Budgets and Politics Don’t Mix

Horry County Council will begin its two day budget retreat today at the Government and Justice Center in Conway.

Originally scheduled for a two day meeting in Pinopolis, which has been the county’s traditional budget retreat site, it was moved back to Conway after a series of phone calls last week to council members. One wonders if this move has more to do with the flagging Tom Rice for Congress campaign than anything to do with the county budget.

Local media will almost certainly attend the meeting in larger numbers and for greater periods in Conway. One hopes Rice doesn’t intend to use the budget retreat as a stage to attempt to get two days of free media advertising for his campaign. We don’t need political posturing, the budget is serious business.

Patriot’s Day Brings Tourism Tax Questions

The third Monday in April is celebrated as Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts and Maine. This is a state holiday that commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775, the first two military engagements of the Revolutionary War. Maine, at that time, was part of Massachusetts.

The underlying tensions that resulted in the conflict were taxes levied on the colonies from Great Britain, most specifically the taxes on lead, paper, paint, glass and tea. Taxation without representation was the cry of the colonials. The Boston Tea Party of December 16, 1773, resulted with the British closing the port of Boston.

After 20 months of tension between the residents of Massachusetts and the British army garrisoned in Boston, the British sent regular forces out from Boston on April 19th to capture weapons stores of the colonial militia. The colonial “Minutemen” resisted beginning the struggle for independence.

MBACC Cancels Sun, Fun and Tourism

The surprising announcement by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce two days ago ending the Sun Fun Festival appears to be one more step away from tourism along the Grand Strand.

Coming as it does on the heels of another attempt by county council chairman Tom Rice to end the Harley Davidson May bike rally, it means that the two longest running festivals associated with Myrtle Beach tourism are being sent to the scrap heap by those who see themselves as the leaders of the local business establishment.

“The MBACC board of directors has made the decision to suspend certain events this year that are not self-sustaining.

Trash, Dollars and Horry County Government

As the Horry County budget process gains momentum later this month through the end of June, one entity we will be watching with interest is the Horry County Solid Waste Authority.

In our opinion, this quasi-independent government created authority works counter to the interests of private business and the public in Horry County, provides no real value to Horry County government, but works hard on propaganda and its self-image while amassing millions of dollars in excess funds that could be put to better use.

The SWA controls the waste stream (garbage and debris) within the county through a flow control ordinance passed by county council several years ago. The ordinance dictates that all garbage generated within the county must be disposed of at the SWA Hwy 90 landfill at rates dictated by the SWA.

A Harley Davidson Ordinance?

“It still amazes me that with tourism being one of our state’s best industries city & county councils want to shoot themselves in the foot by running people away from Myrtle Beach. I am a former truck driver and being so I have traveled all over this wonderful country. When I would stop at places from Maine to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Gulf Coast all who rode motorcycles would ask after seeing I was from South Carolina ” How do I get to Myrtle Beach”. I can’t tell you how many times this happened. The draw is amazing! The monies this generates for our great state can’t truly be calculated, both for Myrtle Beach & the state in general. Do they realize how many people return to our state after just traveling through it? The “Great State of South Carolina” from the mountains to the sea is beautiful! Why do you want to run off our best commercial asset?”

The above was a comment by “David a. Horta” on our last story about the Harley Davidson Bike Rally. He states the obvious – the bike rallies introduced many tourists to Myrtle Beach and brought a lot of money into the local economy.

Observations on the Bike Rally Vote

After the generally dysfunctional debate on bike rally vendor permits by Horry County Council Tuesday night, one veteran Horry County political observer commented to me that they believed the decision to again take on the bike rally issue, at the county level, was made in the “card room at the Dunes Club.”

I believe this comment is quite astute. It can be reasonably argued that the “Take Back May” movement, which resulted in the City of Myrtle Beach movement to end the May bike rallies was hatched at the Dunes Club. A small group of movers and shakers in the city saw the chance to take advantage of the public (above 38th Avenue North) unrest with the rallies, to advance personal agendas.

Tom Rice, then a private citizen, was the point spokesman for the “Take Back May” movement as the group lobbied both the Myrtle Beach and Horry County councils to essentially end the rallies. The effort was generally regarded successful at the city level, but a failure at the county level.

Is Killing the Harley Rally the Goal

Horry County Council will vote tomorrow night on second reading of an ordinance to reduce bike week vendor permits from the current seven to five days.

Combining the reduced days with wording in the ordinance that allows the county to stipulate which five consecutive days the permits will be valid for brings the very real possibility that vendors will not be selling on weekends. Making the permits valid from Monday through Friday cuts out the traditionally highest sales days for vendors and could go a long way toward significantly reducing attendance at the Harley Davidson rally.

This appears to be the ultimate goal of those pushing the ordinance, led by council chairman Tom Rice. The real question is why.

Shedding Light on the Horry County Solid Waste Authority

A bill to ban flow control of solid waste throughout the state passed the S.C. House of Representatives Wednesday. A similar bill is already underway in the Senate.

If the Senate bill also passes, a conference committee will work out a compromise version of the two bills to go before both houses. If that is successful and the governor signs off on the legislation, an interesting showdown will undoubtedly occur.

Horry County is the only local government in the state that currently monopolizes control of solid waste disposal through flow control legislation. The ordinance governing this will be declared illegal under the wording of the state legislation.

Behind David Bennett’s Back

The firing of Coastal Carolina University football coach David Bennett on December 9, 2011 caused an uproar among many CCU football fans in the area.

Bennett, the only coach in the program’s history to that point, was respected not only for taking the CCU program from zero to four Big South Conference championships in 10 seasons, but also for his personal values and charitable work in the local community.

Now we find that Bennett’s firing and replacement had a darker side that, frankly, Bennett did not deserve either personally or professionally.

Prosser: Act Now to Lower Gas Prices

The unseasonably warm winter in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand makes the wait for summer seem that much shorter. But with gas prices spiking, summer could mean less trips to the beach and fewer vacations for many American families.

As director of South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism for eight years, I closely monitored the impact of gas prices on visitor spending. Even when families are able to take their cherished summer beach vacation, the bite that higher gas prices takes from their wallets curtails spending on restaurants, attractions and souvenirs, and often shortens their trip.

In addition to the direct impact on tourism, higher gas prices also ripple through the economy increasing the costs for businesses, including our critical distribution centers in the area. These higher costs are passed through to cash-strapped consumers in the form of higher prices.