Tag: Brenda Bethune

Mayor Bethune is “Miss Lead” on Ho Residency, Other Issues as Voting Nears

(The title of the cartoon accompanying this article is “Miss Lead”)
At a candidate forum hosted by the Myrtle Beach NAACP last week, Mayor Brenda Bethune made a statement that inferred opponent Gene Ho was not a resident of the city.
Bethune brought several pieces of paper to the lectern then said, “Unless something has changed in Horry County, where you pay your 4 percent primary residence property tax is where your primary residence is. (Looking at Ho) And last time I checked your primary residence is in Prestwick.”
Unfortunately for Bethune, she was working from old information. A further check would have revealed that for the current year (2021), Ho is back at his condominium in Myrtle Beach as his primary residence and the home he owns in Prestwick is back at a 6 percent tax rate and is currently being rented.
It is unclear whether Bethune’s statement was the result of incompetent opposition research, incompetent campaign messaging or both.
But why ruin a good sound bite with facts?
Another interesting statement from Bethune during the forum was, “It’s about having empathy and respect for others. That’s how we get equity, diversity and inclusion. And it’s not just about race, it’s about sexual preferences, it’s about if a child decides they want to be a male of a female, it’s about loving everyone.”
I suppose Bethune believed that statement painted her as an empathetic, loving mayor who respects her constituents.
However, the statement runs counter to her actions in office.
Where was Bethune’s empathy and respect when she led the passage of an overlay zone on Ocean Boulevard which restricted mainly Jewish owned businesses from selling products that are readily sold throughout the rest of the city?
In fact, there has been no empathy or respect shown to those businesses and others in the traditional downtown business district during Bethune’s current four-year term. That’s why there are so many empty, commercial buildings in that area.

Chamber Response to County Council Rejection of I-73 Funding is Arrogant and Threatening

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce issued an arrogant and threatening email response to the rejection by a majority of county council Tuesday night to a resolution funding Interstate 73 from local county tax revenue.
Whether she authored the email personally or it was authored by one of her underlings, Karen Riordan as MBACC President and CEO bears direct responsibility for its contents.
Responding to questions about the email from a local media outlet, Riordan attempted to pass off its contents as showing “appreciation to the Horry County Council members who voted for funding Interstate 73.”
Such a statement would be true if the email was limited to the first and last two sentences in its content.
However, when the statement, “Make no mistake about it, we need local and county support for this Interstate and there will be additional votes at county council,” was included the email crossed the line from congratulations to arrogant threat.
According to comments I’ve received from several of the six county council members who voted against the resolution, the Chamber email was not viewed favorably by any of the six and apparently the email has stiffened their resolve to oppose local funding for Interstate 73.
The entire lobbying effort for local government funding for I-73 by the Chamber was mishandled from its start. I would submit it demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of local citizens’ attitudes and local politics in today’s environment.
For example, four members of county council who voted against the resolution, Harold Worley, Mark Causey, Danny Hardee and Al Allen, were born, raised and make their living in the council districts they represent. They know the desires of their constituents much better than the Chamber group.
Council member Orton Bellamy, a Horry County native, represents a district that derives little to no benefit from Chamber marketing or the proposed I-73 and is a retired Army officer who will not be intimidated by the Chamber lobby.
Council Chairman Johnny Gardner, a Horry County native, was opposed by the Chamber group when he ran for office and wasn’t even invited to attend any of the private meetings hosted by the Chamber in which the need and strategy for obtaining local funding was discussed. Instead council member Dennis DiSabato was included in that group and DiSabato could not convince six members of council to join him in voting for the resolution.

