October is Italian American Heritage Month

October 8, 2017 5:00 AM
October is Italian American Heritage Month

October is officially designated as Italian American Heritage Month thanks to a bill passed in the SC General Assembly in March 2015.

The bill added Sec. 53-3-200 to the SC Code of Laws designating October of every year as Italian American Heritage month.

Sen. Ray Cleary chaperoned the bill through the SC Senate and former Rep. Nelson Hardwick performed the same duties in the SC House. It was signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley on March 27, 2015.

The bill recognizes the many vital contributions of Italian Americans to the state in the political, social and economic systems of South Carolina.

Horry County resident Fred Nesta was recognized as the catalyst behind the effort to pass the bill. A member of Grand Strand Lodge 2868 of the Order of Sons of Italy in America and a past national state deputy of the order.

“This legislation is to recognize the efforts of all Italians and Italian-Americans who sacrificed to give future generations a better life,” said Fred Nesta. “Over the past decade, a heightened interest in our roots has come about, where we came from, what we stand for, recognition of the contributions of Italians and Italian-Americans and their influence in the world…this drives us to seek and learn more about our roots and share in the joy of our heritage with our entire community.

Nesta said members of local chapters of OSIA and other Italian clubs and organizations in South Carolina embody these interests and values which include giving back to the community through monetary donations and services and to share their Italian heritage through local and national Italian festivals and other endeavors.

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Increased Crime, Poor Planning as Myrtle Beach City Elections Near

October 4, 2017 5:06 AM
Increased Crime, Poor Planning as Myrtle Beach City Elections Near

Five weeks remain before voting begins in the Myrtle Beach city council elections and it looks like the incumbents don’t want to face the public in other than a completely controlled environment.

Two years ago, we were told the city was safer than ever. There was an ad campaign complete with thousands of mailers claiming so. We know that claim was incorrect when it was made and things have only gotten worse since.

National crime statistics just came out showing Myrtle Beach had a double digit increase last year in violent crimes.

The recent shooting incident near Futrell Park puts an exclamation point on a situation which has been basically ignored by city officials.

Mayor John Rhodes recently blamed the iphone for hurting the image of the city by spreading negative pictures and comments about it. What Mayor Rhodes forgets is iphones and the people who use them can only show what is happening and comment on it. They do not create the incidents that are shown, at least not yet.

This is exactly the type of detached thinking and denial of what is happening that is hurting the city.

Or am I wrong? Was there really no shooting on Ocean Boulevard, or at Futrell Park? Was this just something an iphone made up and spread throughout the internet?

Eighteen months ago, Bennie Swans, Jon Bonsignor and Tim McCray went before city council to ask for help with problems around the Futrell Park area. They were basically called traitors and told their words would hurt tourism in the city.

However, a problem doesn’t go away when it is ignored. Maybe, if the city council had listened to rather than attacked what was being said, a young pregnant girl would not have been shot in a car last week killing her and her unborn baby.

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Bucksport Marina Issue Moving to Resolution

September 28, 2017 4:54 AM
Bucksport Marina Issue Moving to Resolution

The Bucksport Marina issue arising from a racial incident over Memorial Day Weekend that resulted in personal injury, racial epithets and serious concern from community members appears about to be moving toward resolution.

A quick review of the incident:

On May 28, 2017, Curtis Hendrix was working for the “Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival” hosted by the restaurant on the Bucksport Marina property. One of his duties was to shuttle visitors to the festival to their cars or campsite at the RV resort on the marina property.

While performing those duties, a cart in which Hendrix was riding was forced off the road and into a ditch by Jeffrey Weeks. Weeks was operating the marina and RV resort under a sub-lease with E.D. LLC, the lessee of the marina, resort and restaurant property. E.D. LLC was leasing the property from Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority.

After forcing the cart off the road, Weeks stopped his vehicle and began yelling at the occupants of the cart, using racial epithets such as “f—–g niggers”, according to the police report of the incident.

According to several sources familiar with various talks and negotiations among involved and interested parties over the last several weeks, neither E.D. LLC owner Ed Waters nor Weeks will be returning to the marina property.

