The city of Myrtle Beach has witnessed a rash of public shootings over the past week in multiple downtown locations with seven people injured in one incident captured on Facebook Live.
At a Town Hall this past Tuesday, a packed room of residents voiced concerns about the city needing more police on the streets. Discussions of the unpopular Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce Tourist Tax was also voiced by many residents with Chamber C.E.O. Brad Dean both speaking and attending.
Despite receiving over $176 million in tourist taxes to date, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has never been publicly audited.
Numbers indicate the effort increasingly works to send tourists to the nearby cities of North Myrtle Beach, Garden City, Surfside Beach, Pawleys Island and Litchfield which all have a better family brand image than does Myrtle Beach. These neighboring cities are rated among the safest beach towns in America. Of interest, no such tourist taxes are collected in North Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach, Garden City Beach, Litchfield Beach, nor Pawleys Island.
Long standing residents, like Joe McVay of Myrtle Beach among others, spoke publicly to Mayor Rhodes and City Council this past Tuesday stating that these tourist taxes should be re-channeled into putting police officers on the streets in Myrtle Beach and paying them at the same standards as other municipalities do. Myrtle Beach is one of the lowest rated municipalities among police officer pay in the nation.
The residents do have a point. Data MyrtleBeachSC.com compiled from Governing.com showed that a city, like Washington, D.C. above has 4,487 total police employees for a resident population of 569,000 people.
If Mr. Dean’s figures of 18 million tourists for all cities in the area (including Myrtle Beach, Garden City, North Myrtle Beach, and Surfside Beach) are accurate, then the average weekly population of the city of Myrtle Beach alone should equal that number [569,000] of tourist residents every week during peak season. The total number of certified police officers in the city of Myrtle Beach equals approximately 200.
For the record, 650,000 residents in D.C. equals 4,487 police officers. Myrtle Beach in July has roughly the same tourist residents, but only 200 police officers. A city, like Philadelphia with a population of 409,000 has 7,229 police employees.
Estimates are that to adequately staff and operate the necessary officers, the city of Myrtle Beach would need a minimum of $16 million of those current Chamber of Commerce ad dollars.
Dean had stated in Tuesday’s meeting he would “do whatever” was needed to help the city noting that this was an “all hands on deck” moment. [See Video Top Above] While Mr. Dean’s offer in the meeting sounded generous, after Wednesday’s news updates, local residents now say it was largely a political gesture.
On Wednesday, published reports stated that the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber is currently suggesting re-allocating ten percent of the tourist tax to the Myrtle Beach police department to make up for the shortfall. Ten percent of the tourist tax would only come to roughly $2.5 million. Social media responded calling the offer less than generous in light of the immediate $16 million needed to expand police presence.
Residents we spoke with on Wednesday asked MyrtleBeachSC.com why we even needed to ask for the money. “Those tax dollars are not his money,” said Ed Carey, a Market Common city resident. The taxes are collected by local hotels and then passed along to the state and back to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber. In short, the funds are taxes. By current state law, those funds can only be used to advertise the city of Myrtle Beach. Questions have been raised that, if Mr. Dean believes he can re-allocate $2.5 million, why can’t he re-allocate more?
The tone of Tuesday’s town hall was clearly emotional. Before the meeting even began, Myrtle Beach City Council received a “no confidence” letter regarding the city manager’s ability to run city government that was signed by local merchants.
Today, S.C. Governor Henry McMaster visits Myrtle Beach to offer state assistance and likely investigate Mr. Dean’s offer. Most believe Mr. Dean will present the Governor to the local press for a much needed photo opportunity.
In light of that very public meeting Tuesday, where residents boldly called for immediate action, with some even demanding resignations from the city’s highest levels of leadership, the Chamber C.E.O. may now need more today than just media optics of implied unity with him shaking Governor McMaster’s hand.