More Action Needed to Combat Community Violence

November 14, 2016 5:11 AM
More Action Needed to Combat Community Violence

Two different shooting incidents in Longs over the weekend again highlighted the need for a comprehensive plan to combat community violence in Horry County.

Horry County police have responded to numerous shooting incidents in the Longs community over the past year.

But, it isn’t just the Longs community that is suffering from this type of violence. Conway, Myrtle Beach, Loris, Carolina Forest and Socastee, to name a few, have also suffered from shooting incidents in their neighborhoods.

Horry County Public Safety Committee chairman Al Allen appointed a special Community Violence Subcommittee to investigate violence in our communities last spring.

At the time, Allen charged subcommittee members to identify the causes and influences that lead to violence in the community as well as visit with all public, private and church groups presently operating to reduce violence and crime in Horry County to rank their effectiveness.

To date, the subcommittee has been stuck with comparing Horry County crime statistics to similar counties in four other states. There has been no effort by committee members to have meetings with community leaders throughout the county as of yet.

Community violence is not a problem that can be cured just with policing and suppression. The root causes and solutions require efforts from parents, students, teachers, preachers and other community leaders to combat.

As one community leader has stated on numerous occasions, it takes a collaborative, coordinated, communicative effort from all segments of the population to combat the causes and find the solutions for violence in our communities.

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Donald Trump Pulls Off Election Surprise

November 9, 2016 3:30 AM
Donald Trump Pulls Off Election Surprise

Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States after pulling out the biggest election night surprise since 1948.

Trump clinched his election victory with surprising strength in the “Rust Belt” states, an area where Hillary Clinton and the Democrats miscalculated their strength especially in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

The presidential result emphasizes the deep dissatisfaction voters feel with Washington and what is called ‘politics as usual.’ Trump’s victory can be credited to his ability to sell himself as an outsider from the political establishment of both parties.

The Trump victory brought immediate uncertainty to financial markets as world stocks began tanking around 9 p.m. on election night and Dow futures dropped 650 points overnight. This is not the reaction of the stock markets that one would expect with a Republican candidate winning the presidency. The markets rebounded later to recover most or all of their losses.

This is not the reaction of the stock markets that one would expect with a Republican candidate winning the presidency.

However, voter rejection of politics as usual only extended as far as the presidential race. Most members of Congress seeking re-election were returned to their seats without a problem, some without an opponent.

So, if you’re expecting big changes in Washington with Trump as president, get ready for a disappointment. Congress still controls the domestic agenda as well as the purse strings.

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H.L. Mencken Knocks Congress Out of the Park

November 5, 2016 4:30 AM
H.L. Mencken Knocks Congress Out of the Park

Occasionally you come across a piece of writing that is timeless in its message. The below column by H.L. Mencken is such a piece of work.

He expounds all the faults of Congress in his time, but his message is just as applicable to Congress today.

As everyone focuses on the presidential election in two days, many forget the elections of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 33 members of the U.S. Senate are at least as important to the future of the country.

For example, we wouldn’t have a 20 trillion national debt if Congress had not passed the funding legislation and continuously raised the debt ceiling to pay for all the wars, social programs, corporate welfare and pure pork that makes up the federal budget each year.

Congress is where most of our problems lie and where voters know very little of what goes on. Yet, 400 or so of these incumbent Congressman and 25 or more of the incumbent Senators up for election will be sent back to Washington with little thought by the voters.

The problem with Congress has been with the country for a very long time as the column below demonstrates.

H.L. Mencken was one of the most influential journalists of the first half of the 20th Century. I don’t know the date of the below column, but Mencken suffered a stroke in 1948 and did no writing thereafter. This would make the column nearly 70 years old at least.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

H.L. Mencken: Choose Legislators Like We Do Jurors

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Chicago Cubs and Brexit on the Same Day

November 3, 2016 9:29 AM
Chicago Cubs and Brexit on the Same Day

The Chicago Cubs broke the “Billy Goat Curse” last night by winning the seventh and deciding game of the 2016 World Series.

Being a long-time fan of the Boston Red Sox, I understand a bit about what Cubs fans are feeling today. I felt the same mixture of happiness and relief when the Red Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004 to win the World Series for the first time since 1918, a stretch of 86 years between championships.

For Cubs fans it was longer. The Cubs had not been champions since 1908, a stretch of 108 years, or 39,466 days if you prefer.

Theodore Roosevelt was president when the Cubs won their last championship and New Mexico, Arizona, Hawaii and Alaska were not yet states.

The Cubs opponents, the Cleveland Indians, have not won a world series championship since 1948, the longest stretch of non-winning after the Cubs.

