By Paul Gable
Myrtle Beach city officials finally got on message yesterday about the murder and mayhem that occurred in the city over Memorial Day weekend – Officially – It’s the Economy’s Fault.
The story goes, because S.C. cities and counties that usually send officers to help on the Grand Strand during biker weekends are stretched tight budget wise, because of the poor economy, they couldn’t send any help this year.
The fact that Myrtle Beach cut the $150 per diem it pays to these outside officers out of its budget for this year probably was a factor also.
This message fails to point out why the city hasn’t experienced this problem since 2009, when the economy began tanking and the city needed desperately to pass a tourism promotion tax in order to keep the tourists coming in the bad times.
Or, for that matter, why the tax was so structured to be such a boon to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s marketing budget and the city’s owner occupied homeowners while forgetting city services completely.
But, it wasn’t until the city’s most recent budget retreat that Myrtle Beach Police Chief Warren Gall admitted the south end of the city does not get the same level of policing that the north end does.
And, all of the real mayhem occurred in the south end, so what’s the big deal?
The big deal is an overflow crowd of residents and business owners turned up at Tuesday’s city council meeting demanding better. Some were there because of the potential damage the news of last weekend’s mayhem will have on the city’s tourism and their bottom lines. Some were there because they had good reason to fear for their lives!
But, it wasn’t the city’s fault. Blame it on the economy.
Wrong! It is the city’s fault!
Rapes, shootings, armed robberies and home invasions are not unique to Memorial Day weekend. They are occurring, seemingly in increasing numbers, year around. That doesn’t even include the young women who periodically go vanishing off the streets.
City officials have a job to do with regard to law enforcement and crime prevention throughout the city each day. It isn’t getting done.
The work at City Hall can’t be only about tourism taxes and new sports complexes to attract more tourists and annexations to increase the size of the city and demand for its services while areas of the city do not get the support and services they pay taxes for.
Interestingly, the reports from Atlantic Beach were that the atmosphere was calm and the bikers had a nice weekend. North Myrtle Beach had some traffic congestion and minor incidents, but nothing out of the norm for a summer weekend.
Yes, Myrtle Beach gets much of the crowd because of its high density of accommodations. But, this is not a new problem. Contingencies for potential problems with crowds must be prepared for and they were not.
Ground zero for the blame is Myrtle Beach City Hall and much as city officials would like to shift the blame, as they always try to do, it was their fault and it’s up to them to fix the proble