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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Reader Concerns about Inspiring Spaces

A few people who read this blog sent me e-mails about their concerns in regards to the Inspiring Spaces initiative and process, the referendum regarding it, and the taxes necessary to pay back the debts incurred in association with these projects. I list those concerns:


(1) How can we be certain that the beautification efforts of the three cities in the report was the cause of their turnaround? Just because two things happen at the same time is no sign that one caused the other. What else might these cities have been doing as well that might have contributed to their success, perhaps even more. We need more information that we don’t have.

(2) At the federal level, a period of financial turmoil is right around the corner. Policies at the FED and with the federal government have guaranteed it. Is this the right time to be taking out a large loan, as you said Thom, perhaps borrowing something that cannot be repaid in the future? All the economists that you post, Thom, are urging citizens to pay off all their debts before this hits. Is this the right time to be considering a large loan that will have to be repaid with future taxes?

(3) The bond issue is far too large and far too open-ended for my taste. I have the impression that if it were passed, the Council would be in complete control on how and where it should be spent. It’s not in the same category as a water treatment plant bond that can be repaid with increased income from fees.

(4) In times of lean, I’ve always been taught that this is when you tighten your belt, eliminate the luxuries and concentrate on the necessities. A necessity is street repair because “a stitch in time saves nine” and this investment will save money in the long run. What items on the wish list could be considered things we need now?

(5) I do feel that not raising taxes on the new budget is a political ploy. Everyone understands that the cost of paving material has gone up considerably and most people want to see the higher cost reflected in the budget in a line item that can’t be fudged. I have an aversion to using a rainy day fund if it isn’t raining. If the Council feels that the fund is too large, future contributions should be curtailed instead of “spending it down.”

(6) The public-private partnership going on in Geitner Park is great. We should be encouraging this as much as we can. Every shopper in Hickory understands a 50% off sale!

(7) I like Harry’s (Hipps) comments about education and how it reflects on and influences all the other factors. I would rather see Hickory be known as the “education city” rather than the “city well-crafted.” We should be pulling out all the stops to give our citizens of all ages the education that will prepare them for the 21st Century. Isn’t this one of the important factors in attracting business to an area? The public-private partnership in this area has just begun and should be pushed even harder.


If the Council establishes credibility on econ development (the good news is that they now see and acknowledge the problem), the public will go along with future projects if they make sense. The bottom line is that there is no rush. Mick Berry pointed out that they are not going to be done all at once anyway. There is not enough time to fully discuss the projects with the public by November. And some of the ideas need to be refocused. If my choice is the full enchilada or nothing, I will vote no.


(Hound Note): About City Manager Mick Berry telling people about the surprise of Catawba Valley Boulevard being developed in 1987, by all indications City Manager Berry has never talked to the people responsible for that evolution. How can Manager Berry understand local Real Estate Development, when he hasn't spoken with the developers who made these local projects happen in the past?

City Manager Berry and Assistant City Manager Andrea Surratt are telling people in these "Citizen Briefings" that the Highway 321 Lakefront Park Walkway project is going to be the next Catawba Valley Boulevard. There are many concerns including the 321 bridge being rebuilt, the topography, the rail line, the fact that there are issues with the county lines (Burke and Catawba) and you are going to have to deal with three counties (including Caldwell) on some of these issues. You have a failed drug store, a failed grocery store, and two failed restaurants right there. You also have an issue with the aging population in that immediate vicinity and the marketplace that they provide.

There is also a concern/question about Governmental Employees taking over Real Estate development here in Hickory and deciding upon objectives and priorities. What qualifies them to do that?


Harry Hipps said...

There are two things in regard to Hickory's future revenues and taxes that haven't been discussed and should be if we are considering a large expansion of debt.

First, our housing market is not booming and we may well see a decline in tax values of properties. This will mean a tax rate increase to keep revenues at current levels. Yes, we would pay the same amount, but we would look like a higher tax area relative to other areas.

Secondly, I don't think Hickory has woken up to the threat to retail and what this means. Granite Falls, Morganton and other nearby towns have built WalMarts and more shops and restaurants. This means that these folks will make fewer trips here to shop and eat.

