Post Tagged with: "referendum"

North Myrtle Beach Tourism Development Fee Crushed in Vote

March 7, 2018 4:06 AM
North Myrtle Beach Tourism Development Fee Crushed in Vote

The possibility of a Tourism Development Fee in North Myrtle Beach suffered a crushing defeat Tuesday at the polls.

The unofficial tally was 188 Yes votes for the TDF against 3,050 No votes. The results will be certified by the North Myrtle Beach Election Commission Thursday.

Defeat of the TDF is not surprising. What is surprising is the turnout. In the days before the election, I spoke with several seasoned political professionals from Horry County to get their predictions for turnout. They all agreed the number of voters that would go to the polls would range from 750-1,000.

Those predictions were based on past turnout for special elections in Horry County and tempered by the fact that candidates were not on the ballot, just a single referendum question.

To put the numbers more in perspective, a special election in March on a referendum question only drew a total of 3,238 votes. The vote for mayor in the November 2017 city general election saw 3,670 total votes with Mayor Marilyn Hatley winning with 2,765 votes out of 3,670 votes cast. In that same election, councilman Terry White ran unopposed and only gained 2,894 votes.

To call the number of votes cast on this referendum question astounding is to understate it. But, it may also prove to be the high-water mark of politics for the current city council.

The result is exactly what, I believe, North Myrtle Beach city council members wanted from the beginning, a resounding repudiation of the TDF in a referendum vote to take that issue out of the political discussion once and for all. Several council members were quite outspoken with op-eds and social media during the campaign about their opposition to the TDF.

In my opinion, a presentation about the TDF by Mike Mahaney at the Tidewater Homeowners Association on February 19, 2018, one that I personally attended, hinted at other, one could say even better, options for the city than the TDF. The entire North Myrtle Beach city council attended the meeting after the city issued a notice three days before that there was no city council meeting February 19th.

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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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NMB Council Blinks on Tourism Tax

July 30, 2016 5:13 AM
NMB Council Blinks on Tourism Tax

The North Myrtle Beach city council decided Friday that the voters would have a say on whether or not a tourism tax to benefit the NMB Chamber of Commerce will be imposed within the city limits.

The decision occurred during a public workshop on whether a local one-cent sales tax should be charged on sales within the city. At least 80% of the proceeds of the tax would go to the NMB Chamber to fund tourism marketing and advertising expenses that should be a responsibility of individual business owners.

The concept of a publicly elected body taxing citizens for the benefit of private businesses is abhorrent in any scenario, but, not allowing the voters a say in the process, as is practiced in Myrtle Beach, borders on dictatorial.

At least for now, the NMB Council nipped in the bud the question of whether to impose the tax by supermajority vote of council members, the way it was made law in Myrtle Beach.

NMB Mayor Marilyn Hatley alluded to a January or February 2017 time frame for a special election referendum question on whether to impose the tourism tax, but council would have to pass an ordinance on the tax before the referendum question.

The dynamics of a special election, with its traditional minimalist draw of voters, still allows the Chamber a better than average chance of winning the tax vote if a referendum is held.

But, it is better than in Myrtle Beach where the voters have no say at all.

The North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce was established nearly 20 years ago with the specific goal of drawing additional tourists during the spring and fall shoulder seasons.

Funding for the NMB Chamber came from membership fees and the 30% of accommodations tax revenues collected in the city.

According to sources familiar with the Chamber, in recent years it has added employees and expenses, thereby eating up its funding.

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Committee Guarantees Independent Horry County Police Department

June 27, 2016 10:30 AM
Committee Guarantees Independent Horry County Police Department

In a neatly orchestrated discussion to reach a predetermined conclusion, the Horry County Public Safety Committee determined an independent Horry County Police Department would remain the rule in the county.

Said in a slightly different way, there will be no opportunity for the voters to express themselves through a referendum on whether to merge the police department with the Horry County Sheriff’s Department because council is unwilling to give them the opportunity.

Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti told the committee it would require a three reading ordinance of council followed by a binding voter referendum to merge the departments.

Carotti said the ordinance had to be passed by August 15, 2016 in order to appear on the November 2016 general election ballot. Carotti said there was only one meeting of Horry County Council before the August date and special called meetings of council were only intended to address urgent issues between council meetings.

Obviously, there is no urgency on the part of council to allow the voters the opportunity to vote on the issue of a merger.

