Author: Paul Gable

New Political Group Using Veterans to Gain Credibility

An email to Horry County Council members from the Horry County Republican Party’s former 7th Congressional District elector, Jim Furry, introduced a new political group, Horry County Conservative Alliance (HCCA), while announcing a fundraiser to help homeless veterans.
As a veteran, I am always offended when political organizations, whatever their persuasion on the political spectrum, use veterans in order to gain credibility. It is readily apparent from the contents of the email that is exactly what is happening in this instance.
Titled “Rally for Veterans 2022”, the first four paragraphs are a discussion of the current turmoil within the Horry County Republican Party, including the resignations of party leaders, and how this new group hopes to build a “cadre who will operate the Republican Party…”
It is not until the fifth paragraph that veterans are mentioned in this “Rally for Veterans 2022” email. It announces the HCCA is teaming with the Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center to conduct a fundraiser at the Conference Center at Barefoot Landing on Saturday October 22, 2022, to raise money for the Center’s “Tiny Home Project” for homeless veterans.
The Veterans Welcome Home and Resource Center is a wonderful organization that began as a vision in the mind of its founder, Kris Tourtellotte, an Army Vietnam Veteran. His initial goal was to organize ‘Welcome Home’ events for veterans returning to the area from Iraq, Afghanistan and other assignments around the world, to thank those veterans for their service to the country and to inform them of various resources, including navigating the Veterans Administration, for veterans in the county.

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Chamber Messaging Takes Another Hit

The arrival of property tax bills for City of Myrtle Beach residents recently put another mark in the strike column against the accuracy of messaging from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
A visit to the website “tourismworksforus.com”, which the Chamber uses to justify its continued receipt of tens of millions of public dollars mainly from the Tourism Development Fee (TDF), clearly shows a statement that no longer applies today.
Under the heading “What do you get for your money as a resident of the City of Myrtle Beach”, the statement, “For the current 2020-21 fiscal year, the TDF provides a 76 percent credit toward city property taxes,” gives a false impression of current facts.
The current fiscal year, 2022-2023, tax bills show the TDF credit now applied toward property taxes is 67.5%. This tax credit applies only to owner-occupied dwellings. As the number of owner-occupied homes continues to increase within the city limits, which the current construction boom guarantees it will, the tax credit percentage applied toward each individual tax bill will continue to decrease. Even with the TDF credit, the amount of property taxes paid out of pocket by city homeowners will rise.

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One Cent Sales Tax for Education Worth Every Penny

On the November 8, 2022 general election ballot, Horry County voters will be asked to approve the reimposition of the one-cent Education Capital Improvement Sales and Use Tax for an additional 15 years.
The revenue from this tax is used to keep millage low on property tax for debt indebtedness levied by the Horry County School District throughout Horry County. The current property tax for debt indebtedness by Horry County Schools is 10 mills.
In November 2008, Horry County voters approved a referendum to collect a one-cent local option Education Capital Improvement Sales and Use Tax. The tax will end in March 2024 unless it is reimposed with a new referendum. Since the one-cent sales tax was first approved, property tax millage for school bond indebtedness has been reduced from 28 mills to 10 mills.
Revenue from the tax may be used for capital improvements. It may not be used for salaries, benefits and other personnel costs.

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Chamber Document Contradicts Riordan’s Comments to County Council

Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Karen Riordan was considerably less than forthright when she described the affiliation between the Chamber and the Grand Strand Business Alliance to county council last week.
Riordan told council, “When people send in their membership dues, they elect if they would like to take 18% of their membership dues and voluntarily have that contributed to the GSBA.”
Riordan added, “The GSBA is a separate organization but it is affiliated with the Chamber and it’s voluntary for businesses to contribute that money (18% of Chamber membership dues to the GSBA.)”
Actually, there is nothing voluntary about the 18% contribution. A statement on the Chamber billing document for member dues states, “The Grand Strand Business Alliance (GSBA) which advocates for business through legal and political policies and practices throughout the Grand Strand will receive 18% of the dues collected.”
It’s the Chamber that elects to give 18% of the membership dues to the GSBA, not the enrolling member. There is an opt out provision which requires any member business, not desiring to have 18% of their dues sent to the GSBA, to call the Chamber and specifically invoke the opt out provision. The statement goes on to say opting out of having 18% sent to the GSBA does not lower the dues billed.

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Riordan Claims No Political Work by Chamber, the Record is Different

“The Chamber of Commerce does absolutely no political work. We advocate for issues. We never advocate for candidates. We do not have any budget to do that.” – Karen Riordan, CEO MBACC
The above words were spoken by Riordan during the regular meeting of county council Tuesday night in response to questions from Horry County Council member Al Allen about the Chamber’s financial contributions to the Grand Strand Business Alliance.
Riordan explained about the Chamber accounting with respect to public and private money. The public money comes from local and state governments from 30% of accommodations tax revenue, approximately 80% of tourism development fee revenue and various state grants, approximately $51 million per year in recent years.
Private money comes to the Chamber in the form of membership dues, ad sales on the VisitMyrtleBeach.com website and other sources.
Riordan said when member organizations pay their annual dues, they can “voluntarily” elect to have 18% of the annual fee given to the GSBA. She did not mention but it is known that a percentage of the money from the ad sales also goes to the GSBA.

