Gardner Wins Council Chairman Race – UPDATED

June 13, 2018 5:47 PM
Gardner Wins Council Chairman Race – UPDATED

UPDATE – After counting provisional and challenge ballots, the results of the election for Horry County Council Chairman were certified as Gardner 12,358 votes, Lazarus 12,160. An automatic recount will be held Friday June 15th at 10:30 a.m., but it is expected that there will be little, if any, change in the above results.

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Challenger Johnny Gardner defeated incumbent Mark Lazarus by 196 votes for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman.

As no Democrat filed for the seat, Gardner’s victory in the November 2018 general election is a virtual lock.

Election night results showed a count of 12,252 for Gardner to 12,058 for Lazarus a lead of 194 votes. There were problems with closing of eight election machines on election night, which had to wait until Wednesday afternoon to be counted.

According to Sandy Martin, Director of Voter Registration and Elections for Horry County, an additional 100 votes were counted from the eight machines. When all were counted, Gardner gained two votes to his victory margin. Since the margin of victory falls within one percent of the total vote, an automatic recount will be conducted in accordance with state law.

The election results will be certified by the Horry County Election Commission at 10:00 a.m. Thursday June 14, 2018.

Lazarus will have until noon Wednesday June 20, 2018 to file an appeal of the certification. However, there do not appear to be any reasonable grounds to base an appeal that would need to show the 196 vote margin could be overcome.

Gardner’s victory is considered a big upset by many political pundits in the area. Several compared it to former Congressman John Jenrette’s victory over 17 term incumbent John McMillan in the 1972 Democratic Primary for the, then, S.C. 6th Congressional District nomination.

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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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County Continues to Kick the Can Down the Road

May 30, 2018 8:41 AM
County Continues to Kick the Can Down the Road

If a picture is worth a thousand words, the editorial cartoon published by local cartoonist Ed Wilson on Facebook yesterday (pictured above) is worth an entire book.

The strokes of Wilson’s pen starkly captured the central problem with county government today. Serious issues (cans) have been kicked down the road for too long without being addressed.

The county’s public safety departments have suffered systemic problems from being ignored for too long.

Long hours, low pay and reduced benefits have led to low morale and high turnover resulting in understaffed public safety departments while the county population continues to grow creating ever larger demands for services.

There are many situations in which new personnel are paid almost as much, in some cases more, than officers with five plus years of experience. Even so, high turnover in the first few years of employment keeps the departments short of trained, experienced personnel.

According to many sources, the officers who provide our everyday safety needs are warned not to speak out publicly about issues within the departments or face reprisals.

The entire approach to public safety can be compared to sticking multiple fingers in a dike to, hopefully, hold off a deluge while continuing to turn a blind eye to attempting to plan a fix that would bring the departments to a more secure footing.

And public safety problems are not the only ones that have been ignored.

The heavy rains over the weekend caused considerable flooding in relatively new developments along Hwy 905 – again.

This seems to be a perfect example of allowing developers to rezone plots of land for residential housing, build and sell the houses quickly and get out with their profits before inherent problems in the area become known.

Even if rezoning requests were well researched and developed by county staff and council members, the pace of growth we are now again experiencing lets development seriously outpace the county’s ability to provide needed infrastructure and services to the new residents.

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Meet Mark Then and Now

May 28, 2018 3:45 AM
Meet Mark Then and Now

The Mark Lazarus Campaign for Chairman of Horry County Council sent its first mailer to voters over the weekend.

I was happy to see a quote from me in a 2013 article in Grand Strand Daily appeared prominently in the mailer. The quote was complimentary of Lazarus’ first months as chairman.

I’m not sure what the reasoning behind using the quote was or who in the campaign made the decision to use it, but if it was his consultants’ idea, he needs to get new ones.

The quote, rather than discrediting what I have written recently about Lazarus, adds credibility to what I have always told politicians – ‘When I think you’re doing a good job, I will be happy to compliment you. When I think you’re doing a bad job, I won’t hesitate to criticize you.’

Over the last three years, I have been highly critical of Lazarus because I believe he has not been doing a good job as chairman.

When running for reelection in 2014, Lazarus told voters he would “oppose new taxes.” Shortly after successfully winning reelection, Lazarus led council into passing the largest single property tax increase in Horry County history. In addition, council increased road maintenance fees by 67%.

More recently, Lazarus led county council into extending the county wide hospitality tax for an indefinite period in the future despite having no specific plans as to what it would be used for.

Why? Because in Lazarus’ words, if it wasn’t extended, it would be lost.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe a politician should honor his campaign promises otherwise how are we to believe anything he says?

Such as – County council had to spend $12 million for 3,729 acres of swamp land off of International Drive because it was a great deal for the county. The purchase was discussed quietly in secret before being quickly voted on by council.

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Four File for School Board Chairman Vacancy

May 26, 2018 4:09 PM
Four File for School Board Chairman Vacancy

By Paul Gable

Four candidates have filed for the special election to fill the vacancy on the Horry County Board of Education created when Chairman Joe DeFeo died suddenly last month.

Three candidates filed for the Republican nomination for the vacant seat, incumbent School Board District 5 representative Janice Morreale, former teacher Patricia Milley and Conway businessman Ken Richardson. A special primary election will be held July 17, 2018 to determine which of the above three gains the Republican nomination.

Former Aynor Middle School teacher Heather Johnson filed as a Democrat with no primary opposition.

The winner of the Republican Primary will face Johnson in the November 6, 2018 general election.

Richardson has been a member of the Horry Georgetown Technical College Area Commission for 20 years.  He was associated with Fowler Motors for 40 years, beginning as a salesman and working his way up. He owned the dealership for the last 14 years of his association before selling in 2009. He will undoubtedly be the best financed candidate in the race.

Richardson has been planning to run for the school board chairman seat since January 2017, when he first announced his intention to be a candidate in 2020. DeFeo’s death has moved up that timetable. Richardson has advocated for an open door policy by the superintendent for all teachers and administrators in the school district.

Morreale was first elected to the school board in the 2012 general election. She was reelected in 2016. She has been a solid board member representing her district well. However, as the only incumbent school board member in the race, she will face questions about the pay raise school board members voted for themselves recently and about why most recent school construction has come in over budget.

Milley unsuccessfully challenged John Poston for the School Board District 8 seat two years ago. As a former teacher, she has promoted ideas such as more recess time for students and a shorter school day. Milley believes both would better help students concentrate during classroom instruction.

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