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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Grandmother, Martha Shell's 100th Birthday

Today would have been Mammaw, Martha Shell's, 100th birthday. She was born on July 30, 1914. She passed 2 years and 51 weeks ago today. She lived one week past her 97th birthday, I always hoped that she would see this day, but God decided to take her spirit and I am just grateful that she was a part of my life, our lives, as long as she was. I am grateful for all she did for me and I cannot help but think about her every day. It is an understatement and the words really aren't worthy, but she was definitely one of my all-time Heros.

I have spoken of her along with other members of my family on this blog. I went to Pappaw and Mammaw's graveside today and somberly placed flowers in there. Season's change... people come and go, but I have never forgotten those who have had a significant impact on my life. Time is relative and fleeting here on Earth. I have tried to hold on to people, memories, and moments. The harder you grasp them, the easier they slip away, and the more anguish that results. You have to learn to accept reality.

Mammaw was the ultimate in strength and perseverance.  She had rheumatic fever as a child and was confined to bed rest for two years and she survived it. She was born two days after the beginning of World War I and, along with my other grandparents, she had many stories to tell about the trials and tribulations of the Wars and the Depression. Mammaw by all accounts was a great nurse and she certainly helped take care of all of us and move us through life. We all certainly miss her.

I hope you like my flower arrangement. Pretty good for a guy.

Here is a picture from nine years ago at Mammaw's Birthday Party at 1859. Ulysses sang for her and we had a grand party on Sunday, July 31, 2005.

Mammaw and her cake.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When The Heart Rules The Mind - GTR

"When The Heart Rules The Mind"
 - written by Howe, Steve James / Hackett, Stephen Richard.

Mother protect me, protect me from myself
Lately I can't tell, who really are my friends
Burning the candle, the candle at both ends
Through crowds, across floors each night I just pretend

When the heart rules the mind
One look and love is blind
When you want the dream to last
Take a chance forget the past

Watching the actor, that takes the stage by storm
Stealing the limelight, while we're in the wings
Sometimes the hero, must play the underdog
But I don't feel the same I must have everything

When the heart rules the mind
One look and love is blind
When you want the dream to last
Take a chance forget the past

Seasons will change
You must move on
Follow your dream


Published by
Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

Read more: GTR - When The Heart Rules The Mind Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Monday, July 28, 2014

The 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War I - July 28, 1914

Hound Notes: With all the tumult going on in the world today, we should take time to recognize what happened 1 century ago today. On July 28, 1914, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire declared war on and attacked Serbia. It was thought to be retribution for the Assassination of a monarch Archduke Ferdinand, the heir to the throne. It led to the demise of four empires, four long years of meaningless slaughter in Europe, consequences that led to another World War 20 years later, and results that we are still dealing with today.

(Wikipedia World War I) By the end of the war, four major imperial powers—the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires—ceased to exist.

July 28, 1914: Austria-Hungary's last hurrah - Rappler - July 28, 2014 - Instead of a short war – and one confined to the Balkans as Vienna thought – this was the start of World War I, 4 years of conflict drawing in all the great powers of the time and killing 9 million soldiers.                         News-hungry, patriotic crowds had been massing for hours outside newspaper offices in Vienna when emperor Franz Joseph's "To My Peoples!" proclamation of war against Serbia finally came on the evening of July 28, 1914.                           A month after a Bosnian Serb revolutionary assassinated Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo, the uppity Serbs were going to get a long-deserved bloody nose.                            Special editions were ripped out of newspaper sellers' hands, and in Vienna at least, nationalistic songs were sung late into the summer night, triumphant speeches were made and thousands thronged the streets.                      "Maybe people didn't think it would be over by Christmas, but the feeling was that it would be done by mid-1915," historian and Austrian Military Museum (HGM) director Christian Ortner told Agence France-Presse.                    "But Vienna was playing a game of very high risks."                       Instead of a short war – and one confined to the Balkans as Vienna thought – this was the start of World War I, four years of conflict drawing in all the great powers of the time and killing nine million soldiers.                              
A day after Austria-Hungary's declaration, Serbia's ally Russia began mobilizing. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia and two days later on France. On August 4, with Germany invading Belgium, Britain declared war on Germany.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- July 27, 2014

Gary Shilling: "Q2 GDP Was Closer To 1% Than To 3%. It Could Even Be A Negative Number" - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - July 27, 2014 - This week, in the aftermath of the Q1 -2.9% GDP disaster, the biggest "non-recessionary" drop in 67 years which was blamed on harsh weather (because there have never been harsh winters in the past 67 years), we get the first glimpse of what Q2 GDP was in the US economy. It is expected to print just shy of 3%. However, one person disagrees: Gary Shilling believes that not only will Q2 GDP be closer to 1% than to 3%, there is a fairly good chance it could be negative, which of course would mean that the US economy has officially entered a recession.                          Shilling's take:Special Report: No Spring Thaw
The consensus of economists looks for second quarter real GDP growth, which will be released July 30, of 3% vs. the first quarter at annual rates. It believes the 2.9% drop in the first quarter was cold weather-driven, and a rebound in the second quarter is the prelude to 3%-plus growth in the second half of the year. As in the last several years, the herd is likely to be disappointed.                       Consumer spending is 69% of GDP and it barely grew in the quarter. According to monthly data, real consumer spending fell 0.2% in April and 0.1% in May. June’s numbers aren’t released yet, but based on the correlation with retail sales, which are available for June, real consumer outlays rose just 0.1%. The jump in March from weak January and February gave consumer spending a higher starting point for the second quarter so we believe it rose 1.3% from the first quarter.                            With the ongoing business cost-cutting and job growth focused on hamburger flippers, hotel desk clerks and other lowpaid jobs, real wage growth to support consumer spending has been absent. Emphasis has also been on lower-paid part-time jobs. In June, they rose 1.1 million while full-timer positions dropped 708,000.

America's Lost Decade: Typical Household Wealth Has Plunged 36% Since 2003 - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - July 27, 2014 - Does it feel like you're poorer? There is a simple reason why - you are! According to a new study by the Russell Sage Foundation, the inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36% decline... Welcome to America's Lost Decade.                           Simply put, the NY Times notes, it’s not merely an issue of the rich getting richer. The typical American household has been getting poorer, too.                            The reasons for these declines are complex and controversial, but one point seems clear: When only a few people are winning and more than half the population is losing, surely something is amiss.

2008 Meltdown Revisited-There’s No Solution-Egon von Greyerz - USA Watchdog - Greg Hunter - July 16, 2014 - Gold and financial expert, Egon von Greyerz, says buckle your seat belts–a replay of the 2008 financial crisis will “soon return.”  Greyerz contends, “What happened in 2008 was expected by us for quite a long time.  The solution of $25 trillion to save banks and financial markets was not a solution.  It was just a temporary deferral of the problem.  The money, as we know, went into the banking system, and it didn’t go into the real economy.  The banks in Europe still have the same problems.  They are leveraged as much as before.  Deutsche Bank is leveraged 50 times.  U.S. banks are slightly less leveraged, but they have the derivatives that are not included on their balance sheets; of course, but if you include that, they have more leverage than the European banks. . . . We are now in a situation where every major economy in the world is in a total mess.”  Greyerz goes on to explain, “Japan’s economy is going to disappear into the Pacific.  China is having its problems.  Europe has problems.  The EU will never work and was not supposed to work.  The euro is an artificial currency and, in the long run, will not survive.  The U.S. stock market is at an all-time high, but that has nothing to do with the real economy which is an absolute mess.  So, the world has never been in a situation where all nations simultaneously are having problems that are insoluble.  Every major nation is running a deficit today.  So, right now, I think we are going to revisit 2008; but this time, there is no solution.

85 Super Wealthy People Have More Money Than The Poorest 3.5 Billion Combined - Economic Collapse Blog - Michael Snyder, on July 27th, 2014 - The global economy is structured to systematically funnel wealth to the very top of the pyramid, and this centralization of global wealth is accelerating with each passing year.  According to the United Nations, 85 super wealthy people have more money than the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet combined.  And 1.2 billion of those poor people live on less than $1.25 a day.  There is something deeply, deeply broken about a system that produces these kinds of results.  Seven out of every ten people on the planet live in countries where the gap between the wealthy and the poor has increased in the last 30 years.  Despite our technological advances, somewhere around a billion people go to bed hungry every single night.  And when our fundamentally flawed financial system finally does collapse, it will be the poor that will suffer the worst.                          Now, let me make one thing clear at the outset.                       Big government and more socialism are not the answer to anything.  Big government and more socialism almost always result in increased oppression and increased poverty.  If you want to see where that road ultimately leads to, just look at North Korea.                          What we need is a system that empowers individuals and families to work hard, be creative, build businesses and to take care of themselves.                           But instead, we have a system where all power and all wealth are increasingly controlled by giant banks and giant corporations that are in turn controlled by the global elite.  The "financialization" of the global economy has turned almost everyone on the planet into "deft serfs", and the compound interest on all of that debt enables the global elite to constantly increase their giant piles of money.

