Tag: Cam Crawford

County Impact Fees Pass Unanimous Second Reading

Horry County Council is one step closer to imposing impact fees on new construction in the unincorporated areas of the county after unanimously passing second reading of an ordinance establishing those fees Tuesday night.
This is at least the fourth time in the past two decades that impact fees have been discussed by council. In the past, the development lobby has been successful in shutting down impact fees discussions before the issue got too far along in the legislative process.
Circumstances are different this time. Construction, especially of single-family homes, is red hot in the county and gives no signs of slowing down in the immediate future. Similar homes in similar type developments that were being advertised at mid-100s to high-100s last year are now being advertised in the mid-200s. That is approximately $250,000 for the average single-family home being constructed presently in a subdivision.
Some of that increase is due to the cost of building materials which have gone up by as much as four times in the case of lumber over the last 12 months. But profits for the developers have also been rising as the demand for new housing in the county continues to outpace the supply.
During past discussions, developers have been successful with the argument that impact fees would significantly increase the cost of a new home, driving down demand thereby causing high unemployment among the construction industry workers.
That argument does not hold water at this time even though it is being tried again and appears to have a sympathetic ear from a few council members.
Council member Dennis DiSabato attempted unsuccessfully to delay second reading of the ordinance by calling for a new committee to study the issue further. Council member Harold Worley, the most vocal supporter of impact fees during the discussion, said a vote to delay was a “kill pill” and the time had come to vote the ordinance up or down.
Council member Cam Crawford was more vocal and animated during the impact fee discussion than he has been in total in all the other council meetings and discussions over his nearly six years on council. Crawford’s voice and facial expressions clearly demonstrated his distaste for impact fees (or at least the distaste of those who have his ear).
In the end, however, neither DiSabato nor Crawford nor any other member of council voted against the ordinance.

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Gagging of Al Allen Points to Deeper Issues in County

Last week’s premature adjournment of the county council meeting in order to gag council member Al Allen’s requested discussion of county legal fees allowed deeper issues inside the government and county to come to the surface.
A simple request from Allen for county legal fees paid to outside attorneys has been blown up into a supposed politically motivated conspiracy, according to a report in a local media outlet. Two “county officials” speaking on conditions of anonymity, according to the story, put forth a theory alleging a plot to fire County Administrator Steve Gosnell and County Attorney Arrigo Carotti was the reason for Allen’s request.
And make no mistake, the information Allen requested and which was ultimately provided to Allen, other council members (although many of those other members saw the information well before it was produced to Allen) and the media is definitely public information.
According to statements in local media, County Attorney Arrigo Carotti brought Allen’s request for the information on legal fees to council member Johnny Vaught. The excuse Vaught gave to the media was Carotti did that because the legal department budget falls within the oversight of the county Administration Committee of which Vaught is chairman.
Vaught told media he had concern that county legal strategies could be discussed and he didn’t want that sensitive information to become public. I would submit that type of information is already public.
If someone wants to assess legal strategy in any lawsuit, they can go online to the judicial records to read the complaint, response, motions and responses, depositions and view the exhibits associated with the case. All of that information becomes open to the public the minute it is filed with the court. A person is going to gain a lot more information about legal strategy from those documents than from records of how much in legal fees was paid and to whom it was paid.
Vaught’s entire premise that he was attempting to protect privileged information is ridiculous. But the ensuing rhetoric which evolved around the issue and the players involved point to deeper intent.
The real story is the one involving those who said the information requested by Allen should not be released publicly and who created a false narrative in an attempt to publicly embarrass Allen and, later, council Chairman Johnny Gardner.

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Brittain Cruises to District 107 Primary Win

Case Brittain is the new Republican nominee for the SC House District 107 seat in the upcoming November general election.

Brittain cruised to an easy victory over former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride by a 70% – 30% margin.

To call the voter turnout light is to be generous. Brittain garnered less votes in winning than he accumulated on June 9th in a losing effort to then incumbent Alan Clemmons.

The total vote cast in this special primary was approximately one-half the number of voters in the regular primary.

Approximately 5.25% of the registered voters in the district cast votes for Brittain making him the nominee.

The Brittain victory completes a successful primary season for the Myrtle Beach cabal. Every one of their incumbents, Dennis DiSabato, Cam Crawford and Gary Loftus on county council, Heather Crawford and Clemmons, now Brittain, in the House and Luke Rankin in the Senate, won renomination. Brittain became the cabal’s choice after Clemmons resigned his seat in the House.