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Horry County Council Rejects I-73 Funding

By a 6-5 vote, Horry County Council, at its regular meeting Tuesday night, rejected a proposal to dedicate $4.2 million per year for 30 years from hospitality fee revenue to the construction of Interstate 73.
The margin was one vote, but it wasn’t that close. It was a clear demonstration that six members of council are solid in their determination to vote in the interests of the citizens not special interests.
The vote was a clear defeat for council members Johnny Vaught and Dennis DiSabato, the two on council who drank the Chamber Kool-Aid and spearheaded the effort to dedicate funding to I-73. It wasn’t their idea, but Vaught and DiSabato agreed to ‘carry the water’ for the Chamber and its cronies in this latest effort to obtain local funding for the road. They spilled most of that water.
The question now is, have Vaught and DiSabato destroyed any hope for the Chamber to secure local funding for its pet project?
The effort to secure funding for I-73 from countywide hospitality fees has been four and one-half years in the making. It began in Spring 2017 when former council chairman Mark Lazarus convinced county council to remove the sunset provision from the county ordinance establishing hospitality fee collection.
Lazarus next tried to convince council to dedicate the entire approximately $45 million annual revenue from countywide hospitality fees to fund construction of I-73. However, the people were beginning to be heard as their rejection of Lazarus for reelection in 2018 demonstrated, and Lazarus, in his final days in office, was only able to push through authorization for the county to enter into a funding agreement with the South Carolina Department of Transportation for up to $25 million per year from hospitality fees for I-73 construction.
That funding agreement was immediately challenged by a lawsuit brought by the cities against the county and the agreement was cancelled by county council in late 2019 with no money having ever been sent to SCDOT.
The settlement of that lawsuit included vague language that the county and the cities would work together to try and find alternative means of providing local funding for I-73.
After a break due to the uncertainties of the effects of Covid on local governments, a small group reportedly consisting of Chamber officials, state Rep. Case Brittain, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley and DiSabato began meeting last summer to concoct a new local funding plan for I-73.
The spin at the time was dedicated funding from local governments could be taken to the S. C. General Assembly to lobby for state funds to be appropriated to I-73 construction and that resulting package could be taken to Washington to lobby for federal funds.
That entire concept seems to be upside down logic. Why should local governments be the first to dedicate funding for an interstate highway in an attempt to convince the state and feds they should contribute?

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Where is Mayor Bethune?

Last week, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune missed two opportunities to answer questions from voters about why she should be reelected.
Instead, the Bethune campaign put out two emails extolling the virtues of spending local tax dollars on the construction of Interstate 73 and what she had done to address crime issues in the city.
Had Bethune taken the time to actually talk to voters, she may have learned that crime is still the number one issue concerning residents of Myrtle Beach and constructing I-73 ranks very far down on the list.
And Bethune’s message was countered by a story about Myrtle Beach being the third most dangerous city, per capita, in the nation. The story could be found on the website of Coastal Law, the firm with which Congressional candidate Russell Fry is associated.
Interestingly, Fry and Bethune both support the construction of I-73 in Horry County with local tax dollars.
Talking to and listening to voters is not high up on the list of things to do for most politicians today. They certainly want to be elected and reelected but they prefer to do it with slick mailers and emails as well as orchestrated messages in television and radio ads. These messages hit what politicians consider to be a few hot button issues for voters.
Then, if they fool enough voters to be elected or reelected, many of the politicians will go on to serve their own self-interests or those of the big donors to their campaigns. In some cases, such as Interstate 73, these politicians try to make it a hot button for voters with outlandish promises of what it will do for voters while it is really meant to serve the interest of their donors.
I-73 will permeate many election races through the Republican primaries in June 2022 and those politicians promoting it as a good idea are not working in the best interest of voters.
Fry joined Bethune and incumbent Congressman Tom Rice at Gov. Henry McMaster’s press conference about funding I-73 in Myrtle Beach last week.
Fry is running a rather schizophrenic campaign attempting to be a clone of Rice sometimes, then running away from Rice at other times when he (Fry) tries to wrap himself in the Donald Trump cloak.