Carotti said low voter turnout consistent with special elections, the other possible alternative for a referendum, would not give a fair representation of the wishes of voters on the issue.

By that logic, there should not be any primary elections nor special elections for vacant offices because the wishes of the voters are not fairly represented by the 10 percent or less of voters who turn up at the polls to vote in them.

You can see this is not an issue that council is willing to take to the voters and this little dog and pony show was carefully designed to avoid that possibility.

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Horry County Sheriff Referendum Appears Dead

June 8, 2016 5:27 AM
Horry County Sheriff Referendum Appears Dead

It appears that decisions have been made out of the public eye that no referendum will be put to the people on whether to consolidate the Horry County Police Department and Horry County Sheriff’s Department.

An advertisement for applications for the position of police chief was posted recently on the Horry County website.

This would not have been done if there was any chance Horry County Council would vote to authorize a referendum on whether the two departments should be consolidated.

Sources familiar with the views of council members say there are only two votes among council members that would support placing a referendum before the voters.

There appeared to be a majority opinion among county residents that the Sheriff’s Department should take over HCPD in order to fix it. One wonders why county council members are so out of contact with the citizens they represent.

With the decision to forego a referendum and hire a new chief, the responsibility for fixing the many problems at HCPD rests squarely on the shoulders of Horry County Council members.

If the voters approved consolidation of the two departments, something I believe would have happened if a referendum were held, it would have solved another potential problem for Horry County Government that it has strived to ignore through the years.

The problem is one of dual taxation where residents of the various cities within Horry County pay tax millage to fund HCPD while not getting the benefit of police services from the county police.

HCPD is currently funded from the county’s general fund from county wide millage collected from property owners throughout the county.

HCPD is currently funded from the county’s general fund from county wide millage collected from property owners throughout the county.

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No Renewal Yet on Tourism Tax

May 27, 2016 5:00 AM
No Renewal Yet on Tourism Tax

The decision on whether Myrtle Beach will be able to reimpose its tourism tax remains in question at this time.

The SC House adjourned debate on a bill (S1122) that would provide a means to reimpose the tourism tax if the bill passes.

Debate on the bill is now scheduled for Tuesday May 31, 2016.

The original bill passed the SC Senate unanimously, but the House amended the bill to eliminate a provision that would allow Myrtle Beach City Council to reimpose the tax by a supermajority vote of at least two-thirds of its members.

If the bill passes in its current, amended form, the tourism tax would have to pass a referendum of city voters in order to be reimposed.

Eighty percent of the revenue raised from the tax goes to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for marketing the Myrtle Beach tourism attractions out of area.

Since being approved in 2009, the city has transferred in excess of $120 million to the Chamber. This has allowed the private tourism corporations to reduce their marketing budgets by as much as 95%.

Such a transfer of wealth from a public tax to benefit private businesses should be subject to approval by a voter referendum. Actually, it shouldn’t happen at all, especially in an area that prides itself on being so free market capitalist and conservative Republican.

It’s obvious the conservative politicians and their capitalist buddies don’t have a problem imposing taxes and spending the resulting revenue, just so long as it doesn’t come from their pockets.

The bill still has a couple of hurdles. It must pass two more readings in the House. If it passes there in its amended form, a compromise will have to be worked out with the Senate on whether or not to only allow reimposition of the tax after a favorable referendum of the voters.

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Fixing the HCPD Culture of Corruption

May 24, 2016 5:55 AM
Fixing the HCPD Culture of Corruption

Having watched portions of a videotaped deposition by former Horry County police detective Allen Large, it is apparent a culture of corruption exists at the HCPD far beyond the actions of a few officers.

Large is being sued by three women, described as Jane Does 1-3 in lawsuits, for sexual harassment, among other allegations.

In his deposition, Large admitted he suggested to three different female victims they get involved in videotaped cat fights to make money and admitted he enjoyed watching such events.

But, Large appeared to feel that his transgressions were minor compared to what other officers, including command staff officers, got involved in.

“We have a lot of incidents of officers doing stuff,” he said in his deposition.

Large went on to list officers having sex with other officers and department employees during duty hours, sometimes on desks in various offices within the police department; officers getting sexual services from exotic dancers while on duty and narcotics officers having sex with informants as some of the types of “stuff” going on.

