By Paul Gable
Mark Lazarus is trying to convince voters he has undergone a character metamorphosis and is now running for county council chairman with a changed personality.
The latest is the ‘Lazarus is Listening Tour’ announced in a mailer sent to voters around the county. Putting ‘Lazarus listens’ together is one of the great oxymorons of Horry County political history.
Lazarus lost the chairmanship four years ago precisely because he didn’t listen to the voters or the many employees of county government, especially the public safety personnel.
Lazarus was not listening to the citizens about road problems that needed fixing throughout the county. He was intent on bowing to his Myrtle Beach Chamber pals and giving $40 million annually, from the county’s hospitality tax revenue, to the construction of Interstate 73 while citizens were asking for improvements on the ‘farm to market roads’, such as Hwy 90 and Hwy 905, that serve so many residents.
Lazarus was not listening to the demands of taxpayers for impact fees on new development, even though an advisory referendum showed 3 in 4 county voters wanted impact fees to help pay for the infrastructure and other services associated with new sub-divisions.
Lazarus was certainly not listening to the police and fire personnel working for the county asking for help with the long hours and low pay they were suffering from.
When challenged about how he was going to address these conditions by police and fire representatives at a community forum in Burgess, Lazarus stormed off the stage and out of the event with “I don’t have to listen to any more of this abuse.”
Lazarus and his then campaign consultant, Rep. Heather Crawford, doubled down on this demonstration that Lazarus ‘does not listen’ by calling the police and fire personnel asking the challenging questions “Thugs.”
Chairman Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus four years ago and is up for reelection this year, has already listened and produced. Promising “Public Safety Priority One Day One”, Gardner successfully got raises for all county personnel and new hiring in the Public Safety Division.
Despite the opposition of council members who continue to tie themselves to the Chamber and its I-73 boondoggle, Gardner successfully cancelled a contract with SCDOT, that Lazarus pushed through council at the end of his last term, calling for annual funding by the county for Interstate 73. Local roads are now getting the priority Lazarus gave to I-73.
Despite opposition of the development industry, which is funding the Lazarus campaign again this election, Gardner successfully got impact fees instituted. The initial round of impact fees was set at a lower rate than they should have been because of an amendment by a third candidate in the current chairman race, Johnny Vaught, another who listens to developers instead of the citizens.
Under Gardner’s administration, county roads are taking priority in upgrading and maintenance and new regulations have been instituted to hopefully further mitigate flooding in the county.
The Lazarus metamorphosis is a neat campaign trick, but that is all it is. Lazarus is still the candidate of the Chamber and its associated cabal. Gardner is still the candidate of the people.