Post Tagged with: "Johnny Gardner"

Changing Focus on the County Budget Process

December 10, 2018 9:21 AM
Changing Focus on the County Budget Process

Horry County began its budget process for Fiscal Year 2020 with its fall planning retreat November 28th.

This was the beginning of what could prove to be a very interesting budget year.

Incoming council chairman Johnny Gardner pledged on the campaign trail, “Public Safety Priority One Day One” as his approach to the county budget process.

County staff heard a portion of that message. The early budget outline includes an additional approximately eight million dollars for public safety. That addition is based on what staff believes can be used from excess hospitality fee revenues after Ride I bonds are paid off early in 2019.

However, despite a county council resolution to use approximately $18 million from those revenues toward public safety, infrastructure and areas like recreation, staff has held firm to the $8 million it proposed last July.

Additionally, council directed staff to prepare an ordinance amending current county code pertaining to the funds received from what is known as the 1.5% portion of hospitality fee revenue that currently goes to pay off the Ride I bonds. Currently all of that revenue is deposited in a special road fund per county code.

To date, staff has not presented an ordinance amendment to change that designation to include public safety, infrastructure, recreation and the like.

This avoidance of acting on a resolution designating the will of council can only be attributed to at least certain members of county senior staff continuing to desire that all of the Ride I 1.5% money go to I-73, which was initially proposed to council.

Therein lies the basic contradiction in the county budget process – council directs, but staff does what it wants to.

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Flood Relief Monday Benefits Mike Roberts Family

November 18, 2018 6:44 AM
Flood Relief Monday Benefits Mike Roberts Family

Flood Relief Monday at The Warehouse in Conway, November 19th from 11 a.m. til 7 p.m., will benefit the family of Conway native Mike Roberts this week.

The event will be the second in a series of Flood Relief Monday events at The Warehouse established to help local citizens recover from uninsured damage from the recent Hurricane Florence flooding in the county.

Roberts and his family suffered approximately $150,000 in uninsured damages when the flooding from Hurricane Florence brought three feet of water into his riverfront home in Conway.

The family was able to save some possessions from the flooding but the home suffered damage to walls, floors and other areas and furnishings from the floodwaters. With the help of his neighbors and friends, Roberts has begun the lengthy process of tearing out sheetrock and other damaged structural elements and hauling the resulting waste away.

The family plans to restore the home and continue living in their Waccamaw Drive location.

Roberts is a lifelong Conway small business owner and has also been a candidate for political office in Horry County Council District 7. Known as being a spiritual individual, dedicated family man, strong supporter of his local community and ‘Man of his Word’, Roberts has been quick to help others in need through the years.

Monday’s event provides an opportunity for his friends and community to give back to Roberts in his time of need.

Spaghetti plates (eat in or take out) will be sold for $7 from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. with all proceeds from the sales being donated to the benefiting family. In addition, from 5 p.m. til 7 p.m. each Monday, diners will be treated to donated live entertainment with local politicians donating their services as celebrity servers with all of their tips being donated to the benefiting family. Citizens can also make direct contributions to the cause. Corporate sponsors pay $100 each week for their sponsorship with all proceeds going to the family.

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Have Your Vote Counted November 6th

October 28, 2018 8:12 AM
Have Your Vote Counted November 6th

A little over a week remains until the November 6th general election and several thousand absentee ballots have already been cast in Horry County.

Horry County voters began a movement of change in the June Republican primaries for Horry County Council Chairman and S.C. House District 104 by nominating Johnny Gardner and William Bailey respectively.

The same happened in a special July Republican primary for Horry County School Board Chairman with businessman Ken Richardson coming out on top.

All three were successful because they connected with average citizens.

Throughout his campaign Gardner spoke of putting “Public Safety Priority One Day One” and charging fees on new development to help pay for the impact it causes on county goods and services, both issues that resonated with the general populace.

Gardner will look to fully staff all categories of first responders so that citizens will have the protection of persons and property that they expect. This has been an area ignored by county government for too long.

Bailey promised to stop tax hikes and reduce government spending at the state level, end corruption and demand transparency in government and give first responders the tools they need to protect our homes and families.

One of Bailey’s goals will be to bring more tax dollars generated in Horry County back to the residents. Horry County has been a donor county to other areas of the state for years and our current legislative delegation has done little to change the situation.

Richardson described his “passion for education” and his intention to manage the school budget to avoid tax increases.

Richardson will look to change the governance policy of the school district so that the elected Board of Education sets policy with the appointed staff carrying out the board’s policies rather than determining their own.

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Horry County’s Political Schism

July 22, 2018 9:22 AM
Horry County’s Political Schism

One glance at the agenda for Tuesday’s upcoming special meeting and workshop of Horry County Council demonstrates the political schism that exists in local politics.

Council will consider two resolutions that propose advisory referendums on the upcoming November 2018 general election ballot to raise countywide property taxes by 10 mils to fund police, EMS, Sheriff and E911service improvements throughout the county and one to raise property taxes by an additional 9.5 mils in the unincorporated areas of the county to fund fire improvements.

