Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach"

Myrtle Beach City Council Approves Product Ban

August 15, 2018 3:34 AM
Myrtle Beach City Council Approves Product Ban

Myrtle Beach City Council Tuesday approved an overlay district on a portion of Ocean Boulevard that will ban legal products from being sold on the basis they are not “family friendly.”

Family friendly is an excuse the city administrator and city council roll out when they have no solid reason for doing something.

In my opinion, the majority five council members who voted for the ban, Brenda Bethune, Phil Render, Mike Chestnut, Jackie Vereen and Mary Jeffcoat took a position on the issue that is arrogant, ill-considered and downright embarrassing.

If the five believe the issue is settled, I doubt it is.

To quote Winston Churchill after the Battle of Britain, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Churchill was correct, five long years of war remained.

I fully expect the legality of the ordinance to be challenged in court. But city council doesn’t care because they will not be paying from their pockets to defend a lawsuit if one is forthcoming. It will be your taxpayer dollars that are wasted just as they were with the ill-fated helmet law council passed some years ago.

Local attorney Reese Boyd pointed out during the meeting that the ordinance has changed by 70 percent or more since it passed first reading in May 2017. This draws into question whether the ordinance received a true second and final reading Tuesday.

The ordinance targets businesses that are Jewish owned bringing into question how it stands up to the anti-discrimination precepts contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

It is absolutely ridiculous that a targeted product can be sold on one block of Ocean Boulevard but not on the next, as will be the case if the ordinance withstands expected legal challenges. “Family friendly” is evidently determined by geography.

Is it because of who owns the targeted businesses and not about what they sell?

If so, it wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility that a case of conspiracy could be alleged.

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Family Friendly Propaganda Resurfaces for Ocean Boulevard

August 12, 2018 3:52 AM
Family Friendly Propaganda Resurfaces for Ocean Boulevard

The “Family Friendly” propaganda is out in full force as Myrtle Beach City Council prepares to debate an entertainment overlay district ordinance for Ocean Boulevard this week.

The ordinance would ban the sale of certain products such as hookah pipes, tobacco, CBD oil and what it calls sexually suggestive merchandise, all of which are entirely legal products, within the overlay district.

All of this is purportedly being done because these products are not considered “family friendly” by at least some city council and city staff members.

In attempting to explain the ordinance, Mayor Brenda Bethune was quoted in local media last week as saying, “I’m not saying that those businesses are not what we want, I’m just saying that there currently is some merchandise that is not really in the scope of being family friendly,”

And it’s not like the city is attempting to ban the sale of these products citywide, merely along a specially selected section of Ocean Boulevard.

Bethune again, “We are not trying to target legal merchandise and say you can’t sell this anywhere in the city. What we’re saying is there’s a perception issue with some of these products, and they do attract children, they are marketed for children, and that it does promote drug use.”

So it’s okay if these products supposedly “attract children” and “promote drug use” at, say, Coastal Grand Mall or Broadway at the Beach, but not along Ocean Boulevard?

Interestingly, alcohol products, beer, wine and spirits, are not on the proposed list of banned products for the overlay district, although it could be argued that the effects of those products have done much more to ruin families than hookah pipes and sexually suggestive t-shirts.

Of course the mayor and some of the most vocal supporters of this “family friendly” overlay ordinance own beer distributorships and/or bars and restaurants that sell things such as ‘liquid nitrogen cocktails.’

Considering what is on the list of banned products and what is left off, it is highly suggestive this proposed ordinance is not about creating a “family friendly” atmosphere at all. It appears to be targeted at a select group of businesses, owned by Jewish merchants, who are already experiencing a decline in retail sales.

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Myrtle Beach Harassment of Jewish Business Owners

July 24, 2018 9:27 AM
Myrtle Beach Harassment of Jewish Business Owners

The City of Myrtle Beach appears to be practicing continuous harassment of Jewish shop owners on Ocean Boulevard for no better reason than it can.

The current round of harassment began one year ago when city officials and DRC board members blamed t-shirt merchandise in the shops as the cause of several shootings on Ocean Boulevard.

The city immediately installed barricades in front of the shops, allegedly to control pedestrian traffic, but, in reality, to cut down walk-in traffic to the shops, costing the owners sales during the height of the tourist  season.

The harassment continued with local police officers checking business licenses in the shops while police from other jurisdictions were being used to patrol Ocean Boulevard.

This spring, the city administrator attempted to require employees of the shops to wear special badges, reminiscent of the use of a yellow Star of David by Nazi officials in Germany in the 1930’s.

Recently, legally produced and legally sold CBD oil products in the shops have been targeted as potentially illegal and the city reportedly asked SLED officers to help in checking these products.

The harassment was highlighted when Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune made the following statement at a recent council meeting regarding the CBD products:

“We have stores on the boulevard right now who have cases of edibles and they are marketing to children. They have lollipops, and if you open one of these jars, it looks and smells exactly like regular marijuana.”

Bethune initially denied making this quote, then, after probably remembering city council meetings are videotaped, said it was used out of context by local media.

