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Thursday, May 5, 2016

On behalf of Larry Pope - Hickory City Council - May 3, 2016

I know I have been taking a sabbatical and haven't reported on anything in a while. I've been working on my house, gardening, working, and working on several other projects that have been on the backburner over the past few years. A couple of weeks ago I lost a good friend in Larry Pope. He was a true champion of the forgotten people in this community. The people who basically are afforded no representation in the current broken political system.

I spoke on Larry's behalf at the Hickory City Council meeting the other night, May 3, 2016. Larry had recently championed the cause of fixing the issues related to Hickory's Public Housing. Funny thing is that I relate how Hickory Incorporated has chosen to move back towards the status quo over the last several weeks versus allowing the Western Piedmont Council of Governments to merge Hickory Public Housing into their Public Housing System due to a lack of media attention from Charlotte media and no attention by the ZEROES here in Hickory. Now, this morning, we are presented with another article by the Charlotte Observer -- Sex-for-rent accusations prompt lawsuit against Hickory public housing agency - Charlotte Observer - May 5, 2016. Funny how things come together.

Below is my presentation. I want people to understand that I did not randomly come up with the word "nemesis" at the end of this presentation. That was the term Mayor Wright used on Monday during an interview with Hal Row on WHKY during his Monday Morning Meeting with the Mayor. That Larry was his nemesis and some people said that Larry was his nemesis and he was Larry's nemesis. I never heard Larry say such a term over the years I knew him.


Link to Youtube video of presentation

I stand here tonight with a heavy heart over the loss of a good friend. He was so much more than an associate. He was truly a friend. Much of my desire and ability to write has been taken away over the past several months by anxiety from anger, not because of any certain thing, but because of the uncertain. I'm getting older and I know death is certain and the loss of so many around me has done nothing to allay my apprehension about death. There is a paradox of fighting the darkness or embracing it. I have no fear of death, only an apprehension of whether I have fulfilled my life or wasted it.

I'm not here to speak for myself. I am here to speak for my good friend Larry Pope. He was a man who lived with no fear. He walked everywhere in this city. He rode the bus inside and outside of the city's boundaries anywhere he pleased. He had many who wanted to help him, but in the end he sought as much independence as any blind man could be afforded.

I prayed and asked Larry to give me his words tonight. The words are a little more filtered than Larry might have presented. Not because I think what Larry said was wrong, but because of my own comfort level. So, I'm not up here to ask any of you to resign or to ask Chief Adkins to put anyone in jail. I am up here to try and bring thought, respect, and resolution.

Yes, Larry could be a little overzealous. Yes, a little melodramatic at times. But, close your eyes and see what you see in this room. Do you feel a little lost without your sight. I think we all have sight here tonight, but how many of us can actually see. Larry may not have had physical vision, but he saw many things that many of us couldn't.

I can't fill his shoes and no one in this community can. As a white man, I have no right, but I do pray that some people in the African American community will carry forward Larry's mission. Not looking for a pay off or a pay out, but to truly help others.

I was at Larry's funeral last week. It was so uplifting to see the people in this community that truly loved and supported Larry... and I know Larry supported them as well.

As a Libertarian, I have come to not believe the government. Government has come to represent itself over the will of the people. Larry Pope also, to a great extent, was a Libertarian. But, in envisioning where Larry was coming from, his challenges, I understand Larry's need for government. That is why Larry fought so hard on issues for the handicapped.

I hope that Attorneys Crone and Dula understand that Larry did respect them. Chief Adkins and City Employees, you know that Larry respected y'all. Mayor, Council, as hard as it may be for y'all to believe, Larry wanted to respect y'all.

Many people thought what Larry asked for was petty, trite, frivolous... I saw him come up here so many times and I watched people roll their eyes. I saw people turn beet red. I saw people who obviously tuned him out. I saw people want to rebuke and challenge him when he had gone back to his seat after saying his piece. And there were a few that listened, and I appreciate it when representatives listen, but my perception is that they never made a point of getting their fellow representatives to understand what they are here for.

I am blessed to be able to stand up here on this night and make this prepared statement. Larry didn't have that option. Yes, he could be long winded and repeat himself. That happened because of what I convey to you above. He couldn't see your body language like I could. Like so many of us could. He was emphatic about getting his point across. He could see what so many times y'all refused to see. How many times did Larry ask me what y'all looked like when he spoke on his issue of the night.

Hickory Incorporated's story line in 2012, during the Ward Referendum, was that the Ward Representatives wanted to represent all of the people of Hickory. In the subsequent years, how many of you have represented Larry Pope? You continued to dismiss him... How many of you have represented the interests of the South side, Ridgeview, or those in poverty? You haven't and thus you were justifying the unjustifiable to keep your adulterous system.

Yeah, what I have said above is harsh, but it isn't a charge against your personal being, unless that is who you desire to be and what you want to represent. What I am relating to you above is the result of your actions.

I remember being at the Lakeland Park debate during this time. Joe Brannock and I talked about moving Persons requesting to be Heard back to the front of the agenda. I'm not trying to out you Jill, but she said, (Paraphrasing) "...never, because of what Larry Pope would do if that happened." Well, something happened over the subsequent months and she and Sally Fox championed the cause and pushed it through over the Mayor's objections... and to that I would like to say Thank You Jill... and I don't think anything has happened over the subsequent time to say that the decision you made was wrong.

At Larry's funeral, Hank got up and spoke and related how Larry had befriended him and taken him to his house to eat, when Hank first went to work for the Hickory police department. In Hank's words, Larry had befriended Hank when he didn't have to. Hank said if there was anything that Larry's family needed that he'd be there for them. Larry's brother told you Hank, "Do the right thing... represent Larry... represent us." It's time Hank. It's time to be a friend to Larry. It's time to do the right thing.

