Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach"

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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Incumbents Want Status Quo in Myrtle Beach

October 28, 2017 4:26 AM
Incumbents Want Status Quo in Myrtle Beach

What I took away from the debate on Thursday night between three of the candidates for mayor and the debate among nine candidates for city council a week earlier is a vote for the incumbents in the upcoming Myrtle Beach city elections is a vote for the status quo in the city.

If the incumbents are re-elected, nothing will change including the secrecy and disinformation that surrounds so much of what passes for planning in the city.

Listening to Mayor John Rhodes during the debate and over several days prior to it, the city had its best year ever this year, everything is great in the city and the shootings on Ocean Boulevard this year were “fake news.”

As we know from the mindless tweets of President Donald Trump, fake news is a term used to attempt to discredit any news a politician doesn’t want to hear.

Rhodes definitely doesn’t want to hear news of crime and safety concerns in Myrtle Beach. Rather than attempt to solve those, his attitude seems to be blame the messenger.

One thing that definitely will not change is the Tourism Development Fee charged on virtually every sale in the city. Rhodes voiced strong support of the TDF, taking credit for creating the idea.

What Rhodes did not divulge is how those who benefit from the TDF work to keep the incumbents in place.

The Tourism Development Fee is a one percent tax (one cent on every dollar spent) on basically everything that is purchased in Myrtle Beach. It is paid by everybody who buys anything in the city.

The tourism industry essentially gets its advertising costs paid for it from these tax dollars.

This is roughly the same as if the federal government charged a one percent sales tax on every item purchased in the United States to pay for the advertising of Ford, General Motors, Microsoft and General Electric.

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The Bizarre Twists in Myrtle Beach Politics

October 11, 2017 5:21 AM
The Bizarre Twists in Myrtle Beach Politics

Two campaign events this week highlight how bizarre the current election season in Myrtle Beach politics has become.

An open candidate forum on Sunday October 15th has been scheduled over a month. The event is open to all candidates for the upcoming city elections.

It will be held at the Myrtle Beach Recreation Center at Market Commons. City council candidates will be up first beginning at 2:30 p.m. with mayoral candidates following at 4 p.m.

As has been the trend throughout the fall campaign, incumbent mayor John Rhodes and incumbent council members Randal Wallace and Mike Lowder have indicated they will not participate in the above mentioned event.

Instead, Rhodes, Wallace and Lowder have scheduled a closed campaign event at the same venue on Thursday October 12th. The event will be by invitation only and is limited to Market Common residents.

In this instance, we have three incumbents seeking re-election holding a campaign event on city property and limiting that event to only certain residents in the city.

You may ask why the incumbents didn’t join the challengers in a candidate forum open to all city residents at the same location only three days later?

The answer that comes to mind is that the incumbents, Rhodes, Wallace and Lowder, who are seeking re-election on November 7th, are apparently afraid to speak to voters except in circumstances totally controlled by themselves.

How bizarre is that?

In the atmosphere that surrounds city elections this year, the bizarre has become quite normal.

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Increased Crime, Poor Planning as Myrtle Beach City Elections Near

October 4, 2017 5:06 AM
Increased Crime, Poor Planning as Myrtle Beach City Elections Near

Five weeks remain before voting begins in the Myrtle Beach city council elections and it looks like the incumbents don’t want to face the public in other than a completely controlled environment.

Two years ago, we were told the city was safer than ever. There was an ad campaign complete with thousands of mailers claiming so. We know that claim was incorrect when it was made and things have only gotten worse since.

National crime statistics just came out showing Myrtle Beach had a double digit increase last year in violent crimes.

The recent shooting incident near Futrell Park puts an exclamation point on a situation which has been basically ignored by city officials.

Mayor John Rhodes recently blamed the iphone for hurting the image of the city by spreading negative pictures and comments about it. What Mayor Rhodes forgets is iphones and the people who use them can only show what is happening and comment on it. They do not create the incidents that are shown, at least not yet.

This is exactly the type of detached thinking and denial of what is happening that is hurting the city.

Or am I wrong? Was there really no shooting on Ocean Boulevard, or at Futrell Park? Was this just something an iphone made up and spread throughout the internet?

Eighteen months ago, Bennie Swans, Jon Bonsignor and Tim McCray went before city council to ask for help with problems around the Futrell Park area. They were basically called traitors and told their words would hurt tourism in the city.

However, a problem doesn’t go away when it is ignored. Maybe, if the city council had listened to rather than attacked what was being said, a young pregnant girl would not have been shot in a car last week killing her and her unborn baby.

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