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Horry County Taxpayers Betrayed in Governor’s I-73 Plan

Gov. Henry McMaster travelled from Columbia to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters Monday to unveil his “Potential Funding Plan” for Interstate 73 from its eastern terminus at U. S. 17 in Briarcliffe to connection with I-95 near Dillon.
It was a duplicitous move by the governor when one considers that all of the $795 million from state funds recommended by McMaster will be spent entirely in Dillon and Marion counties. McMaster’s funding plan for completion of the Horry County section of I-73 is placed on the backs of Horry County taxpayers with possibly $150 million of federal funds being thrown in.
Even by standards of a South Carolina state government that continuously uses Horry as a donor county to the rest of the state, the plan is outrageous. It is outright Marxist philosophy that our “so-called conservative Republican” elected officials claim to fight against.
In 1875, Karl Marx wrote the economic and political philosophy of his “communism” was “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” In other words, transfer the wealth from the rich to the poor. That is exactly what is being done with Horry County tax dollars so Dillon and Marion taxpayers don’t have to contribute any locally collected tax dollars.
In addition, that $350 million of local contribution from the county and the cities would be better spent on existing infrastructure needs such as Hwy 90, Hwy 905, the SELL road and the proposed road around Conway to 701 for the county, infrastructure and police needs in Myrtle Beach and parking and other infrastructure needs in North Myrtle Beach.
Furthermore, the elected officials representing Horry County voters who showed up to praise the plan, Congressman Tom Rice, state legislators Sen. Luke Rankin, Sen. Greg Hembree, Sen. Stephen Goldfinch, Rep. Russell Fry, Rep. Case Brittain, and Rep. Heather Crawford, county council members Dennis DiSabato, Orton Bellamy, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant and Gary Loftus, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and city council members Jackie Hatley, Gregg Smith and John Krajc and North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley, have a lot of splainin’ to do for supporting the plan.
Rice, Brittain, Crawford, Bellamy, Vaught, Howard and Servant are all up for reelection in 2022. Bethune, Jackie Hatley, Smith and Marilyn Hatley are up for reelection in the upcoming November 2021 city elections. Fry is giving up his statehouse seat to challenge Rice for Congress. Will the voters reject these liberal Marxist spendthrifts?
The entire funding plan projects $795 million from the state, $430 million from the feds and $350 million combined from Horry County, Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach. None of that money is approved to be spent on I-73 at this time. Dillon and Marion counties are not projected to appropriate any money.
If Horry County and the cities send $350 million of hospitality fee revenue to the state to spend on I-73 rather than local roads, the net loss to county taxpayers will be $700 million – the $350 million sent to the state and that same $350 million that could, but will not, be spent to improve existing roads.

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Chamber and Governor Mull Press Conference to Announce I-73 Funding with No Funding Approved

The latest effort by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to make construction of Interstate 73 a viable project in the minds of the voters of Horry County took several bizarre twists yesterday.
A brief recap:
In recent weeks, the Chamber has promoted the idea that a mysterious poll of voters in South Carolina (405 in all) showed 82% of those responding favored construction of I-73. The actual questions and responses have never been revealed, just questionable results.
The poll announcement was followed by news that Chamber President and CEO Karen Riordan, state Rep. Case Brittain, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and Horry County Council member Dennis DiSabato were working on a $750 million funding package for the I-73 project that included $250 in funding from local governments and $500 million from the state. It was announced that the governments of Horry County, the City of Myrtle Beach and the City of North Myrtle Beach would approve their respective portions of the $250 million funding package by the end of this month.
Monday it was announced that the Horry County Administration Committee would vote the next day on a resolution to dedicate $4.2 million per year, for up to 30 years, to the I-73 project from county hospitality fee revenue. That vote, however, was postponed until at least October 26 after a short executive session by committee members on Tuesday.
Tuesday evening Horry County Council Chairman Johnny Gardner was informed that Gov. Henry McMaster would hold a press conference Monday October 4, 2021, at the Myrtle Beach Chamber offices to announce the state was committing $300 million to I-73 construction. (There was no explanation of why alleged state funding was reduced from the $500 million announced by Brittain to the $300 million over a two-week span.)
Now the bizarre:
According to a number of sources familiar with events, word began to spread from Riordan to local politicians yesterday that the governor would be coming to Myrtle Beach on Monday to make an announcement about I-73 funding.
Unless the state government receives specifically earmarked funds for I-73 from the federal government, the governor cannot order any state agency to spend money on the project. Appropriations must receive voting approval from the General Assembly.
State legislators, from around the state, contacted by Grand Strand Daily, said the news that Gov. McMaster was going to announce funding from the state for I-73 was a surprise since the General Assembly had not approved nor even considered any such appropriation.