The coronavirus outbreak made things easier by holding down voting somewhat. When the average voters fail to turn out, the cabal’s core of voters can determine elections.

The normal tricks were pulled out to help Brittain win, Walter Whetsell and his Starboard Communications as consultant, bogus third party PAC to smear McBride and endorsements by other Whetsell clients to make it look like Brittain was earning the endorsements of local elected officials.

What this means is the cabal can set many of the political agendas for the next two years.
Development will continue to run rampant in the county, seriously outstripping the public safety and infrastructure resources needed to support new sub-divisions, all in the name of profit.

Money for I-77, Where is Money for I-73?

President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday June 18th about $34.6 million appropriated from the federal government for a new interchange on I-77 in Rock Hill.

Where is an appropriation for I-73?

Trump’s tweet again highlights the inability of our elected representatives, many of whom were reelected at last week’s primary, to get any funding for their supposed number one agenda item.

Tom Rice, Alan Clemmons, Heather Crawford, Luke Rankin, Russell Fry, Dennis Disabato, Cam Crawford, Gary Loftus, Johnny Vaught, Bill Howard, Tyler Servant, Brenda Bethune – aren’t you all embarrassed and ashamed of your continuing inability to secure any funding for I-73?

Over the past year, each and every one of you has spoken of the importance of I-73 to the local economy and to the safety of our citizens.

All this announcement does is demonstrate your political impotence, both individually and collectively, to deliver funding from any source other than Horry County for the project you list among your top priorities!

Five of the above, Clemmons, both Crawfords, Disabato and Loftus were victors in recent primaries, guaranteeing their reelection in November. Two others, Rice and Fry, had no primary opponent and will have a virtual walkover in November. Four, Vaught, Howard, Servant and Bethune, will face reelection over the next two years. The lone remaining incumbent, Rankin, faces a runoff election next week.

Whether it be money for I-73, flood mitigation, other infrastructure projects or other needs to help the citizens of Horry County, the ‘Dirty Dozen’ incumbents mentioned above can’t deliver.

Even the development industry, which spent tons of money helping the reelection of these people has to be let down at this announcement. After all, I-73 would net immediate revenue for some of those and it would open up considerable land in the western part of the county for development, even though much of it probably shouldn’t be developed due to flooding and infrastructure considerations.

Despite their continuing demonstrated inability to accomplish anything positive for the area, the voters chose to send those up for reelection last week back into office.

This announcement is just another example of why that was a bad idea.

Developers Win Primary Elections While Flooding Continues

Recent stories in local news media about homeowners in Socastee asking county council to find solutions to flooding problems in their neighborhoods highlights the effects that will be felt from the results of the recent primary elections for county council and the General Assembly.

The story initially said the station tried to contact Horry County councilman Cam Crawford and he didn’t return calls. Later it was updated to say Crawford would have more to say in four days on the flooding issues.

Crawford did give a statement after a second story appeared in which Socastee homeowners announced a protest scheduled for July 6, 2020 at 8 a.m. in front of the Horry County Courthouse.

Crawford’s statement said he worked with the Department of Natural Resources and the Coast Guard to establish a no wake zone on the Intracoastal Waterway. Crawford also mentioned that the county expected to receive some money from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department to assist in buyouts of flooded homes. Apparently Crawford does not know wake reduction is an erosion control method not a flood control one.

What he did not say is the amount allotted to South Carolina is approximately $157 million to be split among 30 affected counties. Of that amount, approximately $35 million is targeted for home buyouts, again to be apportioned among 30 counties. The home buyouts will be based on a scale in which low income, disabled and other economically disadvantaged families will get preference.

What Crawford also did not say is that the buyout program requires a local match and the county would have to assume new debt to participate in it since the state government was not willing to provide any money in the form of grants from its at least $1.5 billion excess revenue it expects this year.

During Cam’s recent reelection campaign, a mailer was sent out supporting Cam’s reelection with a statement by Tom Mulliken, Chairman of the South Carolina Floodwater Commission. The commission was appointed by Gov. Henry McMaster after Hurricane Florence. Both Cam and his wife, Rep. Heather Crawford have touted their work with the commission as proof they are working on flooding.

Decisions by County Government Determined by Who the Voters Elect

Ultimately the type of government we have is a consequence of those we elect to serve in it.

