Post Tagged with: "Myrtle Beach"

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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CRIME — DRUGS — KILLINGS — GANGS

September 25, 2017 6:41 PM
CRIME — DRUGS — KILLINGS — GANGS

The shooting crime on Sunday-Sept. 24th, killing a Mother and her unborn child, is the latest carnage of what happens when crazed young people that often live for today with no dreams or aspiration for tomorrow and have far too much access to firearms run loose on our streets.

Far too many times our young turn towards criminal gangs and run rampant without a restraining arm to stop them.

The unified voices of everyone in the community must assist law enforcement. to stamp out these desensitized criminal youthful gangs. 

Whatever the reason(s) to allow these unruly, hopeless youth, to run rampant in our community is just not tolerable. When innocent lives, law-abiding citizens and the tranquility of neighborhoods are affected by youth gangs causing the crimes which disturb the communities, we must afford these citizens and other children the protection they deserve. 

The Grand Strand Community Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee (CLEAC) is calling on all agencies of government to tackle the gang problems, immediately, by the development of a Blue Print for action that provides community supports and resources required to redirect our young misdirected young.

We are calling on a three-prong strategy of Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression to break the back community of gun violence. The community can no longer face the number of crimes being perpetuated, most of the time by guns.

We condone the rights for citizens to carry a firearm, as we believe in the 2nd Amendment, but we do object to the indiscriminate use and sale of firearms. We can no longer look the other way, knowing gangs are one of the principal reason for the shooting, killings, and disturbances in communities. 

The CLEAC, will be holding a meeting to address this vital issue, in the next week… The date, time, & place will be announced shortly…

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Storms Near as Myrtle Beach City Elections Filing Closes

September 8, 2017 9:01 AM
Storms Near as Myrtle Beach City Elections Filing Closes

It seems appropriate that filing closes for the upcoming Myrtle Beach city elections as the area awaits the possibility of tropical storm conditions.

This election cycle has already been stormy with more to come.

The incumbents running for reelection, Mayor John Rhodes and council members Randal Wallace and Mike Lowder, have received justified criticism of decisions made by council over the last several years.

I was looking back on stories from the election cycle two years ago. In one, I quoted an op-ed column by Mande Wilkes written three weeks before the 2015 election.

Wilkes criticized the “Asian fetish” of Myrtle Beach City Council while stifling local business investors with “the bizarre zoning laws, the oppressive signing ordinances, the climbing licensing fees, and the restrictive parking policies.”

“All of these rules add up to a suffocating environment for businesses, and that’s why Highway 17 is littered with empty storefronts and dilapidated buildings,” Wilkes wrote.

While the “Asian fetish” appears to be in the midst of a severe ‘crash and burn’, many of Wilkes’ other criticisms have not only not been addressed, but instead have been added to.

Shootings on Ocean Boulevard, indeed throughout the city, have been on the rise and city council responded with barricades along a section of Ocean Boulevard it apparently wants to redevelop.

The city surreptitiously bought up property in the Superblock area and, when it was exposed, threatened remaining private landholders with the use of eminent domain to acquire their properties.

The publicly stated reason for this land acquisition by the city – a new building for Chapin Memorial Library, a private-public partnership entity, and a new building for the totally private Children’s Museum.

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It’s Working on Ocean Boulevard

July 5, 2017 11:15 AM
It’s Working on Ocean Boulevard

Myrtle Beach city officials are sticking with the phrase “It’s working” since putting up barricades and increasing police presence on Ocean Boulevard following shooting incidents in the past several months.

It’s just not clear what’s working.

The phrase was initially coined for a series of local ads by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce attempting to justify the one cent tax for tourism promotion.

Now, “It’s working” has apparently entered the local lexicon of government officials to give vague answers about questionable initiatives.

The questionable initiatives are the barricades and uses of some police officers to perform duties other than patrolling the boulevard to prevent further acts of violence.

The only real effect seen from the barricades to date is to minimize foot traffic of potential customers to the many food and other commercial establishments in the heart of what used to be the busiest area of Ocean Boulevard.

Since the barricades were put in place two weeks ago, business owners in the area told Grand Strand Daily that their revenues are down 40-50 percent from previous years.

“It was Fourth of July weekend and it looked like a weekend in March,” said one business owner. “There is nobody around and our sales are way down.”

Several police jurisdictions have volunteered officers to Myrtle Beach for weekend help in patrolling the Boulevard. The idea is to increase police presence to discourage the types of violence seen just a few weeks ago.

However, several business owners report Myrtle Beach Police Department officers have been visiting their establishments to check on things like valid business licenses and look for minor discrepancies from Myrtle Beach ordinances.

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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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