Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce"

The I-73 Rush Is On for County Tax Dollars

November 25, 2018 7:20 AM
The I-73 Rush Is On for County Tax Dollars

The Horry County Council Fall Planning Retreat scheduled for Wednesday November 28, 2018 has an interesting agenda item regarding I-73.

Innocuously called “A Resolution Authorizing the County Administrator to Execute a Funding Participation Agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation”, the agreement would provide DOT with Hospitality Fee revenue in an amount up to $25 million per year for things such as right of way purchases, engineering and construction on the proposed road.

While it is called a funding participation agreement, Section IV B of the agreement specifically states “SCDOT makes no financial commitment pursuant to this agreement.”

In other words, Horry County will be the only governmental agency providing funds for the I-73 project if this agreement is signed. Horry County officials often complain about being a “donor” county to the State Treasury. Yet, in this agreement, they would consent to sending even more county tax revenue to Columbia.

Proponents of this agreement have argued that I-73 is an important road to Horry County and that the Hospitality Fee revenue will only fund right of way purchases, engineering and construction for the Horry County section of the road, which ends in the vicinity of Hwy 917 at the Marion County line.

There is absolutely no economic benefit nor evacuation benefit Horry County citizens will receive from a road that ends in that rural section of Horry County.

Marion and Dillon counties, the other two counties in the Southern Corridor of the proposed I-73 to Interstate 95, are in no position to spend even one dollar of tax revenue toward the project. The only way construction of the road is going to be funded through those counties is with state and federal tax dollars.

Grand Strand Daily has spoken with legislators around the state over the past several months regarding funding for I-73 from Columbia. The only conclusion that can be drawn from these conversations is that the SC General Assembly has no plans to provide funding in the near term future for construction of I-73.

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The MB Chamber Doth Protest Too Much

April 11, 2018 3:39 AM
The MB Chamber Doth Protest Too Much

Watching the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce production Tuesday afternoon with respect to its handling of the tourism development fee public funds reminded me of a stage play.

It was a totally scripted production, billed as a press conference to answer the claims made in Karon Mitchell’s recently filed lawsuit. But, this “press conference” did not take questions from the press.

What kind of press conference does not take questions? One dealing with the TDF lawsuit obviously.

Of course, by taking questions the players could have been tripped up on their carefully crafted scripts, so it was best not to take them.

The scripts reminded me of Queen Gertrude from “Hamlet.” To paraphrase her timeless line, “The Chamber doth protest too much methinks.”

How many times were the words “fake,” “baseless,” “scandalous” and “shocking disregard for the truth” uttered during the respective acts? Too many to be believed, which is exactly the point of Queen Gertrude’s comment.

Even with the scripting, mistakes were made.

Time and again Mitchell was attacked by the various players, but no proof was provided to support those attacking statements, merely words. It was all Mitchell’s statements are false (and worse), We do all these things, believe us.

Board chair Carla Schuessler denied the Chamber was “inextricably intertwined with governmental policy,” as stated in the lawsuit. We covered the Tim McGinnis campaign connection in a previous article.

Once again there was no explanation of the consecutively numbered cashier’s checks totaling $325,000 that were disbursed among local and state politicians in 2009 after the tourism development fee became law and was instituted by Myrtle Beach city government.

More than anything else, it was those campaign contributions that stirred questions about the TDF and the Chamber that remain to this day.

Matt Klugman, Chair of the Marketing Council for MBACC, spoke over and over about a competitive bidding and RFP process that was used to select the services of various businesses, referred to as crony companies in the lawsuit, that were started by former Chamber employees. This is good! Documents related to those processes should make interesting reading when they become exhibits in the lawsuit.

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Efforts to Debunk Karon Mitchell Lawsuit Flawed

April 7, 2018 4:48 AM
Efforts to Debunk Karon Mitchell Lawsuit Flawed

(Ed. Note – Some negative reactions heard locally to the Karon Mitchell lawsuit are like the Chinese fireworks pictured above – loud and colorful but, in the end, just smoke.)

On April 5, 2018 at 3:05 p.m., Karon Mitchell filed a lawsuit against the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC), the City of Myrtle Beach and Horry County alleging misuse of tourism development fee (TDF) and accommodations tax (ATax) public funds.