Large said, “Officers have been let go for sending pictures of their private parts to people they pulled over.”

“There’s a lot of people still working there that have had “relationships” and things like that,” he said.. “Unless the police department’s covering up something, they should be able to tell you who they were.”

“You’re not supposed to be going and having sex while you’re on duty,” but Large said that sort of thing has been going on within the HCPD since he’s been there.

“There’s all kinds of shenanigans that go on there (HCPD) all the time,” Large added.

Large noted one case in which he said he was investigating the death of a man while his partner was “going off and having sex with the victim’s girlfriend.”

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Issues Divide Horry County Council District 7 Republican Candidates

May 15, 2016 4:35 AM
Issues Divide Horry County Council District 7 Republican Candidates

The contest for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council District 7 is up for a vote Tuesday May 17th.

There are significant differences between the candidates, Mike Roberts and Robert Shelley.

Politicians routinely claim to want to serve the people and/or give back to them.

Roberts is one of the people who believes the people should be included in important decisions. Shelley appears to believe he is above the people.

One of the biggest issues to have erupted in the county over the last few days clearly separates the two candidates. That issue is whether the Horry County Sheriff’s Department and Horry County Police Department should be merged.

Businessman Mike Roberts says yes. Former HCPD officer Robert Shelley says no.

“This is an issue the people should decide,” Roberts said. “It isn’t something that should be left to the decision of a few council members.”

Shelley, a former HCPD officer, said in a media interview that he opposed combining the departments because he likes having a separate police department and sheriff’s department.

But, this isn’t about what Shelley likes. It is about what is best for the citizens of Horry County.

Shelley said the people have already spoken on this issue, referring to a referendum on the question in 1998.

However, there are more than 125,000 new residents in Horry County since 1998 who haven’t spoken on the issue at all.

In addition, the HCPD is a mess with SLED conducting several criminal investigations into the department at the current time.

“Something needs to be done about the police department and that goes way beyond just hiring a new chief,” said Roberts.

Shelley said he believes politics and law enforcement don’t go together. Yet, the HCPD is all about politics.

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Time for Horry County Sheriff Referendum

May 13, 2016 10:35 AM
Time for Horry County Sheriff Referendum

It is time for the citizens of Horry County to answer a referendum question ‘should all county law enforcement responsibility be turned back to the Horry County Sheriff?’

Unfortunately, this is something that Horry County Council must approve and, if information from a number of sources is accurate, the political will to approve a referendum vote is not a majority view of county council members at present.

Horry County Council members must answer the question, ‘are county citizens better off with the current system, which gives most law enforcement responsibilities to the Horry County Police Department?’

Considering SLED has several ongoing criminal investigations into the HCPD, especially the detective division, as well as several lawsuits already filed against HCPD with more expected to come, the obvious conclusion is a resounding NO!

Much to my surprise Sheriff Phillip Thompson said several days ago that he believed it is time to put the question of whether to recombine the HCPD with the Horry County Sheriff’s Department to the citizens of Horry County.

Thompson said he has received hundreds of calls from county residents over the last several weeks saying it was time for the sheriff’s department to run law enforcement activities within the county.

There are pros and cons to having the departments combined.

At this time, I believe the pros of having the sheriff take over the HCPD far outweigh the cons.

The sheriff is an elected official, directly answerable to the public. With HCPD under Horry County Council, through the administrator, there are too many levels of bureaucracy.

With the current situation, of a citizen has a problem with HCPD he or she inevitably calls his council member, who calls the administrator, who calls the police chief, who calls the captain of the area the complaint is about, who calls the officers involved.

With all those levels of bureaucracy to pass through, the problem often isn’t addressed and may never be solved.

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West Columbia Strong Mayor Referendum Next Week

September 23, 2014 6:17 AM
West Columbia Strong Mayor Referendum Next Week

It is one week until September 30th, the day West Columbia voters will decide whether they want to change their form of city government to one with a strong mayor.

To add to the drama surrounding the vote, former West Columbia police Maj. Matt Edwards filed a lawsuit against the city claiming he was dismissed improperly and defamed by a subsequent report commissioned by city council.

According to several sources familiar with the city, Mayor Joe Owens gave Edwards a $10,000 raise shortly before his position was made redundant in a reorganization of the force last spring.

Owens, it should be noted, does not have the power to give anyone a raise on his own with the current council form of government. But, he did it anyway.

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