According to those sources, the final details of a termination agreement between GSWSA and E.D. LLC are in the works and new operators will be taking over the marina and RV resort businesses.

Removing both from any association with GSWSA is the only proper solution to the act perpetrated by Weeks over Memorial Day Weekend.

However, it took approximately four months between the incident and the final termination. When I first spoke to Fred Richardson, CEO of GSWSA, about the incident, it seemed he wanted to do the right thing, but attorneys advising GSWSA were urging a wait and see approach because Weeks was only charged with a crime, not convicted. Additionally, there were some contractual considerations with the lease between Waters and GSWSA.

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More on GSWSA Incident

September 19, 2017 7:11 AM
More on GSWSA Incident

The following is a letter received by Grand Strand Daily regarding the racial incident at Bucksport Marina property over Memorial Day Weekend. The letter is printed in full:

As a proud member of the Grand Strand community, and an equally proud advisor to the Carolina African American Heritage Foundation, to you our founder and Chair, our Directors, and our many volunteers and friends, I have the following to say about the May 28, 2017 incident which resulted in serious injury to Curtis Hendrix and also, I’m afraid, brought not a little shame down on our community.

Kudos to professional journalist Paul Gable for dragging this horrific incident out from beneath four months of official silence, if not snatching it away from what some would say resembles a coverup.  And boos to the local and state so-called mainstream media for completely passing on what must be the most vicious hate crime this community has seen in a long time, if ever – to say nothing of the outrageous slap on the wrist and apparent reinstatement being enjoyed by the openly racist perpetrator, Jeffrey Weeks.  One would think we were back in 19th Century post-Civil War Mississippi, and not in 21st Century South Carolina.

It’s bad enough that this creep – who we understand is from Virginia – had to crawl out from under his rock in our community, but what’s really troubling is the subsequent official fumbling and media silence. 

First, the charge – misdemeanor assault – is patently ridiculous.  Here we have an intentional, deliberately violent attack, openly and loudly declared by the attacker to be based on racial hatred, which injured Curtis Hendrix to the extent he was unable to work.  Every element of felony assault is there – beyond law enforcement and prosecutorial discretion –  and Weeks would have been charged with that anywhere else that I know of.

And has anyone but me wondered where federal law enforcement is on this case?  What Weeks did was a clear violation of Title 18, Section 245 of the United States Code – the Civil Rights Act of 1968 –

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Concerns Abound Over Operation of Bucksport Marina

September 15, 2017 9:10 AM
Concerns Abound Over Operation of Bucksport Marina

More than three months after a racially charged incident marred a Memorial Day Weekend festival at Bucksport Marina, questions about the future direction of the publicly owned facility remain unanswered.

The Bucksport Marina incident has remained under the radar as the more well-known incident involving former Conway High School football coach Chuck Jordan grabbed local headlines.

But, in many ways, the incident at the Bucksport Marina was more blatant involving physical injuries, financial suffering and the hurling of racial epithets at a man just doing his job.

On May 28, 2017, Curtis Hendrix was working for the “Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival” hosted by the restaurant on the Bucksport Marina property. One of his duties was to shuttle visitors to the festival to their cars or campsite at the RV resort on the marina property.

While performing those duties, a cart in which Hendrix was riding was forced off the road and into a ditch by Jeffrey Weeks. Weeks was operating the marina and RV resort under a sub-lease with E.D. LLC, the lessee of the marina, resort and restaurant property. E.D. LLC was leasing the property from Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority.

After forcing the cart off the road, Weeks stopped his vehicle and began yelling at the occupants of the cart, using racial epithets such as “f—–g niggers”, according to the police report of the incident.

Weeks was arrested and charged with 2nd Degree Assault. According to the 15th Circuit Court Index, the charges were brought before a Grand Jury and a True Bill Indictment was found against Weeks by the Grand Jury on August 9, 2017.

Hendrix suffered injuries that resulted in him not being able to work, thereby suffering financial loss and the loss of personal property as a result, according a lawsuit Hendrix has brought against Weeks personally and E.D. LLC.