In response to the lawsuit, MBACC issued a blanket denial of the allegations and at least one local television news outlet in the area attempted to, in its words, “fact check” the allegations.

The MBACC response came in a media statement issued April 6, 2018, by board chair Carla Schuessler:

“Today we had an opportunity to review the lawsuit that was filed against us, and l am disappointed to see that we will have to divert our time and resources to address this case which is full of conjecture, innuendo and inaccurate statements. The Chamber complies with all applicable laws regarding the use of public funds and selects vendors based on best business practices.”

The Chamber statement went on to say it will hold a press conference next week to accurately address the statements in the lawsuit.

The local news outlet broadcast a story April 6, 2018 where it claimed to find discrepancies, between claims in the lawsuit and MBACC public disclosure documents, with respect to public money spent with what are called in the lawsuit “crony companies.” According to the lawsuit, crony companies are companies formed by former and/or current Chamber employees and, in at least one instance, a company owned by a MBACC executive board member.

This appeared to be much ado about nothing as the MBACC public disclosure documents used generic descriptions instead of specific vendor names for some of the expenses listed. If those challenged expense amounts did not go to any of the crony companies, next week’s MBACC press conference can “accurately address” those statements and tell us exactly what company did receive the payments.

Another area addressed in the media story was a statement in the lawsuit that “the chamber funneled tourism tax money through the crony companies to contribute to politicians supported by the chamber.” 

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North Myrtle Beach Tourism Development Fee Crushed in Vote

March 7, 2018 4:06 AM
North Myrtle Beach Tourism Development Fee Crushed in Vote

The possibility of a Tourism Development Fee in North Myrtle Beach suffered a crushing defeat Tuesday at the polls.

The unofficial tally was 188 Yes votes for the TDF against 3,050 No votes. The results will be certified by the North Myrtle Beach Election Commission Thursday.

Defeat of the TDF is not surprising. What is surprising is the turnout. In the days before the election, I spoke with several seasoned political professionals from Horry County to get their predictions for turnout. They all agreed the number of voters that would go to the polls would range from 750-1,000.

Those predictions were based on past turnout for special elections in Horry County and tempered by the fact that candidates were not on the ballot, just a single referendum question.

To put the numbers more in perspective, a special election in March on a referendum question only drew a total of 3,238 votes. The vote for mayor in the November 2017 city general election saw 3,670 total votes with Mayor Marilyn Hatley winning with 2,765 votes out of 3,670 votes cast. In that same election, councilman Terry White ran unopposed and only gained 2,894 votes.

To call the number of votes cast on this referendum question astounding is to understate it. But, it may also prove to be the high-water mark of politics for the current city council.

The result is exactly what, I believe, North Myrtle Beach city council members wanted from the beginning, a resounding repudiation of the TDF in a referendum vote to take that issue out of the political discussion once and for all. Several council members were quite outspoken with op-eds and social media during the campaign about their opposition to the TDF.

In my opinion, a presentation about the TDF by Mike Mahaney at the Tidewater Homeowners Association on February 19, 2018, one that I personally attended, hinted at other, one could say even better, options for the city than the TDF. The entire North Myrtle Beach city council attended the meeting after the city issued a notice three days before that there was no city council meeting February 19th.

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Public Monies, Chambers of Commerce and South Carolina Supreme Court

February 5, 2018 8:03 AM
Public Monies, Chambers of Commerce and South Carolina Supreme Court

It has been nearly four months since the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments in the DomainsNewMedia.com v Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

The question before the court deals with whether the Chamber of Commerce is a public body and subject to the provisions of the S. C. Freedom of Information Act.

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce (MBACC) filed an amicus curiae brief to the S. C. Supreme Court supporting the Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce position.

A Circuit Court judge in Bluffton County ruled in favor of Plaintiff DomainsNewMedia.com finding the Chamber is a public body within the definition of the law.