The Rot Within, Part I: Our Ponzi Economy - Of Two - Charles Hugh Smith - July 21, 2014 - Depending on blowing the next bubble to temporarily prop up the economy is the height of foolhardy shortsightedness.                     All the conventional policy fixes proposed by Demopublican politicos, technocrats and the vast army of academic/think-tank apparatchiks are the equivalent of slapping a coat of paint on a fragile facade riddled with dryrot. All these fake-fixes share a few key characteristics:
1. They focus on effects and symptoms rather than address the underlying causes, i.e. the dryrot at the heart of our government, society and economy.

2. They maintain and protect the Status Quo Powers That Be--no vested interests, protected fiefdoms or Financial Elites ever lose power as a result of these policy tweaks.

3. They are politically expedient, meaning they assuage the demands of vested interests rather than tackle the rot undermining the nation.

4. They ignore the perverse incentives built into current systems and the incentives of complicity, i.e. to cheer another coat of paint on the dryrot rather than face the costs of real reform.

The financial underpinnings of the economy and society are rotting from within:finance, higher education, defense, healthcare, law, governance, you name it.                     This week I want to highlight a few key causes of this pervasive and eventually fatal systemic rot.                     Let's start with Our Ponzi Economy. There are three primary examples of our Ponzi Economy: pay-as-you-go social programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc.); housing and the stock market. All are examples of financial Ponzi schemes.                         All Ponzi schemes rely on an ever-expanding pool of greater fools who buy into the scheme and pay the interest/gains due the previous pool of greater fools. Ponzi schemes fail because the pool of greater fools is finite, but the scheme demands an ever-expanding pool of participants to function.                      All Ponzi schemes eventually fail, though each is declared financially sound because this time it's different. The number of greater fools required to keep the scheme going eventually exceeds the working population of the nation...

The Rot Within, Part II: Inflation Is Not "Growth" - Of Two - Charles Hugh Smith - July 23, 2014 - Just as the Federal Reserve cannot directly force you to stick the needle of monetary heroin (debt) into your arm, it also can't force employers to pay employees more.                     The official policy of the Central Bank (Federal Reserve)/government is: inflation is necessary for "growth," i.e. economic expansion. The unstated reason for this official support of inflation is that it's easier for borrowers to service their debts as their income inflates.                        To take an extreme example: let's say a homeowner has a mortgage of $100,000, an annual wage of $40,000 and annual mortgage payments of $10,000. At 100% annual inflation in both prices and wages, the home mortgage remains fixed at $100,000, the payment remains fixed at $10,000 but his earnings double to $80,000.                        Where the mortgage payment initially took 25% of his earnings, now it only takes 12.5%. Yippee Skippy, the homeowner has an "extra" 12.5% of his earnings to support more consumption and debt: thanks to inflation, the homeowner can now buy a car on credit and use the "extra" 12.5% of earnings to pay the auto loan.                       Central banks around the world seek inflation for another reason: the Keynesian Cargo Cult that dominates all central banks and governments believes with quasi-religious certainty that people respond to inflation by buying more stuff now rather than later: since prices will rise in the future, it makes sense to buy stuff now at "lower prices compared to next year's prices."                    This is called bringing demand forward, as the demand to buy stuff is shifted from the future to the present.                 In an economy dependent on debt-based consumption, inflation is absolutely essential to reduce the real costs of servicing old debts so households can afford to buy more stuff on credit. This is the basis of the Fed's insistence that inflation is equivalent to "growth"--inflation enables households to continue adding more debt to buy more stuff, as long as earnings inflate along with prices.                       There are three problems with the Fed's "inflation is growth" scenario:

1. Earned income (wages and salaries) don't inflate along with prices
2. Rising inflation and low interest rates crimp lender profits and increase risks.
3. Bringing demand forward exhausts households' ability to fund additional consumption with debt.

To date, all the Fed's efforts to generate inflation have bypassed earned income: wages and salaries have declined when adjusted for inflation. Hourly wages: stagnant since 2008...

Friday, July 25, 2014

Former City Council Member and Union Square Icon Sally Fox jumps ship

Hound Note: This is a post from anonymous poster Common Sense. This person doesn't want their name out in the public arena for fear of reprisals. I don't believe what they have stated below can be construed as being personal or with malice. It just makes clear/concise points about issues that are very much relevant to the City of Hickory political and social dynamic.


It is with great sadness that I must report on the passing of one of Union Square’s flagship stores – a Hickory institution, one might say. On second thought, passing may not be the appropriate term. For you see, what’s happening (or has happened) is far worse than a simple passing. The lauded Sally Company is packing up and leaving town (for greener pastures?).

Why does this even matter? Perhaps more appropriately asked is, how could this happen? Over her esteemed 20-year career of public service Councilwoman Fox championed such projects as the Hickory Farmers’ Market, organizations like the Downtown Development Association, and sadly the boondoggle that became "the Sails on the Square". She alone spearheaded Hickory’s effort to gain Main Street USA status (I’m sure it was something important) along with many, many other worthy projects to help promote Hickory’s very own diamond in the rough we all know as Union Square.

Sally Fox was certainly more than a well-wishing, policy-making, money-appropriating Council member. Yes!

Sally, out of her sense of pure, unadulterated civic duty threw herself into breathing new life into a revitalized downtown area. As an active member of the HDDA, Mrs. Fox saw to it (from her Council seat) that they received the taxpayer dollars needed to turn Union Square into what it is today – a sparsely occupied, over-priced, lacking-in-parking obstacle in ones way to the Hwy. 70 economic Mecca of Hickory.

Mrs. Fox also was a very vocal proponent of the Hickory Farmers’ Market being located on Union Square. The logic was circular (Rotary) at best. The Farmers’ Market is key to Union Square’s image and prosperity while at the same time Union Square is the only place to properly showcase an event such as the Farmers’ Market.

In the past, some have viewed Mrs. Fox’s involvement with the HDDA and Farmers’ Market boards, coupled with her position on City Council, as a potential conflict-of-interest. Balderdash!!!

How could she possibly be expected to help Hickory’s business owners succeed and families prosper, if she didn’t flourish first? Mustn’t one learn before one can do?

So what is the bottom line here? In Mrs. Fox, Hickory had someone that did promote (some would say single-mindedly) the downtown area. For much of her 20 years she argued and pushed for more City spending to be directed toward Union Square – after all it is the heart of our City, our front porch, our identity – and now after having left office a mere eight months ago, Mrs. Fox and The Sally Co. have left Union Square.

One of two things must be true. First, despite all of the public attention and taxpayer-funded investment in downtown, it simply hasn’t worked. I’ve always held the opinion that if spending more money on a problem solved it, then let’s just go ahead and solve the problems. As we know though, simply throwing more money at a problem in no way guarantees a solution. The second possibility is this – Mrs. Fox’s dedication to Union Square was solely self-serving. Since leaving public office, perhaps there is little cache’ that she can direct downtown (to her store) and it’s just not worth hanging around. But, who am I to say. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

On a completely different note, I cannot pass up the opportunity to call Sally Fox out for what can only be categorized as being unashamedly two-faced. Now this may not surprise many people, as most already believe politicians to talk out of both sides of their mouths, but Mrs. Fox's actions/words simply disgust me. Over the past year, I have known her to express a most decidedly unfavorable opinion of Mayor Wright. Sidenote: This may stem from Mayor Wright having publicly espoused his opinion(s) of Councilwoman Fox in a recording I came across here on the Hound.

Regardless, Mrs. Fox is unmistakably not happy with the Mayor’s ability/style/etc. Now, given her personal feelings toward the Mayor – which she has made known to people publicly over the past year – how is it that she co-hosted a fundraiser for the Mayor during last year’s municipal elections? For Shame!!!!!

Mrs. Fox, I, like many, had high hopes for you and what we once thought you could bring our community. You began with a passion for people – a desire to build up our City from its heart, our neighborhoods. And to an extent you did succeed. But, you simply stayed too long. Twenty years is too long to serve in public office.

Why? You compromised.

You became pigeon-holed, relegated almost, to being the Union Square representative. And to get what you wanted Union Square to have, you were willing to turn a blind eye to many of the other struggles faced by others in our City – struggles I know you to have still cared about, but were unwilling to tackle for fear of….well, I don’t know what. At the very least it is unfortunate – although I take it a bit further and say inexcusable.