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Lawsuit Filed Against Bucksport Plantation Marina Operators

September 11, 2017 4:40 AM
Lawsuit Filed Against Bucksport Plantation Marina Operators

A lawsuit with racial discrimination overtones was recently filed against the Bucksport Plantation Marina and RV Resort, ED LLC and Jeffrey Weeks individually for an incident that took place on May 28, 2017.

The lawsuit was filed by Melinda Knowles, attorney representing Plaintiff Clarence Curtis Hendrix, in the 15th Circuit Court on September 1, 2017.

What makes this lawsuit noteworthy is Bucksport Plantation Marina and RV Resort is owned by Grand Strand Water and Sewer Authority (GSWSA), a public agency that was created by the S.C. General Assembly through the passage of Act 337 of 1971.

According to the lawsuit, “ED LLC maintains an exclusive leasehold interest in the real property that houses the Resort and, upon information and belief, either employs Weeks as manager of the Resort or operates a partnership with Weeks in the operation of the Resort.”

According to the lawsuit, Hendrix, who is African-American, was hired by “The Waccamaw Getaway Music Festival” that was held over Memorial Day Weekend 2017 at the Bucksport Marina venue.

The incident involving Weeks and Hendrix, which led to the lawsuit, is described in the complaint, “During the early morning hours of Sunday, May 28, 2017 Plaintiff and the other staff members were engaged in driving an intoxicated Festival attendee back to his campsite. Weeks, driving a large heavy-duty black truck, drove up behind the courtesy shuttle at a high rate of speed. When it became clear that the truck was not decreasing in speed, Plaintiff’s co-staff member attempted to evade the truck and avoid a collision by hugging the shoulder of the narrow dirt road. Ultimately, the truck driven by Weeks forced the shuttle off the road with all three occupants onboard. The shuttle struck a ditch and became lodged with two of its wheels suspended in the air. The crash and the force of the impact threw Plaintiff off the shuttle. Simultaneous with the shuttle’s wreck, Weeks brought his heavy-duty truck to a rapid, skidding stop next to the disabled golf cart. Weeks then exited his truck, snatched the key out of the disabled shuttle, and verbally accosted Plaintiff in the presence of the Festival attendee.”

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Storms Near as Myrtle Beach City Elections Filing Closes

September 8, 2017 9:01 AM
Storms Near as Myrtle Beach City Elections Filing Closes

It seems appropriate that filing closes for the upcoming Myrtle Beach city elections as the area awaits the possibility of tropical storm conditions.

This election cycle has already been stormy with more to come.

The incumbents running for reelection, Mayor John Rhodes and council members Randal Wallace and Mike Lowder, have received justified criticism of decisions made by council over the last several years.

I was looking back on stories from the election cycle two years ago. In one, I quoted an op-ed column by Mande Wilkes written three weeks before the 2015 election.

Wilkes criticized the “Asian fetish” of Myrtle Beach City Council while stifling local business investors with “the bizarre zoning laws, the oppressive signing ordinances, the climbing licensing fees, and the restrictive parking policies.”

“All of these rules add up to a suffocating environment for businesses, and that’s why Highway 17 is littered with empty storefronts and dilapidated buildings,” Wilkes wrote.

While the “Asian fetish” appears to be in the midst of a severe ‘crash and burn’, many of Wilkes’ other criticisms have not only not been addressed, but instead have been added to.

Shootings on Ocean Boulevard, indeed throughout the city, have been on the rise and city council responded with barricades along a section of Ocean Boulevard it apparently wants to redevelop.

The city surreptitiously bought up property in the Superblock area and, when it was exposed, threatened remaining private landholders with the use of eminent domain to acquire their properties.

The publicly stated reason for this land acquisition by the city – a new building for Chapin Memorial Library, a private-public partnership entity, and a new building for the totally private Children’s Museum.

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No Safety Violations Proven Against Skydive Myrtle Beach

August 29, 2017 9:11 AM
No Safety Violations Proven Against Skydive Myrtle Beach

It is now apparent that Skydive Myrtle Beach was shut down from operating at Grand Strand Airport on the basis of safety allegations that were never investigated, much less proved.

