By Paul Gable
It seems appropriate that filing closes for the upcoming Myrtle Beach city elections as the area awaits the possibility of tropical storm conditions.
This election cycle has already been stormy with more to come.
The incumbents running for reelection, Mayor John Rhodes and council members Randal Wallace and Mike Lowder, have received justified criticism of decisions made by council over the last several years.
I was looking back on stories from the election cycle two years ago. In one, I quoted an op-ed column by Mande Wilkes written three weeks before the 2015 election.
Wilkes criticized the “Asian fetish” of Myrtle Beach City Council while stifling local business investors with “the bizarre zoning laws, the oppressive signing ordinances, the climbing licensing fees, and the restrictive parking policies.”
“All of these rules add up to a suffocating environment for businesses, and that’s why Highway 17 is littered with empty storefronts and dilapidated buildings,” Wilkes wrote.
While the “Asian fetish” appears to be in the midst of a severe ‘crash and burn’, many of Wilkes’ other criticisms have not only not been addressed, but instead have been added to.
Shootings on Ocean Boulevard, indeed throughout the city, have been on the rise and city council responded with barricades along a section of Ocean Boulevard it apparently wants to redevelop.
The city surreptitiously bought up property in the Superblock area and, when it was exposed, threatened remaining private landholders with the use of eminent domain to acquire their properties.
The publicly stated reason for this land acquisition by the city – a new building for Chapin Memorial Library, a private-public partnership entity, and a new building for the totally private Children’s Museum.
City council challenger Ann Dunham attended a meeting about this project held September 6, 2017 and provided the following apropos summation on Facebook:
“Let me see if I understand. At the library meeting held September 6th at the First Presbyterian church you said:
• You did not repair the roof of the library so it has been leaking for so long there is now a mold problem in the building and with the books?
• You let a crime and safety problem develop downtown over a long period of time that you take no responsibility for, and in fact blame it on the Superblock?
• You aim to fix the crime problem by putting a library and children’s museum in the middle of it?
• You have no idea what the library will cost or how it should be configured but you proceeded to put viable businesses out of business in the Superblock (and buy up properties there secretly until you got caught), though you admit vacant land is available?
• You have no idea what to do with the old library building that you might tear down instead of repair?
• You want to let one certain photographer have free retail space inside the library?
• We must add meeting space to the new library because we have no meeting space available at the Convention Center, that operates in the red, and you said has an overall occupancy rate of 75%?”
This lack of transparency and apparent confusion on the part of city council and city officials on what to do about the problems in the city virtually begs for new leadership.
We do note the mayor was out early with a televised message about possible evacuations in preparation for the possible upcoming storm.
It is unclear, at this point, if the evacuation route out of the city will include a large traffic loop around the county to keep city streets from becoming clogged with traffic as seems so necessary during Memorial Day weekend.