Actually, the law is quite straightforward. Section 30-4-20 of the S. C. Code of Laws defines a public body subject to the Freedom of Information Act as, “…any organization, corporation, or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds or expending public funds…”

The Hilton Head – Bluffton Chamber of Commerce receives accommodations tax money from the towns of Hilton Head and Bluffton as well as Beaufort County. The Chamber is the designated marketing organization for these governmental entities to expend the tax funds collected for tourism promotion.

The Chamber claimed before the Court that being the designated marketing organization for those public agencies did not negate its status as a private non-profit corporation not subject to FOIA.

The Chamber does provide a marketing budget and quarterly and year end reports for the public money to the governments involved.

In answer to a question from Justice Few about how a member of the public could find out specific information about the line items in the Chamber’s budget, the attorney for the Chamber suggested they would have to file a FOIA request with the town, who would then go to the Chamber for the specific information.

The argument was not that the public did not have a right to the information, it just didn’t have the right to request the information directly from the agency expending the funds, which is ridiculous.

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Fake News Dominates Close of Myrtle Beach Election Campaign

November 5, 2017 5:19 AM
Fake News Dominates Close of Myrtle Beach Election Campaign

For a man who has screamed “fake news” at media he doesn’t like, John Rhodes, his campaign and the fake organizations supporting him and the other incumbents are certainly filled with fake news as the end nears.

That’s no real surprise. Hypocrisy is always a mainstay in South Carolina politics.

We have a fake organization, “South Carolina  Industry Project”, sending out mailers supporting the tourism development fee (TDF.)

I suppose Citizens for Conservative Values, active in the 2013 and 2015 campaigns, outlived its usefulness after its recent mailings in support of Tim McGinnis considering all the verbal acrobatics (fake news) McGinnis went through to distance himself from knowledge of them.

One of those mailers asks “What do Geico, Go Daddy and Myrtle Beach have in common?”

I would say nothing.

Geico and Go Daddy are private corporations, Myrtle Beach is a public incorporated city. Geico and Go Daddy use earned revenue to advertise their products and services to potential buyers.

Myrtle Beach uses public tax dollars from a specially created sales tax to fund advertising for some member businesses of the Myrtle Beach Area of Commerce so those businesses do not have to spend revenue on advertising.

Geico and Go Daddy are businesses spending advertising dollars in the exercise of free market capitalism. Myrtle Beach gives the Chamber public dollars to use for advertising in a form of corporate welfare.

That’s what happens when you have a plutocracy rather than a democracy as your form of government!

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Mayor John Rhodes Hits New Low in Political Blame Game

October 30, 2017 4:10 AM
Mayor John Rhodes Hits New Low in Political Blame Game

Politics reached a new low in the current Myrtle Beach election campaign when Mayor John Rhodes trashed the firefighter who shot the video of the Father’s Day shooting on Ocean Boulevard during a recent mayoral candidate debate.

There is no doubt the mayor, city council members and the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce panicked when video of that shooting went viral on Facebook. It illuminated Myrtle Beach’s dirty little secret that crime is on the rise in the city for all of America to see.

The Father’s Day shooting was not an isolated incident, regardless of how much city leaders would like you to believe otherwise.

During this campaign, Rhodes has blamed “fake news” for giving the city a bad image on social media, thereby, potentially hurting tourism.

But, Rhodes really sank deep in the mud when he defamed the man who took the video from a hotel room on Ocean Boulevard.

“The gentleman who took the film was a fireman that was here on a firemen’s convention,” Rhodes said during the debate. “He was a sworn officer that was supposed to respond to people in trouble and injured. He was so busy taking the film that he never did what his job called for him to do and that was to respond to injured people on the boulevard.”

Here’s how clueless Rhodes is:

It is nationwide policy that emergency personnel WILL NOT enter an active shooter scene until the scene is cleared and secured by law enforcement personnel.

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Big Money vs Citizens in District 56 Election – Big Money Wins (Updated)

October 23, 2017 4:10 AM
Big Money vs Citizens in District 56 Election – Big Money Wins (Updated)

The special election for SC House District 56 has come down to a contest between a big money candidate on one side and a candidate for the citizens on the other.

I am calling this a two man race between the citizens’ choice Dwyer Scott and the big money choice of Tim McGinnis. With all due respect to third candidate Adam Miller, who will make a fine candidate in the future, he got caught in a vise in this election.

