let it be therefore our boast that we have already taught some of the oldest and wisest nations to explore their rights as men….”

In the formation of the type of governance, “The first knowledge necessary for us to acquire, is (sic) a knowledge of the people for whom this system was to be formed; for unless we were acquainted with their situation, their habits, opinions, and resources, it would be impossible to form a government upon adequate or practicable principles. If we examine the reasons which have given rise to the distinctions of rank that at present prevail in Europe, we shall find that none of them do, or in all probability ever will, exist in the Union.” “The only distinction that may take place is that of wealth. Riches, no doubt, will ever have their influence; and where they are suffered to increase to large amounts in a few hands, there they may become dangerous to the public—particularly when, from the cheapness of labor and the scarcity of money, a great proportion of the people are poor.” This argument remains to this day. The disparities among the few and the many with regard to wealth have grown and manifested themselves in the last 30 years, despite this letter being almost 235 years old, we have seen precisely these very things move to the forefront in our nation.

Pinckney was a lawyer and a plantation owner. He prospered from the very things that he wrote warning the nation of. His primary belief was in agriculture and the proliferation thereof. Did he stand to benefit? I’m sure he did. But he also saw the ways in which the government could be corrupted and oppressive. Why? Because we have seen the rise of the following, whom Pinckney quotes, but doesn’t name, “the three ways for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war…this is robbery.” “The second is by commerce, which is generally cheating….” “The third is by agriculture….” Pinckney disagrees with the writer concerning commerce, because he says, “some kinds of commerce are not only fair and valuable, but such as ought to be encouraged by government.” But, “Foreign trade is one of the enemies against which we must be extremely guarded—more so than against any other, as none will ever have a more unfavorable operation. I consider it as the root of our present public distress—as plentiful source from which our future national calamities will flow, unless great care is taken to prevent it…the object of a republic is to render its citizens virtuous and happy; and that an unlimited foreign commerce can seldom fail to have a contrary tendency.”

When you analyze what is written in the context of today, you see precisely what was warned of taking place. You have seen this area and in a greater regard, the nation decimated by foreign trade. You have seen the plight of the poor and those less affluent of this country become more so and the rise of a thriving commercial monolith through what is commonly regarded as a corporatocracy; the subjugation of the people by means of influence through the political process by way of lobbyists and the introduction of those in commerce into politics and governance. “Commerce may be made, an object of the attention of government…it does not appear to me that the commercial line will ever have much influence in the politics of the Union.” Proverbial, but it didn’t proliferate itself until the latter part 20th Century to be precise, with impunity. This has become a self-serving ideal in the bodies’ politic across the nation. But to be clear I am no more a fan of agriculture ruling the people than I am commerce. Both are necessary and crucial to our existence, but not in controlling our destiny. Agriculture, commerce, and the trades should all be allowed to operate and prosper within the framework of our Republic, but not at the expense of the people.

With those notions I will leave it to you the reader to ponder the implications of that wisdom. Some will have already made up their minds after reading the first few paragraphs because they will view what they have read within the context of what they believe or hold to be true without further consideration that maybe, perhaps, they have been mistaken in what they believe. I have found myself in the position to have to re-consider positions I have long held as true on the basis of additional information and truth and grudgingly reformulated my own opinions and beliefs because what I had known to be true was in error. And while this isn’t necessarily an expression of opinion, it is an expression of thought. And to perpetuate ourselves and our Nation, we must think of the future, learning from our past, our mistakes and missteps, and learn from them by not repeating them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Future Economy Council - January 17, 2013 - We must reset manufacturing

This was a presentation and discussion on how we are going to revive the economy in Catawba County and the Hickory Metro Area. "We must see a reset in our manufacturing base."

Hmmm... where have we heard that before?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- January 20, 2013

Looking in Fort Knox for its Gold - The International Forecaster - Alfred Adask - January 12, 2013 - Only a fraction of gold in Fort Knox was ever allowed to be seen, No audit of Fort Knox in over 60 years, If you believe government routinely lies, why would you believe government's claim to have retained 8,200 tons of gold for the past 30 years—especially when government refuses to provide or even allow any independent verification of its claim? The only reason to currently believe that government has retained 8,200 tons of gold is that a contrary belief is too fantastic to accept...                "An audit of the US gold holdings has  been demanded by some for years, but the government will not allow it.   The gold belongs to the American people, so why won't they let us see  it?  Many think it is because it is no longer there.  If that is indeed  the case, do we not face a 'financial Armageddon'?                     "At first it may sound shocking, but the last audit of gold stored in Fort Knox took place in 1953. No typo here, 1953, just after U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower took office. [However,] No outside experts were allowed [during that audit] and the audit team tested only about 5% of gold hoarded in the fort. So, there hasn’t been a comprehensive audit of Fort Knox in over 60 (!!!) years."...

