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Friday, August 21, 2015

Newsletter about the City Council meeting of August 18, 2015

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.

***Final Release***

Hound Notes: The issue related to this meeting was Larry Pope asking questions related to the Hickory Housing authority and its evolution into becoming Unifour Capital Ventures. This issue came up during the presentations by the group from 4th Street SW and the proposed affordable housing apartment project that is to be built there.

In my opinion Larry Pope asked questions that need to be answered. The Mayor brought the subject of Larry's brother into the conversation, which in my opinion was completely unnecessary. Then Larry went back to the podium to rebut the inferences of the Mayor. The City Council said in May that the Hickory Housing Authority needed to answer questions posed by the 4th street group and here we are going into September. They reaffirmed this in August when the 4th Street group came before them again. The Mayor said in the August meeting that a reason why the HHA had not come before the City Council is because the Council didn't know what questions to ask. In my opinion, the Council wants to know what the HHA's answers will be before they come before the Council.

In the Agenda notes I believed that the Lenoir-Rhyne Commission and Claremont Neighborhood Group coming before the Council would promote the Sidewalk being built from L-R to Union Square. They did not do that at this meeting. Ryan Edwards address of "University City Commission" issues seemed to spell out that they are having some trouble branding this initiative and moving some goals forward when it comes to student participation. The Claremont Neighborhood presentation was essentially a checklist of what that neighborhood has done and is looking to do.


Special Presentations
A. Business Well Crafted Award Presentation to Hickory Daily Record  -
Hickory Daily Record-News. Well Crafted.
City of Hickory recognizes Hickory Daily Record for 100 years in business with the Business. Well Crafted. award

B. Ryan Edwards - Update from University City Commission  - Spoke about progress and accomplishments. Struggles have centered around promoting events and getting student participation in events. UCC provides incoming students welcome to Hickory t-shirts and have a gathering. There is an L-R discount program with local businesses. Last April the had a concert. They are looking into providing more mentorships to retain more L-R talent in the area. They want to create a centralized effort through the Chamber of Commerce. Exploring transportation to get around the City easier. They are supportive of entertainment opportunities in the mill district. A video below promotes L-R.

C. Acceptance of the 2015 Updated Claremont Neighborhood Plan. - Claremont Neighborhood Association has worked with City Staff to update its neighborhood plan. The current Claremont Neighborhood Plan was accepted by Hickory City Council on August 5, 2008. The updated neighborhood plan contains strategies and recommendations put forth by the neighborhood, with emphasis placed upon the preservation of the character of the neighborhood. On May 21, 2015 Claremont Neighborhood Association voted to recommend City Council’s acceptance of this
updated neighborhood plan. -
Cal Overby presentation - He laid out the geography of the area, which incorporates the L-R area. The original plan came into existence 7 years ago. Boundaries are Main Avenue, 8th avenue, the boundary of L-R's campus, and 1st and Center Street to the west.  He spoke about the goal for pedestrian improvements. Spoke about Zoning and preserving the Neighborhood character and Historic Districts. Spoke about Land Use strategies and Conditional Zoning and how property is developed. and design standards. Talked about thoroughfare improvements, especially related to Hwy 127. Talked about improvemnet of pedestrian safety, especially related to speeding issues and control. Want the area to be inviting to pedestrians. Spoke about safety issues including noise. Want a tool for getting the word out related to safety/crime issues. Want parks, McComb and Fox monitored better for vagrancy. Look into possibilities of expanding the district. Want dog station, trash cans in parks, work with art commission, IDing trees in the arboretum. Other general recommendation were mentioned.

Persons Requesting to Be Heard
A. Billy Sudderth – City Owned Vacant Lot Located at 121 7th Avenue SW
Mr. Sudderth spoke about creating a multi-purpose center in Ridgeview at this location. He say that the people of Ridgeview are looking to support economic growth in the city in which they love. This plan would prolong and enhance the legacy of the vanishing (Ridgeview) community. This center would house various programs to provide training opportunities in all aspects of social, economic, education, leadership, health, finance, culinary, supporting mental and spiritual development. They will have programs to reduce criminal activity and help individuals seeking job opportunities... Billy had handed out some material for the council to look at.

B. Deb McNeur – Problems with Wildlife in the Neighborhood
Spoke about an issue with racoons in her residential area. She belies they are stuck in a jurisdictional issue. It is effecting their quality of life. There was a rabies issue at her house. She said that this area has become wildlife heaven. Groundhogs, foxes, rabbits, and squirrels were mentioned existing along the 321 area in southwest Hickory. She spoke about a neighbor's chickens being destroyed. She spoke about racoon roundworm and it not being able to be treated. This parasite can be passed to humans. Animal control is not allowed to trap the animals and residents aren't allowed to either. She says that their health is at risk and they are in a quandary.

