Who are the Real Thugs in Horry County?

June 11, 2018 8:56 AM
Who are the Real Thugs in Horry County?

The above cartoon by Ed Wilson depicts the now famous incident that resulted in Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus calling police and fire fighters in the county “thugs.”

Lazarus called them thugs because several first responders asked him tough questions at the Burgess Community Forum last week, then, heckled Lazarus as he walked out of the meeting.

The use of the word “thug” by Lazarus was ridiculous because its normal definition refers to violent, criminal type behavior none of which was in evidence at the forum.

The term “thugs” was also given to anti-war protesters during the 1960’s and anti-nuclear protesters throughout the western democracies in the 1970’s.

I would submit the term “thug” can also be applied to those in government who use their position and power to bully people or ignore the law to achieve desired results.

For example, after Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones request for an additional person in her office was denied by a combination of council members and the county administrator, Jones filed suit to gain the position.

The county’s response to the lawsuit was to attack Jones’ credibility and performance personally, a typical bully (thug) type of response.

Early this year, several council members said Lazarus was not going to intervene to attempt to help settle the case amicably, but was willing to let it go to court for resolution.

When Jones walked out of a council meeting after the discussion ventured into the area of her lawsuit, Lazarus was quite critical with several derogatory comments aimed at Jones. However, when discussion at a political forum entered into an area that made Lazarus uncomfortable, he had no problem walking out.

Does anyone else find that hypocritical?

However, that attitude appeared to change after Johnny Gardner filed to challenge Lazarus for the Republican nomination for county council chairman and it was apparent Jones had significant support from the public for her lawsuit.

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Heroes or Thugs – You Decide

June 10, 2018 7:37 AM
Heroes or Thugs – You Decide

The reactions surrounding Mark Lazarus walking out of the Burgess Community Forum Thursday night rather than face tough questions from the audience highlight the completely different approaches to governing of the two candidates for the Horry County Council chairman Republican nomination.

Lazarus and Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, a Lazarus campaign consultant, immediately attempted to label as “union thugs” those who put Lazarus on the spot with questions and jeered his walking out. Ammons Crawford even speculated they weren’t from Horry County, which just shows how little they are in touch with the constituents they presume to represent.

Let me tell you a little about the two “union thugs” who asked difficult questions that seemed to offend Lazarus and that he used as an excuse to not “stand here and be abused by these guys”:

One is Chad Caton, a former Horry County fire fighter/EMT who is now on disability from injuries suffered on the job. Caton is married and a resident of Horry County. He was a volunteer fire fighter for Horry County Fire Rescue for five years and a full time fire fighter for HCFR for three years before suffering injuries. Caton is not a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters local fraternal organization.

The other is Casey Canterbury, a veteran Horry County Police Department officer who is a native of Horry County and a graduate of Socastee High School. He has served approximately nine years as a police officer in Horry County, five of those years with HCPD. He is the President of the local Fraternal Order of Police fraternal organization.

Neither the IAFF nor the FOP are collective bargaining union organizations in Horry County or the State of South Carolina. Lazarus and Ammons Crawford know this. However, they apparently believe use of the term “union thug” will discredit the men in the eyes of the public and make the elected officials objects of sympathy.

In 2014, when he last ran for reelection as county council chairman, Lazarus sought and received the endorsements of both the IAFF and FOP.

This year, Lazarus again sought those endorsements but they went instead to his opponent Johnny Gardner. One presumes the act of not endorsing Lazarus this time around changes rank and file Horry County police officers and fire fighters from “nice guys” to “union thugs.”

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Lazarus Walks Out of Burgess Forum

June 8, 2018 10:23 AM
Lazarus Walks Out of Burgess Forum

The key issue in the campaign for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council erupted last night at the candidate forum in the Burgess Community and council chairman Mark Lazarus chose to walk out of the meeting rather than discuss it.

The issue is the treatment of public safety personnel in particular and county employees in general. According to numerous sources from rank and file county employees, Lazarus, in coordination with senior staff, treats them like automatons to do as they’re told and face retribution if they ask any questions.

Below are three emails sent to the Johnny Gardner campaign and shared with Grand Strand Daily from rank and file first responders who are completely frustrated with the way they have been treated and ignored by county council and county senior staff. Messages like those below are sent to the Gardner campaign on a daily basis by different individuals:

“I’m sure the members of HCFR will support you but they truly fear retribution if things don’t turn out right. That’s how it’s been here. In the recent past about 2/3 of the supervisors at HCFR were transferred for no apparent reason. Also our Deputy Chief was asked to resign because he had a dissenting opinion from the Public Safety Director. So, in my eyes fear of retribution is real.”

“Thank you for recognizing our need in the fire rescue and police public safety side of things. Our departments have gone on too long operating under the good ole boy budget … thank you again for fighting for us, the public safety guys/citizens of Horry County, who only want our departments to serve the county to its fullest capacity!”

“I am a FF with HCFR, and I just wanted to let you know that you are very well appreciated and backed by myself, and just about everyone I know in the Dept. Can’t wait for June 12th to get someone on the council who sees the needs of the county as a priority.”

