By Paul Gable
Myrtle Beach city officials are sticking with the phrase “It’s working” since putting up barricades and increasing police presence on Ocean Boulevard following shooting incidents in the past several months.
It’s just not clear what’s working.
The phrase was initially coined for a series of local ads by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce attempting to justify the one cent tax for tourism promotion.
Now, “It’s working” has apparently entered the local lexicon of government officials to give vague answers about questionable initiatives.
The questionable initiatives are the barricades and uses of some police officers to perform duties other than patrolling the boulevard to prevent further acts of violence.
The only real effect seen from the barricades to date is to minimize foot traffic of potential customers to the many food and other commercial establishments in the heart of what used to be the busiest area of Ocean Boulevard.
Since the barricades were put in place two weeks ago, business owners in the area told Grand Strand Daily that their revenues are down 40-50 percent from previous years.
“It was Fourth of July weekend and it looked like a weekend in March,” said one business owner. “There is nobody around and our sales are way down.”
Several police jurisdictions have volunteered officers to Myrtle Beach for weekend help in patrolling the Boulevard. The idea is to increase police presence to discourage the types of violence seen just a few weeks ago.
However, several business owners report Myrtle Beach Police Department officers have been visiting their establishments to check on things like valid business licenses and look for minor discrepancies from Myrtle Beach ordinances.
If a shop is not conducting business in accordance with city ordinances, I guess it is fair game. But, should checking potential violations by businesses be the number one priority of MBPD when the city is paying extra for additional officers from other jurisdictions?
And, just what are MBPD officers doing checking business licenses, a job that is assigned to code enforcement personnel?
Seems to me like taking advantage of a situation for secret objectives.
Those hidden reasons become more apparent when considered in conjunction with an email sent to city council members by DRC board member Chip Smith three weeks ago.
In his email, Smith complained about things he feels discourage investment and redevelopment in the downtown area.
“As I walked around I saw T-shirts with very vulgar messages that I would NEVER want to expose ladies or children to. And the amount of drug related items was unreal. If you were caught with the items being sold down there in your car, you would go to jail,” said a portion of Smith’s message.
The vulgar messages referred to appear to be what I would call suggestive sayings on some t-shirts and other items available in stores throughout the city. However, police aren’t checking merchandise in Coastal Grande Mall or Broadway at the Beach where just as many items with those types of messages are sold.
As far as the drug related items go, I expect Smith is referring to the hookah pipes sold in stores. These are not drug related items any more than the briar pipe I smoke. The selling of these is not illegal. If they are used for smoking drugs, the use is illegal, the pipe is not.
Combine the above with the special overlay district the city is considering for Ocean Boulevard from 16th Avenue North to 6th Avenue North and it looks like we have a designed effort to discriminate against the commercial shops in that area.
This is not good when the city is already suffering from the negative publicity caused by the shootings, its threat of the use of eminent domain to take thriving businesses in the Superblock and the expected effects on business in Myrtle Beach from the problems at Founders Group International.