Post Tagged with: "Alan Clemmons"

Citizens or Special Interests – County Council Direction Will be Decided by June Primaries

April 20, 2020 7:33 AM
Citizens or Special Interests – County Council Direction Will be Decided by June Primaries

The direction county council will take over the next several years will likely be determined by three contested races in the Republican Primary to be held on June 9, 2020.

Those three races are Horry County Districts 3, 4 and 6, currently held by incumbents Dennis DiSabato, Gary Loftus and Cam Crawford, respectively. Those three council members have consistently been stooges for the special interests in the county.

DiSabato, Loftus and Crawford were consistent “yes” votes for any initiative former council chairman Mark Lazarus brought to the table. The purchase of approximately 3,700 acres of wetlands off of International for $12 million of taxpayer money is one example that quickly comes to mind.

The parcel purchased by the county was part of a larger parcel purchased by a developer in Virginia years ago. The wetlands couldn’t be developed so the county purchased the land with the purported goal of establishing a wetland mitigation bank to be used when capital projects required mitigation credits for disturbing wetlands. No other parcel in the county was considered, no record of a request for proposals was sent out by the county.

The three stooges voted in lockstep to spend county money for land that was basically useless to the developer for the price of approximately $3,243 per acre.

After Lazarus was defeated for reelection, DiSabato, Crawford and Loftus were charter members for what I dubbed the Deep Six, council members who fought long and hard to keep former county administrator Chris Eldridge in office after Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti lodged groundless accusations of extortion against current chairman Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus, Eldridge’s strongest supporter on council.

Anyone who watched the March 2019 special council meeting, called to remove Eldridge, will recall DiSabato launching into accusations against Gardner after an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) concluded the accusations were without any merit.

The three stooges voted not to fire Eldridge in March, ultimately costing the taxpayers of Horry County $350,000 when council voted to buy out Eldridge’s contract in April 2019 rather than firing him one month before.

DiSabato, Crawford and Loftus have been consistent supporters of having county taxpayers fund construction of Interstate 73. Constructing I-73 remains a major goal of special interests in the county who will benefit financially from construction of the road.

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Voters’ Primary Choice – Representative Democracy or Oligarchy

April 15, 2020 7:09 AM
Voters’ Primary Choice – Representative Democracy or Oligarchy

Horry County voters will have distinct choices in a number of local and state primary races this year as challenges to incumbents continue to rise.

Those choices simply put are a decision by voters on whether they support candidates who represent the needs of the citizens or candidates who represent the oligarchy who wish to continue to control government for their own self-interest.

Eight weeks remain until primary election day for voters to make their choices.

For the past few weeks there has been talk that the primaries would be postponed until later in the summer. This does not appear to be the case as the majority of the General Assembly members believe holding the primaries in June will give them an advantage in the primaries as incumbents.

Last week, the General Assembly added an additional $15 million to the state contingency fund to help make voting “safer” for voters. So, it looks certain that June 9th is the date to vote in the primaries.

Campaigning directly with voters will be difficult as long as the current coronavirus restrictions remain in place. It will be important for voters to watch what is posted in social media and weigh the information being presented.

In general, it is my opinion that the candidates who will best represent voters against the fading but still influential power structure in the county are challengers, not incumbents. Not in every case, because a few incumbents have served the best interests of the county citizens, but in most cases.

Several S. C. House primaries come quickly to mind to illustrate the above points.

Case Brittain will provide a formidable challenge to 18 year incumbent Alan Clemmons in S. C. House District 107.

Clemmons is one of the elected officials the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce can always count on to do its bidding. There has been no louder voice than Clemmons for Interstate 73, a project that is years off and will immediately benefit only some of his donors in the local area. Then we have Clemmons’ many trips to the Middle East, funded by his campaign chest.

Brittain is a Horry County native and local attorney. He is tired of seeing Horry County be a donor county to other areas of the state, always an afterthought when it comes to state funding for schools, roads and the like. He wants to put the “Grand” back into the Grand Strand. It would be nice to have a representative from Myrtle Beach who worries more about the citizens in his district than the current one who spends more time with citizens of Israel and Egypt than those at home.

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Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

March 24, 2020 7:15 AM
Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

The coronavirus has not stopped this year’s candidate filing in Horry County from being the most active filing period in the county for many years.

Grand Strand Daily is tracking 22 local races for county offices or local representatives or senators to the General Assembly.

After the first week of filing, which ended yesterday, there are currently 13 contested races of the 22 being tracked and at least two more county council candidates will probably have opposition before filing closes next Monday. If the expected two challengers file in council districts 3 and 4, all five county council seats up for election in this cycle will be contested and all will be Republican primary contests.