These incidents have all the elements of planned harassment by an authoritarian city government that can be viewed as anti-Semitic in its nature all under the guise of keeping the city “family friendly” for tourists.

It may also be an attempt to drive down business profits to force the owners to sell their properties at reduced values.

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Team Horry Self Imploding as Primary Voting Nears

June 2, 2018 5:55 AM
Team Horry Self Imploding as Primary Voting Nears

(Above picture represents Team Horry campaigns teetering)

Team Horry, the self-styled moniker by which a few of the Horry County Council members up for reelection this year like refer to themselves, appears in complete disarray a little over one week before primary voting.

It started as a plan for council members to appear as a group on opening day to file candidate papers together followed by a press conference of mutual support and praise for the ‘great’ job they are doing.

That plan never quite came together and it started a trend of events never quite coming off as planned throughout this primary season.

A seemingly insurmountable obstacle for team togetherness occurred several days ago when Horry County Council Vice Chairman Bill Howard went toe-to-toe with Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune over plans the city has for food trucks during the summer tourist season.

Howard, a local restaurateur in real life, lectured the mayor that he believes the food trucks will negatively impact business at his restaurants.

The result of the confrontation was the following post by Bethune on Facebook:

“I am human and far from perfect. I try to communicate with others in a way that makes them feel respected and safe. Today I was truly disheartened by the disrespectful tone and threat that was issued to me by the vice chair of our County Council. He represents EVERYONE in this County and as an elected official should practice civil communication in all matters. May I never think so highly of myself that I try to make others feel low. Here’s an idea: we all need to show mutual respect to each other in order to work together for the greater good of those we serve.”

Howard represents Horry County Council District 2, which includes the City of Myrtle Beach north end beginning at 38th Avenue North. This area happens to include the core of voters who catapulted Bethune to election as mayor last November.

It is also the home district of county council chairman Mark Lazarus.

As Shakespeare would say – “Therein lies the rub.”

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Horry County – A Fork In The Road

March 11, 2018 4:34 AM
Horry County – A Fork In The Road

(Ed. Note: This article was published in Alternatives Magazine nearly 20 years ago, four years before Marion Foxworth was the District 3 member for Horry County Council. It is reprinted here with permission from the former owner of Alternatives. It made interesting reading then and is even more so today. Carolina Forest was in the very early stages of changing from a tree farm to the most densely populated area in the unincorporated county. I would contend we have headed down the retirement community fork, with tourism on the wane, as witnessed by controversies over bike weeks and adult entertainment, the decline in golf, amusement parks and other entertainment venues as well as continuing issues with infrastructure and public safety. One only has to look at the history of the last 40 years in St. Augustine, FL to see the trend being repeated in Horry County.)

Quite a bit has been said and written about the tremendous growth that we have seen during the last few years.  Both Horry County and the City of Myrtle Beach have undertaken extensive efforts to establish updated comprehensive Masterplans.  The local daily newspaper devoted countless columns to a series entitled ‘Living in a Boom Town’. And most recently, residents have turned out in record numbers in an effort to influence the direction taken by various governing boards and regulatory agencies.

As a lifelong student of public policy and as an observer of the political environment of South Carolina, I have to opine that we are coming upon a very definitive moment in our history.  In short, Myrtle Beach, the Grand Strand and Horry County are at a fork in the road.  Which direction we take will determine the type of community we have for generations to come.  It also will determine how many of us will make a living and support our families.

The Fork in the Road is represented by two extremes.  The fork to the left is one that the direction is dictated by those in power and positions of influence who would have Horry County become ultimately a ‘live-in theme park’.  This option would be marked by a continuation of the tremendous building boom of late.  Pine trees would continue to fall in record numbers.  Our beautiful natural settings would give way to additional growth as our rivers would one day resemble the current ocean front.

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FOR MEANINGFUL DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT, THE PAVILION SITE MUST BE THE ANCHOR

March 9, 2018 4:16 AM
FOR MEANINGFUL DOWNTOWN REDEVELOPMENT, THE PAVILION SITE MUST BE THE ANCHOR

I have been involved with downtown redevelopment in the City of Myrtle Beach for twenty years. As a matter of history, the Pavilion Area Master Plan (PAMP), adopted by the City in 1998, was the guiding document that birthed redevelopment district boundaries, and subsequent actions by the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation and City leaders.  The PAMP identified 5 districts in need of action between 16th Avenue North and 6th Avenue South, and from Broadway and Oak streets to the Atlantic Ocean. 

To date, there have been many accomplishments, mostly in the North Entertainment District.  These include the Boardwalk, SkyWheel, Plyler Park and related private development.  However, we all are acutely aware of the continuing difficulties that exist principally in the 75-acres bordered by 9th Avenue North, the Atlantic Ocean, Kings Highway and 3rd Avenue South, referred to in the PAMP as the Central Amusement District and the South Mixed-Use Area.  In addition, the retail centers along Main Street (The Superblock), Broadway Street and their intersections with US Highway 501, known as the Entry District, have defied new growth as planned.   

