You can watch the WHKY news segment here! It airs tonight at 5:30 and 10.
The Candidates Forum will be held on October 22 at 6:30 on the LRU campus at Belk Centrum. Please plan on attending.
Be sure to listen to WHKY tomorrow, October 17th, to listen to me chat with my friend Hal Rowe.
You can early vote now! 8-5, Monday through Fridays at Highland Rec. If you live in the city, you can vote for all three races. During early voting, you can also register to vote and immediately vote. Early voting ends November 1 and the general election will be held on November 5, at your normal voting location.
I do hope you’ll vote for me for your Ward 1 representative.
Although our crime rates are high, our police are mighty and just and are on the ground working to solve our problems. I recently met with the Deputy Chief of Police in Hickory, Deputy Reed Baer, and we talked about the drug problem here and the larceny that causes, and I left the meeting feeling incredibly safe and protected, and knowing that we have the right people at the right time to fix these problems.
One thing he said really stuck out to me and signals a change in policing that I am 100% here for.
"Not every nail needs a hammer." Deputy Reed Baer
A simple statement for sure, but it's profound because it shows that the police force absolutely knows that they do not need to approach every situation with guns drawn and tensions high. The department is working to HELP people who are drug-addicted instead of automatically aiming for prison time.
Although our opioid problem gets a lot of press (5th in the nation according to some sources) it's our METH problem that is hurting our city the most. Meth is a vicious drug and as its popularity rises, so do our crime rates, mostly because of larceny related to the drug. The police force is very aware of the problem and is putting a lot of focus on ending the problem.
Our crime rates look very high on paper, and they really truly ARE high. But you don't really need to be worried about being murdered or attacked here, any more than you'd worry most places...just be sure to lock your doors, because drug-addicted people often turn to theft to support their habit. I'm of the opinion you can't use force to get people off drugs, which is why the quote from Deputy Reed Baer hit me so hard. I think they're really on the right track.
Meanwhile, we've also had a very positive change at the county level. Sheriff Don Brown is fixing a lot of damage caused by the scandals of the previous leadership and his family. I was lucky enough to hear him speak last week at our Rotary meeting, and his comments brought me a lot of peace as well. The most exciting thing I learned from him is that his department is focusing on teamwork, and working with other groups, like the SBI, ATF, and FBI, as well as the other police forces in the area. Notably, each of those groups has a key to the Sheriff's office and is welcome at all times. This is such a positive change since the presence of the SBI in recent years has been because people in the department were being investigated, NOT because they were working together.
To me, this cooperation is a very big deal, and it takes some of the pressure off of the department to solve every problem themselves. Sheriff Brown has spent his first year working smart, and that is making the whole county safer.
When I look around the world in 2019, I see that there are a lot of corrupt police officers working in our country, and every few weeks, you hear about another misdeed by one of those people. It's led to a nationwide environment where people are scared of the police. Just this week a police officer shot a woman through her own window without warning. These national stories DO NOT reflect our local force. Deputy Baer and I talked briefly about these "bad cops" and his thoughts lined up with mine: there are bad police officers just like there are bad people in every job, but they aren't the majority. He says, "Bad cops should be fired," and I'm confident that's what happens here these days.
Our police forces are being run by good, proactive people, and they are equipped to handle our crime problems. In fact, our crime rate for last year and this year are lower than they have been in many years, and the new strategies are working. I suspect that our crime rate will begin to fall even quicker and in more noticeable ways in the near future.
I feel this is the most pivotal election in my lifetime for Hickory. We really need some youthful ideas for our future and our children’s future. I believe we have the candidate to potentially be a catalyst for some positive change. Carmen Eckard is our chance. Vote Carmen for HIckory City Council.
I don’t believe I’m alone in thinking that the prospects of our town are vanilla. Maybe that’s what we’re going for as a community, and you know, vanilla isn’t always a bad thing. Vanilla is consistent. Vanilla is easy. However, vanilla never really knocks your socks off. You rarely hear someone describe vanilla as something you have to go out of your way to experience. In an ever-shrinking world that’s always looking for the next big thing, this type of consistency is a death sentence. We cannot allow Hickory to continue down this path.
If we don’t work as a community to step outside our comfort zone, then we should get accustomed to future generations finding more dynamic communities to call home. We have so much potential in our little slice of North Carolina that nowhere else in the world can offer. I often find myself wondering: Why do I have to describe where I live to people as a town about an hour outside of Charlotte and on the way to Asheville? Why are we not coming up with a story that people from all over the world long to seek out? Why are we still hoping that vanilla will miraculously make us stand out in the crowd?
We need to cut a new path on a road less traveled. No, it’s not easy. No, it’s not going to always fall in line with tradition. No, we’re never going to all agree on everything. However, if we run out of people interested in hearing our story, what happens to all our traditions anyway? We need a change, and we need a breath of life into our community. Otherwise, we will become a smaller and smaller dot on the map. That’s why I support a candidate like Carmen Eckard for Hickory Council.
Carmen has proven that she can tell a story better than most of us, and that’s exactly what she has done with Foothills Digest. She has found a way to turn our little slice of North Carolina into something exciting and interesting that the rest of the world can enjoy. I can’t say that I always agree with everything Carmen says or does, but I can say that if there is one person I want fighting on the front lines to tell our story, it’s Carmen Eckard and her extreme passion for the community she calls home.
I'm asking Ward 1 voters to choose Carmen Eckard for Hickory City Council in the primary election. Early voting ends Oct. 4.
I support Carmen Eckard for her persistence and courage. I'm certain she will listen to you, speak up, asking the hard questions, offer new ideas, find common ground, building coalitions to solve some of Hickory's most difficult problems.
Hickory offers so much to so many -- myself included -- that it's hard to realize there's still more work to do. Our city needs to do a better job of hearing people who feel their neighborhoods go unnoticed and their concerns unaddressed. Carmen hears their concerns. She hears the concerns of our entire community and her platform (carmenforcouncil.com) clearly states her goals to address them.
If you want a council member who will listen -- even seek out differing views, VOTE FOR CARMEN.
If you want a council member who will speak up for you, VOTE FOR CARMEN.
If you want a council member who has the capacity to build coalitions to do the work that still needs doing, VOTE FOR CARMEN
If you want a council member who will work to extend Hickory's successes to all people in all our neighborhoods, then please consider casting your primary VOTE FOR CARMEN, so the rest of Hickory can join you and VOTE FOR CARMEN in the general municipal election.
Hickory has a mighty drug problem. We've been cited as the 3rd (or 5th, depending on the year) worst community for opioid addiction in the nation, and that doesn't even take into account the problems with crystal meth. HDR says that our drug arrest rate is 3 times the national average.
The high drug rates lead directly to high crime rates and astronomical property theft figures. So we, as a community, need to get it together. There's no excuse for us to fall so far behind national averages. But we can't get it together just by wagging our fingers at people using drugs. Because here's the thing: they are ADDICTED to drugs, and addiction is a disease. If we want people to not be using drugs, we have to help support that process.
My personal hero Mister Rogers says that in any crisis, you should look for the Helpers. Cognitive Connection is already doing a wonderful job of helping addicted people get off of the substances they are addicted to. They help them get back on their feet and even help people convicted of drug crimes take classes instead of going to prison. They catch people as they exit the prison system or the hospitals, and they help them succeed. They are very successful at this. But they are doing this with nowhere near enough resources to tackle the problems we are facing.
As a City Councilwoman, I will look for ways to help this group financially, including grants and other things they may need. If we help people with their addiction, they stop buying drugs, which will eventually lead to a community that has fewer drugs. This is an important step.