Below is my Letter to the Editor that was in Sunday's (July 9, 2017) Hickory Daily Record - They entitled the article "City needs to consider recent bond projects debate"... I wrote the letter because of some of the false premises that I read related to Dr. Griffith's resignation from the Bond Commission. The Bond vote passed and I am not going to belabor a three year old issue, but I believe that there is still room for discussion about the "Economic Development Plan" side of the story. We still need to look at it's objectives, the strategic implementation, the need for constant (re)evaluation of the plan, transparency, accountability measures, community buy-in, and the pay off - what will we define as success?.
I don't pretend to have all the answers and I don't think any one person does. I also don't think people locked within a Daytight Compartment, that becomes an echo chamber, can come up with a plan that will be truly successful. Anyone can say something is successful, but will it be organically successful? Will it feel successful to most of the people of Hickory?
What you need is to bring people from all backgrounds, cultural and economic, together where the thought is that no ideas are considered bad and/or looked down upon. Everyone has something to contribute in a real community. You shouldn't determine outcomes before you begin strategic processes. You shouldn't rig processes. You should use an open-minded, open-ended discussion of ideas to move forward with a strategic process that develops a plan through consensus, not dictates, that genuinely benefits the community (the entity) as a whole.
10 years ago, I was permitted to write a guest column, in this newspaper, about my view of the economic plight of this community. At that time, some of my statements were construed as a little less than congenial. Last week, I read how Professor Ralph Griffith, had resigned from the Bond Commission, because he did not agree with its progress and direction. It seems that Dr. Griffith is now being misconstrued as a rabble-rouser, because he isn't "All-In" on the message of the power structure that controls the City of Hickory.
Over this past week, I have listened and spoken with Dr. Griffith. I did not know him before, but I will tell you that he isn't a trouble maker. He has actually studied and taught Entrepreneurship and Economics and his goal is to help people in this community, where he lives and works. Personally, I have a degree in Finance from UNC-Wilmington and I have 30+ years of working experience in one of the few growing sectors of business in this community. I understand where he is coming from. We should look at the real, big picture.
Years ago, I was at the forefront of telling this community about its losses, including the loss of younger people. Initially, I was ignored, now much of what I spoke of has become commonly accepted.
What's the deal? I truly believe in order for our community to move forward towards viable economic growth, citizens need to demand a strategic plan to accompany the Bond Projects. This should have been in place prior to the referendum, instead of the "If you build it, they will come" trek that we have been taken down. City leaders talk about Greenville, South Carolina as a model to follow. First, Greenville got BMW, which led to all of their community development efforts. Greenville then developed a solid plan that is transparent and has accountability measures. That is what this community needs.
A narrative has been created that the "Bond Projects" are a done deal. The Bond Ordinance, as voted upon, specifically outlines "Other Projects." As much as some people may not like it, the ordinance allows for dialog on "Other Projects." Before we dive completely into the deep end, we may want to rethink our objectives in the $40 million bond issuance that this community is going to be on the hook for.
James Thomas Shell
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