Post Tagged with: "infrastructure"

Political Change Does Not Extend to Columbia

June 27, 2018 6:46 AM
Political Change Does Not Extend to Columbia

Governor Henry McMaster and Attorney General Alan Wilson rolled to big victories in Republican Primary runoff elections yesterday meaning there will be no changes to the political power structure in Columbia.

Most of the incumbents in the General Assembly will be returning because they faced no opposition in the primaries or the upcoming November general election.

When voters continue to send the same people back to Columbia election after election, they can’t expect changes in the way state government operates. It is simple to suppose that special interests and lobbyists will continue to control the legislative agenda in Columbia at the expense of the average citizen.

Horry County will continue to be a large donor county to the rest of the state because our legislative delegation is so weak. Roads that should be paid for with state and federal funds will continue to be funded by local option sales taxes. The real estate and development lobby will continue to oppose impact fees satisfied that current citizens will continue to pay for infrastructure costs associated with new development.

One interesting sidebar to yesterday’s runoffs locally was the City of Myrtle Beach removed candidate signs from the areas near polling precincts in the city early in the day. According to several sources who spoke with the workers removing the signs, “the word came from City Hall.”

Whether this was an attempt at voter suppression or just another example of the arrogance that continues to emanate from city officials, it does seem to show complete disregard for the election process.

However, the citizens in Horry County will see some changes at the county level with the election of a new chairman for county government.

No longer will over 20 minute response times to 911 calls be acceptable to council while large pots of tax dollars are accumulated to build Interstate 73 through Marion and Dillon counties to connect to Interstate 95.

No longer will the needs of county departments be ignored because of personal animosities in Conway.

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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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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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Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

May 14, 2018 3:23 AM
Horry County Infrastructure Myths and Facts

Infrastructure, especially roads, is on many minds as campaigning moves to the June 12, 2018 primary elections.

Some questionnaires being sent to candidates for various council seats include one or more questions about infrastructure planning.

Four years ago, Mark Lazarus promised voters he would “Fight for greater investment in new and current roads.”

In some of his early campaign statements this time around, Lazarus has pointed to the Ride III initiative and International Drive as personal successes.

This is misleading.

Council has little to do with the Ride projects. A prioritized list is presented from an independent committee to council on which it votes up or down for the entire list. Council may not make any deletions or additions. If council approves the list, and it always does, the citizens vote on a referendum question whether to adopt a one-cent sales tax to fund the Ride program.

As far as International Drive is concerned, if any current member of council deserves credit for keeping the issue moving toward completion it is Johnny Vaught. It was Vaught’s uncle, retired Lt. Gen. James Vaught, who initially addressed the need for International Drive and continued to push for the project from the early 2000’s until his death in September 2013. I can still hear Vaught addressing council several times on the importance of International Drive always ending with “Get it done.”

After Johnny Vaught was elected to council in November 2014, he picked up where his uncle left off in seeing the project to completion next month.

A recent Facebook video on the Lazarus campaign page touts on to greater infrastructure as it pictures the Farrow Parkway interchange with U.S. 17 Bypass.

This is an unfortunate choice of roads to feature as it depicts one of the more outrageous projects the county has undertaken.

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North Myrtle Beach and Tourism

February 14, 2018 4:15 AM
North Myrtle Beach and Tourism

The beaches and the upcoming Tourism Development Fee referendum in North Myrtle Beach have hit the pages of local media recently.

The beaches must be protected from the potential dangers of offshore drilling and they must be routinely renourished in order to keep tourism viable in the city, according to recent articles.

Many arguments against the TDF were enumerated in a recent op-ed by a North Myrtle Beach resident. Unfortunately, the writer was arguing against the example of how Myrtle Beach has chosen to implement the TDF rather than how it can be positively applied in North Myrtle Beach.

There is no question that tourism is the lifeblood of all the coastal communities along the Grand Strand. In many ways, North Myrtle Beach has set an example that the others should strive to follow.

The business community has done a good job of advertising with its own dollars, promoting the North Myrtle Beach brand as a safe, clean, family friendly location.

