Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach"

The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

June 7, 2020 11:21 AM
The Incumbent Campaign of Misinformation and Desperation

Misinformation and desperation are seeping into incumbent campaigns as we move toward primary voting Tuesday.

We have seen the SCGOP ignore campaign finance and ethics regulations to send numerous mailers supporting the reelection of Alan Clemmons and Heather Crawford.

Why would the SCGOP feel the need to insert itself into the contests between Republican candidates?

Obviously the party leaders in Columbia are afraid of losing two representatives who will do exactly what they are told to do.

Doing what they are told to do in Columbia doesn’t help the constituents Clemmons and Crawford are supposed to serve in Horry County. That’s why the panic.

In the past several days Clemmons and Luke Rankin have posted individual pictures of themselves with President Trump. Those were photo ops taken when the president was in Horry County during the Hurricane Florence flooding.

Both reportedly talked up the Interstate 73 project to the president during that trip. If Clemmons and Rankin are as close to President Trump as they would like you to believe, where are the federal dollars to build the interstate?

In similar fashion, one of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford and Clemmons touted an endorsement of them by the governor. Again, if they are so close to the governor and the legislative leaders in Columbia, for that matter, where are the state dollars to build I-73?

Clemmons has consistently stated I-73 is his number one priority as a legislator. Yet, year after year, no money comes from the state for the project.

Meanwhile Clemmons represents a declining Myrtle Beach that he appears to ignore as the number of empty commercial buildings in the city continues to rise every year.

One of the SCGOP mailers for Crawford attempted to present her as ‘working hard’ to solve the flooding problems in her district. She has done nothing other than clean out some ditches to help the citizens devastated by repeated flooding events since 2016 nor to mitigate future flooding. Again, no state grants have been forthcoming to help these needed initiatives.

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The Enigma Surrounding Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment

February 10, 2020 8:53 AM
The Enigma Surrounding Myrtle Beach Downtown Redevelopment

The attached Instagram Post by newly elected Myrtle Beach City Council member John Krajc provides interesting insight into why there appears to be much mystery surrounding the city’s new downtown redevelopment plan.

Last month, a local television station questioned city residents if they had heard of the downtown redevelopment plan. All but one said they had not heard of it and the one who responded positively said she heard something briefly on the news but wasn’t aware of the details.

City council recently passed first reading of an ordinance that creates ‘floating zoning’ from 29th Avenue North to 17th Avenue South east of Kings Highway. Floating zoning essentially means spot zoning, which is prohibited by state ordinance.

Now we have the post during a recent meeting termed ‘the start of Downtown Implementation’ by a new city council member who claims to have been on the ‘inside’ of planning for four years and is soliciting people who are looking for ‘investment opportunities’.

State ethics law prohibits public officeholders from personally profiting from their public position. Does the solicitation of investors for properties in the downtown redevelopment area cross that line?

What is generally known publicly about the downtown redevelopment plan is best termed by a 1939 Winston Churchill quote about the Soviet Union. It is a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma but perhaps there is a key.” That key appears to be self interest on the part of a few.

Over the past several months, I have had discussions with Myrtle Beach business owner Tuvia Wilkes on the television show “Talking Politics” about the mysteries surrounding downtown redevelopment in Myrtle Beach.

Generally the discussion has focused on how a few insiders seem to have the details of what planning truly exists while the rest of the business community and residents are kept in the dark.

There are approximately 131 empty storefronts in the city. From information provided to GSD, none of the property owners of those buildings have been approached about redevelopment plans or participation.

Wilkes and a partner personally tendered a bid on one property the city owned in the so-called ‘Superblock’. Wilkes’ bid was 25% higher than the property was sold for. It was only by chance that Wilkes even heard the property was for sale.

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Myrtle Beach Council Back at Work But No Hospitality Fee Settlement

January 28, 2020 8:28 AM
Myrtle Beach Council Back at Work But No Hospitality Fee Settlement

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune announced that the city council is ‘back at work’ at the first council meeting of the New Year earlier this month.

Unfortunately, the New Year did not appear to bring any changes to city government.

Myrtle Beach and Horry County governments each issued statements yesterday acknowledging unsuccessful mediation attempts with regard to the hospitality fee lawsuit with both saying litigation of the lawsuit will move forward.

Among the issues at odds was specific wording Myrtle Beach wanted included in the agreement that would allow its attorneys to be paid up to as much as $7 million from the approximate $19 million fund from hospitality fees collected in city jurisdictions between February 2019 and the end of June 2019.

The county has specifically rejected the concept of allowing attorneys to be paid a percentage of the fund commensurate with a class action settlement especially since attorney fees are not a valid use of hospitality fee revenues.

Another point of contention is a footnote by attorneys representing the city that they intend to file a motion seeking a ruling to end collection of the hospitality fee within the entirety of Horry County.

What that footnote does is end any hope that some sort of settlement would provide funding for the Interstate 73 project.

