Post Tagged with: "special interests"

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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Administrator Process Clouded by Change vs. Selfish Agendas

June 25, 2019 9:20 AM
Administrator Process Clouded by Change vs. Selfish Agendas

As we come within 24 hours of the interview process for the county administrator candidates, I wonder what, if any, last minute attempts will be made to usurp the process by council members supporting interim administrator Steve Gosnell.

Make no mistake, any council member who tries at this late date to stop the public interview process is only following the directions of those special interests in the background who have his ear and his own selfish agenda.

Since those special interests were unsuccessful at keeping former administrator Chris Eldridge in place, their main goal has been to replace Eldridge with someone who wouldn’t ‘rock the boat’ as county administrator.

At the beginning of this process Gosnell said he didn’t want the position. Then, three stories about how he decided to seek the position rose and Johnny Vaught became his champion. There is a reason other than Gosnell’s eagerness why the push is on so hard to get him appointed.

And then there is the problem of the employment of Gosnell’s wife with the county and how his appointment as administrator could affect her employment because of state law, even though by all accounts she is an excellent employee. Johnny Vaught said she could just go to work for an elected official. What elected official wants to step into this mess?

Gosnell will not represent change. He is not the person by temperament or inclination to make needed changes in the personnel or internal operation of Horry County Government.

This is exactly why those council members who have been working hard to engineer Gosnell’s selection as county administrator want him to have the job. The special interests who have the ear of those council members, those expected to fund upcoming election campaigns, don’t want change.

Let’s just look at two examples of what could be interesting public interviews on Wednesday.

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County Administrator Applications Close While Vaught Continues Hijacking Attempt

June 6, 2019 3:30 AM
County Administrator Applications Close While Vaught Continues Hijacking Attempt

The application period for a new, permanent county administrator closed yesterday while council member Johnny Vaught continued his attempts to hijack the entire process in favor of interim administrator Steve Gosnell.

As recently as Tuesday, Vaught was maintaining that he had the votes of 9 – 10 council members to appoint Gosnell to the permanent position. This is before all applications were in, before the qualifications of any of the applicants were assessed and before any interviews were conducted to determine who might be the best person to lead the administration of Horry County Government going forward.

After former administrator Chris Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti failed in their attempt to discredit incoming chairman Johnny Gardner and it became obvious Eldridge had to go, Gosnell said at that time he didn’t even want the administrator job on an interim basis.

Ultimately, after Eldridge was separated from his county employment, Gosnell did accept the interim job but, with the provision he could return to his job as Infrastructure and Regulation Division head.

When the application process for the permanent position opened, Gosnell said he did not know that he would even apply.

Still, Vaught pursued his personal agenda to keep Gosnell in place. But, Vaught’s personal agenda is not what the county needs at this time.

Gosnell is a nice man and has been a good county engineer. However, with only two years to go until retirement and having served in the senior staff of the failed Eldridge administration, he is not what is needed for the county to move forward to realize its potential.

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Myrtle Beach Rejects Open Talks on Hospitality Fees

April 14, 2019 10:59 AM
Myrtle Beach Rejects Open Talks on Hospitality Fees

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune sent a letter to Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner last week rejecting public negotiations on a county plan for splitting hospitality fees.

Myrtle Beach wanted to hold any negotiations in secret using a lawsuit the city filed against the county last month over hospitality fee collection as the excuse for needing to keep discussions behind closed doors.

However, anyone who has followed local politics for even a short while understands the proclivity of local governments to conduct as much real discussion of issues as possible out of public view.

There is a very good reason for this. Often, the genesis of the issues kept most secret comes not from local elected officials, but rather from the special interests who have the ear of the politicians and who have been very effective through the decades pushing agendas that most benefit those interests.

The current hospitality fee issue dates back at least three years to the beginning of 2016. At that time, the projects funded by the Ride II tax were coming to completion. The hospitality and real estate interests began pushing the need for a Ride III referendum.

Informal talks between special interest leaders and local politicians developed a plan to promote passage of a Ride III referendum as well as continuation of hospitality fee collections countywide to fund I-73 construction within Horry County.

The special one-cent sales tax approved with Ride II and Ride III referendums pay for many projects that improve roads within the county that have become congested with traffic from new developments. These costs should be paid for directly by developers or impact fees rather than all the citizens of the county, but the hospitality and real estate lobbies have been able to avoid this to date.

