By Paul Gable
It is ironic that the Michael Hilton felony DUI case had an important ruling just days before the Myrtle Beach city council elections are scheduled.
Hilton’s DUI accident resulted in the death of a biker and serious injuries to a passenger on the bike. That it has taken five and one-half years to get to the point where it looks like the case will go to trial is a black mark on what passes for a legal system in South Carolina.
But, putting the accident itself aside for now, the long term consequences of it are pertinent to the upcoming election.
Hilton was at a party given by a significant member of a group, we now call them the Myrtle Beach Mafia, which was planning changes in downtown Myrtle Beach. I am told a business plan already existed at the time of the accident.
The plan included altering the terminus of U.S. 501 and Kings Highway as well as several other street changes in the downtown area. Additionally, the buying up of small motels and other businesses, many of which relied on the biker trade to make the year’s profits, was included.
A number of small business owners in the area spoke of the city requiring full financial statements and other business records never before requested at the time of business license renewals.
Getting rid of the bikers would aid this land grab, so the Take Back May movement came into existence resulting in the various city ordinances passed to discourage bikers from coming to Myrtle Beach. This had the added benefit of getting rid of the bikers who were blamed by some of the MBM for “causing” Hilton’s felony DUI.
A plan to shift business expenses, specifically marketing expenses, to public dollars resulted in city council passing the one cent local option sales tax for tourism advertising – the only sales tax in the state ever instituted without a public referendum.
This plan, reportedly, saved big hotels and other MBM businesses as much as 90% of their former marketing budgets. Some of savings found its way back (from “like-minded” individuals) to the incumbent city council members), for the 2009 city elections, in the form of a series of consecutively numbered cashier’s checks from LLC’s with no business location, employees or income.
Now, with the help of a massive ad campaign by the Grand Strand Business Alliance (like-minded individuals), voters are being urged to support city council incumbents in next week’s city elections so the plan can continue.
With the recent exposure of some of the financial problems of incumbent councilman Wayne Gray, there seems to be a turning away from the incumbents among sections of the electorate.
City council challenger Keith Van Winkle has garnered a number of endorsements from veteran politicos in the last several weeks. City council challenger Jackie Vereen is, reportedly, gaining support each day and mayoral challenger Bill Howard is making a late run.
In my opinion, the current city council does not work in the best interests of the vast majority of Myrtle Beach citizens, but the wishes of the Dunes Club card room bunch are always heard.
If the schemes of the supposed “landed gentry”, at the expense of the average citizen, are to be foiled, voters will have to turn at least some of the incumbents out of office next Tuesday.
We’ll see what happens.