Large vs Small Issues in School Board Chairman Race

July 12, 2018 7:14 AM
Large vs Small Issues in School Board Chairman Race

The Republican nomination for Horry County School Board Chairman will be decided by voters next Tuesday.

Most campaigns for political office center around a few important issues and questions. The biggest question going into next week’s voting is do you care enough about who will chair the government body that spends the largest portion of the property taxes you pay ($700 million in round numbers) to go out and vote?

Voters will choose between current school board member for District 5 Janice Morreale, former teacher Pay Milley and local businessman and current Chairman Emeritus of the Horry Georgetown Technical College Area Commission Ken Richardson. The victor will face Democrat business woman and former teacher Heather Johnson in the November general election.

Morreale’s campaign theme is ‘Back to the Basics’. However, Morreale seemed to forget one of the most basic rules in politics – Don’t Vote for a Pay Raise for Yourself – when she voted for a 66% pay raise for board members last year.

During the campaign, Morreale has pointed to getting the school district to pay for pool times for swim team members and the cost of transportation for band members to attend away games as two of her accomplishments as a board member. Both, I’m sure, are important to the students and parents they affect, but they are small issues compared to school construction, teacher pay and support and establishing the district wide agendas for board consideration.

Milley’s campaign has said school days are too long, curricula too difficult, nights too short and students too stressed to result in a good learning environment. She advocates 15 minutes of recess for every 45 minutes of instruction and copying the education model of Finland for better student achievement.

Milley acknowledges her issues will require approximately 11 new bills from the General Assembly to allow changes she advocates. Local legislators said those bills are never going to happen.

Richardson has been eyeing the school board chairman seat since the 2016 general election, an election he did not participate in because the HGTC commission was in the midst of a search for a new president of the college.

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County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

July 10, 2018 1:32 PM
County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

Horry County Council is expected to have a discussion next week about placing an advisory referendum on the November 2018 general election ballot regarding tax increases for public safety.

The issue was proposed by council member Tyler Servant at last month’s council meeting. Acknowledging the main topic of the primary election which cost council chairman Mark Lazarus nomination to another term in office, Servant said he was opposed to raising taxes but believed the voters should have a say on whether they wanted to pay higher taxes to increase public safety services in the county.

Council members Dennis DiSabato and Cam Crawford jumped on the bandwagon, acknowledging a need for more public safety personnel and facilities in the county but saying the voters should make the decision.

The discussion will be a waste of time as an advisory referendum will not solve the problem of funding for public safety needs. Regardless of how the referendum is worded and what percentage of the vote it may receive, an advisory binds the council to no action and, furthermore, does not provide permission from voters to raise taxes above the limits of Act 388.

The proposal for a discussion and resolution vote to place the advisory referendum on the ballot appears to be an attempt to divert the discussion from various alternatives for public safety funding to a possible tax increase.

Republican chairman nominee Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus in the June primary voting, never mentioned raising taxes while he campaigned on increasing public safety personnel numbers and pay throughout the county.

Gardner said the current 20 ½ minutes average elapsed time it takes from when a 911 call is answered until a first responder arrives on the scene is unacceptable. Gardner pledged to make public safety funding priority one in the budget process.

At times, when extra sources of tax dollars become available, public safety staffing is never on the radar of most council members and county staff.

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School Board Chairman Primary Nears

July 7, 2018 5:04 AM
School Board Chairman Primary Nears

Ten days remain before voting takes place in the special primary election for the Republican nomination for Horry County School Board Chairman.

With statewide primary elections last month, the special election has stayed below the radar of many voters. However, the Horry County School Board annual budget is approximately $750 million. No locally elected government agency in Horry County is responsible for spending more taxpayer dollars each year.

Tuesday July 17, 2018 is the date voters will choose between three candidates for the Republican nomination.

The candidates bring an interesting mix of issues to the race.

Retired teacher Patricia Milley is concerned about the mental health of local students, an issue she said she first brought before the Horry County School Board in 1996. Milley claims one in four Horry County students suffer from mental health issues due to school days being too long, school curricula being too hard and nights too short to recover.

Milley proposes less instruction time per school day, more recess periods in the day and changes to easier curricula in the schools. She proposes 11 separate pieces of legislation that must be passed by the South Carolina General Assembly to institute her recommended changes.

Janice Morreale is the current school board member for Horry County District 5. She was first elected to that seat in 2012 with a campaign slogan of ‘Back to the Basics.’ Her signs for the special election chairman race are carrying the same slogan.

Morreale has been a solid school board member during the five and one-half years she has served District 5. However, 2018 has not been a great election year for incumbents facing opposition. While there is no incumbent in the special election for board chairman, Morreale is one of six incumbent board members who voted for a large salary increase for themselves last year. The salary increase issue already cost one board incumbent the nomination for District 6 in last month’s primaries.