The entire discussion of these two referendums is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to the defeat of incumbent council chairman Mark Lazarus by Johnny Gardner in the June 2018 Republican Primary for the nomination for council chairman.

One of the reasons Gardner won the nomination was his motto of “First Responders First” and his promise to take care of the additional needs of public safety departments in upcoming county budgets. It must be noted, Gardner never proposed tax increases to fund additional personnel and pay raises for first responders. Rather, he proposed prioritizing the needs of public safety during the budget process with current revenues and funds.

Over the last five years, Lazarus and council have basically ignored the increasing needs of public safety. After the voters made themselves heard by voting Lazarus out in June, it is all of a sudden a council priority necessitating a special meeting.

Being advisory rather than binding referendums, the results will mean nothing. The resolutions were first proposed by council member Tyler Servant at the June 19, 2018 regular meeting of council.

Servant said he was a strong fiscal conservative Republican who opposed tax increases, but proposed allowing the voters to make the decision. A true, fiscal conservative would first look to current revenues and funds to meet these needs and consider tax increases only after every other option has been considered and discarded.

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Richardson Rolls To GOP Nomination

July 18, 2018 7:16 AM
Richardson Rolls To GOP Nomination

Ken Richardson was the heavy favorite of voters Tuesday as he captured 71 percent of the vote in the Republican primary special election for Horry County School Board Chairman.

Incumbent school board member Janice Morreale gathered 20 percent of the vote to finish a distant second with former Patricia Milley completing the field at 9 percent.

Richardson will face political newcomer Democrat Heather Johnson in the November general election.

Richardson’s campaign centered on safety in the schools, transparency of board decisions and strict oversight of the school district budget.

The Richardson victory continues a recent trend of incumbents with serious opposition in the primaries falling by the wayside.

Last month challenger Johnny Gardner bested incumbent Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman and William Bailey defeated incumbent Greg Duckworth for the GOP nomination for  SC House District 104. The Richardson victory completed the Trifecta Tuesday night.

What is particularly interesting is all three incumbents had significant help from other incumbents during the primary campaigns.

Lazarus had the endorsement of at least 10 of his 11 fellow county council members as well as endorsements from the coastal mayors and members of the county legislative delegation. State legislators Heather Ammons Crawford and Russell Fry ran the Lazarus campaign.

Duckworth had the active support of fellow legislators Alan Clemmons, Greg Hembree, Fry and Ammons Crawford, as well as North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, contacting voters to push Duckworth reelection.

Morreale, the current school board member for District 5, had a group of her fellow school board incumbents actively contacting voters to push her candidacy.

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County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

July 10, 2018 1:32 PM
County Council’s Phony Tax Referendum

Horry County Council is expected to have a discussion next week about placing an advisory referendum on the November 2018 general election ballot regarding tax increases for public safety.

The issue was proposed by council member Tyler Servant at last month’s council meeting. Acknowledging the main topic of the primary election which cost council chairman Mark Lazarus nomination to another term in office, Servant said he was opposed to raising taxes but believed the voters should have a say on whether they wanted to pay higher taxes to increase public safety services in the county.

Council members Dennis DiSabato and Cam Crawford jumped on the bandwagon, acknowledging a need for more public safety personnel and facilities in the county but saying the voters should make the decision.

The discussion will be a waste of time as an advisory referendum will not solve the problem of funding for public safety needs. Regardless of how the referendum is worded and what percentage of the vote it may receive, an advisory binds the council to no action and, furthermore, does not provide permission from voters to raise taxes above the limits of Act 388.

The proposal for a discussion and resolution vote to place the advisory referendum on the ballot appears to be an attempt to divert the discussion from various alternatives for public safety funding to a possible tax increase.

Republican chairman nominee Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus in the June primary voting, never mentioned raising taxes while he campaigned on increasing public safety personnel numbers and pay throughout the county.

Gardner said the current 20 ½ minutes average elapsed time it takes from when a 911 call is answered until a first responder arrives on the scene is unacceptable. Gardner pledged to make public safety funding priority one in the budget process.

At times, when extra sources of tax dollars become available, public safety staffing is never on the radar of most council members and county staff.

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Election Change Is In the Air

June 24, 2018 9:39 AM
Election Change Is In the Air

(Ed. Note – The picture with this story is of a Facebook Post by Heather Ammons Crawford, which started the entire “Union Thugs” commentary in the closing days of the Lazarus campaign.)

Defeating an incumbent politician used to be a most difficult undertaking in South Carolina politics. Now it’s almost becoming the norm in Horry County.

Two out of three incumbents on the ballot lost in Myrtle Beach last fall. An incumbent fell to a write-in candidate in Surfside Beach earlier this year.