It’s sad to think of what Hickory may very well look like today, were you willing to hold tight to your convictions. Were you willing to stand up to Rudy. Think what could have been?

Common Sense


Hound Note: After this, what I'm thinking is, "Who's next?"

Breaking News: Ultimate Hickory Insider jumps ship

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Here is the Catawba County Chamber's Young Professional's Survey

Catawba County Chamber of Commerce President Danny Hearn asked me to reach out to my readership with the Young Professional Survey being conducted by the Chamber of Commerce. I have referenced this survey a couple times here on the Hound and in the address I made to the City Council last week. Danny says that the survey is being conducted to find out what will keep the young people here and how they feel about Catawba County.

The Chamber is centering this survey on 19 to 44 year olds. They want you to be in that age bracket in order to take the survey. You should also currently either live here, or if you live outside the county, they want you to be employed here in order to fill it out.

 To access the survey, you can either click the hyperlink below OR use any QR Scanner app on an iOS/Android mobile device/tablet to scan the QR code below.

Here is the survey:

Thank you in advance for your assistance.


Lindsay M. Keisler, IOM
Senior Vice President
Catawba County Chamber of Commerce
1055 Southgate Corporate Park SW
Hickory, NC 28601
**NEW DIRECT LINE: 828-431-7223

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Attracting the Younger Generations to this Community

Last Week, I spoke before the Hickory City Council in relation to what the Millennial Generation wants from a community. As many know who have followed this site, I have pressed this issue since before the inception of the Hickory Hound. I saw anecdotal evidence of the losses of the younger generations from family and friends leaving the area to seek opportunities elsewhere. Generation X and Y have been saying thanks, but no thanks to this community for a while now.

The local Powers that Be argued against what I was espousing. To put it simply, they said it was easier to target/market to/recruit what they termed active Seniors. Many of the PTB said it was nearly impossible to get the younger people to stay here, as though we should just give up. The economy and the demographics continued to worsen until they came to a realization... hey, maybe we need to try and get more young people to come and hang around here. Problem is that they are taking shots in the dark to make that happen. Deal is that it's more about the mindset around here than anything else, but what would one expect when 60 and 70 year olds are calling all the shots and their hired guns are only interested in keeping those millionaire style paychecks flowing. And following orders is easier to keep that happening, than taking chances, saying what needs to be said, and doing what needs to be done. We have to have policies that move us towards the goal. Instead what I have seen is the same ole local good ole boy economics, where it's not about buttering the bread, but about whose bread is going to get buttered.

I put this article together so that you will understand that what I spoke about last week wasn't off the top of my figmented imagination. I've looked into these issues for years, but don't take my word for any of it. Please do your own research. Enough for ranting, here's what I found:

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting - July 15, 2014 - My Birthday Speech

What Millennials Want In The Workplace (And Why You Should Start Giving It To Them) - Forbes - Rob Asghar - January 13, 2014 - Gutfreund says that Intelligence Group studies of millennials have found that:
· 64% of them say it’s a priority for them to make the world a better place.

· 72% would like to be their own boss. But if they do have to work for a boss, 79% of them would want that boss to serve more as a coach or mentor.

· 88% prefer a collaborative work-culture rather than a competitive one.

· 74% want flexible work schedules.

· And 88% want “work-life integration,” which isn’t the same as work-life balance, since work and life now blend together inextricably.

Millennials are, in essence, “venture consumers,” Gutfreund says. They’re not looking to fill a slot in a faceless company, any more than a good venture capitalist is looking to toss money at a faceless startup. They’re looking strategically at opportunities to invest in a place where they can make a difference, preferably a place that itself makes a difference.

What Millennials Want Most: A Career That Actually Matters  - Forbes - Barry Salzberg, the global chief executive officer of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited - July 3, 2012 - ...Never mind the still sluggish job market. In their insistence on social principle, many millennials are not driven by money or success in quite the way their parents were. This generation wants to know what your organization stands for in improving society, what it stands for in action, as opposed to blowing smoke. Millennials want to know how they will make a positive difference in the world if they join your business, not by wearing a colorful T-shirt on a special project once a year but in their actual work.                                     Did I mention that this media-savvy generation is also jaded and suspicious? Unimpressed by title, well-traveled, and immune to P.R. in the old sense?  To anyone who imagines their heartstrings can be nimbly plucked, good luck.                               In August 2011, for example, students at top American schools—Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth, Stanford—were complaining about their peers going into finance and consulting, professions in which 25% of Yale grads launch their careers. They called such choices a “brain drain,” or “a tragedy of wasted minds,” as one Dartmouth undergrad put it. Deloitte signed up some 49,000 minds last year, so naturally this got my attention.                             We did some original research and discovered that these attitudes, conflicted as they can be, also reflect remarkable optimism and resilience, including an admirable willingness to tackle, head-on, society’s biggest issues. A slacker generation this is not.                    My organization examined the opinions of 1,000 millennials at Deloitte member firms regarding the impact of business on society. We found that more than half of them believe that in the future business will have a greater impact than anyone else in solving society’s biggest challenges.                     And 86% of them believe business will have at least as much potential as government to meet society’s challenges. Clearly, taken as a whole, millennials do not see business as a waste...

Millennials want more out of work - Young people change jobs frequently in search of fulfillment, flexibility - Chicago Tribune - Lisa Black - June 17, 2014 - ...About half of all American millennials are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for a job, Schawbel noted.                         About 21 million millennials live at home with their parents, he said. Many carry heavy student loan debt. And some are forced to constantly look for a better job — or work two or three part-time gigs at a time — simply to earn a living wage.                              "Allegiance to companies virtually doesn't exist among people my age because companies have made benefits so negligible," said one friend, who, at 28, has changed jobs already five times. I am not identifying her because I'd rather not expedite her move to Job No. 6.                           "We're just trying to survive in companies that don't care about employees like they used to," my friend said. "The days of starting your career and retiring with the same company are over."

11 Tips for Managing Millennials - - Susan M. Heathfield
  1. Provide structure.
  2. Provide leadership and guidance.
  3. Encourage the millennial's self-assuredness, "can-do" attitude, and positive personal self-image.
  4. Take advantage of the millennial's comfort level with teams. Encourage them to join.
  5. Listen to the millennial employee.
  6. Millennial employees are up for a challenge and change.
  7. Millennial employees are multi-taskers on a scale you’ve never seen before.
  8. Take advantage of your millennial employee’s computer, cell phone, and electronic literacy
  9. Capitalize on the millennial’s affinity for networking.
  10. Provide a life-work balanced workplace.
  11. Provide a fun, employee-centered workplace.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- July 20, 2014

Gerald Celente interview on King World news - July 20, 2014 - Founder & Director of the Trends Research Institute, is author of the highly acclaimed and best selling books, Trend Tracking and Trends 2000 (Warner Books) and publisher of the Trends Journal®. Interview Link
Gerald Celente discusses the lack of pride in the United States. Money can't buy health. It takes self-responsibility. Americans have an "I don't care" attitude. Look at how people dress and their presentation. The bar has been lowered. Look what society has degraded into. Mr. Celente says this isn't because he is an old guy. America is leading the World on a downward trajectory with "I don't care." It brings down the whole bottom line, because people don't care what is going on around them...                     Art has become another Wall Street Scam. Art (today)is a whole lot of Bad Attitude... Fast Food is not Food. 1/3 of childhood population is obese. What goes in is what comes out...                                 No news just propaganda. Everything is orchestrated. Everything is phony. People swallow the propaganda like they swallow slurpees...               Plenty of wildcards. Everyone knows the markets are rigged. Surprises will be geopolitical unrest/instability. Gives examples around the world. Geopolitical unrest, social unrest, and ecopnomic panic. Governments will do anything they can to keep the Ponzi scheme going. Governments are trying to get people's minds off the financial issues. When all else fails they take you to war.

Look out: 'Burrito inflation' is here - CNN Money - Ben Rooney - July 20, 2014 - ...Many companies in the food industry have been hiking menu prices recently as wholesale prices for everything from beef and pork to coffee and cocoa have risen sharply this year.                     Coincidentally, the government will release a report on June consumer price inflation on Tuesday. The CPI index for May showed an increase that was double what economists had expected, raising concerns that inflation is heating up.                          