The city has added to this effort by providing quality public safety services, stormwater outfalls to keep bacteria levels near the beaches low and other infrastructure that benefits both local citizens and tourists alike.

Properly used, the TDF, if approved, could be used to supplement these private and public efforts to keep the city competitive in the family friendly tourism market.

According to state law, from the second year onward, the TDF revenues can be split 80% for out of area tourism marketing and 20% to the city for property tax relief and/or tourism related public safety, infrastructure and other similar projects. The decision on the split and how the city portion is spent rests solely with the city council.

It was proposed in the above mentioned op-ed that it would be nice to be able to apply all of the revenue from the one percent fee totally to public safety, infrastructure and the like.

In fact, this was attempted by a bill submitted by Sen. Greg Hembree last year (S.426). Called the Municipal Tax Relief Act, this bill proposed a one-cent sales tax on all taxable purchases in the city that would go to city coffers to offset some of the demands on property tax revenues.

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NMB Takes Proper Approach to Tourism Development Fee

February 1, 2018 4:39 AM
NMB Takes Proper Approach to Tourism Development Fee

North Myrtle Beach is to be commended on taking what many consider the proper approach to deciding whether to institute a tourism development fee (TDF) in the city.

City Council decided it was appropriate for the residents of North Myrtle Beach to decide whether a TDF is to be collected. Therefore, a referendum on whether to approve the TDF is scheduled for March 6, 2018 in a stand-alone vote.

The role of the city ends with the decision to hold a referendum. No government body, personnel or equipment may be involved in the campaign, according to state law. Individuals who are government personnel may only support or oppose the referendum question on their own time outside of government facilities and not as part of their official duties.

State Law Sec. 8-13-765 states in part, “No person may use government personnel, equipment, materials, or an office building in an election campaign,” and “This section does not prohibit government personnel, where not otherwise prohibited, from participating in election campaigns on their own time and on nongovernment premises.”

If approved, the TDF is a one percent fee charged on all purchases in the city to which state sales tax applies. Items such as food, rent/mortgage and medicines are exempted.

If approved, 80% of the revenue collected from the fee will be given to a marketing organization, usually the local Chamber of Commerce, to promote tourism from out-of-area locations. The remaining 20% goes to the city for things such as owner-occupied property tax rebates, public safety, parking and other infrastructure or similar types of city expenses.

From statements made recently to media, it appears the city will use the state mandated minimum (4% of the total revenue) to apply to property tax rebates to owner-occupied properties. The remaining 16% of revenues will be used for other city initiatives.

This approach is the best because it shares the benefits of the fee to the largest number of citizens, rather than keeping it for just a small percentage of the population.

A significant portion of the revenue will come directly from tourists and the city’s portion of the revenue can offset some of the costs to the local economy from the tourism industry.

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Impact Fees Wrong Solution for Horry County Council

December 3, 2017 5:27 AM
Impact Fees Wrong Solution for Horry County Council

An old issue has again surfaced as Horry County Council is reportedly looking at ways to change the state impact fee law to help pay for the costs of development.

Twelve to twenty or so years ago this was a recurring issue council routinely discussed until it became apparent nothing would change in Columbia.

That discussion was interrupted by the collapse of the mortgage market and resulting depression which began in 2008 and which, now, the housing market appears to be finally recovering from.

The current impact fee law was effectively written to ensure impact fees would not be levied in Horry County. A primary sponsor on that piece of legislation was Horry County’s own Sen. Luke Rankin.

The builders, real estate agents and their attorneys do not want impact fees in Horry County and their lobby in Columbia has been strong enough, to date, to stop them.

New construction creates increased costs to provide local government infrastructure and services. Impact fees theoretically have those costs initially paid for by the new residents. Without impact fees, those costs are spread among all residents throughout the county.

Further limiting the ability of local government to meet the costs of providing new, as well as maintaining existing, infrastructure and services is the infamous Act 388 of 2006, which was vigorously supported by our county legislative delegation.

Much of the blame for any shortage of police officers, fire and emergency services, roads and other infrastructure lies directly at the feet of those we have been sending to Columbia over the years.

