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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of June 4, 2013 - Addendum Citizens Requesting to be Heard

7 people addressed the Council on this evening

Cliff Moone - At the last City Council meeting, and at meetings prior to that, I have advocated first, to have these meetings videotaped, and second, to have them subsequently broadcast on the Charter government channel. I have repeatedly commended the council for finding a fiscally prudent way to initiate videotaping and for posting the videos on the city website.

I stand before you tonight to urge you again to broadcast these meetings to the public on cable tv. I do not have time in about 3 minutes to reiterate all the reasons you should do this.

And while no one expects a rebroadcast of the Hickory City Council to generate higher ratings than even a re-run of NCIS, it truly baffles me WHY any elected official wouldn’t want to use every possible means and opportunity to educate the public and raise public awareness about the discussions and actions taken by the body to which he/she was elected. If you are proud of your service and believe, as I know you do, that your actions are truly for the betterment of this city, HOW could you possibly NOT want more citizens to see and hear about it?

And after some of the responses to the recent HDR article raising questions regarding conflict of interest, whether true or not, I would think that having a video record going out to the public might prove advantageous as an added source of accurate information. I know that if I were sitting where you are tonight, I would welcome the video verification of what I had actually said leading up to my vote, and I would want it publicized as much as possible.

In talking with Mr. Berry about this, he appropriately raised a concern about the “quality” of any tv broadcast. Having viewed all of the videotaped meetings, and having seen for myself the high definition quality of those recordings, I just have to say you ALL look REALLY good on camera! Of course, it’s not how you look that matters to us citizens. It’s what you say and how you vote that affects our lives out here. So there is no need to improve the quality. Just let the people have the greatest possible opportunity to see it!

By the way, the newspaper reported that staff AND council decided it could not produce a high enough quality...broadcast to portray the city in a positive light.” I do not want to even begin to unpack that statement. But, for the life of me, I do not recall an actual vote by council on that particular point. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I haven’t found that vote in the minutes, and unfortunately since you have deleted the previous YouTube videos ( a potential violation of the NC Freedom of Information Act and the state’s Public Disclosure Law), I am unable to view the record for myself.

Finally, Mr. Berry stated in the newspaper, “It’s not a matter of whether we could [broadcast the meetings]; It’s a matter of whether we should.” Mr Berry, members of the council, as to whether you should, my answer is absolutely YES!

Joe Brannock - Conflict-of-Interest - I understand there is a Departmental Report tonight on the legal opinion regarding the recent conflict-of-interest matter.

Aside from that discussion, I would like the Council to consider the public perception standards/aspects also associated with conflicts-of-interest, that are there to insure the highest levels of transparency that the public deserves.

I don't believe anyone thinks that conflicts-of-interests necessarily mean illegal activity. Nor, do I believe that conflicts-of-interests are necessarily limited the financial matters.

Was it a conflict-of-interest when Mrs. Patton voted to approve her daughter's application for a first-time home buyers' grant?

Was it a conflict-of-interest when Mr. Seaver voted to approve various Consent Agenda items involving his son?

Wasn't it a conflict-of-interest when Mr. Meisner voted to reject Rental Property Task Force recommendations while his rental property was in violation of the City's nuisance codes?  Furthermore, was it a conflict-of-interest that his appointment to that Task Force was a partner in that rental property?

I would like to commend Mr. Lail for recusing himself during the discussion ans subsequent votes Re: the BID tax. He stated he owned commercial property in the BID district and thought it would be inappropriate to participate.

Also, I would like to commend Mayor Wright for recusing himself back in January regarding an issue with the City's Land Development Code and what he saw as a potential conflict involving his sign company.

But, wasn't it a conflict-of-interest when the Mayor's sign company provided the signage for the City-funded FBO Building without making those interests known publicly?

And wasn't it a conflict-of-interest when Mayor Wright failed to publicly acknowledge his own rental property interests prior to voting to reject the Rental Property Taskforce recommendations?