Do You Want To Scare A Baby Boomer? - The Economic Collapse Blog - If you want to frighten Baby Boomers, just show them the list of statistics in this article. The United States is headed for a retirement crisis of unprecedented magnitude, and we are woefully unprepared for it. At this point, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers are reaching the age of 65 every single day, and this will continue to happen for almost the next 20 years. The number of senior citizens in America is projected to more than double during the first half of this century, and some absolutely enormous financial promises have been made to them. So will we be able to keep those promises to the hordes of American workers that are rapidly approaching retirement? Of course not. State and local governments are facing trillions in unfunded pension liabilities. Medicare is facing a 38 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years. The Social Security system is facing a 134 trillion dollar shortfall over the next 75 years. Meanwhile, nearly half of all American workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. The truth is that I was being incredibly kind when I said earlier that we are "woefully unprepared" for what is coming. The biggest retirement crisis in history is rapidly approaching, and a lot of the promises that were made to the Baby Boomers are going to get broken.                     The following are 35 incredibly shocking statistics that will scare just about any Baby Boomer...

Gas tax revenue down, officials eye mileage levy - With gas tax revenues down, state officials eye tax on 'vehicle miles traveled' - Associated Press through Yahoo - Dave Gram - January 18, 2013 - Montpelier, Vermont - Carpooling, higher fuel economy, hybrids and electric cars may be good for the environment, but they're bad for government transportation funding, which relies on gasoline and diesel taxes to help pay for the building and upkeep of roads and bridges.                       Now some states, including Vermont, are mapping out a possible alternative: taxing drivers not based on how much fuel is burned but how far each vehicle travels.                             Vermont Transportation Secretary Brian Searles said calculating how much of a VMT tax is owed would be done through the global positioning system devices that are expected to be standard equipment in cars later this decade.
"It's a GPS device that is capable of tracking location, time," he said, adding that he was aware that might raise privacy concerns.                         It did with Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.                          "I'm sure there's going to be a big public outcry when people hear about this," he said.                        But Adrian Moore, who has studied VMT tax implementation as vice president with the California-based Reason Foundation, said fears of Big Brother are overblown. He said a range of technologies are being tested in pilot studies, including one device that records miles traveled since a fill-up and then communicates with the gas pump on the next fill-up how much tax is owed.                       If a GPS device can tell a driver when to take a left, it can tell what road the car is traveling on, and eventually could determine how much of the tax is owed to a city, a county or a state, depending on whether the motorist was using a city street, a county road or a state highway, Moore said.                          James Whitty, a manager in the Oregon Department of Transportation's Office of Innovations and Alternative Funding, said the legislation there would let motorists choose between several technologies, as well as a range of public and private sector vendors that would calculate and collect the tax and relay it to the government.          (The Hound: The communists main goal is to limit your mobility, just as the Soviets used to. If you are driving fewer miles and cars are getting better gas mileage, then there should be less wear and tear on the roads and environment. And logically the gubment shouldn't need as much money for maintenance. Hasn't that been their stated goal in implementing the increased standards over the years?  Do you really want them placing a tracking device on your car? They minimize the Big Brother angle after all of the abuses we have seen over the last decade.)

The 10 Most Hated Companies in America - 24/7 Wall St. - January 12, 2013  

Companies with Record Layoffs in 2012 - 24/7 Wall St. - January 4, 2013 - Whatever recovery the jobs market posted in 2012, mass layoffs remained impressively high. Dozens of companies each fired thousands of workers, with failing firms at the top of the list based on total cuts.                  Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), which is so badly off that investors now question its viability, fired 27,000 people in May. That number could rise rapidly as some of its core tech divisions struggle for sales. The botched buyout of Autonomy almost certainly will cause more job cuts in that division, which has, according to HP, much lower profits than forecast. CEO Meg Whitman has said HP sales may not improve for two years or more.                       Hostess moved into Chapter 11 so quickly that the public only watched the process in its late stages, when it became clear that Twinkies might disappear. Friction between management and labor did not improve during negotiations, and 18,500 people lost work.                       From tech to food to travel: AMR, the parent of American Airlines, also in Chapter 11, fired 13,000 people as the company attempted to show it can be profitable. The actions were part of a plan to emerge from bankruptcy either as an independent or an attractive target for another large carrier. Those plans have come to fruition. US Airways Group Inc. (NYSE: LCC) probably will buy American. A new consolidation between the airlines will cause another round of jobs cuts.

Gaston plant closing, 220 to lose jobs - Gaston Gazette - Ragan Robinson - January 10, 2013 -
Some 220 Apex Tool Group employees will lose their jobs when the company closes its Gastonia plant in June.                       Work done in Gastonia today will go to Apex factories and warehouses in Dallas, Texas, and in China, a spokeswoman for the toolmaker said Thursday.                                  Operations at the Isley Drive plant will begin slowing over the next few months, which could leave some employees out of work before the June deadline.                               The site has been home to tool making since 1978 when it was owned by the Moore Co., according to spokeswoman Kelly Blazek.                               Apex Tool Group, formerly Danaher, has traditionally been known for its American-made Craftsman tools, although the company manufactures, packages and ships dozens of other brands.                         Apex Tool says the Gastonia plant is the only one it plans to close.                   Bain Capital, a private equity firm once run by presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in October announced a deal to acquire the company, which formed in 2010 from Danaher Tool Group and Cooper Tools. Businessweek reported this month the toolmaker is looking for more than $1 billion in loans to back the buyout.