The lovely, expanded Hwy 16 that is rightly praised for allowing us to get to the airport quicker is also quickly zooming shoppers to Charlotte. Many upper end shoppers have long been going there for the better quality and selection Charlotte retailers offer. Young people have lately joined them because there are better fashions and choices there. We have also driven a lot of them there for entertainment and nightclubs since Council apparently has a vendetta against this. So much for attracting the young.

It's also no secret that online shopping continues to grow and take the brick and mortar market share. Even if we get some of the online tax receipts at some point, the paychecks and commercial property will decline and this is a significant source of tax receipts for the city and dollars for area residents. The jobs created by fulfillment centers and delivery drivers (or drones) will not compensate for it.

The only projects we should do now are the ones that are directly tied to economic development, not just "if you build it they will come" ideas.
A speculative manufacturing building to give our economic development guys something tangible to sell is a prudent, calculated risk. A business park is also a risk I would take. It would be nice if we had private investors and developers to take the lead but since we don't, the City may have to take the lead. The rest is fluff that should wait until we get some momentum on direct economic growth.

For about 7 years Hickory's leadership was clueless about the nature of the economic change that had happened,insisting that "things are picking up, Hickory is turning around". Then they drove off nightclubs and talked down entertainment. Then they pursued the asinine retirement village concept to lure "active seniors" here to consume medical services, cheap food and housing, then use the proximity to the mountains and beaches to spend their discretionary dollars somewhere else.

Finally, a decade and a half after the globalization dynamic took hold we recognize the problem. Maybe in another decade and a half we will get a viable response.

James Thomas Shell said...

The Retirement Village concept came from the Foresight group, a decade ago, which consisted of mostly the older business establishment and the elected officials of the area. Most of these were people in their 50s and older back then and are in their and are 60 and older today. Hmmm... what age group were they looking to market the community to?

And that brings us to the crux of the issues that we face. I have stood in the face of an onslaught of propaganda over the past nearly seven years... People who have taken it personal that I called them out on the direction that they have chosen to take this community politically, socially, and economically. So much so that some of them have tried to harm my (and others) personal welfare.

The natural forces of the world we live in are what I have discussed here on this site and how do we move this community forward.

The other side thinks that you turn the community around with emotion. They seem to think if people just change their attitude that things will improve. They have taken a lot of my work and/or the natural reality of this cultural age we live in and created buzzwords to define it all and to try to corral that reality.

They complain about anything and everything written about this community. If it isn't innocuous, buttery fluff, then they complain about the evil intentions of those who wrote it. Anything that points to the statistical reality of the area is a product of Satan himself.

They have this paradox of Orwell going on where they talk about how hip Hickory is, and we've turned the corner, and our troubles are in the rear view mirror, out of one side of their mouths... And out of the other side, we hear about how we need to spend this $40 million now, because we have a crisis going on.

Folks, here is the deal. I haven't, many of us haven't, been panicking about where we are. That Manic-Depressive mindset does us no favors. To turn this community around we are going to have to remain cool and calm and truly deal with where we are at today. We are going to have to be honest with ourselves and Stop the B.S.

Much of what we have experienced has been created by ourselves and the actions (sometimes lack thereof) that have been taken. Much of what we will experience in the next few years are the result of actions taken a few years ago.

We've had some positives thanks to Scott Millar. Mick, to the extent of the role he played, made some good moves with the redevelopment of Hollar, Lyerly, and Moretz; but those developments are a drop in the bucket against the tidal wave that hit us a decade ago. It is a great beginning though and should be acknowledged.

But, since I have acknowledged this beginning and the positives, let's acknowledge the mistakes. The retirement thing and putting all your eggs in one basket. We need balance. We need buy low and sell high. We have seen three stakeholds in the Wingfoot District and we are apparently going to continue putting eggs in that basket.

We have four distinct quadrants in this community and we have the center core. The Northwest quadrant is already viable. Millions have already been pumped into the Center Core, with no end in sight. It is time to invest in other areas of the community to get those stakeholds in the other areas of the city.

Again, I am fighting the stacked deck, because Hickory Inc. will always place people in decision making and story telling positions that will provide the circular logic/answers that they desire. They decide upon the answer/solution and then they come up with the questions to come to the conclusion they desire. And that is what gets you trapped in a tangled web folks.