If Myrtle Beach actually wanted to participate in funding for I-73, it would have accepted the county’s public offer from April 2019, which provided essentially the same split of hospitality fees that is now on the table.

However, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune was quite specific in her rejection letter of the county’s offer last spring. In it, Bethune stated that the city’s position that collection of hospitality fees by the county within city limits is unlawful. Myrtle Beach has not shifted from that position.

Since hospitality fee revenue was the source for funding I-73, Myrtle Beach did not want any of the revenue collected within its limits to be used for the project. The city stated several times over the last 10 months that it supports the building of I-73 but it failed to put its money where its mouth is.

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State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

January 20, 2020 3:55 AM
State Legislation Would Not Solve Lawsuit or I-73 Funding

A bill being sponsored by four local state representatives is erroneously being promoted as legislation that would settle a lawsuit between Myrtle Beach and Horry County and provide funding for Interstate 73.

Nowhere in the original complaint or subsequent motions of that lawsuit, filed March 2019, is Interstate 73 mentioned.

The legislation, H4745, sponsored by Reps. Alan Clemmons, Russell Fry, Heather Ammons Crawford and Tim McGinnis would provide the extension of what is called a countywide ‘legacy hospitality fee’ as long the revenue derived from the countywide portion is used specifically to fund an interstate highway project.

When Myrtle Beach filed the original complaint last March, it specifically sought end collection of a 1.5% countywide hospitality fee within its corporate limits. Immediately after filing the lawsuit, Myrtle Beach city council passed new accommodations and hospitality fee taxes, allowed by current state law, to capture revenue from those levies for use on projects of council’s discretion within the city limits.

North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach quickly followed Myrtle Beach’s lead in passing new accommodations and hospitality taxes within their respective jurisdictions.

The day Myrtle Beach filed its lawsuit seeking to stop collection of the countywide hospitality fee, countywide funding for I-73 was dead.

A section of the original complaint filed by Myrtle Beach claims the 1.5% countywide hospitality fee, established by a 1996 county ordinance, was illegally extended by county council when a sunset provision was removed from the ordinance in April 2017.

County council voted to remove the sunset provision at the urging of then county chairman Mark Lazarus. It was Lazarus who introduced I-73 into the discussion by mentioning the I-73 project as one of the possible future uses of hospitality fee revenue.

A current proposed settlement for the lawsuit ends any authority of the county to continue countywide collection of the 1.5% hospitality fee and allows all the cities within the county to collect and use the revenue from their newly passed hospitality and accommodations taxes as their respective councils determine within their respective jurisdictions.

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Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Sealed Fate of Local I-73 Funding

December 26, 2019 7:24 AM
Myrtle Beach Lawsuit Sealed Fate of Local I-73 Funding

The day the City of Myrtle Beach filed suit against Horry County to end collection of the countywide hospitality fee, local funding for Interstate 73 was doomed.

This may not have been the intention of the lawsuit, but it was the inevitable result.

When Gov. Henry McMaster met with local leaders a couple of months ago encouraging them to find a way to maintain I-73 funding, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune told the governor the lawsuit was not about I-73.

She was right. The lawsuit was about stopping the county’s ability to keep collecting the countywide hospitality fee and keeping all revenue collected in the city for the city’s use.

What Bethune did not understand was stopping the countywide hospitality fee collection stopped the funding stream for I-73 as an unintended consequence. Myrtle Beach must take sole blame for this consequence.

A county resolution to settle the lawsuit last April provided one-third of the countywide hospitality fee revenue would go toward funding I-73. Bethune and the city rejected the offer immediately.

Horry County Council approved removing a sunset provision from its hospitality fee ordinance in May 2017. The intent at that time, as clearly stated by then council chairman Mark Lazarus, was to use the countywide hospitality fee revenue to fund I-73 construction in Horry County.

However, it wasn’t until February 2019 that RIDE I bonds were paid off (the original purpose of the hospitality fee). Myrtle Beach filed suit just a few weeks after claiming the fee collection by the county has been illegal since January 1, 2017.

The original county ordinance put a period of 20 years on collection of the fee, which ended on the above date. The ordinance was later amended to continue collections until RIDE I bonds were completely paid off.

It is clear from the initial complaint filed by Myrtle Beach that the city wants to keep all hospitality fee revenues collected within the city limits for uses determined by city council. One must wonder why the city waited until March 2019 to file suit against the county if the fee has indeed been illegal since January 2017 as the city claims.

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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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Runoff Elections Tuesday Will Finalize Municipal Council Seats

November 17, 2019 7:24 AM
Runoff Elections Tuesday Will Finalize Municipal Council Seats

Voters will go to the polls Tuesday to decide runoff elections to finalize who will represent them on municipal councils in Conway, Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach.

The Conway runoff is between newcomer Justin Jordan and on again, off again former council member Randy Alford.