The Cost of America's Crumbling Roads and Bridges - CNBC - Michelle Caruso-Cabrera - January 15, 2013 - The decrepit state of the nation's infrastructure will knock more than $3 trillion off the nation's gross domestic product through the end of the decade if more money isn't spent to upgrade the country's roads, bridges, airports and ports, according to a new report from the American Society of Civil Engineers.                       Based on current trends in the U.S., ASCE estimates the infrastructure investment needs will total $2.7 trillion, and yet they estimate only $1.6 trillion will be spent, leading to an investment gap of $1.1 trillion.                                      The biggest gap in funding is in surface transportation, in other words roads and bridges, which will need a whopping $846 billion. Airports will need $39 billion, and marine ports and waterways will need $16 billion. The costs are measured in terms of such things as unreliable transportation services, and less reliable water and electricity.                              The impact from not filling that investment gap means $484 billion fewer in exports, and $1.1 trillion in lost total trade. That, in turn, leads to 3.5 million fewer jobs than would otherwise be created, the report said.

Intel profit sinks 27% on dreadful PC sales - CNN Money - David Goldman - January 17, 2013 -  The world's largest chipmaker reported a quarterly profit on Thursday that fell 27% from year-ago results, dragged down by slumping PC chip sales.                      Intel sold 6% fewer PC chips in the fourth quarter -- its biggest business, and one that accounts for nearly two-thirds of its overall revenue.                           The results weren't unexpected. Worldwide PC shipments fell by 5% in the fourth quarter and 3.5% for 2012, according to Gartner. It was the first time since the dot-com bust of 2001 that PC shipments fell from one year to the next. (The Hound: The World is turning to smart phones and tablets.)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of January 15, 2013

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 1/15/2012 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.

All materials and maps for this meeting are provide at this link:

City Council Action Agenda - January 15, 2013

Invocation by Rev. Bob Thompson, Pastor, Corinth Reformed Church

Special Presentations
A. (3:40) Business Well Crafted Presentation Award - Business Development Committee Member David  Gissy presented the “Business Well Crafted Award to Jay Reardon with Hickory Chair Furniture  Company.

Mr. Gissy stated that Hickory is known for quality and craftsmanship. This award is given to companies that have been in existence in our area for 75 or more years. Hickory Chair was founded in 1911. They now employee 576 employees. Mr. Reardon thanked the city and the county for coming together and supporting Hickory Chair when they nearly had to close and now he says thay are exporting their product around the world.

(11:05) - The Mayor made a motion to allow Citizens to address items on the agenda.

Consent Agenda: (12:15)
A. Request from Hickory Police Department to Award Police Badge and Service Weapon to Retiring MPO J.B. Wike. -  By authority of NC General Statute §20-187.2, City Council may award the service weapon and police badge to retiring MPO J.B. Wike upon his retirement from Hickory Police Department on December 31, 2012 after completing almost 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.

B. Approval to File a Grant Application with Clean Water Management Trust Fund for $127,500 in Grant Funds to Purchase a Riparian Buffer on Horseford Creek. - The Clean Water Management Trust Fund (CWMTF) provides funds to local governments to assist in acquiring land to be set aside as riparian buffers. CWMTF funds may be used to purchase property on the first 300 feet of land from the top of the stream bank or the width of the 100 year floodplain, whichever is greater. CWMTF grant applications are due February 1, 2013, applicants will not receive notification of funding status until October 1, 2013. Staff request approval of the authorization to file a grant application with the Clean Water Management Trust Fund for $127,500 to purchase a riparian buffer on Horseford Creek contiguous to Glenn Hilton Park.

C. Approval of Recombination Deeds for City Property on South Center Street and Main Avenue Way SE.  - The first recombination deed is for three city-owned parcels on South Center Street that
are located just south of 4th Avenue SW. These properties are currently being developed as a parking lot for the former Ridgeview Public Library. The second recombination deed is for city-owned parcels on Main Avenue Way SE that are located just south of the railroad tracks between Highway 127 and 3rd Street SE. The total area of the three parcels is slightly more than one acre. No development is currently proposed for the Main Avenue Way properties at this time; however, combining these properties into one parcel will expedite the development process at this location when it occurs.

D. Approval of a Contract with The Library Corporation (TLC) in the amount of $45,680 for the first year and $27,780 per year for the remaining four years for Installation and Ongoing Management of the Library’s Integrated Library System.  -  Library request approval of a contract with The Library Corporation (TLC) to install and manage Hickory Public Library’s integrated library system that includes circulation, cataloging, acquisitions, statistics management, and other essential library functions. The contract cost for the first year will be $45,680 and for the remaining four years a cost of $27,780 per year.

E. Request approval of the Hickory Downtown Preservation Association’s Historic Preservation Fund Pass-Through Grant Application in the amount of $14,092 for the Hickory Community Theatre renovations. -  As a Certified Local Government, the City of Hickory and nonprofits within the city are eligible to apply for grants from the State of North Carolina to undertake a variety of different projects to advance historic preservation throughout the state. The Hickory Downtown Preservation Association has prepared an application on behalf of the Hickory Community Theatre for some of the external improvements that will occur as part of their upcoming renovation project. The grant funds will be used for replacement of the doors at the main entrance of the theatre and for re-pointing of the bricks on the building exterior. The estimated project cost is $23,486; the grant request is for $14,092 with the additional $9,394 in local match funds coming from contributions received by the Hickory
Community Theatre. No additional funding from the City of Hickory is required for the grant project.
- Removed from the Consent Agenda with further information given. Manager Berry requested that the money amounts be changed; project cost $48,663 - $15,000 is now the grant request and matching funds will cover the additional $33,663.