New Internet speed record blows past Google Fiber - CNN Money - David Goldman - July 10, 2014 - Bell Labs researchers just broke the broadband Internet speed record.                        It is eight times faster than the previous record -- and it was done over copper landlines.                          With speeds of 10 gigabits per second, Bell Labs' technology proved to be 1,000 times faster than traditional broadband speeds. It is even 10 times faster than Google (GOOGL, Tech30) Fiber, which offers the fastest broadband available to consumers.                           Alcatel-Lucent (ALU), Bell Labs' parent company, dubbed the new technology "XG-FAST." The company called it a "major breakthrough," giving broadband companies the ability to provide fiber-optic-like speeds over the existing copper landline infrastructure that blankets most of America.                            Verizon (VZ, Tech30) FiOS, Google Fiber and others have sought to bring ultra-fast fiber connections directly to people's homes. But the process is extremely expensive, and often involves digging up homeowners' yards. Providing fiber to the majority of American households could cost hundreds of billions -- or even trillions -- of dollars, depending on various estimates.

Subprime woes are back: This time in used cars - CNBC/New York Times -Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Michael Corkery - July 20, 2014 - ...This is the face of the new subprime boom. Mr. Durham is one of millions of Americans with shoddy credit who are easily obtaining auto loans from used-car dealers, including some who fabricate or ignore borrowers' abilities to repay. The loans often come with terms that take advantage of the most desperate, least financially sophisticated customers. The surge in lending and the lack of caution resemble the frenzied subprime mortgage market before its implosion set off the 2008 financial crisis.                   Auto loans to people with tarnished credit have risen more than 130 percent in the five years since the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, with roughly one in four new auto loans last year going to borrowers considered subprime -- people with credit scores at or below 640.                       The explosive growth is being driven by some of the same dynamics that were at work in subprime mortgages. A wave of money is pouring into subprime autos, as the high rates and steady profits of the loans attract investors. Just as Wall Street stoked the boom in mortgages, some of the nation's biggest banks and private equity firms are feeding the growth in subprime auto loans by investing in lenders and making money available for loans.                       And, like subprime mortgages before the financial crisis, many subprime auto loans are bundled into complex bonds and sold as securities by banks to insurance companies, mutual funds and public pension funds -- a process that creates ever-greater demand for loans.                     The New York Times examined more than 100 bankruptcy court cases, dozens of civil lawsuits against lenders and hundreds of loan documents and found that subprime auto loans can come with interest rates that can exceed 23 percent. The loans were typically at least twice the size of the value of the used cars purchased, including dozens of battered vehicles with mechanical defects hidden from borrowers. Such loans can thrust already vulnerable borrowers further into debt, even propelling some into bankruptcy, according to the court records, as well as interviews with borrowers and lawyers in 19 states.                       In another echo of the mortgage boom, The Times investigation also found dozens of loans that included incorrect information about borrowers' income and employment, leading people who had lost their jobs, were in bankruptcy or were living on Social Security to qualify for loans that they could never afford.                      Many subprime auto lenders are loosening credit standards and focusing on the riskiest borrowers, according to the examination of documents and interviews with current and former executives from five large subprime auto lenders. The lending practices in the subprime auto market, recounted in interviews with the executives and in court records, demonstrate that Wall Street is again taking on very risky investments just six years after the financial crisis.                     The size of the subprime auto loan market is a tiny fraction of what the subprime mortgage market was at its peak, and its implosion would not have the same far-reaching consequences. Yet some banking analysts and even credit ratings agencies that have blessed subprime auto securities have sounded warnings about potential risks to investors and to the financial system if borrowers fall behind on their bills.                    Pointing to higher auto loan balances and longer repayment periods, the ratings agency Standard & Poor's recently issued a report cautioning investors to expect ''higher losses.'' And a high-ranking official at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, which regulates some of the nation's largest banks, has also privately expressed concerns that the banks are amassing too many risky auto loans, according to two people briefed on the matter. In a June report, the agency noted that ''these early signs of easing terms and increasing risk are noteworthy.''                   Despite such warnings, the volume of total subprime auto loans increased roughly 15 percent, to $145.6 billion, in the first three months of this year from a year earlier, according to Experian, a credit rating firm...

Microsoft to cut up to 18,000 jobs over next year - USA Today - Brett Molina - July 17, 2014 -
Microsoft confirmed it will cut up to 18,000 jobs over the next year, part of the tech titan's efforts to streamline its business under new CEO Satya Nadella.                        In a statement released Thursday, Microsoft says about 12,500 of the professional and factory positions will be cut as part of its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia's handset business.                                       Nadella, who replaced Steve Ballmer in February, says the "vast majority" of employees affected by layoffs will be notified within the next six months. They will also earn severance and job transition help in many locations. All cuts will be completed by next June.                        The layoffs by Microsoft -- which employs 125,000 people -- are the company's largest ever. The acquisition of Nokia's handset business in April added 25,000 people to Microsoft's payroll.                                            Microsoft is the latest tech giant suffering through a round of layoffs. In May, personal computer company Hewlett-Packard announced it would cut an additional 11,000 to 16,000 jobs as part of a massive restructuring. Earlier this year, IBM said it would take a $1 billion charge for "workforce re-balancing."                   Chip maker Intel and network-equipment maker Cisco Systems both said in the past year they were cutting about 5% of their workforces.​

Millennials buying homes later in life - USA Today - Josh Boak, AP Staff - July 19, 2014 -
The analysis suggests that the recession — for all its damage to the economy — did little to turn off Millennials from the idea of owning a home compared to previous generations. In fact, the report shows that the major group whose ownership rates suffered because of the downturn is middle-aged Americans.                          The easy credit offered during the housing bubble caused more young people to buy than they otherwise would and masked the impact of the demographic changes, according to Trulia. The bursting of that bubble and the resulting recession that began in 2007 then caused ownership to fall where it should be, given the demographic shifts. Because a greater percentage of younger Americans are attending college and graduate school, they are settling down a few years later — which causes them to delay buying a home.                            Census figures show that the share of 18-34 year-olds who are married is 30%, down from 47% in 1983. Just 29% of them live with children, compared to 39% three decades ago. Since more people in the age range are single and childless, Trulia looked at the number of homeowners who are also identified as the head of their households. After adjusting for these population shifts, the share of people under 35 years old who own homes is the same as it was for 1997.                 Standard Census data, which aren't adjusted for these factors, show that the ownership rate among those younger than 35 has declined to 36.2% from 38.6% in 1997. Slightly less than 65 percent of the country owns a home, down from a peak of 69% in the middle of 2006.                       While the weak economic rebound has affected home buying, Trulia's analysis puts more of an emphasis on demographics than much of the real estate industry has to explain poor sales.

Three Charts Of The Week: Money Printing Is Not Bringing Prosperity To Main Street - Tyler Durden - July 20, 2014 - Submitted by David Stockman of Contra Corner blog, - Furious money printing by the world’s major central banks is not generating real growth and prosperity—–but professional economists never seem to get the word. As shown below, the 2014 outlook for global real growth has been marked down sharply since early 2013. Back then, of course, Abenomics and massive QE by the BOJ was supposed to cause the Japanese economy to soar; Draghi’s “anything it takes” bromide was going to jolt Europe out of its slump; and the elixir of QE3 was certain to finally cause the US economy to attain “escape velocity”.                          Its not working out that way. In Japan, import inflation is soaring, real wages are still falling and the economy is entering a new slump in Q2 owing to a tax increase that was unavoidably necessary to pay for its runaway fiscal largesse. In Europe, the Bank Of Italy, Draghi’s home base, has now marked its forecast of 2014 real GDP growth to essentially zero. And in the US after the disastrous first quarter, along with what is shaping up to be a tepid second quarter, real growth will not achieve any kind of velocity, “escape” or otherwise; in fact, consensus real GDP has already been marked down to 1.7%—the lowest rate of expansion since the financial crisis. Accordingly, it is only a matter of time before the global forecast for 2014 shown below below is marked down even further.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of July 15, 2014

I began video recording the City Council in 2012, because of my desire that the City do it on their own as any modern 21st century community began doing long ago. I had people tell me that they couldn't make it to the meetings, but they would like to see what is going on. I was also told by some council members that my summaries did not truly reflect the record, so having a video/audio recording cannot be misinterpreted.

So below is the City Council meeting. With each agenda item, you can click on the links and it will take you to that specific point in the meeting. You can always drag the marker on the video display to the point in the broadcast that you are interested in seeing.

