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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting - June 3, 2014

1) My (JT Shell) Persons requesting to be Heard speech before the City Council
*** Link to the Video
Hound Notes: Why did I write this? Because of some of the things I have witnessed in participating in the Body Politic of our area. Anyone who does not toe the Hickory Inc. company line eventually finds themselves being demonized by the true extremists. We can't have a vigorous debate about the community without some people hitting below the belt and going after others personal lives... 

And I think that it is ridiculous to have members of Hickory Inc. push forward a notion that the newbies to the area know better than the people who have been here. I'm not saying that people have to be born and bred here to know what is going on. What I am saying is that the people who were here before the year 2000 know how successful this community was economically. This area was pushed forward in publications as a beacon and then all of that fell apart. We, who have been here, know that the loss of our industrial base (furniture, textiles, and fibre-optics) is what has decimated this community's economic structure. The people who have moved in here haven't a clue about that.

Many of the new folks think that this is supposed to be a retirement community, because that was what the local Powers That Be pushed forward with the Foresight Commission back in the early to mid 2000s . The efforts made in relation to that report coordinated efforts to market the area heavily to retirees and made no efforts to market, or even maintain, towards the younger demographics. The efforts in relation to bringing the older demographics here did not take into account the necessary balance of demographics necessary to maintain the local economic ecosystem. 

The population was already aging here in the Hickory Metro. We replaced population lost from the losses of industry, but we traded an economically dynamic younger demographic population with an older demographic population; which tends to be winding down as consumers with limited upside economically, because they are on fixed incomes and their wealth has shrunk further due to the economic downturn that began in 2008. Most of the new folks to the area are those retirees that were basically recruited to come here. They think this area was built for them, because that is what they were sold on. Even many of the younger people, as few as there are, who have been recruited here, were recruited under this retiree model and think that is what this area is all about. We have seen the tangible negative consequences of that economic structure. This is not the fault of the new people that have moved to the area. They do however need to understand the mistakes that have been made and why it is in their interest to change our economic model towards something with sustainable growth.

2) No Tax increase in Hickory this year
*** Link to the Video of City Manager Budget Presentation
*** Link to the Council Discussion of the proposed Tax Increase (rejected)
Hound Notes: I am/ We are constantly addressed about how things don't happen behind closed doors and behind the scenes with this Council. Well, here is the link to Hal Row's show from Monday Morning where the Mayor spills the beans about what is going to happen on this night. In witnessing what happened the other night, it defies logic to believe that there was no communication about this subject before the meeting. It is also 100% related to the referendum, moving the Hickory Inc. agenda forward, and the future electability of the council members. It isn't about looking out for the wallets of the public.
*** Hal Row show, Mayor says he does not support a tax increase this year.         

***  20140601 - Monday Morning Meeting with the Mayor
Hound Notes:  Scott Bryan of the Hickory Daily Record was doing a play-by-play on Twitter the other night and he came to much of the same conclusions that I was coming to -- the paving money is necessary and it makes no sense to lump it in with the bond referendum. One of Scott Bryan's Twitter followers said, " They hem-&-haw over tax hike for real needs, but when the baseball team wanted ballpark upgrade $, they were all for it." I appreciated what said here, "If this building was on fire and a tax increase would put it out, I don't think Hickory City Council would approve it."

If they have a shortfall, then they are now going to have to use money from the unfunded balance (ie the Rainy Day Fund/Savings). Lumping the paving money into the Bond Referendum sure seems like an attempt to cajole the public into voting for the whole Enchilada that is the Bond Referendum for their Inspiring Spaces fund... and they speak volumes about the political dynamics involving the situation. Everyone basically agreed that they cannot raise the tax rate 2¢ now going into the vote on the referendum and then turn around and raise the tax rate again next year and in the future to get to the 10¢ that they need. Also, the values of property have fallen in the area. Assessments in Catawba County are going to be lower for the upcoming year. Tax rates are going to have to rise in order to get back to revenue neutrality. Hmm... where have you read this before?

Thoughts about last night's Hickory City Council meeting - May 6, 2014 - Check out item 3
Hickory Inc. had to take a different tact and not raise taxes before the referendum, but it is already seen that by one way or another that they are definitely (99%) raising taxes next year and going forward to pay for these projects. The only tax they are apparently looking at is the property tax, when every one of the communities they have been to, that they want to take parts from in transforming Hickory, have Business Improvement District taxes. The proposed Downtown Sidewalk should be paid for by Downtown Interests, because the benefit to the businesses there far exceeds the benefit to the general public.

I am not against all of these efforts. I am concerned about the administration of these efforts and the coordination, prioritizing, and accountability going forward in relation to the Inspiring Spaces initiative.

3) Zahra's Playground at Kiwanis Park Treehouse presented by Parks and Rec Director Mack McLeod
*** Link to the Video

4) City Manager Mick Berry presents a Citizen Review to the Council
*** Link to the Video
Citizen Review - Power Point Presentation 
Ridgeview Citizen Review - Thoughts about the Ridgeview Citizen Review meeting
Citizens Briefing Presentation - 04/29/2014

1 comment:

Harry Hipps said...

There are many concerns I have about the Inspiring Spaces ideas. First, they say they want public input, but how is the public going to learn and discuss so many projects at once before November when we are going to vote. Some are good, some are bad ideas, some may be ok but I don't think they are vetted enough to have the best concept ready for the project. There is just too little time to assess all of this intelligently. And this will lead to us not getting the best bang for the buck.
Secondly, the rationale for some projects are clear, others are not. For example, the project at the river seems good, waterfront park for enjoyment and enlarging existing amenities seems logical. Hopefully some businesses can develop around this area. Sprucing up the entrances for more visibility seems ok. But what about the sidewalk from LR to downtown? This seems expensive for a sidewalk.
The reason given is that young people will like it and they like to walk from work and home to shopping, restaurants and entertainment. Well, exactly what property will be developed to do this? This isn't exactly Chrystal City, VA. Most of that area is LR, industrial, some nicer single family neighborhoods and some older housing by the Ridgeview area. Unless we have someone to tear down some of the old buildings and build some of the mixed use (retail on lower levels, housing on upper levels, offices mixed in on adjacent properties ) who exactly is going to be walking where? This is a lot of money for pie in the sky. I wouldn't be against building an amenity like this if we had a development project pending or an interested investor wanting to partner with us, but I don't see doing this now.
The speculative project in the CVCC area is the type of project with a more proven track record, and gives economic development recruiters something concrete to sell. It's easier to see a payback for this type of thing than a sidewalk that is expensive and of nebulous value. The west end of Hickory could probably benefit from redevelopment focus than this area.
Finally, it must be said that Hickory's government in terms of economic development has been poor. From years of denying we had a problem to the dumb retirement village concept they have a poor record concerning growth. To do so much at once, with so little public discussion (on each step not just the whole list) will cost a lot and probably not get the best results we could have. After a decade and a half of failure and doing either nothing or the wrong thing, I see no rush. If we do a couple of projects and see good results more can be done. And the public's input is nothing to fear if the projects have merit.