In Horry County, I submit some of our incumbent council members are the wrong choice. These are charlatans who hold elective office for self-aggrandizing, self-enriching or ego boosting reasons, or some combination thereof.

They are happy to serve themselves, their large campaign donors and those they perceive to be power brokers. The needs of the citizens at large are a rare afterthought.

For decades, the development industry in Horry County has held influence over this type of council member, using that influence to get virtually anything it wanted, including developing wetlands, flood plains and areas without the necessary supporting infrastructure, approved by council.

Three council members up for reelection who fit completely into that mold are Dennis Disabato, Cam Crawford and Gary Loftus, in my opinion. Disabato and Crawford each draw over 50% of their campaign contributions from the development industry. Loftus was appointed to the advisory board of a developer funded institute at Coastal Carolina University that the development donors hoped would “tell their side”, as one of the big donors put it, on any study completed by the institute.

Crawford, Loftus and Disabato strongly supported the reelection of Mark Lazarus two years ago. After Lazarus lost the council chairman seat to Johnny Gardner, they bought into the fictitious plot, devised by former administrator Chris Eldridge, in consultation with Lazarus, to attempt to keep Gardner from taking office.

After a SLED investigation concluded there was nothing to the allegations by Eldridge, these three did everything they could to keep Eldridge in his administrator’s position including a bombastic display by Disabato in a special council meeting held to discuss Eldridge’s future.

They continue to support the Lazarus agenda two years after Lazarus lost a primary for reelection. For example, when Lazarus worked behind the scenes to get an area designated scenic and conservation rezoned for development, Crawford, Loftus and Disabato voted for the rezoning regardless of the potential flooding issues associated with the development.

Council will be making important decisions over the next few years regarding land use regulations, impact fees and improvements to the county’s stormwater management plan. Citizens need council members who will consider the welfare of the county as a whole as these important issues are considered, not ones who consider nothing more than what developers want.

Final Campaign Week Messaging and Oddities, Voters Beware

We are in the final week of campaigning before the June 9th primary elections and we are seeing all the oddities and sound bite messaging that come with a final week push.

Cam and Heather Crawford are attempting to use endorsements by Gov. Henry McMaster and the Chairman of the Governor’s Floodwater Commission to prove to voters that they should be reelected.

This pair loves endorsements. However, they didn’t work for their prize candidate former Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus two years ago. The Lazarus campaign trumpeted endorsements by many sitting politicians but the voters weren’t fooled. They understood this is just a ploy used by the establishment to attempt to keep its minions in office. Which brings up the question, why is the SCGOP paying for so many mailers for Heather Crawford?

The Crawfords are bragging about getting ditches cleaned and attempting to get local governments to increase their debt obligations with a so-called ‘buyout program.’ If they were really effective, Heather would have been able to get state grant money, not loans, available for a buyout program. After all, the state had a 2 billion revenue surplus last year.

For that matter, they would have been able to get significant state funding for the Interstate 73 project they love to promote. That hasn’t been accomplished either.

When you look at their supposed list of accomplishments, it is obvious that the rhetoric is high but the performance is low.

Their most significant accomplishment, if you wish to call it that, is picking a fight with Horry County Rising, a citizens group with many members who are flood victims and who is actually trying to address flooding issues and mitigation.

If the Crawfords were really trying to help, they would attempt to work with this group, but that would take away from the photo ops and attempts to be center stage, which the Crawfords believe will fool the voters.

Another interesting quirk in campaigning comes from county council candidate Terry Fowler. From the beginning of his campaign, Fowler has made rash statements that after June 9th new home building in District 9 will stop. He has tried to paint several competitors as lackeys of the development industry because they are realtors.

Budgets - Cuts, Spending and You

Clemmons, Crawford, Crawford, Parker You Got Some ‘Splaining to do

Campaign funds and the lax laws controlling them allow politicians the ability to do almost anything they want with donations they receive.

But, the donors and the voters have a right to know exactly what is being done with campaign funds just as they do with public money. How, why and to whom is it paid? What goal toward being elected or reelected is achieved by its expenditure?

This is why nearly $150,000 over a four year span from Rep. Alan Clemmons’ campaign fund to now Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford (she was only a SC House member for the final $2,250 of that amount) listed as contract and/or campaign services leaves many questions.

Clemmons had no opponent in either a primary or general election in 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles. Yet, Crawford was paid an average of $37,500 per year for four years from Clemmons’ campaign account.

The voters deserve to know exactly what work did Clemmons pay Heather Crawford for? Was it all associated with political functions?