Agenda about the City Council meeting of July 15, 2014

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting - July 15, 2014

Invocation by Rev. Bill Garrard, Retired United Methodist Pastor

Special Presentations
A. Proclamation for National Federation of the Blind of Catawba County Day to Mr. Dawson Hart 
B. Recognition of the Hickory Crawdads Staff and Connie Kincaid for Crawdad’s All-Star Bash, June 16, 2014
C. Presentation of Retiring Members of Volunteer Boards and Commissions

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Mr. Jeff Hines regarding Horseford Cove and the Glenn Hilton Park Area - (per Hickory Inc.) - addressed Council on concerns of debris, pollution and sediment in the Horseford Cove area. He discussed measures that had been taken in the past to correct some of the problems in this area.
B. James Thomas Shell - (per Hickory Inc.) - discussed the ten reasons why Hickory is not attracting and keeping young adults in the area.
C. Meredith Ross - (per Hickory Inc.) - spoke to Council regarding the Old Lenoir Road Business Association. She presented photos of businesses located in the area.
D. J.D. Ross - (per Hickory Inc.) -  addressed Council also on the Old Lenoir Road Business Association. He discussed the difficulty of maneuvering on the streets in Hickory. He would like to see Welcome signs from Old Lenoir Road directing people to downtown Hickory.
E. Larry Pope - (per Hickory Inc.) - discussed an application that he had submitted for the Citizens Advisory Board. He also discussed the issuance of Community Development Block Grant funds and representation in Ward 4... also he has called his Ward representative four times and has not had a phone call returned.
F. Tami Abernathy - (per Hickory Inc.)  - Ms. Tami Abernathy spoke to Council regarding needs that should be addressed in the Ridgeview Community... Only has seen her ward representative Hank Guess at the Ridgeview Reunion - none besides that.

Hound Note: Check out the tone of the Mayor towards everyone else and then the tone towards Larry. The Mayor isn't going to comment on what I said, because he knows I get to rebut it publicly, and with near immediacy, in this forum, but I encourage him to address what I have said. I certainly am cursing the darkness, and will continue to do so, as I shine my light into that darkness.

Mr. Hines issue needs to be remediated. We're going to allow that garbage to build up in that major cove. while we study the issue? That seems unheathy.

Meredith and J.D. had a positive message about the Old Highway 70 association of businesses and corridor and they came before the council without a hand out. We don't often see that. They shouldn't expect anything from the council until they can provide a photo-op. This council has already chosen how they want to confiscate and disburse the eggs.

Larry Pope has a legitimate gripe, I have seen the mayor basically respond with some quip every time Larry speaks. I have witnessed it time and time again. If you get up and support the Council or are an insider, then the Mayor and this Council have a completely different manner in which they will treat you as opposed to when you say something that they judge as critical, especially when there is a history. Some of that can be dismissed as Human Nature, but as a governmental body, these people shouldn't be so overt in how they expressly support some cause and summarily dismiss and tune out others. This Council has the rest of the meeting. This Persons requesting to be Heard is supposed to be for the public to express themselves. Why does the Mayor feel it is incumbent upon himself to take over this part of the meeting, especially when he refuses to allow a back and forth dialogue with people he doesn't agree with? 

Larry Pope also has a legitimate issue with the same non-profits always get the money and Hickory Inc. doesn't audit them. That is part of the 21st Century Platform - #8. But, this is an issue of control. No one is getting any money out of the Hickory Inc. treasury, unless Hickory Inc. in some way, shape, or form has its tentacles embedded into that organization, not as a method of accountability, but in the manner of quid pro quo. Ms. Abernathy made valid points about how Ridgeview has been ignored by Hank Guess and the Council. The Mayor tried to softly dismiss her. Larry's point about calling Hank is not new. It has been going on since Hank took that seat. Old Hickory will say, "Hell yeah, Ridgeview ain't gittin nuthin," as they chuckle with their ole South Drawl... and others choose to stick their head in the sand (or somewhere else) and pretend that no issue exists. Everyone knows that this council doesn't do **** for the south side of the tracks. Some endorse it and some choose to ignore it. The mayor shouldn't lie about it.


Consent Agenda

New Business - Public Hearings
1. Consideration of Text Amendment (TA) 14-02 to the City’s Land Development Code. - Planning Director Brian Frazier presentation
- this item was tabled until the second meeting in September. It was directed to be sent back to the Planning Commission to be reworked regarding modifying temporary and seasonal sales. They want to discourage "fly by night" businesses. (Council Debate of the issue)

2. Request to Amend Vacant Building Grant Agreement from Jack Sipe Construction Company.  - Dave Leonetti presentation- Council passed unanimously

3. State Honors 38 Utilities for Meeting Stringent Voluntary Goals.  -Kevin Greer - An honor for water quality from the Federal EPA standards - Enhanced monitoring and Standards have been put in place to assure that water quality will maintain these standards.

General Comments - per Hickory Inc.
Mr. Berry recognized interns in attendance, Ms. Camille Hill and Ms. Meghan Williford, from Elon School of Law. They are clerking with Deputy City Attorney Arnita Dula for the next several weeks.

Mayor Wright commented on his vacation in Alaska, where they spent several days in Anchorage. They have a beautiful, and one of the most extensive, bikeway and parkway systems in the United States. They encountered two moose while on it, and where told that there was a black bear right around the corner, but when they got there it was gone. We don’t have those kinds of natural resources to share, but what a beautiful thing that they have, we probably would never be able to duplicate that because of the timing and the way our streets fall. It would be an admirable goal to try to have some bikeways, and walkways.

The Hickory Inc. Key to Success

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hal Row's First Talk - Startown Residents vs Hickory Inc. - 1764 Business Park

The following is an interview of a group of concerned Startown area residents that are currently opposed to Hickory Inc. annexing property on Startown Road that will be used to build the proposed 1764 Business Park that is part of the Bond Referendum that will be on the November ballot. The interview was conducted on 1290 WHKYam Radio's First talk program with Hal Row.

WHKY does not archive these programs and make them available to the public, so I am putting this important public interview up under Fair Use guidelines.

Segment 1 - Eddie Ide was the man who had called in during the Monday Morning Meeting with the Mayor on Monday. He was interviewed along with (pardon if incorrect spelling) Debra Strauther, and former County Commissioner Glenn Barger. Mr. Barger stated that they aren't against Economic Development or a Business Park, but this is a high dense area.  They had believed, initially, that this was a Catawba County project and now they have found out it is a 50/50 project with Hickory Inc. This is in the county and as developed it will be annexed. A certain portion of the bond will be invested in this park. This area is designated as residential/agriculture. Their are a number of areas designated for business that have not been filled.

Segment 2 - Ms. Strauther wanted to live in the country and that is why she moved to Startown. She says that they have been working on this since 2011 and they are just finding about this now. She believes it will be an Industrial/ Manufacturing Park. She believes that they will be widening Startown Road. She says that there are already 13 sites that were zoned, but aren't developed. The 321 corridor was built to take traffic off of Startown Road and build industry down there. Hal contends that the site looks pretty good and has protections. Mr. Barger rebuts this with a contention about Robinwood Road. They want Startown residents to be heard.

Segment 3 - The people of Startown want this process slowed down. They want citizens informed and questions answered. Teacher from Startown Elementary, Margy Butterfield calls in with several issues and is offering a petition. Another lady called in favor of the park and talked about misinformation. There will be no building built until parcels are sold. Five lane road isn't happening. She says she has a child here that would like to work here, but there is nothing here and this offers a real possibility. She said that people should read about what is actually happening. Ms. Strauther wants more restrictions on this property. They talked about the meeting of the County Commission next Monday night. Caller Jeff brings up Lowe's on 127 and lack of issues there. Ms. Strauthersays kids aren't getting off the school bus on that road. They are on Startown and Robinwood Road.

Segment 4 - Caller Lewis says Startown has no representation, because their planning board representative had to recuse himself, because he is related to the property owner.  No EDC or Planning Board reps showed up the the meeting held the other night. Mr. Ide spoke about other buildings that are available. We have plenty of spaces available. Good park, Good idea... wrong location. Ms. Strauther says this will bring people from other areas. We need to focus on our area and growing the economy in our area. Mr. Barger states that this park violates present community development plans.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thoughts about the Hickory City Council meeting - July 15, 2014

In the Chambers

Horseford Cove issue is about runoff and build up of silt and garbage.

Meredith & JD Ross pushing the old 70 corridor. Pretty positive message. Not asking for city money.

Larry Pope - Hank Guess won't take my phone calls. Larry didn't get arrested... barely.


The video below shows my address of council along with Larry Pope's and Tammy Abernathy's, which involved the Socio-Economic dynamics of the area. You will see a confrontation initiated by the Mayor at the end of Larry Pope's address of council. The Mayor has taken it upon himself to set the precedent of responding to what people say at the podium and the person is not allowed to readdress/rebut the Mayor. While the Mayor may be able to usurp the law, he is definitely violating the spirit of the law when it comes to people addressing the Council. HE SHOULD interact with people at the podium. He should not shut people down, because he doesn't like what they say or nitpick over what they say, unless he is willing to afford a dialogue. That is what adults are supposed to do.