F. Approval of the Application for Funding for the 2013 Urgent Repair Program (URP13) for submission to the N.C. Housing Finance Agency.  - The City of Hickory Community Development Department in complying with the N.C. Housing Finance Agency’s guidelines has prepared an application for funding for the 2013 Urgent Repair Program. The application incorporates program requirements, applicant eligibility standards and program capabilities. The application is in the amount of $37,500 through this program in order to assist a minimum of eight eligible homes with
urgently needed repairs in an amount not to exceed $5,400 per housing unit. The City of Hickory will provide $3,750 in matching funds, available from Rental Rehabilitation program income.

G. Citizens’ Advisory Committee Recommendations for Assistance through the City of Hickory’s Housing Programs - The following requests were considered by the Citizens’ Advisory Committee at their regular meeting on January 3, 2013:
Jeffrey Beard was approved for recommendation to City Council for first-time homebuyer’s assistance to purchase a house located at 470 20th Avenue NE, Hickory. He had requested $6,500 for assistance with down payment and closing costs. The First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan is zero interest, no payments and repaid upon sale, refinance or payoff of first mortgage.
Ashley Byrd was approved for recommendation to City Council for first-time homebuyer’s assistance to purchase a house located at 836 5th Avenue SW, Hickory. She had requested $10,000 for assistance with down payment and closing costs. The First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan is zero interest, no payments and repaid upon sale, refinance or payoff of first mortgage.
Rebecca Dickinson was approved for recommendation to City Council for first time homebuyer’s assistance to purchase a house located at 2705 North Center Street Unit #74, Hickory. She had requested $6,500 for assistance with down payment and closing costs. The First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Loan is zero interest, no payments and repaid upon sale, refinance or payoff of first mortgage.
Approved support for construction of sidewalk and streetscape improvements along 14th Avenue Place NW adjacent to proposed Viewmont Square Court Apartments. The WODA development group is looking to construct a 50 unit senior apartment complex. CDBG funds may be used to support site improvements if they are in public ownership. The applicant is requesting CDBG funding for construction of sidewalk and landscaping within the right of way. The project will cost approximately $6,000. The applicant is applying to the NC Housing Finance Agency for tax credits to support the project. Funds will be budgeted in a future year, but city approval is requested at this time
in order to include the city support in the application to the NC Housing Finance Agency. Funds are budgeted for these items through the City of Hickory’s former Rental Rehabilitation Program income received in FY 2011 and/or program income received through the City of Hickory’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

H. Approval of a Special Warranty Deed for Northwest Sewer Pump Station Property. - On April 20, 1999 and May 4, 1999, City Council approved on first and second readings staff’s request to purchase a tract of property located at 39th Avenue, NW from Allen W. Huffman and wife, Evelyn Huffman. The request also included an easement which runs across the western portion of the property. Council approved the purchase price of $50,000. The property was purchased to build the sewer pump station for the Northwest area. The City paid the Huffman’s the $50,000 and the pump station was  subsequently built on the property. In 2012, Allen W. Huffman, Jr. and wife, Margaret Barry Huffman and Janice Huffman Bradford and husband E. Edwin Bradford, heirs of Allen W. and Evelyn Huffman and the current owners of an adjacent tract, put that tract on the market. During negotiations with a potential buyer, the Huffman’s and Bradford’s learned they had still been paying taxes on the tract the City purchased in 1999. In turn, the discovery of the tax payments led to the discovery that a deed conveying the pump station tract to the City was not recorded at the time of the closing on the property.

I. Approval of an Agreement for Consulting Services with McGill Associates in the amount of $22,900 for Water Treatment Facility Settled Sedimentation Disposal Alternatives Analysis. - 
The City of Hickory Water Treatment Facility recently received an annual inspection from NCDENR Public Water Supply Section. During this inspection staff from NCDENRPWSS noted a deficiency with operations of the facility in the area of settled sedimentation disposal. The subsequent inspection report requires the City of Hickory Water Treatment Facility to have a third party professional engineer evaluate and make recommendations for the on-going practice of settled sedimentation disposal that is integral to the successful treatment of potable water for the City of Hickory. McGill Associates was selected as the most qualified engineering professionals to complete this project for the City due to their knowledge of water treatment practices and equipment and they have a very productive relationship with NCDENR.  A J. Approve the Proposed Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) Submittal for FY 2014-2018 to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). - This submittal is the official formal request from the City of Hickory to the NCDOT of
specific future capital project improvements that are needed for the Hickory Regional Airport. The NCDOT will review this submittal against a funding priority system that all other public airports in North Carolina are obligated to follow to determine funding eligibility. The NCDOT will determine which of the projects listed in the TIP Submittal are eligible for funding. These allocations are based upon 90 percent Federal/State funds and 10 percent local share for all eligible, approved project costs for airport improvements. This Submittal is in correlation with recommendations from the Airport Task Force.

K. Approval of a Transfer of a Cemetery Deed from the City of Hickory to Henry Bryan Whitener in Fairview Cemetery

L. Approval of the Resolution to Support the 2013-2015 Funding for Clean Water Management Trust Fund. - Clean Water Management Trust Fund has provided grants to the City of Hickory to purchase property along Horseford Creek to establish buffers and, improve and expand the Greenway Trail System; and also funds for the Cripple Creek Sanitary Sewer Outfall Replacement Project. The grants provided to the City of Hickory total $1,139,860.47.

