Tourism Development Fee – A Tale of Two Cities

By Paul Gable

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,…”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

 The above quote from the classic Charles Dickens novel “A Tale of Two Cities” accurately sums up the respective approaches being taken by the cities of North Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach on the issue of the tourism development fee (TDF).

The North Myrtle Beach city council has scheduled a referendum vote for March 6, 2018, to allow voters in the city to determine whether a TDF should be allowed on purchases in the city.

The Myrtle Beach city council approved the TDF nearly nine years ago by supermajority vote of the council. The council, even with three new members, appears ready to vote to extend the TDF beyond its initial 10 year approval period again by supermajority vote of council members. Council seems unwilling to allow the question to be put before its voters.

Having voted for a referendum, North Myrtle Beach officials, both elected and appointed, cannot be seen as advocating for passage or defeat of the referendum in their official capacity. According to statements made to various media outlets, they are strictly adhering to this line to avoid any potential ethics problems.

North Myrtle Beach city officials can and should tell the public how the revenue the city will receive from the TDF will be spent, i.e. public safety, parking, other infrastructure. It appears that all residents will get some benefit from TDF revenue. In Myrtle Beach, only 17% of properties in the city (owner-occupied properties) receive all the benefits from the city revenue.

One has to wonder whether Myrtle Beach city officials would conduct themselves in the same ethical manner if a referendum on the question were pending in that city. Incumbents have been strong proponents of the TDF and even several of the new members, who said they thought a referendum should be held on the question of extending the TDF, seem to have backed away from those campaign pronouncements.

I know of several instances where local media outlets have been contacted with a request to “take it easy” on Myrtle Beach city council members if they vote to extend the TDF.

Based on past experience and “It’s working” ads, if a referendum were to be held in Myrtle Beach, undoubtedly the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce would launch a media and mail blitz advocating passage that would make a campaign for governor proud of its scope.

On the other hand, the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce has publicly stated that it will provide information about the TDF and how the revenue it would receive would be used. However, the Chamber has said it will live by the same neutral position of non-advocacy city officials must abide by.

There you have the ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and how they deal with the question of the TDF. Myrtle Beach apparently won’t even allow the voters to have their say while North Myrtle Beach believes voters are an integral part of the process.

Regardless of how the TDF vote is handled in Myrtle Beach, citizens will be subjected to a propaganda campaign of why it is needed. In North Myrtle Beach, no propaganda, just information on how the money will be used.





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