By Paul Gable
The reactions surrounding Mark Lazarus walking out of the Burgess Community Forum Thursday night rather than face tough questions from the audience highlight the completely different approaches to governing of the two candidates for the Horry County Council chairman Republican nomination.
Lazarus and Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford, a Lazarus campaign consultant, immediately attempted to label as “union thugs” those who put Lazarus on the spot with questions and jeered his walking out. Ammons Crawford even speculated they weren’t from Horry County, which just shows how little they are in touch with the constituents they presume to represent.
Let me tell you a little about the two “union thugs” who asked difficult questions that seemed to offend Lazarus and that he used as an excuse to not “stand here and be abused by these guys”:
One is Chad Caton, a former Horry County fire fighter/EMT who is now on disability from injuries suffered on the job. Caton is married and a resident of Horry County. He was a volunteer fire fighter for Horry County Fire Rescue for five years and a full time fire fighter for HCFR for three years before suffering injuries. Caton is not a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters local fraternal organization.
The other is Casey Canterbury, a veteran Horry County Police Department officer who is a native of Horry County and a graduate of Socastee High School. He has served approximately nine years as a police officer in Horry County, five of those years with HCPD. He is the President of the local Fraternal Order of Police fraternal organization.
Neither the IAFF nor the FOP are collective bargaining union organizations in Horry County or the State of South Carolina. Lazarus and Ammons Crawford know this. However, they apparently believe use of the term “union thug” will discredit the men in the eyes of the public and make the elected officials objects of sympathy.
In 2014, when he last ran for reelection as county council chairman, Lazarus sought and received the endorsements of both the IAFF and FOP.
This year, Lazarus again sought those endorsements but they went instead to his opponent Johnny Gardner. One presumes the act of not endorsing Lazarus this time around changes rank and file Horry County police officers and fire fighters from “nice guys” to “union thugs.”
The absolute arrogance behind this type of thinking is disgraceful!
Lazarus lost the endorsement this year because the county’s first responders feel Lazarus did not honor any of the promises he made four years ago. The police and fire departments remain understaffed and overworked, which is a threat to the safety of both the officers and the public they serve.
According to statistics provided to Grand Strand Daily, the average elapsed time between a 911 call being answered and an officer arriving at the scene is twenty and one-half minutes, approximately three times the national average.
During the campaign in both public statements and mailers, Lazarus has said he has done a good job for public safety providing them with several raises in the five years he has been chairman. Unfortunately, he refuses to listen to those on the line every day responding to calls for service about the working conditions they suffer.
Gardner, a local attorney who served four years as an infantry officer with the 82nd Airborne Infantry Division, called Lazarus walking out of the Burgess Community Forum one of the worst examples of leadership he has ever seen and said Lazarus calling serving first responders in the county “union thugs” was “reprehensible.”
“Mr. Lazarus may think they’re thugs. I think they’re heroes,” Gardner said of the county’s first responders.
Gardner has said he will make Public Safety Priority One, if elected to the chairman’s seat.
It seems that for Team Lazarus, Team Horry or whatever silly moniker is attached to the Lazarus campaign today, the act of even attending something like the Burgess Community Forum is done out of an occasional sense of noblesse oblige rather than a belief that elected officials should answer questions from the public.
There is a sense of entitlement in our elected officials that they can say anything they want about anybody but nobody is allowed to criticize them. They even want to tell other people how to conduct themselves while their own conduct remains abysmal.
How this issue plays out and whether it affect’s Tuesday’s election results remains to be seen.
Several things are certain, however:
If the Lazarus home or business suffers a fire or break-in, the county’s public safety personnel will respond, if called, because they are professionals.
Gardner, a defense attorney, will provide his clients a vigorous defense, despite his commitment to public safety, because he is a professional.
If you go to Lazarus’ business in a professional capacity, you get all wet.