Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

May 22, 2017 6:05 PM
Questionable Executive Session Item for HCSWA Board

A very questionable executive session item has been added to the HCSWA (Horry County Solid Waste Authority) board meeting agenda for Tuesday.

The executive session item is listed as “Legal Advice Regarding Upcoming Board Member Appointment.”

Executive sessions are allowed by state law to be held in private, out of the public eye, for several reasons. The most normal reasons are the discussion of a matter regarding personnel of the authority over whom the board has ultimate control or legal briefing on pending litigation, contracts or other legal matters.

In the case of the questionable item on Tuesday’s board agenda, none of those reasons exist.

While HCSWA board members may be thought of as personnel of the authority, they are not hired, fired, or dealt with in any other manner by members of the HCSWA board or other agency officials. They are strictly within the purview of Horry County Council.

HCSWA board members are nominated either by the League of Cities or the Horry County Council. Board members are appointed by vote of county council Nobody associated with the HCSWA is involved in the process in any manner.

HCSWA board members receiving “legal advice regarding upcoming board member appointment” is akin to the HCSWA board receiving an executive session briefing on legal matters regarding the firing of former FBI Director James Comey.

The board has no authority in either above example and should not be wasting the time and money involved in receiving a briefing from the HCSWA counsel. Furthermore, it strikes me that the HCSWA counsel should know this is not an appropriate agenda item, especially in secret executive session.

Despite no need and no authority over the executive session item, expect the HCSWA board to go forward with this exercise in overreach.

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Blame Game Not Working in Myrtle Beach

May 15, 2017 5:36 AM
Blame Game Not Working in Myrtle Beach

A new approach to dealing with the increasing crime problems in Myrtle Beach must be found and it may take new leadership in the city to do it.

When there were shootings in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood, city council blamed the citizens in the neighborhood.

When there were shootings in the Superblock area of downtown, business owners were blamed and new restricted parking and times of business were instituted.

Recent shootings on Ocean Boulevard again saw business owners blamed for allowing an “environment that’s causing fights and violence in the streets.”

The attitude is ‘it is not city council’s fault or the fault of those charged with keeping the peace. Rather, it is the fault of those areas most affected by the violence.

And that attitude is exactly why the problems multiply year by year.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, which spends tens of millions of public dollars each year advertising Myrtle Beach to tourists, worries that these incidents harm the ‘Myrtle Beach brand.’

City council, the Chamber and the small group of citizens and businesses those entities actually represent are more worried about the ‘image’ projected by Myrtle Beach than the nuts and bolts actions it will take to address the problems. (Sounds like the approach of a certain group currently occupying a historic building in Washington, D.C. right now, all image, no substance.)

The Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, an agency that has spent millions of dollars of public money while accomplishing essentially nothing over the course of many years, still must answer the question exactly what are you doing to redevelop downtown Myrtle Beach?

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Questions Surrounding the HCSWA Board Member Elections

May 7, 2017 5:46 PM
Questions Surrounding the HCSWA Board Member Elections

Nothing is ever simple and straightforward when it involves the Horry County Solid Waste Authority (HCSWA) Board of Directors.

Last Tuesday, Horry County Council voted to appoint two members to the HCSWA board from among three nominated candidates. Two of the candidates, current board chairman Pam Creech and vice chairman Norfleet Jones, were incumbents. Candidate Sam Johnson was the outsider in the voting.

Creech was reelected by a majority of council members. However, Johnson and Jones tied in two successive votes with six each. After the first vote, Creech was named to remain on the board by council chairman Mark Lazarus who proceeded to hold a second ballot with just Jones and Johnson competing for one opening, against the advice of Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti.

Jones and Johnson tied with six votes each on both ballots.

Lazarus announced the second opening on the HCSWA board would be filled by council vote during council’s regular May 16, 2017 meeting. However, Lazarus stated nominations for the second position would remain open adding an additional question mark to the process.

The voting, however, only showed minor problems compared to what transpired before the vote.

On April 28, 2017, Esther Murphy, HCSWA’s Director of Recycling and Corporate Affairs sent an email to Horry County Council Clerk Pat Hartley with copies to all 12 members of county council as well as HCSWA Executive Director Danny Knight, Creech and Jones.

The email began, “Board member Norfleet Jones asked that we contact you regarding his term on the Solid Waste Authority Board, which ends on June 30, 2017. Mr. Jones indicated he would be completing his first term and would like to be reappointed to the Board for a second term…”

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Tom Rice and Private Equity Tax Increases

April 29, 2017 4:38 PM
Tom Rice and Private Equity Tax Increases

(The following is a op-ed piece sent to Grand Strand Daily. Pictured above is the writer.)

