Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach City Council"

Myrtle Beach City Council Hears Frustrations and Possible Solutions to Recent Violence

June 21, 2017 8:55 AM
Myrtle Beach City Council Hears Frustrations and Possible Solutions to Recent Violence

Myrtle Beach City Council hosted a raucous special meeting Tuesday with home and business owners voicing their outrage at recent shooting incidents on Ocean Boulevard and in other parts of the city.

It was a good move by city council, allowing the meeting to act as a pressure valve relieving some of the pent up frustration felt by citizens by having it voiced directly to council and city staff in a public forum.

That frustration ran from blaming city officials for ignoring the city’s problems and threatening defeat of the four incumbent council members up for reelection in November to calling for martial law to be declared in the city.

Many of the comments were rough and pointed, one citizen even asking John Rhodes if he would immediately resign as mayor. However, council took the criticism stoically because solutions are more important at this point than verbal jousting contests.

While many of the comments fell short of suggesting solutions for the violence problems in the city, several were on point.

Several citizens suggested using money from the one cent local option ‘tourism development fee’ (ad tax) to fund more police officers.

Former Mayor Mark McBride was most forceful in this line of thinking noting that the city’s police force had not expanded since he left office at the end of 2005.

To be fair, the city has installed over 800 cameras that are constantly monitored to help with public safety response and were very helpful during this past weekend’s incidents.

McBride called for 50 percent, approximately $10 million, to be redirected from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s out of area advertising to funding additional police officers as well as providing raises for current officers.

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City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

March 30, 2017 3:39 PM
City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

The City of Myrtle Beach holds a potential nuclear option that could blow up the current parking fee debate between the city and Horry County into a much bigger and more explosive issue.

Nuclear options in political discussion come in various categories. One we hear about often is a threatened change in U.S. Senate rules that could effectively prohibit filibusters.

However, the nuclear option that Myrtle Beach appears to hold could change taxation for many residents within the county, both inside and outside the city limits.

A little background:

The city and county have been at odds over parking fees and areas they are charged in Myrtle Beach city limits.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has addressed city council on several occasions attempting to reach some type of compromise that would allow county residents to pay $100 per year for a parking decal that would allow county residents to park at all city owned paid parking locations.

To date, the city has been reluctant to adopt Lazarus’ plan.

Personally, I don’t believe any of the city’s parking fees are justified, especially because they go to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, a notoriously underperforming enterprise.

In response to the city’s reticence, county council voted last week to not include $200,000 for the city’s planned museum/library complex and $30,000 specifically for Chapin Memorial Library in the county budget. The city requested both amounts.

At Tuesday’s Myrtle Beach City Council meeting, council member Mary Jeffcoat requested city staff to prepare a review of the amount of property tax revenue city residents pay to the county and what services city residents receive as a result of those taxes.

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RIDE III and Horry County Voters

October 27, 2016 6:18 AM
RIDE III and Horry County Voters

Horry County voters will be asked to tax themselves for another seven years for what is known as RIDE III.

The referendum question will ask voters to approve an additional one-cent sales tax for seven years with the proceeds going to road projects.

When the Capital Projects Sales Tax legislation was initially approved by the SC General Assembly over 20 years ago, its goal was to provide a funding mechanism for the Conway Bypass Project, or what we now call S.C. 22.

A one-cent additional sales tax levied for seven years to pay for the county’s portion of the cost of construction of S.C. 22 wasn’t a bad idea. The projects now proposed are in the “nice to have”, instead of a justifiable “must have”, category.

But, a tax once levied is a difficult thing to do away with and creative ways were found to extend this taxing ability to other jurisdictions.

Since the initial RIDE I project constructed S.C. 22, politicians have found (manufactured?) justifications to ask voters to make this a recurring tax in Horry County.

The politicians found this was such an easy sale to the voters that RIDE II was added in 2006, a one-cent sales tax for school construction was added in 2008 and the one-cent sales tax for tourism advertising was added in Myrtle Beach in 2009.

Of course, the tourism tax was never subjected to a referendum by voters because that would probably have failed at the ballot box. Instead, our local legislative delegation and Myrtle Beach City Council conspired to have that tax approved by a super majority vote of city council.

In my opinion, we have reached the point where one-cent local option sales taxes are out of control in Horry County.

This is especially true in the case of the tourism tax where citizens are forced to pay increased taxes in order to reduce the marketing budgets of Myrtle Beach hoteliers and golf course owners.

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Parking Fees Discussed by City/County Council Members

September 30, 2016 6:28 AM
Parking Fees Discussed by City/County Council Members

The parking fee issue in Myrtle Beach seems to get a little more convoluted each week.

Earlier this week, a group called the Beach Coalition held a meeting at Longbeard’s in Carolina Forest to discuss issues surrounding the parking fees.

Attending the meeting were county council chairman Mark Lazarus and council members Bill Howard, Jimmy Washington and Johnny Vaught. Randal Wallace from Myrtle Beach City Council was also in attendance.