One incumbent council member, Paul Prince in District 9, is retiring and four candidates, including Prince’s son, are contesting the Republican primary for that seat. The other four incumbent council members up for reelection are Cam Crawford and Danny Hardee, who already have opponents filed to challenge them and Dennis DiSabato and Gary Loftus, who are expected to have opponents by the end of filing.

The main reason county council is drawing so much attention is a feeling among voters that incumbent council members are only listening to the development community that funds their campaigns and voters’ concerns about flooding and rapid development are being ignored. (See the image at the end of this post, which has been making its way around Facebook, with the heads of the four incumbents inserted).

On the state level, voters are tired of being donors to the rest of the state while road and flooding problems in particular are not being addressed and most incumbents are content with sound bites and photo ops rather than trying to address solutions.

Four incumbents who, I believe, will face particularly serious challenges are state Reps. Alan Clemmons and Heather Ammons Crawford, Sen. Luke Rankin and county council member Cam Crawford. They are being opposed by Case Brittain, Mark Epps, John Gallman and Jeremy Halpin, respectively.

If the expected challengers emerge against DiSabato and Loftus, those races will be hotly contested also.

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What Is Really Possible to Mitigate Storm Water Flooding

February 22, 2020 4:09 AM
What Is Really Possible to Mitigate Storm Water Flooding

Flooding has again taken center stage in the news in Horry County this week while government officials continue to search for solutions.

Horry County faces potential problems from two different types of flooding. Flash flooding from extremely heavy rainfalls over a short period of time and riverine flooding when a large amount of water makes its way through the watershed from North Carolina to below Georgetown before it exits to the ocean.

While the county storm water plan addresses ways to attempt to mitigate flash flooding, attempts to mitigate riverine flooding have been largely ignored.

Even the task force put together by Governor Henry McMaster after Hurricane Florence suggested little more than to recommend cleaning out ditches, planting some trees and searching for ways to buyout homes which have been damaged or destroyed by recent flooding events.

Since this is an election year, the flooding problem is now present in the political dialogue where it should have been continuous at least since Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Horry County District 6 council member Cam Crawford opened his reelection campaign by proposing a resolution for county council to consider that would urge the state legislature to pass a bill his wife, Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, is pushing in Columbia that would allow the county to borrow money from the state to provide local matching funds for buyouts of some flood affected homes.

Jeremy Halpin, Crawford’s primary opponent, said more is needed than just a bill for the county to borrow money. He proposed County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner appoint a Flooding Task Force subcommittee to propose, study and recommend a number of options to help the county mitigate flooding of both types.

Crawford responded by calling Halpin’s suggestion ‘political grandstanding’ and said he (Crawford) has been involved with the Governor’s Task Force working “since Hurricane Florence on research and meaningful solutions to flooding in our area.”

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Clemmons Attempts to Dictate I-73 Funding to Local Governments

February 14, 2020 3:16 AM
Clemmons Attempts to Dictate I-73 Funding to Local Governments

Rep. Alan Clemmons chaired a sub-committee meeting Wednesday at the state house for a hospitality fee bill that attempts to dictate what local governments must do with regard to spending hospitality fee revenue.

After the meeting, Clemmons attempted to put a positive spin on the meeting by telling a local television reporter, “They say that when both parties aren’t happy then you’ve usually reached a fair middle ground.”

I’m not sure who “they” are, but that thinking doesn’t apply in this case. The reason nobody from the cities or county representatives at the meeting voiced anything positive about the bill is this really is a terrible bill.

Clemmons is one of the sponsors of the bill joined by Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis. It is notable here that the four can’t even get the entire Horry County delegation signed on as co-sponsors.

Clemmons has tried to spin the bill as a settlement for the lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County.

It is not.

The real purpose of the bill is to attempt to force local governments in Horry County to do what the ‘failing four’ can’t get done at the state level – Fund Interstate 73. The entire focus in Columbia is to get as much funding for I-73 from hospitality fee revenue as possible while ignoring the many more immediate, local government needs that the revenue could be used toward.

Initially this bill tried to dictate that all the hospitality fee revenue be used for I-73 construction. An amendment was approved Wednesday that would give the cities approximately one-half of the revenue to use for improvement of tourist related infrastructure and to fund other tourist related needs. The county would get zero for local needs.

The formula established in the amendment would provide approximately $20 million annually to I-73 construction costs within Horry County. Note – Horry County is being asked to be the only county in the history of interstate highway construction to completely fund construction costs of the portion of the interstate highway within its borders through locally generated tax revenue.

