Meet Mark Then and Now

By Paul Gable

The Mark Lazarus Campaign for Chairman of Horry County Council sent its first mailer to voters over the weekend.

I was happy to see a quote from me in a 2013 article in Grand Strand Daily appeared prominently in the mailer. The quote was complimentary of Lazarus’ first months as chairman.

I’m not sure what the reasoning behind using the quote was or who in the campaign made the decision to use it, but if it was his consultants’ idea, he needs to get new ones.

The quote, rather than discrediting what I have written recently about Lazarus, adds credibility to what I have always told politicians – ‘When I think you’re doing a good job, I will be happy to compliment you. When I think you’re doing a bad job, I won’t hesitate to criticize you.’

Over the last three years, I have been highly critical of Lazarus because I believe he has not been doing a good job as chairman.

When running for reelection in 2014, Lazarus told voters he would “oppose new taxes.” Shortly after successfully winning reelection, Lazarus led council into passing the largest single property tax increase in Horry County history. In addition, council increased road maintenance fees by 67%.

More recently, Lazarus led county council into extending the county wide hospitality tax for an indefinite period in the future despite having no specific plans as to what it would be used for.

Why? Because in Lazarus’ words, if it wasn’t extended, it would be lost.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe a politician should honor his campaign promises otherwise how are we to believe anything he says?

Such as – County council had to spend $12 million for 3,729 acres of swamp land off of International Drive because it was a great deal for the county. The purchase was discussed quietly in secret before being quickly voted on by council.

Allegedly, the land will be used for mitigation for road and infrastructure projects or mitigation credits will be sold to other counties.

The only problem with that explanation is there has been no mitigation plan submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the land. We don’t know if the Corps will approve any mitigation from the land or if it does, how much will actually be approved.

Remember, a mitigation plan was approved by the Corps before the S.C. Department of Transportation bought Gunter’s Island, not the other way around.

Why should we believe it is a great deal, when we have already been lied to about opposing new taxes?

Then there is the continuing problems with public safety – shortage of personnel, overtime requirements grinding the officers down and non-competitive salaries.

Lazarus addressed this three years ago during the tax increase discussions. However, despite the large tax increase, nothing was done to solve the problem other than a modest raise that was spread throughout the entire county staff. The need for more officers in all departments was kicked down the road and we are hearing the same refrain now, always going to do something next year, but next year never comes.

Last year, when the new police chief said he needed more money in his budget for raises and additional officers, Lazarus criticized him publicly and said he had enough money in the budget. Earlier this year, Lazarus denied there was required overtime in the Fire/Rescue department then had to retract those statements.

When Lazarus first became chairman it looked to me like he was going to assert strong leadership and establish the right priorities for the county. Sadly, I was mistaken.

One of the first priorities in leadership is taking care of the people who work for you and the people who depend on your decisions for their welfare – read here public safety for the citizens of the county.

The county can’t continue to ‘wait til next year’ for the difficult decisions about public safety staffing to be made while the chairman uses the excuse of economic development to chase a fictitious pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in China or buys swamp land with money that could be used for public safety.

Those are bad decisions worthy of criticism!

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