Members of the coalition group are unhappy with the rather cavalier manner in which Myrtle Beach city council treats issues such as parking fees.

With regard to the fee itself, Lazarus said there is going to be a parking fee for county residents when they park in beach access areas.

Additionally, Lazarus said the fee has to be reasonable for everybody and nobody is going to pay $300 (for a parking decal). The $300 figure was thrown out by Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes at a recent forum held with citizens.

Lazarus said the city and county would establish a “steering committee” to address the issue.

Wallace said something had to be done about parking in beach access in the Golden Mile and surrounding areas. He seemed to blame the fee on litter finding its way to the properties of Golden Mile residents.

Wallace said maybe the $10 per day parking fee now being charged to non-city residents wasn’t the best answer to the problem. He said he was sure city council wants to work with county council to address the parking fee issue.

Wallace admitted to the crowd that all parking fees collected in the city go to the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation. For many years, the DRC has accomplished little in the way of redevelopment and virtually none in the city’s historic downtown in the area of City Hall, Five Points and adjacent areas.

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Myrtle Beach Parking Fee Lawsuit Pondered

August 11, 2016 5:46 AM
Myrtle Beach Parking Fee Lawsuit Pondered

A lawsuit against the City of Myrtle Beach for its paid parking areas along the oceanfront is being considered by property owners.

The basis of the lawsuit would be city violations of deed restrictions and covenants included in property transfers years ago.

Deeds from 1940 and 1968 in which Myrtle Beach Farms gave oceanfront property to the city include restrictions against commercial activity on the deeded property.

In the intervening years, some of that property has been converted to street ends and beach access on which the city now charges visitors to park.

According to a real estate attorney with considerable experience in the county, the deed restrictions do not go away on the portions of the property converted to public thoroughfares.

The deeds restrictions prohibit commercial activity by any “person, private corporation, municipal corporation or agency or instrumentality of government.” The land is specifically designated to be kept as a public park or common.

The city appears to violate these restrictions in several ways. The parking fees and fines are collected and disbursed by a private corporation contracted by city government. The city’s portion of the revenue goes to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, an agency created by the city.

The DRC is its own challenged organization, having accomplished little in the way of redevelopment and virtually none in the city’s historic downtown in the area of City Hall, Five Points and adjacent areas.

The DRC has set its sights on the oceanfront and rumored major new development projects that would first require the squeezing out of small business owners currently operating along sections of Ocean Boulevard.

Many have speculated that the parking fees in question will help squeeze out small business owners by limiting tourist traffic to their businesses.

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General Assembly Extends Tourism Tax

June 3, 2016 5:21 AM
Travis Bell Photographers

The SC General Assembly extended the tourism tax enabling legislation allowing for the extension of the tax on local residents and visitors through 2029.

Both the SC House and SC Senate overwhelmingly overrode the veto of Gov. Nikki Haley on House Bill 5011 making the extension of the tourism tax a virtual guarantee.

The very best part of the tax extension, for the business interests that want it, is that once again the tax can be imposed by a supermajority vote of Myrtle Beach City Council and the citizens will have no say in the process.

There is a provision in the bill that allows for a voter referendum on the question of extending the tax, instead of a vote by city council, but that’s merely window dressing. Myrtle Beach City Council doesn’t let those kinds of decisions go to the voters and it doesn’t say no to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber will be guaranteed hundreds of millions more public tax dollars to use in “out-of-area” marketing. I wonder how much of that is being used in China?

The hotel and golf course owners who control the Chamber board get to keep marketing dollars in their pocket while transferring those expenses to the taxpayer.

And we can hear 10 more years of “Oh yeah, it’s working” ads.

You have to give credit where it is due. This extension was slickly handled and was really never in doubt. So far, there have not even been whispers of how many, if any, sequentially numbered cashier’s checks, from those “like minded” individuals, were needed this time around to get the job done.

We are told free market capitalism is a wonderful thing. Maybe we can even experience it in Myrtle Beach, Horry County and South Carolina someday.

Until then, all those “anti-tax Republicans” we supposedly send to Columbia can continue to forget their campaign promises while continuing to practice crony capitalism and corporate welfare with our tax dollars.

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Myrtle Beach Tourism Tax Renewal Hits Bump

May 21, 2016 6:41 PM
Myrtle Beach Tourism Tax Renewal Hits Bump

The effort to renew state legislation that allows the Myrtle Beach tourism tax hit a bump this week in the SC House Ways and Means Committee.

The bill, S1122, originally introduced in the SC Senate in February 2016 by local senators Greg Hembree, Ray Cleary and Luke Rankin breezed through the Senate without a single no vote.

The SC House reported the bill out of the Ways and Means Committee with an important amendment that could have an interesting overall impact on whether the current one-cent local sales tax for tourism promotion gets renewed.

The Ways and Means Committee struck the provision that the tourism tax could be renewed (reimposed) by “an ordinance adopted by a supermajority of the municipal council which must be at least two-thirds of the members of the municipal council.”