M. Budget Ordinance Amendment No. 11.
1. To budget a $100 donation from George Ivey in the Landscape Services Departmental Supplies line item. This donation is to support the George Ivey Arboretum and used for plantings, signage, maintenance or any other needed improvements.
2. To budget a $29,921 insurance claim check from Nationwide Insurance Company in the Traffic division Maintenance and Repair of Signals and Departmental Supplies line item. This insurance claim is for damages to traffic signals and fiber optic lines resulting from a traffic accident on 10/27/12 at Hwy. 127 and 23rd Ave. NE Hickory.
3. To appropriate $48,291 of General Fund Balance (Funds reserved from the US Department of Justice) and budget in the Police Department's Departmental  Supplies line item. This amendment is necessary to purchase weapons and holsters for the Hickory Police Department. Officers have carried  9mm Beretta firearms since 1989 and although there is a replacement schedule for these
weapons, over the years the Berettas have become more expensive than other handguns. After testing, the Police Department decided that the 9mm Glock would be the best on-duty weapon for Officers. Glocks are estimated to be approximately $155 less per weapon than the Beretta, they are easier to repair if a problem should arise and the magazines are interchangeable unlike the Berettas. Therefore HPD will purchase 145 weapons, holsters and accessories with funds made available to the Police Department from the US Department of Justice which remain in General Fund Balance until appropriated.
4. To transfer $22,900 of Water and Sewer Contingency to the Water Treatment Plant Other Professional Services line item. This transfer is necessary to pay for Consulting Services with McGill  Associates for a Water Treatment Facility Settled Sedimentation Disposal Alternative Analysis. This Engineering firm will evaluate and make recommendations for the on-going practice of settled sedimentation disposal to ensure that the plants process is compliant under the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (NCDENR).
5. To transfer $957,795 from Water and Sewer Fund Capital Reserve to the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade and Expansion Project. In addition to the $9,900,000 financed for the project, $1,915,590 is needed to fund the project of which the City of Hickory and Catawba County will share. This transfer of funds represents Hickory's 50% share of the remaining
funds required.

O. Special Event/Activities Application for Downtown Hickory Farmers Market, Donna B. Cullum, Market Manager, from April 3, 2013 to November 30, 2013 at The Sails on the Square.

New Business - Public Hearing
1. (15:05) Regarding Amendments to Articles, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10 of the City’s Land Development Code. - Annually the Planning and Development Services Department conducts a review of the City’s Land Development Code to determine if amendments are needed. During the current review staff has identified a number of recommended amendments to Articles 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10 of the City’s Land Development Code pertaining to Certificates of Appropriateness, use regulations for group living facilities, building setbacks, and solid waste enclosures and signs. The Hickory Regional Planning Commission and Staff recommend the changes.

***Mayor Wright Recused himself, because of potential financial conflicts. Part of the subject matter dealt with signage and as many of you know he is the owner of a sign company. (The Hound) - The Mayor should be commended for recusing himself here.

Brian Frazier made the presentation. This is the second annual revision and update. There are no updates to Hickory By Choice, but they are changing minor text amendments. He speaks of Certificates of Appropriateness. He states this is a housekeeping item. Use Regulations changes deal with residents in Group Living Facility; this is being eliminated. Reducing setbacks in Historical areas. Solid Waste Storage screening (Dumpster Enclosures) materials will be expanded to help with cost savings.

Permissible wall signs in non-residential areas will now be allowed to be 2 sq ft per foot of linear foot of wall area, instead of 1 sq ft previously, up to 300 sq ft. Mr. Frazier states that these signs are created by professionals and they should be allowed the latitude to create their signs.

Alderman Meisner asked a question about trucks (or tractor trailers) being used as signs. This is allowed if the truck is used by the business, but it is not permissible if truck isn't mobile. It must be motoring and tagged. Alderman Lail asked about Height of signs -- this needs to be increased.

New Business - Departmental Reports
1. (36:40) Contracts for the Construction of the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade and Expansion - (Kevin Greer Presentation).

a. Approval of the Contract with Jimmy R. Lynch & Sons, Inc. in the amount of $10,219,657. Council approved with Unanimous Consent.

b. Approval of an Engineering Construction Services Contract with Davis & Floyd, Inc. in the amount of $520,651. Council approved with Unanimous Consent.

c. Approve the Acceptance and Award the Bank Bid from PNC Bank in the amount of $9.9 Million Dollars for the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade and Expansion Installment Purchase Financing. - The City of Hickory received bids from BB&T and PNC Bank on 12/31/12. The rates reported were 2.49% by BB&T and 2.27% by PNC Bank, both based on the installment purchase method of financing $9.9 million for a 15 year term. Funds from the financing will be deposited into a money rate savings account and withdrawn by the City of Hickory as needed  for invoice processing. In addition to the lower interest rate from PNC Bank, their current governmental money rate savings account rate is 0.20 percent compared to 0.10 percent with BB&T. Council approved with Unanimous Consent.

This was discussed at the City Council meeting of January 2, 2013

2. (47:45) Sub-Committee of Hickory City Council Recommendations to “Decide the language for getting citizens input at the beginning of the meeting.”

