By Paul Gable
Ultimately the type of government we have is a consequence of those we elect to serve in it.
In Horry County, I submit some of our incumbent council members are the wrong choice. These are charlatans who hold elective office for self-aggrandizing, self-enriching or ego boosting reasons, or some combination thereof.
They are happy to serve themselves, their large campaign donors and those they perceive to be power brokers. The needs of the citizens at large are a rare afterthought.
For decades, the development industry in Horry County has held influence over this type of council member, using that influence to get virtually anything it wanted, including developing wetlands, flood plains and areas without the necessary supporting infrastructure, approved by council.
Three council members up for reelection who fit completely into that mold are Dennis Disabato, Cam Crawford and Gary Loftus, in my opinion. Disabato and Crawford each draw over 50% of their campaign contributions from the development industry. Loftus was appointed to the advisory board of a developer funded institute at Coastal Carolina University that the development donors hoped would “tell their side”, as one of the big donors put it, on any study completed by the institute.
Crawford, Loftus and Disabato strongly supported the reelection of Mark Lazarus two years ago. After Lazarus lost the council chairman seat to Johnny Gardner, they bought into the fictitious plot, devised by former administrator Chris Eldridge, in consultation with Lazarus, to attempt to keep Gardner from taking office.
After a SLED investigation concluded there was nothing to the allegations by Eldridge, these three did everything they could to keep Eldridge in his administrator’s position including a bombastic display by Disabato in a special council meeting held to discuss Eldridge’s future.
They continue to support the Lazarus agenda two years after Lazarus lost a primary for reelection. For example, when Lazarus worked behind the scenes to get an area designated scenic and conservation rezoned for development, Crawford, Loftus and Disabato voted for the rezoning regardless of the potential flooding issues associated with the development.
Council will be making important decisions over the next few years regarding land use regulations, impact fees and improvements to the county’s stormwater management plan. Citizens need council members who will consider the welfare of the county as a whole as these important issues are considered, not ones who consider nothing more than what developers want.
Other important issues will be county funding of Interstate 73 construction and use of hospitality fee revenue. Disabato, Loftus and Crawford have repeatedly demonstrated their support for using county collected taxes to construct I-73 rather than using it to address the immediate needs of the county and its citizens.
Obviously the choices are up to the voters. If you are satisfied with increasing demands on infrastructure, repeated flooding issues on county roads and in neighborhoods and the cost of these decisions being charged to all county residents in the form of increased taxes, then your choice will be the incumbents.
However, if you want a more reasonable approach, intelligent development versus out of control development, improving and maintaining existing infrastructure and the needs of the citizens considered first, Karon Mitchell in District 3, Ian Guerin in District 4 and Jeremy Halpin in District 6 should be your choice.
The incumbents love to get endorsements from other elected officials for their campaigns. I would submit Mother Nature is endorsing strongly for the challengers as flood waters are currently rising in the county and more rain is forecast for the coming days.
At some point, voters must say enough is enough!