The latest round of primaries on June 12th saw a state legislator and a long-time school board member go down to opposition. Bill Howard was able to just hold off challenger Dean Pappas in the only contested Republican primary that went to an incumbent. The irony of that race is that newly elected Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune came out late for Pappas and her endorsement may have hurt Pappas in the final days because Bethune has quickly sided with what is considered the establishment in Myrtle Beach even though she was a candidate for “change” in the fall.

Challenger William Bailey took out incumbent Greg Duckworth in the Republican primary for S.C. House District 104. Challenger Helen Smith defeated incumbent Pam Timms in the Horry County School Board District 6 Republican primary. Smith is a former school board chairman in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, but probably half of today’s registered voters weren’t living in the county when she last left office so she qualifies as a change candidate.

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County Council Breaks Budget Promise to Treasurer

June 21, 2018 3:32 AM
County Council Breaks Budget Promise to Treasurer

When Horry County Treasurer Angie Jones agreed to drop her lawsuit against Horry County Government last month, there was an unwritten understanding that county council would include funding needs for her department in the budget for the coming fiscal year.

Now that understanding not only remains unwritten, but also remains unpassed.

During its third reading of the Horry County budget for Fiscal Year 2018-19 Tuesday night, council defeated, by a 6-6 vote, an amendment including budget enhancements for the Treasurer’s department. The budget amendment also called for additions in the $40,000 range each for the Clerk of Courts, Veterans Affairs and Voter Registration budgets.

Council member Johnny Vaught introduced the amendment, seconded by council member Harold Worley. Council chairman Mark Lazarus spoke strongly in its favor.

According to discussions of the amendment by council members, Jones identified revenue additions and/or savings in the amount of $123,000 for the coming fiscal year. Her request for budget enhancements would have only cost the county $111,000.

Additionally, one position provided in the enhancements would have gone to collection of the nearly $88 million in unpaid property taxes that are owed to the county.

In other words, the county would have made more money from voting for the enhancements than it saves by not voting for them.

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Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

June 20, 2018 2:03 AM
Johnny Gardner’s Campaign Message Spurs County Council Discussion

One week after defeating incumbent Mark Lazarus for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner’s campaign message is already driving council discussions.

Throughout his campaign Gardner spoke of putting “Public Safety First” and charging fees on new development to help pay for the impact it causes on county goods and services.

During its regular meeting Tuesday night, council approved two resolutions directly tied to those issues.

By an 11-1 margin, council member Tyler Servant opposing, council approved a resolution to encourage the South Carolina General Assembly to amend the current state Impact Fee law to make it more user friendly for local governments struggling to meet the costs associated with new development.

Later in the meeting, Servant introduced a resolution to instruct staff to bring back to council a proposed advisory referendum question to address raising tax millage to fund increased salaries and additional personnel for police and fire/rescue departments as well as an additional police precinct for Carolina Forest.

After discussion, it was agreed to split the issue into two referendum questions, one for police and rescue personnel and another for fire, because of the different ways in which police and rescue personnel are funded in the budget from that used to fund fire personnel.

County Administrator Chris Eldridge was instructed to meet with the the Police and Fire/Rescue chiefs to determine the increased needs in their respective departments to fully meet the county’s public safety requirements.

Council must approve referendum questions by the end of July in order to meet the August 15th deadline to have them included on the November 2018 general election ballot.

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Recount Confirms Gardner Win, Lazarus Concedes

June 17, 2018 7:01 AM
Recount Confirms Gardner Win, Lazarus Concedes

Five days after winning the election for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council Chairman, Johnny Gardner was “recertified” as the winner over incumbent Mark Lazarus by the Horry County Election Commission.

After the S.C. Election Commission approved an audit of the final tally of the votes, the certified result of the election was announced at 11:41 a.m. Saturday June 16, 2018, as Gardner 12,426, Lazarus 12,313, a margin of 113 votes.

The count also included the race for House District 104 where William Bailey received 2,312 votes to 2,295 votes for incumbent House member Greg Duckworth.

Shortly after a mandatory recount confirmed both results, Lazarus called Gardner to concede the election. Gardner said Lazarus was very professional and gracious with his words when he conceded.

Gardner was initially certified as the winner two days ago with an automatic recount scheduled for the next day. When people returned for the recount, they were told that another 209 votes had been found in machines from the Ocean Forest 2 precinct.

This announcement began one and one-half days of confusion, bordering at times on chaos, before the local election commission received approval of an audit of the votes from the state election commission.

During the interval, James Wiles, who told commissioners he was “representing the Lazarus campaign”, gave the members a sheet of paper which he called a “Freedom of Information request” and said the campaign objected to recertification of the results.

“I am prepared to start discovery to see if there should be a protest,” Wiles added.

According to all the information I could find on Wiles, he was suspended by the Pennsylvania Bar Association in 2005 and is not a member of the South Carolina Bar Association. He can certainly act as a private citizen representing himself before the election commission, but what status he had “representing the Lazarus campaign” and “prepared to start discovery” is open to question.

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