Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randal Wallace recently went on air with the Carolina Politics TV network hosted by Paul Gable and John Bonsignor.
Mr. Wallace is currently campaigning for re-election this November 2017.
Current issues before the city of Myrtle Beach that have transpired on Mr. Wallace’s 17 year watch include:
*The city’s use of Eminent Domain in purchasing private businesses for the sake of city sponsored development.
*High crime in the downtown area. Myrtle Beach is currently ranked 17th most dangerous city in America by NeighborhoodScout.com
*Oceanfront Water Bacteria Issues in eight infected drainage areas inside the city that can spike 77 times above safe swimming.
*County Parking restriction issues inside the Golden Mile of Myrtle Beach.
*High City Debt, with the city of Myrtle Beach currently at its borrowing capacity.
*A Myrtle Beach negative brand image tarnished by focus on international investment and a lack of focus on maintaining the downtown city area coupled with an increased attraction of the wrong types of tourist groups.
The Carolina Politics commentators asked Mr. Wallace about eminent domain. Specifically, they asked him why he would vote for eminent domain to take private businesses for the sake of financing and creating space for new private businesses. Mr. Wallace said, “I think it is not right to call the library semi-private. It’s a city owned library. It was donated and the Chapin Memorial board still has some say in it. That is a government run facility.”
Commentator Paul Gable pointed out that the Chapin Library is not like any other library in the state. Gable stated, “No it’s not, because it was never donated by a trust.” MyrtleBeachSC.com checked with the County Library Board who has jurisdiction over all state public libraries. They told our team that Mr. Gable was in fact right. The Chapin Library is a private library owned by the Chapin Memorial Board.
The city of Myrtle Beach is using $10 million in monies provided through an infrastructure bank loan to build a private children’s museum and a private library at the current location of private businesses in the historic Myrtle Beach superblock. The move has upset many in the downtown area of Myrtle Beach. Public city taxpayers will be on the hook for these two new private facilities.
“If you look at the other properties…. it was willing buyers – willing sellers,” Mr. Wallace added. MyrtleBeachSC.com spoke with a former Superblock owner who owned several properties. He said he did sell the properties to the city, but stated there was no other real option available. After the city had either chased the tenants away or made it impossible for them to pay the rent, he knew it was only a matter of time before he would have had a bunch of worthless properties on his hand.
Business owner Natalie Litsey, of Natalias Bar and Grill, stated on camera that she was harassed by Myrtle Beach city police and forced out of business.
“I feel pretty good about how we have worked with the folks there” (SUPERBLOCK), Wallace added. Councilman Wallace stated he was not the kind of person who liked to use eminent domain. However, the record shows Mr. Wallace voted for it.
When the conversation shifted to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the extension of the 1% tourist tax to 2029, Mr. Gable asked the councilman if the city would put the vote before the residents for a city-wide referendum vote this year? Mr. Wallace said, “You are talking about the 80% (real estate tax) reduction?”
The law does allow for a real estate tax deduction for primary homeowners who live in the city limits. Economists we spoke with said the bill was not actually a tax deduction, but rather a tax redistribution, putting the burden of those real estate taxes on tourists. Records show only about 17% of Myrtle Beach property owners can currently take advantage of this deduction.
Mr. Gable asked, “Are you aware the accommodations tax collections peaked in 2014? You have been down the last 3 years.”
“The tourism development fee has increased 25% since the day we established it” [in 2009], Mr. Wallace replied.
“But that is one cent on what is bought in Myrtle Beach,” Mr. Gable responded. 2014, 15 and 16 tourism data indicates Mr. Gable is correct. Room rents inside the city are down. Local residents, county residents, and tourists vacationing in North Myrtle Beach, Garden City and Surfside who come into the city to shop are also included in those collections.
CULT-LIKE CHAMBER COLLUSION: Mr. Wallace, Mr. Lowder and others have had a cult-like fixation on the tourist tax and a zealous love for the literal “welfare” of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber, despite evidence showing the tax has not produced tourism growth inside the city of Myrtle Beach in recent years.
As speaking from an era right out of the depression, Mr. Wallace used an advertising comparison between Kellogg’s and Post cereal. While that analogy worked well in the 1930’s, America entered the age of brand starting in 2004. Downtown merchants believe an infrastructure tax, like the one being proposed by Mayor Hatley of North Myrtle Beach, would serve the city much better than the current tourist tax which is required by law to be used only on advertising.
Our own research has shown a cult-like Chamber of Commerce fixation and collusion between Mr. Lowder, Mr. Wallace, the Mayor and other councilmen. No outside forensic audit has ever been done on any Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce spending. The total in tax welfare paid to the Chamber of Commerce is now over $176 million.
The city actually abdicates its spending authority annually when the city budget is approved. That abdication allows the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber to have full say in how each tax dollar provided by the tourist tax is spent. Recent sources have also expressed concerns of a Chamber of Commerce suggestion that Councilman Wallace and Councilman Lowder align themselves with a Mayoral challenger to ensure they each get re-elected. This would allow Brad Dean, Chamber C.E.O. to continue to maintain control of the votes on city council.
We asked both Councilman Wallace and Councilman Lowder about those private discussions. Both declined to respond to our requests for comments.
Wallace did say he had no objections to putting the tourist tax to a city-wide referendum. Mr. Gable pointed out the tax could have gone through a referendum from its inception. The council has yet to vote on extending the tax to 2029.
In closing Wallace added, “One of the problems with government is there is such a wide range of things we are doing. A lot of the times you make decisions and then there are ramifications that come up that you’ve got to do. It looks like we are incompetent a lot of the times. Everybody says God knows, how did they make a decision that crazy?”
Earlier this Spring, we asked Councilman Wallace what he felt was his key signature accomplishment during his 17 years as a city councilman. Mr. Wallace refused to comment on this request as well.