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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

In the Chamber - JT Shell speaks to council

My Persons requesting to be heard speech before the City Council:

Thank You Council,

I hope you will be patient with me. I will be as brief and courteous as possible. I am not up here tonight to tell you what to do. That would be a silly, futile endeavor. I am only here to express my opinion.

I am not a Friend of Hickory. I am part of the blood and the fabric of Hickory. I was born two blocks from here at Hickory Memorial. My Mammaw Shell was one of the lead nurses there. Ben Goodman Sr. was my Doctor from the time I was born until he retired and his family was good friends of both sides of my family.

One of my most vivid memories as a child was being in the Medical Arts Clinic, because I had been infected with poison ivy. I told Mammaw that I wasn't going to get a shot and she said I wouldn't have to. Well Doctor Abernathy was there, not Dr. Goodman, and he wanted to give me a shot. Well, his nurse pulls out a needle about this long and I took off running. By the time my grandmother caught me I was six blocks away over on the other side of Lenoir-Rhyne. I know how small Old Hickory was, and living in the St. Stephens area most of my life, I know how big it could be. I know the potential there. Potential that has never really been tapped into. Why? Because the focus has always gone back to the wealthiest areas of this community.

I have been accused of being an enemy of Union Square when I knew that place intimately growing up. I understand it's easier to label others than to try to understand where they are coming from. We all do that to a certain extent. My Pappaw Shell was the switch operator at the depot, before he became a clerk at Hickory Chair, and he took me to see the last passenger train stop at the depot back in the mid 70s. My mother was a personnel recruiter and she worked in the building above McGuire's pub for several years. My family bought our clothes at Spainhour's and Zerden's. My grandfather Padgett bought me food and magazines at the original Post Office BBQ. My other grandmother Mattie Padgett, who is nearly 92 years old, and not in good health these days, was a radio personality for years at WIRC. For years I wondered why people would call her Lillianne and then she did the swap shop until she retired at the age of 75. I can go on and on. but no one can honestly say that I don't know or understand Hickory?

That coffee table at the Snack Bar that you chat at Mr. Mayor, I used to sit there occasionally with my Grandfather Vic Padgett and others. I am not foreign to the good ole boy shootin' the bull that takes place in Hickory.

Unfortunately, I take umbrage at something that Alderman Lail said at the last city council meeting. To paraphrase, he said that the people, the transplants, who have moved here have a better idea of what Hickory is all about than the long time residents.

Now, I've known Brad since we were 14 years old. He might not know that his uncle and my uncle were roommates at Chapel Hill for a time. His grandparent's store was two blocks from my grandparent's house over off Sandy Ridge road. Our families have connections like many of the long time residents of the area. Some of us have been financially more fortunate than others -- congratulations -- and some of us have the perspective of the struggle that are these times -- no congratulations are necessary.

These people that have moved here are more socially and politically malleable than the long time residents who remember what an economically dynamic, hustling-bustling Hickory was like to live in -- it wasn't Quaint. You mistake these people's conformity with what y'all are pushing as some kind of higher calling from those who must know better.

Folks, they are going along to get along with a desire to fit in and tap into the power structure. A gentleman a couple years ago talked about showing the council an "attitude of gratitude" to get them to be more receptive to your interests. Folks, it doesn't matter how congenial you are. If your interests don't fall in line with many of these council people, then you will be pushed to the side. That can be done with a smile, if you just accept the way things are, or you can be painted as a heretic and called evil as some of us have been. If you push back and try to achieve an economic, social, ultimately political transformation, it can yield negative consequences to your personal wellbeing.

This brings me to one final thought, the "Friends of Hickory", which seems to have been formed of, by, and for the Hickory Inc. Power Structure in response to another group that has attempted to be agents to move this community forward towards a tangible 21st century conventional reality. If you believe that the Citizens for Equity in Government movement is the Enemy of Hickory, then you are very much misguided.

I have to admit I am a bit envious of the Friends of Hickory Incorporated, when I see how charmingly they have been treated; especially in comparison to how I have seen others treated. In the end, I say welcome to the arena, because any community organizing endeavor will help move this community forward. We should all work together when possible, but that doesn't mean that we should not have a vigorous debate regarding how this community moves forward.

I am sorry if I have offended anyone with what I have said here; not really. I am an American. I have a responsibility and a legacy to carry on to be free and brave and express myself.


wandaarnold1716 said...

Thanks for taking the time to speak to the council, Thom. The first time I heard the mayor speak in 2009, during a "Neighborhood College" meeting, he boasted of the smooth way the council worked together and how almost all of their decisions were unanimous.

I remember thinking at that time that either most of the decisions must be pre-decided before the official meetings or else somehow only vetted people got elected, people who "worked well with the others." This was because we are all human and humans never agree on everything. What ever happened to the "devil's advocate," the person who throws out opposing opinions in a meeting, just to improve the thoroughness of the discussion, just to challenge the thinking?

We need to hear all sides of any story before a good decision can be made.

James Thomas Shell said...

You are a great addition to the community Wanda and the exact kind of asset that I would hope to acquire to move this community forward to that 21st century reality that I talk about.

We don't need no stinking yes men, but that is what the PTB want. That is what helps them maintain their dictatorship. That is what the neighborhood college program is all about. Ever notice how that program is mostly filled with people who have just come to the community?

The goal is to get these people in here before they get to know the real story of the community and take them around and indoctrinate them with the Hickory Inc. party line propaganda. What they show you, you can't argue against, because it is so benign. If you aren't a person that keeps their mouth shut and just soaks it all in... you ask a lot of questions, then they put the red flag up and keep an eye on you.

If you keep your mouth shut and respond with yessir, no sir, three bags full, then you are fast tracked to one of their meaningless positions on one of the Boards or Commissions. That is until you start asking questions, because you wake up, and then they will get rid of you.

Bottom line is that you are to be a good boy or girl, sit back smile and nod your head like a puppet. When they want your opinion, they'll give it to you.

2+2 = What Winston... What ever you tell me sir. That's right Winston. Now you understand Winston. Now you understand.