Post Tagged with: "Cam Crawford"

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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Crawford’s Posturing Increases in District 6 Council Race

March 13, 2020 9:20 AM
Crawford’s Posturing Increases in District 6 Council Race

Filing for candidacy does not open until Monday, but incumbent county council member for District 6. Cam Crawford, has already ratcheted up posturing of alleged actions to help his constituents.

Known for rarely speaking on any topic during council discussions, Crawford recently posted on his reelection Facebook page about his “primary flood mitigation objectives” and the “talks” he allegedly has ongoing with “relevant officials” about possible construction of a dam on the Pee Dee River to generate electricity and help mitigate flooding.

Sounds impressive until you drill down into the statements a bit.

Crawford’s grand plan to mitigate flooding is to apply county stormwater requirements to developments of 10 units or less. They already apply to larger development sub-divisions.

County council is asked to approve rezoning on very few sub-divisions of the 10 unit or less size. According to sources familiar with these requests, most fall into the category of family land being sub-divided so children can own the property on which they intend to build a house.

Stormwater runoff from large sub-divisions is a problem in the county but requiring stormwater mitigation for John Doe’s son or daughter to build a house on a couple of acres of land they are being given is not going to solve it.

The engineers and developers involved in large sub-divisions are among Crawford’s campaign chest donors so applying more restrictions to them is apparently out of the question. Pick on the little guy.

As for the dam, the river flows in generally flat land much of it outside of Horry County. Technically, the height of the dam and size of the reservoir needed to generate enough water pressure to turn the turbines to generate enough electricity to make this a viable project is probably nothing more than a fanciful concept.

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Gardner Names Special Flood Committee

February 25, 2020 4:21 PM
Gardner Names Special Flood Committee

Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner named a special committee during the county Infrastructure and Regulation Committee meeting Tuesday to study possible options for mitigating the flooding problems from which the county has consistently suffered since 2015.

Gardner appointed Harold Worley as chairman of the special committee with Al Allen, William Bailey, Kevin Hardee, April O’Leary, Alex Hyman, Nick Godwin, Forrest Beverly, Steve Gosnell and Gardner himself as committee members.

The committee brings together points of view from local and state elected officials, citizen and construction industry perspectives with county administrator Gosnell to provide technical expertise as a licensed professional engineer. The county’s Infrastructure and Regulation Division will provide staff support to the special committee.

 Gardner said he believed flooding was such a problem in the county that he decided to appoint a special committee to specifically focus on flooding issues and possible ways to mitigate the problem.

The special committee will report back recommendations for mitigation to the county I&R Committee who will discuss and vote whether to forward those recommendations to full county council for approval and action.

In other flooding related issues discussed at the I&R meeting, the county Storm Water Management Department told committee members that there are approximately 250 outstanding work orders dating to as far back as 2015. The committee was also presented with a list of budget enhancements for personnel and equipment totaling approximately $4.4 million that the department needed to clear the backlog and allow the department to meet current requirements.

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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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Apparent Flooding Assistance Should Not be a Campaign Ploy

January 23, 2020 7:34 AM
Apparent Flooding Assistance Should Not be a Campaign Ploy

The most interesting aspect of Tuesday night’s regular meeting of Horry County Council is what didn’t happen.

After several days of media publicity touting his resolution declaring Horry County’s support of S.C. Senate Bill 259 establishing a “Resilience Revolving Fund to Assist in Future Flood Prevention”, Horry County Council member Cam Crawford failed to get council members to vote for the resolution.

Instead, Crawford made a motion to send the resolution to the county Administration Committee for more study.

The timing of the proposed resolution is suspicious. The bill has been stuck in committee in the S.C. House since March 27, 2019, nearly 10 months. If it is such a great bill that will really benefit flood victims, why wait until reelection time approaches and a challenger to his seat has come forward for Crawford to author a resolution supporting the bill?

The bill was pre-filed in the S.C. Senate in December 2018 and passed the Senate roll call vote March 19, 2019. Nothing about it has changed since its pre-filing.

The resolution appears to be nothing more than a campaign ploy by Crawford to make voters think he is doing something on their behalf.

According to several citizens who have been actively working to help flood victims since the aftermath of Hurricane Florence destroyed approximately 2,000 homes in Horry County, there are some things about S259 that could help some of those most affected by the flooding.

The idea behind the bill is to provide a local match for FEMA funds that would be used to buyout properties that were destroyed by flooding from the hurricane. However, as of this date there is no permanent revenue source identified.

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Citizen Activists Changing the County’s Political Landscape

January 13, 2020 7:00 AM
Citizen Activists Changing the County’s Political Landscape

The engagement of citizen activists in the political system of Horry County was the biggest story of 2019. This year it will prove to be even bigger with county and state elections on the calendar.

Three of those council members, DiSabato, Loftus and Crawford have been charter members of what I have termed the ‘Deep Six’ on county council who generally do the bidding of the oligarchs.