By John Bonsignor

Recently, Rep. Tom Rice caught flack for his support of certain tax increases being discussed in Washington D.C., and rightfully so.

He rebuffed those claims, stating in a McClatchy news article “that his goal was to tackle tax code changes by making the American economy competitive without increasing taxes.”

A specific example of this is his support of increasing taxes on private equity partnerships’ carried interest. Carried interest is currently taxed at a capital gains rate. Rice, along with many Democrats, want to raise it to the level of ordinary income rates. It’s currently (and appropriately) taxed at the capital gains rate due to the long-held nature of the investment and the sweat equity poured into a business, all principles that are the cornerstone of our American economy.

Rice is a real estate investor and tax accountant. While his tax increase wouldn’t impact his investments, it would hurt private equity investors and their ability to reinvest into our economy.

Is Rice looking out for the economy? Or himself?

It appears Rice is in love with tax increases when he should be against them.

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Horry County Council’s Hospitality Fee Slush Fund

April 24, 2017 5:21 AM
Horry County Council’s Hospitality Fee Slush Fund

Horry County Council is within one ordinance reading of establishing a permanent slush fund for pet projects using 60% of Hospitality Fee collections countywide as the revenue source.

A 2.5% hospitality fee tax is collected on prepared foods and drinks, admissions and lodging throughout the county.

Forty percent of the revenue (1% of the total 2.5% tax) is returned to the original jurisdiction (incorporated areas or the county for unincorporated area collections) in which the tax is collected. The remaining 60 percent of the revenue (1.5% of the total 2.5% tax) goes to Horry County specifically to pay off bonds issued for Ride I road projects.

Some of those bonds will be paid off in 2017 with the remaining bonds projected to be paid off in 2019. When the Hospitality Fee legislation was passed over 20 years ago, county council established a sunset provision for the 1.5% portion pledged for bonds.

In other words, 60 percent of the Hospitality Fee was supposed to go away when those Ride I bonds were paid off.

But, once a tax is created, government hates to see it destroyed.

Therefore, county council is moving rapidly to remove the sunset clause and allow the full 2.5% tax to be collected ad infinitum. According to county administrator Chris Eldridge, this tax currently collects approximately $38 million in revenue to the county annually.

To put that amount into perspective, $38 million is approximately 25 percent of the county’s general fund budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which begins July 1, 2017.

The revenue from this tax would not go directly into the general fund. According to state law, it must be spent on tourism related projects.

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Steve Hoffman – For Vice Chairman, Horry County Republican Party

April 19, 2017 5:03 AM
Steve Hoffman – For Vice Chairman, Horry County Republican Party

Many of you may have seen me, Steve Hoffman, at MB tea party and Carolina patriot meetings, at rallies here in Myrtle Beach and in Columbia, out campaigning for a variety of Republican candidates, and speaking before the Horry County Council and the Coastal Carolina College Republicans.

I am a conservative / libertarian Republican (what Charles C. W. Cooke from the National Review calls a conservatarian). If you are confused, just think of U.S. congressional members, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Mark Meadows and our own Mark Sanford. Or the growing number of liberty movement S.C. Legislators like Sens; Tom Davis, Wes Climer, Tom Corbin, Shane Martin, Kevin Bryant, and Reps;Jonathan Hill, Steve Long; Eric Bedinfield, Joshua Putnam, Bill Chumley, Josiah Magnuson.

We are all principled Republicans. Principled, in that we strongly believe that the future of this country depends on a Republican Party committed to the values of LIMITED GOVERNMENT, INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS (as outlined in the first 10 amendments to the Constitution), and FREE MARKET ECONOMICS (as opposed to Crony Capitalism and Corporate Welfare). Principled Republicans who are not afraid to fight the Democrat’s progressive agenda.

As a “Republican”, I pledge to help grow our local party. The continued downward slide in the number of Republican organized precincts in Horry County concerns me. After the 2013 re-org we had 80 organized precincts. After the 2015 re-org we dropped to 60 and after this last one we sank even further to 50.

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State Steps into Parking Fee Controversy

April 15, 2017 5:38 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

The SC General Assembly entered the parking fee debate when local legislators Jeff Johnson and Kevin Hardee filed a bill requiring equal treatment of residents and non-residents alike, with respect to on street parking, unless otherwise approved by the General Assembly.

Ordinarily, such decisions should remain at the local level. However, the arrogance that the City of Myrtle Beach has demonstrated in its attempts to effectively privatize the stretch of Ocean Boulevard known as the “Golden Mile” to homeowners in that area, does need tempering.