The Mayor states that he was pushing to have a vote taken on this night. He adds that he is not comfortable voting on the issue until he has had a chance to reflect upon the approved minutes (what happened during the sub-committee meeting). You can watch it here -- Hickory Subcommittee on Citizen Input Meeting - January 14, 2013.

Alerman Lail asked if they had a recommendation from the sub-committee. The Mayor gets contentious about that, "There is going to be a recommendation from the subcommittee, so I guess we'll let that recommendation come." The Mayor makes a pointy about being the presiding officer. Attorney Crone gets into the rules. Apparently he presides over the meeting under Robert's rules of Order, but that doesn't make him the Chairman of the meeting.

Attorney Crone gets into the need to clean up documents that have been created over time, such as contacting the City Manager to be placed on the Agenda to speak... the 3 minute time limit, etc. A motion needs to direct the City Attorney and the City Staff Attorney draft an ordinance containing what they want to see there and clean up other (related) policies and ordinances.

Alder Fox read the recommended new ordinance and Alder Patton's Amendment. Under this ordinance all public comment would move to Item 4 on the Agenda, except under Alder Patton's Amendment they Citizen's will be allowed to address the Council about an item from the night's agenda. The Mayor gets into this issue about any Council Member being able to make a motion that someone is out of order. The Mayor can call someone out of order without a motion. Alderman Lail gets into the idea that through policy people should be allowed to provide information at the discretion of the Council.

Alderman Lail made a motion to instruct staff to put Alder Fox's recommendation in the form of an ordinance and study the 3:00 time rule as a matter of policy. The mayor then begins a long rant about the 3:00 time policy... speaking about a hard 3 minutes and a soft 3 minutes and challenging Attorney Crone and Alder Fox. Insinuating that this was all done behind his back. This becomes a heated discussion mostly on the Mayor's part. Mrs. Patton speaks about the time limit policy not being enforced.

Citizens Requesting to be Heard

Cliff Moone (1:37:20) - Cliff addresses issues of Points of Order and Robert's Rules of Order. Cliff thanked the Council for the work they had just done. He said that we had just seen Democracy in Action. He speaks to issues of decorum. He speaks about the Mayor being the Chair of Council.

James Thomas Shell (1:42:00) - I speak to the fact that we create these subcommittees and never follow through on their recommendations. We need to keep amateur politics from affecting local governmental processes. I speak to the fact that I have seen many moments where citizens have addressed council that I would not consider friendly. The Mayor wants the Citizen Input at the beginning of the meeting to be a motion process and not be placed permanently on the Agenda.

The Hound: Many may not understand exactly where I was coming from when I addressed the Council. On Monday, I addressed the subcommittee and asked that they increase the initial speaking time to 5 minutes and that Citizens address Matters not on the Agenda at the end of the meeting and everything else be moved forward, a position the Hound has advocated for the last two-plus years. I constantly see everyone butting up against the 3 minutes. In fact I do it here, addressing the Council,  even though I am only making 3 points and I'm not wasting time, but I'm not going to pitch a fit if they don't follow these recommendations to the T.

The timing isn't a major factor and thankfully Alderman Lail gets around to making that point. The main issue is Citizens being allowed to address issues before votes are taken so that we don't go through what we went through about the Structure on Union Square or about the Swimming Pools. This is to the benefit of Council also to keep them from diving into the deep end on issues where they haven't gotten a feel for how citizens feel.

If you watch Monday's meeting, you will see that the Mayor wasn't prepared for the proceedings. He wanted to keep the motion process he had instituted a few months ago and it seemed that was what was truly upsetting him. Why he has a hard time putting this in print on the Agenda is beyond me. 

In his speech on this night, he talks about the "CEG Experience." So is that the reason why he can't come to grips with this? Does he have a problem with us on the verge of being successful about one of our issues? Is this because he has a personal issue with us? 

Well, we (Supporters of the Referendum) have a reason to take it personally after he (and his buddies) said we were all associated with ACORN and called us sinister and liars and asked if we had consciences, said this was all about getting crackpots (Larry Pope's) on Council and such; but the issues are a lot more important to us than personalities. We are willing to work with anybody. If Mayor Wright showed up at lunch (or anywhere else) I would not run away.

This whole thing about accusing people of going behind his back has been an exercise I have been observing for the years I have been involved in the local political scene. But, who is really going behind who's back?

One of my associates was present at the Council the other night and her definition of the Mayor's address was "Bombastic." Yes, the Mayor may not have been out of control ranting and raving, but he was being accusatory when he had no reason to be and especially over something this trivial. I did not throw the "He can be removed" statement out there as  in this night. I threw it out there for him to understand that there are checks on him too. If Council can call citizens out of order, then they can call the Mayor out of order too.

The whole timing issue stems from the night when Larry Pope protested in the Well of the Chamber. Council Members want to see situations such as that brought under control. The timing mechanism is a method to "wrap people up" should they get on a rant and just be up there attacking Council Members. As Alders Patton and Fox expressed on Monday, their intent is not to silence people. Their intent is to have rules, structure, and decorum... And frankly I don't blame them for that.