Scott has been endorsed by the Coastal Carolina Young Republican Club, the steering committee of the Make Myrtle Beaches Free, Clean and Safe (a group with 8,351 citizen members according to its Facebook page) and former Horry County Council candidate Ethan Leyshon.

McGinnis has been endorsed by the Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors (many of whom belong to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce), the S.C. Education Association and the Carolina Forest Republican Club. The Carolina Forest Republican Club was disbanded in 2015 with no record of it officially being started up again.

The McGinnis campaign website advertised a meet and greet at McGinnis’ Carolina Forest restaurant with U.S. Rep. Tom Rice and McGinnis. In an email exchange with Scott, Rice said he was supporting McGinnis.

However, the elephant in the room, one that McGinnis has attempted to disclaim all knowledge of is the group paying for his television ads, radio ads, most of his direct mail and possibly some of his signs. That group is the Citizens for Conservative Values (CCV), a political action committee (PAC) registered with the IRS as a non-profit 527 committee.

When I asked McGinnis about CCV and the ads, he claimed to have no knowledge of CCV or the ads and said he hadn’t even seen them. He repeatedly made the same claim to various media and other groups when asked about the ads. As Shakespeare would put it, “Methinks he doth protest too much.”

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An Open Letter to the Citizens of House District 56

October 22, 2017 5:03 AM
An Open Letter to the Citizens of House District 56

I would like to thank any media and individuals who have chosen to post this letter to allow it to be read by the citizens of House District 56.

When I first decided to run for political office, many of my friends and coworkers questioned my sanity wondering why I wanted to get into such a corrupt, dirty business.

I told them because I believed District 56 needed someone who cared about fixing the crime and road problems in the district and who wouldn’t let the needs of District 56 be ignored anymore.

I said I may not win, but I was not going to be outworked. I was determined to meet and really talk to as many citizens as possible to hear their comments and complaints.

Going door to door in a political campaign allows you to meet many people who you otherwise may never meet in everyday life. I want to say it has been a privilege to meet many fine citizens in District 56 who care about their homes, neighborhood and quality of life as much as I do.

What I didn’t anticipate, as a novice candidate, is the extent to which big money and special interests were willing to go to influence the outcome of the race. That money is effectively paying for the campaign of one of my opponents, not by contributing directly to him, rather by paying for television and radio ads and direct mail pieces encouraging people to vote for him.

Regardless of how my opponent has attempted to claim ignorance of what is going on and to distance himself from the ads, the Myrtle Beach Chamber and its associates can be tied directly to his campaign.

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The Ongoing Saga of Television Ads for Tim McGinnis – Updated

October 19, 2017 11:35 AM
The Ongoing Saga of Television Ads for Tim McGinnis – Updated

Grand Strand Daily has published two articles regarding the television ad buy for Tim McGinnis in the S.C. House District 56 Republican Primary.

The second article was reprinted by myrtlebeachsc.com with credit to Grand Strand Daily.

As a result of these articles, Jackie Miller of Miller Direct Media, the business that makes considerable ad buys for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and who made the ad buy for the McGinnis ads, sent an email to Brad Dean, President and CEO of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and Billy Huggins, Station Manager at WPDE television on whose station the ads were broadcast.

According to Miller, she sent the email in response to misleading information circulating regarding the Tim McGinnis ads. The email was forwarded with an introductory comment by Brad Dean to John Bonsignor, co-host of Talking Politics. Bonsignor forwarded the email to Grand Strand Daily.

The rebuttal email with introductory comments by Bonsignor (1st para) and Dean:

“The Grand Strand Daily news article squabble relative to paid campaign ads in House Dist 56… I have received a rebuttal to Paul Gable’s article that I want to share with you… It is from Brad Dean”

“Thanks for acknowledging there are always two sides to the story.  And, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story (per an email from Jackie Miller, who placed the ad): Brad D”

From: Jackie Miller
Date: October 17, 2017 at 4:14:37 PM CDT
To: ‘Brad Dean’ , ‘William Huggins’
Cc: ‘Blaine Holland’
Subject: Response

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