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County Council to Vote on Accommodations Tax Tourism Promotion Appropriation Tonight

Horry County Council will consider extending its contract with the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce for distribution of the 30% accommodations tax collections state law mandates must go for tourism promotion.
The extension will be for one final year. Next year a new contract must be negotiated by the county and it is hoped other direct marketing organizations will step forward to compete with the Chamber for this contract.
When the accommodations tax enabling legislation was passed by the General Assembly over 20 years ago, the provision mandating 30% of the revenue collected must be spent for tourism promotion was included specifically at the request of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and its CEO at the time Ashby Ward.
The Chamber was a struggling organization at the time with membership dues providing most of its operating revenue and a modest little white building on Kings Highway serving as its headquarters.
Accommodations tax money provided the Chamber with its first taste of a steady stream of public tax dollars into its coffers. Over the first decade of this century, ‘greed is good’ apparently became the unofficial motto with grants from the General Assembly added to those coffers and, beginning in 2009, the institution of the tourism development fee.

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Howard Fails to Move Fireworks Ordinance Out of Committee

For the past year, Horry County Council member Bill Howard has attempted to convince the rest of county council to pass a county fireworks ordinance in order to silence some constituents in Howard’s district.
Howard’s latest attempt to move proposed County Ordinance 155-2021 forward was at the Horry County Public Safety Committee meeting of August 8, 2022.
Howard has been aided in this effort by Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti who, according to his own statements, has been the principal drafter of the county ordinance.
The difficulty is that the proposed county fireworks ordinance violates the provisions enumerated in state law for banning fireworks from an area.
State law is quite specific. Section 23-35-175 (c), states “an owner, a lessee or managing authority of real property may establish a Fireworks Prohibited Zone by (1) filing a Discharge of Fireworks Prohibited Agreement with the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction over the subject property.”
In other words, the owner etc. of a property may designate that property as a Fireworks Prohibited Zone. But not someone else’s property!
What Howard, with Carotti’s help, is trying to do is find a way for council to establish blanket “No fireworks areas” in neighborhoods where the owners of all the properties in the area have not agreed to the ban.

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Dark Money in Horry County Politics

An increase of dark money from several opaque political action committees (PACs) over the last couple of election cycles has introduced a new dimension to politics in Horry County.
Dark money is defined as funds raised for the purpose of influencing elections by nonprofit organizations, generally called Super PACs, that are not required to disclose the identities of their donors. The use of dark money allows donors to far exceed normal campaign contribution limits while remaining anonymous.
The 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission gave rise to what are called “Super PACs”. Since that decision, these Super PACs are considered political entities which can raise and spend unlimited sums to influence elections, so long as they don’t explicitly coordinate with a candidate.
However, those lines have become increasingly blurred in recent years. It appears what has emerged in South Carolina are what could be termed ‘PACs for hire’ ready to jump into campaigns when called upon.
Of interest locally are three PACs who advocated in two local elections with negative messages about a specific candidate in each race. The candidates targeted were opposed by candidates who, I would submit, were the favored candidates of the local Cabal.

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City of Conway’s Political Sign Debacle

The City of Conway administration department is in the midst of a debacle of its own creation because of the various avenues it has pursued in enforcing its city ordinance with respect to the improper placement of political signs.
It began approximately one year ago when the city decided to take a stronger stand against political signs being placed in the public rights of way in the city and modifications were made to the City of Conway Unified Development Ordinance.
When city election season came around shortly thereafter, candidate signs that were in the rights of way were collected by city employees. However, even though the new ordinance allowed the city to issue misdemeanor summonses for this offense, none were issued to any of the candidates for city council office.
When the local and state primary season began last spring, there was a change of attitude toward the steps the city would take against improper placement of signs.
The situation could not have been handled any worse by city administrators if they intentionally tried to make a debacle of this new enforcement.
During the spring primary season, city workers collected improperly placed signs and the city issued summonses to approximately 18 candidates for office with a trial date in municipal court and threat of “a fine of up to $1,100 or 30 days in jail” printed on each summons for the misdemeanor offense.
State law prohibits municipal judges from hearing criminal cases for offenses with fines of over $500, but that didn’t stop city officials from issuing the summonses.

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Lazarus Drops Appeal, Concedes Gardner Victory

Horry County Council Chairman candidate Mark Lazarus dropped his election protest appeal Tuesday acknowledging his second defeat by incumbent council chairman Johnny Gardner in as many elections.
This is the third election Lazarus lost for county chairman. In all three losses, Lazarus investigated protesting the results, which demonstrates Lazarus’ inability to accept the reality of defeat.
The Horry County Republican Party Executive Committee properly dismissed the Lazarus election protest last week because the initial protest notice was filed one day after the deadline mandated by state law. Lazarus appealed that decision to the South Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee, but apparently had a change of heart as the appeal hearing approached.
Lazarus never had a legal protest because it was filed one day after the deadline mandated in state law and confirmed by the S. C. Election Commission published election calendar. The initial protest was filed on Tuesday July 5 rather than the deadline of noon Monday July 4.
Apparently, someone finally convinced Lazarus and his attorney Butch Bowers that 4 does not mean 5, Monday does not mean Tuesday and there was no way to win the protest appeal. It was time to stop publicly embarrassing themselves.

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