But, big as news of the Cubs victory is, it may not be the day’s big story, outside of Chicago.

Remember when the British electorate voted in a June referendum to leave the European Union?

A three judge panel on the London High Court said not so fast. The court ruling said that the British Parliament must first pass legislation approving Brexit (British exit from the European Union).

“The most fundamental rule of the U.K.’s constitution is that Parliament is sovereign and can make and unmake any law it chooses,” the judges wrote. “As an aspect of the sovereignty of Parliament it has been established for hundreds of years that the Crown — i.e. the Government of the day — cannot by exercise of prerogative powers override legislation enacted by Parliament.”

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SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County in Court This Month

November 1, 2016 7:25 AM
SkyDive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County in Court This Month

Skydive Myrtle Beach and Horry County are scheduled to face off in S.C. Court of Appeals November 3, 2016 for oral arguments in the case of Skydive Myrtle Beach v. Horry County (2014-002491).

The basic question in this lawsuit is whether Horry County acted fraudulently in stopping Skydive Myrtle Beach from operating its business at Grand Strand Airport.

A separate court ruling from a federal Administrative Law Judge is expected to be issued on or before November 18, 2016 addressing the actions of the Federal Aviation Administration in issuing a 73 page ruling against Skydive Myrtle Beach on the basis of very sketchy information provided by Horry County Department of Airports.

The case built by Horry County Department of Airports to evict Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport has more holes than Swiss cheese.

After Skydive Myrtle Beach reported HCDA to the Federal Aviation Administration in February 2014 for discriminatory actions, Horry County officials began looking to cover their tracks.

HCDA began an incident reporting system that logged 112 alleged safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach over the next few months.

None of the 112 alleged safety incidents HCDA insists Skydive Myrtle Beach committed were ever properly reported to the FAA, according to FAA reporting requirements.

A recent Freedom of Information Act response from the FAA to SkyDive Myrtle Beach officials goes further. It says there are no records of the alleged safety violations in the FAA reporting system.

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S.C. Treasurer Loftis to Appeal Ethics Fine

October 28, 2016 7:00 AM
Curtis M. Loftis Jr., South Carolina’s treasurer, has pushed to learn more about private equity fees. Credit Dale W. Ferrell for The New York Times

Earlier this week, S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis was fined $500 and reprimanded by the S.C. Ethics Commission for a supposed violation of state ethics law.

The ethics commission found Loftis made an “inadvertent” and “unintentional” violation when he hired attorney Michael Montgomery to assist in a lawsuit the treasurer brought against Bank of New York Mellon related to the bank’s fees and handling of investments associated with the S.C. Retirement System Investment Commission.

Montgomery and Loftis both sit on the Board of Trustees of the Saluda Charitable Trust, a connection the ethics commissioners said created the conflict.

Loftis said he will appeal the decision and fine.

In response to the ethics commission decision, Loftis stated, “While I am gratified that the commission acknowledged this alleged violation was inadvertent and unintentional, I will appeal this decision and the $500 administrative fee. This was a subjective and unprecedented ruling – and I fear that letting it stand would impose burdens upon the selfless service of thousands of people across the state that devote their time to nonprofit boards and organizations.

“This action was filed by cronies of the SC Investment Commission, the same Commission that lost $7 billion of the public’s money through their disastrous investment decisions. I blew the whistle on their unbelievably poor performance and this is just one part of their retribution. South Carolinians know the sorry state of their government and they have twice elected me to fight for them in Columbia. This decision will not keep me from my duties to the people… I work for them and not the handful of rich and powerful elites that run our state.”

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RIDE III and Horry County Voters

October 27, 2016 6:18 AM
RIDE III and Horry County Voters

Horry County voters will be asked to tax themselves for another seven years for what is known as RIDE III.

The referendum question will ask voters to approve an additional one-cent sales tax for seven years with the proceeds going to road projects.

When the Capital Projects Sales Tax legislation was initially approved by the SC General Assembly over 20 years ago, its goal was to provide a funding mechanism for the Conway Bypass Project, or what we now call S.C. 22.

A one-cent additional sales tax levied for seven years to pay for the county’s portion of the cost of construction of S.C. 22 wasn’t a bad idea. The projects now proposed are in the “nice to have”, instead of a justifiable “must have”, category.

But, a tax once levied is a difficult thing to do away with and creative ways were found to extend this taxing ability to other jurisdictions.

Since the initial RIDE I project constructed S.C. 22, politicians have found (manufactured?) justifications to ask voters to make this a recurring tax in Horry County.

The politicians found this was such an easy sale to the voters that RIDE II was added in 2006, a one-cent sales tax for school construction was added in 2008 and the one-cent sales tax for tourism advertising was added in Myrtle Beach in 2009.