One finding of the bill reads, “Whereas, the right to park on a public street is not a right incident to ownership of abutting land but rather one that is incident to use of the street for travel and commerce and one which is rightly shared by all members of the public, …”

The key section of the bill that relates directly to the Golden Mile controversy reads, “”Section 5-7-320. Any ordinance, resolution, or regulation of any municipality regarding on-street parking privileges for residents of a municipality that are not available on the same terms to nonresidents of the municipality of that county must be approved only by the General Assembly.”

The bill was filed so late in the current legislative year that it will not be acted upon until the second year of the current legislative session, which begins in January 2018. It is unknown how much support the bill will garner among legislators, but it could be considerable.

Immediately before the bill was filed, a contingent of mayors from the coastal cities was in Columbia lobbying for the General Assembly to provide an annual, dedicated revenue stream to ongoing fund beach renourishment.

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Casino Gambling and the Grand Strand

April 10, 2017 5:00 AM
Casino Gambling and the Grand Strand

With another apparent demise of a gas tax bill in the SC Senate, the Grand Strand and casino gambling are again being talked about as a way to fund road maintenance around the state.

The desire for casino gambling has never left the minds of certain players along the Grand Strand.

In 2009, this group put its initial support behind Gresham Barrett in the governor’s race. Remember the $85,000 funneled to Barrett that was part of Coastal Kickback?

But Barrett lost to Nikki Haley and talk of casino gambling faded into the background.

Despite the fact that what we are hearing most about is another casino gambling bill being pushed by House Democratic leader Todd Rutherford, it only takes the signature of the governor on a compact with a Native American tribe to bring casino gambling into the state.

Neither the General Assembly nor local governments are part of the approval process, if this route is taken.

However, local governments would be important in the zoning and permitting processes and the General Assembly could be involved if gaming commission regulation was part of the compact deal and if the tax revenue is actually going to be dedicated to road funding.

A source within the local real estate industry told GSD last week that a land deal for a Grand Strand casino had been signed, but we have been unable to confirm with a second source to date.

Discussions between representatives of several tribes, potential developers and local and state elected officials are known to have been conducted several years ago.

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City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

March 30, 2017 3:39 PM
City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

The City of Myrtle Beach holds a potential nuclear option that could blow up the current parking fee debate between the city and Horry County into a much bigger and more explosive issue.

Nuclear options in political discussion come in various categories. One we hear about often is a threatened change in U.S. Senate rules that could effectively prohibit filibusters.

However, the nuclear option that Myrtle Beach appears to hold could change taxation for many residents within the county, both inside and outside the city limits.

A little background:

The city and county have been at odds over parking fees and areas they are charged in Myrtle Beach city limits.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has addressed city council on several occasions attempting to reach some type of compromise that would allow county residents to pay $100 per year for a parking decal that would allow county residents to park at all city owned paid parking locations.

To date, the city has been reluctant to adopt Lazarus’ plan.

Personally, I don’t believe any of the city’s parking fees are justified, especially because they go to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, a notoriously underperforming enterprise.

In response to the city’s reticence, county council voted last week to not include $200,000 for the city’s planned museum/library complex and $30,000 specifically for Chapin Memorial Library in the county budget. The city requested both amounts.

At Tuesday’s Myrtle Beach City Council meeting, council member Mary Jeffcoat requested city staff to prepare a review of the amount of property tax revenue city residents pay to the county and what services city residents receive as a result of those taxes.

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Budget Time for Local Governments

March 21, 2017 1:02 PM
Budget Time for Local Governments

This week will see several local governments, particularly Myrtle Beach and Horry County, in budget workshops as next year’s revenue and spending is considered.

If you have never seen the local budget process in action, you should consider at least watching some of the workshop meetings on local cable television or live streaming on the internet.

After all, it’s your money they are spending and services for you they are supposed to be providing.

Much of the discussion will be on the agencies’ respective general funds. Those are the funds that pay for public safety, public works, administration and so forth.

For each agency, approximately 65% of general fund expenditures are for personnel pay and benefits.

However, the respective general funds are not the only budget areas that affect local citizens.

The Horry County Solid Waste Authority, which is a component unit of Horry County Government, is asking for a $7 per ton increase on the cost of dumping municipal solid waste (household garbage) at the Highway 90 landfill.

If county council approves a rise in the SWA MSW tipping fee, every household and business in the county will be paying more for garbage disposal.

The City of Myrtle Beach parking fees, which go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and are currently helping fund the taking of businesses through the use of eminent domain, are a problem for all county residents.

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