In comparing successful new developments throughout Myrtle Beach over the last 20 years — beginning with Broadway At The Beach and the Grissom Parkway corridor, Coastal Grande Mall and outparcels, Market Common, Grande Dunes, and continuing redevelopment of ocean-front resorts, the question that needs to be asked is:  Why haven’t the Central Amusement, South Mixed Use and Entry districts of our downtown experienced the same new development and growth?  There are many reasons: closure of the Pavilion, the Great Recession, changing retail demand, multiple absentee property owners, political will, insufficient public infrastructure, small lots, lack of public safety resources, and the list can go on.

One of the precepts of successful downtown redevelopment is that you start at the center with a major anchor project, and then build outward over time.   We have, by necessity, started at the north end and worked toward the other, only to find ourselves blocked by the middle from reaching the south end.  Why are we stuck in the middle?  …

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Tourism Development Fee – A Tale of Two Cities

February 9, 2018 4:28 AM
Tourism Development Fee – A Tale of Two Cities

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,…”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 The above quote from the classic Charles Dickens novel “A Tale of Two Cities” accurately sums up the respective approaches being taken by the cities of North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach on the issue of the tourism development fee (TDF).

The North Myrtle Beach city council has scheduled a referendum vote for March 6, 2018, to allow voters in the city to determine whether a TDF should be allowed on purchases in the city.

The Myrtle Beach city council approved the TDF nearly nine years ago by supermajority vote of the council. The council, even with three new members, appears ready to vote to extend the TDF beyond its initial 10 year approval period again by supermajority vote of council members. Council seems unwilling to allow the question to be put before its voters.

Having voted for a referendum, North Myrtle Beach officials, both elected and appointed, cannot be seen as advocating for passage or defeat of the referendum in their official capacity. According to statements made to various media outlets, they are strictly adhering to this line to avoid any potential ethics problems.

North Myrtle Beach city officials can and should tell the public how the revenue the city will receive from the TDF will be spent, i.e. public safety, parking, other infrastructure. It appears that all residents will get some benefit from TDF revenue. In Myrtle Beach, only 17% of properties in the city (owner-occupied properties) receive all the benefits from the city revenue.

One has to wonder whether Myrtle Beach city officials would conduct themselves in the same ethical manner if a referendum on the question were pending in that city. Incumbents have been strong proponents of the TDF and even several of the new members, who said they thought a referendum should be held on the question of extending the TDF, seem to have backed away from those campaign pronouncements.

I know of several instances where local media outlets have been contacted with a request to “take it easy” on Myrtle Beach city council members if they vote to extend the TDF.

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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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New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

January 2, 2018 5:49 AM
New Year Brings New Hope and New Challenges

A New Year traditionally brings with it new hope and positive feelings about the year ahead.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus commented in a Facebook post on New Year’s Day about making 2018 a year of positivism. I hope Lazarus is able to achieve that positivism in county government.

This year will be interesting with three new members recently elected to Myrtle Beach City Council, including a new mayor, and seven council members up for re-election for Horry County Council including Chairman Lazarus.

But it takes more than hopes and feelings to achieve positive results in government. It takes hard work, transparency and proper goal setting to get the most “bang” for each “buck” collected from the taxpaying public.

Both Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council have been lax in this area in years past.

Maybe the most important thing both councils have to remember is the citizens elect them to make decisions that benefit the community as a whole. Council then directs staff to carry out these decisions.

Too often, this process has become muddled with certain council and staff members working behind closed doors to benefit special interests at the expense of the general public. This is at least part of the reason Myrtle Beach has three new members of council.

Below are just a few of the actions by city council that the public voted against in November:

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Myrtle Beach Election Season Mercifully Nearing Close

November 3, 2017 5:03 AM
Myrtle Beach Election Season Mercifully Nearing Close

Just a few more days remain until the first round of voting takes place in the 2017 Myrtle Beach city elections.

Mercifully, that means only a few days remain in this season of political speak which bears little to no resemblance to the truth.

We have heard Mayor John Rhodes and the two incumbent city councilmen running for re-election, Randal Wallace and Mike Lowder, tout how they passed the largest tax cut in the history of the state.

This is not true. They passed a one percent increase in the city sales tax, 80% of which pays the marketing budgets of the largest businesses in the tourism industry. As part of that legislation, the three incumbents and their cohorts on city council used most of the remaining 20% from that tax to give tax rebates on owner-occupied residences in the city, less than 25% of the total number of properties in the city.

The owners of the properties that benefit most from this tax rebate, those in the Dunes, Grande Dunes and Pine Lakes, are the same people who are the voting base and neighbors of at least five of the seven members of city council.

To sum it up, city council passed an increase in sales tax that is used to reduce the operating expenses of the largest businesses in the tourism industry and to reduce the amount of property tax paid by their neighbors and supporters.

And that sales tax increase is working, at least in the sense that it keeps getting the incumbents who voted for it re-elected.

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