Last year during the referendum, Joe Brannock and I had to make our way around this community as he debated the merits of Ward specific voting. What we discovered was that the areas with the strongest neighborhood associations were the areas in which it was necessary to organize in order to achieve objectives in that specific area of Hickory. Areas whose needs were many times neglected. The associations that take the process most seriously are the Lakeland Park Association, Highland Park Association, West Hickory Association, Green Park Association, and the Concerned Citizens of Ridgeview.
The problem is that these associations currently have to go through Hickory Inc. in order to achieve their desired objectives and if the neighborhood's objectives don't fall in line with the Power Structure (Mayor, Council, City Hall, and the Establishment), then those objectives are road blocked. We would like to break down the walls.
Joe Brannock is the one who envisions a way to move forward and he explains it all below:
Hickory needs new leadership!
Young people need to get involved. New and fresh ideas need to be explored as we try to build a Hickory that can compete in the 21st century.
Too many barriers exist to nearly anyone interested in serving in an elected office. We need a place where new leadership can be molded and tested. I believe this should start at the neighborhood level.
Hickory is fortunate to already have a network of neighborhood associations scattered across the city. Some are more organized than others. Some are more active than others. And while these neighborhood associations have served our city well over the past, most have seen a decrease in involvement with their members.
While these associations do work hard to advocate for the needs of the neighborhood, the reality of achieving any of their goals is still directly reliant upon the City providing the funding. In this way, the City, to a degree, 'controls' what these associations can and can't do. The good news is this can be fixed. But how? By creating Neighborhood Non-profits.
I believe the City should partner with these associations and assist them in setting up their own 501(c)3 non-profits. This would allow the neighborhoods to expand their goals, reinvigorate their membership, and create a place that would allow citizens to become involved in a very meaningful way.
By elevating these associations to non-profit status, you expand what projects can be considered by expanding how those projects can be funded. Whereas now projects are greatly limited to what the city will fund, non-profits would have many more funding avenues available to them. With their new status, associations would be eligible to apply for state or federal grants - in their own name - as well as various state and national foundations that offer funding. But perhaps the most unique funding opportunity is right within the neighborhood itself. Local businesses located in or adjacent to these neighborhoods would have new way of giving back to the communities they serve. These businesses could now make tax-deductible investments in the local communities and help to directly meet the needs of their neighbors.
With this new influence would also come a revived interest to get involved. Attendance at neighborhood association meetings would increase, because the opportunity to be a part of something truly meaningful would exist, and a breeding ground for tomorrow's leaders would be created.
While these new Neighborhood Non-profits help serve as leadership incubators, we are still only half-way to meeting our goals of new leadership for Hickory. By coupling these revived Neighborhood Associations with a firm commitment to term limits, we bring down nearly every barrier to entry with regard to public service/elected office.
Too often qualified candidates aren't elected due to a system that overwhelmingly favors incumbents. And all too often defeated candidates simply go away. Neighborhood non-profits would help build good candidates into great candidates. Term limits would serve to entice candidates to stay involved (perhaps through a neighborhood association), knowing that eventually the opportunity would exist where their Council seat would be an open seat - leveling the playing field for everyone.
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - New Rules on Conflicts of Interest
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - City Funding of Non-Profit Agencies
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - Better Dialogue with the Public
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - Public Information
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - Helping Small Business, Start-ups, and Entrepreneurs
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - an Agenda on Health and Wellness
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - Learn from National Studies & Surveys
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - Independent Boards and Commissions
Platform for a 21st Century Hickory - Term Limits