What I do know is this - my confidence in this Council's ability to enforce it's own conflict-of-interest ordinance is sadly directly proportional to its willingness to actually identify those conflicts.

***  Further evidence, including that here on the Hickory Hound, has shown that Jill Patton and Danny Seaver did recuse themselves on the loans obtained for their children and Danny Seaver was not present during a refi of a loan for his son. What begs to be asked is Should  City Council members children be applying for such loans when Hickory Inc. is not actively promoting that such loans are available? And while it does not rise to the highest level of Conflict of Interest, it does create a perception of a Conflict. In the end, the public will have to decide now whether this meets the smell test. ***

Calaila Jett (sorry for misspelling?) - Addressed the City Council about the AAU basketball team she manages that has been unable to find a place to practice in the City of Hickory with Parks and Recreation due to City Policies. They have been attempting to expand programming through volunteering. (The City is telling them that they need a $1 million insurance policy and to pay $65 per session in order to utilize City facilities.)

April Hill addressed the same concerns. They can utilze Brown-Penn, but not as a Basketball team. They are representing Hickory.

Larry Pope spoke about the rental spaces on Union Square used for dining. It is hard for him to navigate the area. He visits Fred's pharmacy. A mobility specialist, Larry had to come look at Union Square, is 'set back' because of the barriers and obstacles. There is no direct pathways. Larry asked whether the $25 fee (per month for the rental spaces) is being collected and what is it being used for and what fund is it going under. He would like to see something in writing.

Dr. Joseph "Jody" Inglefield - Hickory City Council has ignored the health and wellness of our citizens on many levels. It is time to replace city leaders when they choose to ignore the findings of validated scientific studies like the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that ranks us the 5th most miserable area in the USA. It is a charade to ride on the backs of non-profits to the title of All-American city.

Uninspired citizens wander our streets due to the lack of jobs. We have the 2nd highest unemployment rate at 10% in the state. We need solutions, not an attitude that nothing can be done. The city must respond to these national surveys in a meaningful way. The failure to maintain parks and recreational facilities throughout Hickory during the 12 year tenure of the Mayor is especially destructive to the health and well-being of the citizens of Hickory. We need jobs, not excuses.

We need to bulldoze through the lack of transparency in City Council decisions. The City Council and staff have not followed the spirit and letter of the public records law, NC General Statute 132. Public information should be open and accessible on the city website permanently, with all public city meetings on cable TV.

City leaders and staff must truthfully file conflict of interest forms in a legible manner on a yearly basis according to law. Under my leadership I will ensure that this is done. City staff must insist Council do so legally and in good faith.

We need to fill positions on independent boards and commissions without delay, free of nepotism and cronyism. These positions are supposed to provide independent guidance and should also be subject to term limits and public conflict of interest requirements as well.

No new taxes should be levied until citizens can readily access and carefully review projects and budgets, including the $80 million dollar "Inspiring Spaces" plan. We need evidence-based plans with full, meaningful public participation, not pet projects. Stop the raiding of separate funds that belong to the citizens of Hickory.

I want to encourage public input and dialogue with the citizens of Hickory, all of the citizens, as many voices are not being heard. The local economy has suffered greatly under this Mayor and Council, yet he takes no responsibility for this decline. Our stale leaders have been in office for too long. We need term limits. We need inspiring leaders to inspire citizens. It is time for fresh new ideas. As a local Doctor and Community leader for the past 25 years, I am announcing my candidacy for the position of Mayor of Hickory. I am now ready to lead Hickory in a new direction. I ask citizens of Hickory to register to vote and to vote for me, Dr. Inglefield for Mayor.

J. Franklin Davis he talked about a program at L-R U entitled "the House that I live in". No community leaders attended. He also addressed the Council about asking to serve on the Community Relations Council and being denied the opportunity. "I have attended City College and even been given a key to the City and it doesn't seem that it opens any doors."

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