People should be ruled out of order if they become belligerent. Larry was reacting to something that the Mayor has done many times to him.  Larry was not being proactively belligerent. The Mayor was not elected to have the final say on every matter in this community. If he wants to be a Judge, then he should go to law school, pass the bar, and run or be appointed to a position as a judge. His actions here subvert the First Amendment and are un-American.


My Birthday Speech

The Chamber of Commerce has a poll in which they are asking young people about ways to improve Catawba County and make it more desirable for young professionals. I have taken a broader look and here are my top 10 reasons why we aren't attracting young people to live, move to, or stay in the Hickory area.

10) In this community, young middle class and poor people have seen an enthusiastic willingness to cater to the older and more affluent folks at the expense of what would benefit them.

9) This opening generation of the modern 21st century reality says that it is a priority for them to have a role in making the world a better place. They don't want to live in communities where Control and Authority rule over Love, Empathy, and Kindness.

8) The Millennials want autonomy, but if they do have to work for someone else, then they want that person to serve as a mentor, not an authoritarian. They don't want to deal with old school, regimented, mechanical, simple black and white dogmatic mindsets... Bosses need to look at their workforce as partners, not commodities.

7) Young people aren't looking for a job. They are looking for a career. They want employment where they think the owner is in it with them and cares about their interests. It should be common sense and a natural derivative that if business owners take care of their employees, that employees will do likewise and the business will thrive, if that becomes the norm in this community, then this community will thrive.

*** And here are Six things that these young people and others can see about this community

6) This community's Powers That Be have demonstrated through actions a "Do as I say and not as I do" collective personality.

5) Career success is certainly more easily attainable in structures based upon hard work and merit rather than a social caste system based upon who you are related to and who you know.

4) Constructive critical thought is an asset and imperative to the success of a free and open society. We have seen the local Powers that Be take hostile actions against people when it wasn't necessary - just because people dissented or even asked questions. As though answering to the people would somehow lead to chaos.

3) We have seen a mindset where stories, messages, information, ideas, and processes must be controlled and well crafted. Being real and unfiltered has become the victim.... 1984... Thought Criminals.

2) People who attempt to control messages create bottlenecks on Information and Information is a valuable commodity in this age - the information age. This has created a hindrance to real Economic activity.

1) And last but not least, we have seen through disrespectful actions where this government has essentially told the people, "when we want your opinion, we'll give it to you."

We haven't lost the young people because of inanimate objects. We have lost them through actions. But don't take my words negatively... take them as an opportunity to evolve towards a better reality.

20140714 - Monday Morning Meeting with the Mayor


The following is the interview of Mayor Rudy Wright on 1290 WHKYam Radio's First talk program with Hal Row.

WHKY does not archive these programs and make them available to the public, so I am putting this important public interview up under Fair Use guidelines.

Segment 1 - Mayor talks about his vacation to Alaska... All-Star Game that was held in Hickory and other events in the area.

Segment 2
- Mayor continues talking about Anchorage, Alaska. Talks about the Bond Referendum. Not going to spend $40 million all at once.

Segment 3 - Mayor continues talking about the Bond Referendum. Talks about 1764 Business Park and a spec building associated with it. Talks about the walkway around the lake. Asked about detractors and says he hasn't heard anything. Hal presses him on it and he finally says he has seen in writing that people are saying this will be in certain parts of the community and he says it's for all of Hickory. Hal asks why we should trust the City with $40 million... Rudy says look at our track record over the last 12 years. He says they are in it with us. They aren't looking to feather their nest.

Segment 4
- A gentleman from Startown (Eddie) calls and talks about a protest of the proposed 1764 Park in the Startown area. They don't want Hickory annexing the 180 acre area. Mayor Wright refuses to get into specifics. Certainly seems to know more than he is letting on. Eddie seems very knowledgeable. Eddie talks about other Business Park areas, and buildings, that aren't being utilized. Eddie talks about $2 million of Bond Referendum monies earmarked for this site' infrastructure.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Economic Stories of Relevance in Today's World -- July 13, 2014

David A. Stockman - King World News - July 12, 2014 - Former Director of the US Office of Management and Budget (USOMB), Economic Policy Maker, Politician, Financier & Acclaimed Author: (Audio)
Stockman says perilous period of danger, disorder, and decline in World Financial markets. Ship of Fools taking us to the wall. Yellen is a knee-jerk Keynesian. When you have the money market rate at zero for 68 months running, then you encourage over speculation an over valuation causing instability. Draghi in Europe has caused a bond bubble in Europe through constant verbal intervention. Japan has a balance sheet that is pushing 50% of GDP. Printing Yen like there is no tomorrow. Situation could come unwound any day. Bank in Portugal (small) is an example. Matter of time before a Big Catalyst is going to hit.

$1.25 quadrillion in derivatives is a dangerous system. Back half of this year will bring surprises. We have had a false calm. Markets are so over extended, before a Black Swan event brings a major dislocation. When the panic comes, then Gold will be a safe haven. End game is that Stockman is surprised how long this bubble has been able to inflate. Junk Bond market is at an all time high. Real estate reaching new bubble extremes. Not much time left. Bond market has been artificial to the extreme for years. The Fed is tipping the scales. No honest price discovery or yields. Tremendous distortion. Prices are way overvalued. Central Banks will eventually lose control. Investors will quickly seek an exit when the Fed's prop falters.

Only hope for the West is the the Big Bang Dislocation that we need, the Keynesian banking will be so dicredited that we will get a chance to reset the system. Not great hope, but at least a possibility that there will be a clearing of the deck and a chance to start over. Police State is frightening. Part of the big picture. In 2014, no State (country) enemies, but we have nearly an all-time defense budget in real term and greater than the next eight countries combined. Warfare State drifting into domestic police forces, because it is pork barrel, job creation program, and money system driving national policy.

Q2 GDP Hopes Fade As Wholesale Inventories Miss By Most In 2014 - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden -  July 10, 2014 - Another day, another uncomfortable fact about Q2 not being the epic bounce back that so many had promised. Wholesale Inventories rose only 0.5% in May - following April's +1.1%. This is the slowest growth in 2014 and biggest miss of expectations since Dec 2013. Wholesale sales also fel back, missing expectations at +0.7%, to the slowest since Feb as April hopes fade. Cue, Q2 GDP downgrades in 3...2...1...

Family Dollar closing 30 Carolinas stores; none in Charlotte - Charlotte Observer - Ely Portillo - June 30, 2014 - ...In April, Family Dollar said that it would close 370 under-performing stores nationwide, as sales and profits fell. The discount retailer also said it would lower prices on 1,000 items in an attempt to lure shoppers back. Family Dollar, whose president departed unexpectedly in January, has struggled to keep up with its rivals, especially larger Dollar General.                 Family Dollar’s challenges have mounted recently. Prominent activist investor Carl Icahn, a longtime corporate fighter, bought a 9.4 percent stake in the company. He demanded that the company be sold immediately and said he will move to fire and replace the entire board if he doesn’t get his way.           Analysts have speculated that Family Dollar could be purchased by a private equity firm or by a rival such as Dollar General. But a Dollar General takeover has been seen as increasingly unlikely, especially in the wake of Dollar General CEO Rick Dreiling’s announcement last week that he plans to retire next year.

Read more here:

10 Brands That Will Disappear in 2015 - Wall St 24/7 - Douglas A. McIntyre -  July 8, 2014 -
1. Lululemon
2. DirecTV
3. Hillshire Brands
4. Zynga
5. Alaska Air
6. Russell Stover
7. Shutterfly
8. Time Warner Cable
9. BlackBerry
10. Aeropostale     

Wal-Mart scrambles to reinvent itself as sales slump - The company is shrinking its massive stores and selling more gas and booze. It's also revving up its online operations. - MSN Money - Shelly Banjo, The Wall Street Journal - July 8, 2014 - Just weeks after being named chief executive of the world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart's Doug McMillon held a meeting with his top executives and gave them a homework assignment: Read "The Everything Store," the tell-all book about founder Jeff Bezos.                          It was a surprising order from the top of a company that long ago devised one of retail's most successful formulas and milked it for nearly half a trillion dollars in sales last year.                                       According to the book, Mr. Bezos himself studied Wal-Mart as he built Amazon (AMZN +5.57%), internalizing its credo of acting fast and experimenting often.                 But now, with the price gap shrinking between Wal-Mart Stores (WMT -0.31%) and its competitors, the retailing giant faces the double sorrow of sluggish sales and traffic.                    In May, the company reported its fifth straight quarter of negative U.S. sales, excluding newly opened or closed stores, and its sixth straight quarter of dwindling traffic. Wal-Mart's return on investment dropped to 17 percent in the year ended Jan. 31, down from 20 percent seven years ago. The weak results led to the lowest levels of bonuses to executives in several years...