C. Larry Pope - Questions about the Hickory Housing Authority  -
Larry spoke about his concerns dealing with the Hickory Public Housing Authority and asked who is Unifour Capital Ventures? Who is the Hickory Public Housing Authority?  How did Unifour Capital Ventures come up with a $150,000 checking account when they came before the Council needing $20,000 of taxpayers monies to apply for a planning grant from HUD to do new public housing in the city of Hickory? Are you aware that in 2012, HUD gave the deed of trust to of all units of public housing to various housing agencies across the United States For those who had applied for Rad funds? Were you/are you in control of those deeds of trust? Do you have knowledge of what is being done with those units? Are you aware that the Hickory Public Housing Authority has plans on selling Ridgecrest Apartments...? Are you aware of everything that this group is doing? Do you know that HPHA is stating that the City of Hickory no longer appoints their board members. Their board members appoint board members to Unifour Capital Ventures. Where is this group trying to go? What is this group trying to accomplish? How much knowledge do you have about what they are doing? You are aware that in 2012, Mayor Wright and one of the board members met with Alanda Jackson (Director of HPHA) after HUD came in and found misappropriation of over $200,000? Are you aware that in 2013, HUD came in and found another $200,000+ dollars misappropriated? Are you aware that HPHA currently owes over $500,000 to HUD (related to this matter). How long do they have to repay that money? How long will you as a City Council continue to appoint the same board members to the HPHA that is now going under the name Unifour Capital Ventures? What is their intention? Can you answer that question? What do they plan on doing? Do you Know? I heard one of the City Council members say at the last meeting, Council member Patton, that she needed more information about HPHA and Unifour Capital Ventures before any decisions could be made about that group. Are you doing your investigation? Are you aware of everything going on with a group that you are supposed to have control over? Are they doing what they want to do regardless of what the resolution says that they are supposed to be doing according to the resolution that established the HPHA in the early 1960s? Or have they gotten to the point that they know it doesn't matter to you what they do, they can do it? He once again asked, do you know what they are doing?

The Mayor began speaking on the issue saying he was compelled to respond to a couple of those things... and he begins (here is the response)... and then a confrontation begins when the mayor alludes to Larry Pope's brother.

(Hound Notes): Alderman Meisner asks if they have a meeting scheduled with the Housing Authority. Manager Berry states that there is no scheduled meeting with the housing authority per se. Alderman Meisner suggests taking the minutes from Mr. Pope's comments and bringing them up at that meeting. The Mayor interjects about "bring Mr. Pope's comments" and then begins commenting on what he labels as "Mr. Pope's comments."

Larry wasn't making comments. He was asking questions that need to be answered. He was formerly on that board until he went to HUD about some issues taking place with that board. His going to HUD seems to have been the main impetus that led to his being removed from that board -- ie removal of a whistle blower.

The Mayor and the others should be embarrassed by what we have seen in relation to this board, but he continues to double down without public transparency being mandated. Go back to this misappropriation of funds. It is the Mayor's opinion that there was no misappropriation of funds. Well. HUD sees it differently or they would not willy-nilly demand the monies back. It seems that there have been multiple investigations and probations. HUD doesn't seem to be doing this everywhere, which seems to point to an issue. Last year HPHA came before council and said they wanted to change the mission of HPHA and never mentioned this Unifour Capital Ventures entity. Why? That seems like a big omission. Then they are only moving existing public housing a few blocks over to a controversial site. Why? Then this group of business people ask questions and are basically promised that Council will get to the bottom of it and now Manager Berry says here that no meeting is scheduled and the Mayor said at the August 4 meeting that they would be coming before the Council, but they don't know yet what questions to ask... here you go, along with the questions the 4th street group wants the answers to.

The Mayor talked about baseless and slanderous allegations made by Mr. Pope. That seemed pretty harsh. If there are easy explanations for all of this, then it should be easily cleared up by a presentation of the Housing Authority and it shouldn't take 3+ years to get answers to the public. Larry asked questions. The Mayor made comments that seemed to infer that Larry had some misappropriate dealings related to interactions between Larry's brother and the HPHA. Let's just answer the questions and let the chips fall where they may.

Consent Agenda

Matters not on the Agenda 
Alderman Lail made a motion seconded by Alder Patton to discuss the Persons requesting to be Heard issues after regular business had been taken care of.

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