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Another Suspicious Poll from MBACC Alleges Support for I-73

The Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is up to its old tricks by again trying to convince local citizens that there is widespread support for the construction of Interstate 73.
Two days ago, the Chamber issued a press release and an eight-page document supposedly reporting the results of a poll conducted in July 2021 on I-73.
The document stated that 79 percent of 405 registered voters responding from across the state supported I-73. It also stated that 82 percent of an unspecified number of voters, included in the overall 405 number, from the 7th Congressional District supported I-73.
These reported results are in line with another supposed poll the Chamber said was conducted two years ago. The results from that poll supposedly said that of 1,774 respondents to a poll on I-73, 74.6 percent of the respondents favored the project.
Two years ago, I called B— S—- on the 2019 supposed poll and I submit the same sentiment applies to these most recent reported results.
The latest supposed poll results come at a time when the newest brainstorm, as reported in local media, to keep some life in the I-73 project is to have the local city and the county governments pledge by resolution a total of $250 million toward construction of I-73.
Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune strongly supported local funding from the city, even though the city recently cancelled health insurance coverage promised to retired city workers and police manning is down while young women apparently can be snatched off the street in mid-afternoon only to have their body turn up in Florence several days later.
However, Horry County Council members are very reluctant to pass even a resolution supporting county funding of I-73, despite concerted effort by council member Dennis DiSabato. It took the county a year to reverse the debacle council had to extract itself from two years ago after a 2018 resolution pushed by then county chairman Mark Lazarus committed the county to providing $25 million per year to SCDOT for the I-73 project.
The idea is that state Rep. Case Brittain can take those pledges to Columbia to ask the state government to pledge $500 million toward the project. Then, with $750 million pledged, maybe Tom Rice can finally get enough out of the federal government to construct the road at least to connection to I-95 in Dillon, a total cost of approximately $1.5-2 billion.
How this is supposed to succeed is anyone’s guess as the best Gov. Henry McMaster could do last spring was get SCDOT to commit $500,000 per year for three years to the I-73 project IF the local governments provided a total match of $500,000 per year.
The reasons to question whether a poll was even conducted are many.

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Richardson Listens to Voters on I-73 Issue

As a new push begins for local funding of the Interstate 73 project, Horry County School Board Chairman and 7th Congressional District candidate Ken Richardson has taken a novel approach on the I-73 issue.
Over the past several days, local media has highlighted I-73 propaganda statements by local politicians who, along with the special interests who fund their campaigns, search for $250 million in local government revenue to pledge to the I-73 project.
Interstate 73 has always had a top-down sales approach to voters. Special interests and their PACs, who believe they will gain financially in some way from the construction of I-73, fund the campaign chests of local politicians who then become spokespersons trying to convince voters that I-73 is actually for their (the voters) benefit.
Richardson has taken a different approach. As he travels around Horry County and the other seven counties that make up the 7th Congressional District, Richardson asks voters whether they support the construction of I-73.
“I have given over 50 speeches to groups as small as 6 to as large as 120 since I announced my challenge to Tom Rice for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District,” Richardson said. “During every speech, I ask for a show of hands from those in attendance who support I-73. So far, in all those events, only one hand has been raised.”
Richardson spoke of one woman at an event in Florence. “She said to me, ‘we always hear how interstates will bring new jobs. Well, we already have two interstates in Florence and we haven’t seen 300 new jobs in the last 10 years.’”
Richardson said a common theme he hears is that local governments and the state government should fix the roads and bridges they already have in place rather than building a new road that won’t be maintained either.
The I-73 project has been a subject of discussion by special interests and the politicians they donate to for at least 30 years. It ramped up nearly 20 years ago when Brad Dean took over the reins of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
Horry County has already spent over one-half billion dollars of locally generated hospitality fee (tax) revenues building SC-22. The last approximately 22 miles of I-73 will be on SC-22 from near the 319 exit to the terminus in the Briarcliffe Acres area. SC-22 will need some upgrading on the shoulders to meet interstate highway standards.

