By Paul Gable
In what can only be called an arrogant abuse of parliamentary procedure, Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice called a five minute break, in the midst of debating an ordinance on the floor, because voting on amendments to the ordinance didn’t go his way.
This blatant lack of respect for the elected body he serves and abuse of power as chairman came during council’s regular meeting Tuesday night, but did not produce the result Rice hoped for.
The ordinance, of course, was about reducing the number of permit days for vendor and special event permits from the current seven days to five days. The ordinance, if passed as originally written, would have directly affected the Harley Davidson bike rally and the local small businesses that depend on it for revenue.
However, just before Rice’s break, council passed an amendment, moved by council member Paul Prince, to raise the number of days for the permits back to the current seven. I know this sounds ridiculous, but that is exactly what happened!
Prince’s amendment passed by a 7-4 vote with Rice, and council members Gary Loftus, Brent Schulz and Paul Price voting no. Council member Marion Foxworth was absent from the vote.
After Prince’s amendment passed and while the ordinance was still on the floor awaiting further votes, Rice called his break, despite cries of “let’s finish this” by a majority of council members.
Word has it that Rice reamed out Prince during the break for the amendment. Rice has tried to lead council to reduce vendor permits to five days.
After the break, Loftus moved an amendment to not allow set up to begin before 9 a.m. of the first day and require take down to be completed by 9 p.m. on the seventh day, shortening the active time for vendors by a few hours on the first and seventh days. The motion passed unanimously.
Council member Harold Worley moved to amend the ordinance to reduce vendor permit fees from the current $800 and $500 amounts to new fees of $500 and $300. The amendment passed unanimously.
The amended ordinance then passed by an 7-4 vote on second reading with Rice, Loftus, Price and Schulz voting no.
The ordinance must pass one more reading to become law. If it does, the only change from last year’s rally will be the setup and takedown curfews with reduced vendor permit fees.
We have wondered before whether the new ordinance, which would have reduced vendor permits to five days including set up and take down if not amended, was really about vendors or about killing the bike rally completely for unspoken reasons.
Nothing we saw Tuesday night changes our opinion. However, the ordinance, as amended, will basically allow the rally to continue as it has in the past several years. This should help the small business owners, who depend on events such as the bike rally to meet their expenses including payroll, and remain in business.
One other observation is that Rice is willing to totally ignore Robert’s Rules of Order, parliamentary procedure and anything else necessary, in order to try and get his own way. His problem is he has not demonstrated the type of leadership that would draw a consistent consensus of council members to support him.