The Ride III referendum was passed by voters in November 2016. County council removed the sunset provision from hospitality fee ordinance in the spring of 2017 at the behest of Lazarus, county administrator Chris Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti.

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Horry County’s Embarrassing Special Meeting

March 26, 2019 10:12 AM
Horry County’s Embarrassing Special Meeting

Horry County Council proved during its special meeting last night it doesn’t need the county administrator or attorney to embarrass the county. Council did a fine job embarrassing itself on its own.

Two key items were up for a vote last night – not to renew the administrator’s contract upon its April 21, 2019 termination and termination of the financial participation agreement between the county and SCDOT for the I-73 project.

Council kicked both votes down the road.

There may have been some justification for not voting on the administrator’s contract because council chairman Johnny Gardner was contacted by an attorney representing administrator Chris Eldridge yesterday morning requesting negotiation of an exit package for Eldridge.

Gardner said he believes agreement can be reached on a termination package so Eldridge will depart county employment within two weeks.

Delaying cancellation of the I-73 agreement, however, is an entirely different story.

There is no benefit to the county and its citizens of keeping an agreement in place, the funding for which is a great mystery at this point.

However, the Myrtle Beach Chamber and its cronies were in full lobbying mode yesterday to keep the financial participation agreement in place.

Those council members, I’m thinking here of council’s Deep Six in particular, who are much more inclined to listen to the special interest lobbyists at the expense of the citizens of the county fell right in line.

Council member Harold Worley, the apparent leader of the Deep Six, was reportedly in favor of cancelling the financial participation agreement at the end of last week. Monday night, Worley was the foremost proponent from the council dais in maintaining the agreement and negotiation with the county’s municipalities on a new split of hospitality tax revenues.

In the past few weeks, Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach and Surfside Beach have all passed ordinances whose sole purpose is to capture all hospitality tax revenues collected within their respective corporate limits.

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Is Machiavelli Writing S.C. House Road Plan?

January 31, 2015 7:36 AM
Is Machiavelli Writing S.C. House Road Plan?

The S.C. House plan to fix roads is still in the planning stages, but the politics in it resembles the best thoughts of Niccolo Machiavelli.

Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, will, reportedly, introduce the plan next week. Simrill chaired a special committee over the summer and fall that developed the plan.

Highlights of the plan include lowering the state’s gas tax at the pumps from its current 16.75 cents to 10.75 cents, but it would add a six percent sales tax to gas sales at the wholesale level. Not only would the wholesale tax be passed on to the consumer by being added to the price of gas at the pump, but it would increase overall gas taxes paid by the end consumer. (If you reduce a tax by 6 cents, but add back a 6 percent tax, any price over $1 per gallon results in a tax increase. Low as gas prices are right now, they are still considerably more than $1.)

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Roads, Taxes and Ride III

January 9, 2015 9:00 AM
Roads, Taxes and Ride III

Several groups in Horry County are already making plans to oppose a Ride III referendum.

While specific reasons for opposition differ among the groups, they can all be gathered under the general umbrella of opposition to special interest projects.

One group opposes spending any money on the I-73 folly. Another opposes the SELL road on the south end of the county and a third opposes using Ride III money for the rerouting of U.S. 501 in Myrtle Beach.

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RIDE III Committee First Moves

August 15, 2014 7:00 AM
RIDE III Committee First Moves

The RIDE III Committee had its opening meeting yesterday marking the first move toward a possible November 2016 ballot referendum for new road projects funded by a one-cent local sales tax.

The committee will take the next year or so considering possible road projects to include in the referendum with public meetings included on its future agenda.

One thing to remember is the committee is purely advisory.

Once the committee finalizes a list of possible projects, the list will be sent as recommendations to a six-member RIDE III Commission.

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The Fiscal Cliff Deal

January 2, 2013 8:09 AM
The Fiscal Cliff Deal

You have to give Congress credit, the television spot, sound bite and photo op drama was high as the “fiscal cliff’ was “avoided” in New Years Eve and New Years Day votes in the U.S. Senate and House.

Automatic tax hikes and spending cuts that were set to begin yesterday were avoided, but the health of the U.S. economy remains perilous.

What really happened was business as usual on Capitol Hill. By extending the Bush era tax cuts to everyone earning less than $450,000 per year, middle and lower class workers will pay less in income taxes. But approximately 96 percent of millionaires will also be paying less income tax than they would have paid if no deal was passed and Clinton era tax rates were restored.

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