However, by looking to effect changes in the impact fee law, Horry County Council is also being shortsighted.

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Our State Legislators and Tax Increases

December 7, 2016 4:41 AM
Our State Legislators and Tax Increases

Horry & Georgetown Republican elected state legislators are behaving more like Chicken Little than responsible problem solvers.

We may be a Red State, but our Horry & Georgetown elected Republican state legislators still act like tax and spend Democrats. This is somewhat surprising after the message that was just sent to the “ruling class” during this past general election. Donald Trump received more primary votes than just about every Republican candidate running prior to his bid for the presidency. The populace is definitely tired of tax and spend Republicans and the establishment Republican Party. Evidently our local elected Republicans did not get the message.

No one would argue against coming up with a plan to fix South Carolina roads as they are in desperate need of repair. However, the current knee jerk reaction (the sky is falling, the sky is falling, raise taxes!), is not the responsible course of action. In manufacturing and other successful business entities, when a problem is identified, the company initiates a formal corrective action process. This process begins by clearly defining the problem and then doing the necessary homework to identify root causes of the problem. Future containment actions and corrective actions stem from the root cause analysis.

Numerous organizations within South Carolina and some responsible Republican office holders have identified the primary root causes to South Carolina’s bad roads. These root causes fall into the following categories:

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Realtors Support Devon Blackwell

June 9, 2016 5:48 AM
Realtors Support Devon Blackwell

Horry County Council District 10 candidate Devon Blackwell secured the support of the Coastal Carolinas Association of Realtors last week.

Each election cycle, CCAR interviews candidates and announces support with a letter and campaign contribution for various local and state candidates.

CCAR chose Devon Blackwell as the candidate it is supporting in the Horry County Council District 10 Republican Primary.

“I am very proud of being chosen by the association of realtors,” Blackwell said.

Blackwell said District 10 is the largest council district in area in Horry County. He understands the needs of different neighborhoods within the district will differ. He said he will be responsive to all his constituents to meet their needs.

Blackwell supports infrastructure improvements, especially roads and drainage, throughout District 10. He also said he supports reviewing the many regulations on small business to make sure the county is not being hindering the opportunities for small businesses to be successful.

Blackwell said his approach to spending public money will be guided by the question “would you spend your own money for this?”

Blackwell’s opponent in the primary is Danny Hardee, a long time businessman in the Mt. Vernon community in District 10, but who appears to have his primary residence at the Floral Lake subdivision in Surfside Beach, which is not in District 10.

Hardee’s campaign touts his service on the now defunct Horry County Airport Advisory Board and Horry County Solid Waste Authority Board.

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Dennis DiSabato Announces for Horry County District 3

March 4, 2016 7:18 AM
Dennis DiSabato Announces for Horry County District 3

Dennis DiSabato announced recently that he is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council District 3.

DiSabato is a 2000 graduate of the State University of New York Binghamton and graduated with a Juris Doctor degree from New York Law School in 2004. He is a member of the bar in New York, New Jersey and South Carolina.

DiSabato moved to Carolina Forest in 2006, currently residing with his wife Laura DiSabato in the Sawgrass East community. He operates a law office on Renee Drive in the Carolina Forest area, focusing on residential and commercial real estate transactions, real estate and commercial litigation and estate planning.

Since moving to Horry County, DiSabato has been active in local issues. He is a founding member of the Carolina Forest Civic Association, serving as that organization’s president from 2010-2012 and 2013-2014.

DiSabato is a graduate of Leadership Grand Strand Class XXIX, a member of the Coastal Carolina Sertoma Club having served as that organization’s president from 2008-2012. He is also a member of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and is a founder and past president of Horry County Citizens for Responsible Government.

DiSabato said infrastructure issues will be one area of focus if he is elected to serve the citizens of District 3.

“Revitalization of the downtown and south end areas of Myrtle Beach to bring jobs and businesses back into that area is important,” DiSabato said. “In the Carolina Forest area, road issues, especially widening of Carolina Forest Boulevard are important needs.”

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