Heather Ammons Crawford, her husband and current Horry County District 6 council member Cam Crawford and SC Rep. Russell Fry have a political consulting business called Crescent Communications.

By way of comparison to the Clemmons payments to Heather Crawford, three campaigns run by the firm for former Horry County Council chairman Mark Lazarus provide stark contrasts.

Crescent Communications provided consulting services for three Lazarus campaigns, a special election in 2013 and regular election in 2014 and 2018. In those three campaigns, Lazarus spent a total of approximately $300,000 from his campaign account, all for election purposes. Approximately $41,000 was the total sum paid to Crescent Communications for those three campaign cycles.

Citizens or Special Interests – County Council Direction Will be Decided by June Primaries

The direction county council will take over the next several years will likely be determined by three contested races in the Republican Primary to be held on June 9, 2020.

Those three races are Horry County Districts 3, 4 and 6, currently held by incumbents Dennis DiSabato, Gary Loftus and Cam Crawford, respectively. Those three council members have consistently been stooges for the special interests in the county.

DiSabato, Loftus and Crawford were consistent “yes” votes for any initiative former council chairman Mark Lazarus brought to the table. The purchase of approximately 3,700 acres of wetlands off of International for $12 million of taxpayer money is one example that quickly comes to mind.

The parcel purchased by the county was part of a larger parcel purchased by a developer in Virginia years ago. The wetlands couldn’t be developed so the county purchased the land with the purported goal of establishing a wetland mitigation bank to be used when capital projects required mitigation credits for disturbing wetlands. No other parcel in the county was considered, no record of a request for proposals was sent out by the county.

The three stooges voted in lockstep to spend county money for land that was basically useless to the developer for the price of approximately $3,243 per acre.

After Lazarus was defeated for reelection, DiSabato, Crawford and Loftus were charter members for what I dubbed the Deep Six, council members who fought long and hard to keep former county administrator Chris Eldridge in office after Eldridge and county attorney Arrigo Carotti lodged groundless accusations of extortion against current chairman Johnny Gardner, who defeated Lazarus, Eldridge’s strongest supporter on council.

Anyone who watched the March 2019 special council meeting, called to remove Eldridge, will recall DiSabato launching into accusations against Gardner after an investigation by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) concluded the accusations were without any merit.

The three stooges voted not to fire Eldridge in March, ultimately costing the taxpayers of Horry County $350,000 when council voted to buy out Eldridge’s contract in April 2019 rather than firing him one month before.

DiSabato, Crawford and Loftus have been consistent supporters of having county taxpayers fund construction of Interstate 73. Constructing I-73 remains a major goal of special interests in the county who will benefit financially from construction of the road.

Uneasy Lie the Heads that Wear Incumbency – First Week of Candidate Filing

The coronavirus has not stopped this year’s candidate filing in Horry County from being the most active filing period in the county for many years.

Grand Strand Daily is tracking 22 local races for county offices or local representatives or senators to the General Assembly.

After the first week of filing, which ended yesterday, there are currently 13 contested races of the 22 being tracked and at least two more county council candidates will probably have opposition before filing closes next Monday. If the expected two challengers file in council districts 3 and 4, all five county council seats up for election in this cycle will be contested and all will be Republican primary contests.

One incumbent council member, Paul Prince in District 9, is retiring and four candidates, including Prince’s son, are contesting the Republican primary for that seat. The other four incumbent council members up for reelection are Cam Crawford and Danny Hardee, who already have opponents filed to challenge them and Dennis DiSabato and Gary Loftus, who are expected to have opponents by the end of filing.

The main reason county council is drawing so much attention is a feeling among voters that incumbent council members are only listening to the development community that funds their campaigns and voters’ concerns about flooding and rapid development are being ignored. (See the image at the end of this post, which has been making its way around Facebook, with the heads of the four incumbents inserted).

On the state level, voters are tired of being donors to the rest of the state while road and flooding problems in particular are not being addressed and most incumbents are content with sound bites and photo ops rather than trying to address solutions.

Four incumbents who, I believe, will face particularly serious challenges are state Reps. Alan Clemmons and Heather Ammons Crawford, Sen. Luke Rankin and county council member Cam Crawford. They are being opposed by Case Brittain, Mark Epps, John Gallman and Jeremy Halpin, respectively.

If the expected challengers emerge against DiSabato and Loftus, those races will be hotly contested also.