Groups such as Empowering Horry County, Horry County Rising, Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe, and Highway 90 Corridor Concerns, to name a few, have made effective use of social media to band together groups of citizens so their message becomes part of the political discussion.

That message is simple, these citizen activists want a government that provides the necessary goods and services expected of it and does not overreach with wasteful spending of taxpayer dollars on projects that only benefit the few.

They want elected officials who will provide the public safety services needed to keep the communities safe and who will maintain and upgrade, when necessary, existing infrastructure to benefit the entire community, especially in the areas of roads and storm water management. They want controlled development so that new sub-divisions do not negatively impact the homes and lives of those who already live here.

Horry County has had an oligarchical form of government where a small number of influential business owners and developers have controlled politicians and political decisions for decades. These new groups of citizen activists want to expand the existing political landscape into one that more closely resembles a representative democracy where the voices of the many, not just the few, are heard.

Five Horry County Council members, Dennis DiSabato, Gary Loftus, Cam Crawford, Paul Prince and Danny Hardee will be up for reelection this year as will all the state representatives and senators. This year many of them used to having no opposition will face challengers in the primaries (the only elections that really count in this one party state).

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First Anniversary of the Plot to Smear Council Chairman Johnny Gardner

December 20, 2019 3:00 AM
First Anniversary of the Plot to Smear Council Chairman Johnny Gardner

Exactly one year ago today former county administrator Chris Eldridge, former council chairman Mark Lazarus and county attorney Arrigo Carotti went public with a plot to attempt to overturn the will of the voters by smearing incoming county chairman Johnny Gardner on the day of his swearing in.

In the week prior, Carotti had authored a five-page memo, with input from Eldridge and Lazarus, attempting to portray Gardner as being involved in a plot to extort money from the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation.

The memo was sent to council members as ‘Attorney Client Privileged’ in an attempt to try and give some official weight to the narrative and, within 12 hours, leaked to a Columbia media outlet to make the story public. The supposed facts in the memo were entirely fictitious.

As soon as the leaked story was published on the internet, complete with a copy of Carotti’s memo, Eldridge sent the memo to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division requesting an investigation.

Within a one day period, the plotters had linked the name ‘Gardner’ to the word ‘extortion’, spread the story statewide and used the publishing of the story as an excuse to contact SLED.

It was an email from Lazarus to Eldridge that first brought SLED into the conversation.

The problem was the story was complete fiction, But that didn’t stop the plotters. The apparent objective was to get Gardner to step aside from the office he had been elected to so that Lazarus could reclaim it. (At the time, apparently unaware of the provisions for filling a vacancy in a county office, they thought the Governor could make an appointment to fill the void and that appointment would be Lazarus who had been defeated by Gardner at the polls.

Within another 24 hours, the entire plot began to fall apart.

Carotti used alleged statements made by Sandy Davis, President and CEO of the MBREDC to both himself and Eldridge as a major source for his narrative, as well as a recording of a lunch meeting between Gardner, Davis and two others.

When contacted by media for comment about the Carotti memo, Davis was quoted responding about the memo, “A lot of it was fabricated.”

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County Council Adds More Controversy to Hospitality Fee Settlement

December 17, 2019 5:55 PM
County Council Adds More Controversy to Hospitality Fee Settlement

Horry County Council approved an amended settlement agreement at its special meeting Monday night that added to the controversy regarding settling the hospitality fee lawsuit.

Council split 7-5 on votes to amend the settlement agreement and to approve the settlement agreement as amended. Those voting for the agreement were Johnny Vaught, Dennis DiSabato, Cam Crawford, Gary Loftis, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Orton Bellamy.

The Deep Six (Vaught, DiSabato, Crawford, Loftis, Servant and Howard) can always be counted on to support anything the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber and other special interests in the county want. Vaught is counting on that group to fund his run for chairman in two years while DiSabato, Crawford and Loftis expect significant donations from special interests to fund their upcoming reelection campaigns.

The special interests want I-73, they fall in line to keep it in play.

Voting against the settlement were Chairman Johnny Gardner, Harold Worley, Al Allen, Danny Hardee and Paul Prince.

As Worley said at the beginning of open debate on the question, the elephant in the room was I-73.

The settlement agreement as presented Monday night would provide approximately $14.5 million per year toward I-73. As Worley pointed out this amount is a drop in the bucket for a project that will require approximately $670 million to complete the road in Horry County, $1.3 billion to reach I-95 and over $2 billion for the total project to the North Carolina border in Marlboro County.

But the drop in the bucket is important to those landowners in Horry County who will benefit from right of way purchases for the road and the engineering and other businesses who will profit from the early design and site work for the project.

The federal and state governments will have to come in with significant money for the road to ever be completed but the local special interests can realize a significant income from the early work that can be paid for if the county contributes. Like always, it’s all about the money.

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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 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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