And it is my opinion that this (timing) is really not the axe that Mayor Wright is grinding. It is like a citizen who doesn't regularly attend Council Meetings stated. They voted to spend $9 million without any discussion and then spent an hour on a procedural matter. What he didn't know is that this procedural issue will be going into it's fifth month.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hickory City Council Meeting - January 15, 2013 - Video Presentation

The following is a video presentation of the Hickory, NC City Council Meeting of January 15, 2012. The most relevant topics of this meeting:

Special Presentation - Business Well Crafted Award to Hickory Chair

Public Hearing regarding Amendments to Articles, 2, 6, 7, 9, and 10 of the City's Land Development Code.

Departmental Report involving contracts for the Construction of the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Facility Upgrade and Expansion.

Departmental Report involving Sub-Committee of Hickory City Council Recommendations to "Decide the language for getting citizens input at the beginning of the meeting." This conversation get rather contentious with the Mayor accusing Alder Fox and Attorney John Crone of going behind his back and tricking him about the scope of the subcommittee in relation to the proceedings from the previous day - January 14, 2013.

Citizen Comments related to the Citizen Input issue by Cliff Moone and Thom Shell

Monday, January 14, 2013

Hickory Subcommittee on Citizen Input Meeting - January 14, 2013

Earlier Today I put this meeting out without context. The meeting began around 9:30am, this morning (January 14, 2012). This Subcommittee of City Council was formed to create language related to Citizen Input at City Council meetings.

As many of you know, this all began over issues related to the Swimming Pools and the structure built on Union Square where citizens felt that they weren't getting a fair hearing and the ambiguous nature of the Agenda and some of the proceedings that took place caused a lot of frustration.

About a year ago, Cliff Moone noticed what the cover page of the City Council Agenda stated and we waited for the moment in time to present itself to be able to utilize the process and thus empower the citizenry. That process allowed citizens to pull items from the Consent Agenda. We felt the Consent Agenda had been being utilized to circumvent public hearing processes.

Cliff and I had conversations with Rebecca Inglefield and at the City Council Meeting of May 1, 2012, she addressed the City Council and had items removed from the Consent Agenda. The City Council moved to close that process at the following City Council Meeting of May 15, 2012.

All of this point-counterpoint was a large part of the discussion related to the Referendum on Ward Specific Voting. Proponents and Opponents came to an understanding that Citizens should be heard before public policy and spending issues are voted upon. Joe Brannock, as the leader of the CEG's referendum drive, espoused 5 proposals to move us closer towards a more representative City Council and Number 1 on the Agenda is moving the time for citizens requesting to be heard to the top of the agenda at City council meetings.

Following back and forth discussions in public and behind the scenes, the Mayor moved to head off some of the discussions that were taking place by making a proposal at the October 2, 2012 City Council meeting to allow Citizen Input before votes take place, but he did not want to formally place it on the Agenda and he wanted it to be done through a motion process. The back and forth continued, because there was no structure or flow to this process. And that is what has brought us to where we are today.

The bottom line is that if the recommendations of Alders Fox and Patton go through tomorrow night at the Council meeting, then we have achieved what we wanted thanks to these ladies and Alderman Lail for initiating the process to form this subcommittee and Alderman Meisner for supporting the motion and process to move toward formalizing this structure.

The Mayor wanted to maintain the motion system that he implemented a couple months ago and this was rejected. Alder Fox moved to have all "Citizen Input" placed as item 4 on the Agenda, along with the current 3 minute structure. Both Fox and Patton want stricter administration of the 3 minute policy, but they both stated that it is not their intent to summarily cut people off. It is about respecting the rules and the process. Alder Patton made an amendment to allow "Other Comment" at the end of the meetings to allow citizens who have a "Burning Desire" to address anything that has gone on during the meeting.

When the ladies did this, the Mayor tried to say they were out of order, because the time issues and such was not a directive of the Council from the previous meeting. Alder Patton pointed that it was under the purview of the ordinance. When the Mayor saw that he wasn't going to get his way, he said that he wasn't going to participate, quit the committee and physically got up and walked over and sat on the front row and participated no further.

This was high drama and pretty darned good entertainment for the few of us who were there. I hope you will take the time to watch this video and if you can be at council tomorrow night. We need to help the Council guide this issue to its conclusion and thank them for settling this once and for all. We can put the grandstanding, demagoguery, and hyperbole behind us. That doesn't mean that we can't have opinions, but the marriage of trust, representation, direction, initiative, guidance, and structure are what it is going to take to get this community moving forward again.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- January 13, 2013

Duke Energy to file for another rate increase - WRAL (Raleigh, NC) - January 8, 2013 -
Duke Energy Corp. has told North Carolina utility regulators that it will ask for another rate increase soon.                         The Gaston Gazette reported ( ) that Duke late last week filed notice with the North Carolina Utilities Commission that it will file for another rate increase early next month.                      The request comes less than a year after regulators approved a 7 percent increase for Duke.               Duke representatives have said for months the company plans to apply for an increase to pay for maintenance and upgrades to its systems.                          Attorney General Roy Cooper has been fighting the increase that was approved last January. The North Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments on the challenge in November. Duke had originally requested a 17 percent increase but agreed to the 7.2 percent figure early last year.                        Cooper said Tuesday that he has "real concerns" about the rate increases, which he said produce double-digit profit margins for the company.                     "We believe that the Utilities Commission should have to look at the effect of the profit margin on consumers when considering that profit margin," he said. "We're going to continue to argue this. We're arguing it now in the Progress Energy rate increase. We'll argue it in the next one. Of course, we'll have to wait and see what the North Carolina Supreme Court says."                 Progress Energy, which Duke acquired in July, filed last fall for a 12 percent rate increase, which the company said was its first request for higher rates since 1987.