For whatever reason, county officials (council members, staff or some combination thereof) decided they wanted to shut down Skydive Myrtle Beach (SDMB). The only way they could do that and not violate Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Grant Assurances was to claim safety violations.

And this they did, sort of.

Horry County Department of Airports (HCDA) staff and Robinson Aviation employees, who were contracted with HCDA to operate the Grand Strand Airport control tower, created 112 “Unusual Incident Reports” (UIR) of SDMB alleged safety violations over a nearly two year period.

HCDP sent these UIR’s to the Federal Aviation Administration as documentation of safety violations. According to responses to FOIA requests by both Horry County and the FAA, none of these alleged incidents was ever investigated by HCDA and only one, number 86 on the compilation record, was investigated by the FAA.

Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti responses to two FOIA requests: 

“These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.” 

And

“Enforcement was held in abeyance due to pending litigation.” 

No investigation of any of the incidents was ever conducted by HCDA or other Horry County agencies.

The FAA found NO VIOLATION in the case of number 86, which occurred on May 31, 2015.

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Another Twist in the Skydive Myrtle Beach Controversy

August 19, 2017 12:30 PM
Another Twist in the Skydive Myrtle Beach Controversy

Another interesting twist has appeared related to the Skydive Myrtle Beach controversy with Horry County over the county’s closing of the Skydive Myrtle Beach business.

Nearly two years ago, the county used a Director’s Determination by the Federal Aviation Administration to close the landing zone for skydivers at Grand Strand Airport and evict Skydive Myrtle Beach from a hangar at that airport.

The Director’s Determination was based on 112 alleged safety violations committed by Skydive Myrtle Beach, which were documented and reported by Horry County Department of Airports personnel and/or Robinson Aviation personnel who are contracted by the county to staff the control tower at Grand Strand Airport.

In a recent post about the ongoing controversy, we quoted a letter by Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti that backed away from calling the documents proof of safety violations by SDMB.

Carotti’s letter, which was included with a response to a FOIA request for documents related to SDMB safety violations, stated, in part, the documents provided “may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.”

Several days after the story was posted, the following was contained in an email to at least one county council member:

“On Aug 15, 2017, at 11:24 AM, Carotti, Arrigo wrote:

The misrepresentation of facts and the law has been ongoing on the part of Mr. Holly, misguided bloggers, and Holly surrogates for several years now, involving universally unsuccessful litigation by Holly, and pending litigation against the FAA, the State of South Carolina, Horry County, officials and employees. There have been no new admissions, the FAA’s and County’s sound positions in the matter remaining the same. 

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Horry County Reverses Story on Skydive Myrtle Beach Alleged Violations

August 12, 2017 4:56 AM
Horry County Reverses Story on Skydive Myrtle Beach Alleged Violations

Nearly two years after evicting Skydive Myrtle Beach from Grand Strand Airport for, allegedly, committing numerous safety violations, Horry County now won’t claim the skydiving business committed any violations.

In a cover letter providing 126 documents responding to a Freedom of Information Act request for all public documents associated with Skydive Myrtle Beach safety violations, Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti stated in part, “These records are provided in an abundance of caution, in that each may or may not demonstrate violation by Skydive Myrtle Beach of Horry County Department of Airports Minimum Standards, as that assessment has not been undertaken.” (See full letter below)

What is astounding about that statement is that two years ago the exact same documents were provided to both the Federal Aviation Administration and S.C. Fifteenth Circuit Court as proof of safety violations by Skydive Myrtle Beach.

In 2014, Skydive Myrtle Beach lodged a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration against Horry County Department of Airports alleging discriminatory actions against Skydive Myrtle Beach by HCDA.

In response, Horry County Department of Airports reported to the Federal Aviation Administration that Skydive Myrtle Beach was the subject of 112 alleged safety violations (contained in the 126 pages of documents) while conducting business at Grand Strand Airport.

On October 7, 2015, the FAA issued a Director’s Determination Report, authored by Randall Fiertz, the FAA Director of Airport Compliance and Management Analysis, in response to Holly’s original complaint, supposedly basing the report on those safety violations.

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