The only provision remaining in the bill for reimposition of the tax is the “approval of a majority of qualified electors voting in a referendum held pursuant to this section called by a majority of the members of the municipal council.”

Myrtle Beach City Council imposed the tax on the general public in 2009 with a supermajority vote of council. The tax was never put before the voters in a referendum, allegedly for fear it would not pass.

If the amended bill successfully passes vote of the full House, it will be interesting to see if the elimination of the supermajority option to renew the bill withstands conference committee.

When it was first passed through an ordinance approved by a supermajority vote of Myrtle Beach City Council in 2009, the local option tourism development fee became the first and only local option sales tax (that’s what it is) to be enacted in the history of the state without a referendum vote of approval.

The result of the tax is the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce receives over $20 million public tax dollars each year to spend on out of area tourism advertising.

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It’s Tax Time Again

April 24, 2016 11:10 AM
It’s Tax Time Again

Spring means many things, but to local governments it means tax time, or consideration of whether to raise taxes or not.

One year after Horry County Council passed the largest tax increase in county history, the cities of Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach are looking to follow suit.

Both city councils are considering a property tax increase and increases in other fees that could significantly impact citizens and businesses.

To be fair, some of the reasons for the tax increase can be directly attributed to the General Assembly. This can be thought of as an indirect tax on citizens from Columbia.

Two areas come to mind quickly, the refusal of the General Assembly to fully fund the Local Government Fund and the need to make up billions of dollars of shortfall in the public pension funds.

The Local Government Fund is a return of state taxes, which is supposed to reimburse local governments for expenditures on state mandated agencies included in local budgets. The General Assembly, however, prefers to pass annual exemptions in order to underfund this return of tax dollars to local communities.

In this way, the General Assembly can appear to be holding the line on taxes while blaming the local governments for tax increases. Never mind that the state laws requiring these agencies came from the same body that refuses to live up to its mandated level to fund them.

The General Assembly is looking to increase the percentage local governments must contribute, per employee, for all employees included in the various state pension plans. This increase would take the local agency contributions from the current 8.16% of an employee’s annual salary to 11.5% of that salary.

I would submit the increase is needed because the General Assembly has refused to perform its fiduciary oversight responsibilities of the SC Retirement System Investment Commission.

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Candidate Forum Today

October 27, 2015 8:00 AM
Candidate Forum Today

A candidate forum for both Horry County Council District 3 and the Myrtle Beach City Council candidates will be held today at the Canal Street Recreation Center.

This will provide a double opportunity for those living on the South end of Myrtle Beach to see and hear the candidates they will be voting for next week.

First round voting for the special election to fill the unexpired term of former council member Marion Foxworth in the county District 3 and the general election for Myrtle Beach city council will be held Tuesday November 3rd.

The forum for the county council candidates will begin at 5 p.m. It will run approximately one and one-half hours. A 15 minute break will occur between the two forums with the city council forum scheduled to start at 6:45 p.m.

Each forum will include opening and closing statements by the candidates and questioning of the candidates on important issues facing local government. The public will have the opportunity to participate in the forums by submitting questions, of particular concern to them, to the forum moderators.

Between the two forums, two appreciation of service awards will be presented.

Former Horry County Council member for District 3 Marion Foxworth will be one recipient. Foxworth resigned from office in August to accept the job as Horry County Registrar of Deeds.

Retiring city council member Susan Grissom Means will be the other recipient of an appreciation of service award.

This forum is being held as the campaigns accelerate into high gear for the final week of electioneering.

South Carolina is known for its hardball (many would call it dirty) politics. One only has to go back to the 2000 smear campaign waged against presidential candidate John McCain in South Carolina.

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Irony of Myrtle Beach City Council Seismic Testing Vote – Update

August 11, 2015 5:00 AM
Irony of Myrtle Beach City Council Seismic Testing Vote – Update

When the Myrtle Beach City Council votes on seismic testing in the Atlantic Ocean later today, the result will mean nothing.

The resolution opposing seismic testing will be a statement of the sense of council, if it passes. However, local governments are not part of the decision process.

Local media reports speculate Myrtle Beach City Council is split 4-3 with Mayor John Rhodes, and council members Wayne Gray, Susan Grissom Means and Mike Chestnut opposing seismic testing while council members Randal Wallace, Phil Render and Mike Lowder reportedly support it.

But, it really doesn’t make any difference what Myrtle Beach City Council does.

SCDHEC determines consistency of permit requests with coastal zone management practices. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issues the permits.

Seismic testing uses loud blasts of sound from airguns to gather data about what oil reserves might be under the ocean floor.

The hoped for result is that seismic testing will prove oil reserves of sufficient size to justify recovery are present under the ocean floor. Those supporting testing see this result as an economic boom for the state.

Opponents of seismic testing, and later drilling, point to the potential harm to sea mammals and the ever present possibility of another Deepwater Horizon oil blowout that devastated the Gulf Coast in April 2010.

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