Post Tagged with: "Brenda Bethune"

Proposed Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement Taking Money from Taxpayers

November 14, 2019 7:18 PM
Proposed Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement Taking Money from Taxpayers

The proposed agreement that county and city councils will be voting on to settle the hospitality fee lawsuit between the county and the cities will see money that should go to the benefit of the taxpayers instead going to pay attorney fees.

This is the first lawsuit settlement negotiation that I can remember where the injured parties, the taxpayers, were not even represented in the room.

In the case of the cities through three negotiation sessions, no elected officials from any of the cities, those elected to represent the citizens, could be bothered to be present. Several elected county council members attended each session.

The absence of city elected officials, especially mayors Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach, Marilyn Hatley of North Myrtle Beach and Bob Childs of Surfside Beach, the three cities at the forefront of the lawsuit, resulted in attorneys representing the cities to structure the settlement with no input of those elected to represent the citizens.

According to information received by Grand Strand Daily, the settlement will structure the lawsuit as a class action which will allow the attorneys representing the cities to split 33% of the settlement amount for themselves.

The reported settlement amount is the approximately $19.5 million revenue from the countywide 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected within the respective city limits of the cities in the county from the time the bonds for the RIDE I program were paid off in February 2019 until June 30, 2019. That means the attorneys will split a cool $6.5 million from the settlement. In addition, those attorneys have already billed the cities a total over $750,000 in legal fees before the settlement is finalized.

County council member Harold Worley stated from the council dais that he would not vote to approve any settlement that gave $7 million taxpayer dollars to attorneys. Worley was speaking as the representative of county council District 1, which includes all of North Myrtle Beach. He believes that money should be spent for infrastructure improvements, public safety and like needs allowed by the hospitality fee law.

The $7 million will come out of the settlement amount for the cities. The county is only on the hook for approximately $350,000 billed by its attorneys.

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Mayors Add Confusion to Hospitality Tax/I-73 Funding Debate

May 21, 2019 7:09 AM
Mayors Add Confusion to Hospitality Tax/I-73 Funding Debate

After watching a video last evening of a news conference held in Conway yesterday by the mayors of the various incorporated municipalities in Horry County, under the auspices of the Horry County League of Cities, I was dumbfounded by the misinformation and political spin by those elected leaders to the public.

I do enjoy it when the mayors get together and issue statements under the League of Cities banner. The League of Cities is nothing more than a lunch club of the mayors and the chairman of Horry County Council if that official wishes to attend. It has neither official nor legal basis for doing anything, but it sounds good in the media.

The issue was hospitality tax collections in Horry County and who gets to keep the revenue beginning next fiscal year. The latest catalyst for this public discussion is a proposed bill dropped by the Horry County legislative delegation on the next to last day of this year’s legislative session.

Simply put, the bill, if it eventually passes, extends collections of a 1.5% hospitality tax countywide with the revenue going to Horry County Government. The cities and the county also collect an additional 1% hospitality tax within their respective jurisdictions for a total hospitality tax of 2.5% throughout the county. The tax has been on the books by county ordinance since late December 1996 with the proceeds of the countywide 1.5% portion being used to fund major road projects in the county under the collective banner of Ride I projects (SC 22, SC 31, US 501 improvements for example).

The initial duration of the tax was supposed to be 20 years with several additions through the years which extended payment on Ride I bonds through January 2019. Each of the municipalities in the county passed resolutions supporting the 1996 county ordinance.

In April/May 2017, Horry County Council, under the leadership of then chairman Mark Lazarus and administrator Chris Eldridge, unilaterally acted, with the rest of council going along, to remove the sunset provision of the hospitality tax ordinance that was to end the collection of the countywide 1.5% tax when Ride I bonds were paid off.

The idea of Lazarus and Eldridge was to use the approximately over $40 million annual revenue from the 1.5% portion to fund building of I-73 in Horry County.

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Family Friendly Propaganda Resurfaces for Ocean Boulevard

August 12, 2018 3:52 AM
Family Friendly Propaganda Resurfaces for Ocean Boulevard

The “Family Friendly” propaganda is out in full force as Myrtle Beach City Council prepares to debate an entertainment overlay district ordinance for Ocean Boulevard this week.

The ordinance would ban the sale of certain products such as hookah pipes, tobacco, CBD oil and what it calls sexually suggestive merchandise, all of which are entirely legal products, within the overlay district.

All of this is purportedly being done because these products are not considered “family friendly” by at least some city council and city staff members.

In attempting to explain the ordinance, Mayor Brenda Bethune was quoted in local media last week as saying, “I’m not saying that those businesses are not what we want, I’m just saying that there currently is some merchandise that is not really in the scope of being family friendly,”

And it’s not like the city is attempting to ban the sale of these products citywide, merely along a specially selected section of Ocean Boulevard.

Bethune again, “We are not trying to target legal merchandise and say you can’t sell this anywhere in the city. What we’re saying is there’s a perception issue with some of these products, and they do attract children, they are marketed for children, and that it does promote drug use.”

So it’s okay if these products supposedly “attract children” and “promote drug use” at, say, Coastal Grand Mall or Broadway at the Beach, but not along Ocean Boulevard?

Interestingly, alcohol products, beer, wine and spirits, are not on the proposed list of banned products for the overlay district, although it could be argued that the effects of those products have done much more to ruin families than hookah pipes and sexually suggestive t-shirts.

Of course the mayor and some of the most vocal supporters of this “family friendly” overlay ordinance own beer distributorships and/or bars and restaurants that sell things such as ‘liquid nitrogen cocktails.’

Considering what is on the list of banned products and what is left off, it is highly suggestive this proposed ordinance is not about creating a “family friendly” atmosphere at all. It appears to be targeted at a select group of businesses, owned by Jewish merchants, who are already experiencing a decline in retail sales.

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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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Ed Carey Endorses Brenda Bethune in Runoff

November 13, 2017 4:24 AM
Ed Carey Endorses Brenda Bethune in Runoff

Though the final outcome of my campaign for Mayor last Tuesday didn’t result inmy election, I am forever grateful for the experience and want to extend a sincere “thank you” to all of you who supported me. I am very proud of the effort we expended. The lessons I learned, the people I met, the issues I advanced and the incredibly close 3rd place finish I achieved made the entire experience well worth the effort.

To those of you who supported one of the other candidates, thank you too for caring enough about the future of our community to make the effort to vote last week. I hope our campaign made a positive contribution in encouraging you to get involved and make the effort to vote.

While I truly believe that the success of our city depends on our residents coming together as one, I also believe that our strength is derived from our neighborhoods and communities and the unique characteristics of each.

During the campaign, I had the opportunity to interact and meet each of the other candidates running. I listened to each of their answers during our debates and forums. I watched each of them interact with voters who had questions and input. I saw how each of them dealt with contentious issues in high-pressure situations. The reason for my post to you today is to personally inform you that after factoring in all of those things, I have decided to endorse Brenda Bethune in the runoff election next Tuesday, November 21st.

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