Future state and federal funding, if ever appropriated, is projected to be spent in Marion, Dillon and Marlboro counties, not Horry.

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Myrtle Beach’s Problem with the Truth about I-73 Funding

February 11, 2020 4:47 AM
Myrtle Beach’s Problem with the Truth about I-73 Funding

Myrtle Beach city government just can’t keep itself from spinning stories in an attempt to make itself look good while hiding the truth from the public.

The following post, which appeared on the city government Facebook page yesterday, is a perfect example of the city’s spin:

“The City of Myrtle Beach supports I-73…

“The Myrtle Beach City Council is on the record as supporting I-73. Twice in the past year, City Council has approved resolutions expressing its support for I-73. In April 2019, Council publicly stated that it would devote financial resources to I-73 once the Hospitality Fee issue was resolved. Myrtle Beach has demonstrated its commitment to I-73. Question: Has the Horry County Council voted publicly to support I-73?”

The day Myrtle Beach filed suit against Horry County to stop countywide collection of the 1.5% Hospitality Fee, the local revenue stream for funding I-73 dried up.

The above post says in April 2019 Myrtle Beach city council approved a resolution expressing support for I-73. The resolution was passed after city council refused a settlement offer for the Hospitality Fee lawsuit from county council that provided funding for I-73.

The county’s settlement offer would have designated one-third of the revenue from countywide collection of the 1.5% Hospitality Fee to fund I-73 with the remaining two-thirds of the revenue collected within the city limits being transferred back to the city for use as city council determined.

The following is an extract from a letter Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune wrote to county Chairman Johnny Gardner rejecting the settlement offer:

“Thank you for your letter of April 3. As you are aware, the Myrtle Beach City Council has expressed its willingness to commit support for the I-73 project. However, since the proposed funding source is the subject of litigation, we are unable to engage in negotiations under the terms described in your letter and related attachments.

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State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

January 20, 2020 3:55 AM
State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

A bill being sponsored by four local state representatives is erroneously being promoted as legislation that would settle a lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County and provide funding for Interstate 73.

Nowhere in the original complaint or subsequent motions of that lawsuit, filed March 2019, is Interstate 73 mentioned.

The legislation, H4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis would provide the extension of what is called a countywide ‘legacy hospitality fee’ as long the revenue derived from the countywide portion is used specifically to fund an interstate highway project.

When Myrtle Beach filed the original complaint last March, it specifically sought end collection of a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within its corporate limits. Immediately after filing the lawsuit, Myrtle Beach city council passed new accommodations and hospitality fee taxes, allowed by current state law, to capture revenue from those levies for use on projects of council’s discretion within the city limits.

North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach quickly followed Myrtle Beach’s lead in passing new accommodations and hospitality taxes within their respective jurisdictions.

The day Myrtle Beach filed its lawsuit seeking to stop collection of the countywide hospitality fee, countywide funding for I-73 was dead.

A section of the original complaint filed by Myrtle Beach claims the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee, established by a 1996 county ordinance, was illegally extended by county council when a sunset provision was removed from the ordinance in April 2017.

County council voted to remove the sunset provision at the urging of then county chairman Mark Lazarus. It was Lazarus who introduced I-73 into the discussion by mentioning the I-73 project as one of the possible future uses of hospitality fee revenue.

A current proposed settlement for the lawsuit ends any authority of the county to continue countywide collection of the 1.5% hospitality fee and allows all the cities within the county to collect and use the revenue from their newly passed hospitality and accommodations taxes as their respective councils determine within their respective jurisdictions.

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Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

December 15, 2019 7:32 AM
Questions Surround Proposed Hospitality Fee Settlement Agreement

As Horry County and the municipal councils prepare to vote on a proposed settlement agreement for the Hospitality Fee lawsuit Monday night, many questions remain about what really has taken place behind closed doors since the lawsuit was filed last March.

According to sources familiar with the settlement agreement, the basic proposal approved in a resolution by Horry County Council at its April 2, 2019 regular meeting and publicly rejected by Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune within a few days thereafter is the agreement that will be voted on Monday night?

The basic terms of that proposal as it was offered in April and will be considered Monday night are as follows: a) Horry County will continue to collect a 1.5% Hospitality Fee countywide; b) one-third of that fee (0.5%) will go toward funding I-73; c) the remaining two-thirds (1%) will be remitted to the respective taxing jurisdictions (unincorporated county or city) in which it was collected; d) Revenues from the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected between the date bonds for Ride I projects were paid off (sometime in February 2019) and June 30, 2019 will be remitted in a lump sum to the respective taxing jurisdiction in which those revenues were collected.

