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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting - June 17, 2014

In the Chambers

Larry Pope speaks about Alderman Lail's Conflict of Interest - Brad Lail fiancee - CEO with Land Design. Larry ends up having a back and forth with the Mayor after he finishes and Alderman Lail makes a motion to call Larry Out of Order.

Now onto the bond referendum Departmental report. This has been a formality for a year. Same way of doing business that we have seen in the past. They will keep going to this well until stopped.


The Bond Referendum was in the cards long ago. Persons Requesting to be Heard is where the action occurred, because Hickory Inc. chose to make the Bond issue a Departmental Report and with a Departmental Report comes no public debate allowed. Steve Ivester and Larry Pope addressed the Council.

Steve Ivester addressed the City Council about the City's agreement with MAB Acquisitions:
V. Approval of an Amendment to the Economic Development Agreement with MAB Acquisitions, LLC for the Development of City Owned Property at Cloninger Mill Road and NC 127.

Mr. Ivester reiterated his point about the City not accepting the $900,000 offer for the property at Cloninger Mill and finding another place for MAB to locate the proposed Grocery Store. This occurred on March 21, 2014.

Ivester has participated in Innovate Catawba - Inspiring Communities. He watched the Staff's Bond Referendum presentations on Youtube. He stated that he does not represent any group, interest, or party; only himself. His concern is the integrity of process at City Hall.

While the Sails project is liked by many, others still have concerns with it, but all do not have to agree. ' The funds used were from parking fees meant for a parking deck on Union Square.' The Fund was treated as a slush fund. Project ran 73% over initial projections. Citizens never received accounting... led to unfair and unfortunate consequences.

High handed and irresponsible behavior casts doubt on city staff's ability to manage a project of this type. He likes many aspect of the Inspiring Spaces proposal. What was guessed to be a $90 million (later clarified $80 million) project has led to a $25 million bond referendum... someone is not shooting straight. City staff needs to show the ability to handle smaller projects first. He agrees with the proposed Industrial Pank, but wants to know more about whether it will be like Fairgrove Business Park or like Catawba Boulevard. He wants the Industrial Park put on the ballot, but to delay the other improvements until another cycle.

Larry Pope  spoke several meetings ago against the bond referendum. Many people in the city are against it. Thanked Mr. Ivester and has the same feelings about city using funds for things they weren't intended for and Council uses funds for things they have a vested interest... for things that the people who control this council want.

Mr. Pope said he had made a phone call to the North Carolina School of Government regarding conflicts of interest. Mr. Lail is engaged and getting married in November to one of the CEO's of Land Design. He (Mr. Lail) discussed and voted to approve that group to do the planning for Inspiring Spaces. Then at one of the meetings he found out that there is a person that holds the last name Zagaroli. He doesn't know if it is Council Member Zagaroli's daughter, daughter in-law, or wife that was a member of the committee formed to discuss and voted on Inspiring Spaces. They chose members (of the Inspiring Spaces Committee) to be a rubber stamp for what the City Council wanted and not what the overall community wanted. How is it that you can always come up with the money to do the things you want... that you claim beautifies our city, when you are only targeting certain areas of our city... just like you targeted Union Square with the Sails on the Square that we estimate you spent almost a million dollars on. You dipped into funds set aside for other projects...

$5 for city tags are not going for sidewalks... we have so many things that need to be cared for, but they don't get done unless they (Council) want them to get done. He spoke about a personal injury and a legal action he is currently taking.

Hound's Note: For those who haven't seen Larry Pope address the Council before, they may think he is being combative and he was to a certain extent. He always goes to the podium and attempts to conform to protocol and decorum.You saw twice in this Persons Requesting to be Heard segment, with both Pope and Ivester, where the Mayor waited until people left the podium to make comments regarding what these people had said. I have seen this a multitude of times over the years I have attended these meetings.

I think it is fine for the Mayor to do that, but if he is going to make comments, then he should expect the person he is addressing such comments towards to respond. The Mayor hides behind a comment about the First Amendment (Freedom of Speech), but a multitude of times I have seen comments and actions where he wants to control others speech. The Mayor refuses to answer questions when people take an adversarial position to the Hickory Inc. company line, so if he (or other council members) refuses to have a back and forth with concerned citizens, then they should remain mum when the person leaves the podium, unless he wants to allow the person he is directing the comment about/or towards to debate the matter further.

Steve Ivester's comments were on point when he talked about high handed and irresponsible behavior. As far as the current electoral system in Hickory, we have seen the patronage the Mayor said would come with the Ward system. We have seen that with Hickory's unique electoral system. 

There are definite Conflicts of Interest happening all over the place in Hickory. The Mayor shouldn't fuss about people utilizing the legal system against the city, when Hickory Inc. has two paid lawyers on staff and a bevy of taxpayer paid attorneys and consultants at their disposal that they stand behind and tiptoe and tap dance all over the United States and North Carolina Constitutions and Statutes with. Hickory Inc. never does more than the minimum prescribed by the law, but they expect the maximum from anyone who questions or takes an adversarial position to the company line. People fuss about the IRS, well I think Hickory Inc. must have stolen the playbook.

The Mayor says he and the Council aren't controlled by anyone. I can name names, but I won't. It isn't about those people. It is about people who don't seem to understand their responsibility and have chosen to act in their own personal interest over the good of the community. People fuss about Washington and Raleigh. It boils from the bottom folks.

Hound Quote: The definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I know I'm not crazy, because I see the same thing over and over again and I expect the same result.


Harry Hipps said...

They wonder why people don't move to Hickory and this shows why. they want everyone to march lockstep with them and control everything. People have their own perspectives and want to have some say in their lives and destiny. Young people especially will not be forced into one mold. The Council and mayor act as if they know exactly how everyone should live and what they should think. Any diversity of opinion is not to be tolerated. Well, this intolerance and high handed management is part of why they are killing this City.

wandaarnold1716 said...

I agree with Mr. Ivestor's recommendation that we take one issue, the industrial park, for the November referendum. Let's go into detail about this one issue so that everyone can thoroughly understand what is planned and how much it will cost including the carrying costs while the property is looking for tenants. I would also like to know what businesses looking to relocate or expand over the past three years chose another city because we did not have a build-ready site to offer. The staff should be able to answer this question.

As a person who has only lived in Hickory for five years and has come from the outside, I can only say that there are strong feelings of paternalism coming from the city government. They do not trust the citizens to make capable decisions. "Father knows best." Besides, real democracy is a messy business and not as easy as unanimous decisions.

Harry Hipps said...

The Council has a long term track record of failure on economic development going back to the downturn we started in 2000 due to globalization and the decline of furniture and textiles. While the economic change is not Hickory's fault, our lack of a successful response is not all Washington's fault. And I am not convinced that a few visits to more prosperous cities and some meetings with their city leaders have made them visionaries.
If someone came to Hickory one afternoon and spoke with Rudy and City staff, do we really think they would leave knowing exactly what makes Hickory tick? 40 million plus? No way.

James Thomas Shell said...

Did you see Lee Moritz up in Washington speaking with the Obama administration about modern manufacturing.

I'm no fan of the Obama Administration, but if I had the opportunity, I would be doing exactly what Mayor Moritz is doing. Donald Duncan is someone who has always impressed me. He doesn't talk over your head. He listens. You just get a sense that he cares what you think.

Conover is blowing Hickory away on the Economic Development front, because they know what Economic Development is. Manufacturing Solutions Center example. The Conover Station example. They took the Walmart that wasn't allowed on Springs Road...