Ken Richardson is the third candidate in the special Republican primary election. He is a Horry County native and longtime business man and former owner of Fowler Motors. Richardson has been a member of the Horry Georgetown Technical College Area Commission for 20 years, the past 15 as chairman of that body.

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The Consent of the Governed

July 4, 2018 7:19 AM
The Consent of the Governed

Among its many memorable phrases, the Declaration of Independence states, “…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it,..”

Too often, governments, or the people who run them, forget about the people. They become too concentrated on personal agendas or too impressed with their own perceived importance.

In the United States, we have a form of representative democracy in our local, state and federal governments. When governments become destructive with respect to the ends desired by the people, the people vote out representatives and replace them with others more in tune with their wishes.

We have seen this result in recent local elections where incumbent officeholders were voted out in two different city elections, the school board, a state legislative seat and the Horry County Council Chairman.

None of the losers are bad persons, they just lost touch with the people whose consent they needed to stay in office.

A few of their transgressions include:

Questionable land purchases with public dollars, often discussed in secret, while public infrastructure needs are ignored
Selective use of the Freedom of Information Act provisions to avoid disclosing information the public has a right to know
Ignoring public safety needs at the expense of the welfare of first responders and the citizens they protect
Public disagreements with other elected officials resulting in needless lawsuits that waste public dollars rather than using those dollars for improved service
Economic development trips to China with no results
Strict adherence to boondoggles such as Interstate 73 while more pressing infrastructure needs go unmet

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Gardner Public Reading of Declaration of Independence Tomorrow

July 2, 2018 6:30 AM
Gardner Public Reading of Declaration of Independence Tomorrow

Conway attorney Johnny Gardner will read the Declaration of Independence from the steps of the Old Courthouse in Conway Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.

The public reading of the Declaration of Independence by criminal defense attorneys was begun in Houston, Texas eight years ago by attorney Robert Fickman. It has caught on throughout the state since that first reading.

“The Declaration of Independence is our country’s most revered symbol of a nation’s stand against the illegal and immoral depredations of the crown against our citizens,” Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association representatives said in a news release. “These readings are our reminder to all in the criminal justice system that abuses of power will be exposed and fought by members of the defense bar.”

Gardner, the recent winner of the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, liked the concept so much he decided to bring the tradition to Horry County.

“When I read about what the Texas attorneys were doing, I thought it was a great idea to bring to Horry County,” Gardner said.

The Declaration of Independence is the founding document of what has become the United States of America.

On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee introduced a resolution to the Continental Congress that Congress should declare the United Colonies free and independent states.

Congress adjourned on June 11, 1776, after voting to postpone consideration of Lee’s resolution until it reconvened in three weeks.  A Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement to the world, in the three week interim, presenting the colonies’ case for independence.

On July 2, 1776, the Congress adopted Lee’s resolution by a vote of 12-0 with New York abstaining. Two days later, Congress adopted an edited version of the statement, which became known as the Declaration of Independence.

John Adams considered July 2, 1776 as the birthday of America. It became July 4th because that was the day the adopted Declaration was read out to the public.

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Political Change Does Not Extend to Columbia

June 27, 2018 6:46 AM
Political Change Does Not Extend to Columbia

Governor Henry McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson rolled to big victories in Republican Primary runoff elections yesterday meaning there will be no changes to the political power structure in Columbia.

Most of the incumbents in the General Assembly will be returning because they faced no opposition in the primaries or the upcoming November general election.

When voters continue to send the same people back to Columbia election after election, they can’t expect changes in the way state government operates. It is simple to suppose that special interests and lobbyists will continue to control the legislative agenda in Columbia at the expense of the average citizen.

Horry County will continue to be a large donor county to the rest of the state because our legislative delegation is so weak. Roads that should be paid for with state and federal funds will continue to be funded by local option sales taxes. The real estate and development lobby will continue to oppose impact fees satisfied that current citizens will continue to pay for infrastructure costs associated with new development.

One interesting sidebar to yesterday’s runoffs locally was the City of Myrtle Beach removed candidate signs from the areas near polling precincts in the city early in the day. According to several sources who spoke with the workers removing the signs, “the word came from City Hall.”

Whether this was an attempt at voter suppression or just another example of the arrogance that continues to emanate from city officials, it does seem to show complete disregard for the election process.

However, the citizens in Horry County will see some changes at the county level with the election of a new chairman for county government.

No longer will over 20 minute response times to 911 calls be acceptable to council while large pots of tax dollars are accumulated to build Interstate 73 through Marion and Dillon counties to connect to Interstate 95.

No longer will the needs of county departments be ignored because of personal animosities in Conway.

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Election Change Is In the Air

June 24, 2018 9:39 AM
Election Change Is In the Air

(Ed. Note – The picture with this story is of a Facebook Post by Heather Ammons Crawford, which started the entire “Union Thugs” commentary in the closing days of the Lazarus campaign.)

Defeating an incumbent politician used to be a most difficult undertaking in South Carolina politics. Now it’s almost becoming the norm in Horry County.