Are generics really the same as branded drugs? - Fortune through USA Today - Katherine Eban - January 10, 2013 - Consumers are told that generics are just like their name-brand counterparts. More medical professionals are starting to say that's not the case.                      In October the Food and Drug Administration took a highly unusual step: It declared that a generic drug it had previously approved -- a version of the popular antidepressant Wellbutrin -- was not in fact "bioequivalent" to the name-brand version. The FDA withdrew its approval.                          The federal action shook the business. Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA), which marketed the generic in question, has stopped selling it, and other companies are now testing their versions of Wellbutrin at the FDA's request. The episode is bringing momentum to a movement that has been quietly building among many doctors and medical societies that are increasingly willing to ask a question that borders on heresy: Are generics really identical to the branded products they are meant to replicate? To a surprising degree, they say, the answer is no.                        If you're a layperson, this is the way you probably think of generics: They're the exact same products in different packaging; generics companies can sell such medications for a fraction of the cost of the originals because they don't have to spend huge sums on drug development and marketing.                         That apparent miracle explains why more than 80% of all U.S. prescriptions dispensed in 2012 were generic. Using nonbranded medications saved Americans $193 billion this past year, according to the Generic Pharmaceutical Association.                               But generic drugs diverge from the originals far more than most of us believe. For starters, it's not as if the maker of the original pharmaceutical hands over its manufacturing blueprint when its patent runs out or is challenged. The patent reveals the components, but it doesn't explain how to make the drug. In reality, manufacturing a generic requires reverse engineering, and the result is an approximation rather than a duplicate of the original.                   The FDA's rules effectively acknowledge that. The agency's definition of bioequivalence is surprisingly broad: A generic's maximum concentration of active ingredient in the blood must not fall more than 20% below or 25% above that of the brand name. This means a potential range of 45%, by that measure, among generics labeled as being the same.                        There are other differences. The generic must contain the same active ingredient as the original. But the additional ingredients, known as excipients, can be different and are often of lower quality. Those differences can affect what's called bioavailability -- the amount of drug that could potentially be absorbed into the bloodstream. As the American Heart Association recently noted, "Some additives traditionally thought to be inert, such as alcohol sugars, cyclodextrans, and polysorbate-80, may alter a drug's dissolution, thereby impacting its bioavailability."

Another infographic — this one from Onlinecolleges — explaining the systematic destruction of America’s middle class.


Look at the numbers below. You don't stand a chance of retiring. Many of us were told that the older generations would retire or at least semi-retire and this would create the room we needed for career advancement and climbing the economic ladder. We were taught that working hard would create opportunity. Well, we have subsequently learned that it is a Dog Eat Dog World and in order to advance you just might have to take out Mom and Pop. Working hard won't guarantee anything, but not working hard guarantees failure. The Rat race will get you nowhere and is nothing but a big lie perpetuated by those in control. You have to think outside the box in order to get ahead. That is the definition of ingenuity, entrepreneurialism, innovation, and SURVIVAL.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Citizens input at City Council Meetings - Meeting at 9:30am - Monday January 14, 2012

Departmental Report for the City Council Meeting on January 15, 2012
Sub-Committee of Hickory City Council Recommendations to “Decide the language for getting citizens input at the beginning of the meeting.”

*** The meeting on Monday Morning at 9:30am is a public meeting.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of January 2, 2013 - (Departmental Report) - SUBCOMMITTEE ON CITIZEN INPUT AT THE BEGINNING OF MEETINGS - At it’s December 18, 2012 meeting, City Council established a subcommittee of Mayor Wright, Alderwoman Fox and Alderwoman Patton to “Decide the language for getting citizens input at the beginning of the meeting.” As a duly appointed subcommittee of its members, the meetings will be advertised and open to the public. Council can discuss the process of the subcommittee and establish a time and location for its first meeting.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 18, 2012 - Cliff Moone spoke once again about the process that has been instituted in relation to allowing Citizens to be heard before votes are taken in relation to second readings,  Consent Agenda Items, and Departmental Reports.At the end of the meeting Council voted affirmatively to form a subcommittee to formally put this process, allowing Citizens to be Heard before votes are taken, on the Agenda.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of October 2, 2012 - Addendum on the CEG proposals - Proposal introduced by the Mayor outside of the constructs of the agenda

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of November 20, 2012 - Cliff Moone addressed the issue of Citizens being allowed the question items on the agenda at the beginning of the meeting. He discussed what occurred at the October 2, 2012 meeting.

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of December 4, 2012 -  Cliff Moone addresses the City Council about the Council's new policy odf making a motion to allow citizen's to address the City Council about items on the Agenda. Cliff and all members of the Citizens for Equity in Government feel that the Council is proverbially flying by the seat of their pants on this. Second they are not following proper protocol, because this is nowhere to be found on the Public Agenda, so technically it is a matter not on the Agenda and should by statute come at the end of the meeting after Citizens Requesting to Be Heard, which takes us back to square one. Hickory Inc. wants to say what's the big deal and we agree. Since it isn't a big deal, then formally put in on the agenda and quit with the ruse.