10 companies that put nearly all the food on supermarket shelves - MarkeyWatch Wall Street Journal - July 8, 2014 

Container Store CEO: America facing a 'retail funk' - Yahoo Finance - Jeff Macke - July 9, 2014 - fter more than five years of reckless stimulus, endless rate manipulation and generally artificial life support the bull market faces a new challenge from the most unlikely place. It's not the Fed but the consumer that could derail the recovery, at least according to a what we heard from a couple of retail execs on Tuesday.                  In a conference call last night. The Container Store (TCS) CEO Kip Tindell said America is facing a "retail funk." Not funky, with connotations of heavy bass and jewelry purchases, but funk as in gloominess and general lassitude. Tindell took the unprecedented step of retroactively un-blaming the weather for weakness in The Container Stores first quarter results. "It's more than just weather" said Tindell, "With so many of our fellow retailers we're experiencing a retail funk."                        Tindell's remarks echoed comments earlier in the day from Walmart (WMT) U.S. head Bill Simon who said the job recovery wasn't leading to an increase in spending by Walmart customers. Simon says things aren't getting worse for middle class Americans as far as he can tell. He's just not seeing improvements. Lacking Tindell's sense of rhythm Simon suggested that perhaps consumers from the middle class down are splurging on events like the 4th of July but pulling back on day to day spending. Simon says this spending behavior is "not the best thing in the world for retailers."

Where The Wealth Is (and Is Not) - Zero Hedge - Tyler Durden - July 10, 2014 - On the heels of Wal-Mart explaining that America is anything but recovering, we thought a look at the state of the union's wealth would be useful. To wit, the following map of household incomes shows where the "haves" and the "have-nots" reside...

Jim Rickards montage defines the Economic Depression (2007 - Present)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Agenda about the City Council meeting of July 15, 2014

This Agenda is about the Hickory City Council meeting that took place on the date listed above. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.

At right of this page under Main Information links is an Hickory's City Website link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the left of the page you will see the Agenda's and Minutes link you need to click. This will give you a choice of PDF files to upcoming and previous meetings.

You will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date. You can also look in the upper right hand corner of the front page of the Hickory Hound and (will soon) find the link to the past history of Hickory City Newsletters.

Here is a summary of the agenda of the meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below:

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City Website has changed - Here is a link to the City of Hickory Document Center

City Council Agenda - July 15, 2014

 The Hound's Notes:

1) It has been 28 days (June 17, 2014) since the last city Council meeting and it will be another another 21 days until the next meeting (August 5, 2014).

2) $53,232 is going to pay for infrastructure around Moretz Mill (Budget Ordinance Item 6). I believe that part of this money is going to pay for the issues related to closing the road (E Avenue) that affected Catawba Paper Box. Looks like Hickory Inc. is picking up the bill for that.
Thoughts about last night's Hickory City Council meeting - March 18, 2014
Newsletter about the City Council meeting of March 4, 2014

3) Larry Pope's recent Letter to the Editor in the Hickory Daily Record related to the upcoming Bond Referendum.

The bond referendum that Hickory City Council wants the voters to pass on the November Ballot; I am encouraging the citizens of the City of Hickory to VOTE NO!

I am of the personal opinion that Hickory Inc. never uses the taxpayer’s money for the money’s intended purpose. I am hoping that the citizens who voted for the replacement of the city’s public swimming pools and said that they were willing to have taxes raised to pay for a swimming pool in each quadrant of the city and a centrally located aquatic center now understand how this city operates. The Public Pool survey and findings are still collecting dust on the shelves at city hall.

Money has been raised for a fund to build a parking deck next to the Old Hickory Depot Station, but instead that money has been used for projects such as the “Sails on Union Square”. How can we trust our current City Council to do what they say they are going to do, if they get the bond referendum passed?

I spoke before the City Council a few weeks ago and asked about the conflict of interest of Alderman Brad Lail and his engagement to Meg Nealon, who is a managing partner with the company Land Design out of Charlotte, who designed the Inspiring Spaces plan. I also addressed Alderman David Zagaroli’s conflict involving his wife being on the Inspiring Spaces Committee to rubber stamp Council and City Staff wishes. The Council Members found out after meeting with Land Design and their lawyers that the committee could not exist if a Bond Referendum was to be sought to raise the $40 million they say they need.

This will cost all taxpayers of the City of Hickory, when the main focus of this project is a sidewalk for a very small area of Hickory from Lenoir-Rhyne University to Union Square that benefits very few people.

The Hickory City Council can’t seem to ever be able to find money to clear away old dilapidated buildings and build sidewalks that are needed in neighborhoods and along major roadways. Now is the time for the citizens of our city to say NO MORE! until you find a way to enhance all the areas of Hickory and maintain what we already have.

Invocation by Rev. Bill Garrard, Retired United Methodist Pastor

Special Presentations
A. Proclamation for National Federation of the Blind of Catawba County Day to Mr. Dawson Hart 
B. Recognition of the Hickory Crawdads Staff and Connie Kincaid for Crawdad’s All-Star Bash, June 16, 2014
C. Presentation of Retiring Members of Volunteer Boards and Commissions

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Mr. Jeff Hines regarding Horseford Cove and the Glenn Hilton Park Area

Consent Agenda:
A. Resolution Authorizing Preparation of Assessment Rolls and Public Hearing on Preliminary Assessment Roll for Street Improvements Petition Number 01-14 (Curb and Gutter). A petition was submitted on February 17, 2014, approved by City Council on April 1, 2014, and the project was completed on June 12, 2014. (Authorize Public Hearing for August 5, 2014)

B. Call for Public Hearing – for Consideration of Rezoning Petition 14-01 for Property Located at 1218 Bugle Lane, Newton. (Authorize Public Hearing for August 5, 2014)

C. Call for Public Hearing – for Consideration of Adoption of ABC Permit / Local Opinion Ordinance. (Authorize Public Hearing for August 5, 2014)

D. Approval of Acceptance of a 2013 FEMA Regional Assistance to Firefighters Grant for P25 Compliant Radio Equipment. - On September 27, 2013 Hickory City Council approved the Fire Department’s application for a FEMA Regional Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant that would provide radio equipment to a majority of the County’s emergency services departments. The total federal share of the grant is 90 percent or $1,777,320 and the share of the host and 19 participating agencies is 10 percent or $197,480. The City’s share is $34,980. This grant will close a longstanding gap in the lack of interoperability between local public safety agencies. The required match by the City of Hickory and all participating agencies will be a one-time ten percent matching fund.

E. Approval of Acceptance of Historic Preservation Fund Pass-Through Grant for Update to the City’s Survey of Historic Properties. - In February, the Historic Preservation Commission applied for a grant to update the City’s survey of historic properties. This survey was last updated in 1999, and that update was focused on only a few neighborhoods in the immediate vicinity of the downtown area. The proposed survey would update all of the existing survey records and also study properties throughout the City as budget constraints will allow. This will include the City’s industrial and commercial properties along with post-war subdivisions through the community. The estimated project cost for the grant is currently $23,000. The grant will pay $15,000 of the project costs, which is actually $3,000 more than the amount requested in the original application. The required City match will be $8,000, which is the same amount as the original application. If the grant is accepted, the project will begin in the fall of 2014.

F. Approval of Change Order (4) Four to Jimmy R. Lynch & Sons, Inc. Contract in the amount of $101,696.91 for the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Project. - The City of Hickory Public Utilities Department initiated the Hickory-Catawba Wastewater Treatment Plant project in February 2013. The project was established with a contingency fund in order to address unforeseen expenses that may arise. Change order (4) four consists of (9) nine items added due to permitting or unforeseen construction issues, such as the addition of a platform on the effluent structure to place control equipment above the flood plain, and the addition of stairs at the entrance to the oxidation ditch. Contract change order total to date would be $185,259.99, including change orders (1) thru (4) or 1.81 percent of the original project contract. The revised  contract total to date will be $10,404,916.99. The City of Hickory and Catawba County will split all expenses equally at 50 percent each according to the contract.

G. Approval of a Sanitary Sewer Line Easement for the Property of Glenda Stewart Frazier, PIN 3714-05-08-0392 for Installation of a Sanitary Sewer Line. - Staff requests acceptance of a permanent easement for completion of the Maple Place pump station rehabilitation/relocation project. This easement is necessary for the construction of the infrastructure required to serve this area with sanitary sewer. The easement was negotiated for one 4-inch sewer tap connected to the home in exchange for the easement.