Jordan became interested in public service after founding Conway Cares, a group that helped citizens during the flooding from Hurricane Florence. He said the experience helped open his eyes to greater service to the citizens of his native city. He believes it’s time to bring some new thinking to council to preserve the Conway he grew up in for future generations and to be open minded and a voice of reason for all citizens in the city. It is believed Jordan would work well with newly elected council member Alex Hyman to bring a new dynamic to council.

Alford previously served on council but was defeated for reelection just two years ago.

The Myrtle Beach runoff for the final city council seat is between incumbent Mary Jeffcoat and newcomer John Krajc. This race brings an interesting dynamic in that Mayor Brenda Bethune has promoted the Krajc candidacy against incumbent Jeffcoat who has basically supported all of the mayor’s initiatives.

The government directed central planning of the city will apparently continue to the detriment of the businesses and citizens south of the former pavilion  site regardless of which candidate wins the runoff.

In Surfside Beach no candidate won election in the first round of voting. Bob Hellyer and Julie Samples finished one-two in the mayoral race while incumbent council member David Pellegrino was ousted. Paul Holder, Michael Drake, Cindy Keating and Kathryn Martin finished in that order for council seats. The top three vote getters in the runoff among those four will win council seats.

Surfside Beach politics is always interesting. In this election, no incumbent whose term was up chose to run for reelection. Pellegrino’s council term ends in two years. Samples previously served on council, choosing not to run for reelection when her term ended in 2017.

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Proposed Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement Taking Money from Taxpayers

November 14, 2019 7:18 PM
Proposed Hospitality Fee Lawsuit Settlement Taking Money from Taxpayers

The proposed agreement that county and city councils will be voting on to settle the hospitality fee lawsuit between the county and the cities will see money that should go to the benefit of the taxpayers instead going to pay attorney fees.

This is the first lawsuit settlement negotiation that I can remember where the injured parties, the taxpayers, were not even represented in the room.

In the case of the cities through three negotiation sessions, no elected officials from any of the cities, those elected to represent the citizens, could be bothered to be present. Several elected county council members attended each session.

The absence of city elected officials, especially mayors Brenda Bethune of Myrtle Beach, Marilyn Hatley of North Myrtle Beach and Bob Childs of Surfside Beach, the three cities at the forefront of the lawsuit, resulted in attorneys representing the cities to structure the settlement with no input of those elected to represent the citizens.

According to information received by Grand Strand Daily, the settlement will structure the lawsuit as a class action which will allow the attorneys representing the cities to split 33% of the settlement amount for themselves.

The reported settlement amount is the approximately $19.5 million revenue from the countywide 1.5% countywide hospitality fee collected within the respective city limits of the cities in the county from the time the bonds for the RIDE I program were paid off in February 2019 until June 30, 2019. That means the attorneys will split a cool $6.5 million from the settlement. In addition, those attorneys have already billed the cities a total over $750,000 in legal fees before the settlement is finalized.

County council member Harold Worley stated from the council dais that he would not vote to approve any settlement that gave $7 million taxpayer dollars to attorneys. Worley was speaking as the representative of county council District 1, which includes all of North Myrtle Beach. He believes that money should be spent for infrastructure improvements, public safety and like needs allowed by the hospitality fee law.

The $7 million will come out of the settlement amount for the cities. The county is only on the hook for approximately $350,000 billed by its attorneys.

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Will Myrtle Beach Voters Select Continued Central Planning or Support the Overall Health of the City Economy?

November 4, 2019 7:48 AM
Will Myrtle Beach Voters Select Continued Central Planning or Support the Overall Health of the City Economy?

The City of Myrtle Beach elections Tuesday could go a long way in determining the future success of the city.

The question is will the majority of voters continue to allow precincts serving the Dunes and Pine Lakes residents to determine the outcome?

Two years ago, voters seemed to be voting for change. What they got instead was a council of seven sheep who allow city manager John Pedersen to do whatever he wants.

After the election results of 2017, when Mayor John Rhodes and council member Randal Wallace were defeated and council member Wayne Gray chose not to run, Pedersen was overheard saying “Now I can run the city the way I want.”

And he has.

The first step was to put in place a ‘family friendly’ overlay zone on a section of Ocean Boulevard which was nothing but an attempt to run the Jewish merchants, who have been in business there for decades, out of business by claiming the CBD oil sold by those merchants was illegal. IT’S NOT!

https://youtu.be/uxG05FB7fzU

The second step was to increase the secrecy surrounding the city’s central planning for special districts such as the ‘super block.’

After the city secretly bought most of the properties in the ‘super block’ and threatened an illegal use of eminent domain to acquire the remainder, citizens were told it was going to be redeveloped with a new library and children’s museum as the anchor.

What we have seen is those properties acquired by the city are not listed for sale nor has the city issued a general request for proposals opening the redevelopment process up to anyone who would wish to locate a business there. Only cronies are allowed to make proposals on those properties.

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