Of course, the tourism tax was never subjected to a referendum by voters because that would probably have failed at the ballot box. Instead, our local legislative delegation and Myrtle Beach City Council conspired to have that tax approved by a super majority vote of city council.

In my opinion, we have reached the point where one-cent local option sales taxes are out of control in Horry County.

This is especially true in the case of the tourism tax where citizens are forced to pay increased taxes in order to reduce the marketing budgets of Myrtle Beach hoteliers and golf course owners.

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Donald Trump Campaign Shortchanges American Voters

October 23, 2016 6:21 AM
Donald Trump Campaign Shortchanges American Voters

American voters hoping for change in the politics of Washington, D.C. got shafted by the Donald Trump campaign for president.

These are the voters that carried Trump through the primaries, solidly rejecting one establishment candidate after another to give Trump a first ballot nomination.

These are the voters who believed Trump was a breath of fresh air for the Republican Party ready to remake the party and remake the federal government.

What nobody realized was that Trump wasn’t in the election to head a populist movement and didn’t have any programs or policies to change anything.

Trump was in the election to further boost his own gigantic ego, period.

Trump lives in his own alternate reality – one where he’s the smartest, the most dynamic, the most successful person on earth and one in which he always wins.

And when he doesn’t win, it’s not his fault. It is due to the nefarious deeds of others.

We went through Trump’s version of reality politics when he thought he was going to come up short of the delegates necessary to secure a first ballot nomination from the Republican Party.

Then it was his opponents and party officials who were conspiring to steal the nomination from Trump.

Now, it’s Hillary Clinton, the Democrats, the media and Wall Street, among many, who are conspiring to steal the general election from Trump.

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Southern Holdings SLED and FBI Coverup

October 19, 2016 5:08 AM
Southern Holdings SLED and FBI Coverup

“New evidence uncovered in documents released by SLED pursuant to a July 2015 Freedom of Information Act request point to the fact that HCPD and SLED never intended to provide the original videotapes to the plaintiffs regardless of court orders, subpoenas or any other legal documents.”

Videotapes of the illegal arrest of Southern Holdings president James Spencer were key pieces of evidence in the lawsuit against Horry County.

Where the original tapes of the arrest could be found were issues of question from the beginning of the case.

Finally, copies of the alleged original videotapes were sent to the plaintiffs (Southern Holdings, Spencer et al) expert analyst Steve Cain in March 2004.

Cain’s analysis gave strong indication that the tape copy he analyzed had been heavily edited. Cain submitted a three-page report in March 2004, to plaintiffs’ counsel in which he noted various anomalies that indicated editing of the tape.

“All of the above anomalies collectively cast serious doubt concerning the authenticity of portions of the original videotape from which this tape was reportedly manufactured by the Horry County Police Department,” read one section of Cain’s report.

Cain furthermore said he “strongly recommended” obtaining the original tape for examination and the original VCR that was used to produce the original tape (in order to confirm the editing, which would prove evidence tampering on the part of HCPD.)

After much court wrangling about the original videotapes, they were allegedly taken to Cain’s laboratory in Wisconsin by Defendants’ attorney Robert E. Lee on October 27, 2004, pursuant to Court Order 109, issued September 7, 2004, by Judge R. Bryan Harwell.

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Horry County Will Use Unrestricted Funds to Begin Repairs

October 17, 2016 6:41 AM
Horry County Will Use Unrestricted Funds to Begin Repairs

Horry County Council is expected to pass a resolution at its regular October 18, 2016 meeting to transfer money from its fiscal stabilization reserves balances to begin repairs to infrastructure damaged during Hurricane Matthew and the resultant flooding.

The money will come from unrestricted fund balances in the general fund, fire fund, stormwater fund and recreation fund. The unrestricted fund balances are from excess revenue or decreased spending in the prior fiscal year budget.

The use of these funds should allow the county to begin repairs without issuing new debt while awaiting federal disaster funds to become available to the county.

The extent of needed repairs will not become known until flooding recedes from the roads.

After the flooding experienced by the county from Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the county instituted its current stormwater management plan and fees. However, we are learning again that water from a major storm event can’t really be managed.

Another issue that will no doubt arise as a result of Hurricane Matthew is what will happen with the hundreds of privately owned dirt roads that were recently removed from the county road maintenance plan.

During an emergency meeting last week, council approved the expenditure of approximately $600k to $1 million for the removal of storm debris from county owned rights of way.

These funds will be used for the removal of tree debris only for the benefit of residents in the unincorporated areas.

The county is maintaining a website to provide up to date information on road flooding throughout the county. Go to: http://www.horrycounty.org/gis/roadClosures/

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