Two out of three incumbents on the ballot lost in Myrtle Beach last fall. An incumbent fell to a write-in candidate in Surfside Beach earlier this year.

The latest round of primaries on June 12th saw a state legislator and a long-time school board member go down to opposition. Bill Howard was able to just hold off challenger Dean Pappas in the only contested Republican primary that went to an incumbent. The irony of that race is that newly elected Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune came out late for Pappas and her endorsement may have hurt Pappas in the final days because Bethune has quickly sided with what is considered the establishment in Myrtle Beach even though she was a candidate for “change” in the fall.

Challenger William Bailey took out incumbent Greg Duckworth in the Republican primary for S.C. House District 104. Challenger Helen Smith defeated incumbent Pam Timms in the Horry County School Board District 6 Republican primary. Smith is a former school board chairman in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but probably half of today’s registered voters weren’t living in the county when she last left office so she qualifies as a change candidate.

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County Council Breaks Budget Promise to Treasurer

June 21, 2018 3:32 AM
County Council Breaks Budget Promise to Treasurer

When Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones agreed to drop her lawsuit against Horry County Government last month, there was an unwritten understanding that county council would include funding needs for her department in the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Now that understanding not only remains unwritten, but also remains unpassed.

During its third reading of the Horry County budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 Tuesday night, council defeated, by a 6-6 vote, an amendment including budget enhancements for the Treasurer’s department. The budget amendment also called for additions in the $40,000 range each for the Clerk of Courts, Veterans Affairs and Voter Registration budgets.

Council member Johnny Vaught introduced the amendment, seconded by council member Harold Worley. Council chairman Mark Lazarus spoke strongly in its favor.

According to discussions of the amendment by council members, Jones identified revenue additions and/or savings in the amount of $123,000 for the coming fiscal year. Her request for budget enhancements would have only cost the county $111,000.

Additionally, one position provided in the enhancements would have gone to collection of the nearly $88 million in unpaid property taxes that are owed to the county.

In other words, the county would have made more money from voting for the enhancements than it saves by not voting for them.

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Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

June 20, 2018 2:03 AM
Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

One week after defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner’s campaign message is already driving council discussions.

Throughout his campaign Gardner spoke of putting “Public Safety First” and charging fees on new development to help pay for the impact it causes on county goods and services.

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, council approved two resolutions directly tied to those issues.

By an 11-1 margin, council member Tyler Servant opposing, council approved a resolution to encourage the South Carolina General Assembly to amend the current state Impact Fee law to make it more user friendly for local governments struggling to meet the costs associated with new development.

Later in the meeting, Servant introduced a resolution to instruct staff to bring back to council a proposed advisory referendum question to address raising tax millage to fund increased salaries and additional personnel for police and fire/rescue departments as well as an additional police precinct for Carolina Forest.

After discussion, it was agreed to split the issue into two referendum questions, one for police and rescue personnel and another for fire, because of the different ways in which police and rescue personnel are funded in the budget from that used to fund fire personnel.

County Administrator Chris Eldridge was instructed to meet with the the Police and Fire/Rescue chiefs to determine the increased needs in their respective departments to fully meet the county’s public safety requirements.

Council must approve referendum questions by the end of July in order to meet the August 15th deadline to have them included on the November 2018 general election ballot.

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Recount Confirms Gardner Win, Lazarus Concedes

June 17, 2018 7:01 AM
Recount Confirms Gardner Win, Lazarus Concedes

Five days after winning the election for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner was “recertified” as the winner over incumbent Mark Lazarus by the Horry County Election Commission.

After the S.C. Election Commission approved an audit of the final tally of the votes, the certified result of the election was announced at 11:41 a.m. Saturday June 16, 2018, as Gardner 12,426, Lazarus 12,313, a margin of 113 votes.

The count also included the race for House District 104 where William Bailey received 2,312 votes to 2,295 votes for incumbent House member Greg Duckworth.

Shortly after a mandatory recount confirmed both results, Lazarus called Gardner to concede the election. Gardner said Lazarus was very professional and gracious with his words when he conceded.

Gardner was initially certified as the winner two days ago with an automatic recount scheduled for the next day. When people returned for the recount, they were told that another 209 votes had been found in machines from the Ocean Forest 2 precinct.

This announcement began one and one-half days of confusion, bordering at times on chaos, before the local election commission received approval of an audit of the votes from the state election commission.

During the interval, James Wiles, who told commissioners he was “representing the Lazarus campaign”, gave the members a sheet of paper which he called a “Freedom of Information request” and said the campaign objected to recertification of the results.

“I am prepared to start discovery to see if there should be a protest,” Wiles added.

According to all the information I could find on Wiles, he was suspended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 2005 and is not a member of the South Carolina Bar Association. He can certainly act as a private citizen representing himself before the election commission, but what status he had “representing the Lazarus campaign” and “prepared to start discovery” is open to question.

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