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Rice, Fry and Crawford’s Interstate 73 on Life Support

Since the City of Myrtle Beach killed a funding source for Interstate 73 with the hospitality fee lawsuit against Horry County, the cabal that stands to benefit from construction of the road has been attempting to keep the project alive.
In the last two years of his tenure as county chairman, Mark Lazarus led council to remove the sunset provision in the county’s hospitality fee ordinance. Then, Lazarus convinced council to approve a financial participation agreement with the S. C. Department of Transportation to provide dedicated funding for the interstate project.
Lazarus’ entire scheme to provide county funding for construction of I-73 blew up with the hospitality fee lawsuit and recent settlement.
Congressman Tom Rice, and state Reps. Heather Crawford and Russell Fry and former Rep. Alan Clemmons didn’t even get as far as Lazarus in securing funding for construction of Interstate 73 despite constantly proclaiming the project a major priority.
The most successful representative in obtaining funds for I-73 was former SC 1st Congressional District Rep. Henry Brown in the days when Horry County was part of that district. During his 10 years in Washington, Brown managed to secure approximately $83 million total for the road. Brown served in Congress from Jan. 2001 to Jan. 2011.
According to sources familiar with the project, SCDOT is currently spending the last of the Brown secured funding to purchase rights of way in the Mullins area.
Rice has demonstrated no ability to secure federal funding to move the I-73 project forward. Neither have Fry, Crawford and previously Clemmons at the state level.
Grand Strand Daily has learned that a recent private meeting was held after Gov. Henry McMaster made an address to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce. The meeting included McMaster, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune, North Myrtle Beach Mayor Marilyn Hatley and Horry County Council member Dennis DiSabato. The meeting reportedly discussed providing some state funding, with local matching funds, to keep the project alive.
It is interesting that McMaster chose to meet with Bethune and Hatley, the two mayors who played the largest part in eliminating I-73 funding from hospitality fee revenue, as well as DiSabato who will struggle to get seven votes among council members for the proposal. One wonders, where was Horry County Council member Johnny Vaught when this meeting occurred. Vaught was attached at the hip to Lazarus with attempting to provide dedicated annual funding for I-73 from hospitality fee revenue.
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Hospitality Fee Lawsuit – What Does Myrtle Beach Really Want

With the City of Myrtle Beach announcing last week it plans to appeal the judge’s order on a settlement of the hospitality fee lawsuit it brought against Horry County, it appears the city has taken the stance of ‘my way or the highway’ on the lawsuit issue.

Everything has been settled and agreed to between the parties in the lawsuit except for the disbursement of approximately $19 million the county collected in the various city jurisdictions in the county between March and August 2019.

Horry County asked the judge to order that money be returned to the city’s in which it was collected. The judge agreed.

Myrtle Beach requested one half of those funds be returned to the cities and one-half established as a fund from which it may pay out refunds to individuals who paid the hospitality fee between the above months with any unclaimed amount going to the South Carolina Bar Association’s fund for legal services for low income residents.

Under the county plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $11,170,800 of the approximately $19 million total. This money could be spent on infrastructure and public safety services associated with tourism, according to state law.

Under the city plan, Myrtle Beach would receive $5,585,400. Why would the city want to receive less money and why would it appeal a judge’s order that awarded it more?

The dispute over the settlement money split is about interpretation of Rule 23 of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure, which deals with class action lawsuits.

Myrtle Beach issued the following statement as an explanation, “This appeal is necessary to finally determine the rights of the other members of the class — those who paid the Hospitality Fee to Horry County during the period when it was in dispute — regarding distribution of the portion of the $19 million common fund that was not otherwise resolved by the settlement agreement.

Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune and City Manager John Pedersen have both added the city’s attorneys said the appeal is necessary in order to shield the city from any potential liability related to a suit that may be brought by a potential claimant.

I have spoken to two attorneys not involved in the lawsuit who said the city is already shielded from any claim by the trial judge’s order. In addition, neither believe this is a class action suit.