If you live in or near Hickory, NC, you may have seen the intersections strewn with signage asking you to "Vote YES for fair representation" or "Vote NO to change in representation" on September 18th. Like me, you may have been wondering "what is this about?" and "how should I vote?"
Follow me below the orange curve of doom for the 411 on this special election.
Note: I'm writing this mainly to help out with the Google search results on this election. Right now its really hard for anyone who isn't involved in politics to have a clue about this special election, even though there are signs all over town asking people to vote "Yes" or "No."
What is this?
The September 18th special election is for a change to the way that you elect the City Council members from the current system to a true ward system. If passed, you will have better representation in the city council because the councilmen will be elected by members of their wards instead of by the whole city. Vote yes. This is a good thing for Hickory!
How should I vote on the referendum?
Why should I care about this?
1. Hickory's current at-large system suppresses the vote and does not give fair representation to all citizens. We elect the Hickory City school board, our state legislators and the US House of Representatives and Senators by a true ward/district system. It doesn't dilute our vote, but strengthens our ability to elect the people who best represent us.#3 from this list is why I am personally voting "YES" to this change. Have you seen the "Million Dollar Tent?" I liked the old state. It was a nice place for concerts during the Hickory Alive nights, and it could have been a great spot for hosting other concerts if City Council would let them happen. The stage was fine as-is, but the Union Square brigade decided that it was worth spending a stupid amount of money to tear that down and replace that entire part of the square with... a bunch of tents.
2. The current system favors incumbents and the status quo. City council members oppose the referendum because they want to protect their own self-interests and political careers.
3. The current city council is controlled by folks invested in Union Square who don't really represent their own wards. The council members either live near Union Square, have businesses there, or have family investments in Union Square. They are spending our taxpayer dollars there while ignoring the rest of the city. The Million Dollar Tent just erected in Union Square is just one example.
4. Hickory city government is in need of a shake-up. We need new people on the City Council and electing Council members by ward may facilitate more political activity. The last election cycle in 2009 featured three uncontested races and generated a turn out of 950 voters... a sad testimony to Hickory political involvement.
5. The people of Hickory believe that unless you are part of the "Old Hickory Money Club," City Hall doesn't care what you think. When folks in West Hickory, Mountain View and Sandy Ridge believe that City Hall is only looking out for the Union Square interests, we have a failure of confidence in government.
Now these are some nice looking tents, but ask yourself if that was REALLY worth the money that we put into it. Could that money have done better work in another area of the city? I think so.
#5 is also worth mentioning. Too often the politics around here are determined by old lawyers and family heirs to the largest entrenched businesses around town. In other words, the rich rule. I'd rather have some of the poorer wards in this city have a say in their governance as well as those from the rest of the city. We should have a spread on the city council that features people from all parts of the city, not just the well-to-doers.
Its gets better. Here's another major reason to change the representation, from the "more reasons to vote yes" page:
The current City Council makes it's decisions behind closed doors, then votes unanimously in public. Public input is severely limited. They have voted unanimously all but 4 times since Hank Guess came into office, which is 95.833% of the time since December 1, 2009. Including the Consent Agenda they have Unanimously Consented to 99.28% of the issues that have come before the City Council.WOW. It sounds like City Council is truly a room of "yes men." Proposal goes in, "yes" comes out, and the people have close to 0 participation in the whole deal.
The only times they haven't consented was two weeks ago when the Mayor wanted to levy higher fees for sweepstakes operators. Coucilwoman Fox dissented about concealed carry in parks last December. On August 17, 2010 she dissented about a rezoning on L-R Blvd. And on May 4, 2010 Councilwoman Patton and Councilman Guess dissented about $25,000 for graffiti removal.
That is it folks. 4 times in 3 years, everything else has been rubber stamp.
Who is behind this referendum?
A non-partisan group called Citizens for Equity in Government. Their website is here.
Where can I vote?
Early voting at Highland Recreation Center
1451 8th Street Drive Northeast
Hickory, NC 28601
Thursday - Friday, August 30 & 31 8 am â 5 pm
Tuesday - Friday, September 4-7 8 am â 5 pm
Monday - Friday, September 10-14 8 am â 5 pm
Saturday, September 15 8 am â 1 pm
Election Day, Tuesday September 18, 2012
17 City Polls are open 6:30 am â 7:30 pm
Where can I get more info?
The Hickory Hound is a good resource for happenings around town, and that blog is covering the debates and other events surrounding this referendum.
Have more questions? Please leave a comment below, and I'll try to find an answer for you.