By Paul Gable
A New Year traditionally brings with it new hope and positive feelings about the year ahead.
Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus commented in a Facebook post on New Year’s Day about making 2018 a year of positivism. I hope Lazarus is able to achieve that positivism in county government.
This year will be interesting with three new members recently elected to Myrtle Beach City Council, including a new mayor, and seven council members up for re-election for Horry County Council including Chairman Lazarus.
But it takes more than hopes and feelings to achieve positive results in government. It takes hard work, transparency and proper goal setting to get the most “bang” for each “buck” collected from the taxpaying public.
Both Myrtle Beach City Council and Horry County Council have been lax in this area in years past.
Maybe the most important thing both councils have to remember is the citizens elect them to make decisions that benefit the community as a whole. Council then directs staff to carry out these decisions.
Too often, this process has become muddled with certain council and staff members working behind closed doors to benefit special interests at the expense of the general public. This is at least part of the reason Myrtle Beach has three new members of council.
Below are just a few of the actions by city council that the public voted against in November:
- Establishing an agency by city ordinance, like the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation.
- Funding the DRC, by city ordinance, with public parking fees
- Establishing a line of credit for the DRC to surreptitiously purchase property in the downtown area.
- Threatening owners who won’t sell with use of eminent domain
- Registering the deeds of those properties to the DRC not the city
- Having no real plan what is going to be done with the downtown area that is the subject of all this activity and keeping discussions of possible plans behind closed doors
- Establishing a tourism development tax, by city ordinance, that benefits the few at the expense of the many
County council has its own list, but most important is how county council funds superfluous entities in the budget while ignoring real needs in the county.
The above specifically refers to the $1.6 million grant given each year to the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation without visible results. At the same time, a funding dispute over $30,000 with the County Treasurer appears headed for court.
Even more interesting will be seeing how county council deals with the $38 million per year of hospitality tax dollars that will no longer be needed to pay off Ride I bonds but whose collection has been extended by county ordinance with no sunset provision.
I would submit leaving that much extra money in the budget, available to council members spending whims (read I-73 here), while needs for roads and other local infrastructure as well as public safety cry out continuously is not good policy.
Lazarus has called for positivity but county council must set the tone. Budget deliberations this spring will go a long way toward determining that tone.
What we don’t need is a large dose of Panglossian philosophy while, behind closed doors out of hearing and camera range, more of the same continues.