H. Approval of a Sanitary Sewer Line Easement for the Property of William Michael Davis and wife, Patsy P. Davis, PIN 3704-08-98-6446 for Installation of a Sanitary Sewer Line and Pump Station. - Staff requests acceptance of a permanent easement for completion of the Maple Place pump station rehabilitation/relocation project. This easement is necessary for the construction of the infrastructure required to serve this area with sanitary sewer. The easement was negotiated for $8,000 which was comprised from the quoted price for installation of a 4-inch sewer tap connected to the home and the current value of one 4-inch sanitary sewer service connection, in exchange for the easement.

I. Renewal of Taxicab and Other Passenger Vehicles for Hire Franchises. -
Company - Taxicabs - Passenger Vehicle for Hire
Mile High Enterprises (dba The Hickory Hop) - 0 - 4
Yellow Cab - 13 - 1
Diamond Cab of Hickory - 3 - 0
Select Car Service - 0 - 1
Hickory Limousine - 0 - 3
Total - 16 - 9
Annually, these companies apply for a renewal of their Certificate of Convenience and Necessity for the operation of taxicabs and other vehicles for hire.

J. Approval of 2014 Urgent Repair Program Grant from North Carolina Housing Agency in the amount of $50,000 along with Program Assistance and Procurement Policies for the Grant. - In January 2014, the City of Hickory Community Development Division applied for funding through the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency’s Urgent Repair Program. The City of Hickory has been awarded $50,000 through this program in order to assist approximately 12 very low income  homeowners with urgently needed repairs in an amount not to exceed $7,200 per housing unit. The City of Hickory will provide an additional $5,000 in matching funds, which are available from Rental Rehabilitation program income. The total program budget will be $55,000. North Carolina HousingFinance Agency requires the City of Hickory to prepare Assistance and Procurement Policies. These policies must be made available to the public and explain the guidelines of the URP14 program. Staff recommends that City Council accept the 2014 Urgent Repair Program Grant and approve the Assistance and Procurement Policies.

K. Special Event/Activities Application for Gospel Concert, Exodus Choir, Mandy Pitts, Hickory Communications Director/Brand Manager working with Hickory Arts, July 27, 2014 set-up at 3:00 p.m. to clean-up at 9:00 p.m. under the Sails on the Square.

L. Acceptance and Approval of a Block Grant/NPE Agreement and Resolution for Project 36237.66.4.3 from the North Carolina Department of Transportation. - North Carolina Department of Transportation as awarded the City of Hickory a grant of this project. This grant has a federal share equal to 90 percent of the project costs and requires the City’s portion (local share) to be 10 percent of the project costs. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has allocated $1,496,667 in total funds to grant 36237.66.4.3 with the Federal share of 90 percent equal to $1,347,000 and the local share, City’s share, of 10 percent equal to $149, 667. The total funds for this grant will fund the construction of the base bid improvements of this project. Taxiway “B”, Taxiway “S”, and the North Ramp were last repaved over 30 years ago. The normal life span of a taxiway is about 15-20 years depending on use.

M. Budget Ordinance Amendment Number 1.
1. To transfer $139 from the Police Department’s Uniform line item to the 2011 Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Project Uniform line item. This transfer provides additional City funds to cover non-grant purchases and to close this project.
2. To transfer $145,730 of General Fund-Appropriated Fund Balance to the Stormwater Fund-Contracted Services line item. This transfer is needed to pay for repair of the 3rd St. Dr. 60 inch storm drain pipe. Sections of the pipe system have failed and areas above the pipe have washed out resulting in large holes in the soil and in some driveway areas over the pipe system. The driveways that have failed are in the ROW (right of way) and are the access points to existing businesses along 3rd St. Dr. SW.
3. To budget a total of $9,915 of General Fund-Appropriated Fund Balance in the Library Programming ($1,200) and Departmental Supplies ($8,715) line items. $9,915 of the Library's Endowment fund was not spent prior to the end of the fiscal year therefore rolled into General Fund Balance. This amendment will budget those funds in the appropriate line items.
4. To appropriate $20,237 of General Fund Balance (Funds reserved from the US Department of Justice) and budget in the Police Department's Specialized Equipment ($11,000), Training, Meals and Lodging ($6,166), Fuel ($500), Non-Asset Inventory ($1,789) and Uniforms ($782) line items. This budget amendment is needed for the purchase of a new canine and associated expenses. Funds are made available to the Police Department from the US Department of Justice and remain in General Fund Balance until appropriated.
5. To transfer $9,880 of General Fund Contingency to the Intergovernmental Debt Service line item. This transfer is needed to pay Catawba County the City of Hickory's share of the North Carolina Data Campus Loan.
6. To transfer $53,232 of General Fund-Appropriated Fund Balance to the Street Division-Contracted Services line item. This transfer is needed to pay Neill Grading and Construction Company to construct public infrastructure related to the Moretz Mill redevelopment project. The scope of the project includes the replacement of old stormwater drains, construction of new curb & gutter, construction of new sidewalk and asphalt street patching related to the included improvements. This work will be done along sections of 8th St. SE, 7th St. SE and E. Ave. SE.
7. To budget $50 of General Fund-Appropriated Fund Balance in the Library books line item. A $50 memorial donation from Donnis sills for Helen Hatley was received at the end of the year and therefore rolled into General Fund Balance. An amendment is necessary to budget the $50 in the Library’s current budget.

N. Grant Project Ordinance Amendment Number 1
1. To accept and budget a $139 transfer from the Police Department’s Uniform line item and budget in the 2011 Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Project Uniform line item. This transfer provides additional City funds to cover non-grant purchases and to close this project.

New Business - Public Hearings
1. Consideration of Text Amendment (TA) 14-02 to the City’s Land Development Code. - The proposed amendments to the City’s Land Development Code retain a business’s ability to utilize temporary out-of-doors sales, but limits such sales to properties where the businesses are located. The proposed amendments would make temporary sales an accessory use to the primary business located on a particular property. Hickory Regional Planning Commission considered the proposed amendments and voted unanimously to recommend to City Council approval of the proposed Land Development Code text amendments. Staff concurs with the recommendation. This public hearing was advertised in a newspaper having general circulation in the Hickory area on July 4, and July 11, 2014.

Departmental Reports:
1. Introduction of the General Obligation Bond Orders and Filing of Estimated Statement of Interest with the NC Local Government Commission. -
a. Parker Poe, Bond Counsel, has directed the City of Hickory to proceed with the next processes for the November 2014 bond referendum. An official bond introduction outlining the two general obligation bond orders is presented to City Council for approval. As required by General Statute
Section 159-55, the Finance Officer of the City must file a statement to estimate the total amount of interest to be paid on the general obligation bonds over the expected term of the bonds if approved. Staff request Council to introduce the Streets and Sidewalk Bonds in the amount of 25 million dollars, and the Economic Development Bonds in the amount of 15 million dollars, and also approve the filing of the Estimated Statement of Interest with the NC Local Government Commission.
b. Call for Public Hearing on General Obligation Bond Orders and adopt a Resolution to Request a Public Hearing on August 5, 2014, authorizing the Issuance of Two General Obligation Bond Orders.

2. Request to Amend Vacant Building Grant Agreement from Jack Sipe Construction Company. - Jack Sipe Construction Company received a Vacant Building Revitalization Grant in the amount of $23,000 to renovate the building located at 844 Highland Avenue SE. The original grant agreement was signed on December 16, 2009. The guideline in place at that time provided that the grant was to be paid in two installments, 50 percent of the amount was paid upon completion of the proposed improvements and 50 percent of the grant upon occupancy of at least 50 percent of the building’s square footage. The exterior rehabilitation was completed on December 15, 2010. The project came under budget, which reduced the allowable grant amount to $19,834. Fifty percent of that amount, $9,917 was processed for payment on December 15, 2010. According to the agreement, in order to receive the second half of the grant amount, the building was required to be occupied by December 16, 2011. The building is still not occupied, but it has been leased to Lenoir-Rhyne University. The University plans to renovate the building for space to house its physician assistant program. Staff received a correspondence, in-mid June, from Bill Burton, President of Jack Sipe, expressing his desire to receive the second half of the grant. Staff requests that City Council consider whether to amend the Vacant Building Revitalization Grant Agreement to permit payment of the remaining $9,917 when the building becomes occupied by Lenoir-Rhyne University.

3. State Honors 38 Utilities for Meeting Stringent Voluntary Goals. - Thirty-eight systems received the N.C. Area Wide Optimization Award from the State N.C. Division of Water Resources’ Public Water Supply section. The awards are part of the N.C. Area Wide Optimization Program, which is an effort to enhance the performance of existing surface water treatment facilities. Awards are given each year to water systems that demonstrate outstanding turbidity removal, a key test of drinking water quality.