You know, many people thought years ago, and over time, that Larry Pope was a wildcard that just liked shooting off at the mouth. That wasn't the Larry Pope that I knew. Larry listened intently and with interest about what people had to say. We had a meeting that several people of all walks of life attended and after the meeting, one of the gentleman, who everyone would know if I said his name, said, "Larry didn't really say much." We had to point out that the Larry that speaks before the Hickory City Council is only one version of Larry Pope.

Now, I'm going to come to a point. Larry has championed a cause about fixing issues related to the Hickory Public Housing authority. You dismissed him outright until some embarrassing issues came to the light. Then, and only then, you looked to take action. Seems that some time has gone by and the real media in Charlotte, since we have none here in Hickory, hasn't reported on it of late, so some think they can slink back to the status quo.

Larry came to you with this issue. There were issues that Larry experienced firsthand and many other issues were voluntarily brought to Larry by people effected by the Housing Authority. Larry listened and reported these issues and what did you do? You took him off of the Housing Authority board and when Larry was off of the board, then all of these people that worked at the Housing Authority were subsequently fired... Now that's the Carolina Way right there. That's the Hickory Way that the bosses love and the people know and hate.

Funny thing is that Larry was dismissed from the Housing Authority board, but now we are told that the Mayor has no authority over the board. He's the one that appoints these board members. He was the one who appointed Larry. He was the one who chose not to reappoint Larry, after Larry brought issues forward.

Seems like to me when you can appoint and dismiss Housing Authority board members, like you did Larry, that you have the ultimate authority. Of course at the last meeting you said that you didn't want to dismiss friends/board members to which Brad seemed to wholeheartedly agree. That is your choice. That has nothing to do with a lack of authority.

I truly hate to bring this up, but logically what we've heard sounds like a lot of throw it up and see what will stick defenses. Summarily, it seems like you've dismissed the finding of HUD in relation to "Misappropriation of Funds", as no big deal. "Nobody stole any money."

Misappropriation means that you took money intended for one purpose and used it for another. It isn't armed robbery, but it is most definitely wrong. And guess what? You are using your authority and your political capital to qualify this issue and dismiss it all as no big deal.

Larry took a smell test and he passed it along to me and others. You know what it smells like. It smells like money. I smell some stinky money. I smell some "Let's make some money off of some poor people" money.

It's been brought up before. You see it on the Hickory Public Housing Authority Website -- Unifour Capital Ventures. So they are going to privatize the housing authority and reap the benefits, then -- as Larry told me and others -- these board members are going to have paid board positions and then no one can dismiss them... and no one will have authority over them. Who really is going to look out for the poor people living in these places?

HUD gave money to the citizens of Hickory to build these apartments for low income people and you are going to allow someone to take them over for free and look to make a profit off of a gift. What if this entity continues to be mismanaged? Are the citizens of Hickory going to be expected to bail a future catastrophe like that out? I can go into many other reasons why this is all a bad idea.

I was with Larry when he spoke with The Western Piedmont Council of Governments about this issue and them incorporating Hickory's Public Housing into their Housing Management system. He asked me to be his eyes in that meeting. Those people were genuine. The COG's Housing Management system is regional. It's obvious that Unifour Capital Ventures wants to be regional also, thus the name "Unifour".

Like I said, I smell money. There is no "goodness of the heart" to all of this. If it was a "goodness of the heart issue", then they wouldn't be fighting tooth and nail to maintain their positions and they would say that they've done the best they could and the COG can have it. I smell stinky, tainted money.

A few months ago, three Council members went to Greensboro. At least two of them came back wanting to turn the housing authority over to the COG. Now the Mayor wants to maintain the status quo. Jill and Hank, I hope you will stick to your guns.

I'm going to wrap this up for now, but I'll be back. The people of this community for some reason are held to a higher standard than our elected officials and the City's management. I've seen it time and time again where people like Larry are told that they've got it wrong and they don't have the information. Well, who's providing the info?

Y'all providing us bad information? Seems that's on y'all.

Your average citizen is expected to adhere to the strictest of standards, but Hickory Incorporated has shown no accountability to the standards that they expect of citizens. It's called the spirit of the law. You do whatever you want and everyone is supposed to accept it as the gospel. Most of us aren't afforded such a luxury. Like Orwell said, "Some of us are a little more equal than others."

We have a broken political system in this country from the top to the bottom. Elected officials only worry about getting re-elected. Every decision is made based upon how it will effect electability. What about doing the work of the people and the community.

I've heard it said that we are sore losers. Well, it's hard to be gracious in defeat when dealing with sore winners. You've gotten everything you wanted. Tell me what y'all haven't gotten? Sure you had to fight harder than you wanted, but you got it. Had to cut corners and tell some whoppers, but you got what you wanted. Heck, with the machine y'all have built, you don't even have to worry about keeping your stories straight, they're going to vote for you anyway.

Look at what we've dealt with. Getting arrested on trumped up charges. People calling to threaten your boss about allowing you to be employed. People telling us they are going to beat us down, if we stick our head back up. Hey Paul, I'm still standing. Where are you?

They say those who laugh last, laugh loudest, and those who send out unsolicited pictures of celebrations and victory cigars eventually have them stuck where the sun don't shine. There's a lot to be said about winning with class. It helps others lose with dignity. Like Jock Ewing told JR on the old television show Dallas about subtlety. "Without it , you turn competitors into enemies and enemies into fanatics."

At the end of the day, I want you to understand that Larry Pope was not your nemesis. I am not your nemesis. Larry loved the politics. Personally, I loathe politics, but understand the reality. If you feel that we are your nemesis or others are your nemesis, then you are your own nemesis.

God bless Larry Pope