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner sent a letter to each of the city mayors proposing that settlement on April 3, 2019.

The county was prohibited from collecting the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the city jurisdictions after June 30, 2019 by judge’s order. The sum collected within city jurisdictions between February 2019 and June 30, 2019 (currently held in escrow) and subject to lump sum payments back to the cities is approximately $19 million.

Why is a proposed settlement that was publicly and totally rejected by Bethune in April 2019 suddenly the terms for settlement? (See Gardner’s letter to the mayors and Bethune’s rejection letter at the links below)

The mayor’s main points of contention have not changed in the agreement to be voted on for approval Monday night: a) continued collection of the countywide hospitality fee is illegal; b) the city cannot delegate to the county the authority to control the disposition of revenues which are properly within the city’s authority to collect and manage and c) no benefit to city residents from that arrangement.

What has changed?

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Horry County Legislative Delegation Hospitality Bill Will Not Serve County Citizens Interests

November 25, 2019 3:35 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

A bill to amend South Carolina law on hospitality tax, pre-filed November 20, 2019 by four members of the Horry County legislative delegation, will not serve the general interests of Horry County citizens if it ever becomes law.

The bill, H 4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Heather Ammons Crawford, Russel Fry and Tim McGinnis, is specifically designed to collect approximately $43 million per year in hospitality fee revenue specifically for the Interstate 73 project.

The bill was pre-filed one day after Horry County Council voted unanimously to cancel its Financial Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation. The agreement would have funded I-73 at up to $25 million annually.4745 is an expansion on a bill, H. 4597, filed just before the legislative session for 2019 ended last May. H. 4597 was filed after the cities filed a lawsuit against the county to stop collection of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the limits of the respective municipalities in the county.

H 4745 is an expansion on a bill, H. 4597, filed just before the legislative session for 2019 ended last May. H. 4597 was filed after the cities filed a lawsuit against the county to stop collection of the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within the limits of the respective municipalities in the county.

Both bills are designed to allow Horry County to resume collecting the 1.5% ‘legacy’ hospitality fee. Horry County is the only county in the state that has continuously collected the 1.5% countywide ‘legacy’ hospitality fee until stopped by the lawsuit.

The need for the second bill appears to be that H. 4597 allows the 1.5% hospitality fee revenue to be used on all the tourism related purposes as defined in S.C. Code of Laws Section 6-1-730. Those purposes include police, fire, emergency medical services, roads, highways, streets and bridges and recreation facilities which are tourism related.

The second bill limits uses of the hospitality fee revenue to interstate infrastructure, interstate interchanges and roads that directly connect to an interstate until no viable interstate highway projects remaining in the county.

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Horry County Council Votes Unanimously to Cancel I-73 Contract

November 19, 2019 8:18 PM
Horry County Council Votes Unanimously to Cancel I-73 Contract

Horry County Council voted unanimously at its regular meeting Tuesday night to cancel the Financial Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation that would have provided funding for the Interstate 73 project.

The agreement was approved by council during a special meeting held on November 28, 2018 and signed by former county administrator Chris Eldridge on December 13, 2018. Former council chairman Mark Lazarus led the charge to get the agreement signed before he left office December 31, 2018. Lazarus and Eldridge were the two foremost proponents of having the county enter into the agreement with SCDOT.

In addition, Lazarus and Eldridge were instrumental in orchestrating the elimination of a sunset provision from the county’s hospitality fee legislation earlier in 2018 in order to direct revenue to I-73.

But it all began to fall apart in March 2019 when the City of Myrtle Beach sued Horry County over continued collection of hospitality fees after the bonds for the first RIDE projects were paid off, an action the city called illegal.

Last spring, Horry County Council approved a resolution to refund hospitality fee revenue collected within the municipal boundaries to the respective cities where it was collected. The resolution included a proposal for the municipalities and the county to provide some funding for I-73 with percentage contributions from each agency in line with the percentage of the total amount of hospitality fee revenue each city received.

The cities dismissed that resolution out of hand.

Now, the cities and the county are considering a settlement agreement to the lawsuit with virtually the same terms with the exception that the cities will be on the hook to pay their attorneys 33% of the refunded revenue, approximately $7 million.

The blame for the cancellation of the I-73 agreement can be laid directly at the feet of Myrtle Beach and the other cities that joined in the lawsuit and refused to accept virtually the same settlement they are now considering.

Several county council members, including Chairman Johnny Gardner and council members Harold Worley and Johnny Vaught made exactly the point that the cities could have had the same settlement without paying such large attorney fees by accepting the resolution in the spring. It must also be noted the I-73 contract would not have been cancelled if the cities had taken this action.

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