Questioned on treatment of personnel within the Fire Rescue Department by a former fire fighter who is now disabled because of injuries suffered from falling debris while fighting a fire in the county, Lazarus told the man “You are no longer a county employee, I am not going to answer your question.”

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Hyperbole Marks the Lazarus Campaign

June 5, 2018 7:30 AM
Hyperbole Marks the Lazarus Campaign

Reading the Mark Lazarus campaign mailers immediately brought to my mind Ronald Reagan telling Jimmy Carter “There you go again” during the 1980 presidential campaign.

The phrase has become part of the political lexicon to mean a candidate has entered the realm of hyperbole in his or her campaign statements.

The Lazarus campaign claiming $1 billion in infrastructure improvements in the county is certainly hyperbole, at least.

Most of that money comes from Ride projects and the new airport terminal.

County council has very little say in Ride projects. The process begins with an advisory committee which establishes a list of needed projects. That list goes to a sales tax advisory commission who establishes a final list that goes to county council.

Council may vote the list up or down, but it can’t make any changes to what the commission proposed. If council approves the list, it then goes to the voters in a binding referendum question asking whether an additional one percent sales tax should be levied on purchases in the county to pay for Ride projects.

The citizens are asked to approve additional taxes on themselves because a succession of councils and our state legislative delegation have allowed development to far outpace infrastructure improvements in the county.

If I have this correct, the citizens vote to levy extra taxes on themselves so Lazarus can claim he is responsible for infrastructure improvements.

Eddie Dyer, who served as chairman of both the advisory committee and sales tax commission, made the following statement about road conditions in Horry County when presenting council with $592 million in projects for Ride III:

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Change or Status Quo in S.C. House District 55

June 4, 2018 7:26 AM
Change or Status Quo in S.C. House District 55

Dillon County Council member Jack Scott is fighting an uphill battle for the Democratic nomination for S.C. House District 55.

Scott is taking on a 20 year incumbent politician in rural South Carolina, never an easy task. In taking on incumbent Jackie Hayes, Scott is also fighting a highly successful coach and athletic director who has brought considerable success to the Dillon High School football teams in over a quarter of a century as head coach.

Scott advocates giving voters the opportunity to elect members of the Dillon County School Board. Currently, the board is appointed by the governor, often on recommendations from the Dillon County Legislative Delegation which consists currently of Rep. Hayes, Rep. Lucas Atkinson, Sen. Kent Williams and Sen. Greg Hembree.

In 2010, Dillon County residents voted overwhelmingly in an advisory referendum to change the school board members from being appointed by the governor to being elected by the voters – 6,071 Yes votes for elected members to 737 No votes.

Being only an advisory referendum, the results were not binding and nothing has changed. The board is still appointed against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of voters.

Dillon County spends the lowest dollars per pupil in the state of South Carolina, the only county where less than $10,000 per pupil is spent in a combination of local, state and federal funds. Part of the problem is the local tax base is almost non-existent, but the state share to Dillon County is lower than most other school districts in the state.

Maybe an elected school board will not change things for Dillon County students, but it is obvious the current system is not working and a majority of voters expressed a desire for the change.

Scott has also said he will work to improve the crumbling infrastructure in Dillon County, something that will require an infusion of state dollars to help. Those dollars have been slow in coming from the current Legislative Delegation.

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Team Horry Self Imploding as Primary Voting Nears

June 2, 2018 5:55 AM
Team Horry Self Imploding as Primary Voting Nears

(Above picture represents Team Horry campaigns teetering)

Team Horry, the self-styled moniker by which a few of the Horry County Council members up for reelection this year like refer to themselves, appears in complete disarray a little over one week before primary voting.

It started as a plan for council members to appear as a group on opening day to file candidate papers together followed by a press conference of mutual support and praise for the ‘great’ job they are doing.

That plan never quite came together and it started a trend of events never quite coming off as planned throughout this primary season.

A seemingly insurmountable obstacle for team togetherness occurred several days ago when Horry County Council Vice Chairman Bill Howard went toe-to-toe with Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune over plans the city has for food trucks during the summer tourist season.

Howard, a local restaurateur in real life, lectured the mayor that he believes the food trucks will negatively impact business at his restaurants.

The result of the confrontation was the following post by Bethune on Facebook:

“I am human and far from perfect. I try to communicate with others in a way that makes them feel respected and safe. Today I was truly disheartened by the disrespectful tone and threat that was issued to me by the vice chair of our County Council. He represents EVERYONE in this County and as an elected official should practice civil communication in all matters. May I never think so highly of myself that I try to make others feel low. Here’s an idea: we all need to show mutual respect to each other in order to work together for the greater good of those we serve.”

Howard represents Horry County Council District 2, which includes the City of Myrtle Beach north end beginning at 38th Avenue North. This area happens to include the core of voters who catapulted Bethune to election as mayor last November.

It is also the home district of county council chairman Mark Lazarus.

As Shakespeare would say – “Therein lies the rub.”

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